health, nature, Traditional Chinese Medicine

How to live well this winter

Well! Winter is certainly packing a punch this year. My weather app says we’re due for -4 degrees Celsius tonight. Brrrrrrrrrrr.  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’.

Here in Launceston, we certainly notice the seasons in a big way particularly as the days are much shorter and the temperature is much cooler. And those frosts!

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, or well warmed outdoor spaces
    • Introversion
    • Getting more sleep (earlier to bed, later to rise – just like the sun)
    • 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

Continue reading “How to live well this winter”

Diet, food, food allergy, recipe, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Warming, curried butter bean and vegetable soup for chilly nights

curried soupWhoa Brisbane! What’s with the suddenly freezing nights and mornings? I thought we were done with the chilly temperatures. (NB. Yes, I am soft. I live in Brisbane and anything below 10ºC is unbearably cold to me! And here is how I use spices to cope and here are some general ideas for staying warm.)

To survive winter’s last hurrah in the form of this recent cold snap I made this delightfully fragrant and delicious soup.

The root vegetables, beans and spices gently warm and nourish the body and digestive system (Spleen and Stomach) and boost energy according to the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Even the yellowy colour of the soup supports these organs and their corresponding Earth element.

Curried butter bean and vegetable soup

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 red capsicum, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 large potato, diced
  • 3 cups pumpkin, diced
  • 1/2 cauliflower, diced
  • 1 cup of cooked butter beans (or 400g canned)
  • 1 1/4 litre vegetable stock
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • handful of green beans, sliced
  • coriander, chopped, to garnish

Method:

  1. Heat oil in large saucepan. Fry onion, garlic, carrot, cumin seeds and mustard seeds until browned and crackling.
  2. Add turmeric and curry powders.  Fry for a minute.
  3. Add potato, pumpkin, cauliflower, butter beans, vegetable stock, salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 20 minutes or until vegetables are soft.
  4. Allow soup to cool a little, add half of soup to food processor and blend.
  5. Return blended soup to the pot. Add green beans stir over heat and simmer for another 5 minutes.
  6. Serve in bowls topped with coriander.

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

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.

Diet, food, nature, Traditional Chinese Medicine

New guest post for Alive Berry on eating well in winter

chai
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, food, recipe, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Three of my favourite spices for winter warming

spices webI don’t like being cold and I’ll admit it, I spend most of winter looking forward to spring. Yes, even in the Brisbane winter. There are many ways we can keep warm in winter – and choosing the right foods is one of them. Here are three of my favourite flavours to spice up my life in winter. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) we describe each substance by its temperature, flavour and action in the body – some foods have a warming or hot action on the body.

Enjoy this tantalising yet brief introduction to my top three favourite warming spices and how you can use them in your diet:

  • Cardamom: warming, pungent and slightly bitter. Cardamom is an excellent digestive stimulant. It is sometimes termed the “Queen of the Spices” and is probably best known for its use in curries but can also be added to cakes and biscuits. The pods can be chewed on as a breath sweetener. There is a restaurant I like to have breakfast at that makes a wonderful tomato relish with bursts of cardamom pods in it. Cardamom even pops up in gin and some liqueurs.
  • Cinnamon: hot and sweet. Again this spice is excellent for the digestive system and great for the common cold accompanied by runny noses and chills. Once again this is an excellent spice to be used in curries. It is also wonderful in porridge, pickles, chutneys and smoothies (adds some warm energy to a cold drink). It is a delicious addition to stewed fruits. In baking it teams well with apples and bananas in muffins, slices and cakes. There is a schnapps called Goldschläger based on cinnamon and several spirits and liqueurs that also take advantage of the wonderful flavour of cinnamon.
  • Ginger: warm (fresh) and hot (dried), pungent and slightly sweet. Ginger is one of the great digestive herbs. It is well known for calming a nauseous stomach. This spice is versatile – fresh, it can be used it in curries, stir fry, congee, dumplings, spring rolls or almost any Asian style dish. Pickled, it is an excellent accompaniment to sushi. I love to snack on crystallised (or nude) ginger in trail mix when I go hiking. It is also a lovely addition to biscuits and cakes, including as a decoration on icing. And for a real treat, I can’t go past dark chocolate coated ginger. Dried ginger can be added to baking and in curries. I occasionally add just a sprinkle to my rice porridge. Ginger is also made into wine, beer and ale.

These spices can be combined with black tea to make chai (spiced) tea which is a comforting hot drink for a cold day, although, each spice could be used on its own as a herbal tea. Mulled wine is another way to combine these spices to make a warming red wine beverage. Of course, it should only be consumed in moderation. I have a nice recipe for cardamom and ginger biscuits here.

What are your favourite winter warmers?

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

A traditional Chinese medicine guide to winter warmers

Winter is here.  And for soft Brisbane-ites like me, it’s cold.  Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) places great importance on eating with the seasons to maximise your health and vitality.  Winter is one season when changes to your diet can make a great impact on how you feel almost immediately.

A few must dos for anyone who feels the cold in winter:

  • Ditch any meal made largely of raw or cold food.  That means no salad, limited raw fruit, muesli or cereal with dairy or soy, sushi, and leave the smoothies and juices ’til summer.  These foods definitely will not warm you up, and are actually likely to make you feel colder.
  • Eat warm.  The nice flip side from the first point is that you can replace cold, raw meals with nourishing soups, casseroles, curries and roasted foods. (These don’t have to be fattening by the way – if you make them yourself, you control the fat/carbohydrate content.)  Porridge is an excellent warm start to the day – here’s some warm breakfast ideas.
  • Dress to be warm.  Your grandmother’s advice will be useful here.  Keep your neck wrapped up if out in the wind or cold, always have something on your feet and make sure your lower back is covered.

Some specific foods to keep you warm:

  • Spice up your life.  Add a sprinkle (or spoonful) of cinnamon,  nutmeg, cardamom, ginger, garlic, black pepper, cloves, cayenne, star anise, rosemary, fennel seeds or turmeric to each meal.
  • Fruit is still in (1-2 pieces).  But stew it.  Grate it into your porridge while it’s cooking or add it to curries or casseroles.
  • Warm vegetables.  Vegies that are good in soups or roast well are a good rule of thumb for warming foods – think sweet potato, pumpkin, carrot, parsnip, leek, onions and chives.  See what is in season.
  • Protein sources.  Walnuts and pistachios are great winter warmers in meals or as a snack.  Peas and beans can be used in curries and casseroles (not soy based products though, these are too cooling).  If you include animal protein in your diet then lamb, beef, chicken and prawn are warming (just be sure to choose non-processed, non-smoked sources and consume less than 300g red meat/week).
  • Drink up.  Peppermint tea and green tea can be limited and replaced with chai (make your own), ginger tea, and small amounts of good quality black coffee.

This advice can also be applied to people who feel cold in air conditioning.  A warm breakfast and lunch will keep you toasty in the office.  If you have a tendency to feeling cold generally eating warm may be of assistance to you too, but make sure to also see your acupuncturist or health practitioner for more specific help.

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.

beauty, Diet, food, health, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Nourish your dry winter skin

As I have been treating my patients this winter, I have noticed many of them have had very dry, often flakey, skin – some even to the point of having significant scratches from the itchiness that can accompany dryness.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), dryness is usually attached to the season autumn, however in Brisbane this year, we are experiencing the dryness right now.

According to TCM five element theory, dryness is characteristic of the metal element and is also matched up with the lungs and skin.  Our lungs are responsible for creating a mist of the (good, pure) fluids in our body and spreading them to our skin and mucous membranes, to keep them well-nourished.  When this function goes wrong, we might experience situations where we accumulate too much fluid in places that we don’t need it (such as a phlegmy cough and runny nose) and not enough moisture where we do need it, leading to dry, itchy skin.

So, how can we bring the moisture of our skin back into balance?

  • Inside out:
    • Choose foods to be used in nourishing meals that will moisten dryness such as soy-based foods, apples, pears, most nuts and seeds, avocados, olive oil and honey.  Add a few pungent foods to these meals (such as onions and garlic) to aid in the dispersing of the fluids).
    • Make sure you are also consuming enough water – are you drinking two litres?
  • Outside in:
    DIY salt scrub
    • Choose a good natural moisturiser to apply to your body after showering. (Long hot showers in winter, whilst being lovely, tend to dry out your skin).  You may need to upgrade your facial moisturiser during the dry months (and even use a night cream or facial oil) – again look for a good one free of synthetic chemicals.
    • Use my favourite DIY salt scrub recipe when you have dry skin (it’s very versatile being great for sticky, congested skin in summer and dry, itchy skin in winter).  You may need to do this 2-3 times per week until your skin is soft and silky 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.