Friday, January 30, 2009

GB34 Vroom Vroom

Hey I just noticed something - if you needle yourself bilaterally in GB34, simultaneously manipulating the needles is kind of like riding a motorcycle.

I miss my motorcycle.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Efficacy of Scalp E-Stim Acupuncture

A study published last week in PNAS described the use of non-invasive electrical stimulation to improve motor skills. The research was conducted in hopes of finding a treatment that would help stroke victims during rehabilitation. The experiment involved placing electrodes over the primary motor cortex that stimulated the volunteer test subjects for 5 days. Those that were electrically stimulated were able to perform a set of tasks better than those who were given the sham treatment, and follow-up three months later showed that they also retained the ability to perform those skills better than their untreated counterparts.

The primary motor cortex is indicated by the green area below:

Now, take a look at this drawing that represents the lines used for scalp acupuncture:

Notice how the green highlighting on the map of the brain corresponds to the motor area used in scalp acupuncture? That, of course, is not a coincidence as this particular mapping used in scalp acupuncture was developed in modern times. The Chinese have used scalp acupuncture since 1971 to successfully treat diseases such as stroke rehabilitation, severe head injuries, intracranial inflammation, extra-pyramidal diseases, Meniere's and others.

The needling technique utilized in scalp acupuncture is to rotate the needle at a rate of 200 times a minute, for five minutes, and it is generally believed that the stronger the stimulation the better. The manipulation should be repeated 2-3 times during the course of a 20 minute treatment. Using electrical stimulation on the acupuncture needles allows for continuous stimulation administered at any desired frequency, with the potential for multiple needles being stimulated simultaneously.

Scalp e-stim acupuncture is a safe and effective way to treat a multitude of syndromes that involve damage to the brain. The new research conducted at Johns Hopkins supports the efficacy of electrical stimulation as a treatment modality in stroke rehabilitation.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

LOL Acupuncture

From LOLtheist.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bump: Sustainable Pantry

Matthew Weitzman and his wife Alexa have a great food blog called Sustainable Pantry. Andrew and Alexa are both acupuncturists in the New York area.

The idea behind the blog is to "make every grocery shop last, keep the pantry nicely stocked, and make inspired meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner." This blog covers one of the trickier aspects of running a household - keeping enough food around so that you never go hungry, but not buying so much that it goes bad before you can eat it! It therefore has great tips for storage, leftovers, shopping, and of course, lots and lots of recipes.

(The picture above is of their refrigerator - updated monthly).

Monday, January 26, 2009

Fat Turtle at the Tet Festival

Nini and I had a great time at the Tet Festival in Westminster last weekend. Turnout for the festival was lower than expected - it turns out this is the smaller one. The big blowout is next weekend in Little Saigon along the main drag of Bolsa Avenue.

I was also sick and aggravated a wind-heat phlegm cough by being outside all day. Nevertheless it was good to get out in the public eye and hawk our wares. To see more pictures, see the photo album on facebook.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Fat Turtle Herb Company at Hội Chợ Tết in Little Saigon

Fat Turtle Herb Company will be at the Vietnamese New Year's Festival - Hội Chợ Tết - in Little Saigon this weekend, January 24th and 25th. Come on by and get a free health screening. We will have selections from our vast inventory for sale, as well as some special items made just for the occasion.

Our booth will be at the Westminster Mall, conveniently located off the 405 Freeway's Goldenwest Exit, on the corner of Goldenwest Street and Bolsa Avenue in Westminster, California.

I've never been to a Tet celebration, so I'm pretty excited. Nini tells me it's "kind of a big deal", as the T-shirt says. To learn more about Tet, click here.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Those About to Test, We Salute You

Today we would like to take a moment to think about all the people taking their California Acupuncture Licensing Exam today up in Sacramento. The California state board test is acknowledged as the nation's hardest. To qualify to sit for the exam, you have to complete four years of training a licensed acupuncture school, which includes over 800 hours of hands-on clinical experience.

Good luck! (not that you'll need it!)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Advice Column: Herbal Purity

Today we initiate a new feature: the Advice Column! If you have any questions about Chinese medicine, herbs, acupuncture or the like please drop us a line at or The picture above is of two of America's greatest advice columnists: Ann Landers and Dan Savage.

Dear Everyday Health,

I am a person who naturally chokes with incense and smelly candles etc and my mouth always gets numb on the inside lining... that is my test of how toxic something is... It is important to me to get clean herbs... clean like minimal pesticides... do you have any info for me on this... I actually took a year off Chinese herbs and have secretly not been into them at all... only because i feel that the toxicity is disgusting in China... even if they are 'organic' the air and the subsequent rain that irrigates the organic herb is like acid rain or worse... I wish they were from the rain forest... :)

I need to order a bunch of moxa and a bunch of yin and blood tonics stat since i am on a mission to get strong... I actually would order rain forest herbs if i knew their properties, but after studying all these herbs and formulas I am enthusiastic and wish there was a cleaner way that i could feel comfortable with them. :)

-Wants Heavily Organic Action

Dear WHOA,

You are right to be concerned about herb quality and purity. However it is unwise to categorically dismiss all products from China as being impure, and cuts you off from a lot of wonderful healing herbs. Work with trusted companies who use pesticide-free herbs and you should be alright.

If you are naturally a sensitive person, the best way to tonify is with food. The toxin-attacking or detoxification doctrine of Traditional Chinese Medicine (攻邪学派 gong xie xue pai) espoused by Zhang Zihe (张子和) maintains that when "nourishing life, use food" and when "treating disease, use medicine" (养生食补,治病药攻 yang sheng shi bu, zhi bing yao gong).

For instance mushrooms are one of the best yin-tonifying substances, and you should probably be able to find organic mushrooms in the market, especially here in the foodie paradise of California.

If you definitely want to use herbs, you could use granule herbs. These have already been processed and cooked and therefore have another level of safety added to them. However raw herbs are still the strongest, and if you want to use them I recommend soaking them first in cold water for about a half hour and then pouring off the soak water before covering with more cold water and cooking as usual.

Water is one of the best natural purifiers and can draw out a lot of toxicity. Incidentally you can do the same thing with fruits and vegetables - their cells are still exchanging gas with the outside environment after they have been picked, and if you soak them in water for an hour or so you can draw out a lot of pesticides.

High-quality raw herbs free of pesticides and sulfur can be ordered from Fat Turtle Herb Company. Amazon herbs from the rain forest can be ordered from Becky Lee Maher.

Monday, January 19, 2009

How To Cook Chinese Herbs

In the modern age, there are many ways to take your Chinese herbal formulas. But preparing your herbs the traditional way does have some advantages.

1. Strength. Modern technologies are all aimed at reproducing the strength of stove top cooking. While they have come close, they still can't equal what you can do in your kitchen.

2. Control. With the herbs right in front of you, you know exactly what goes into your herbal tea. Your acupuncturist may give you special instructions on whether to cook your herbs for a long time or a short time, your even whether to cook some ingredients separately.

3. Time. The cooking process forces us to slow down from the busy pace of our lives and concentrate on doing something good for ourselves. Instead of popping a pill and forgetting about it, we become more engaged in our recovery to good health.

4. Aroma. Now, this might not be a positive for some people. But we absorb just as much information from our sense of smell as we do from our other senses, and the aroma of your herbs cooking on the stove signals your body that something profound is about to happen.

5. Steam, Dregs. There are many uses for Chinese herbs other than drinking the tea. For acne or skin-related formulas, your acupuncturist may tell you to steam your face over the herbs (be very careful not to burn yourself if you do this - wait until the tea has cooled significantly, enough so that you can safely put your face or other affected body part over the steam). Or they may suggest using the cooked herbs themselves, rather than the tea, as a poultice on a particular acupuncture point or region of the body. Be sure to follow your acupuncturist's directions in this regard.

How to Cook Chinese Herbs

Keeping in mind that your Chinese medicine doctor may have special instructions for you, here are some general guidelines on cooking herbal teas.

1. Put the herbs into a pot. The best type of pot to use is a traditional ceramic herb pot. Enamel ware such as Le Creuset is also a good choice, and stainless steel will work fine as well. Just be sure to avoid aluminum pots as the herbs may react with some of the constituents of the pot.

2. Cover with cold, clean water. How much water should you use? A general guideline is two fingers above the level of the herbs, but you may have some herbs that float or very bulky, grassy herbs, in which case you can use about 5 cups.

3. Let soak for at least 30 minutes.

3a. Some people advise to then pour off this soaking water and cover the herbs again with more cold water. If you do this, be careful that you don't lose any herb material down the drain. Remember to not soak any powders as these will mix with the water and be poured off.

4. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil.

5. Once boiling, turn down the heat to medium and simmer for about 25 minutes, or until you have about one cup of liquid left, and then pour off the decoction (use a strainer to catch any herb matter). If you are new to cooking Chinese herbs, check the water level occasionally to make sure you don't boil the herbs dry. If you do happen to burn the herbs, throw them out and start again with a fresh packet - burning the herbs completely changes their character.

6. Let the decoction cool a bit, and drink while still warm.

6a. Some herb doctors will tell you to cook the herbs again, using the same herbs but more water, BEFORE you drink your herbs. Then you combine the results with the first batch and divide them. You will then have two doses, one for the morning and one for the evening. The idea is that the second cooking extracts more active ingredients than could be achieved by simply cooking it once for a longer period of time. However some people think this is unnecessary. Ask your Chinese medicine professional which procedure to follow.

7. Do not mix any sugar or honey with your herbs, unless your Chinese medicine doctor has instructed you to. If the taste puts you off, you drink something sweet or have a small spoonful of honey directly afterwards.

8. Congratulations! You have just participated a very old tradition that still brings great benefit to our modern lives.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Chinese Herbal Medicine for the Common Cold

This article was written by Eric Martin, a licensed acupuncturist at Bastyr University. It's a concise introduction to the idea of the common cold from the point of view of Chinese medicine.

Traditional Chinese medicine has been refining its treatment of the common cold for more than 2,000 years. In Chinese medicine, symptoms of a cold -- headache, chills, fever, cough, runny nose -- are said to be caused by wind and cold, or wind and heat, that "invade" from the exterior and cause illness.

Read the whole article here.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Acupuncture vs. Chiropractic - WHO WILL WIN THE BLOODY BATTLE???

Yes, that's a rather dramatic title. I hope you'll take it for what it is - a light-hearted poke at the way some people view the medical profession in the United States.

With a few notable exceptions, almost every chiropractor I have ever met has a huge chip on his shoulder. He feels disrespected by M.D.s. He feels put-upon. He feels like the AMA is trying to put him out of business. Not without reason: just take a look at these articles on the epic battles waged over chiropractic scope of practice in California. Doctors don't want them to be able to give a diagnosis. Physical therapists don't want them to be able to do physical therapy. Acupuncturists don't want them to be able to do acupuncture.

Part of the problem is that chiropractors don't have a separate system of diagnosis in the way that Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) does. Doctors have no reason to feel threatened by someone who says their patient has Liver Qi Stagnation or Kidney Yin Deficiency - they have no idea what that is, so they can shrug it off.

But chiropractors, for whatever reason, seem to be squarely in the targets of the medical profession. Maybe it's because they are much more likely to act like what most people think of as "doctors" - they wear white coats, order X-rays and lab reports, bill insurance at a higher rate and much more frequently than acupuncturists. Also, they get to use the title of "doctor".

So, with all that in mind, I wasn't really surprised to see an article like this one surface on the internet. The author, John Amaro, wants chiropractors to be able to use acupuncture in their practice. The article is more than 10 years old now, but take the measure of the language used:

A Warning to All States That Do Not Currently Include Acupuncture into Your Practice Act. Do it now. Time is of the essence. The acupuncture profession is dedicated and is quickly becoming a major thorn in the side of chiropractic nationally. As acupuncture becomes more and more a generally accepted therapy, it is of the utmost importance we incorporate it into our practice rights. Currently, more than 60% of the chiropractic state boards in the United States regulate the practice of acupuncture.

The article begins by throwing out a bunch of statistics about how miserable acupuncturists are at running their practices, how they're all a bunch of part-timers who don't bill insurance and make less than $30k a year. Amaro doesn't make any citations, just says it's from a study that "came across my desk." Then he amps it up even more with this:

As acupuncturists aggressively seek licensure in all states, we are now seeing the brick throwing, mud-slinging tactics of this new profession to discredit those DCs who have added acupuncture to their practice through state board regulated graduate school. Please remember, acupuncturists: DCs who have added acupuncture to their armamentarium do not have to retake anatomy, physiology and the multitude of basic science courses required in the acupuncture college. They have already done that! It is not necessary for us to sit in a college for 2,400 hours for the express purpose of retaking classes we have already been examined in by the national and state boards. Also understand that all acupuncture is not traditional Chinese medicine (TCM); there are numerous styles of acupuncture, just as there are different martial arts forms and chiropractic techniques.

The practice statistics for doctors of chiropractic are much more impressive than the ones we have just examined. I can only sense a severe case of sour grapes emanating from the acupuncturists who currently are doing everything they can politically and legislatively from allowing DCs to include acupuncture into their practice act.

John Amaro is an interesting cat. If you take a look at his biography, he's been studying acupuncture since before it was legal in the U.S. He writes a column for Acupuncture Today. So why would he throw bombs like this? I imagine it's just reflex, the habitual defensiveness that so many chiropractors fall into.

The reality is, there are plenty of patients for everyone. Let's not waste time by scrabbling over who gets to do what. I haven't yet made up my mind about who should be able to practice acupuncture. Is it wrong for chiropractors to be able to do acupuncture after 100 or 300 hours of training? To be honest, I'd love to be able to take a 300-hour course on chiropractic adjustments and then be certified to carry them out. I feel confident that after 300 hours I could perform an adjustment safely. Would I be a master? No. Would I understand chiropractic in the same way that a chiropractor does? No. But I would be able to help patients in a way that I can't do now.

Let's not even mention that ANYONE can prescribe Chinese herbs with absolutely no training whatsoever. That's a topic for another day.


Medical Acupuncture Facts
Medical Acupuncture Facts group on Facebook

Monday, January 12, 2009

'Alternative' Medicine is Mainstream: Wall Street Journal Opinion

Note: This opinion piece does a great job of pointing out the huge advantages of natural health care and preventive medicine over pharmaceutical and surgery based medicine. It was written by four well-known names in the field of natural medicine in the U.S.: Deepak Chopra, Dean Ornish, Andrew Weil, and Rustum Roy. It also highlights some of the excellent research being done on natural medicine (all links were added).

In mid-February, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and the Bravewell Collaborative are convening a "Summit on Integrative Medicine and the Health of the Public." This is a watershed in the evolution of integrative medicine, a holistic approach to health care that uses the best of conventional and alternative therapies such as meditation, yoga, acupuncture and herbal remedies. Many of these therapies are now scientifically documented to be not only medically effective but also cost effective.

President-elect Barack Obama and former Sen. Tom Daschle (the nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services) understand that if we want to make affordable health care available to the 45 million Americans who do not have health insurance, then we need to address the fundamental causes of health and illness, and provide incentives for healthy ways of living rather than reimbursing only drugs and surgery.

Heart disease, diabetes, prostate cancer, breast cancer and obesity account for 75% of health-care costs, and yet these are largely preventable and even reversible by changing diet and lifestyle. As Mr. Obama states in his health plan, unveiled during his campaign: "This nation is facing a true epidemic of chronic disease. An increasing number of Americans are suffering and dying needlessly from diseases such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, asthma and HIV/AIDS, all of which can be delayed in onset if not prevented entirely."

The latest scientific studies show that our bodies have a remarkable capacity to begin healing, and much more quickly than we had once realized, if we address the lifestyle factors that often cause these chronic diseases. These studies show that integrative medicine can make a powerful difference in our health and well-being, how quickly these changes may occur, and how dynamic these mechanisms can be.

Many people tend to think of breakthroughs in medicine as a new drug, laser or high-tech surgical procedure. They often have a hard time believing that the simple choices that we make in our lifestyle -- what we eat, how we respond to stress, whether or not we smoke cigarettes, how much exercise we get, and the quality of our relationships and social support -- can be as powerful as drugs and surgery. But they often are. And in many instances, they're even more powerful.

These studies often used high-tech, state-of-the-art measures to prove the power of simple, low-tech, and low-cost interventions. Integrative medicine approaches such as plant-based diets, yoga, meditation and psychosocial support may stop or even reverse the progression of coronary heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, prostate cancer, obesity, hypercholesterolemia and other chronic conditions.

A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that these approaches may even change gene expression in hundreds of genes in only a few months. Genes associated with cancer, heart disease and inflammation were downregulated or "turned off" whereas protective genes were upregulated or "turned on." A study published in The Lancet Oncology reported that these changes increase telomerase, the enzyme that lengthens telomeres, the ends of our chromosomes that control how long we live. Even drugs have not been shown to do this.

Our "health-care system" is primarily a disease-care system. Last year, $2.1 trillion was spent in the U.S. on medical care, or 16.5% of the gross national product. Of these trillions, 95 cents of every dollar was spent to treat disease after it had already occurred. At least 75% of these costs were spent on treating chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, that are preventable or even reversible.

The choices are especially clear in cardiology. In 2006, for example, according to data provided by the American Heart Association, 1.3 million coronary angioplasty procedures were performed at an average cost of $48,399 each, or more than $60 billion; and 448,000 coronary bypass operations were performed at a cost of $99,743 each, or more than $44 billion. In other words, Americans spent more than $100 billion in 2006 for these two procedures alone.

Despite these costs, a randomized controlled trial published in April 2007 in The New England Journal of Medicine found that angioplasties and stents do not prolong life or even prevent heart attacks in stable patients (i.e., 95% of those who receive them). Coronary bypass surgery prolongs life in less than 3% of patients who receive it. So, Medicare and other insurers and individuals pay billions for surgical procedures like angioplasty and bypass surgery that are usually dangerous, invasive, expensive and largely ineffective. Yet they pay very little -- if any money at all -- for integrative medicine approaches that have been proven to reverse and prevent most chronic diseases that account for at least 75% of health-care costs. The INTERHEART study, published in September 2004 in The Lancet, followed 30,000 men and women on six continents and found that changing lifestyle could prevent at least 90% of all heart disease.

That bears repeating: The disease that accounts for more premature deaths and costs Americans more than any other illness is almost completely preventable simply by changing diet and lifestyle. And the same lifestyle changes that can prevent or even reverse heart disease also help prevent or reverse many other chronic diseases as well. Chronic pain is one of the major sources of worker's compensation claims costs, yet studies show that it is often susceptible to acupuncture and Qi Gong. Herbs usually have far fewer side effects than pharmaceuticals.

Joy, pleasure and freedom are sustainable, deprivation and austerity are not. When you eat a healthier diet, quit smoking, exercise, meditate and have more love in your life, then your brain receives more blood and oxygen, so you think more clearly, have more energy, need less sleep. Your brain may grow so many new neurons that it could get measurably bigger in only a few months. Your face gets more blood flow, so your skin glows more and wrinkles less. Your heart gets more blood flow, so you have more stamina and can even begin to reverse heart disease. Your sexual organs receive more blood flow, so you may become more potent -- similar to the way that circulation-increasing drugs like Viagra work. For many people, these are choices worth making -- not just to live longer, but also to live better.

It's time to move past the debate of alternative medicine versus traditional medicine, and to focus on what works, what doesn't, for whom, and under which circumstances. It will take serious government funding to find out, but these findings may help reduce costs and increase health.

Integrative medicine approaches bring together those in red states and blue states, liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, because these are human issues. They are both medically effective and, important in our current economic climate, cost effective. These approaches emphasize both personal responsibility and the opportunity to make affordable, quality health care available to those who most need it. Mr. Obama should make them an integral part of his health plan as soon as possible.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Meet the Herbs: Bai Zhu

Chinese: 白术
Pin Yin: Bai Zhu
Pharmaceutical: Actractylodes Macrocephalae Rhizoma
English: white atractylodes rhizome

Bai Zhu is bitter, sweet, and warm, and travels to the Spleen and Stomach meridians. The photo above shows the flower, and inset, the prepared pharmaceutical product. Chinese herb preparation generally involves washing, slicing and drying, with various other steps along the way. Once the herb has been prepared in this way it can be stored for quite awhile at room temperature.

Bai Zhu is classified as a qi tonic, which generally means that it increases the amount of usable energy in the body. Because it primarily affects the Spleen and Stomach, it raises the digestive energy.

Bai Zhu is one of the four herbs in 四君子汤 Si Jun Zi Tang (Four Gentlemen Decoction) - the other three being 人参 Ren Shen, 茯苓 Fu Ling, and 炙甘草 Zhi Gan Cao (ginger, poria, and honey-fried licorice root). Si Jun Zi Tang is an important building block for many other tonic formulas, such as 八珍汤 Ba Zhen Tang, 十全大补汤 Shi Quan Da Bu Tang, 参苓白术散 Shen Ling Bai Zhu San, and 补中益气汤 Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang. Therefore Bai Zhu is used frequently in a safe and effective way in many Chinese herbal formulas.

Bai Zhu is available in raw and granule powder format from Fat Turtle Herb Company.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Dao of the Day

All of us, before we were born, were natural spirits. Once we have been born into the world, our original spiritual naturalness is blocked by the cultural and religious limitations of the time and place we live in. Although we are all natural spirits, because of the different kinds of worldly education, formal and informal, all of us view things differently. By becoming attached to the limited view, rather than everybody seeing the expansive natural truth, people fight. When people become developed, they do not fight anymore. They enjoy a different way of life called harmonizing with nature.

-Hua-Ching Ni, The Power of Natural Healing

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Death and Destruction All Over

For some reason, today I've stumbled across more dark and disturbing information all at once than I have for a long time. It seems like the world is a terrible place. To wit:

A question that comes to mind is whether the world has always been this bad or if I'm just noticing it now. Is this what happens when you get older? What is the meaning of day-to-day activities when there is so much evil and madness in the world?

Chinese medicine has roots in Daoism, which looks backward to an idyllic pre-literate time when there were no laws, and therefore no crime. People kept records by tying knots in rope. People lived in harmony with the earth and the sky. Medicine was unnecessary. Is this still possible? Is it a metaphor for some spiritual achievement?

The cyclical and balanced nature of the universe requires that periods of darkness are followed by periods of light. The most basic example of this is night and day. No matter what, the earth keeps rotating and spinning, mirroring the tiniest particles in the universe, and the sun keeps rising over our horizon. All parts of the universe reflect an image of the whole, and I hope that the sun rises soon.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Astrology Workshop with Carolyn Leigh

Note: Today's post is from Carolyn Leigh, licensed acupuncturist, clinical supervisor for Yosan University of Traditional Chinese Medicine at Being Alive, and an accomplished astrologer.

After years of study, preparation, test runs and being almost ready, Jupiter is finally in my 5th house of self-expression transiting opposite my natal Sun in the 11th house, the House that rules astrology (if you don't know what this means, come learn, discover and grow with Astrology)...

...because I am proud to finally present my first set of Astrology workshops...
Introduction to Astrology for Self-Growth!!!

This workshop is a two-day series offered at my abode in Hollywood. The workshop will be offered from 10AM til 5PM with many breaks and a variety of activities to keep the energy flowing. I promise that it will not feel overwhelming or exhausting.

Day 1 will be offered on three Saturdays:
January 10, January 17, and January 24th.
You pick one Saturday.

Day 2 will be offered on Sunday, January 25th...
if you can't make January 25th, we will arrange dates for Day 2 at a later time that work for you.

The course is $100 unless you attend Day 1 on January 10th, in which case the course is $50. Either way, this is a steal!!! ...and I promise you it will be one of the best courses you have ever taken for self-growth and understanding of yourself in relation to the cosmos! (ok, this is my Jupiter talking, and as you will learn Jupiter can over-expand things... but then again, I tend to be modest so I might have it just about right this time.)

Astrology is my passion and I am so excited to share it with the world in my own unique way.

The workshop is meant to embed within your being and not just your mind... the foundation of astrological study... the currently known planetary bodies (and a few asteroids) of our solar system, and the 12 zodiac archetypes and houses. We will be using meditation, movement, note-taking, discussion, journaling and artistic expression (painting, sketching, and/or collaging) to build the foundation of astrological relationships and interpretation. You will be working with your own natal astrology chart throughout the workshop.

Astrology is a mirror for the evolution of your soul... and it can speak to your individual soul journey like no other system I have ever encountered. It is an ancient system... and still evolving as we as a species are evolving... as both a science and an art of interpretation. Our scientists tell us that the process of observation changes the very nature of that which we observe. I believe and have experienced that the process of self-observation through astrology has accelerated my own evolution and inner peace.

Thanks... and much love!


Monday, January 5, 2009

Case Study: Me!

Pre-cooked liquid decoction in individual dosage packs from Fat Turtle Herb Company

From the taste-of-your-own-medicine department, I bring you the success story of my current herbal formula. (Note: This post is a bit more technical than most and skips over explaining any TCM basics - if you have questions please leave a comment.) Starting a few weeks ago, I developed a rash on my stomach and legs - essentially the Liver and Gallbladder channels. In general I tend to express rashes when I have emotional stagnation. Emotional stagnation, in my case, leads to overconsumption of sugar, coffee, alcohol, and greasy, fatty foods.

The aforementioned goodies in small amounts will soften the Liver, but in large amounts will increase the amount of heat and dampness in the body. Then I went home for Christmas, where there was plenty of sugar and alcohol and fatty food and emotional stagnation.

I used the opportunity of a family outing for dim sum to get an exam and an herbal prescription from one of the herb stores in Oakland Chinatown (Hong Kong Trading, 449 9th St. at Broadway if you're interested). I poked my head in and asked "医生在吗?" (is the doctor here?) The guy at the counter pointed to the back, and I went and sat down at a desk. A few minutes later the same guy (the doctor, as it turns out) came back, sat down on the other side of the desk, and with a friendly smile started asking me questions in Chinese.

How I should have responded: "医生对不起,我只会说一点中文。可以我给你看?" (Doctor, my apologies, I only speak a little Chinese. Can I just show you?) - which is actually something I know how to say.

What I actually did: laughed nervously, said "uhh, I don't really speak Chinese," and lifted up my shirt to show him my rash. Sigh. He looked a little bit shocked, possibly because my accent when asking for the doctor was quite good, but also possibly because he didn't expect me to start acting like an undergrad on spring break in his herb store.

As a result of the language difficulties, we had a four-way translation - the doctor would ask questions in Cantonese to one of the other women who worked in the store, who would then ask Nini the same question in Vietnamese. Nini would then ask me the question in English, I would answer in English, and the whole thing goes in reverse. Fortunately experienced doctors are efficient when it comes to questioning and gather more from the tongue and pulse. The tongue he glanced at for a few seconds, but the pulse he took for a few minutes.

He told me to avoid beef, shellfish, spicy food, and deep fried food.

"What about alcohol?" Nini asked the lady. The woman translated for the doctor, who then shook his head and made a tsk-tsk noise. No no no, came the answer. "See?" said Nini.

"咖啡行不行" (how about coffee?) I asked the doctor directly, trying to preserve some tastiness in my life. Coffee's okay, just don't overdo it, he told me.

Then he proceeded to write an herbal formula in long, looping Chinese characters which I had no hope of deciphering even if I had the chance to examine them closely. Having been to a few herb-store doctors, I feel like that's part of the trade secrecy: even if someone were to steal your notebooks, they can't read your handwriting.

After writing the formula, he then went back to the counter and assembled it, with help from some other employees. Fortunately I was able to ID all the herbs and reverse-engineered it to pinyin, but then lost the page I wrote it all down on. However, I do remember some key herbs:

玄参 Xuan Shen
生地 Sheng Di
牡丹皮 Mu Dan Pi
土茯苓 Tu Fu Ling
金银花 Jin Yin Hua
丹参 Dan Shen
红藤 Hong Teng
郁金 Yu Jin
枳实 Zhi Shi
地肤子 Di Fu Zi
白鲜皮 Bai Xian Pi
泽泻 Ze Xie
柴胡 Chai Hu
甘草 Gan Cao

That's 14 herbs I can remember - there were actually 21 altogether. But you can see his idea: Blood Heat, Blood Stasis, Qi Stagnation.

I've been taking the formula for a few days now, and the rash has already subsided quite a bit. The redness is gone and it no longer itches. The formula actually doesn't taste that bad - it's more sweet than bitter, definitely cold energetically.

I've also noticed that it's harder than it seems to stick to a restricted diet. I know there are things I should avoid, but until a doctor told me I essentially have been eating whatever I want. I didn't want to take all these herbs and have it be for nothing! I don't think I'll be on this diet permanently, but it's still a bit of a hassle. Something to remember when asking patients to change their diets.

As you can see from the picture, I cooked the herbs all at once and packaged them using the Fat Turtle herb cooker. This is so convenient when taking a large formula or a long-term formula. Whenever it's time to take herbs, I just cut one open and drink it. Total time spent on herbs per day: 10 seconds. No refrigeration is required. Fat Turtle Herb Company can cook herbal formulas for you and your patients - click here to learn more or send an email to

Friday, January 2, 2009

Bump: Being Alive and Carolyn Leigh, L.Ac

Recently Nini and I had the opportunity to see patients at Being Alive, the HIV/AIDS support organization based in West Hollywood. Yosan has an externship program that provides free acupuncture once a week to Being Alive members. This program is supervised by Carolyn Leigh, a licensed acupuncturist and Yosan graduate.

Being Alive does great things for the community. All services are provided free of charge, from support groups to chiropractic, acupuncture and Reiki. If you or someone you know has a diagnosis of HIV, Being Alive is one of the best resources available. Donate your time by volunteering or send a tax-deductible donation via the internet. It takes just a few minutes and any amount helps. There are also a variety of fun events you can attend to support the organization.

Carolyn Leigh is a great supervisor and talented acupuncturist. In addition to Being Alive, she sees patients at the Delson Chiropractic and Wellness Center in Santa Monica and the Chiara Wellness Center in West Hollywood. Call 310-365-6855 to make an appointment.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year! Dao of the Day

The universe is shaped exactly like the earth if you go
straight long enough you'll end up where you were

-3rd Planet, Modest Mouse

This song lyric references the holographic universe, the idea that each individual part reflects the whole. It's an important idea in Chinese medicine - the environment not only influences our human bodies, the environment IS our bodies. For clues on how to take care of yourself, look to the natural world.