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

Spice up your life, with chai

Chai is a personal favourite beverage and is best enjoyed in cooler weather.  As the first day of Winter is just tomorrow, I have chai on my mind and by the time you have read this blog I hope you will too.

left – black tea chai, right – herbal chai

There’s something really comforting about having a ‘sit down and a nice cup of tea’.  Chai takes this experience up a notch – we spice the tea up.  This style of tea is wonderfully fragrant and warms you from within.

The word ‘chai’ is the name given to tea in India and refers to the way in which Indians often take their tea.  Most chai teas use a combination of spices that are often found in Indian cooking and herbal medicine such as cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom and black pepper, but the ingredients vary from chai to chai.  It can include black tea, green tea or simply the spices alone as an herbal tea.  Likewise, milk is optional, and even then you can choose from cow (not for the vegans or dairy-free amongst us), soy, rice or nut milks.  Your chai can be sweetened with honey or sugar.

As for the wellness aspect of tea in general, the Japanese Buddhist priest, Myoe (1173-1232), is said to have inscribed this into his teakettle:

Tea has the blessing of all the deities
Tea promotes filial piety
Tea drives away all evil spirits
Tea banishes drowsiness
Tea keeps the five internal organs in harmony
Tea wards off disease
Tea strengthens friendship
Tea disciplines body and mind
Tea destroys the passions
Tea grants a peaceful death

So, given that the weather is cooler now it is time to ditch your iced tea (although strictly speaking in Traditional Chinese Medicine chilled liquids are frowned upon all year round anyway) and opt for a health-restoring steamy cup  of delicious chai, as this quote describes:

“Tea should be drunk when hot.  Cold tea will aid the accumulation of phlegm.  It is better to drink less of it, rather than more.  Better yet!  Don’t drink it at all.” Chia Ming, Yin-shih hsu-chih, fourteenth century

Bare in mind the milkier and sweeter your chai is, the more likely it is to also create phlegm, although, the warming spices should aid digestion to some degree. So, as usual, moderation is the key.

You can make your own chai with a recipe like this one or purchase some loose leaf chai from a shop that supplies good quality teas, don’t bother with the supermarket ones.

Now, would you like a cup of chai?  Go on…

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, health, Traditional Chinese Medicine

How to have breakfast like an Emperor (or Empress) every day

Brown rice congee

There is an old saying that goes “Eat breakfast like an emperor, lunch like a king and dinner like a pauper”.  That is, make breakfast a larger, nutritious meal, lunch as a moderate meal and dinner, well something light so as not to distract you from a sound slumber.

So, breakfast as an Emperor, what does that mean?  The Emperor (or Empress) needs breakfast to provide him (or her) with energy for the day, both physically and mentally.  And so do you.

To enjoy a good breakfast, firstly you need to wake with a good appetite.  If you don’t, this needs attention and should be brought up with your acupuncturist, herbalist or naturopath.

Secondly, breakfast, where possible, should be consumed around 7-9am.  This is when your digestive system is at its strongest according to the Traditional Chinese Medicine Clock (a system that had similarities to the circadian rhythms, at different times of the day, different systems in the body will function more predominately). For the majority of people, this time is a logical time to take their first meal of the day.  For some people, to eat breakfast around this time takes planning.  (For example, take your food to work if you leave home early.)

Thirdly, this meal needs to be fit for an Emperor.  I don’t mean you should stuff yourself silly, but rather go to town with good quality and nutritious foods.  Now, would an Emperor possibly think that tea and toast or cornflakes for breakfast will allow him the energy to get through a day?  Definitely not.  So think:

  • Keep it interesting.  Eat as many different foods in your meal as is reasonably possible and heightens the taste and enjoyment factor.  Choose different colours and textures.  Make sure to include a mix of protein, high quality carbohydrates and good fats.  Think: wholegrains, nuts, seeds, fruits and spices.
  • Warm is best.  Stoke your digestive fire for your first meal of the day with a warm, cooked meal.
  • Portion size.  Usually the rule of eating until you are 80% full is a useful way to judge the size of your breakfast.  There is no need to skimp as this meal should keep you satisfied until your mid-morning snack.

Some of my favourite Breakfast as an Empress recipes:

  • Millet porridge with the works – Great to cook up while you get showered and ready for the day
    • Add 1/4 cup hulled millet (or brown rice), 1 grated apple, a handful of almonds and your choice of seeds (eg. sunflower, linseed) to a saucepan with 1 cup water.  Boil, then reduce heat to a simmer until no water remains and millet/rice is cooked through.  Serve with a dessert spoon of tahini, a sprinkle of LSA and some fresh berries.
  • Congee with ginger and shallots (and chicken or tofu or egg) – make this one in advance and freeze in portions.
    • Add to a large saucepan: 1 cup of brown rice, 6 cups of water, 1 tablespoon of grated ginger, 6 sliced shallots (white part only), 1 tablespoon soy sauce and optional: 1 whole organic chicken (skinned).  Bring to the boil then simmer covered for 3 hours or until rice is mushy, resembling porridge.  If using chicken, remove bones from the soup.  For the vegetarian version, omit the chicken, now add 1 cup of mashed silken tofu and stir through rice mixture until warmed through or poach an egg and serve on top of the congee.  Top with chopped coriander and sliced green shallots.  I find this recipe is best made in advance and frozen in single serve portions to be quickly reheated as needed.  This is a good winter breakfast to fire up the furnaces.
  • Poached eggs with avocado, tomato and greens – for when you can take your time
    • Poach some eggs, toast some gluten-free or your favourite wholemeal bread.  Top the toast with avocado, a few slices of tomato and some baby spinach.  Garnish with a few basil leaves.
  • Organic muesli with rice, nut or soy milk – A quick fix
    • When you are in a hurry, having some good quality organic muesli on hand can be your saviour.  I like Therapeutic Gourmet’s ‘Get up and Goji’ available from health food stores and the West End Markets.  Serve with warm rice, nut or soy milk.

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, exercise, health, motivational

Being healthy when you’re busy

It’s easy to live a healthy life if you have plenty of time.  Taking your time to cook wholesome food, get enough exercise, practice some meditation and have enough sleep all take time.  Precious time.  Something that many of us seem to have a lot less of than we’d like.

If being time-poor is your reality, then we need to work with the time we have more smartly.  My answer is to make a routine.  It’s just as important to prioritise your ‘you time’ as it to schedule work and family commitments.  You need to book in time to nurture yourself when it suits you or you’ll end up being ill when it isn’t convenient, and that may really throw a spanner in the works at a later time.

‘You time’, as part of a healthy lifestyle, might include any combination of the following: home-cooked healthy food, at least 30 minutes of exercise 5 days per week, daily short meditations, a daily stretching routine, weekly relaxation activities such as a bath, massage or facial.  These activities are not just for people with lots of spare time, they should be an essential part of anyone’s lifestyle who wants to feel energetic and healthy (and I’m hoping that’s everyone who’s reading this!)

There are several ways to do this.  The way I have personally found helpful is as follows:

  1. Make a list or timetable of all of the activities you do in a week.  Include work, family, housework, sporting commitments and other activities.  Work out when you have any spare time.  We need to know this so that we can use it wisely rather than flitting it away without valuing it.  You may be surprised when you look at your week on paper.  Perhaps there are some activities you are overdoing and are able to cut back on.
  2. Think of the areas of your health that suffer when you are busy.  Often making home cooked meals gets neglected, as does exercise and relaxation.  Make a note of these.
  3. Find gaps in your current schedule where you can add some of these healthful activities and write them in.  It may be that you can cook a meal on one night/day to provide several lunches and dinners (avoiding the need for unhealthy  takeaway meals).  Perhaps you can find a gap that can allow you to get some incidental exercise, a run or even an exercise class that fits around your current activities.  If relaxation always gets left behind, schedule yourself some time for a DIY facial, bath, meditation, massage or other treatment of your choice.  Remember these activities are important!  Make sure not to fill in all of your spare time.
  4. Write down your new schedule.  Put it somewhere that you can always refer to it.  It doesn’t have to be set in stone but rather something to aim for.  Whether it’s on paper, in your diary, a spreadsheet or your iPhone/iPad do what will work for you.  Some people find that daily lists work, for others a weekly timetable is preferred.

What you have created should help you to know what you have to do each day and what the consequence will be if you don’t get to it  (eg. if I miss cooking a meal to last for a few lunches, I won’t have time to do it later and I’ll have to get takeaway).  This is motivating but also allows for informed choice from week to week as the unforseen will always happen from time-to-time.  So, even though you have a ‘perfect health-promoting schedule’, remain flexible.  Things just don’t go to plan all the time and we don’t want to turn down wonderful opportunities that come our way or get more stressed if we don’t tick everything off our list.   It’s also not locked in for life.  It can come and go as you need it, and be changed as often as required.

This solution won’t work for everyone, but if you are feeling overwhelmed by commitments and they are eating into your ‘you time’, then putting your time on paper is a good place to start.  The important message here is, however you put it into action, when you are busy, looking after yourself is just as important as when you are not.

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.

exercise, health, Uncategorized

5 reasons to switch to pedal power

Some of my favourite times of the day are the trip to work and the trip back. “In peak hour traffic? Surely not”, you say.  But my answer is still “Yes!”  That’s because I have found a way to avoid being stuck in a traffic jam, squished onto a crowded train or needing to allow extra time in the morning for the bus to turn up (after the first two buses didn’t show up).  For the last two or so years, I’ve chosen cycling as my preferred mode of transport to work.

Cycling to work (or uni, the shops or wherever you want to go) brings many benefits. Here’s my top five:

  • Avoid peak hour traffic.  Riding a push bike allows you a great sense of freedom.  Often, in peak times, you can move faster than the car traffic.  Not only that, for those who rely on public transport, riding a bike means the end of waiting for buses or trains that are late or don’t show up – no more timetables, you choose when to leave.  There are more cycle paths appearing all the time.  If you don’t have a safe route to ride to work you need to pressure your local council to provide one.
  • Get fit. Let’s face it, you have to make the trip to work anyway.  And lots of people I talk to say they don’t have time to exercise.  Why not kill ‘two birds with one stone’ and get your exercise on the way to and from work?  Cycling to work is an excellent way to get fit and healthy on a daily trip when you would have otherwise been sedentary.  Most cycle commuters will get their 30 minutes of daily exercise easily.  By switching to pedal power you will be burning around 300 calories for each 30 minutes you ride.
  • Save your hard-earned cash.  Fuel costs have escalated, car parking can be incredibly expensive and even the cost of public transport in Brisbane is on the rise.  A bike however, is a one-off investment (allow a minimum of $400 for a decent bike to get you around on a moderate commute).  Many workplaces now even offer facilities including showers so you can freshen up after your ride.  If yours doesn’t, end-of-trip cycling facilities such as King George Square Cycle Centre or Royal Brisbane Hospital Cycle Centre offer an alternative for less than the daily price of public transport.  Cycling to work may even allow you to cancel a costly gym membership.
  • Be happy.  We will never be short of studies that say exercise makes us happy.  Raising the heart rate, working up a sweat, breathing deeply and pumping the muscles aids the release of our body’s happy hormones, endorphins.  Not only that, exercise before work will wake you up and help your mind to be more alert for the day ahead.  Your ride home will give you an opportunity to forget the worries of the day so you are relaxed when you walk in your front door.
  • Reduce your carbon footprint.  For each kilometre you choose to cycle instead of drive a car you are reducing your CO2 emissions by approximately 0.3kg.

Obviously, cycling to work is not the answer for everyone.  However, many people do have a lot to gain by adopting this mode of transport.  It may take a little forward planning to find safe routes and organise clothing and toiletries to freshen up for your work day post-ride.  Once you have a system in place, the benefits of cycling will become crystal clear. And, if you can’t cycle to work, you can still jump on a bike on the weekend for a social ride.

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, emotional health, health, massage, mental health, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Sarah treats Brisbane flood evacuees at RNA evacuation centre

On Friday 14th January, a group of acupuncture colleagues decided to put their skills to good use and assist evacuees and volunteers based at the Brisbane RNA Showgrounds.

The group, named Acupuncture Recovery Clinic (ARC), worked from 8am to 8pm daily providing massage and acupuncture treatments, free to all.

Sarah George joined the team on Friday and worked throughout the weekend treating evacuees and volunteers for stress, insomnia, fatigue and body aches.  She was joined by at least 30 other volunteer professional acupuncturists and massage therapists.

Sarah recalls giving perhaps 50% of the people she treated their first ever massage.  “It was a honour to be able to assist the evacuees and volunteers who all looked so tired and worn out.  Many commented that sleeping at the evacuation centre was difficult.  Some had heartwrenching stories of loss.  Mostly, the stories were inspirational of flood evacuees and the homeless, helping others who had lost their homes.  A massage or acupuncture treatment, gave them some time out, and recharged the spirit and the batteries to continue on.”

Acupuncture supplies were donated by the practitioners and local clinics (including HealthWise) and industry suppliers.

Sarah is taking an active role in ARC to continue the efforts of the volunteer group once the RNA evacuation centre is closed.  The group plans to provide discounted treatments to those seriously affected by the floods in the weeks to come.

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.

Like ARC on Facebook