health, nature, Traditional Chinese Medicine

How to live well this winter

Winter arrived right on cue this year in Brisbane. As I left the college I lecture at this afternoon the chilly air went straight through me. Note to self: I need to refresh my winter wardrobe.Winter leunig

But what about winter and your health? Winter has a bad reputation for ‘catching a cold’ and cops the flack for setting the scene for ‘flu season’.

Let’s think about winter. And here’s a classic to put you in the mood:

If you have time to notice that we have seasons you will have discovered recently that the days are getting shorter and the temperature is cooler. And if you don’t have time, make some.

In keeping with my other seasonal living guides (summer and autumn), here is your guide to living well in winter.

Winter is all about the Water element (in which we find the Kidneys and Bladder). It is when the Yang (hot, energetic Qi) is hidden by the Yin (cool, peaceful Qi) accumulation. And so we crave:

  • Comfort and being cosy
  • Embracing the indoors
  • Introversion
  • Getting more sleep (earlier to bed, later to rise)
  • Using the warm quilt and/or flannelette sheets
  • Getting crafty (crocheting or knitting? I heard they are the new yoga!)
  • Comforting foods – soups, stews, curries, apple cinnamon crumble 

Top tips for good health in winter:

  • Storing and building our energy for the spring. By reading the ideas above it certainly sounds like this is exactly what winter is for.
  • Keep warm. Not so warm you work up a sweat but enough to protect that Yang Qi. Think of it a little as you need to keep your internal furnace firing so that when you are out in the cold you can warm back up quickly again. Most importantly keep your feet and lower back warm. There is no place for a midriff top in winter! And if there is a cold breeze around wrap a scarf around your neck. Also keep your bed comfortably warm.
  • Get a dose of sunlight on a clear day. The far infrared rays will warm you on a cool day and boost your mood. Here’s a guide to sunlight exposure for vitamin D in the winter.
  • Keep exercising within comfortable limits. Winter may be a time to slow down and get indoors but we still need some moderate activity to keep us healthy and happy.
  • Wash your hands regularly. Being inside more often exposes you to more people’s germs in confined spaces. Wash your hands regularly and/or carry around some hand sanitiser to reduce your risk of catching a cold or flu.
  • Protect your skin and respiratory system from dryness. Find yourself a good natural moisturiser (no, sorbelene won’t do) to nourish your face and body. Use lip balm. Modify the humidity in your home if necessary. Increase the good oils in your diet.
  • Eat warm. Include some nourishing dishes made with seasonal produce in your diet. Make use of some warming foods and spices as described in my quick guide to eating well in winter. Chinese medicine likes to include some dark coloured foods too (eg. black sesame, black soy beans and brown rice). Now is also the time to partake in preserved foods. Salads, juices and smoothies are best left until the weather warms up again. And swap the muesli for porridge or congee.
  • A wee nip of alcohol in moderation warms from within. In fact a Ming Dynasty doctor recommended “Alcoholic beverages are bitter and acrid in flavour and hot in thermal nature. When consumed regularly and in the right amount, alcohol regulates blood flow, promotes Qi circulation, stimulates the mind and warms the body.” What is the right amount? Please read these guidelines.

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

Living well in Autumn

From the cartoon genius that is Michael Leunig. I thought this was incredibly cute.

Many people say that autumn is one of the most delightful times of year in Brisbane with beautiful clear skies and moderate temperatures. Autumn is the time when the heat and humidity from summer dissipates gradually and we begin to dry off and cool down in the transition towards winter. Here’s something to put you in the mood: Tchaikovsky’s Autumn (or October in the northern hemisphere) – the inspiration for Leunig’s ‘The Autumn Circle of Magpies and Ducks’ perhaps?

As a follow up to my summer livin‘ post I thought I should introduce you all to good living tips for autumn too. The following are a collection of ideas (in no particular order) associated with autumn:

  • Gathering
  • Harvest the mature
  • Build storage for winter
  • Yang Qi (energy) falls and Yin Qi (energy) rises gradually
  • Qi (energy) moves inward and downward
  • Bright and crisp
  • Cool and dry
  • Clarity and simplicity
  • Reflection and reconnection
  • Slowing down
  • Lungs, large intestine and your skin
  • Preserving a harmonious mood
  • Pungent flavours and aromas
  • The colour white
  • The metal element

Gradually add even just a few of these tips as the weather changes to maximise your health in the autumn:

  • Lifestyle:
    • Get more sleep. Go to bed earlier than in summer and rise a little later.
    • Don’t tire yourself out physically or sweat too much.
    • Feel the weather getting cooler but don’t feel the need to rug up to be ‘over’ warm until the weather gets colder. Layers are good! On the other hand, be prepared with some warm clothes and bedclothes in the case of a cold snap.
    • Exercise should be more about building strength than sweating it out in the autumn. This relates to gathering muscle and preserving body fluids. However, if you wish to lose weight, Chinese medicine considers autumn a good time to exercise more to prevent further ‘storage’ over the winter.
    • Look after your skin. Find yourself lovely aromatic, natural facial and body moisturisers/oils to keep your skin nourished in the drier climate. Don’t forget to moisturise after a bath too.
    • This is also an excellent time to pull out some books, cards and board games for a little bit of inside time with friends and family in the evenings.
  • Emotional health:
    • If you love summer then autumn can be a sad time. Make the most of bright and crisp autumn days, getting some safe exposure to sunlight. This could involve a walk in nature, exercise in a park, and sightseeing around mountains, rivers or lakes.
  • Foods:
    • More substantial meals than in summer, yet not as heavy as in winter – simple and sumptuous!
    • Savour the deep, complex flavours of autumn.
    • Moisten dryness with foods such as pears, spinach, nuts, seeds, avocado, milks (if they agree with you, including soy) and honey. Porridge with honey and banana can be very moistening.
    • Eat some pungent and warm foods (Eg. leeks, radishes, garlic, cinnamon, ginger, onion and chilli) but not until you sweat.
    • Also gradually include sour (preserve fluids) and bitter (descends to store) flavoured foods.
    • Make the most of: wild mushrooms, garlic, leeks, onions, potatoes, turnips, parsnips, swedes, beetroot, broccoli and borlotti beans. A lot of these foods are naturally white in colour which is synonymous with the metal element.
    • Avoid excessive cool/cold/icy foods and drinks.
    • Use cooking methods which will maximise food aromas such as baking (warming) and saute (preserving moisture content). Use your slow cooker to gently warm and keep the moisture in your food – plus you will come to the aroma of a home cooked dinner!

If you find that autumn brings out the worst in your health (eg. moodwise, asthma or respiratory symptoms, skin conditions, constipation or other digestive orders) talk to me about acupuncture, herbal medicine or other lifestyle methods which may benefit your condition.

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.

aromatherapy, Diet, emotional health, fertility, nature, Traditional Chinese Medicine

In the summertime… you have these good living tips on your mind.

It’s summer in the Southern Hemisphere! And so here’s a cliché summery tune to put you in the mood – just press play as you read on…

I recently attended a workshop on living with the seasons and the theme of course, was summer – and how to do it well. Chinese Medicine places great importance on living with the seasons to optimise our health in the present but also in the seasons to come.

Here’s a few ideas on living well this season. Pick and choose the ones you like to make sure that you absorb a year’s supply of summer energy (or yang) while it is abundant.

Summer is all about these (and this is not conclusive and they are in no particular order):

  • hibiscusPleasure.
  • Blossoming. Showing your true, wonderful self to the world.
  • The Fire element. Red. Heart. Small Intestine. Bitter foods. Joy.
  • Fertility. Bearing fruit.
  • Watching thunderstorms.
  • Abundant yang.
  • Nourishment.
  • Walking barefoot on the sand and grass.
  • Sips of iced peppermint tea. (Cold drinks in moderation.)
  • Stargazing.
  • Soaking up a little sun. (How much do you need in your region?)
  • Prosperity and beauty.
  • Social butterflies. Extroversion.
  • Siestas.
  • An open mind, curiosity and an optimistic mood.
  • Rosewater, mint and cooling aromatherapy face & body mists.
  • Colourful, light and flowing clothing.
  • Pretty frocks.
  • Outdoor dinner parties.
  • A slice of fruit after a meal.

Not everyone loves the summer. Think of what makes you more comfortable in hot weather and prepare yourself in late spring or early summer with these:

  • A change in diet. Lighter, more cooling foods with bitter and acrid flavours. Read more about summer eating.
  • Lighter sheets and bedclothes.
  • A fan.
  • Earlier to rise, later to bed with an after-lunch nap if you can.
  • A change in wardrobe or at least storing your winter wardrobe away.
  • A new hat and/or sunglasses.
  • Getting close to (or in) the ocean, a lake or river.
  • Be most physically active in the coolest parts of the day.
  • Resist the urge to spend the whole day in airconditioning – get some summer air each day.
  • It’s okay to perspire but be sure to rehydrate by increasing your water intake.
  • Chat to your Chinese Medicine practitioner if you are still struggling to embrace the summer.

What does summer mean to you? And what tips do you have to enjoy the summer?

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, herbal medicine, nature

Growing herbs: turning my thumb from brownish green to leafy green

I am a disgrace to my family. It seems that by some sort of genetic mutation I was born without the family green thumb. I even painted it green as part of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costume once but it didn’t stick. And it’s not for want of trying. I love the idea of having a bounty of fresh herbs growing at my back door to harvest as needed so much so I’ve set up little herb gardens at every home I’ve had. And each time they eventually amount to something that looks a bit like this:

dead plants

My biggest challenge is growing coriander. I can get it to go to seed before it barely has its first leaves – well that might be a slight exaggeration. Or if it does grow well a possum eats it. And I’m not alone in the battle with coriander, many others also share my pain as I discovered when I attended a recent Set up and manage a herb garden course through the great people at Bright Learning (they have all of your adult learning needs covered – check them out).

A lovely group of brownish-green thumbs like me were taught by gardening expert David Borthwick from Productive Gardens. Our group was united in our goals for the class:

  1. How do you keep coriander alive and flourishing?
  2. How can you save your herb garden from possums?

stackable gardenDavid answered these questions and a whole lot more that we threw at him. I now know that you can grow plants in crushed bricks, your herb garden needs to be 20 steps or fewer from your back door or you probably won’t use it, and that ants farm aphids and lady bugs eat aphids. Coriander is easily stressed so it is best grown from seed so that it is subjected to your watering conditions its whole life, not those of the nursery, and you need to keep planting it regularly. Possums – well physical barriers are best (don’t even bother with the supposedly unappealing texture and taste methods) and David showed us this clever stackable garden which is made to have a stake through its middle to support bird netting to keep those pesky possums away.

After learning all about what to look for in potting mix, fertiliser, mulch and the pots themselves, we planted our own herb pots up.

herb courseMine is now safely in a possum proof greenhouse on my balcony at home. And the coriander was flourishing until I had my very first outbreak of aphids. Fortunate timing as since I was post-herb-growing-course I knew exactly how to beat those little sap suckers – it’s death by oil spray for you lot!


Oh! I think my thumb may have developed a healthy green tinge.

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, food, nature, Traditional Chinese Medicine

New guest post for Alive Berry on eating well in winter

Chili-choc-chai tea

I’ve had the good fortune of being asked to write for the brilliant online health magazine, Alive Berry.  Do check them out for all of your mind, body and soul needs.

Following on from my Wellness Ninja blog post from yesterday Three of my favourite spices for winter warming, my first Alive Berry post is A quick guide to eating well in winter. Enjoy it!


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, exercise, food, food allergy, health, nature

Happy campers eat wholefoods

capsicum egg ringsI’ve just come back from a delightful little camping trip to Cunningham’s Gap in southern Queensland. While I really do love to rough it when I go camping, this trip was a luxury affair with a Weber Q barbecue, gas stove and gas camping oven, in addition to the traditional campfire.

bestbrook mountainThere are so many reasons why getting outdoors and going camping is good for your health.  Here’s my list.

camping vego breakfastIn between the horse riding, hiking through the beautiful forest of the Scenic Rim and taking afternoon naps, we cooked and ate some really great food altogether as a big group of friends.  There wasn’t a tin of baked beans or packet of Deb (instant potato mash) to be seen. And you don’t need the fancy cooking gear to cook like this – a campfire, butane stove, hot plate and a few pots will go a long way.

So here’s a snapshot of just some of the great wholesome camping food (all with vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy-free options) we enjoyed on this trip:

  • Tofu and vegetable Thai red curry with rice (plus there was enough leftovers for lunch the next day).
  • Peanut butter, avocado and salad gluten-free wraps.
  • Scrambled eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms and potatoes cooked on the barbecue.
  • A ‘hangi’ style meal with loads of vegetables: sweet potato, potato, pumpkin and corn served with a grilled chickpea and spinach patty.
  • Leftover vegies from the hangi meal cooked into bubble and squeak, with mushrooms and eggs cooked in capsicum rings on the barbecue (pictured).
  • Gluten-free chocolate berry cake baked in the gas camping oven for dessert.

Have you got some tasty camping recipes based on whole foods? I’d love to know about them.

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, nature

When to choose organic foods?

Dirty dozen foodsOrganic is the buzz word of the moment and everything from granny smith apples to tinned kidney beans to chicken breast fillets to cabernet sauvignon to body wash to tampons to cotton socks has an organic tag on it.

What does ‘organic’ really mean anyway?  (For anyone who remembers their grade 8 chemistry, ‘organic’ in a produce context refers to much more than the presence of carbon.)

According to Australian Organic, “organic produce is grown and processed without the use of synthetic chemicals, fertilisers, or GMOs with a focus on environmentally sustainable practices. Organic food is not just chemical-free. Organic farmers take a holistic approach to food production and handling, and the whole system is linked – Soil. Plants. Animals. Food. People. Environment. Health.”

As the term ‘organic’ is banded around by many companies to sell their wares, a savvy consumer will look for the term ‘certified organic’ to confirm that their produce is exactly that.  This is an excellent guide to understanding certified organic produce (e.g. food, clothing and cosmetics).

The downside of organic produce is that it can be more expensive than regular produce.  This lovely little guide (above) was produced to let you know which foods are the most pesticide heavy and so are best bought from organic producers.  It also lets you know which foods you can purchase from regular suppliers if price or availability is a factor in your buying decision.

But, when in doubt, choose organic.  It’s good for you, the farmers and your planet.

I’ve always loved Food Connect as a community supported agriculture (CSA) supplier of in-season organic fruit, vegetables and a wide range of other delicious produce.  Food Connect operates throughout South East Queensland and Sydney.

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.