Chinese Medicine, Fertility, Health, Herbal medicine, Menstruation, Womens Health

The Rose

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Love planted a rose, and the world turned sweet. Katharine Lee Bates

Ah the scent of roses! Love and beauty and English country gardens. The rose however originated in China but of course is now grown worldwide with hundreds of different varieties. As well as a token of love and the subject of copious amounts of love poetry, the rose is also used extensively in cooking and beauty products. As it’s Valentines day this week, I wanted to write about the Rose as a medicinal herb.

In Chinese herbal medicine it is called Mei Gui Hua. It is described as a ‘docile’ herb, gentle in it’s nature. Most commonly, it’s included in formulas for Women with menstrual irregularities, menstrual pain and pre-menstrual breast tenderness. It can also be included for patients with digestive problems especially stomach distension and heartburn. It has a very mild laxative effect but generally calming for the stomach especially when stress is a factor.

It is said to ‘regulate the qi’ and relieve constraint. It is thought to have a balancing effect on the endocrine system which helps to regulate the menstrual cycle and has also been shown to help clear up the skin. I consider it to be a fertility herb as our goal when supporting Women trying to conceive is to regulate the menstrual cycle. I’m always conscious too, that the fertility journey is often an emotional one. Rose therefore seems appropriate.

I love rose as part of a herbal tea. On it’s own it has a strong bitter flavour but combined with other herbs such as lime flower, chamomile and perhaps a little lavender, it’s delicate flavour is revealed. It’s an excellent tea to drink in the evening to ease away the days stresses. I’d recommend to people who emotionally overeat in the evening to make a pot when they get in from work.

Mei Gui Hua, the rose, to me is a Woman’s herb. Gentle and compassionate. So instead of a bunch of roses this valentine’s day, how about a delicious rose tea blend instead?

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Acupuncture, Chinese Medicine, Cupping, Health, Uncategorized

Cupping

cupping
Photo courtesy of Bob Wong, Art of acupuncture.

I love this photo. It’s very cheeky. It makes me think of the sort of thing that could happen when you get a group of Chinese medicine practitioners together at a dinner party, perhaps during the washing up.

So what is cupping and when do we use it?

I’d like to say at this point, I do use a professional cupping set! The cups themselves are either glass, plastic or bamboo. Traditionally, practitioners used a flame to create a vacuum effect which ‘sucks up’ the tissues which is known as fire cupping. Although I was taught this method, I prefer the ‘health & safety’ version of a plunger that attaches to a valve on the cup. I personally feel it gives me more control of the amount of suction I use.

Applying the cups ‘sucks up the tissues’ separating the muscle fascia and allowing the blood and fluids to move more freely in the tissues and muscles. In the old Chinese medicine texts, they talk about ‘drawing out the pathogenic evils’ a term I like actually. However, ‘mobilising the blood flow’ is probably a term we can better understand.

I use cupping a lot in my practice. Most commonly, for tension in the upper back and shoulder area. What I find is that cupping releases the muscle tension quickly, more so than deep tissue massage (which is great, don’t get me wrong). Cupping is also very helpful when patients have a chest infection, bad cough etc.

What happens at a treatment then? Is it uncomfortable? What about those marks?

A common presentation is where the upper back is tight and painful, probably with restricted movement in the shoulders and neck. I will usually apply some massage oil which allows me to slide the cups covering a large area. Most patients find their mobility improves straight away and continues to improve further over the next few days or so. In cases where patients have been unwell with a lung/chest related problems, the treatment will be more conservative. I would probably just leave the cups in situ for a short time.

A good practitioner will always be checking in with their patient to ensure they are comfortable. I find that patients are happy with an acceptable level of discomfort. The best example being when you have muscle tension and someone gives you a bit of a massage. It’s kind of a bit uncomfortable but feels good. I consider that ‘therapeutic discomfort’. Similarly, the next day muscles feel a bit sore but movement is better, same as after an exercise work out.

The marks produced can look a bit dramtic and for those unfamiliar with Chinese medicine, they can look a bit scary. As a rule, the darker the cupping mark, the more stagnation is present. What we see over the course of a few sessions is that the resulting marks become much less, to the point where no marks appear indicating the tissues are healthly.

Cupping is generally very safe however I would urge patients to check their practitioner has the appropriate training. There is an art to effective cupping and an appropriateness to it’s application. When and where and how much to use it comes from good training and experience.

 

 

 

Christmas, Health, Recipes, Uncategorized

Christmas muffin recipe

muffinIf like me you’ve not got the time to make the full blown Christmas cake or perhaps more importantly you really don’t need the extra calories the Christmas season brings, these are an easily digestible, gluten free, fat free, low sugar… yumscious alternative.

Here’s my recipe!

  • 3 Eggs
  • 100g sugar (any kind, & you can get away with a bit less in my opinion)
  • 160g Rice flour
  • 140g ground almonds
  • 140g grated carrot (or whizz in food processor if feeling lazy)
  • 140g Sultanas (feel free to add additional fruit)
  • Zest & juice of 2 oranges
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

The first step is to whisk together the eggs & sugar at high speed for a good few minutes until it’s a thick foamy consistency. Once that’s done, the rest of the ingredients need to be folded in with as little faffing as possible so it’s a good idea to weigh out the ingredients beforehand, grate the carrot, zest the oranges etc

The sultanas could be soaked with the orange juice, zest, spice & perhaps a glug of brandy if you wish.

Once all the ingredients are combined, spoon into cake/muffin cases & bake for approx 25mins at 180º. This recipe is enough for 12 medium-sized muffins or 10 heftier ones. Leave to cool then drizzle some simple icing over the top (2 tbsp water with as much icing sugar as it will take was enough to do 12 muffins). Finish with a bit of edible glitter perhaps?

Serve with a cup of tea or a large brandy haha ♥

Acupuncture, Drug and alcohol dependency, Health

Should you? Shouldn’t you? The new advice on alcohol.

The BBC headline this morning

Good or bad?
Good or bad?

So here we are, it’s that time of year when we’re encouraged to abstain and ‘detox’ from the xmas excesses.

I’m old enough to have seen this trend of conflicting health advice from ‘experts based on latest research’. Not so long ago, people were encourage to have a small glass of red wine which had been shown to help heart health. Whilst there may be some truth in this, it’s human nature to cherry pick our health advice. More becomes better and somehow drinking a few large slugs of red wine each evening is a medicinal practice. Chocolate’s good too isn’t it?

I do some work at a support centre for people with issues with alcohol. Alcoholism is the extreme end of the spectrum. In my experience, people usually know deep down when they have an alcohol problem. It constitutes an abnormal relationship with alcohol. A bit like the difference between ‘having a bit of a sweet tooth’ compared to compulsively hiding chocolate bars in your sock drawer.

So how much is too much? I’m surprised at how many people I meet who drink every day. Not huge amounts and not that they’d be noticeably drunk but it’s common for couples to share a bottle of wine most evenings. Of course that can creep up and become an extra G&T to wind down from work maybe and perhaps a bit extra at the w/e or whilst having a dinner party? A standard bottle of wine is 10 units *gasp*

Our nations drinking habits are in many ways driven by the media and marketing companies who in order to sell their product, have to make it cool. A bit of ‘health benefits’ from the experts all the better. Remember the old style ads with that handsome chap (probably in a smart woolly) chuffing on a marlboro and sipping a large scotch from a opulent crystal tumbler. These images stick with us.

My personal viewpoint regardless of what the experts say one way or the other is that alcohol should be enjoyed occasionally. It’s essentially a toxic substance. A hangover means you’ve poisoned yourself! Daily alcohol consumption will probably damage your brain, your liver, pancreas, give you oral cancer, stomach ulcers and probably lower your immunity making your more prone to colds, viruses and impeeding healing. It can also disturb your sleep patterns either by waking you up in the night for a wee or developing a dependance to get you to sleep.

Habits are hard to break though. The advice I give to people is to firstly go for quality not quantity. Try not to keep too much alcohol in the house. Switch to a wine spritzer (with spring water?), if you prefer spirits, get a measurer so you know how much you’re having or buy the smaller bottles of lower alcohol lager. Ultimately though, if you use alcohol to relax in the evening, why not experiment with herbal teas as an alternative? Camomile, limeflower, lavender and many more can produce a delightful relaxation without the toxic effects you get from alcohol. Buy a nice teapot & create your own blend of fresh herbal tea or try from the huge range on offer from companys like Pukka for example.

The bottom line is “all things in moderation”. Unfortunately that statement doesn’t make for a sensational headline, nor does it make companys rich.

 

Health, Recipes, Womens Health

Warm Liver salad

At last! I’ve been threatening to do this for a while. A big thank you to a friend for putting this together for me.

You know it’s good for you, plenty of iron but…well, it’s knowing what to do with it. This is my effort below and I must say it was delicious. I didn’t have the ingredients to follow the recipe exactly but took elements from each. Bon appetite!

liver salad

Warm Chicken Liver Salad

200 g chicken livers
50 g plain flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
knob butter
3 tbsp balsamic vinaigrette,
Salad leaves
crusty bread, to serve

1.  Cut livers into bite sized pieces and roll in the flour until each piece is coated. Heat the butter in a frying pan until quite hot, then add the livers. Fry on a medium heat for 3 minutes or until brown on the outside but still pink in the middle.

2. Arrange the lettuce on the plates and put the livers on top. Return the same frying pan to the heat and warm the balsamic vinaigrette for a minute, pour over the livers and lettuce. Serve with crusty bread.

Warm Calves Liver Salad (recipe for 4 people, so adjust to suit)

175 g spinach leaves
2 tsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp olive oil
4 shallots, quartered
1 tbsp thyme leaves only
2 rashers back bacon cut into strips
350 g calves’ liver, or chicken liver
24 button mushrooms, quartered
2 tbsp pine nuts/kernels
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
ground black pepper

1. Wash and dry the baby spinach leaves and divide between 4 plates.

2. Heat the butter and olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a low heat. Tip in the shallots and fry until brown. Add the thyme, bacon and liver and increase the heat to medium. Cook the liver for about 5 minutes; it should be brown on all sides, but still pink in the centre.

3. Remove the liver, shallots and bacon from the pan and keep warm. Turn the heat off, add the mushrooms to the same pan, and season with black pepper. Stir well to coat the mushrooms with the meaty juices, divide into 4 portions and spoon over the spinach.

4. Return the pan to the heat and add the pine nuts. Stir and fry until golden. Scatter the nuts over the individual portions of salad.

5. Add the vinegar to the pan, turn off the heat, and stir to scrape up any sediment. Drizzle the warm dressing over each salad and serve straight away.

Acupuncture, Chinese Medicine, Health, Menstruation, Womens Health

Nourishing the Blood

A patient of mine recently asked if I could help her 17-year-old daughter. Probably due to medication for her epilepsy she had been having a continuous heavy menstrual bleed for about 3 years. (It is here I bite my tongue and make no comment about her consultant advising her to “just put up with it”!) So I said of course and two treatments later, the bleeding had stopped.

However, three years of heavy menstrual bleeding had taken its toll. This poor young lady was incredibly pale in the face. Examining her tongue, it was again pale with an orangey colour. She was also exhausted. It was fairly obvious that she was very anaemic or as we would diagnose in TCM, Blood deficient.

Blood deficiency represents a little more than just anaemia. It refers to the lack of available nutrients in the blood. Symptoms may include: muscle cramps, spasms, muscle weakness, numbness and tingling in the limbs, dry hair and skin, hair loss, blurred vision, floaters, tired, dry or gritty eyes, dry brittle or withered nails, infrequent, scanty or lack of periods (amenorrhea), dizziness, fainting, poor memory, tiredness and vivid dreams.

This case though, got me revisiting Blood nourishing foods. Telling a teenager they’re having Liver and onions for tea might not go down too well but the fact is that Liver is one of the best sources of iron along with shellfish, beans, nuts and seeds and good news…dark chocolate!

So I’ve been hunting for a good hassle free liver pate recipe and found this:

http://eatwelshlamb.co.uk/recipes/l/lambs-liver-pate

Not a bad idea to be mindful of the nutrients we’re getting. So why not splash out on a tray of oysters once in a while and try making some homemade liver pate.

Health, Uncategorized

Happy bloody birthday….

growing-old-cartoon-doctorTwo years ago today, my partner and I were in Paris celebrating my 40th birthday. We had a great time, jumping on and off the metro, drinking hot chocolate outside little café’s, getting lost in the Louvre….

A lot’s happened in the last two years which has brought to the realisation recently that our responsibilities towards our families, specifically our parents have changed. Now it’s time for us to look after them.

So I’m 42 today and have been a bit grumpy about it. I was interested to read an article “Old age should not be approached with horror” in the Guardian this morning which welcomes the report “Ready for ageing” from the House of Lords select committee.

It is telling that the report comes from the energised older House of Lords, while it is the young who make policy.

One of the things I notice in my line of work, is how many older people are fobbed off by their GP’s/NHS with the line…”It’s your age….wear and tear…” Most people over 65 who have some sort of muscle/joint pain will be told it’s probably arthritis (often, in my experience without radiographic or blood testing to confirm).  They’re told to take painkillers…. The sad fact is that a young fit chap who’s hurt a knee whilst snowboarding is likely to receive better care than an elderly slightly overweight woman with arthritis of the knee. Both are equally important members of society who deserve the same standard of care.

It’s just as important when we’re older to keep exercising. If there are painful joint’s, arthritis etc it is important to keep the musculature strong and supple which doesn’t happen by sitting in a chair. Older people need access to leisure facilities such as swimming, gym…hey even Zumba and should not be put off from doing so by our youth obsessed culture.

We need also to be able to talk openly about dementia and how best to cope with it!

Time to change our attitudes towards ageing. We have to be able to talk openly about the challenges of growing old, keeping ourselves healthy and maintaining dignity and independence. With that in mind, I’m going for a walk in the sunshine and stopping off for tea and cake somewhere.

Acupuncture, Chinese Medicine, Health

9000 Needles

Friday 8th July, 8pm

Colchester Arts Centre

“Well, thank God this is America and we have a choice. And we have chosen China!” Doug Dearth

9000 needles is a documentary about the personal journey of recovery of Devin Dearth, a successful American businessman who suffers a paralysing stroke. His rehabilitation is hindered by the limitations of the American health insurance system, so his family raise the money to take him to Tianjin, China where he embarks on a far from conventional program integrating Western and Traditional Chinese medicine.

The movie was produced by Devin’s brother Doug, a filmaker who initially had qualms about the potentially intrusive nature of filming intimate family moments, especially as they had no idea of what the outcome would be. The screenings of the movie however have enabled the family to fund Devin’s rehabilitation as well as proving motivational to Devin himself.

I am excited to have had the oportunity to arrange a screening of this movie here in the UK. There are many misconceptions about China and Traditional Chinese medicine. What comes across in this movie is the quiet determination and sense of pride from the team of Doctors who treat Devin. After the first day of Acupuncture treatments and medicinal herbal baths, Devin experiences more improvement than in many weeks of treatment in the United States.

This award winning film is a must for anyone interested in alternative methods of healthcare, particulary Chinese medicine and Acupuncture. 9000 needles (or 9,157 to be exact!) is both emotionally harrowing, inspirational and moving as it reminds us of the strength and compassion of the human spirit.

If you’re in the area, come & support this event. Those of us who shout: “there is another way” are often labelled quacks. This film shows that there is another way!

For more info: http://karenjeffery-acupuncture.com/?page_id=421