10 Ways to Thrive In Cold & Flu Season

IMG_0988 (1)

We might not have actual snow here in the Los Angeles area (I took the selfie above last week while visiting family back East), but we still have cold & flu season.

Are you overwhelmed by the amount of antibiotics you and/or your kids take every year? Eager to stay healthy through the holidays and germy season?

Here are my top 10 holistic tips on how to thrive through cold and flu season…

1. Wear a scarf

Grandma was right!  It’s crucial to cover your neck, especially the back of your neck and the occipital ridge.  There is a saying in Traditional Chinese Medicine, “wind is the leader of a thousand diseases.”  Cover your neck (and head too, when it’s really cold) so the wind doesn’t whisk pathogens into the body via the acupuncture points along the back of the neck and head.  Pack a scarf in your carry-on bag while traveling; those vents on airplanes blow air (+ all kinds of germs from other passengers) directly at your head and neck. Even during summer, it’s important to keep our necks covered and away from drafts when we are constantly in and out of air conditioning.

2. Get Acupuncture

It is especially important to get acupuncture at the change of the season.  Acupuncture helps boost immunity, regulates the endocrine system, reduces inflammation in the respiratory system (and elsewhere), and is excellent at bringing your immune system into high gear when you are fighting a cold or virus.  If you think you’re coming down with something, see your local acupuncturist, and get them to prescribe some herbs for you to take home.  This time of year, many of our patients call us for a treatment at the first sign of a cold; we often get a call or email the next day letting us know they are once again feeling like themselves. Book with me here.

3. Take adaptogenic tonic herbs to help fend off colds and flu

Adaptogenic herbs are plants that have a regulating, normalizing effect on the body; in other words, they stimulate our body to do what it should in order to restore us to optimal health.  One single herb may cool down your mother’s night sweats while it warms up your cold hands and feet.  Adaptogenic herbs are useful for reducing stress as well as keeping us healthy through the Cold & Flu season.  The best way to determine the best herbs for you is to see a Licensed Acupuncturist & Herbalist.  We can prescribe stronger, medicinal herbs to treat illness and we can also prescribe more gentle, tonic herbs to boost immunity and keep you healthy. (And please…don’t buy herbs on Amazon.)

4. Get as much sleep as you can! 

LSleeping

Ahh, sleep is so good…

This may seem impossible if you have young children (as I do), but if you want to stay healthy through the cold and flu season (roughly October through March), sleep is worth prioritizing.  Getting restful sleep is more important than having a clean house.  It’s more important than keeping up with social media.  It’s more important than dashing around “trying to get stuff done” as soon as your kids are asleep.  When we sleep, we build new cells, our Nervous System and brain regenerate.  Nighttime is Yin Time; we need a balance of yin and yang each day, and if we do yang activities (such as working out at the gym, cleaning the house, catching up on email, spacing out in front of screens) during the yin time, we drain our yin substances and make ourselves more open to getting sick.  So go to sleep already.

6. Take a Cod Liver Oil supplement

Cod Liver Oil contains the fat-soluble vitamins A and D, which support the immune system, eye health, bones and epithelial tissue. It contains Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA), which have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body, and have been found to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

At FLOAT we carry an excellent and affordable Cod Liver Oil in shelf-stable capsule form, made by Standard Process ($42.50 for 180 capsules). It is extracted from fish found in deep Norwegian waters, and contains 100% of the FDA-recommended amount of EPA and DHA for pregnant and nursing women. Standard Process supplements are only available from Licensed healthcare practitioners.

 5. Eat Real Food in season

Salads are for summer! In the colder months, when the days are shorter and the nights are longer, we are supposed to eat food that is grown locally and in season, and that warms our body.  Check your local farmer’s markets: right now, in Southern California, the markets are full of root vegetables, pumpkins, dark leafy greens, apples, pears, pomegranates, and fermented foods such as pickles and saurkraut.  You’ll also find organic grass-fed beef, bison, pasture-raised chickens, local eggs, goat cheese.  You won’t find a lot of lettuces, cucumbers and spinach: even in Southern California, the cold raw veggies don’t like the colder nights.  In the Fall and Winter, the best thing you can feed your body is a variety of freshly prepared COOKED vegetables, warming slow-cooked soups and stews, organic cooked grains such as barley, oatmeal and rice, fermented foods, and good fats.  Locally grown organic fruits in moderation are also helpful.

7. Sit down at mealtime

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, meals should always be eaten sitting down, with both feet on the floor.  This encourages better digestion and absorption of our food.  Try to resist the easy quick meal eaten in the car or while chasing your kids around.  Take time to enjoy a meal with your family.  When you’re at work, don’t eat at your desk, in your car, or while shopping at Target.  Please.

8. Eat Nature’s probiotic: fermented foods

80% of your immune system is located in your digestive system.  “You are what you eat” has never been more true!  Probiotic foods (such as fermented veggies, saurkraut, pickles, beet kvass and kombucha) can modulate your body’s immune response via your gut’s mucosal immune system.  Avoid cheap commercial brands with added vinegar, and make your own or buy them at your local farmer’s market, a good health food store, or my favorite local “food club,” Culture Club 101 in Pasadena.

9. Sit in a Salt Room

If you are prone to chronic colds, allergies, or you or your child has a history of asthma, spend time relaxing in a salt room.  According to Salt Studio Pasadena, halotherapy (also known as salt therapy) is “an all-natural, drug-free treatment that benefits the lungs and skin with the use of dry sodium chloride (salt) aerosol…salt therapy reduces inflammation in the respiratory tract and aids in mucous clearing, leaving patients breathing easier.”  Some traditional Korean spas also have salt rooms.  45 minutes spent chilling out in a salt room will leave you refreshed and feeling like you had a 3-hour nap!

10. Meditate

Buddha

In a study at Harvard Medical Center (May 2013), Dr. Herbert Benson reported that “a range of disease-fighting genes were active in the relaxation practitioners that were not active in the control group.”  So, meditation is not only for stress relief: it keeps you healthy.  I enjoy doing mini-meditations with my kids (who are 3 and 5) on weekend mornings when we’re not rushed, and in between patients during my busy days at the clinic.  I also wake up before the rest of my family a few days a week so I can do 20-30 minute meditations by myself when the house is quiet.  I am convinced that meditation helps keep me healthy, especially when I’m treating sick people every day.

If you’ve never tried meditation before, check out Oprah and Deepak Chopra’s 21-Day Meditation Experience.

Or try sitting in a quiet spot outdoors, closing your eyes, and listening to the birds.  Focus on your breath, count to 100 and back to 1 again.  But if it’s chilly, wear a scarf.

Post by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac, FABORM, owner of FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts; all photographs by Abigail Morgan or Dave Clark, all rights reserved.)

How Does Acupuncture Work?

How Does Acupuncture Work?

Today’s Guest Post is by my associate acupuncturist, Jacqueline Gabardy, L.Ac., who attempts to answer one of the most common questions we get asked: How Does Acupuncture Work, anyway?

I hear this question often from patients, friends, family, and skeptics alike.

Most people want an answer that is scientific.  Many people consider me a good candidate to answer because I am a child of chemists who graduated pre-med from USC before becoming a Board-Certified Acupuncturist and Herbalist.

like comparing apples and carrotsEach time I am asked this question, I struggle to make my response clearer and more concise.  The problem is, acupuncture is based on a completely different ideology than most of us are used to.  There simply isn’t proper language to adequately translate all of the concepts between the two models.  As my colleague and owner of FLOAT, Abigail often says, comparing Traditional Chinese Medicine and Western Medicine is like comparing apples and carrots.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) includes the practice of acupuncture, herbal medicine and several other techniques.  It is holistic which is it takes the whole patient into account during diagnosis and treatment.  The points we use vary from visit to visit as a person’s body responds to the treatment or undergoes everyday stress.  Many of the treatments Acupuncturists use have been employed for thousands of years and proven effective through experience.

substanced like qi have no equivalent in western medicineAn Acupuncturist views the body as interactions between several different organ systems.  Each has an interior-exterior relationship, meaning symptoms occurring elsewhere in the body can be the result of an imbalance in an organ system.  There are also discrepancies between how Eastern and Western medicines view the components of the body.  While they agree on blood for example, other substances like Qi have no equivalent in Western Medicine.

On the other end of the spectrum, the standard Western scientific method seeks to breakdown complicated systems into smaller, more understand parts.  While effective for understanding things on a microscopic level, when zoomed in that close you lose a sense of the big picture.

For instance, in order to understand acupuncture in a scientific way, research conducts controlled experiments to determine if certain points are effective treatment.  In order to compare the results, patients must be treated in groups and all receive the same treatment regardless of their individual presentation.  In reality the success rate would be much higher if patients could be treated on a case-by-case basis.

Rather than “how does acupuncture work?” I think asking “how would acupuncture work for me?” gives more useful information.  If you are asking about how acupuncture helps to improve fertility, treats back pain, or regulates digestion, the answers are all going to be very different.

(Photo by Dave Clark – all rights reserved; Post by Jacqueline Gabardy, L.Ac. Associate Acupuncturist at FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts)

Foods for the Lung

 

In Chinese Medicine, Autumn correlates with the Lung system, which includes our lung organs, the entire respiratory tract, as well as our skin.  This is part of why so many people experience common colds or skin dryness this time of year.  By incorporating foods that support the lung system into our diets, we can keep our bodies healthy in a natural way.

The color of the Lung system is white and the flavor is acrid, so you may notice many of these foods have both qualities, such as horseradish or garlic.  Other foods on this list, though they may not be both white and acrid, still support the Lung system in other ways.  Pear, for example, is sweet but also particularly moistening for the lungs and can help cure a dry cough.

If you are experiencing common colds or skin problems every year at this time, consider added some more foods in your diet to boost your Lung Qi!

(Post and infographic by Jacqueline Gabardy, L.Ac. of FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts)

What’s in Our Garden?

My son at age 4.5, helping me plant herbs and kale in Spring 2013

My son at age 4.5, helping me plant herbs and kale in Spring 2013

Welcome to our new series – What’s in Our Garden?

Here at FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts, we are passionate about our backyard edible gardens, and we want to share photos, ideas and recipes with you!

Each week, we’ll be posting photos of what’s growing in our home gardens now, what we’re harvesting, what we’re struggling to keep alive, and the recipes we’re using to cook what we’ve picked.  (Today I’ll be talking about passion fruit!)  We also welcome your comments and invite you to share with us what’s growing in your garden.  I have been inspired by my favorite blogger, SouleMama, who has been posting a series called “This Week in My Garden” all summer.  So, a big tip of the hat goes out to Amanda Soule.

We get a lot of questions from patients about how they can work, raise a family and still eat healthy, organic, real food.

We think the best way to do this is to grow your own food and shop at your local farmer’s markets.  (I’ll be taking you through a typical day at my favorite farmer’s market in a blog post later this week.)

I grew up in New York City in an apartment building, so I still wake up some mornings in a state of happy shock that I actually have a garden with a 10 month growing season, and not just the local patch of grass we referred to as Tip-Toe Park (owing to the piles of dog poop).

 

ChardKaleEggplant

Chard, Kale and Eggplant

Garden Options

Some people have their entire garden in containers on a patio or indoors near a window.  Others use a plot of land in a local community garden.  Another great option is the Tower Garden, by Juice Plus+, an aeroponic 5-feet-tall vertical indoor garden that fits in even the smallest apartment.  If you want more information about this, please send an email to frontdesk at floatchinesemedicalarts dot com or ask us about it at your next office visit.

If you aren’t into gardening but you like to eat locally and with the seasons, getting to know your local farmer’s markets is the way to go.  If you live in Southern California, here is a useful guide:  http://projects.latimes.com/farmers-markets.  Those of you who live in colder climates may have a shorter outdoor growing season, but you may still be able to find mostly year-round farmer’s markets, and/or subscribe to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).  Tell us what works for you!

In our garden, we don’t use chemical pesticides or fertilizers, but rely on compost and natural methods of pest control.  We never grow genetically modified plants, focusing instead on heirloom varietals that require more maintenance but produce delicious, interesting crops.

We also love to cook; I do much of the planning and cooking for my family of four, and Jacqueline is quite a well-known food blogger and recipe-writer (http://sweetbeetandgreenbean.net).  Heidi, our office manager, has been gardening and cooking for years and often brings flowers or herbs from her garden to display at our front desk.

Involving Kids

Growing your own fruits, vegetables and herbs is one of the most affordable, healthy and holistic ways to feed your family.

It’s also a great way to get picky toddlers and older children to get involved in cooking: when they pick it and help prepare it, they are so much more likely to eat it!  Even organic, heirloom seeds cost just pennies, and you don’t need to have an enormous back yard (or even a back yard at all!) to grow your own produce.

 

My son making a dish of his own creation (in the slow-cooker) with just-picked carrots and maple syrup

 

My kids are 3 and 5, and they are part of the reason I have become so passionate about our garden.  There’s nothing like getting your hands in the dirt, and falling into the zen rhythm of plucking off dead leaves.  It’s one of my favorite ways to decompress after a long day.  When I realize my kids have stopped whining and shouting at each other, I know they must be busy in the back searching for zucchini.  Gardening has also become an amazing way to teach them about where their food comes from, and how to have respect for the Earth.  I have been inspired by the ideas in Sharon Lovejoy’s book “Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots: Gardening Together with Children.”

 

My kids at 2 and 4 with a giant zucchini they picked

 

My son has taken to picking mint and ginger and making his own creative tea when he has a tummy-ache, and my daughter likes to pick lettuce and feed it to her stuffed animals.  They also love love love to help me prepare meals.  When I’m not in a rush, I welcome their help, and give them simple tasks to do (“Go pick some basil and spinach, please,” or for my 5-year-old, “cut these carrots, please”).  When I am in rush, I have to remind myself that my kids’ pace is slower than mine, and though it may take an extra 30 minutes to involve them in making dinner, they will be more likely to eat it and rave about it if they’ve helped prepare it, from garden to plate.

In the upcoming weeks and months, we will be featuring photos of an area of our garden along with a recipe we made with stuff we picked from it.  Please post a comment in the comment section if you have a specific type of dish you’d like to see, or a plant you have questions about.

So now let’s get to the pick of the day, along with a recipe.

Passion Fruit in the City!

This week, my kids and I harvested the first ripe passion fruits of the season.  Passion fruit are super easy to grow (they do require some  pruning!), and they love full sun.  They will climb on anything, so training them along a fence is the best way to go.  We put our passion fruit plants in from seedlings in March 2012, and they started producing fruit about 4-5 months later.  We had some yummy ones last summer, but this year the yield is about three times as much, and the fruit seem to be ripening more predictably.

Here are some not-quite-ripe passion fruit growing on the vine along our fence:

Unripe passion fruit on the vine

 

And here they are, ready to eat, in my hand:

Ripe passion fruit

Here is the fleshy fruit part inside:

 

Passion Fruit flesh

 

And – the other amazing benefit of growing passion fruit vines are the spectacular flowers we started seeing along the vines this past Spring!  This one just bloomed yesterday:

 

Passion Fruit Flower, bursting through on the vine in our garden today

 

My son will tell anyone who visits our garden that you know the passion fruit are ready when “they’re purple and pruny and look like an old lady’s skin.”

According to Chinese Medicine, passion fruit is cooling and slightly bitter, and is said to calm the Shen (in other words, it has calming and sedative effects).  Which is always a good thing for a harried mama.

If you’re not growing your own passion fruit, look for them at your local farmer’s market or specialty store, especially in the summer.

I missed the chance to snap a photo of the Passion Fruit Ambrosia, but I’ll give you the recipe my 5-year-old came up with:

Passion Fruit Ambrosia (Serves 2)

1 c. organic plain yogurt (ideally, from grass-fed cows)

1 ripe Passion Fruit, sliced in half like a lime

1 T honey or maple syrup

1 T unsweetened shredded coconut

Put the yogurt in a bowl.  Scoop out all of the fruit and yellow fleshy bits (you can eat the seeds!), stir into the yogurt along with the coconut and honey or maple syrup (which helps cut the tart flavor of the passion fruit).  Yum!

What’s growing in your garden, if you have one, and what are you making from it?

Post by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac, mother of two, licensed acupuncturist & herbalist and owner of FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts.  All photos by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac, all rights reserved.

What's in Our Garden?

My son at age 4.5, helping me plant herbs and kale in Spring 2013

My son at age 4.5, helping me plant herbs and kale in Spring 2013

Welcome to our new series – What’s in Our Garden?

Here at FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts, we are passionate about our backyard edible gardens, and we want to share photos, ideas and recipes with you!

Each week, we’ll be posting photos of what’s growing in our home gardens now, what we’re harvesting, what we’re struggling to keep alive, and the recipes we’re using to cook what we’ve picked.  (Today I’ll be talking about passion fruit!)  We also welcome your comments and invite you to share with us what’s growing in your garden.  I have been inspired by my favorite blogger, SouleMama, who has been posting a series called “This Week in My Garden” all summer.  So, a big tip of the hat goes out to Amanda Soule.

We get a lot of questions from patients about how they can work, raise a family and still eat healthy, organic, real food.

We think the best way to do this is to grow your own food and shop at your local farmer’s markets.  (I’ll be taking you through a typical day at my favorite farmer’s market in a blog post later this week.)

I grew up in New York City in an apartment building, so I still wake up some mornings in a state of happy shock that I actually have a garden with a 10 month growing season, and not just the local patch of grass we referred to as Tip-Toe Park (owing to the piles of dog poop).

 

ChardKaleEggplant

Chard, Kale and Eggplant

Garden Options

Some people have their entire garden in containers on a patio or indoors near a window.  Others use a plot of land in a local community garden.  Another great option is the Tower Garden, by Juice Plus+, an aeroponic 5-feet-tall vertical indoor garden that fits in even the smallest apartment.  If you want more information about this, please send an email to frontdesk at floatchinesemedicalarts dot com or ask us about it at your next office visit.

If you aren’t into gardening but you like to eat locally and with the seasons, getting to know your local farmer’s markets is the way to go.  If you live in Southern California, here is a useful guide:  http://projects.latimes.com/farmers-markets.  Those of you who live in colder climates may have a shorter outdoor growing season, but you may still be able to find mostly year-round farmer’s markets, and/or subscribe to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).  Tell us what works for you!

In our garden, we don’t use chemical pesticides or fertilizers, but rely on compost and natural methods of pest control.  We never grow genetically modified plants, focusing instead on heirloom varietals that require more maintenance but produce delicious, interesting crops.

We also love to cook; I do much of the planning and cooking for my family of four, and Jacqueline is quite a well-known food blogger and recipe-writer (http://sweetbeetandgreenbean.net).  Heidi, our office manager, has been gardening and cooking for years and often brings flowers or herbs from her garden to display at our front desk.

Involving Kids

Growing your own fruits, vegetables and herbs is one of the most affordable, healthy and holistic ways to feed your family.

It’s also a great way to get picky toddlers and older children to get involved in cooking: when they pick it and help prepare it, they are so much more likely to eat it!  Even organic, heirloom seeds cost just pennies, and you don’t need to have an enormous back yard (or even a back yard at all!) to grow your own produce.

 

My son making a dish of his own creation (in the slow-cooker) with just-picked carrots and maple syrup

My son making a dish of his own creation (in the slow-cooker) with just-picked carrots and maple syrup

 

My kids are 3 and 5, and they are part of the reason I have become so passionate about our garden.  There’s nothing like getting your hands in the dirt, and falling into the zen rhythm of plucking off dead leaves.  It’s one of my favorite ways to decompress after a long day.  When I realize my kids have stopped whining and shouting at each other, I know they must be busy in the back searching for zucchini.  Gardening has also become an amazing way to teach them about where their food comes from, and how to have respect for the Earth.  I have been inspired by the ideas in Sharon Lovejoy’s book “Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots: Gardening Together with Children.”

 

My kids, last summer, with a giant zucchini they picked

My kids, last summer, with a giant zucchini they picked

 

My son has taken to picking mint and ginger and making his own creative tea when he has a tummy-ache, and my daughter likes to pick lettuce and feed it to her stuffed animals.  They also love love love to help me prepare meals.  When I’m not in a rush, I welcome their help, and give them simple tasks to do (“Go pick some basil and spinach, please,” or for my 5-year-old, “cut these carrots, please”).  When I am in rush, I have to remind myself that my kids’ pace is slower than mine, and though it may take an extra 30 minutes to involve them in making dinner, they will be more likely to eat it and rave about it if they’ve helped prepare it, from garden to plate.

In the upcoming weeks and months, we will be featuring photos of an area of our garden along with a recipe we made with stuff we picked from it.  Please post a comment in the comment section if you have a specific type of dish you’d like to see, or a plant you have questions about.

So now let’s get to the pick of the day, along with a recipe.

Passion Fruit in the City!

This week, my kids and I harvested the first ripe passion fruits of the season.  Passion fruit are super easy to grow (they do require some  pruning!), and they love full sun.  They will climb on anything, so training them along a fence is the best way to go.  We put our passion fruit plants in from seedlings in March 2012, and they started producing fruit about 4-5 months later.  We had some yummy ones last summer, but this year the yield is about three times as much, and the fruit seem to be ripening more predictably.

Here are some not-quite-ripe passion fruit growing on the vine along our fence:

Unripe passion fruit on the vine

Unripe passion fruit on the vine

 

And here they are, ready to eat, in my hand:

Ripe passion fruit

Ripe passion fruit

Here is the fleshy fruit part inside:

 

Passion Fruit flesh

Passion Fruit flesh

 

And – the other amazing benefit of growing passion fruit vines are the spectacular flowers we started seeing along the vines this past Spring!  This one just bloomed yesterday:

 

Passion Fruit Flower, bursting through on the vine in our garden today

Passion Fruit Flower, bursting through on the vine in our garden today

 

My son will tell anyone who visits our garden that you know the passion fruit are ready when “they’re purple and pruny and look like an old lady’s skin.”

According to Chinese Medicine, passion fruit is cooling and slightly bitter, and is said to calm the Shen (in other words, it has calming and sedative effects).  Which is always a good thing for a harried mama.

If you’re not growing your own passion fruit, look for them at your local farmer’s market or specialty store, especially in the summer.

I missed the chance to snap a photo of the Passion Fruit Ambrosia, but I’ll give you the recipe my 5-year-old came up with:

Passion Fruit Ambrosia (Serves 2)

1 c. organic plain yogurt (ideally, from grass-fed cows)

1 ripe Passion Fruit, sliced in half like a lime

1 T honey or maple syrup

1 T unsweetened shredded coconut

Put the yogurt in a bowl.  Scoop out all of the fruit and yellow fleshy bits (you can eat the seeds!), stir into the yogurt along with the coconut and honey or maple syrup (which helps cut the tart flavor of the passion fruit).  Yum!

What’s growing in your garden, if you have one, and what are you making from it?

Post by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac, mother of two, licensed acupuncturist & herbalist and owner of FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts.  All photos by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac, all rights reserved.

Foods for the Heart

We have already covered the Foods for the Liver, so the next organ system is the Heart.  In Traditional Oriental Medicine, Summertime is associated with the Heart and Small Intestine.  The color of the Heart system is red and the flavor is spicy, so small amounts of foods with these characteristics are often used to treat disharmonies of the Heart system, such as anxiety, insomnia, irritability, cardiovascular problems and hypertension.  Fresh, cooling foods in season right now, such as lettuce and basil, are also very beneficial for cooling the body in the hottest months.  It’s important to have a clear understanding of your Chinese diagnosis before making any major dietary changes.  Many licensed acupuncturists use nutritional consultation as part of their plan of care.

(Co-Written by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac and Jacqueline Gabardy, L.Ac. of FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts; image by Jacqueline, all rights reserved.)

12 Best Brain Foods

12 Best Brain Foods

We often get patients asking what they can eat to reduce Brain Fog.  Whether you are a sleep-deprived new parent, you work at a desk for hours on end, or just have trouble focusing – who doesn’t? – these foods are high in good fats and Vitamin D, which can help the nerve cells in your brain work to the best of their ability.  Go ahead, eat up!

  1. Fresh Fish (from a good source, low in mercury)

  2. Fish Oil (especially Fermented Cod Liver Oil)

  3. Walnuts

  4. Dark Leafy Greens (Kale, Collards, Chard, Parsley, Wheatgrass)

  5. Micro-Algae (Spirulina, Chlorella, and Wild Blue-Green Algae)

  6. Flax Seeds

  7. Avocado

  8. Hemp Seeds

  9. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

  10. Grass-fed Beef

  11. Chia Seeds

  12. Pumpkin Seeds

(Photo and Post by Jacqueline Gabardy, L.Ac. of FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts)

Foods for the Liver

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, every organ system has a color and a season.  The Liver is green.  Spring green.  April and May are great months to focus on adding cleansing foods into your diet to help your Liver work better.  When the Liver works better, we feel less stressed and irritable, we lose excess weight, sleep better, and aren’t bothered by headaches or PMS.  Try some of these yummy Liver-nourishing foods and see how good you feel!  Check back here often for more posts on foods that benefit the 12 Organs.

(Co-Written by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac and Jacqueline Gabardy, L.Ac. of FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts; Infographic by Jacqueline Gabardy, L.Ac.) 

Boost Qi and Blood with a Slow-Cooked Winter Stew

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the ancient yet Modern approach to treating the whole person with acupuncture, herbal medicine, nutrition and bodywork, is about 5,000 years old.  It is a system of internal medicine that uses tongue and pulse diagnosis, along with attentive listening and looking at the person, to address a wide range of issues including but not limited to pain, stress, depression, anxiety, digestive problems, infertility, general health and longevity.

The Ancient Chinese considered food and herbs to be medicine; Modern Nutrition that is inspired by Traditional Chinese Medicine uses food and herbs to nourish Qi and Blood.  It looks at the effect a particular food has on the body, rather than how many grams of iron it contains in a laboratory; does it warm us up or cool us down?  Does it move Qi or help us make more yin or yang?  Raw lettuce eaten by one individual in the summer might make her feel energetic, yet when eaten in February, it might make her bloated, tired, and gassy.

The average American today is deficient in Qi (a.k.a. energy or Life Force), which can show up as fatigue, depression, sluggish digestion, bloating, and loose stools, among other things.  Many Americans are also deficient in Blood (they may be anemic, pale, prone to irregular periods, light-headedness, insomnia, have difficulty concentrating or poor memory), as is anyone who has lost blood via menstruation, childbirth, or trauma.

The good thing is that we can make more Qi and Blood by eating the right foods, herbs, doing regular exercise, getting acupuncture, and reducing stress.  In Winter, we should eat warming foods such as organic grass-fed beef, bison, lamb and chicken, sweet potatoes, dark leafy green vegetables, barley and brown rice.  We should avoid cold and raw foods.  In the Summer, it’s best to eat more cooling foods, including brightly colored fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, and fish.

I like to think that the best medicine is located within us; we are all our own greatest healers.  We are what we eat, of course, and the importance of eating locally grown, seasonal and organic food is even more important in this day and age of genetically modified foods and packaged everything.

In my opinion, there’s nothing more healing than cooking a meal with ingredients I bought at the Pasadena farmer’s market (while wearing my 6-month-old in a sling and pushing my 2-and-a-half-year-old in a jogging stroller), washing the veggies with help from the kids, chopping them mindfully, picking a few herbs from the garden, and putting everything together into a yummy winter stew.  (Find your own SoCal farmer’s market here).

The slow-cooker (a.k.a Crock Pot), while a modern invention, is quite suited to Chinese Nutrition (not to mention the Slow Food Movement) because it heats food at low temperatures (180-280 degrees) over a long period of time (6-9 hours).  It’s incredibly useful for those of us who are big on good intentions but short on time; we want to prepare healthy and delicious meals for our families but are overwhelmed by the demands of work and family.  A good 6-quart slow-cooker is a busy parent’s best friend.  You can get a nice one at Williams-Sonoma or Sur La Table, or a perfectly good one (perhaps from the 1970’s) at a yard sale.

Here, I share with you a recipe I’ve developed for the slow-cooker; it is just as good cooked in my favorite stoneware Dutch oven, but that involves more preparation and oven-watching time (which can be nice and meditative, if there’s extra hands around my house to keep an eye on the kids).  The great thing about this slow-cooker version is you can prep it in the morning, turn on the slow-cooker, completely forget about it, and dinner will be ready 8 hours later.  Slow Food for a Fast-Paced Life.

Abigail’s Winter Stew

Serves 6-8, or a family of 4 with leftovers

(Inspired by a recipe from my grandmother, Jeanne O’Sullivan Sachs, along with inspiration from “Not Your Mother’s Slow-Cooker Cookbook” by Beth Hensperger and “Feeding The Whole Family” by Cynthia Lair.  These are two excellent, highly-recommended cookbooks.)

All vegetables should be organic and preferably bought locally

2 lb boneless chuck grass-fed beef (ideally organic and locally grown)

2 medium red onions, chopped

4 lg. carrots, chopped

2 parsnips, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

8-12 small boiling potatoes (fingerling, Yellow Finn or Yukon Gold)

1 28-oz can organic whole peeled tomatoes

1 T. cumin

1 Bay Leaf

Pinch cayenne

Sea Salt (to taste)

Black pepper

1 T. Olive Oil

2 c. beef broth (make your own or use store-bought)

1 c. good red wine (Syrah or Zinfandel work well)

1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1. Coat slow-cooker with olive oil, using a cloth napkin to distribute it around the stoneware insert.

2. Saute onions and celery in a pan until translucent.  Add garlic and a pinch of sea salt.  Cook another 5 minutes.  Remove from heat.

3. In a bowl, combine flour, salt and pepper.  Toss the beef in the mixture, shaking off excess flour, and place on a plate.

4. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Brown the meat in batches, gently stirring, making sure all sides get browned.  Add more olive oil to the skillet when necessary.

5.  Place the potatoes, carrots, parsnips and celery on the bottom of the slow-cooker.

6. Place the browned meat on a plate covered with a muslin cloth or paper towel, blotting up excess oil, and then transfer the meat to the slow-cooker.

7. Add the onion, celery and garlic mixture to the slow-cooker, stirring gently to make sure they are distributed throughout the dish.

8. In a bowl, mix together the red wine, beef broth, cumin, and pinch of salt.  Pour into the slow-cooker.  Add the bay leaf.

9. Cover and cook on LOW for 8 to 9 hours.  (Check after 7 hours for doneness, and season w/ sea salt to taste at that point.)

10.  Discard the bay leaf.  Stir in the parsley, and serve the stew over brown rice.  I do believe this stew is best the next day.

(Post by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac, of FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts.)