Healthy Transitions: 6 Keys to Support your Earth During Times of Change

by Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac.

The one universal constant for all of us in life is the presence of change. 

During various points in our lives, we all go through periods of transition — from birth to graduation, to marriage, and finally death. Throughout our journey, we see the evolution of our bodies and minds, hormonal changes including menarche and menopause for women and andropause for men. 

Because transition can be challenging and throw off your rhythm, it’s easy to end up sick or so tired that it takes weeks to recover and feel like yourself again.

While the only constant in life is change, it doesn’t have to be so hard — but it is essential that we equip ourselves with better self-care and be mindful of the potential effects of these changes on our health.

According to the Five Element system of Chinese Medicine, transitions are orchestrated by the Earth element which is associated with the primary organs systems that are in charge of digestion, the Spleen and Stomach. 

These organs are responsible for the transportation and transformation of food and thought, and they’re therefore the organs that are most needed, and thus most vulnerable, when something in your life is changing.

Any kind of change affects the Earth element, which is why it’s important to pay close attention to this element during times of transition.

Especially during transitions, it’s essential to harmonize the Earth element and ensure that it’s kept strong and balanced. 

 

Cultivating a Healthy Earth

The health of your Earth element relates to your digestion, as well as your ability to take care of yourself and others. 

An out of balance Earth type can present itself most often in one of two ways.

First, a person with an Earth imbalance may over-care for people. In other words, he or she will lack boundaries, meddle and offer advice to people who don’t ask, and be overly concerned with other people’s needs. This person may also tend to accumulate a lot of extra weight and present with a pattern of over-indulgence, whether food or relationships. 

In contrast, another person with an Earth imbalance may lack the ability to provide care for herself and others. This presents as poor self-care, as well as a lack of awareness of her own needs. This imbalanced Earth type may complain that she doesn’t like to cook or is always drained from doing too much as a result of her internal disharmony. 

In both cases, when Earth is out of balance, the individual will most often have accompanying digestive symptoms including diarrhea or constipation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or simply an excessive or poor appetite depending on the type of imbalance.

The best way to prevent an Earth imbalance is to make sure you’re doing proper self-care, especially during times of transition. 

Times of transition include all seasonal changes, weddings, graduations, menarche, menopause, andropause, back-to-school, moving to a different home or business, and the loss of a loved one, including a pet.

Since Earth is the element that transforms and supports change, it is important that this element be kept strong and vital during any transition or life change. Since the Spleen and Stomach are the primary organs associated with the Earth element, it’s imperative to strengthen and support your digestive system during these times. 

6 Ways to Support Your Earth Element During and After a Transition

  1. Eat More Nourishing, Hydrating Foods such as yams, sweet potatoes, and soups. The easier foods are to digest, and the more cooked they are, the easier these foods will be on your digestive system.

  2. Commit to a Daily Relaxation Practice. Your digestive system is closely linked to your parasympathetic nervous system, which when activated helps you rest and digest. If you’re under a lot of stress, the sympathetic nervous system— our fight or flight response—will become active, and over time will result in physical and mental tension and focus that keeps you in survival mode thus inhibiting your ability to properly slow down. To protect and optimize our digestive system, and thus the Earth element, you must learn to relax. Yoga, Qi Gong and even a simple 10 minute mindfulness meditation can be immensely powerful to foster this sense of relaxation throughout each day.

  3. Optimize Your Self-Care. This involves taking time to slow down and relax, but beyond that, it also means you maintain boundaries with your time and energy. One very important aspect of self-care that’s related to a healthy Earth is cooking for yourself and making sure to take time to eat without distractions.

  4. Create a More Regular Daily Rhythm or Schedule. Whether or not you work a 9-5 job, it’s important that you create some sort of regularity with your sleep, eating and exercise. Earth thrives on rituals and predictable rhythms and your digestive system will thank you for knowing when you’ll get your next meal. Changing this rhythm during weekends and vacations is natural and of course acceptable.

  5. Manage Your Finances. Earth has to do with all the things that nourish and keep us feeling a sense of safety. In the material world, money is one of those elements. That’s why it’s important to keep track of where your money is going, to balance your checkbooks and reduce debts in order to prevent the worry that is characteristic of an Earth imbalance.

  6. Clean and Organize Your Home and Office. Earth types who are balanced keep a clean and very organized home and workplace, whereas those who are out of balance, misplace things and tend to accumulate a lot of clutter. Try to maintain a sense of order with whatever system most resonates with you in the places where you spend your time.

When we go through times of change, maintenance of our rhythm and order is what usually falls off our radar first. So the next time you find yourself entering a transition of any kind, try being more mindful of maintaining the simple things including your regimen, a good diet, and a clean home. These simple things can provide a sense of harmony as you move through the uncertainty and constant changes of life.


Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac. is Co-Owner and Director of A Center for Natural Healing in Santa Clara, California, a health and wellness clinic that specializes in Classical Chinese Medicine and Traditional Japanese Acupuncture. Setareh offers clinical services and transformational workshops that blend the ancient practices of Classical Chinese Medicine and Yoga. More information at www.setarehmoafi.com and www.acenterfornaturalhealing.com

Start Every Day on the Right Foot: 5 Steps to Creating a Healthy Morning Ritual

by Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac.

“Don’t prioritize your schedule. Schedule your priorities.” - Steven Covey

How you start your day is an expression of what you’re cultivating in your life. 

If you wake up to a loud alarm, rushing to get ready and make it to work on time, you’ll likely spend the rest of your day feeling rushed.

If you jump straight to email and social media, you’re choosing to allow your day to begin with the needs and lives of others instead of your own.

If, on the other hand, you begin the day slowly, mindfully and with a regard for your well-being, it’s the centered state you cultivate is more likely to follow you throughout the day.

Taking care of your own needs at the start of your day will allow you to be more available to the needs of others without becoming drained or feeling resentful.

When you fly, you're told to put on your own oxygen mask before you help others put on theirs. By starting your day with a focus on yourself, you’ll be better equipped to contribute at a greater capacity to others throughout the day…and still come home feeling charged.

The moment you open your eyes in the morning, you invite a new day of possibilities. 

early morning

In that moment each morning you have the opportunity to set the rhythm for the rest of your day. As the days cultivating self-care accumulate and that rhythm flows, your life is vitalized on the path of healing and wellness. 

When you first awake, your brain operates at around 10.5 waves per second. The range from 8 to 13 Hz, or cycles per second, is the alpha stage, which is often referred to as the gateway to the subconscious mind.

Since your subconscious mind is most active right when you wake up, mornings are the ideal time to train your brain to use this subconscious activity to think positively and accomplish more throughout your day.

When you’re positive, intentional and focused with your mornings, you create the foundation for greater dreams to blossom and come to fruition. 

To have time for a ritual in the morning will mean that you create that time by waking up earlier—even just 10 extra minutes in the morning can make a tremendous difference in the pace of your day.

Your morning ritual sets the tone for the rest of your day—and life. 

In Chinese Medicine, the Earth element, which is comprised of the Spleen and Stomach, must be harmonized in order for us to move through life's challenges with ease as well as to maintain a consistent level of energy throughout the day.

The Earth element thrives on regularity - with meals, exercise, sleep and activities. 

A regular morning ritual helps to strengthen the Earth element energy within us. This, in turn, will increase our ability to digest and assimilate the important nutrients we consume, as well as enhance our ability to process and assimilate our life experiences in a more healthy way. This is one way to support being more grounded in your daily life. 

Ritual provides order and order harmonizes and calms the nervous system.

Starting your morning early allows more time for you to set the foundation you want to create for your day and to be more intentional about what you want that foundation to look like.

When building a house, the foundation is the structure that ensures stability for the entire project development.

Think of your morning ritual as your foundation for the project development of your goals and dreams. 

5 Simple Steps for a Healthy Morning Ritual

  1. Hydrate

    After several hours of sleep and inactivity, the body needs hydration for optimal functioning. Drinking water on an empty stomach first thing in the morning supports cleansing the colon and flushing toxins out of the body.

    While in general hydration is important (try to drink 1/2 of your weight in ounces of water daily, i.e. 75 ounces for a 150 pound body), it’s best to drink more water earlier in the day.

    Some suggest that drinking 50% of your daily water intake by mid-morning will not only keep you hydrated throughout the day, but can also prevent headaches and fatigue.

  2. Center Your Mind

    This can be done through a quiet meditation or relaxation practice, and even journaling to help you release negative thoughts, worries and also to help plan out your day.

    I love waking up to the practice of Morning Pages, which I was first introduced to in 2005 by the wonderful Julia Cameron in her book, The Artist’s Way. Morning Pages are three longhand pages of pure, uncensored writing about anything and everything as a way to clear the clutter from your mind. This has been an integral part of my morning routine for over a decade now and I swear by it, but really any type of journaling can be helpful as long as you do it regularly.

  3. Move Your Body

    Particularly with exercises that connect the body and mind, like Yoga and Qi Gong. The early morning hours are also the optimal time for aerobic exercise to stimulate your metabolism and activate your brain.

  4. Practice Gratitude

    You may feel grateful, but expressing this gratitude itself could be a daily ritual.

    Remember, when you take time to acknowledge and give gratitude for all that is working, you create space for greater positivity and joy to flow into your life.

    Gratitude is most powerful when it’s written, so start by writing 5-10 things you’re grateful for every morning.

  5. Eat a Warm, Nourishing Breakfast

    Taking time to eat without rushing is equally important to eating something healthy and nourishing. I always recommend cooking non-gluten whole grains such as buckwheat, millet or amaranth for breakfast. Grains in general nourish the Spleen Qi to support healthy digestion.

    Allowing time for your meals also nourishes the Earth element and digestive system, which leads to a faster, healthier metabolism.

Most importantly, I recommend doing these practices before you check your phone or email and avoiding external distractions for as long as possible when you first wake up.

Over time, you’ll notice that taking just 15-30 minutes each morning to center yourself will fill the remaining hours of your day with greater awareness, productivity and ease.


Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac. is Co-Owner and Director of A Center for Natural Healing in Santa Clara, California, a health and wellness clinic that specializes in Classical Chinese Medicine and Traditional Japanese Acupuncture. Setareh offers clinical services and transformational workshops that blend the ancient practices of Classical Chinese Medicine and Yoga. More information at www.setarehmoafi.com and www.acenterfornaturalhealing.com

Essential Oils for Five Element Personality Types - Balancing the Fire Archetype

Salvador Cefalu, M.S., L.Ac. & Setareh Moafi, PhD, L.Ac.

The Fire element relates to Summer and is the most Yang energy of all the elements in Chinese Medicine, so managing heat is key to keeping the associated organs healthy and functioning optimally.

Fire is associated with the Heart and Small Intestine organ systems. Fire energy is about control, both in terms of its relationship to the Heart as emperor of all the organs via its function of controlling blood circulation, as well as metaphorically in terms of the need to have control.

This is why Heart Fire with accompanying symptoms of anxiety and insomnia can result when we feel the need to control or feel out of control in some aspect of our lives.

Since the Heart system in Chinese Medicine is most closely related to the Shen, or spirit, Fire type personalities can be very animated.

Each of the Five Elements have associated personality types which can be broken up into Yin and Yang archetypes.

The Yang Fire Archetype

Yang Fire types tend to have an extremely unpredictable personality and can be the most manic-depressive of all elemental types. One moment they can be the life of the party, filled with joy and excitement, and the next moment they can find themselves in deep despair as they explore the full spectrum and drama of human emotion.

Since Fire radiates and is Yang by nature, it’s no wonder that Yang Fire types can fill an entire room with their lightness and joy when feeling great and in the same way drain all the energy out of a room when they’re feeling down.

Yang Fire types are artistic, passionate, seductive, and easily attract attention. They can be wonderfully successful in the performing arts. These archetypes feel best when they can enthusiastically pursue their passions in life and often prefer to work for a cause they deeply care about. 

Yang Fire personalities tend to have a sharp intellect, incredible memory and will work tirelessly often until burnout. These individuals tend to easily develop addictions to coffee, drugs and alcohol, and are prone to heart rhythm disturbances, hypertension, angina, heart attacks, insomnia, manic depression, and anxiety. Their intense nature also makes them prone to intestinal problems such as Irritable Bowel and Crohn’s disease, which relate to the Small Intestine aspect of the Fire Element.

Essential Oils to Balance the Yang Fire Archetype

The focus to balance the Yang Fire archetype is to cool the blood in order to calm the heart and nervous system.

This can be supported with essential oils such as Lemon Verbena, Sweet Marjoram, Neroli, Melissa (Lemon Balm), Spikenard and Valerian.

The Yin Fire Archetype

In contrast to the expressive, extroverted Yang Fire personality, the Yin Fire type personality tends to be more introverted and may even be quite shy. 

Though the Yin Fire archetype is more prone to a negative and pessimistic outlook on life, she can nonetheless be very committed, passionate and often quite patient in striving toward her life aspirations.

Physically, the Yin Fire type tends to have a weak heart and slow blood circulation.

Since according to Chinese Medicine the Heart relates to mental and emotional vitality, the Yin Fire archetype tends to have a restless mind and emotional fragility, and this unsettled state of mind can easily lead to insomnia and anxiety. 

Essential Oils to Balance the Yin Fire Archetype

Sandalwood and Frankincense are excellent essential oils to counter the health imbalances that tend to develop for Yin Fire archetypes. Sandalwood and Frankincense calm the mind and relax the diaphragm to improve deep breathing and strengthen the heart for improved blood circulation. Both of these oils are excellent for anxiety, insomnia and invigorating blood circulation throughout the entire body.

Sage and Ylang Ylang are nourishing essential oils for what is called Yin Deficiency with Empty Fire. This pattern translates as a hormonal weakness that creates the common symptoms of menopausal hot flashes, anxiety, insomnia and night sweating. Ylang Ylang is especially good for those anxiety patterns that also exhibit depression concurrently.

Ylang Ylang essential oil is distilled from the flowers and we all know how flowers can brighten up your day! Same idea applies to other flower essential oils such as Rose and Geranium which can also be used for Yin deficiency Fire patterns causing anxiety and depression as well. In fact, Ylang Ylang, Rose and Geranium essential oils are each appropriate for helping balance both Yin and Yang Fire archetype patterns.

It is important to note that Sage is an estrogenic oil and contains a chemical called thujone which can be irritating to the nervous system so it requires caution in its use and best with professional guidance. Sage is however relatively safe when diluted as a topical agent and a very important and unique oil with two contrasting actions as it is nourishing to the hormonal system while supporting detoxification of phlegm stasis in the body. In general, Clary Sage is a safer alternative in terms of Sage oils if there is a history of neurological problems.

Clary Sage also helps reduce Yin deficiency heat patterns which may involve menopausal symptoms as well. Symptoms such as feeling overly nervous and anxious have been found to improve as Clary Sage can help reduce cortisol levels through inhalation. Since it calms and relaxes the nervous system, Clary Sage can also reduce blood pressure so it is beneficial for hypertension, but may be too strong if someone has low blood pressure. For these reasons, it is always best to blend essential oils into a formula to balance out qualities and actions of each essential oil so your specific needs are properly supported.

Clary Sage is also an important oil to reduce depression, especially if it is related to a Yin deficiency heat problem that has exhausted the Qi which can occur with over-exercising, over-work, general burn-out syndrome and postpartum situations as well.

Remember, essential oils are chemical agents that resonate with the body’s deepest energetic level of Jing Essence and therefore can impact the body and mind in powerful ways to alter the most serious of conditions. When used wisely they can be a wonderful aide for your healing in body, mind and spirit.

*Please note these recommendations are for educational purposes only and we suggest consulting a professional healthcare clinician trained in essential oil therapy for your specific needs.


Salvador Cefalu, L.Ac. is the Founder & Co-Director of A Center for Natural Healing in Santa Clara, California, a health and wellness clinic run by he and his wife, Setareh Moafi, L.Ac. that specializes in Classical Chinese Medicine. Salvador is a leading U.S. practitioner of Japanese Meridian Therapy, a rare form of non-insertion Acupuncture using Gold & Silver needles. More information at www.acenterfornaturalhealing.com.

Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac. is Co-Owner and Director of A Center for Natural Healing in Santa Clara, California, a health and wellness clinic that specializes in Classical Chinese Medicine and Traditional Japanese Acupuncture. Setareh offers clinical services and transformational workshops that blend the ancient practices of Classical Chinese Medicine and Yoga. More information at www.setarehmoafi.com and www.acenterfornaturalhealing.com.

You Are Divine and Miracles Happen

By Salvador Cefalu, M.S., L.Ac.

You are divine because you have a potential we attribute to the Divine—the ability of miraculous transformation. 

You have an innate miraculous potential within your body-mind to spontaneously or slowly transmute your current state of health.  

An example of the miraculous potential within each of us can be seen in the phenomenon of disease transmutation in patients with Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD). A person who exhibits multiple personalities can present completely different disease states with each of his or her personalities.  

The variations in illness presentation among the various personalities can even be observed through blood analysis, indicating that the changes occur on a cellular and biochemical level. 

For example, a person who is diabetic when he exhibits the personality of Bob may not have diabetes or any of its symptoms when he’s living through the personality of John. 

How is this possible?

It’s truly a mystery in terms of science, but in terms of the power of the body and mind, it’s more in line with a miracle or more specifically a ‘miraculous transformation.’ 

How Classical Chinese Medicine Understands the Process of Miracles

According to Chinese Medicine, this phenomenon of disease transmutation (i.e. changing from one form to another) in a patient with MPD occurs through the transformation of his Jing, or Essence, that’s facilitated through a shift in his Shen, or consciousness, when he exhibits a different personality. 

Since the Jing corresponds to the Kidneys and the Shen to the Heart, this radical transmutation of disease states is achieved through the power of the Heart-Kidney communication, and this affirms why maintaining a strong Heart-Kidney connection is key to transforming your life.

Your Jing as it’s stored within the Kidneys relates to your body’s deepest constitutional energy, which relates to the level of cellular activity. Therefore, in scientific terms, Jing equates to your DNA and its genetic expression.

The Shen on the other hand is stored in the Heart. Shen is loosely translated as “Spirit” but it is better understood as one’s “conscious state of mind.”

So when there is a shift in your Shen, there will be a shift in your consciousness and through the power of the Heart bringing its Yang (warmth) down into the Kidneys, the Jing can transform into a different state. Not necessarily a healthier state, but a different state. So when a person who has multiple personalities shifts into a different personality, his health or disease status can shift as well.

Miracles occur when your Shen, or state of consciousness, shifts enough to allow for the restoration of health.

This miraculous process is described as the Heart “vaporizing phlegm” to cleanse and clear pathology from the body. This vaporization can happen suddenly or slowly over time as you shift your consciousness into a healthier state and essentially “let go” of the pathological state you were experiencing.

So what seems like a miracle is a natural transformation of Jing that allows a disease state at the cellular level to transmute into a healthy state. 

With this said, you are the conductor of your life, and the more clear you are about how you conduct your life and in particular your life-force—your Jing—the healthier you will become. 


The Metaphors of the Heart-Kidney Relationship

The Kidney is the domain within the body that relates to the Self, so as the Heart Qi moves down into the cold darkness of the Kidney Water, it brings warmth into you so you can feel a deeper sense of self-love.

As the Heart Qi travels down into the Kidneys, also helps shine a light onto your deepest subconscious fears that are held within the Kidneys.

This process of moving the Heart’s energy down into the Kidneys allows you to become conscious of what holds you back in life and to embrace these fears with unconditional love.

In addition, as the Kidney Qi moves up to embrace and activate the Heart, it supports you to open your Heart and express love in your life more freely and to manifest your Heart’s desires and passions.

Perhaps most importantly, the process of activating the Triple Energizer to move your Kidney Essence, or Jing, helps you become conscious of your destiny and supports you to follow the path you were destined to live (read more about this dynamic here).


Triple Energizer Qi Gong Supports Transformation in Your Life

Historically, in the search for the elixir of life, the practice of alchemy developed through the use of toxic herbs that when ingested properly were claimed to induce magical transformations within the body and mind.

Out of this tradition arose the practice of meditation and Qi Gong as a cultivation practice to achieve the same levels of physical and spiritual transformation without the potential of dying from ingesting poisonous substances.

Qi provides the power of transformation and transmutation within the body and mind and this is why Qi Gong is an alchemical exercise in Daoist practices.

Enlightened masters lead austere lives to support their internal transformations through mediation and Qi Gong practices. As you develop your Qi Gong practice it’s necessary to also improve your self-care through diet and lifestyle adjustments that support transforming your health and life.

Since the Heart-Kidney energetic connection is so important in the process of life-transformation, a primary way to maintain a healthy Heart-Kidney communication is through supporting the Triple Energizer system of your body.

The Triple Energizer is a Fire organ that relates to the Heart and facilitates the movement of your Kidney’s Water energy or Jing-Essence.

Triple Energizer Qi Gong is an exercise system designed to strengthen your Heart’s Qi and bring the warmth of the Heart’s Yang into your Kidneys to provide for the transmutation of Qi and Blood into Jing to support slowing the aging process.

In addition, exercise practices like Triple Energizer Qi Gong can help cleanse your Jing-Essence to purify your body, resolve illnesses and prevent disease from developing.


You Are the Master of Your Life

As you begin this self-exploration through practicing Qi Gong, see yourself as a scientist observing and discovering the phenomenon of natural healing through the cultivation of Qi within the laboratory of your own divine body.

Practicing Qi Gong is an evolutionary process with benefits that unfold over months of time and practice slowly restoring your body and expanding your mind. It is through this process of cultivation you can create the miracles in your life to achieve your heart’s desires.

Learn more about Triple Energizer Qi Gong and join Salvador for an upcoming live class at Dharma Studio at A Center for Natural Healing. 

Self-Healing & Self-Discovery through Triple Energizer Qi Gong

By Salvador Cefalu, M.S., L.Ac.

The term Qi Gong basically means “Qi Cultivation” or “Qi Effort”. The practice of Qi Gong is therefore about applying concentrated effort to support your Qi. 

In terms of physiology, Qi is the electro-magnetic energy within the body that provides the power for movement and function on all levels ranging from cellular function to gross mechanical actions.

Every living cell of your body has an electrical charge on its membrane. This is known as the Resting Membrane Potential measured by the voltage between the fluid inside the cell and fluid outside the cell.

The Resting Membrane Potential is a neutral state and information does not actively get transmitted in this state. But as soon as the voltage changes, then the cell can transmit information to trigger different actions throughout the body.

This change in energy potential allows for fluid to pass in and out of cells, so fluid dynamics are to a great extent based on the shifting of cellular membrane voltage.

In terms of Chinese Medicine and Qi Gong, this process is supported by activating Qi through special movements and deep focused breathing. In terms of fluid metabolism and organ function, the Triple Energizer system supports the Lungs, Spleen and Kidneys to work synergistically to support fluid metabolism for the purposes of nourishing and cleansing the body.

Although the Triple Energizer (aka Triple Heater) is considered an organ in Chinese Medicine and has a meridian circulation devoted to it like the other primary organs, it’s considered to be a rather mysterious organ because it has “function but no form.”

Two years ago, however, the form of the Triple Energizer system was likely discovered through state-of-the-art electroscopic analysis of living tissue which allowed for the observance of an entirely new system of fluid movement within the body.

This newly discovered fluid highway flows between tissues of living organism (an interstitial system) and therefore had not been able to be observed prior to the development of special electroscope technology.

Some scientists called this discovery a ‘new organ' while others balked at the reference to this system as an organ because it had no defined shape. In my estimation, this new fluid network is the exciting discovery of the Triple Energizer system that has been long established in Chinese Medicine.

Jing is the Qi of Your Constitution

We are each born with a finite amount of life-force according to this tradition and it is called your Essence or Jing that is stored in your Kidneys.

This Jing is like the oil in an old fashion lamp and as you live your life you use up your body’s oil reserves. It is therefore accurate to say if you live a fast, hard life, you will burn yourself and your life out more quickly.

In Chinese Medicine they take this idea literally believing the Kidney system also holds within it a pilot light, called your Ming Men or Life-Gate Fire.  It’s considered a “gate” because this flame protects your life. So as you burn out the fire of your Ming-Men, your fundamental life-force declines as well.  

Your Kidneys therefore store both the fuel, called your Jing or Essence, and the pilot light, called your Ming-Men Fire, and since Jing relates to your constitution it has a direct resonance with your DNA. With that said, it is clear why Chinese Medicine emphasizes that optimal health and vitality depends on the health of your Kidneys and why the practice of Triple Energizer Qi Gong is concentrated on this achievement.

The Eight Extraordinary Meridians Cleanse Your Constitutional Jing

From a Chinese Medicine perspective, the practice of Triple Energizer Qi Gong is designed to facilitate a healthy flow of Qi in order to regulate and cleanse the Water energy within your body.

Water energy is regulated through the dynamic action of the Triple Heater system and the function of the Lung, Spleen and Kidney organs.

Water energy not only corresponds with the fluid dynamics of the Triple Heater but also to your constitutional Jing-Essence and there is a unique set of energy channels called the Eight Extraordinary Meridians that have direct resonance on this deepest level of your life force. 

These Extraordinary Meridians correspond with your constitutional Jing because they develop in utero during gestation.

The organs that correspond to these Extraordinary Meridians are also referred to as extraordinary. In modern Chinese Medicine we call them the Curious Organs which include the brain, the genito-reproductive systems as well as the bones and blood vessels.

These Eight Extraordinary Meridians are considered both ‘ancestral vessels’ and vessels of ‘latency’. Three of the eight meridians are the original ancestral vessels of your creation and contain your hereditary information. These are called prenatal vessels.

The other five meridians are created after birth and therefore called postnatal vessels and act like reservoirs that contain latent toxic factors that would otherwise damage your vital organs. These latent factors can be chemical in nature from exposure to toxic substances or simply a lifetime of overeating or consuming excessive toxins such as alcohol, drugs and medications.

Latent toxic factors can also be emotional in nature and even acquired through physical trauma.

For example, a car accident can induce a lot of external Yang energy into the body that can overwhelm the system. This excess energy can get trapped and become a latent factor that restricts mobility and causes chronic pain.

Most importantly, working with these Eight Extraordinary Meridians can help you cleanse your body of these latent toxic factors that can damage your constitutional Essence and lead to serious states of disease.

And as you optimize the function of your Eight Extraordinary Meridians which can be achieved through acupuncture and Triple Energizer Qi Gong you can greatly enhance the quality of your health and lead an extra-ordinary life.

The Benefits of Triple Energizer Qi Gong

Triple Energizer Qi Gong helps regulate the Eight Extraordinary Meridians to unburden your body of toxic latent factors that can lead to serious diseases and accelerate your aging process.

Triple Energizer Qi Gong also supports all of your vital systems by regulating the three Energizer centers of the body— the organs of digestion and reproduction in the Lower Energizer, the Heart and Lungs in the Middle Energizer, and the Brain within the Upper Energizer.

In this way, Triple Energizer Qi Gong supports the function of the three Energizer centers of the body, thereby improving the health of your organ and glandular systems to balance and regulate your overall metabolism.

With this said, a diaphragmatic breathing exercise system has been scientifically studied in Japan on obese, post-menopausal, depressed women. This Japanese exercise uses a similar form of combined movement and breathing used in Triple Energizer Qi Gong so in my opinion it helps to improve the function of the Triple Heater system as well.

This Japanese form of diaphragmatic breathing has been found to help with weight loss, fatigue, asthma and depression. Physiological observations included improvement in adrenal gland function and sympathetic tone, as well as increased release of growth hormone and estradiol to support cellular regeneration and mood enhancement.

Qi Gong and diaphragmatic breathing in general have been found to reduce cortisol levels and oxidative stress which accelerate cellular damage and aging, reduce symptoms of GERD (heartburn), lower blood sugar, elevated blood pressure and rapid heart beat which are all physiological effects of stress. And let’s not forget about the release of beta-endorphins which help improve one’s outlook on life.

Another Qi Gong study will excite those on the ketosis diet kick to burn fat and lose weight. This study worked with a group of overweight male and female college students and after one month of Qi Gong practice it was found that their morning urine ketone levels increased indicating improvement in their lipid metabolism.

Other studies have shown reduction in cholesterol and triglycerides levels and the increase in HDL after 3 months of Qi Gong practice. Another report regarding a study of 100 Qi Gong participants showed improvement in platelet aggregation tests which indicate a reduction in blood viscosity and improvement in blood circulation. Furthermore, Qi Gong has been shown to initiate an immediate increase in hemoglobin as well which supports enhanced oxygenation throughout the body.

With all of these positive indicators, it is therefore safe to say that practicing Qi Gong daily provides positive physiological benefits to improve health in both body and mind.

Triple Energizer Qi Gong & Your Life Purpose

Your Jing is stored in your Kidneys and therefore it relates to the Water energy of the body.

As the body’s irrigation system, the Triple Energizer is responsible for moving and disseminating your Water’s Essence which stores your life curriculum.

Smooth circulation of the Triple Heater system allows you to be healthy and live out your life’s purpose.

According to Classical Chinese Medicine, your Jing is programmed during gestation with information about the ‘curriculum’ you are to live out and experience in this lifetime. 

In other words, your ‘curriculum’ according to Taoist philosophy is ‘the path’ you are to follow in this lifetime in order to free yourself from the cycles of reincarnation.

If you bring your curriculum to completion in this lifetime, you’ll be free to create whatever you want with the rest of your life here on earth and thereafter.

However, if you avoid fulfilling the curriculum you’ve come into this life to experience, then according to this ideology, you’ll return to similar circumstances to try again.

This is why it’s important that you don’t allow your Jing to stagnate and keep the Water moving smoothy in your body.  This will not only prevent your body’s fluid system from becoming a stagnant cesspool that leads to disease, but also allows you to fulfill your destiny.

Salvador demonstrates a sample of Triple Energizer Qi Gong.

According to Daoist philosophy, if your Jing is stagnated in this moment, then you likely aren’t living out your Dharma, or purpose, you came into this life to fulfill. 

Activating your Triple Heater system through Triple Energizer Qi Gong will support you in this profound life changing experience. And as you awaken to your higher purpose, Triple Energizer Qi Gong can help you heal your body and mind to support graceful aging.

Click here to register for an upcoming Triple Energizer Qi Gong class at Dharma Studio at A Center for Natural Healing.

You can also learn about this unique practice in the Yin Yoga Integration Teacher Training with Dr. Setareh Moafi starting in September 2019.


Salvador Cefalu, M.S., L.Ac. is the Founder & Co-Director of A Center for Natural Healing in Santa Clara, California, a health and wellness clinic run by he and his wife, Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac. that specializes in Classical Chinese Medicine. Salvador is a leading U.S. practitioner of Japanese Meridian Therapy, a rare form of non-insertion Acupuncture using Gold & Silver needles. More information at www.acenterfornaturalhealing.com.

5 Ways Yin Yoga Can Transform Your Health & Life

by Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac.

Setareh yin twist.jpg

You may have already heard my story about how practicing Yoga changed my life as a stressed out overachiever at Cal (if you haven't read the story, you can find it here). But you may not know that beginning the practice of Yin Yoga awakened my interest in Chinese Medicine, and led me toward the path that I'm on now.

As I prepare to teach the second (and probably last) live round of my one-of-a-kind Yin Yoga Integration Teacher Training this Fall, I hope to demystify the practice of Yin Yoga so you can better understand how it can transform the way you feel in your body and move through your life—regardless of your practice level or age.

Yin Yoga isn’t the same as gentle Yoga, nor is it necessarily restorative. Rather, Yin Yoga is a deep and sometimes uncomfortable practice.

Understood through the lens of Chinese Medicine, this practice can access the deeper connective tissue of your body to help you release trapped emotions and free you physically to allow for greater freedom of movement.

What is Yin Yoga?

Yin Yoga is a passive practice primarily comprised of seated and supine postures typically held for 3 to 5 minutes. Practicing in this way allows the stretch to go beyond the muscles to the deeper layers of fascia.

Over the years, Yin Yoga has become a practice I come home to when things are difficult, when I’m exhausted and even when I feel great. It’s a comfort for me to sit in the long-held postures, breathe, take in the moment, and let go of the chatter in my mind.

And because your body sits passively to experience the deeper stretch, your mind naturally settles with time, supporting you to let go of the distractions of the day without forcing anything.

Yin Yoga is the passive balance to a daily active, or Yang, lifestyle that’s typical for so many of us.

And since this practice releases the connective tissue and most importantly the illiopsoas (the muscle group in the pelvic region that’s comprised of the illiacus and psoas muscles) where emotional stress and trauma are stored, as your body releases, your mind becomes more free and you can move through your life with far greater ease.

5 Ways Yin Yoga Can Improve Your Health & Life

Butterfly pose in the Yin style.

Here are five important health benefits that can be cultivated through regular Yin Yoga practice:

  1. Reduced Stress, Anxiety and Depression

    In a randomized controlled trial, researchers examined whether participating in a five-week yoga intervention reduces biomarker Adrenomedullin (ADM) and increases psychological health in middle-aged adults who self-report as moderately to highly stressed. ADM is a blood pressure-lowering peptide expressed in cardiovascular tissues including the vascular wall and heart. Plasma levels of ADM are elevated in patients with hypertension, heart failure or arteriosclerosis, as compared with control subjects.

    Compared to the control group, the researchers observed significantly greater pre-post reductions in plasma ADM levels, anxiety, depression, and sleep problems.

    The study concluded that five-week Yin yoga-based interventions appeared to reduce both the physiological and psychological risk factors known to be associated with non communicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes.

    The study also suggested incorporating Yin yoga as an easy and low-cost method to limit the negative health effects associated with high stress.[1]

  2. Improved Digestion & Sleep

    The very experience of Yin Yoga is calming and can reduce your stress levels since the poses are held for extended periods, averaging 3-8 minutes each. This calming effect regulates your nervous system and helps to relax your ‘fight or flight’ response.

    Whereas most styles of movement practice emphasize muscular strengthening and stretching, Yin Yoga focuses on stretching the connective tissue that’s more closely associated with the parasympathetic nervous system.

    As a result, you walk away from a Yin Yoga practice feeling calmer, stronger and can often notice improvements in your sleep and digestion—the aspects ruled by your parasympathetic nervous system—right away. (For more on the connection between digestion and sleep, you can read this article ).

    And when you sleep and digest better, you move with greater clarity and focus throughout your life.

  3. Greater Freedom of Movement

    Yin Yoga postures focus primarily on releasing and lengthening the hips, pelvis and lower spine. These areas hold a lot of latency—unresolved physical and emotional trauma that can over time inhibit your range of motion.

    Most books describe the practice of Yin Yoga in relation to the Primary Meridians, which are the main channels that are addressed and treated in Traditional Chinese Medicine. However, from the point of view of Classical Chinese Medicine, movement practice would be insufficient to access or treat the Primary Meridians.

    The classics of Chinese Medicine describe complement channels, which include the Sinew, Luo, Divergent and Eight Extraordinary Channels. Of these, the Sinew Channels control the movement of the Wei, or defensive Qi, and our movement.

    The sinews conduct Wei Qi and are the first to respond to exogenous pathogenic factors, or EPFs, that enter the body from the external environment. As these pathogenic factors internalize, they inhibit movement and therefore the Sinew Channels must be addressed in order to liberate your movement.

    Emotions can also be addressed through the Sinew Channels but the primary benefit of freeing the Sinew Channels is to develop freedom of movement and therefore greater flexibility in both the body and mind.

    So the emphasis in learning about the Sinew Channels in relationship to Yin Yoga practice is to be able to free these channels so you can find greater freedom of movement in all aspects of your life.

  4. Stronger Bones

    Distraction (often called traction) is one of the focuses in Yin Yoga and is the application of a long-held stress that tends to pull bones apart. A study published in Isfahan, Iran found that distraction stimulates both the growth of bones and their associated ligaments.[2]

  5. Greater Mental Clarity & Focus

    Practicing Yin Yoga can be challenging because the poses are held for minutes, releasing layers of tension and latent emotions that are held deep within the body’s fascia.

    The primary tool that helps ease the challenge is breath awareness, which anchors you into the present moment.

    Through breath awareness, you’re guided to ‘play your edge’, or to move to a point that challenges you physically while still taking deep, conscious breaths.

    Consistent practice in this way builds mental focus and clarity and will help you move through each day with both a stronger body and calmer mind.

If you’re interested in delving more deeply into this practice, you can apply to participate in my one-of-a-kind Yin Yoga Integration Teacher Training or attend any of my live retreats.

References
1. Daiva Daukantaitė, Una Tellhed, Rachel E. Maddux, Thomas Svensson, and Olle Melander. Five-week yin yoga-based interventions decreased plasma adrenomedullin and increased psychological health in stressed adults: A randomized controlled trial. PLoS One. 2018; 13(7): e0200518. Published online 2018 Jul 18. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0200518

2. Subodh Shankar Natu, Iqbal Ali, Sarwar Alam, Kolli Yada Giri, Anshita Agarwal, and Vrishali Ajit Kulkarni. The biology of distraction osteogenesis for correction of mandibular and craniomaxillofacial defects: A review. Dent Res J (Isfahan). 2014 Jan-Feb; 11(1): 16–26.


Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac. is Co-Owner and Director of A Center for Natural Healing in Santa Clara, California, a health and wellness clinic that specializes in Classical Chinese Medicine and Traditional Japanese Acupuncture. Setareh offers clinical services and transformational workshops that blend the ancient practices of Classical Chinese Medicine and Yoga. More information at www.setarehmoafi.com and www.acenterfornaturalhealing.com.

How to Deal with an Energy (Qi) Sucker

by Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac.

When you drive down a road with a dead end, you get to a point where you have to stop and redirect your route. The signs that are often put at the end of a dead end serve as boundaries to protect you from driving further into an area that shouldn't be entered. 

Similarly, speed limits on the road create boundaries to limit how fast you can drive on a particular road or highway. These and other signs on the road provide boundaries to protect you and other drivers.

In the same way, you must set boundaries to protect yourself from situations and people that may be harmful to you on the road of life.

What’s a Qi Sucker?

Some people get energized by spending a lot of time around people while others prefer to spend more time alone. 

Personally, I love being around people and I get a lot of energy from socializing, but I also need time alone to recharge. I’m always looking for the balance between spending time with people I enjoy and allowing myself the time I need to nurture my inner world. 

Over the years, I’ve discovered that to come closer to this balance, I have to set boundaries on both my time with others and the people with whom I spend my time. This means saying no more often than I may like.

Once a chronic people pleaser, I used to be tormented by how people might react if I say no or do something to disappoint them. Though I still struggle with this at times, I've learned that the stronger and more clear my boundaries, the better I am at spending quality time with others and the more available I can be with my energy for my patients, students, friends, and family members.

Years ago, one of my early mentors taught me the concept of ‘Qi suckers,’ sometimes also referred to as ‘energy vampires.’ In Chinese Medicine, Qi is what’s referred to as energy or life force (like the Sanskrit word prana). We take Qi in through our breath and can feel its presence in everything around and within us when we tune in.  

People who are Qi suckers draw from the life force of others as a result of their own imbalances and neediness. 

You know you’ve encountered a Qi sucker if after spending time with one you walk away feeling depleted and often guilty, even though you really haven’t done anything wrong. 

Qi suckers are master manipulators who are often very charming and attractive. 

It’s easy to be drawn in by their warmth and charm, but once you get too close to a Qi sucker—the more you approach the warmth of their Fire—the more easily you get burned.

An interaction with a Qi sucker may look something like this:

Qi sucker: “Hey, what are you doing this afternoon? Wanna go shopping with me?”

You: “No, thanks, I have a lot to do this afternoon.”

Qi sucker: “Really? What do you have to do that’s so important?”

You: “Well, I have to finish a work project and clean the house.”

Qi sucker: “Ok, whatever. You never like to do anything with me. Sometimes I feel like we’re not even really friends anymore. I don’t care. Do what you want. It’s your life.”

Qi suckers can be great people and you can really have a great time with them in short interactions. However, conversations have the potential to escalate quickly into heated disagreements or arguments when they’re triggered, and they are very easy to trigger!

You know you’re with a Qi sucker if you feel like you’re walking on eggshells and have to constantly watch what you’re saying in order to not offend them or hurt their feelings in some way.

The only way to protect yourself from a Qi sucker is to set clear boundaries. 

You can read about clear boundary setting and its impact on your health in this article.

According to Chinese Medicine, boundaries are associated with the Earth element. Earth provides the fertile soil that allows plants to grow and flourish to provide nourishment and sustenance; it gives protection and shelter as well as stability and substance. 

Earth also contains water, creates boundaries to define continents and carries us through space with stability. Earth represents safety, protection and our home base. 

Being centered, calm, and balanced, feeling at home, and having a sense of harmony and peacefulness are the essence of a healthy Earth energy. Creating a comfortable home and cooking are essential factors to nourishing the Earth energy in your life. 

Cultivating a healthy Earth means understanding and prioritizing your needs. If you pour all of your energy into helping others or work excessively, we'll have nothing left for yourself.

If you don't discipline yourself around your diet and set boundaries around eating generally healthy foods, your health will fail. If you continuously go to bed late because you don't have the discipline to stop working or watching TV at night, you’ll slowly but surely deplete your blood, our Yin, and your essence, which accelerates the aging process.

In other words, strong boundaries around how and with whom you spend your time, what you eat and even when you sleep is fundamental to your health.

In the body, these boundaries are established by the Earth element organs that govern digestion, the Stomach and Spleen. Digestive health is therefore essential to creating healthy boundaries that prevent Qi suckers from draining your energy. 

Nourishment and the Earth element

Earth energy is about transformation—transformation of food into energy and raw material to rebuild the body, and transformation of our thoughts so we're not stuck obsessing about negative things and can have clarity of mind. 

Earth energy is also associated with your relationship with yourself and others, which begins with your relationship to your family, especially your mother. As the archetype for the Earth type personality, the Mother represents unconditional love and the nourishing qualities that exist within each of us.

The way someone affects you is based on how you respond to that person’s behavior rather than the behavior itself. When you set strong boundaries, you can protect your Qi and make sure that you’re not not giving away your energy or joy to others.

What You Can Learn from Qi Suckers

The gift of having a Qi sucker in your life is that they’re excellent boundary teachers. 

In fact, while you may feel guilty and cautious about hurting their feelings, what you’ll find most often about a Qi sucker is that you can clearly change your dynamic with him or her simply by setting a strong boundary.

Boundary setting either pushes the person entirely out of your life or forces him or her to grow in a way that allows for a healthy relationship.

Do you have a Qi sucker in your life? 

How do you deal with him or her? How could you change the way you interact or set boundaries so that he or she doesn’t steal your joy or energy? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.


Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac. is Co-Owner and Director of A Center for Natural Healing in Santa Clara, California, a health and wellness clinic that specializes in Classical Chinese Medicine and Traditional Japanese Acupuncture. Setareh offers clinical services and transformational workshops that blend the ancient practices of Classical Chinese Medicine and Yoga. More information at www.setarehmoafi.com and www.acenterfornaturalhealing.com

5 Reasons to Drink Yerba Mate

by Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac.

There’s nothing like waking up early in the morning and enjoying a hot drink to start the day. And all the better if that hot drink can help you wake up and give you more clarity and focus.

Over the years I’ve grown increasingly sensitive to coffee and even just half a cup is enough to give me heart palpitations and heartburn. Plus, I’m well aware that driving up my cortisol with too much caffeine can have some painstaking long term effects. That’s why I’m grateful for having discovered (and recently rediscovered) the magical Yerba Mate.

Yerba mate is a tea made from the dried leaves and twigs of the Ilex paraguariensis plant, and is an excellent substitute for coffee, black tea and other high caffeine drinks. Plus its slightly bitter, smoky flavor makes it less of a compromise than most coffee substitutes.

It’s traditionally consumed in South America from a container called a gourd and sipped with a metal straw with an attached filter at its lower end to strain out the leaf fragments.

The health benefits of Yerba Mate are extraordinary, and its ability to give you a kick of energy without compromising longevity are one-of-a-kind. Here are five key benefits of switching to Mate in the morning.

5 Reasons to Drink Yerba Mate

  1. Strengthens Your Body & Boosts Your Immunity

    Yerba mate is rich in nutrients and antioxidants. It contains high concentrations of vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, C, and E, as well as calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sodium, sulfur and zinc.

    Unlike coffee, which can interfere with the body’s absorption of minerals, the high mineral content of Yerba Mate protects against bone density loss.

    Plus, its metabolic boosters increase energy, and its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties provide excellent immune boosters.

  2. Gives You Energy without Caffeine Jitters

    There is currently a debate about the chemical nature of the stimulant in Yerba Mate. While North American chemists say it contains caffeine, South Americans claim it contains a unique molecule known as mateine, which has the same chemical formula but a different molecular shape from caffeine.

    Because of this difference, mateine is absorbed and processed differently by the body, providing an adaptogenic effect, which means it increases the body's ability to resist the damaging effects of stress and promote or restore normal physiological functioning.

    As an adaptogen, Yerba Mate produces no toxins, creates a non-specific response in the body and works in a bidirectional manner.

    Yerba Mate is also a great substitute for coffee and most tea since its adaptogenic properties prevent it from elevating your cortisol levels and creating the ‘fight or flight’ stress response that can lead to adrenal fatigue.

    My personal experience with Mate has convinced me that the South Americans are onto something—I’m very sensitive to caffeine in coffee and tea, but I can easily have a restful night of sleep just an hour or two after drinking a cup of Yerba Mate. With that said, I suggest drinking the hot tea rather than canned Yerba Mate because of alterations and loss of benefits that can result from excessive steeping of this tea.

  3. Clears Toxins from Your Body

    Yerba Mate contains saponins, which are phytochemicals found in plants and nearly all adaptogenic herbs.[1] Saponins have a unique chemical structure that produces foam when mixed with water, and can bind with water as well as fats and oils. In the digestive tract, saponins bind to bile acids and help eliminate them from the body, preventing cholesterol from being reabsorbed.

    In other words, saponins work like a detergent to clear toxins from your body.

  4. Helps Improve Digestion & Elimination

    Yerba Mate contains compounds such as xanthines that are known to relax the muscles to aid digestion, especially with cramping, constipation or bloating.

    While coffee and tea can cause stomach upset while potentially damaging your stomach lining, Yerba mate aids digestion by stimulating increased production of bile and other gastric acids.

    It also helps to effectively and efficiently eliminate waste from your colon by clearing heat in the Stomach, which in excess can cause constipation, bad breath and even ulcers.

  5. Can Help You Get Rid of Stubborn Belly Fat

    Research suggests that Yerba Mate can increase the amount of stored fat that's burned for energy [2].

    Furthermore, in a 12-week study in overweight people, those given 3 grams of yerba mate powder per day lost an average of 1.5 pounds (0.7 kg) and reduced their waist-to-hip ratio by 2%, while the participants given a placebo gained an average of 6.2 pounds (2.8 kg) and increased their waist-to-hip ratio by 1% over the same 12-week period [3].

So if you’re looking for a healthy alternative to coffee or caffeinated tea without compromising the energy and focus, try a fresh brewed cup of Yerba Mate to start your day.



Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac. is Co-Owner and Director of A Center for Natural Healing in Santa Clara, California, a health and wellness clinic that specializes in Classical Chinese Medicine and Traditional Japanese Acupuncture. Setareh offers clinical services and transformational workshops that blend the ancient practices of Classical Chinese Medicine and Yoga. 

The Upside to Feeling Down: The Earth Element & Depression (Part 6)

by Salvador Cefalu, M.S., L.Ac.

This final survey of depression from the perspective of the Five Element Theory will address the Earth element. In Chinese Medicine, Earth energy is about transformation.

The Earth element organs are the Spleen and Stomach and the Spleen also correlates with the pancreas.

Therefore digestion and the conversion of food into energy are the fundamental functions of Earth energy.

This transformation of nutrients into Qi energy equates to the creation of cellular energy or ATP (adenosine triphosphate), a molecule of energy created by every cell of your body for biochemical reactions.

This is why in Chinese Medicine, your Earth energy is considered the center of your being.

Earth element and depression

And since the centralized organs of digestion create the energy that drives your brain function, weakness of your Earth energy can cause a decline in mental acuity, and become a fundamental reason for the development of depression.

The Earth energy’s powerful influence over mental faculties is a primary reason why according to Chinese Medicine, the Spleen stores the Yi, or the Mind.

The Yi encompasses your mental intelligence, providing the ability to think analytically, have memory retrieval and clarity of focus. All of these functions are thus supported by your Earth energy, specifically, your Spleen’s Qi.

Keeping your digestive system healthy and managing a healthy diet are therefore critical in the support of healthy brain function and the resolution of depression.

The Gut-Brain Connection

When the Spleen and Stomach are not functioning optimally or the diet is creating toxicity, a condition called Dampness will likely develop.

Dampness is a form of gut toxicity rooted in an imbalance of the microbiome wherein bad bacteria, fungus/yeast and parasites or worms overrun the good bacteria.

Dampness is a Chinese Medicine term that describes an internal terrain that is too moist, and pathogens like fungus—most commonly in the form of a yeast known as Candida Albicans—love moist environments.

Having some fungus in the body’s gut microbiome is normal, however, the common occurrence of Candida infestations is likely due to today’s modern diet that’s high in sugar, grains and alcohol, as well as certain medications such as antibiotics and steroids like Prednisone that create a cold, damp terrain in the body.

If you’re suffering from chronic sinus congestion, postnasal drip or recurring ear infections (especially in children), we can surmise there is too much Dampness accumulation in these areas of your body.

As a Chinese Medicine practitioner, we can confirm this supposition by checking your tongue. If it is abnormally swollen or has too much coating, then there is fluid stagnation and dampness has developed.

In cases of chronic depression, there’s usually fatigue, apathy and a lack of motivation, so we generally expect to find some degree of weakness of Spleen Qi (low energy) as well as an internal environment of Dampness which is making the Qi circulation sluggish throughout the body and dampening the functioning of the brain.

Even many incidences of dementia and Alzheimer’s are rooted in conditions of Dampness. In fact, modern medical science often refers to Alzheimer’s as Type III Diabetes because of its association to elevated blood sugar which leads to the overgrowth of yeast and plaque in the brain.

Healing Your Depression

If you’re looking to heal naturally from depression, I suggest working with diet, herbal medicine and acupuncture to reduce your damp terrain and only after you’re feeling better, begin to work with your doctor to reduce the dosage of your depression/anxiety medication.

It’s imperative to reduce foods that increase sugar in the blood, primarily carbohydrates, including concentrated sugar in any form such as fruit and melons. You may need to eliminate all grains for a period of time or eliminate just the gluten grains. This is where a Paleo diet can be useful for a period of time.

Excess fats also create dampness, so fish, avocados, coconut oil, fried foods and nuts may all need to be reduced or eliminated for an extended period to clean up your system if it’s overrun with dampness and a fungal terrain.

As you clear the dampness out of your system, your mental faculties will sharpen, your moods will stabilize and your depression may begin to lighten up.

Be patient if you’ve suffered from depression for a long time.

It may take several months before you start noticing a difference in your brain function and emotional state. As I mentioned in previous articles, sometimes you need to also clear the Blood Stagnation that’s trapping the emotional trauma in your body, or strengthen the Lung and Kidneys or detoxify the Liver.

Considering these factors, you can see why it’s important to find a qualified Acupuncturist to work with to support you in gaining clarity on what specifically needs to be addressed for you to achieve the quality of life you seek on your path to wellness and your journey to fulfilling your every dream.


Salvador Cefalu, M.S., L.Ac. is the Founder & Co-Director of A Center for Natural Healing in Santa Clara, California, a health and wellness clinic run by he and his wife, Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac. that specializes in Classical Chinese Medicine. Salvador is a leading U.S. practitioner of Japanese Meridian Therapy, a rare form of non-insertion Acupuncture using Gold & Silver needles. More information at www.acenterfornaturalhealing.com.

The Upside to Feeling Down: The Fire Element & Depression (Part 5)

by Salvador Cefalu, M.S., L.Ac.

The Fire Element and its related Heart organ system is about maintaining control in your life. Since some level of control is essential, keeping this system in harmony is a key factor to living a life in balance.

The tendency to be over-controlling however can lead to internal disharmony by creating too much heat in your Heart. Excessive heat in the Heart system can lead to a range of physical symptoms, from shortness of breath to high blood pressure and heart disease. And since the Heart stores your Shen (Spirit) which influences your mind, this excessive heat can cause hyperactivity of the mind, which can lead to such conditions as ADHD, OCD, insomnia and anxiety.

The Heart’s Connection to Depression

It’s not uncommon that individuals suffering from anxiety also experience depression. In Chinese Medicine, this is a condition of the Heart and Kidney systems not communicating well or supporting each other properly.

The Heart’s Fire and the Kidneys’ Water energies make up the central axis of our energetic system.

When functioning normally, the energy of the Heart descends its Fire to help warm the Kidney’s Yang Qi and to reciprocate, the Kidney offers its Water energy to cool the Heart so it doesn’t overheat. These cooperative efforts counterbalance the body’s core energies to maintain homeostasis within these systems and the body as a whole.

So the challenge lies to keep a balance of function between the Heart and Kidneys. This balance begins with utilizing the power of the Heart’s control function to manage your excessive drives and desires.

A person with a lot of Heart heat generally can’t settle down very easily, so sitting down quietly or meditating can be difficult tasks.

Heart Fire type individuals like a lot of stimulation so they can easily get addicted to stimulants such as coffee which can further create internal heat. They also like to multitask and have many interests going at once, often overextending themselves to the point of exhaustion.

This is a pattern of how excessive Heart Fire leads to elevated cortisol levels which first create a hyper-adrenaline response and over time can lead to adrenal burnout (adrenal exhaustion = Kidney Qi energy depletion).

When your Heart is overstimulated, your Kidney’s Yang (adrenals) get overly activated and this consumes the Kidney’s Yin Water (resources to create your reproductive hormones) that supports your Heart and mind to be cool and calm.

This common condition leads to a Fire and Water imbalance wherein symptoms of anxiety (Fire Excess) and depression (Water Deficiency) can then begin to manifest.

Therefore, balancing your Heart and Kidney energies helps you settle anxiety and the need to be over-controlling in your life, which will help you cultivate a sense of inner peace and trust since trust is a virtue of strong Kidney Qi energy.


The Heart Controls the Lungs

When the Heart becomes overstimulated, it can also suppress the energy of the Lungs.

Since the emotions relating to a Lung imbalance relate to sadness and grief, if the Lung’s energy becomes overwhelmed by the Heart’s Fire energy, the Lung’s Qi will become weakened and depression can develop.

This pattern of excessive Heart Fire along with Lung Qi depletion therefore contributes to the complex dual pattern of anxiety occurring with depression.

My Daoist Classical Chinese Medicine teacher, Dr. Jeffrey Yuen, states that the Lungs “govern Qi” for the purpose of ‘self-rectification’. Self-rectification is about finding redemption in our lives so we can overcome the burdens of guilt and shame that depress our Qi and keep us in a state of depression.

Therefore, in order to move beyond a state of self-loathing and deep sadness, an inner cleansing is essential to cultivate a peaceful heart and mind and lessen the heaviness of a depressed state. This internal cleansing is about cleansing the blood from past emotional traumas.


Heart Blood Stores Your Emotional Traumas

In Chinese Medicine, the blood stores our past emotional traumas and if unresolved, these emotions will stagnate the blood circulation. With that said, a primary issue to work on when a person presents a lot of blood stagnation signs involves helping the person begin releasing the past emotional traumas that may have occurred in his or her life.

Classical Acupuncture has specific protocols designed to release the blood stagnation to support you to release these emotional holding patterns that may be underlying your physical symptoms.


Your Tongue Can Reveal Excess Heart Fire & Blood Stagnation

Symptoms of anxiety, depression and an overactive mind due to excessive Heart Fire can be assessed by looking at the tip of your tongue.

If your tongue tip is more red than the rest of your tongue, then there is too much heat in your Heart. If the entire body of your tongue is a deep red color, then there is too much heat throughout your entire body, including your Heart. In this case, you may tend to overheat easily and even experience night sweats, usually a sign of internal heat that is burning up the body’s Essence.

If you see dark blue veins under your tongue, this is an indication of blood stagnation.

If the dark veins occur in the lower portion of your tongue, the blood stagnation is pooling more in the lower pelvic region. If the dark veins show up all the way toward the tongue’s tip, then blood stagnation has moved into the heart region as well.

Liver Blood Stagnation will also show a purplish hue along the sides of the tongue and sometimes the whole body of the tongue will become bluish. I’ve seen in clinic a patient who had a turquoise blue colored tongue. This patient had severe blood stagnation which was created from being exposed to radiation as a child in Japan during the Hiroshima nuclear bombing. It took about 10 months of Acupuncture and herbal medicine treatment before her tongue color began to normalize and her chronic symptoms started to improve significantly.


Freeing Your Heart Allows For Miracles In Your Life

In summary, according to Five Element Theory, the Heart’s Fire element controls your Lung’s Metal energy and, in contrast, the Heart’s energy is controlled by your Kidney’s Water energy.

Through an imbalance of these two relationships, depression can develop along with anxiety which is a common pattern found clinically with depressed individuals.

As we’ve seen throughout this series on depression, there are multiple issues to be addressed to overcome a chronic pattern of depression. Once a condition has become chronic, we know there is likely a pattern of emotional stagnation that is being held within the blood.

Detoxifying the blood system is therefore essential to release the burden of old emotional wounds and traumas.

Chinese Medicine is designed to specifically address this process of cleansing the blood to free up your Heart which in terms of Chinese philosophy can allow a deeper level of self-love to blossom, a greater sense of unconditional love for others and for miracles to occur in your life through the opening of your powerful, magical Heart Qi.


Salvador Cefalu, M.S., L.Ac. is the Founder & Co-Director of A Center for Natural Healing in Santa Clara, California, a health and wellness clinic run by he and his wife, Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac. that specializes in Classical Chinese Medicine. Salvador is a leading U.S. practitioner of Japanese Meridian Therapy, a rare form of non-insertion Acupuncture using Gold & Silver needles. More information at www.acenterfornaturalhealing.com.

The Upside to Feeling Down: The Wood Element & Depression (Part 4)

By Salvador Cefalu, M.S., L.Ac.

When evaluating chronic depression, it’s important to assess the status of the Liver system which relates to the Wood element in Five Element Theory.

The Liver is considered “The General” in Chinese Medicine as it’s said to control the “coursing” of Qi throughout the body. I like to call it the “Great Conductor” because a smooth functioning Liver system conducts a smooth flow of Qi throughout the body.

Just as trees grow upward toward the sky, in the body, the Wood energy, or Qi, of the Liver ascends and protects us from feeling vulnerable in our lives.

The ascension of the Liver Qi moves blood into the face and head to support the sensory organs and maintain the health of the brain.

If the Liver does not properly circulate Qi, psychological symptoms including frustration, irritability, anger, anxiety, and depression can arise.

As the General, the Liver organ coordinates many functions within the body including detoxification as well as blood storage. The blood reserve within the Liver provides nourishment specifically to the eyes, brain, nails, hair and the tendons to allow for strength in the lower back and the four limbs.

The Liver’s many responsibilities can easily become disrupted by a multitude of stressors that can lead to stagnation within this organ. Liver toxicity is the main culprit for poor liver function. Toxins can come from chemicals used in the farming of food, as well as in the creation of processed foods and pharmaceutical medications, and simply through the air we breathe and water we drink.

Chinese Medicine also recognizes that endogenous chemicals released within the body during periods of mental-emotional stress can lead to toxicity in the Liver, and stagnate the Liver Qi.

Just as trees grow upward toward the sky, in the body the Wood energy, or Qi, of the Liver also ascends. (From our trip to Sequoia National Park, 2017)

Just as trees grow upward toward the sky, in the body the Wood energy, or Qi, of the Liver also ascends. (From our trip to Sequoia National Park, 2017)

Liver Qi Stagnation Generates Heat

As Qi flow becomes stagnant within the Liver due to any type of stress, conditions of pain and excessive heat begin to develop.

Since the nature of heat is to spread, heat can move anywhere throughout the body and contribute to systemic inflammation.

Through its infinite wisdom, the body will attempt to vent this heat out of the system by transferring it into the more external aspects of the body’s energetic systems—the Stomach, Gall Bladder and Urinary Bladder Meridians—making these systems especially vulnerable to inflammation due to Liver Qi stagnation.

Furthermore, the more inflamed our mental and emotional states become, the more internal heat is generated within the Liver and this heat over time will exhaust the body’s Qi and dry up the Blood.

The resulting exhaustion of Qi and Blood combined with excessive internal heat can impact brain function and become an underlying condition that leads to anxiety and chronic depression.

The Liver Can Insult the Lungs

Stagnant Liver function can burden the Lungs and cause shortness of breath. Since the Lungs relate to sadness, grief and depression, as the Lungs get suppressed with Liver stress, the propensity for depression increases.

Since Qi is an aspect of one’s vitality, if Qi is suppressed and weakened, this will be reflected in one’s emotional state as well.

A person who’s depressed will often reach for substances such as coffee and cigarettes for stimulation, or marijuana, CBD products and alcohol to numb out and avoid feeling so bad inside.

Craving these types of substances can also be a sign that the body is trying to relax the Liver Qi stagnation.

However, while the use of drugs to manage one’s depressed state can offer short-term relief, it contributes to toxic congestion of the liver, which further weakens the Lungs, inducing a greater state of depression in body and mind.

You can read more about how to use Essential Oils for dealing with symptoms of depression relating to the condition of the Liver insulting the function of your Lungs here.

Liver Qi Stagnation Can Lead to Liver Blood Stagnation

Just as warming up blood causes thickening and coagulation, long term Qi stagnation with the accumulation of heat may create blood stagnation within the Liver and make the condition of depression more intractable.

Additionally, as the heat consumes the body’s Qi, internal cold can develop.

Very chronic conditions of depression will commonly present with Liver Blood stagnation with an underlying internal cold pattern, often from the use of pharmaceutical medications.

Medications used to manage anxiety and depression can easily lead to Liver Blood stagnation due to Cold since the nature of these medications tends to be cooling and their side effects often result in stagnation of Liver Qi flow.

Generally, the longer you depend on these types of drugs to manage your depression, the more difficult it will be resolve.

It’s also common for the side effects of long-term substance use, including marijuana, alcohol and other types of prescription medications such as anti-inflammatory and statin drugs to create Liver Blood stagnation.

Statin drugs prescribed for lowering elevated cholesterol levels have a particularly profound impact on brain function.

As these drugs reduce cholesterol production in the liver, they also reduce cholesterol production in the brain, which is necessary for healthy neuron function. It is my suspicion that statin drugs may be a major reason why we see a trend of dementia developing at relatively young ages the past couple of decades.

Cholesterol makes up a large part of the myelin sheath that protects the brain’s nerve cells, called neurons, and it’s the myelin that conducts the electrical activity of the brain. Therefore, reduced levels of brain cholesterol from the use of statins can compromise brain function and contribute to conditions of depression.

What You Can Do to Balance Your Liver Energy

Keeping the Liver function healthy is imperative to prevent and resolve depression.

A major way to support your liver function is to find alternative ways to manage your inflammation, pain and cholesterol levels without the use of harsh pharmaceutical medications. Chinese Medicine offers solutions through the use of Acupuncture and herbal medicine.

From a psychological perspective, Wood energy needs to be balanced for healthy Liver function and since Wood energy ascends, you can support this energy by being more active and adventurous in your life.

Activities such as taking on leadership roles, exercising and especially playing competitive sports will help ascend and support your Wood energy.

For those of you who are overly active and competitive, it may instead be necessary to settle down your Wood energy by calming your nervous system to relax your Liver Qi. If you feel you’re taking on too much in life, try to step back, meditate and make time to go within yourself to quiet your mind and settle your elevated cortisol levels.

Also, create time to have fun and do more creative activities to counter the stress that may be overheating your Wood energy.

Fun is adaptogenic and bio-regulates your body and mind, so it’s good for all conditions.

The Liver also sets the rhythms in your life, so be on time and maintain a regular rhythm with your daily schedule. Getting more organized in general will use the energy of your Metal element to manage and control your Wood energy.

As you begin implementing these ideas you can, day by day, support a healthy flow of Qi through your Liver and throughout your life, thereby reducing patterns of frustration, irritability and depression.


Salvador Cefalu, M.S., L.Ac. is the Founder & Co-Director of A Center for Natural Healing in Santa Clara, California, a health and wellness clinic run by he and his wife, Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac. that specializes in Classical Chinese Medicine. Salvador is a leading U.S. practitioner of Japanese Meridian Therapy, a rare form of non-insertion Acupuncture using Gold & Silver needles. More information at www.acenterfornaturalhealing.com.

Unblock These 3 Areas & Watch Your Life Blossom

by Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac.

The Spring Equinox, also known as the Vernal Equinox, is the moment during which the sun crosses the celestial equator. It also marks the dramatic shift from the most Yin season of Winter to the year’s first Yang season of Spring.

The Yang energy that was dormant during Winter becomes available to support you to manifest your goals and dreams.

(If you haven’t set your goals for this year, this article will help).

This transition from Yin to Yang is filled with potential. However, it’s essential to unblock three major areas of your life—your environment, your body and your mind—to have the energy and health you need to fully blossom.

Here are some recommendations to help you get started.

The Yang energy of springtime brings rebirth and renewal to support you to fulfill your dreams so you can blossom.

The Yang energy of springtime brings rebirth and renewal to support you to fulfill your dreams so you can blossom.

Declutter Your Environment

Clearing your environment is essential to clear your body and mind. During past Spring transitions I’ve mentioned the fact that the KonMari Method as taught by its founder, Marie Kondo, has made a tremendous impact in my life and in our home. If you’re too busy to read her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, you can watch her new series, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, on Netflix for some Spring cleaning inspiration.

The basic idea of the KonMari Method is to sort through all your clothing and belongings and only keep the things that ‘spark joy.’

The practice of decluttering not only clears your mind, but it also creates space for more Qi and therefore greater possibilities to flow into your life.

In Feng Shui, the arrangement of space as well as the placement and orientation of objects is important to unblock the energy, or Qi, of the environment so that there is greater flow.

Clearing and decluttering is the most essential way to create space for Qi to move freely through your environment, which then allows Qi to move more freely throughout your life.


Detoxify Your Body

It’s just as important to declutter your body and mind as it is to declutter your home and your environment.

Just as a toxic external environment can negatively impact your health, so too can a toxic internal environment.

The key is to start by making small yet significant dietary and lifestyle adjustments to relieve your body of the toxic burden that’s inhibiting your physical, mental and emotional health.

You don’t have to transform your entire diet right away. You can begin simply by adding more cooked leafy green vegetables, such as collard greens, chard, dandelion greens, kale, and spinach, to support the health of your Liver.

Since the Liver is the organ that’s most closely associated with the Spring season according to Chinese Medicine, it’s especially important to clear stagnation from this organ during this time.

Rather than do an intensive Liver detox, you can start by adding healthy Liver foods, especially in the form of vegetables to your diet. In addition to eating more leafy greens, you can eat more asparagus, celery and blueberries.

Reducing your intake of certain toxic foods will also help reduce the toxic load that can burden your Liver. Start by eating less fat, especially in the form of trans fats and hydrogenated oils, as well as refined sugar, caffeine, and alcohol. All of these foods perpetuate a damp heat environment in the body that can cause inflammation and, among other things, can lead to weight gain, pain and metabolic issues.

You can also experiment with intermittent fasting—increasing the hours between your food intake at certain times of the day to allow your insulin levels to decrease far enough and for long enough that your body begins to burn excess fat.

An example would be to stop eating after dinner, say around 7pm, and then resume eating again the next morning at 9am for a 14-hour fast.

The benefits of intermittent fasting include weight loss (particular to get rid of the stubborn belly fat) and lowered levels of oxidative stress to cells throughout the body. Practicing fasting has also been shown to improve your body’s ability to deal with stress at a cellular level by activating cellular stress response pathways to mildly stimulate your body’s stress response. Over time, this protects your body against cellular stress and reduces your susceptibility to cellular aging and disease development.

Quiet Your Mind

The ‘monkey mind’ can be erratic and when left to its own devices, it can lead you towards distraction and negative thinking, impeding you from achieving your goals.

To focus, it’s essential to get your mind to settle so that you can be more present.

The best way to do this is to make time for regular self-cultivation. Simple practices adapted from Yoga can have a profound impact on your mental state. (If you want to practice with me live, you can register for an upcoming event here).

I recommend about 5 minutes of Pranayama (breath control) practice, 10 minutes of Meditation and 10-15 minutes of a physical practice such as Qi Gong or Yoga postures daily. Making time for these practices each morning will help you stay immensely more calm, clear and present throughout the day.

Here’s a 25-minute morning practice sequence you can try at home:

  1. Begin by sitting in a comfortable seated position, preferably on a cushion or pillow.

    With your right thumb, close your right nostril and breathe in and out of your left nostril five times. (You may need to use a tissue to clean out the nostrils first). On your final exhalation, force all the air you can out of your left nostril.

    Then repeat on the right side—still using your right hand, close your left nostril with your ring finger and breathe in and out of your right nostril five times. With the final exhalation, breathe all the remaining air out of your right nostril.

    Finally, place both of your hands onto your knees and breathe in and out of both nostrils slowly and steadily five times. Empty your lungs fully, pushing all the remaining air out through both of your nostrils with your last breath. Then, sit quietly and continue to take deep breaths. You should feel a shift in your consciousness, with your mind more clear and empty following this practice.

  2. Sit quietly for 10 minutes and practice the meditation in the video below.

  3. Practice any physical postures you’re comfortable with in Qi Gong or Yoga for about 10 minutes. You can try any of the short sequences and postures here.

Even if at first you have to set your alarm to wake up 30 minutes earlier than usual to do these practices, you’ll begin to feel more energized throughout the day and have better quality of sleep at night. You’ll quickly see that it’s worth the effort and find joy in waking up to practice each morning.

Over time, the immense benefits that come from committing to these changes will allow you to fully blossom into your potential.


Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac. is Co-Owner and Director of A Center for Natural Healing in Santa Clara, California, a health and wellness clinic that specializes in Classical Chinese Medicine and Traditional Japanese Acupuncture. Dr. Moafi offers clinical services and transformational workshops that blend the ancient practices of Classical Chinese Medicine and Yoga. More information at www.setarehmoafi.com and www.acenterfornaturalhealing.com

The Upside to Feeling Down: The Water Element and Depression (Part 3)

by Salvador Cefalu, M.S., L.Ac.

What Western medicine calls a state of depression, Chinese Medicine often describes as a lack of Willpower, called Zhi, which is a virtue of the Water Element and its primary organ system, the Kidneys.

In Chinese Medicine, the Kidneys are associated with the adrenal glands and the reproductive organs, and considered the fundamental source of energy for metabolic function of all other organ systems as well as the primary system for regeneration.

For these reasons, the Kidney’s energy is called the Life Gate Fire—the body’s core Yang Qi that protects your life. 

Your Kidney Yang Qi also gives you the Willpower to follow your dreams and take action in your life, so if you’re lacking drive and motivation, your Kidney Qi may need a kickstart.

Your essence, known as Jing, is stored in the Kidneys and functions like oil in your lamp of life-force. Since we’re all born with a finite amount of this fuel, Daoist longevity cultivation practices work to preserve Essence through meditation, lifestyle and Qi Gong practice.

As you live life, your Essence transforms into Kidney Yang Qi to fuel your every thought and action. So if you feel your lacking physical power or mental stamina, your Kidney Yang Qi needs to be warmed up and stimulated.

In Western medical terms, this is similar to restoring your adrenal and thyroid functions. Adequate rest for recuperation is also necessary to recover your energy. With states of depression, however, excessive resting due to lethargy is often the problem and not the solution. Overcoming depression needs a nice blend of rest and stimulation.

The Relationship Between the Lungs & the Kidneys

In Five Element theory, Lung Qi, or energy, is the spark that ignites the fire of the Kidney Yang Qi.

In Chinese Medicine, the Lungs are said to ‘govern Qi’, drawing this Qi energy into the body via the breath and descending it for the Kidneys to grasp. In this way, the Kidneys as the child receive energy from their mother, the Lungs.

In other words, oxygen received through inhalation (Lungs) helps provide an external energy source for the Kidney’s energy.

This is why deep, slow breathing is an important aspect of Qi Gong practices.

If Lung Qi becomes weakened from prolonged emotional states of sadness, grief, depression or from other factors such as a lack of exercise or a diet that is too damp or cold (e.g. daily smoothies), over time the Kidneys can become weakened as well.

Lack of internal core energy within the Kidneys leads to coldness within the body and the nature of cold is to slow things down, so circulation and metabolism slows down as well.

Kidney Yang Qi Energy & the Wei (Defensive) Qi

The Kidney energy center is located in the lower abdomen between the navel and pubic bone. This is why the elderly in many Asian cultures keep their bellies wrapped to keep this region of the body warm to help preserve their life energy.

Cold by nature settles downward, unlike heat which rises. Cold therefore inhibits circulation upward into the brain so symptoms of mental sluggishness tend to develop from a decline in brain function and one’s mental faculties.

Internal cold slows and depresses adrenal function, leading to fatigue and lethargy. And since the energy of the Kidneys resides in the lower aspect of the torso, lumbar stiffness and lower back pain are associated with coldness in the Kidneys as well.

Your Kidney Yang Qi supports your body’s defensive Qi, called Wei Qi, which relates to the thyroid functions. As cold impairs Yang Qi transformation into Wei Qi, a whole chain of metabolic disruption develops including lowered immunity, weight gain, and even possible food sensitivities and bowel irregularities such as diarrhea or constipation.

This may also lead to greater sensitivity to cold environments or feeling cold inside, especially in the feet and lower legs. This is also why Kidney Yang Qi weakness is associated with knee joint weakness, stiffness and pain.

The use of a warming treatment called moxibustion is an integral form of treatment in Chinese Medicine when cold has developed internally. Moxibustion is the performed by burning the dried herb of the Artemisia plant (Mugwort) over special points to stimulate warmth inside the body.

You can learn more about warming the Kidney’s Yang Qi in the section “The Yin Water Type Person” of this article.

Other Factors that Weaken Kidney Yang Qi

The Kidney system relates to your constitutional Jing, or Essence, and everyone is born with a different constitutional Kidney status. Also, the way you treat your body over time can weaken the Kidney Yang Qi.

Conditions including Down Syndrome involve severe Kidney weakness causing underdevelopment of the brain. Patients with Down Syndrome can benefit greatly from Chinese Medicine through warming the Kidney Yang Qi to arouse the energy to more efficiently move upward through the spinal cord and into the brain.

Overuse of stimulants including caffeine can cause exhaustion of the adrenal glands as it strongly disperses Yang Qi and leads to coldness within the body. This is why young people who consume a lot of caffeine are prone to cold signs and symptoms.

Women are particular susceptible to accumulating internal cold because the Lower Chamber of a woman is hollow and open to the environment so cold can enter directly into the uterus causing the Kidneys to weaken. This is why Chinese Medicine discourages swimming during the time of menstruation.

In clinic, I’ve seen young women in their 20s suffering from severe coldness because they work and go to college at the same time or college athletes who endure long days training and studying.

How Stimulating Yang Qi Can Bring You Back to Life

Some years ago I was providing care for a close relative who had surgery and radiation on his brain due to an aggressive cancerous tumor called Glioblastoma. At one point he slipped into a coma which was later found to be due to an insufficiency of sodium, likely from a very low sodium diet and weakness in maintaining electrolyte balance in his brain.

I visited him in ICU on the second day of his comatose state. Knowing there are acupuncture points on the tips of the fingers and toes which stimulate Yang Qi into the brain, I began to squeeze each finger and toe tip with my fingernails.

I squeezed relatively hard to agitate the area with pressure from my fingernails. As I began to make a second pass and was stimulating his right hand, he suddenly awoke out of the coma and was cussing a blue streak. He was agitated that I was hurting his fingers. Not too concerned about his discomfort, I was more astonished how he suddenly became conscious with this simple technique.

After coming out of the coma, we noticed his right arm was paralyzed. I went back to my clinic and made up a strong essential oil formula using very spicy and warming oils to stimulate the brain and therefore his Yang Qi. It was a formula created to ‘open the portals,’ which means to activate the brain’s sensory organs.

Upon returning to the hospital that morning I applied the oil blend to each of his fingers and toes. By that afternoon he was fully using his right arm to feed himself. I was once again amazed at the power of Chinese Medicine and will never forget how truly unbelievable this experience was to behold.

I share this story to illustrate that if stimulating Yang Qi can take a person out of coma so quickly, it can help you recover from your depression, too.

Cold is the internal pathogenic factor that can suppress the light of your Spirit and the warmth of your heart. It is therefore essential to support and stimulate your body’s Yang Qi by warming the internal energy in order to overcome depression.

If you’ve been depressed for a prolonged period, as the Kidney gets colder and colder, you can become frozen with helplessness and hopelessness. In these cases, it is essential to keep in mind that each individual is different and the longer a problem has been around, the longer it may take to return yourself back to a more normal state. So be patient and get professional support to begin this recovery of your Kidney Yang Qi.

Considering there is nothing more valuable than your health, stay confident that with perseverance you can regain that feeling of warmth in your life again and achieve the state of well-being that your heart longs for and desires.


Salvador Cefalu, M.S., L.Ac. is the Founder & Co-Director of A Center for Natural Healing in Santa Clara, California, a health and wellness clinic run by he and his wife, Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac. that specializes in Classical Chinese Medicine. Salvador is a leading U.S. practitioner of Japanese Meridian Therapy, a rare form of non-insertion Acupuncture using Gold & Silver needles. More information at www.acenterfornaturalhealing.com.

The Upside to Feeling Down: The Metal Element & Depression (Part 2 of 6)

by Salvador Cefalu, M.S., L.Ac.

As we begin the exploration into some of the many underlying factors of depression, it’s critical to understand that Chinese Medicine is based on treating the individual to resolve a state of dis-ease. It is not about treating the disease itself. 

In other words, for Chinese Medicine to be most effective, it’s essential to evaluate each individual to tailor a treatment plan that matches his or her specific needs rather than rely on generalized established protocols that have been created to treat a specific disease condition. Only when a treatment plan is tailored to a patient’s specific needs can you expect to achieve optimal results. 

A Five Element Perspective on Depression

Cycles of depression can last months to many years, especially if there is a hereditary disposition. This Five Element Model will provide a comprehensive perspective on the primary factors that need consideration to restore health from debilitating periods of depression.

The five primary organs associated with each of the Five Elements are the Lungs (Metal), the Kidneys (Water), the Liver (Wood), the Heart (Fire) and the Spleen (Earth).

Through the assessment of these systems we can gain important insight on how imbalances in these organs are involved in depression and create strategies to restore mind-body harmony to overcome the challenges of chronic depression and its many related symptoms. 

My Recent Challenge with Depression

Depression can be insidious, zapping your zest for life little by little until you finally realize you’re depressed. This experience culminated for me at the end of last year with a feeling of emptiness that simply seemed to take my spirit away.

For about four months I would wake up periodically in the morning feeling irritable, lacking inspiration or motivation, with tightness in my chest and shortness of breath. My symptoms worsened after the holidays and then I slipped into four days of fever with the flu in late January after returning from Bali. These four days in bed were more emotionally than physically challenging as my spirit delved into what some describe as the dark night of the soul with severe despondency.

As I rested and took herbs to recover my Lungs, day by day my energy increased and my spirit lifted. My inner drive and inspiration started to reveal themselves again and I began to feel better than I had in the previous six months.

In hindsight, a chronic virus had been latent in my system, taxing my immunity and weakening my Lung Qi. It wasn’t until I got low enough for this virus to surface and get burned out of my system through the fever that my health became revitalized and I felt a renewed enthusiasm for life.

I present my story to show how conditions like depression have many causative factors. Was it just the virus or was my immune system depressed from something I was going through emotionally that allowed this virus to take root and depress my immunity?

We don’t always need to know the exact causative factor, but if we follow the signs of the body to restore balance to its energy systems, we can be confident that we can improve our psycho-emotional state as well.

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The Metal Element: The Lungs and Depression 

Since the Lungs relate to the emotions of sadness and grief, it’s essential to assess the status of the Lung Qi, or energy to evaluate depression.

Lung energy is most vulnerable during the Fall season, therefore, the Lungs are more prone to be in a state of weakness during this time, which allows for conditions such as depression to more likely occur during the Autumn months. This is especially likely for those who are sensitive to reduced sunlight from Autumn through Winter in the far northern hemisphere where light becomes very limited during this time.

Lack of light exposure makes many Individuals susceptible to SAD syndrome (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and the greater a person has Lung weakness according to Chinese Medicine, the greater their sensitivity to this pattern will be. Because of SAD’s relationship to the seasons of Autumn and Winter, it is crucial to support the Lung Qi as well as the Kidney Qi which relates to Winter. Optimally, it’s best to start strengthening these systems a few months prior to the season when the problem begins to occur.

A simple food remedy is Cod Liver oil, a concentrated source of vitamin A and D essential for supporting the Lung Qi to boost immunity and strengthen lung function overall.

Cod Liver oil is also a concentrated source of the Omega fats DHA and EPA which support brain neurological function. The brain is an extension of the Kidney Essence in Chinese Medicine and these Omega fats in Cod Liver oil have been found to be beneficial for depression, making this a super food for reducing depression and its related symptoms, insomnia and anxiety, as well.

The energy of the Lungs can be suppressed or weakened through any life circumstance that creates prolonged sadness or grief. In this scenario, herbal tonics such as Cordyceps, Ginseng and Astragalus can be used to boost both the Qi energy of the Lungs and Kidneys to increase vitality and enhance overall mood and mental disposition.

These tonic herbs in particular are MAO inhibitors so they can help reduce depression by mitigating the action of monoamine oxidase, an enzyme in the brain that breaks down the mood enhancing neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin.

Caution however must be used with the use of these herbal tonics if you are using any medication that it is also an MAO inhibitor. Therefore, please inform your doctor before introducing any herbal substances into your nutritional regimen. Furthermore, Qi tonic herbs are generally warming in nature so you need to know if your body has too much internal heat to avoid exacerbating inflammation.

The Earth Element is the Mother of Metal

Earth energy is about digestion and therefore the health of the digestive system will have a substantial bearing on the function of the Lungs and any type of depression.

The Spleen (which also relates to the Pancreas) and Stomach are the Earth organs and control the transformation of food into energy and raw materials to rebuild the body.

If the function of the Earth organs is compromised or weakened in any way, then the body’s ability to transform is compromised and dampness will accumulate in the gastrointestinal system.

Dampness is a fungal terrain and fungus loves moist environments. As damp fungal terrain accumulates in the gut it can get pushed up into the lungs and into the sinus cavities leading to conditions such as chronic sinus congestion, snoring, allergies and ear conditions including excessive ear wax, pressure in the ears and ear infections. As the fungus migrates into the brain, it can lead to foggy thinking and more severe conditions such as dementia and even brain tumors.

The major factor that can weaken digestive function is consumption of food that is too damp. This can include excessive consumption of grains, especially refined/processed carbohydrates, sugar (including sweet tropical fruit), dairy, nuts, and fried/greasy foods.

Eating habits will also weaken the power of digestion such as eating while distracted such as when watching TV, reading, driving, or eating during a business meeting.

If the nervous system is activated to process information outside of eating, then the power to digest will be compromised and distracted from its role of transforming food into energy and raw material. 

Over time, these habits can weaken the Spleen energy and lead to a systemic deficiency of Qi throughout the body. 

Herbs to consider to support this relationship between the Spleen and the Lungs are substances that nurture digestion.

Cooking spices and digestive enzymes can be important to stimulate digestion. Hydrochloric acid may be necessary to support the digestion of protein, especially if the Stomach is weak.

Chinese Medicine uses sprouts and in some digestive enzyme blends you’ll find the use of Aspergillus oryzae, a type of probiotic fungus used to produce the enzyme amylase, to help the body break down the starches in carbohydrates.

Radish and radish seeds in herbal formulas (called Lai Fu Zi) help break down excessive dampness in the digestive tract and if this dampness has created a lot of mucous in the lungs then white mustard seed (called Bai Jie Zi) is used to break up phlegm and help reduce coughing and sputum. Both of these herbs aid in the digestion of fats.

Excessive dampness and fungus is usually present in the body when there is a very swollen tongue or thick coating on the surface of the tongue, making digestive support imperative for healing on any level in these cases.

As you can see, to support the health of the Lung’s energy, it is crucial to work with diet and eating habits so the digestive system can be a good mother for its child, the Lungs.

The Virtue of the Lungs - Forgiveness

Since the Lungs breathe in oxygen, which supports life, and release carbon dioxide through exhalation, the Lungs reflect our ability to receive life and let go of life through our breath.

If you find this basic respiratory function of the lungs is restricted, it may be necessary to release tightness in your body that may be inhibiting proper breathing. This can often be resolved through Acupuncture and Cupping as well as other forms of bodywork and physical therapy. The primary areas of the body that need to be released to support proper lung function are the Five Ancestral Sinews. (You can learn more in this article)

Freeing up the lungs on a physical level allows for the freeing up of the psycho-emotional aspect as well which involves the Lung’s ability to let go.

Letting go relates to your ability to release trauma, guilt, resentment, and anything that keeps your heart from opening. This metaphorical aspect of the Lungs’ function to let go is achieved through its virtue of forgiveness and forgiveness is experienced when we can let go of our judgements.

So ultimately forgiveness requires letting go of the very nature of what it means to be a Metal (Lung) type person which is to be very judgmental. (To learn more about a Metal type personality and Essential Oils for the lungs go here).

Just as we have control over our lungs to inhale and exhale, it is through our own choice and volition that we can allow ourselves to let go of our judgements to experience forgiveness. And through this process, as our Taoist and Classical Chinese Medicine teacher Dr. Jeffrey Yuen suggests, “we can achieve an inner cleansing and find redemption in our lives”.

Moreover, as you unburden your Lungs through forgiveness and less judgement of yourself and others, you will more easily breathe in life and experience the vitality that comes with being emotionally free.

It is then that one can move beyond depression and know what it means to have a peaceful heart.


Salvador Cefalu, M.S., L.Ac. is the Founder & Co-Director of A Center for Natural Healing in Santa Clara, California, a health and wellness clinic run by he and his wife, Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac. that specializes in Classical Chinese Medicine. Salvador is a leading U.S. practitioner of Japanese Meridian Therapy, a rare form of non-insertion Acupuncture using Gold & Silver needles. More information at www.acenterfornaturalhealing.com.

The Upside to Feeling Down: A Chinese Medicine Perspective on Depression (Part 1 of 6)

by Salvador Cefalu, M.S., L.Ac.

Do you ever feel like you’ve lost your joyful, optimistic personality? Or perhaps you’ve been dealing with fatigue or insomnia, and just lacking motivation or feeling apathetic. If you can relate to any of these feelings, it’s likely you’ve experienced or are currently experiencing a state of depression.

Fortunately, Chinese Medicine can provide an understanding of the root causes of depression and empower you to bring motivation and joy back into your life.

What May Be Causing Your Depression

Depression has many causes. Some cases are purely from physical depletion as in postpartum depression. Other forms of depression can be from a longterm overwork and sustained stress that leads to physical and mental exhaustion.

Cyclical hormonal changes that come with aging, including menopause in women and andropause in men, can also lead to depression. This form of depression is related to exhaustion of the Kidney’s Essence, known as Jing.

Giving birth, working, raising a child, sustained stress of life, lack of proper sleep for recovery, and constitutional depletion as a result of the aging process, are some of the leading factors that can cause depression.

It’s no wonder that some statistics show that one in six individuals will suffer from depression at some point in their life and taking anti-depressants/anti-anxiety medications seem to be a standard part of the American diet. And many become dependent on these medications just trying to get through each day.

Chronic stress, depression and anxiety can lead to dependency on other substances as well. Some people become addicted to mood altering substances such as marijuana, CBD or cocaine to offset feeling down. Today there is a rise in the use of methamphetamines (known as Speed) to offset chronic depression. Alcohol, even though it is a depressant, is a popular drug of choice to numb difficult feelings. Caffeine is another common addictive substance, particularly among young adults looking to cope with the unhealthy stresses they face each day.

With educational demands on children and young adults so much greater than in years past, it’s easy to see why so many are suffering from depression and nervous disorders such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Though the use of mood altering drugs may be suitable for short-term support when feeling acutely out of sorts, long term dependency on these substances can cause major problems. Both prescription or over-the-counter drugs can be useful to suppress symptoms but won’t lead to longterm resolution of the depression. Furthermore, on a physical level, drugs create toxic residues which stagnate the circulation of blood throughout the body—especially in the main organ of detoxification, the liver.

According to Chinese Medicine, the more stagnant your blood is, the more you’ll be stuck in your emotional traumas. A key indication of blood stagnation can be seen by observing the underside of the tongue. If the two bilateral veins are dark, there is blood stagnation in the body and we can assume there are stagnant emotional issues as well.

It’s therefore clear that using drugs to suppress the symptoms of anxiety and depression does not allow for the resolution of your emotional issues.

According to Chinese Medicine, to resolve the root of your emotional disturbances, you must cleanse your blood in order to release the deep withheld traumas in your body .

Furthermore, according to Chinese Medicine, suppressive substances such as marijuana, CBD or the prescription anti-depressant/anti-anxiety drugs, lead to the development of Cold inside the body. This Cold energy impairs the warming, vitalizing power of the internal Kidney Yang energy therefore keeping you feeling stuck.

Over time, because of this taxation on the inner power source of the Kidneys, it’s not uncommon that greater dependence on these suppressive substances eventually leads to the loss of willpower to overcome difficult circumstances and worst of all can lead to the loss of hope.


This Can Help

The good news is that Chinese Medicine offers solutions to offset the side effects of mood-altering substances and revitalize the core energy to restore your zest for life.

Chinese Medicine offers a comprehensive approach to address the multitude of factors underlying chronic depression and anxiety.

It can take months of treatment for recovery if a person is severely burned out or has a lot of internal toxicity and blood stagnation. However, everyone is different and I’ve seen older individuals reverse a downward emotional and physical spiral of deep exhaustion, depression and anxiety within a few short months.

Downtime to rest and recuperate is critical and deep restful sleep is fundamental to the process of recovery.

The more time you have to build and consolidate your energy without further burning yourself out with stress and work, the easier it will be to regain a feeling of well being.

The process to reverse this downward cycle of apathy, depression, anxiety and exhaustion can be understood clearly through the lens of Chinese Medicine, in particular the Five Element model.

In Part Two of this series, we’ll explore how the Metal Element and treatment of the Lungs is involved with resolving depression.

Please add your comments and questions in the comments below so we can continue to gain a greater understanding of the development and process of healing depression together.

In the meantime, you can get some extra support by checking out a previous article by Dr. Moafi called Why It’s OK to Not Always Feel OK.


Salvador Cefalu, M.S., L.Ac. is the Founder & Co-Director of A Center for Natural Healing in Santa Clara, California, a health and wellness clinic run by he and his wife, Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac. that specializes in Classical Chinese Medicine. Salvador is a leading U.S. practitioner of Japanese Meridian Therapy, a rare form of non-insertion Acupuncture using Gold & Silver needles. More information at www.acenterfornaturalhealing.com.

The Best Way to Celebrate Valentine's Day

by Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac.

While Valentine's Day represents all of the conventional definitions of love, for some the void of love is even more apparent at this time.

The focus of most Valentine's Day photos, posters and cards is a fantasy-like love.

We’re encouraged to buy gifts and express our love for those most important to us in our lives. And while all of that is important, Valentine’s Day, and love as we’re taught in general, is focused on everything and everyone outside of us.

We rarely see images of the most lasting and authentic form of love—love for oneself.

As best-selling author, professor and speaker Brené Brown points out: "Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each of them -- we can only love others as much as we love ourselves." 

If you’ve explored the world of personal development for any amount of time, I’m sure you’ve discovered the importance of self-love. Self-love is undoubtedly THE most significant form of love. (You can learn more in this past article)

Self-love is the source through which all other forms of love grow. The seeds to nurture and grow love must therefore first be planted in the self. 

But what does it mean to love yourself?

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What if you’re going through a challenging time or you’re really struggling with something in your life, like shame, guilt or pain? It’s not that simple to just love yourself in moments like this.

Rather than focus on loving yourself or extending love to others, the way to cultivate self-love—however slowly—is to focus on being kind to yourself and accepting yourself however you are right now.

The best way to begin this practice is to be more present in each moment. The more present you are, the easier it is to be aware of your thoughts as they come and go, and you'll therefore be more able to release negative thoughts before your mind is overtaken by them.

Feel your body and listen to your thoughts by taking as many moments as you can during the day to take deep breaths.

One of my favorite yoga instructors, Erich Schiffmann, taught me to set a timer every hour as a reminder to take a moment to be fully present. In the busyness of modern society, it’s easy to live on autopilot, so it’s essential that we intentionally slow down and practice mindful awareness as often as possible throughout the day.

The simple practice of mindful awareness helps you be more kind and gentle with yourself.

As you practice being kind and accepting of yourself, you'll naturally impart this kindness and acceptance, and therefore love, onto others.

Only in this way—through the gentle cultivation of kindness, acceptance and self-love—can love can be harvested and shared with others.

And if you're fortunate enough to be surrounded by loving, supportive people, recognize this as a reflection of YOU.

As the last month of the Winter season, February is our final call to move inward, to self-cultivate and to plant the seeds from which we can enliven our dreams in the upcoming Spring season—a time of rebirth and renewal.

So this year for Valentine's Day and throughout the month of February, take time to nurture and be kind to yourself. Take time to be with and celebrate yourself. And if you feel like you want more love, again focus on what you need to cultivate within yourself.


Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac. is Co-Owner and Director of A Center for Natural Healing in Santa Clara, California, a health and wellness clinic that specializes in Classical Chinese Medicine and Traditional Japanese Acupuncture. Dr. Moafi offers clinical services and transformational workshops that blend the ancient practices of Classical Chinese Medicine and Yoga. More information at www.setarehmoafi.com and www.acenterfornaturalhealing.com

New Year, New Intentions - How to (Re)set and Achieve Your Goals for the New Year

by Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac.

With the month of January already behind us it’s common to feel uneasy about staying on track with your new year's resolutions and goals.

And this is why it’s so important to reset and recalibrate right now.

Winter is the most Yin season of the year and is related to the Water element, which is associated with introspection and cultivation, and is the most important time for rest so that you can build back the energy of the Kidneys.

When the Kidney energy is strong, you’ll feel vital and have the Will, known as Zhi, to carry out your goals and dreams during the upcoming Spring season.

While wintertime is not the time to actualize your dreams, it’s an important time to clarify your intentions and through careful examination and meditation, glean wisdom from the experiences of your past.

Since the holiday season keeps our lives so full, January and February are wonderful months to recommit to our personal desires and clarify our intentions for the new year.

Right now is therefore the ideal time to let go of what’s past and move into the future with clarity and focus.

So grab your cup of tea, a notebook and pen, put on some calming music, and give yourself at least 20 minutes to read through and thoughtfully answer the following questions:

  1. What are 3 things you're most grateful for/proud of from 2018?

  2. What 3 things are you willing to let go of as you begin the new year (i.e. projects, people, feelings, etc.)?

  3. Write 3 specific desires you’d like to manifest in 2019.

20 years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
— Mark Twain

With best wishes for a magical year ahead!

Love,

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Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac. is Co-Owner and Director of A Center for Natural Healing in Santa Clara, California, a health and wellness clinic that specializes in Classical Chinese Medicine and Traditional Japanese Acupuncture. Dr. Moafi offers clinical services and transformational workshops that blend the ancient practices of Classical Chinese Medicine and Yoga. More information at www.setarehmoafi.com and www.acenterfornaturalhealing.com

6 Dietary Tips to Support Your Winter Health

by Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac.

The Winter Solstice occurs when one of the Earth's poles has its maximum tilt away from the Sun, and is the longest night and shortest day of the year. In 2018, the Solstice occurs at 2:23pm PT on December 21st.

During all seasonal changes, it’s important to make lifestyle adjustments to adapt to the new season and optimize your health.

Winter corresponds with the Water element and the Kidneys. (Learn more about this here)

*Below are six foods that will help strengthen your Kidney energy to ensure a healthy Winter season.

Seafood relates to the Water element and is in general important to strengthen the Kidneys.

Seafood relates to the Water element and is in general important to strengthen the Kidneys.

  1. Eat some pork. According to Chinese Medicine, the Kidneys house your essence, known as Jing, and relate to the gonads, your brain and your bones. Since every cell in your body requires fat for membrane integrity, a fatty meat like pork provides the best support for the Kidneys.

    From a Chinese medical point of view, pork can also help strengthen the sinews and bones, decrease Wind spasms to alleviate neurological issues, and help treat muscle weakness and conditions such as fibromyalgia.

  2. Have eggs for breakfast a few times a week. Considered a complete protein, eggs are another important wintertime food that support the Kidneys particularly in relation to the body’s essence, or Jing.

  3. Sprinkle some seeds on your food. Seeds, including sesame, flax, chia, sunflower, and pumpkin, are important Kidney tonifying foods that also help build Jing.

  4. Eat more fish and seafood. Seafood in general is related to the Water element. Therefore, seafood tonifies the Kidneys. Crustaceans including lobster, shrimp and crab are said to be more warming, or Yang, so it’s best to avoid them if a lot of inflammation is present. Mollusks including mussels, clams, oysters, and scallops on the other hand, are considered more Yin nourishing.

    Also, fatty fish are generally high in omega-3 oils, which studies have shown to be beneficial for neurological function and brain protection. For instance, a number of studies have shown that higher intakes of omega-3 oils significantly reduce the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease as well as vascular dementia.

    The bulk of these omegas are made up of of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaeonic acid (DHA). Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is found in the meat of coldwater fish, including mackerel, herring, tuna, halibut, salmon, cod liver, whale blubber, and seal blubber. DHA can be converted into EPA in the body.

    Studies have shown that DHA supplementation not only improves memory in cases of Alzheimer’s disease but can improve age-related memory loss as well.

    Since the brain is an extension of the Kidneys according to Chinese Medicine, both DHA and EPA are crucial for the health of this system.

    Seaweed and freshwater algaes such as phytoplankton are the only plant sources of DHA and EPA, though in a low concentration except as a supplement, so these are especially important foods for vegetarians.

  5. Cook with oils high in monounsaturated fats. Olive oil and avocado oil are especially beneficial to support healthy brain function and therefore the Kidney system. Just remember that olive oil has a low smoke point (about 200 degrees), after which it can become toxic, while avocado oil has a high smoke of about 500 degrees. Monounsaturated fats in general can help reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol while increasing “good” HDL cholesterol.

    Since inflammation is a sign of internal heat, it’s best to avoid polyunsaturated oils as these types of oils get rancid easily and therefore can become toxic in a body with excessive heat and inflammation.

  6. Add some spice to your meals. Spices such as cinnamon, pepper, cardamom, coriander, anise, and cloves are all warming for the Kidney Yang and particularly useful for someone who tends to have a cold body and fatigue.

Spices help warm the body during the cold Winter months and are especially important in the case of adrenal and Kidney Yang deficiency with cold body and fatigue.

Spices help warm the body during the cold Winter months and are especially important in the case of adrenal and Kidney Yang deficiency with cold body and fatigue.

Consolidating the energy of the Kidneys during wintertime is essential to rejuvenate and prepare yourself for the more active Yang seasons of Spring and Summer that follow.

In addition to your diet, it’s essential to get plenty of rest and sleep more during the Winter months. The shorter days and longer nights naturally encourage this and as long as you honor the seasonal changes and your body’s needs, you’ll enjoy impeccable health into the new year.

*Please note: the information provided in this article is meant for general health maintenance and not meant to be advice to treat disease or be appropriate for everyone. In general, diet must be tailored to the individual. If you want personalized recommendations, you can schedule a nutritional consultation and also ask about food allergy testing through our clinic.


Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac. is Co-Owner and Director of A Center for Natural Healing in Santa Clara, California, a health and wellness clinic that specializes in Classical Chinese Medicine and Traditional Japanese Acupuncture. Dr. Moafi offers clinical services and transformational workshops that blend the ancient practices of Classical Chinese Medicine and Yoga. More information at www.setarehmoafi.com and www.acenterfornaturalhealing.com



Transitioning into Winter: The Doyo Period & Your Family Relationships

by Salvador Cefalu, M.S., L.Ac.

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As we approach the Winter Solstice, we find ourselves once again in the transitional period between seasons, known as the Doyo period. This period starts 9 days before each solstice or equinox and extends through 9 days after.

While each season corresponds to a specific element, each Doyo seasonal transition period relates to the Earth element.

Earth elemental energy relates back to your digestive system and the primary organs involved are the Spleen and Stomach. These organs are the fundamental producers of Qi, Blood and Body Fluids within the body.

We’re all familiar with Blood, but the concepts of Fluids and Qi are quite unique to Chinese Medicine. For example, from a Chinese medical point of view, Fluids include the fluids of your sweat, saliva and tears as well as your body’s hormonal secretions.

The focus of this article is on the concept of Qi as it relates to the element of Earth.

The Earth organs generate Qi in the body from the food and drink you consume. So in this sense, Qi is energy. If you have strong Qi, you have good energy or stamina, and healthy immune system function.

Our Daoist teacher, Jeffrey Yuen, a world-renowned expert in Classical Chinese Medicine, has a different perspective about Qi and likes to consider the concept of Qi in the context of relationships.

Water which is the element of Winter is associated with the Kidney organ system which stores the Essence of one’s being, called Jing. Therefore, with this understanding we can see that the strength of your Kidney’s Qi will reflect the strength of your relationship to yourself and influence the level of self-esteem you bring into your life.

In terms of the Earth element, Earth energy is about nurturing others especially in terms of family. So the Qi of Earth relates especially to family relationships, and the health of your Earth energy (digestive health) relates back to how you were nurtured by your parents and your ability to be caring and nurturing of others as an adult.

The holiday season often includes a lot of interaction with family, making it common to experience a resurrection of unresolved emotional issues relating to family. These emotionally challenging times can take a great toll on your gastrointestinal system and potentially lead to flare-ups of symptoms that may have been lying dormant.

Many people are easily triggered simply with the idea of having to spend time with family or particular family members, let alone having obligatory direct personal interaction in general. If this is the case for you, it indicates that the Qi of your Earth is in an imbalanced state.

If you have a hard time with your family, especially for a protracted period, the health of your Earth suffers and your ability to digest and assimilate nutrients becomes compromised leading to a lack of Qi in your life.

If you lack Qi, oxygen is not properly circulating throughout your system and this will compromise the function of every single cell of your body. With this said, the function of all your organs and glands will be compromised which will impact your immune system, cardiac system, endocrine system, reproductive systems as well as your brain system.

This is why digestive health is considered the cornerstone to your well being.

In previous articles on supporting your Earth energy, we’ve shared how Earth corresponds with the digestive organs, so supporting your gut health through proper diet and eating habits is fundamental to heal your body.

Since healing your body, especially your digestive system, is closely tied to the health of your family relationships, below are some tips to support you in healing these issues as well.

How to Begin the Process of Healing Your Relationships

Healing these relationships will not be an easy task if you expect someone else to change. What you can do however is begin to change yourself. You can start by:

  1. Practicing forgiveness and letting go of the past to free up the energy that may be keeping you stuck in old patterns.

    You can learn practices to support you to let go here and here.

  2. Creating healthy boundaries.

    There are cases in which your relationships with certain family members may never be good, healthy or rewarding. This is why sometimes the best solution is to completely disconnect from a toxic relationship regardless of if it’s a family member. However, this should be done with compassion and unconditional love which again requires that you work on yourself to let go of past resentments and bad feelings that can make you ill as well.

    Boundaries are an important part of cultivating healthy Earth energy. Click here for ways to strengthen your Earth and create strong, healthy boundaries.

In the end, the process of healing your relationships with others begins by healing your relationship with yourself. Focusing on your Spleen and Stomach organ systems and your gut health in general will initiate the changes within you so that you are more readily available to heal your relationships with your loved ones. In that way, you can enjoy a healthy and nourishing holiday and Winter season.


Salvador Cefalu, M.S., L.Ac. is the Founder & Co-Director of A Center for Natural Healing in Santa Clara, California, a health and wellness clinic run by he and his wife, Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac. that specializes in Classical Chinese Medicine. Salvador is a leading U.S. practitioner of Japanese Meridian Therapy, a rare form of non-insertion Acupuncture using Gold & Silver needles. More information at www.acenterfornaturalhealing.com.