acupuncture, health, herbal medicine

Get your free Herbs, Health & Acupressure ebook

ebook cover HHAThe fabulous naturopath Kathleen Murphy and I co-authored a little gem of an e-book a short while ago. It followed on from a presentation that we gave at the packed Blue Lotus tent at the Woodford Folk Festival.

We wanted to teach some simple self care techniques we often talk about in our clinics for these common health complaints:

  • Digestive disorders
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Pain

Kathleen covered the easy homemade herbal remedies and I taught some simple acupressure techniques.

To thank you for following or subscribing to my blog (you can subscribe using the link on the right side of the page) I wanted to offer you a free copy of the e-book: “An introduction to health, herbs & acupressure: simple tips and home remedies for good health.”

Click here to download the ebook – herbs health acupressure 2013 for free!

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.

acupuncture, health, herbal medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Oh no! The acupuncturist is sick! What does she do?

Ekka 2013
The Ekka may look harmless but beware of the lurgy!

It’s Ekka time. Everyone in Brisbane knows that when the Brisbane Exhibition is on that the flu goes around. Regardless of whether I go to the Ekka or not (and I did go this year – and I took hand sanitiser), I come down with the lurgy on exactly the same day of the year, the Monday before the Brisbane Exhibition Show Day. Yes, even I get sick sometimes! Picking up a respiratory infection 1-2 times per year is quite healthy and normal. In saying that, being sick is no fun and we like to prevent these things dragging on any longer than they have to.

So, as an acupuncturist, what do I do when I get sick?

Firstly, I should explain that in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) we classify the common cold or flu generally into one of two types: hot or cold.

How do you know which one you have?

  • Hot signs and symptoms: fevers or feeling hot more predominant, excessive sweating, yellow & thick mucus, razor blade sore throat and a red face.
  • Cold signs: chills or feeling the cold more predominant, none/slight sweats, clear & runny mucus, sneezing and pale face.

Treatments for the two types have some similarities but also many differences. It’s important to nut out whether you have hot or cold symptoms, and exactly what those symptoms are, before proceeding to treatment. Your acupuncturist can help you to do this.

I was knocked down with the hot type – a hot-cold. This means that my treatment is based on clearing the heat as well as releasing the exterior (a TCM term which is badly translated as opening the pores to release the pathogen that has made you unwell). If you have the cold type, we can employ more warming methods and herbs in your treatment. Here’s a nice soup if you have a cold-cold.

So, what did I do:

  1. Acupuncture. Yes, that was my first stop. I had an acupuncture treatment to clear out my sinuses, dull my headache and release some heat that was contributing to that sore throat.
  2. Herbs. Being able to make up individualised herbal formulas means that I can match the herbs to the symptoms. I used herbs that ‘release the exterior’, dry up phlegm and cool the heat signs. The herbs usually taste quite awful however the upside to having a blocked nose is that it drastically reduces your sense of taste – awful tasting herbs go down easily. Win!
  3. Fluids. Keeping up your 2 litres of fluid per day is essential and if you are sweating well you’ll need even more. It’s okay to include some herbal tea into your total fluid intake. I combined some HealthWise Clinic Cold & Flu Tea in a pot with a squeeze of fresh lemon (picked from my parents’ lemon tree) and a spoon of honey mixed through it. The herbs were pungent and the lemon and honey were cooling and soothing for the sore throat.
  4. Inhalation. Clearing your head out when it’s blocked up with mucus is best done with a steam inhalation. Just like your grandmother recommended: tea towel over your head, breathing over a pot of gently steaming water. I usually would add a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil or a blend of nose clearing oils to the water.
  5. Gargle. One of the simplest gargles that is also very effective is the salt water gargle. Mix a teaspoon of salt into a glass of water. Then gargle to your heart’s (or rather throat’s) content. Don’t swallow. Yuck. Salt is cooling for that hot, sore throat.
  6. Rest. Get as much sleep and rest as you can. Don’t go out if there is anyway to avoid it. No one wants your germs and rest will help you get better faster. I love this post on the importance of rest when you are ill – no one says it better than Kathleen, the naturopath! And here is how she manages a cold as a naturopath.
Cold & flu tea, with lemon and honey.
Cold & flu tea, with lemon and honey.

How do you prevent getting sick? Here’s a post I wrote a little while ago on getting your defenses (immune system) prepared for cold and flu season.

So if you aren’t sick, look after yourself. And if you are sick also look after yourself. Get better soon and seek help if the symptoms are severe or long-lasting.

And just in case you have an acupuncture appointment tomorrow, I’m pleased to report that I will be back on deck after a good rest.

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.

herbal medicine

Ten things you might not know about herbal medicine

The exquisite saffron flower
The exquisite saffron flower

Last night I enjoyed an evening with Mills and Bone. You might be thinking it went a bit like this…

On truly seeing Charelle’s beauty shine in the candlelight Roger was so glad the middle eastern chef had laced the meal with the most expensive spice in the world, saffron. He knew that this would be a night when he would be grateful for his ginkgo herbal tonic…

Actually, it was nothing like that at all. Mills and Bone, not Mills and Boon. (And I think I’ll call it quits on the romance writing.) The great herbalists Simon Mills and Kerry Bone launched the latest edition of their brilliant text Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy to Brisbane’s herbalists. The launch involved a discussion of several key herbs ranging from their fascinating traditional uses to the latest research findings gained from high quality randomised controlled trials.

Here are ten herbal points of interest from the evening:

  1. Barberry, a classic bitter herb, has excellent properties for managing blood sugar in Diabetes Type II patients.
  2. Cinnamon is one of the great warming herbs and can easily be used in the diet for people who run cold. Grind the quills yourself as you need them to have fresh powder which will maintain its potency better than when you buy it already ground. Most studies are on the Chinese cinnamon, Cinnomomum cassia.
  3. Bitter receptors are found in more places than just on your tongue. Researchers have found them throughout the gastrointestinal tract, the lungs and even on the cells that produce sperm. The herb gentian stimulates seven of the twenty five bitter receptors that we know of, a great many more receptors than most other bitters.
  4. There is thought that ginkgo may be useful in mitigating the effects of radiation and some research supports this. There are some notable ginkgo trees in Japan (still alive today) which were in close proximity to and survived the Hiroshima nuclear blasts without any apparent decline in their health.
  5. Gotu kola is known as the healing herb particularly due to its ability to improve micro-circulation. Other at home remedies include high quality dark chocolate (85%), berries, garlic and green tea.
  6. Meadowsweet is a gentle bitter which combines well with slippery elm powder to reduce gastro-oesophageal reflux. The trick is the combination needs to be taken straight after meals and before bed for the best effect.
  7. For inflammation in the mouth and throat you can’t go past Myrrh. This resin can make a fast-acting gargle and mouth wash.
  8. There is a Arabic proverb for the highly prized tonic herb Nigella that describes it as “the medicine for every disease except death”. In the Middle East it is the number one herb used for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and fibromyalgia.
  9. If you need to improve your cognitive function (eg. memory response time, etc.) look no further than the culinary herb rosemary. Rosemary has been shown to improve cognitive function in research studies. It was also compared to cold tomato juice which had a negative impact on cognitive function – so no cold tomato juice at exam time!
  10. Like Roger told you at the top, saffron is the world’s most expensive spice due to the time intensive process of harvesting only the three crimson stigma from this flower. Interestingly, saffron has performed well in clinical trials on depression, and in contrast to St John’s wort, saffron appears not to have the same herb-drug interactions. The research has shown that it can improve sexual function in men and women taking SSRI anti-depressants, which may be a side effect of taking these medications.

Just remember that herbal preparations should be treated with respect like any other medicine. Seek advice from your health practitioner to get best results rather than self-prescribing.

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

It’s time for a detox – Traditional Chinese Medicine style

detox dietEvery now and then, maybe once or twice each year, I put myself on a detox diet.

Now I’m not one who is big on following a particular diet trend, a detox diet for me is more about establishing good eating and living habits – bringing myself back into line – back to basics – that kind of thing. It’s about prioritising what’s important – and that’s doing what makes me feel well.

Usually I get this urge after an extremely busy few months when some of my good habits have slid and I’ve been running from the clinic to social event to karate training to professional education seminar to giving a lecture while surviving on food that is far more convenient than it is worth eating. That’s when I know, it’s time to set things straight.

So my detox diet usually runs for about two or three weeks, and since I respond well to structure and routine I spell it out like this:

None of these

  • Dairy
  • Gluten and refined grains
  • Animal protein
  • Processed foods (this includes chocolate)
  • Added sugar
  • Alcohol
  • Coffee and black tea

And plenty of these, organic where possible

  • Fresh vegetables
  • A small amount of fruit
  • Beans, peas and lentils
  • Wholegrains (non-gluten)
  • Plenty of herbs and spices (eg. ginger, garlic, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, turmeric, parsley and coriander).
  • Water
  • Herbal and green teas

I take a few herbs and supplements for:

  • liver support 
  • good digestive function
  • healthy gut flora

I like to consider this as more about what you can have, and that is spoiling your body with excellent quality food that you deserve (none of that cheap, nasty processed stuff)! For me, this means I can eat as many gluten-free porridges, curries, casseroles, stir frys and soups as I like. Which is great because I love these foods.

Now, you don’t have to go without gluten grains if you don’t have a problem with them, I just feel better when I do avoid them. I’m also already a vegetarian so the meat thing isn’t a problem.

The part I struggle with most is avoiding sugar.  I have a sweet tooth and I love dark chocolate. The rest of the diet makes me stick to a good routine for two weeks and that’s long enough for me to remember my good habits and stick to them most of the time after that. I also find that if you fill up your body with good food it is very satisfying and you tend not to want the processed or sweet foods you might otherwise crave. These cravings are usually gone after only a few days. There are a few other tricks I have up my sleeve for people who struggle with sugar cravings.

A good detox program should also include some exercise, again use this as a way to set your future exercise routine.  Do exercise that you enjoy – if it’s outdoors in a green space it’s even better! Be kind to yourself during your program and add in a massage or two and some epsom salts baths.

Detox diets and Traditional Chinese Medicine

Detox diets are not part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) so this post is a little controversial.  TCM supports the body back to a healthy function but does not traditionally use therapeutic methods as a ‘clean out’, unless of course you are blocked up.  Detox diets do form part of naturopathic and ayurvedic thought.

My personal idea of a detox is not huge on the cleaning out side of things, but more on re-establishing a healthy diet and lifestyle routine. In TCM terms it’s all about supporting the Earth element – the Spleen and Stomach (or digestive system in western terms). It’s a plan for a set period of time (2-3 weeks) to get yourself back on track. I also do not subscribe to the raw food clean-out idea. A little is ok, but it depends on your constitution and you’ll probably need to see a TCM practitioner to work that out. My detox doesn’t usually include any juicing (or at least not copious amounts). When your body is functioning well, it can eliminate easily what it doesn’t need.

Detox programs aren’t for everyone.  It depends on your constitution and your signs and symptoms. I design different types of programs for my patients as individuals. Different foods, herbs, supplements and time periods. The goal is to re-establish (or establish in the first place) a healthy diet and lifestyle for a period of time that you can then stick to maybe 80% of the time thereafter.

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.

acupuncture, aromatherapy, herbal medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Even your pet can benefit from acupuncture

dog acupunctureI spent today with a gorgeous friend, her incredibly clever and kind seven-year old daughter and their adorable devon rex cat.

Miss Seven was over the moon to be able to demonstrate her new vet kit to me.  The vet kit was a little basket of goodies she had put together to treat her animals. It included freshly pressed basil oil, some raw ginger, eucalyptus leaves, a sewing pin and her own written notes on pet medicine.

We started by treated the toy dog. He had a sore back and irritated eyes. With our combination of herbal rubs and sewing pin acupuncture we cured him.

But you know, pets (of the living, breathing variety) really can benefit from complementary medicines just as well as people can. Acupuncture, acupressure, herbal medicine, nutritional medicine (such as omega 3 fatty acids), homeopathics and aromatherapy can work a treat for our furry friends for their physical and mental ailments. Some good vets include these therapies in their practice – it’s always worth asking about.

Today’s work with the seven-year old complementary medicine veterinary doctor reminded me of this fabulous video showcasing the effect of acupuncture on the most adorable little pug puppy who suffered with paralysis from a car accident. Her recovery is remarkable.

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.

acupuncture, Diet, exercise, food, herbal medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Drying the damp: feeling well in humid climates

This week in Brisbane the heat and humidity have picked up and it’s no surprise that summer is just around the corner.

Humidity has a tendency to make many of us feel:

  • Heavy
  • Lethargic
  • Fluidy
  • Sweaty and sticky (a skin nightmare!) – use this scrub recipe
  • Unmotivated
  • Irritable or melancholy
  • Foggy headed
  • Not hungry, and yet still craving comfort foods and drinks
  • Nauseous and/or prone to loose bowels

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) we refer to this syndrome as ‘dampness’.  That is, humidity from the environment, our lifestyle and diet has accumulated in our body and become stagnant, making us feel… bleh.

So, if this sounds like you in humid weather, what can be done?

  1. Keep moving – keep up the exercise even when you feel heavy and unmotivated, it will help you feel better.  Don’t sit for too long, get up regularly.
  2. Stay dry – don’t sit around in sweaty clothes or wet swimsuits.  Towel off properly and get changed.  Also be aware of your living, working and playing environments – are they well ventilated and dry?
  3. Keep up your fluids – it may sound counterproductive to drink more water (2-3L) but we need to promote urination to pass the excess fluid from your system.  That is, clean fluids going in so we can wash away the stagnant ones.
  4. Eat small meals, regularly, and make your lightest meal in the evening.  Don’t overeat.
  5. Reduce sweet, oily, rich and dairy foods – An icy soft drink, creamy gelati or fresh mango may seem like just the treat to give you a refreshing pick up but it will probably have the opposite effect, making you feel heavier and more lethargic than you were before.  Steer clear of  soft drinks, fruit juices, milk shakes, smoothies, ice cream, excessive high-sugar tropical fruits (eg. mangoes and bananas), fatty meats and greasy fried foods.  Before you get upset that I have taken your mango away (because let’s face it, they are delicious), a slice or two after a meal with a slice or two of pawpaw or pineapple is fine for aiding your digestion, we just shouldn’t go crazy on them.  While we are at it, an excessive intake of grains (eg. pasta dishes) will add to the damp feeling.
  6. Eat more light, bitter and pungent foods – these are what you can eat and will help your body reduce excessive fluids that are being held.  Make sure to eat small, light meals that include some ginger, garlic, onions, chili, caraway seeds, aduki (red beans) beans, mung beans, bitter leafy greens, alfalfa sprouts, celery and rye (if gluten is ok). A squeeze of lemon or lime in your food and water will be refreshing. Diuretic teas – nettle leaf,  dandelion, corn silk (here is a recipe on how to make it) and green teas are useful – drink them like they are water.  Barley water can also make for a refreshing diuretic drink, although not for the  gluten intolerant.
  7. Herbs and acupuncture – if the humidity is still knocking you around and the thought of doing anything on this list is beyond you, get some professional help from a herbalist or acupuncturist.  They will choose the right herbs (often bitters) and acupoints to kickstart moving the dampness so that you can then get back on track with the lifestyle and dietary recommendations.

If it’s more the heat than the humidity that is getting to you – here’s some ideas to help you feel cooler.

Eating a diet to resolve dampness isn’t fun.  But neither is feeling heavy, lethargic and unmotivated.  So, do what you can, keep moving and if you can make even just a few of the dietary recommendations you should feel lighter and brighter to enjoy this 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.

acupuncture, Diet, fertility, food, herbal medicine, pregnancy, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Nourishing the blood with TCM and whole foods

Blood deficiency (xue xu) is a diagnostic term we use in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for someone who is showing signs and symptoms of inadequate nourishment of the blood to the body. It is not uncommon for the women I see for pre-conception care, fertility treatment and pregnancy support to have an element of blood deficiency as part of their diagnosis.  Although, blood deficiency is not limited to women in their reproductive years and can also be present in men.

Signs and symptoms may include:

  • lightheaded
  • poor memory
  • mild anxiety
  • difficulty falling asleep
  • pale (face, lips, tongue, nails, eyelids)
  • weak nails
  • hair loss or premature greying
  • low energy
  • blurred vision or floaters in the vision
  • dry eyes, skin and hair
  • tics, tremors and numbness
  • women: light or absent periods (maybe after a history of heavy periods)

A lot of these symptoms are consistent with those of iron deficiency anaemia.  TCM blood deficiency is more than iron deficiency however.  It does describe a condition involving a lack of protein building blocks, vitamin B12, folic acid and other nutrients, but more so, blood deficiency, in its TCM sense, is to do with the whole substance that is blood – that is, there is not enough good quality blood in its entirety to nourish the body.

To correct a blood deficiency, we look for possible causes of the blood deficiency.  The three most common are:

  • excessive bleeding (often menstrual, but not limited to this)
  • poor digestive function (not absorbing nutrients)
  • poor diet which is lacking in nutrition (nothing worth absorbing)

Acupuncture alone cannot nourish the blood but it can improve digestive function to enhance absorption.  Blood is a substance and we need good foods ingested so that we have the building blocks to be absorbed by the body to manufacture it well.  The two best ways to build and nourish blood are:

  • Diet: Plant sources include dark green (purple/red) leafy vegetables, seaweeds, spirulina, sprouts, legumes and whole grains. Richly coloured foods (often red) are valued for building the blood including goji berries (Chinese wolf berries), dried apricots, dark grapes, blackberries, raspberries and black strap molasses.  Additionally, animal sources include organic meat, eggs and liver (although it is not healthy to exceed 300g/week in the long-term) and soups based on meat bone broth. Support your digestive system with lightly cooked and warm foods and add some spices to aid digestion such as ginger, cumin, fennel and cardamom.
  • Herbs & supplements:  To nourish the blood more efficiently an herbal formula may be developed for your individual situation.  This may include herbs such as dong quai (dang gui), rehmannia, withania and nettle leaf.  Supplements may include iron, vitamin B12, folic acid and to enhance iron absorption vitamin C may be also taken.

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.

herbal medicine

How herbal extracts are made: the factory tour

A short time ago I was lucky enough to be invited to join a lovely group of herbalists for a tour of the Mediherb production facility at Warwick.

The impressive herbal medicine headquarters is where hundreds of raw herbs are received in great big hessian bags from the best quality sources ranging the world over.  Each herb is tested as a sample, before the herb is ordered in bulk and on receipt of the final order is once again tested again to identify that it is the correct herb, to satisfy quality standards with chemical markers and to ensure over all safety. Mediherb’s commitment to testing ensures that they do reject herbs that do not meet quality standards or are substituted with cheaper (sometimes toxic) herbs.

The herbs are then milled and transferred to the factory building of the site.  Here the raw herbs are mixed with ethanol as a solvent to make the herbal extract that will be used in your herbal liquid formula.  The extraction room is filled with large canisters operating like coffee percolators as the solvent works its way through the raw herb to drip the finished product out underneath.  It is at this point, the herbal extract is tested again, to ensure that the correct therapeutic compounds have been extracted and in the right quantities.

If the laboratory approves the extract it is then ready for the bottling line to become a finished product.

The herbal testing occurs at a state of the art laboratory offsite.  Again, this facility is very impressive and the range of equipment used to identify the herbs, ensure quality and test expiry dates is both extensive and fascinating.  Testing is also done here to the same high level for several other Integria ranges including Sunspirit Oils.

The whole process to produce the liquid extract can take at least several weeks  with many stages and people involved to ensure that the herb is preserved and retains its natural therapeutic properties at a high level.

So, next time you are taking your herbal tonic (or ‘jungle juice’, ‘rocket fuel’, ‘goop’ or whatever your nickname is for it), you can be grateful for the remarkable journey the herbs have made to find their way into a little bottle to bring you good health.

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.

acupuncture, exercise, herbal medicine

The healing arts of the samurai

I have recently returned from my first (of many, I hope) trip to Japan.  It was my passion for karate that enticed me to visit this country, however I was fortunate to encounter some traditional medicine as I was taking a break from training in the dojo.

We visited the preserved samurai village, Kakunodate.  Here we were guided around one of the most impressive old samurai houses.  The house belongs to the Ishiguru family.  During the time of the samurai, this family obtained the first edition of Japan’s first anatomical text.  The family studied and practiced herbal medicine and acupuncture to treat illness and recover from injury.  The museum displayed their acupuncture needles, herbal medicine preparation tools and medicinal texts.

On returning to Tokyo, I had the opportunity to visit the Nihondo Kampo College.  Kampo is medicine system predominantly focussed on herbs.  It has its basis in Traditional Chinese Medicine but has been adapted by the Japanese to become a unique style of medicine.  Kampo medicines are part of Japan’s national health system.  The Nihondo Kampo college included a small but beautiful herbal medicine museum and many Five Element Theory displays.  (I’ll discuss some of these theories in future blogs.)  Their little shop sold medicinal herbal teas and soup stocks.  I could observe the student practitioners (in their white clinic coats just like in Australia) consulting with their patients and herbal medicines being prepared in their immaculate dispensary.  The college also boasted a vegetarian restaurant with meals cooked for the health of the patient.  Needless to say I was in my element!

These were just two highlights from my trip to Japan.  I look very forward to visiting this wonderful country again.

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.

acupuncture, health, herbal medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Learn acupressure at the Woodford Folk Festival

Today it’s five sleeps ’til my birthday and six sleeps ’til Christmas, which means it’s just eight days until the best time of year: the Woodford Folk Festival. I’m bursting with excitement!  But this year it’s going to be extra fun because together with my HealthWise Clinic naturopath extraordinaire colleague, Kathleen Murphy,  I’m on the programme presenting about the stuff I love – Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Kathleen and I will be presenting several talks titled ‘Herbs, Health & Acupressure’ which are designed to give you quick, easy and effective ways to treat common health problems at home.

I’ll be sharing some acupressure techniques you can use for several unpleasant symptoms including nausea, headaches and insomnia.  Kathleen will have some dietary and herbal remedies to share. 

You can catch the Kathleen & Sarah Double-Act on:

  • Thursday 29th December 5pm @ Blue Lotus (Woodforum: raw food panel discussion)
  • Friday 30th December 11am @ Blue Lotus
  • Sunday 1st January 11am @ Big Ideas (Children’s festival)

It will be a lot of fun.  We hope to see you there.