acupuncture, Diet, fertility, food, martial arts, nature, pregnancy, Traditional Chinese Medicine

10 things you should know about Chinese Medicine

I’ve spoken at a few Endeavour College of Natural Health open days now. Prior to presenting to the prospective students I always get to thinking about all of the things I love about acupuncture and Chinese medicine. This medicine really has been a great lifetime passion of mine. (“Really?” You say.)

So here are the top 10 reasons why I love acupuncture and Chinese medicine:

  1. Diagnosis and treatment are completely individualised. It doesn’t matter if you have osteoarthritis, endometriosis or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), in Chinese medicine we are interested in your unique signs and symptoms and we may give you a Chinese medicine diagnosis which is completely different from that of another person with the same disease name but a slightly different presentation. Your treatment will be individualised just for you.
  2. Yin yang cupcake iced solo webThere are no super foods. Or good foods. Or bad foods. Or fad diets. I know that goji berries and shiitake mushrooms are seen as foods of the gods, and soy has a reputation as the fruit of the devil for every single person on the planet (according to nutrition in the media) but in Chinese medicine we just don’t see it that way. All foods have different energetic properties (eg. cooling, heating, move upwards or downwards, drain damp, nourish blood or open the pores) and so they are used to bring your body back into balance when it isn’t already. For example, if it’s hot it needs cooling and if you are carrying excess fluid you need to drain damp. Of course your body’s needs change as you age, with the season and with illness or regaining health. As this happens your diet also needs to change. It’s not black and white. Which is exactly what the taiji (yin yang) symbol represents: there is always some black in the white and vice versa. Be sensible with your eating, strive for balance and pay attention to how foods make you feel.
  3. 5 elementsThere is a strong connection to nature within the medicine. Five element theory is a way of applying the principles of nature to our bodies. It’s based on thousands of years of observation. We can describe and diagnose people’s temperaments and body conditions according to Earth, Metal, Water, Wood and Fire. Each element relies upon and is interrelated to the others to keep delicate balance. Just like nature is. For example too much Earth can make us heavy, too much water can create fluid retention and too much fire can make us overheated. It’s a more complex system them this but those are just some simple examples.
  4. It can be an outright treatment, an alternative or a complementary medicine. So we all know that acupuncture alone is sometimes great for sorting out that sore shoulder or helping you sleep better. Other times acupuncture can work very well alongside other western medicine treatment. Some conditions that spring to mind are when we use acupuncture with IVF treatment or alongside chemotherapy which may reduce some of the side effects like nausea. As acupuncture does not involve ingestion of herbs or medicines it is rarely contraindicated with other therapies.
  5. Most people feel relaxed and emotionally ‘like a weight has lifted’ immediately following an acupuncture treatment. Patients often comment that they can fall asleep during an acupuncture treatment when they can’t take afternoon naps at home. It is a relaxing treatment and believe it or not – no the needles don’t really hurt most of the time. In fact relaxation has been described as a side effect of acupuncture in this study.
  6. ear acupuncture modelHaving a knowledge of acupuncture and acupressure is like having a first aid kit with you wherever you go. Symptoms like nausea and headaches can often be relieved if you know the right spots to push. I often take some ‘ear seeds’ with me when I go camping or hiking to manage musculoskeletal pains (these little seeds apply pressure to parts of the ear that correspond to other parts of your body – like acupressure. Anyone who has used a Sea-Band on their wrist for seasickness is doing acupressure – you place the hard bit of the band onto an acupuncture point! Of course, it can’t do everything and it’s always handy to have a regular first aid kit too.
  7. Energy flow is fundamental to Chinese medicine and acupuncture. Learning good posture and effective breathing is essential not only to good health but also being a good practitioner. Think of tai chi, Qi gong, yoga and martial arts. We apply these same postural and breathing techniques when inserting needles. But really, you can apply good posture and effective breathing to everything that you do.
  8. The history of Chinese Medicine is decorated with beautiful stories, poetry and artworks to document and share the medicine. An appreciation of the arts is also considered a part of holistic healthcare. I often describe to my fertility or pregnancy patients that one of the acupuncture points is called ‘zigong’ or ‘the palace of the child’. How gorgeous is that? We can incorporate these beautiful descriptions into meditations or visualisations during treatment.
  9. The future of Chinese medicine is bright as we are now seeing higher quality clinical trials to highlight traditional and new uses for our medicines. For example the research using fMRI to understand the effect of acupuncture needling on the brain is fascinating. Check out this BBC documentary for a look at this research. (It’s an hour long but it’s well worth it.)
  10. In Australia we are now a registered profession (just like physiotherapists and dentists). This means that acupuncturists, Chinese herbalists and Chinese medicine practitioners now have to comply with AHPRA regulations under the Chinese Medicine Board of Australia (CMBA) including a minimum level of education (bachelor degree) and other professional and ethical standards. So in the interests of public safety and getting the most effective treatment for your condition always seek treatment from a CMBA registered practitioner. (For the record, dry needling is not registered in this way.)

Just a word of warning: nowhere here have I said Chinese medicine is a cure all. I just wanted to highlight the things that Chinese medicine does really well. For information about your own health please speak with a registered Chinese medicine practitioner.

What is it that you love about acupuncture and Chinese medicine? Tell me in the comments. I’d love to know.

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

Diet, food, food allergy, recipe

My five top gluten & dairy-free sweet treats for 2014

Can you believe we’re nearly at the end of 2014? If you’re looking for some Christmas baking recipes well you may find them here.

I’ve just been perusing some of my recipe blog stats between seeing patients today and here are my top 5 sweet treat recipes from this year. They are all gluten and dairy free too. Click on the names for the recipes.

  1. Chocolate beetroot cakechoc-beet cake slice
  2. Almond, ginger & blueberry sliceginger almond blueberry slice plate
  3. Carrot & goji berry cakecarrot and goji cake
  4. Chocolate cream-filled biscuitschoc cream biscuits gift box
  5. Orange, macadamia and dark chocolate biscuitsorange macadamia chocolate biscuits tray

Enjoy!

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

emotional health, food, health, mental health, motivational, nature

Taking a break

There's nothing like dipping your toes in to the ocean.
There’s nothing like dipping your toes in to the ocean.

I escaped from Brisbane this week just gone and thoroughly enjoyed a refreshing break.

I’ve written several times about why taking a break is important, how I like to relax and why the great outdoors is good for us.

This break started out in Campbelltown, Western Sydney. I’d just finished my Master of Health Science (Traditional Chinese Medicine) Women’s Health workshops for the year. (I’d like to add that these workshops were excellent – we had speakers on the use of acupuncture and herbal medicine for PCOS, IVF support and male infertility.)

This is Nicola Macdonald (the owner of the clinic) and I enjoying breakfast on our last day there:

Nov 14 UWS

I then jumped on a train to the NSW Central Coast to visit my cousin and his partner. And on the day I arrive their ducklings hatched out of their eggs. One of them will be called Sarah. 😉

Nov 14 ducklings
Ducks aren’t very clucky so this hen was happy to lend her services.

This couple are interested in sustainable living. In addition to the ducks, they have a very impressive veggie garden which is helped along by rotating their chooks around the beds. Further down the backyard are the horses. Meals always include a good helping of fresh veggies from the garden. Oh! And I also tried my first duck egg – scrambled with fresh herbs.

The duck pond with just the edge of the veggie garden in the background.
The duck pond with just the edge of the veggie garden in the background.

My next stop was Nelson Bay in Port Stephens. This place is a sleepy little coastal town. My drawcard was that I had read that the scuba diving was up there with some of the best that New South Wales has to offer. We headed out on the boat to Broughton Island. This was my first dive in a while and I was lucky enough to see a Grey Nurse shark at around 2.5-3m. She was a biggie! I also met some lovely new friends on the boat. I’ll be back to Nelson Bay for some shore diving sometime, it is supposed to be spectacular!

Nov 14 Nelson Bay

After these adventures I gradually made my way back up to Brisbane. Relaxed, refreshed and inspired. 🙂

I’m back in the clinic this Thursday and Friday.

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.

Diet, emotional health, exercise, food, health, mental health, motivational, nature, Traditional Chinese Medicine

A Chinese medicine guide to living well in Spring

I’m a bit slow on getting my spring living post out this year! Apologies to all of you who have been wondering what to do since the turn of the season, you can now relax with the information contained within this post.

Here’s a little song to get you out of winter and into the spring mood.

In Chinese medicine the season of spring is all about these:

  • Moving from the cold and slowness of winter into a warmer, more energetic state as our Yang Qi predominates.
  • There is an upward energy.
  • The mood picks up, life feels lighter.
  • And there is a need to move more and get active.
  • We need to stretch out and get flexible after the rigidity of winter.
  • Plants are sprouting fresh green shoots.
  • This is the time of the Wood element and the Liver and Gallbladder need care.
  • The wind picks up. This has been particularly noticeable in Brisbane in the afternoons especially earlier in the season.
  • There is more light and longer days giving us a good supply of vitamin D to support our yang Qi. Safe levels of sun exposure depend on where you live and are outlined here.
  • The colour is green in keeping with those fresh sprouts.
  • The flavour is sour which again brings a feeling of lightness and freshness.
Spring is a wonderful time to walk around the Jacaranda trees in blossom.
Spring is a wonderful time to walk around the Jacaranda trees in blossom.

If you don’t naturally feel this shift to spring or you want to maximise your spring energy to live in harmony with the seasons then here are some tips:

  • Go to bed a little later and wake a little earlier (just like the birds)
  • Get some outdoor exercise (eg. walking or qi gong) and sunlight in the morning before you start the serious stuff in your day.
  • Wear loose clothing and don’t tie your hair back tightly. Let everything flow.
  • Focus on relaxation and flexibility of your mind and body. Now is an excellent time to get into some meditation and/or yoga.
  • Sing, dance or do activities that lighten your mood.
  • Work within your limits so as to enjoy the movement and longer days but not to overtire yourself.
  • Be prepared for changes in the weather, so while most of your summer clothes are coming out, have a spare layer handy to protect yourself from a sneaky cold snap or some breezy conditions.
  • Do a spring clean. Get rid of the clutter and excess that might have been stored away during winter  (or the rest of the year). A spring clean can be in your house, body and/or mind. Make room for the new.
  • Open the windows. Get good ventilation in your space. Get some indoor plants.
  • Focus your attention to being positive, optimistic, open minded, tranquil, happy and friendly.
  • Enjoy nature. Go hiking, camping or anything you enjoy that takes you into the great outdoors.
  • Generally eat fresh, clean and crisp foods that are in season. Some Chinese medicine dietary tips include benefiting the:
    • yang qi through pungent foods (eg. onions, garlic, ginger, paprika, chives, mint and mustard)
    • liver through some sour foods – just enough to make you feel well but no need to over do it. A squeeze of lemon in your water or some natural yogurt can be beneficial.
    • wood element through green coloured foods eg. green tea, green leafy vegetables (kale, broccolini, baby spinach), peas, beans, asparagus, sprouts and celery.
    • Avoid very spicy and fatty foods at this time of year and don’t overdo the sour flavour.

For another post about spring health read here.

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

food, food allergy, recipe

Orange, macadamia & dark chocolate biscuits (dairy & gluten free)

orange macadamia chocolate biscuitsToday I’m sharing with you a real treat. One of my favourite biscuit recipes that I have been baking for years.

These biscuits just about melt in your mouth. They are just so… yum.

I make them with brown rice flour (why not increase the fibre whenever you can) and the sweeteners I’ve used are coconut palm sugar and a caster sugar/stevia combo. I like to bake without dairy but if you want to substitute the fat for butter go right ahead.

This recipe also makes a bumper batch of about 36 biscuits (depending on how big you roll them). They disappear surprisingly quickly so you need about 36 I reckon!

Orange, macadamia & dark chocolate biscuits

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dairy free butter alternative
  • 1/4 cup caster sugar/stevia blend (or 1/2 cup caster sugar)
  • 1/2 cup coconut palm sugar (or 1/2 cup brown sugar)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 1/4 cup brown rice flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (I used pink Himalayan salt)
  • zest of one orange
  • 120g dark chocolate (I use 85%) chopped into little chips
  • 1/2 cup macadamia nuts, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of uncrystallised ginger, chopped, optional (it’s very good)

orange macadamia chocolate ingredients

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
  2. Grease two large biscuit trays.
  3. Beat butter and sugars until creamy.
  4. Add egg and beat until combined.
  5. Mix in flour, baking soda and salt until combined well.
  6. Add orange zest, chopped chocolate, macadamia nuts and uncrystallised ginger. Mix well until all of the flavourings are evenly distributed through the dough. orange macadamia chocolate mixture
  7. Roll into heaped teaspoonfuls and place on biscuit trays.
  8. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden. Allow to sit on try for a minute or so, before transferring to a wire rack. orange macadamia chocolate biscuits tray

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

Diet, food, health, herbal medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Tea and you: brewing it, enjoying it & getting the health benefits

tea oolong cup
A delicious oolong tea known as Big Red Robe from the MayKing Tea range.

I really love tea so it’s no surprise that I snapped up an opportunity to do a tea appreciation course through Bright Learning with tea educator and enthusiast, May King Tsang (founder of MayKing Tea). With British Chinese heritage, May King brought the traditional English white and two sugar lovers and the green tea purists together giving us a lesson in making good tea (from picking the tea leaves, brewing them well and then appreciating them) as well as teaching us about some of the styles of tea, their flavour characteristics, health benefits, some tea-tech-talk, all while we enjoyed several cups of very tasty, good quality, loose leaf tea.

Here’s 10 things you may or may not know to ponder while you sip your cup of tea:

  1. Tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant with Chinese and Indian varietals. Herbals (eg. chamomile and peppermint) and rooibos are technically not tea as they come from different plants and are more correctly known as infusions, although we all call them teas anyway due to the preparation method.
  2. There are six types of tea: white, green, yellow, oolong, black and pu-erh. They are all made with the same tea plant but the leaves that are used, oxidisation and processing methods vary for each one. White and green teas are less oxidised than black teas are. White teas are made with just the bud and two first leaves from the branch. As tea leaves are oxidised they become sweeter (although this is only to a point and then they are more bittersweet like dark chocolate).

    MayKing Tea's delicate, white tea called 'white peony'.
    MayKing Tea’s delicate, white tea called ‘white peony’.
  3. Antioxidants are not only found in white and green teas. All tea leaves contain antioxidants and the content is much of a muchness between the six types of tea, so drink the type of tea you like best.
  4. Tea leaves do contain more caffeine than coffee beans per gram of raw material. However less tea leaves are used in making a cup of tea so there is actually less caffeine in a cup of tea than a cup of coffeeBlack tea does contain the most caffeine of the tea types, there is less in green tea and less again in most white tea. A type of white tea known as ‘silver needle’ contains a high level of caffeine as it is made with only the bud at the tip of the tea plant branch, and caffeine is more highly concentrated in these leaves. A Japanese style of tea known as matcha also has a high level of caffeine. Caffeine gives tea a ‘Yang’ property and l-theanine gives tea it’s ‘Yin’ relaxing, mood-enhancing property. This is why Asian and British cultures consider most problems can be fixed with a “nice sit down and a good cup of tea.” Choose the type of tea that you need according to your taste, mood, energy and the time of day.
  5. Tea can be flavoured by having herbs added to it (think Moroccan Mint green tea – which is actually a traditional Chinese blend that traveled with the spice trade). Tea leaves can also be flavoured by having herbs placed with the fresh pickings and infused under the sun for several days, the herbs are then removed so your brew is only made with the flavoured tea leaves. Some highly valued jasmine green teas are made this way. Some teas are ‘enhanced’ with artificial flavours so make sure to read the labels.

    MayKing Tea's osmanthus oolong tea. I loved this one, it reminded of my boat trip down the Li River in Guangxi.
    MayKing Tea’s osmanthus oolong tea. I loved this one, it reminded of my boat trip down the Li River in Guangxi.
  6. The water temperature required varies depending on the type of tea you are making. And you don’t need a fancy kettle or thermometer to measure this. Use fresh water (pH 7 is ideal) in the kettle each time and study the bubbles in the water level gauge to get the right temperature for the leaves you are using. Generally white and green teas need cooler water (70-80°C) and oolong, black and herbals need hotter water (around 90°C+). Here’s a guide to the temperature and bubble size to expect for each type of tea.
  7. Tea bags don’t contain the ‘sweepings from the factory floor’ but they aren’t usually made with excellent quality tea leaves either. Tea quality is best judged by examining the tea leaf itself so this is a reason to buy loose leaf tea. Also the more times a tea leaf has been cut, the darker your brew will be. The new triangular shape tea bags doing the rounds now often do contain better quality leaves than regular tea bags however they are usually made from a ‘plastic silken gauze’ which doesn’t biodegrade well, so not an environmentally friendly choice.
  8. You can leave your tea leaves to infuse in a white or green tea for about 3 minutes. Black and oolong teas can stay in contact with the leaves for as long as you like. The infuser size is considered to best if smaller for black teas and larger for green teas.
  9. Medicinally, in Chinese medicine, we consider that tea is slightly bitter-sweet, cooling to the body and benefits the Heart, Liver, Stomach, Bladder and Large Intestine channels. White and green teas are the most cooling and black teas are warmer. Tea is considered to be useful taken at the start of a ‘hot’ common cold, to assist in the digestion of heavy, rich and fatty foods, for scanty urination or taken as a strong brew for diarrhoea.
  10. It is considered that in brewing your cup of tea a process termed the ‘agony of the leaf‘ occurs: there will be a ‘tumble between the leaf and the water’ to produce that wonderful ‘liquor’ we know as tea.

    A delicious cup of osmanthus oolong tea.
    A delicious cup of osmanthus oolong tea.

Here’s more on tea and happiness, how to make corn silk ‘tea’ infusion and how to make chai.

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.

food, food allergy, recipe

Carrot and goji berry cake with frosting: gluten & dairy free

carrot and goji cakeSo I’ve recently had my wisdom teeth extracted. All I can say about that is OUCH and, thankfully, it’s all over now and I’ll never have to go through that again. As I was beginning to feel better I was tiring of mushy food so decided to make a cake. Even though I couldn’t open my mouth wide, small spoonfuls of cake were digestible without a whole lot of chewing. Plus, it meant I had something nice to serve visitors.

This cake is free from refined sugar, gluten and dairy. I’ve also added a food herb called Chinese wolfberry (gou qi zi) to the mix. You may know these little red fruits as goji berries. I got lazy with the icing so it is made with icing sugar and soy cream cheese but you could leave it off or substitute it with any of these dairy and refined-sugar free options if you want to skip the icing sugar: maple orange frosting, easy cream cheese frosting or cashew cream cheese frosting.

The cake was delicious and enjoyed by those who tried it. I can also vouch that is excellent served with Earl Grey tea.

Carrot cake & g0ji berry cake with dairy-free cream cheese frosting

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups brown rice flour with 2 teaspoons of baking powder added
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 cup of macadamia oil (or oil of your choice for baking)
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cups grated carrot
  • 1/2 cup of soaked goji berries
  • 1/2 cup of chopped pecans or walnuts

Frosting Ingredients:

  • 1 container of Tofutti non-dairy cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup of non-dairy spread (eg. nuttelex)
  • 1 1/2 cups icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Walnuts or pecans, chopped, to decorate

Method:

  1. Preheat over to 160°C and grease a 23cm round tin, lining the bottom with paper.
  2. In a large bowl, sift flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and soda together. Make a well in centre.
  3. Whisk oil, maple syrup and eggs together until changes colour and is combined.
  4. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients gradually until mixed through.
  5. Add carrots, nuts and goji berries.
  6. Bake for 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 hours or until golden and a skewer comes out clean from the middle of the cake. Allow to cool in the tin for 5-10 minutes before turning onto a cake rack.
  7. When the cake is cool, make frosting: blend tofutti and non-dairy spread until completely mixed through. Sift icing sugar into the cream cheese mix. Mix thoroughly. Add lemon juice and combine well. Spread frosting over the cake. Decorate with chopped nuts.

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.