How to Bring Clarity & Order to Your Life

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

According to Chinese Medicine, order and organization are ruled by the Metal element, which is associated with the Lungs, Large Intestine and skin.

In the same way that a smooth, deep breath helps you feel more relaxed and even safe, a balanced Metal element helps maintain order in your life.

The Significance of the Metal Element

Life begins with the first breath and therefore the meridian sequence begins with the Lungs.

The Lungs, Large Intestine and skin are all Metal organs. Each of these organs connect us to the external world and help us to let go—through our breath (Lungs), bowels (Large Intestine) and sweat (skin).

The internal branch of the Lungs travels down and attaches to the Large Intestine. One of the main virtues of the Lungs and the Metal element is letting go—through the exhalation of the Lungs, and through the bowels in the movement of the colon/Large Intestine.

Inhalation is about drawing in Qi and exhalation is about letting go and detoxifying the body. When we are faced with a challenging situation, often our first response is to hold our breath. Self-cultivation practices including Yoga, Qi Gong and Tai Ji teach us to instead observe and control our breathing.

Breath awareness helps strengthen your Lungs and draws you out of your mind and into your body so you can be more present. It is in this space that you can find acceptance of where you are rather than trying to make it something else so as to create resistance and stress.

Resistance builds the foundation for disease development. Resistance manifests as Wind, which according to Chinese Medicine is considered to be one of the Six Evils and is responsible. Wind manifests when your body-mind is unable to accommodate to change and can show up in a myriad of ways including acute illnesses like colds, flus and allergic reactions, as well as chronic degenerative health disorders. (You can read more about Wind here).

The virtue of Metal is letting go and forgiveness, both of which anchor us in the present moment. This virtue leads us to acceptance, which is the opposite of resistance.

So while imbalances in your Metal organs also impedes your ability to think clearly as a result of accumulation of toxicity in the body via the Lungs, colon and skin, balancing your Metal organs help you to let go and to create a sense of clarity and order in your life.

The Significance of Metal Energy in Your Life

Metal energy relates to elimination, purity and respiration. The emotion that’s associated with imbalanced Metal is grief. Balancing your Metal energy therefore empowers you to transform grief into acceptance.

Metal energy creates order, which is why Metal type personalities are highly methodical, efficient and organized.

When the Metal organs, in particular the Lungs and Large Intestine, are out of balance, you’ll be prone to immune and respiratory issues, as well as constipation. Metal relates to the season of Autumn, which means that these organs, including the skin, are particularly sensitive to dryness—the predominant environmental factor during this time of year. The Lungs, colon and skin all benefit from a more moist environment and proper hydration. Clearing these organ systems not only benefits your body, but it also helps develop greater clarity in your mind.

If life feels chaotic, balancing your Metal energy will help you make the shift to transform chaos into clarity.

Especially during the Metal season of Autumn, it’s important to harmonize your Metal energy to optimize the strength of your immune system and gut health. While there are a number of foods that can support this process, one of the key tools to rebalance Metal is to bring order and organization to your life. And the ways to do this may not all be so obvious.

How to Cultivate Clarity by Balancing Your Metal Energy

Here are 5 keys to balance your Metal energy so you can feel a sense of order and clarity in your life:

  1. Breathe deeply. Remember that the Lungs are the primary organ associated with the Metal element. The deeper you breathe, the more connected you’ll feel to your body and to the present moment, which in and of itself brings a sense of clarity and peace. Deep breathing also helps strengthen the Lungs to protect your immune system and reduce feelings of sadness and melancholy which are especially common during the Autumn months. Ujjayi breathing is a simple breathing practice you can practice daily. Since we run through a lot of our day breathing unconsciously, I often tell my patients and students to set a timer to remind them to pause and breathe consciously every hour.

  2. Practice more mind-body-breath movement practices such as Yoga, Tai Ji and Qi Gong. When you coordinate breath with movement, Qi, or energy, travels more fluidly throughout your entire body. The circulation of Qi is governed by the Lungs.

  3. Declutter your work and home spaces. You can begin by simply cleaning out a few drawers or taking things out of your closet and cabinets that you don’t like or need and donating them to your local charity. If you want to go all-in and do a full house declutter, you can implement the KonMari Method, by letting go of anything and everything that no longer ‘sparks joy.’

  4. Develop a daily writing practice. I always recommend starting your day by writing Morning Pages — 3 longhand pages of a sort of uncensored ‘brain dump’ to clear your mind. I was first introduced to this practice in The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and it’s been a daily practice for me for well over a decade. But really any kind of writing will help clear your mind so you can better organize your thoughts and time. Even making lists helps to bring the clutter out of your mind and onto paper. The idea is to make yourself more aware of your worries, fears, tasks, challenges, and accomplishments. Only then can you let them all go.

  5. Spend more time in nature. The essential oils of most trees, including Eucalyptus, Pine and Cypress support the Lung system in Chinese Medicine. Getting out into nature among the trees in the same way helps support this system and the Metal energy in general. One of the best ways to slow down and heal is to spend more time in nature.

All of these tools share the common theme of bringing you into a state of presence with how you feel and therefore helping you deepen your self-awareness.

Only when you’re calm inside will the world feel more clear and calm.

Decluttering and cultivating order in these small ways will support you to improve your health and bring a greater sense of clarity to every aspect of your life.

Umeboshi: The Five Element Superfood

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

A powerful nutritious condiment that’s a staple in Japanese culture, Prunus Mume, is a sour plum commonly known as Umeboshi. Umeboshi, or “salted plum,” is a pickled fruit that sits in salt brine for a year or more and though called a plum it’s actually more closely related to the apricot fruit.

Though acidic by nature with its concentration of citric and phosphoric acids, the effect Umeboshi has on the body is highly alkalizing, which is why it’s so important in the Macrobiotic diet.

The benefits of Umeboshi, however, go far beyond alkalization to bring nutritional and medicinal support for all Five Elemental energies of your body.

It’s no wonder in Japan they have a saying similar to our ‘apple a day’ idea, that ‘an Ume a day’ can keep the doctor away.

Umeboshi or ‘salted plum’ is a staple of Japanese culture and an important part of the Macrobiotic diet due to its alkalizing effect on the body.

Umeboshi or ‘salted plum’ is a staple of Japanese culture and an important part of the Macrobiotic diet due to its alkalizing effect on the body.

How Umeboshi Benefits Each of the Five Elements

Fire Element

Umeboshi becomes a red plum after pickling with iron rich Shiso (Perilla) leaves, so by law of signature, these pickled balls of energy support the Fire Element for Heart health, and provide a tonic for the blood. 

In fact, Umeboshi has been found helpful for anemia and to regulate heart rhythm problems such as palpitations. This may be due due their high concentration of potassium which helps regulate heartbeat. In Chinese Medicine, since the Heart controls the mind and Spirit, it may be through this effect on the heart that Umeboshi is also used to help calm and relax the mind.

Water Element

The body’s structure, i.e. the bones, are under the domain of the Kidneys and the Water Element. By supporting calcium absorption, Umeboshi is considered an important food for bone health in Japanese culture. Calcium absorption is likely a benefit that comes from their high concentration of citric acid as well as the trace mineral manganese. 

Furthermore, phytochemicals in Umeboshi have been found to increase osteoblast activity and the production of collagen to build bone. So these plums are a real boon for bone health and one of the reasons they are considered a longevity food. A 2014 study showed Umeboshi to have anti-osteoporosis benefits.

According to Chinese Medicine, the teeth are also an extension of the bone and therefore relate to the Kidneys. In regards to dental health, Umeboshi has been found to have anti-bacterial properties against Streptococcus mutans, the bacteria involved with dental caries and gum disease and help reduce bleeding gums (which relates to the function of the Spleen and Earth Element).

Earth Element

The trace mineral manganese also helps regulate blood sugar and traditionally in Japan Umeboshi is known to help stabilize blood sugar. In terms of western physiology, the pancreas plays a primary role in blood sugar regulation and in Chinese Medicine we correlate the pancreas with the organ of the Spleen which is an Earth Element organ.

Manganese also helps produce digestive enzymes and metabolize fats, proteins and carbohydrates. These are all aspects of the Earth Element which relates to digestion through the function of the Spleen (Pancreas) and Stomach. So Umeboshi tea is useful to take before and after meals to help strengthen your Earth’s digestive power. 

Umeboshi is also known to reduce fatigue and was used historically by the Samurai for this purpose. In Chinese Herbal Medicine it’s also considered a Stomach Yin tonic as these plums generate fluids to help hydrate the body and reduce thirst. Umeboshi is known to increase salivation and stimulate a weak appetite as well so in this way these pickled plums strengthen the Spleen and Stomach functions to enhance digestion. Umeboshi is also commonly used to benefit mild cases of acute stomach and intestinal pain and known to effectively reduce H-pylori, the bacteria found to cause gastritis and stomach ulcers. 

Metal Element

In terms of the Metal Element and the health of the Lung Qi, which controls both respiration and the skin’s sweating action, the astringent nature of Umeboshi helps reduce excessive sweating. Chinese herbal medicine uses these plums specifically for this purpose as well as to reduce chronic coughing when the Lung Qi is weak or when the Lungs are dry from deficient Yin. 

The Large Intestine is also part of the Metal Element energetics and Umeboshi can help expel roundworm parasite infestation which is on the rise with the increase in sushi and sashimi (raw fish) consumption. Keep in mind that in Chinese Medicine, herbal remedies are normally a combination of herbs so taking Umeboshi alone may not be an effective cure for a case of roundworms.

These plums also have dietary fiber (soluble and insoluble) to help improve elimination as well. In fact, in herbal medicine, they are used medicinally for both diarrhea and constipation. There is special preparation, however, to activate the different effects of Umeboshi. For example, in the treatment of diarrhea, the pickled plums are charred before consumption to achieve this medicinal benefit.

Wood Element

Last but not least is the powerful impact of Umeboshi on the body’s Wood Element energetics which involves the Liver and Gallbladder organs. Known to accelerate the clearance of alcohol toxicity from the Liver, Umeboshi is also considered a food to help detoxify the liver and, in general, protect liver health.

In Chinese Medicine, the Liver Blood nourishes vision, and perhaps it’s from vitamin A that Umeboshi supports vision health. These plums are also high in antioxidants to reduce free-radical damage which can also impair vision over time.

Umeboshi also supports the Gallbladder by aiding fat digestion.

Tips for Consuming Umeboshi

You can simply eat an Umeboshi daily as a snack or with meals. In Japan, Umeboshi is often placed inside the center of rice balls as a dried plum or plum paste. This makes a convenient way to eat rice and get your Umeboshi fix.

In Macrobiotics, it’s recommended to boil a salted plum in one quart of water for 30 minutes then drink the water 30 minutes after exercise to restore electrolytes.

My personal preference is to take Umeboshi in paste form. I use about a 1/4-1/3 tsp in a medium to large glass of warm water. I’ve been drinking this during the day since the beginning of Fall when the weather began to get drier and I immediately started to notice my body rehydrate much better.

Umeboshi plum paste also makes a very soothing tea to drink in the evening that calms my mind before bed. I recommend you give it a try. It’s a bit on the sour side, but I personally like the salty, sour combination and the benefits make me want to keep coming back for more!

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.

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 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.

How Going on Retreat Benefits Your Health: A Five Element Perspective

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

From a Chinese medical point of view, the balance of Yin and Yang is the foundation for achieving health and harmony in your life.

Generally, Yin relates to quietude, receiving and being, whereas Yang relates to activity and doing.

If like most, you live in a primarily Yang society where you’re constantly stimulated through work, emailing, texting, listening to music, browsing the internet, and interacting with others, your need for more Yin, or quiet time, is essential.

And there’s no faster and easier way to bring balance back into your life than to unplug and reset by going on retreat.

Removed from your daily distractions, retreat allows you to rejuvenate so you can become more Yin, or receptive, to what you truly want and need in your life.

There’s a multitude of health benefits that come from retreat. Below is a Five Element perspective on the impact of retreat on your health and life.

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HOW RETREAT BENEFITS THE FIVE ELEMENTS IN YOUR LIFE

1. Wood Element & Liver/Gallbladder: Retreat Allows for Rebirth & Renewal

In the Five Element system of Chinese Medicine, Wood represents rebirth and growth, and is related to the ambition required to live out your highest purpose.

Wood energy gives you drive, focus and the fearlessness to accomplish your goals.

Wood is related to the Liver, which stores blood, and the Gallbladder, which utilizes this blood to make things happen in your life. In the Five Element cycle, Wood is nourished by Water, which represents the deepest part of yourself; the aspect that helps you go within to understand your purpose and develop greater self awareness.

As part of the Water element, your willpower, or Zhi, which is housed in the Kidneys, encourages the ambition of the Liver and Gallbladder to manifest your dreams.

Water energy is nurtured through contemplation and rest. Water is associated with the Kidneys, which also house your essence, or Jing, and provide an essential source of energy to live out your life curriculum. Weak Kidney Qi is related to adrenal fatigue - the feeling of being exhausted and wired simultaneously. When Kidney Qi is weak, you feel like you’re running on fumes.

When your Kidney Qi is replenished and strong, you’ll feel a natural energy that’ll drive you to get things done more effortlessly.

2. Water Element & the Kidneys: Retreat Deepens Your Self-Awareness

Life is formed and develops in the water that holds the essence of the body, called Jing. The Kidneys comprise the organ system that stores this Essence and are the primary organs that provide the Yang metabolic energy which drives the entire function of the body. In this way, your Kidney Jing is the foundation for all Yin and Yang energies of the body. 

Water fuels the introspective aspect of self and in balance gives you the ability to be an observer of life, letting go of judgement while at the same time providing you with your fundamental drive to live and the willpower, or Zhi, to fulfill your goals and dreams.

When your Water element is in balance, you’re able to spend time alone comfortably and look at life from a bird’s eye view, learning the lessons that are transmitted through your experiences.

Retreat provides space and time to create the opportunity for your body to draw energy back into the Kidneys to strengthen your Water energy and willpower so a newfound courage can sprout forth through Wood energy, which initiates growth and new beginnings. 

3. Earth Element & the Spleen/Stomach: Retreat Improves Your Relationship with Yourself and Others

Earth energy is about transformation; transformation of food into energy and raw material to rebuild the body, and transformation of your thoughts so you’re 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 the unconditional love of 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.

Nourishment begins in the gut first with your mother through breastfeeding and evolves into self-care, or how you nourish yourself.

Thus the connection of the Earth element to your digestive function determines your ability to have healthy, harmonious relationships as well as strong immunity, or Spleen Qi.

Retreat may be the highest form of self-care. Eating a more simple diet and taking time to eat mindfully while on retreat further strengthens your Earth energy.

4. Metal Element & the Lungs/Large Intestine: Retreat Helps You Organize Your Thoughts and Cultivate a Greater Sense of Clarity

The Metal element relates to order, discipline, organization, and clarity both in your internal and external world.

The Metal element relates to the Lungs and Large Intestine organs. Weak Lung Qi can result from a weakened immune system, inadequate exercise or grief.

To strengthen the Lung Qi, it’s important to take deep breaths and also do practices that connect the body, mind and breath, including Yoga, Qi Gong and Tai Chi.

Many retreats encompass these practices, along with Meditation, which cultivates the Kidney Qi and also helps develop your self awareness.

The quietude of retreat also creates space to process your grief, and any other emotions that are being neglected during the busyness of your daily life.

When you allow emotions such as grief to transport you to the depths of your heart, you can hear the lessons of your past, let go, and regain the strength and clarity to more fully experience your authentic self.

5. Fire Element & the Heart: Retreat Deepens Your Sense of Wonder, Creativity and Self-Love

In Chinese Medicine, the Heart not only circulates the blood, but it also houses the spirit, known as the Shen. A nourished, settled Heart manifests as a calm spirit and mind. A strong Heart-Kidney, or Water-Fire, connection helps you stay on purpose with your life (learn more here).

When there’s sufficient Kidney (Water) energy, it cools the Heart (Fire) making you feel calm and able to sleep more restfully.

Sufficient Kidney Qi, which is cultivated through proper rest, anchors the Heart Qi and helps you cultivate a feeling of self-love.

Practices such as Meditation and self-reflection amplify self-love and creativity, and therefore nourish the Heart.

Heart energy drives our passion and the pure, present sense of wonder that we can associate with a young child. As you get older, it’s just as important to create space so that this creativity and spontaneity can flourish in your life.

By creating space while on retreat, you’re able to cultivate creativity and self-love, which help you develop compassion and a deeper connection to the highest form of love from Source.

When you're connected in this way, there’s no limit to the love that you’ll return home with to share with others.

Interested to join us on retreat? Click here to learn more and sign up for one of the last spots on our Journey to Wellness in Bali January 13-20, 2019.


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

Essential Oils to Balance the Metal Type Personality

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

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Chinese medicine is as much a philosophy of life as it is medicine for health and healing. One of its fundamental theoretical models is the Five Elements, which establishes a system for understanding our connection to the natural world.  

The creation cycle of the Five Elements begins with Wood. This Wood sparks to create Fire. The ash of Fire creates Earth and the minerals within Earth create Metal. Through the process of erosion, the minerals of the Metal element dissolve to nourish the Water element. The cycles continues as Water supports the growth of Wood for a new cycle to begin.

Each element has a certain psychological profile. Understanding these profile traits can help you balance the pathologies associated with that element and its organ systems.

The Fall season relates to the Metal element and the personality traits of the Metal archetype.


The Metal Type Personality

The Metal type personality tends to be disciplined, organized, analytical and emotionally stoic. Therefore, if you have a dominant Metal element you may tend to overanalyze and focus on details.

When the Metal element sways out of balance, this personality type tends to become self-righteous, uptight and highly opinionated. Excessively Metal people also tend to be sarcastic and judgmental.

Balanced Metal traits are invaluable as Metal people get things done with a focus and clarity that the other elements might simply dream about. They like order and expect a lot from themselves and others, which can lead to disappointment as others often can’t keep up with their efficiency.

The Metal element relates to the Lungs and Large Intestine organs. Imbalanced Metal energy can lead to health problems related to the lungs and colon such as allergies, asthma, and respiratory conditions, as well as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, constipation, hemorrhoids and even colon cancer in extreme cases. 

Emotionally, a patient with a lung weakness may have a tendency toward sadness and depression. Trauma that leads to grief can also harm the lung and large intestine organ systems. 

The Lung energy is also expressed out through the skin, so skin problems including dry skin and reactive skin problems such as eczema, hives and psoriasis, are common issues experienced when Metal energy is out of balance.

Since spice is the flavor associated with the Metal element, spicy foods can be used to offset Metal imbalances. Psychological profiles such as rigidity, stoicism and depressed can all benefit from the spicy flavor. This is why many people turn to coffee, black tea or chai tea and alcoholic beverages when they’re emotionally down, as the spice temporarily alleviates the depression of Qi in the lungs that is associated with the sadness, lethargy and depression which is often worse in the morning.

Spicy foods are drying, however, and create heat, so if a person has an overactive skin problem like eczema or psoriasis, spicy foods will likely exacerbate these problems so be cautious with spices in these cases. 

A spicy therapeutic tea, popular in the Ayurvedic tradition, that can be used longterm with mild cases of depression, is Tulsi Tea. Tulsi Tea, also called Holy Basil, will slowly strengthen the lungs and adrenal glands. It is spicy in nature to uplift the mood and boosts energy for the fatigue that is often concurrent with depression.*

When out of balance, Metal energy can create a stubbornness that keeps a person stuck in their rigid, overly critical and judgmental nature. However, by supporting the virtue of the Lungs, which is to ‘let go,’ the opportunity for liberation can be supported.

(Learn more about this virtue and how to let go here and here).

Essential Oils to Balance the Metal Type Personality

Evergreen essential oils boost Lung Qi so they have the energy to release emotional blocks.

Essential oils such as Pine, Black Spruce, Fir and Cedar are all useful to quiet the compulsively stuck mind and support the Lungs to “let go” and move on from what it’s fixated on. Terpenes found in conifer oils have been found to have antidepressant effects as well. This is why breathing in fresh air in a forest can be liberating and refreshing for the mind and emotions.

However, if you’re very stuck and rigid, stubborn phlegm may be blocking the Lungs from diffusing its Qi and letting go. In these cases, essential oils with stronger mucolytic qualities should be considered. Thuja and Bay Laurel are better for these cases when the lungs are stuck with mucous. Other mucolytic essential oils that help clear the lungs are those from the Eucalyptus family.

Spicy Essential Oils can lighten one’s mood, and enhance mental focus and clarity. Some of the spice oils include Clove, Cardamon, Coriander, Black Pepper, Thyme, Rosemary and Basil. These oils have all been found to be beneficial in reducing sadness and mild states of depression. In addition, these oils are mental stimulants and can help reduce brain fog and mental sluggishness.

Citrus peel oils such as Bergamot, Orange, Tangerine, Mandarin, Lemon and Lime can also help reduce sadness and melancholy. These citrus peel essential oils have been found to increase dopamine, a brain chemical that induces happiness.

Balanced Metal type personalities are clear, focused, organized, efficient, disciplined and dependable. Balancing the Metal energy in your life will illuminate these traits and support you to achieve your fullest potential.



*Please consult a health professional before starting a new health regimen, self diagnosing and treating yourself.


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.

Is Fire Accelerating Your Aging? A Look at How Heat is Impacting Your Body and Mind

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

With Summer upon us, the energy of the Fire element is quickly heating up.

Fire energy relates to the Heart and cardiovascular system so it's important to know how to protect these systems from excessive Fire. Excessive Fire energy causes inflammation and when chronic or lingering for a long time, can particularly damage areas in which it occurs.

Fire is created not only from the sun's radiation but also via electromagnetic radiation from electronic equipment which most of us are exposed to daily in the form of Wifi signals, electrical power lines throughout our homes, cell phones and a host of other sources. The Fire energy of radiation in any form leads to oxidative stress which creates degeneration on the cellular level.

To be clear, oxidation is a natural part of physiological function. Problems occur when oxidative stress is too great for the body to manage leading to the accelerated breakdown of cellular structures on all levels and thus premature aging.

 

Fire Energy and Pathology

In Chinese Medicine, the primary organ of Fire energy is the Heart which relates to the mind and our desires. 

In today's modern society, mental and visual overstimulation tend to create excess Fire energy in the Heart, which can be at the root of many cases of nervousness and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). With today's common problem of screen addiction, it's not surprising to see more and more children or young adults on medication to manage their ADHD or anxiety.

In addition, since the element of Fire relates to one's desires and passions in life and the emotion of joy, if we are overly driven by these attributes, we may find ourselves with a Heart Fire based emotional problem.

Essentially, any situation that overstimulates the mind or emotions - be it a trauma or too many responsibilities in one's life - may create too much Fire in the Heart and potentially lead to the emotional problems of nervousness, anxiety and in extreme cases mania. These are all indications of Fire out of balance in the body.

Sometimes the Fire energy gets burned out or it can be smothered by an excess of dampness in the body leading to a state called Phlegm Misting the Heart.

In these cases, the person will exhibit a state of indifference and apathy towards life. The weaker the Fire energy in one's life, the more one will tend to be cold, withdrawn and introverted.

On the flip side, the strong Fire type personality is very outgoing and if the Fire energy becomes excessive, it can lead to hyperactivity and even overbearing or obnoxious behavior. This is why some people who have too much Heart Fire can become intense and obnoxious upon drinking too much alcohol or spicy stimulants like coffee.

Stress in general produces Fire in the body and comes in many forms be it physical, emotional or mental. Thus, Fire energy is ubiquitous and a natural part of life. 

What's important for graceful aging is to learn how to manage this powerful energy in your life in order to support a healthy body and mind, and to cultivate feelings of contentment and peace.

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Living Excessively Causes Fire to Flare Up

The body's structure is Yin, which represents substance in the form of skin, flesh, fluids and blood. Yang on the other hand represents function and movement.

Youthfulness is a state of abundant Yin which provides insulation to protect the body from Fire, which is very Yang.

However, as we age, Yin declines and the body becomes more vulnerable to the Fire energy. This appears as drying up of tissues causing wrinkles and other symptoms of dryness.

Any form of inflammation indicates that Yin needs to be supported and Yang Fire needs to be cooled.  

Since function and movement are Yang, one way to prevent excess Fire from building up is to avoid excessive activity, especially during the warmer Summer months.

Young people can better handle activity during the hot weather but as we get older it's important not to overheat ourselves, especially during the warmer parts of the day. It is especially important as we age to not dehydrate ourselves with excessive sweating as well.

Keep in mind, if you are drinking what seems to be sufficient amounts of water but still feel overheated or experiencing signs of dehydration such as a headache or dizziness, try adding some sea salt to your water as the minerals in the sea salt will help you rehydrate quickly.

Another common excess that creates too much Fire is overeating.

Overeating creates oxidative stress on the body especially the overconsumption of 'hot natured' foods like lamb and beef or beverages such as coffee and alcohol.  With this said, Chinese Medicine recommends the decrease consumption of these types of foods during the summer months. Furthermore, sugar creates acid in the body which generates heat. The summer is replete with fresh fruit as it's a way nature provides for hydration during hot weather. Keep in mind, however, that when over consumed, these concentrated sweet foods create damp heat in the body which essentially is a toxic fungal terrain.

Excess Fire burns out your Qi, leading to fatigue.

Oxidative stress damages the mitochondria within the cells. Mitochondria are the cell's powerhouse structures that create energy in the form of ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate). As free radicals break down these cellular components, the body's energy production declines.

In Chinese Medicine, we say "heat destroys the Qi" and when we are not producing adequate Qi the body doesn't have sufficient energy to function optimally. Some common signs of Qi Deficiency are lethargy, low immunity, hyper-sensitivity to Wind and Cold, low libido and a weakened digestive system.

 

*Nutritional Supplements Can Help Manage Excessive Fire and Increase Your Energy

Modern nutritional science is making rapid breakthroughs in understanding how to protect and rebuild mitochondria to enhance cellular energy. A number of amino acids have been found for this purpose. 

As suggested previously, when there's too much Yang Fire, we need to support the body with cooling Yin substances. Amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, are considered Yin substances because they build structure. Many amino acids have also been found to have profound effects in reducing the damage of excessive free-radical activity (Yang Fire).

Considered the mother of all antioxidants, glutathione (GSH) is a peptide made of three amino acids. It is so important that cellular levels of GSH are considered a biomarker of longevity. The problem is that glutathione is not effectively absorbed directly through the digestive tract.  However, since it is manufactured in the body, it can be supported with certain food substances, especially those in the cruciferous vegetable family due to their sulfur amino acid content.

N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine (NAC) is a precursor to GSH and has interestingly been found to help reduce neurocognitive problems such as bio-polar disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), addictions and even schizophrenia.

Alpha-Lipoic Acid is one of the important antioxidants that's been found to increase GSH levels and to be neuroprotective. Alpha-Lipoic Acid has been used successfully to help prevent neurotoxicity induced by chemotherapy which can lead to symptoms such as peripheral neuropathy, possibly by preventing mitochondrial destruction. 

CoQ10, or in its reduced form Ubiquinol, is especially useful in protecting the cardiovascular system from the Fire of oxidative stress, as well as enhancing mitochondrial function to boost Qi (energy) throughout the body, specifically for the heart muscle. 

Acetyl-L-Carnitine is a compound formed from the amino acid L-Carnitine. Acetyl-L-Carnitine has been found to cross the blood-brain barrier and protect the brain's neurons against oxidative stress. It also supports mitochondrial function systemically and specifically beneficial for strengthening brain function in terms of memory recall. For this reason, Acetyl-L-Carnitine is one of the important supplements being used to support individuals with Alzheimer's.

Astaxanthin is another wonder antioxidant in terms of supporting healthy aging as it has been found to reduce oxidation of the cardiovascular system including the prevention of LDL from oxidizing which leads to atherosclerosis. Astaxanthin also protects mitochondria from free-radical damage which is likely the reason it is known to increase energy and stamina.

Astaxanthin provides important cosmetic benefits as well. Known for its carotenoid content that create the pink pigmentation in flamingos and salmon, Astaxanthin has been found to support skin health through multiple mechanisms. Astaxanthin has potent anti-inflammatory effects through its suppression of inflammatory cytokines which are created in response to the sun's UV radiation. It also directly benefits skin health by supporting the skin's moisture barrier to reduce skin dehydration and by increasing collagen production.

In fact, Astaxanthin has been found to reduce wrinkles, improve skin elasticity and skin texture as well.

PQQ (pyrroloquinoline quinone). PQQ is one of my favorite new daily supplements as it can activate genes that promote the formation of new mitochondria for increased cellular energy production. Recent studies have shown that 20 mg per day of PQQ has demonstrated the beneficial effects of increased blood flow in the brain and enhanced cognitive function. Trials showed increased mental function after 3 months of daily supplementation with PQQ with increased blood flow to the right prefrontal cortex of the brain involved in higher level cognitive functions.

PQQ also helps reduce neurotoxicity likely through enhancing blood flow, and protects neurons from damage due to excess sugar in the blood which has been attributed to the creation of the tau proteins and amyloid brain plaques associated with dementia and Alzheimer's.

Vinpocetine is the last antioxidant I want to discuss because of its neurological and vascular protection for the brain and heart. This powerful supplement is popular in Europe and has been found to improve cognitive function as well as short and long term memory by supporting the production of ATP, improving cerebral blood flow and glucose uptake in the brain. Vinpocetine also enhances the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin and noradrenaline to stabilize mood, decrease depression and increase the sense of pleasure in ones life.

With these benefits we can ascertain that Vinpocetine is best for cases of depression and mental lethargy when Heart Fire needs to be sparked.

 

Taming Your Fire to Support Graceful Longevity

The last point I want to discuss is about how modern society is based on cultivating too much Fire in our life.

As I mentioned earlier, screen addiction is a big problem for most individuals young and old. The more staring we do at our devices, be it the phone, TV or computer screen, the more the Heart gets over-stimulated.

Furthermore, the more active we live, the more Fire energy builds up in the body. Waking up some days it certainly seems we are part of the human race and this race just never seems to end. That's Fire energy and it is very damaging to our health on all levels.

It's true as it's been said that we should try to return to being a human being rather than a human doing.

I like to look at the idea of longevity in terms of quality over quantity. With that said, ask yourself, "Do I feel a sense of contentment with my life?" This is an important question to ponder. You may have a bucket list that seems endless with things you want to do and experience. However, it may be time in your life to try and cultivate less Fire by moving toward calmness and peacefulness to cool down your inner Fire. Perhaps rather than focusing on checking off all those things you want to experience in life, take time each day to be in gratitude for your life as it is.

A simple exercise you can practice is to write down a list of all things in your life for which you're grateful. Doing this will help you be more present in the moment and thus nourish your Yin, helping you cultivate both inner peace and graceful longevity.

*The information in this article is presented for educational purposes only so please ask your healthcare practitioner for guidance in what supplementation may be best for your specific needs.


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.

Essential Oils to Balance A Water Type Person

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

Cold weather can be challenging for the body, particularly to the Kidney system which is a storage center for your Ming Men Fire or Gate of Vitality that warms and stimulates all metabolic functions. The Kidneys in Chinese Medicine are also associated with the Winter season and are therefore most vulnerable at this time of year.

The Kidneys also store our most precious commodity, called Jing, which is the Yin that acts like insulation in a home to help contain our internal warmth. Jing is often referred to as Essential Qi or constitutional energy, as it corresponds to the deepest aspect of our physiology which we associate with our DNA. It is therefore crucial to protect your Kidneys to support your body's regeneration and renewal processes in order to maintain youthfulness.

The Kidneys relate to the Water Element in Chinese Five ElementTheory. In a previous article, we explored the Five Element Water type personalities and how the Kidney energy supports our drive to live and the willpower to fulfill our goals and dreams. Here we explore the distinctions and challenges within the two basic Water archetypes and the use of essential oils to help each type of person restore balance.

Juniper Berry Essential Oil is beneficial for the Yang Water type.

Juniper Berry Essential Oil is beneficial for the Yang Water type.

The two types of Kidney Water archetypes are on opposite ends of the spectrum energetically. The Yang Water type person is generally warm, robust and vital while the Yin Water type is generally cold, weak and sluggish. 

 

The Yang Water Type Person

In Chinese Medicine the Kidneys rule the bones, so a person who is a the Yang Water type will constitutionally have strong bones and a sturdy structure. These qualities make the Yang Water type person very hardy constitutionally and resilient to disease. 

The Yang Water personality type's sturdy structure will often be matched with a graveling voice that's deep and strong. I've seen clinically, when a kidney type person gets ill, their voice will distinctively get deeper and rougher. This is even a diagnostic parameter in Chinese Medicine for assessing that a person has a Kidney imbalance.

To match their vigorous nature, the Yang Water person will often have robust ideals and goals. When out of balance, the Yang Water person tends to have a lot of excess types pathologies and is inclined to have an exaggerated view of reality. 

The Yang Water person is more physical than mental and cut out for hard physical work rather than sitting behind a desk. Yang Water types want to experience life physically and love the challenge and adrenaline rush of adventure. In extreme cases, these Kidney Yang types are risk takers and daredevils.

Their nature of doing things in excess makes the Yang Water type person prone to diseases related to excess. In Chinese Medicine, this can manifest as Damp Heat with symptoms of excessive mucous and swellings such as edema, or in a more advanced state Phlegm Heat, which is related to the formation of tumors and pathological growths in the body. Because of this tendency, Yang Water types usually need detoxification to reduce the heavy toxic load they tend to accumulate that shows up in the form of many metabolic disorders including gout, diabetes, hypertension, and benign or malignant swellings, especially in the urogenital organs. 

 

Essential Oils for the Yang Water Type Person

Wood based essential oils including Cedarwood and Sandalwood support detoxification because the Yang Water type tends to eat and drink excessively, and can be a bit abusive with his or her personal habits. Juniper essential oil, though not a wood oil, can also be used to detoxify the kidneys but should be used with caution as it can be too vigorous in action for a person with Kidney weakness.

Cedarwood Essential Oil is used to cool and strengthen the Kidney system and support detoxification of the body, especially in the urogenital system. Damp heat factors tend to settle into the lower body causing problems in the urogenital systems, such as prostate inflammation and swelling for men and bladder, vaginal or ovarian conditions for women. 

  • Through its clearance of toxic by-products, Cedarwood is also useful for bone and joint inflammation in the form of arthritis. According to Chinese Medicine, the Kidney system directly supports the bone structure and joint health.The joints are toxic depositories and act essentially like holding tanks to keep pathogenic factors from affecting other more vital systems including the internal organs. As the health of the kidneys improve therefore so will pathologies related to the joints.

  • With its potent ability to boost Kidney Qi energy and considering the Kidney system correlates to the adrenal glands and the lower back region, Cedarwood essential oil is useful to reduce lethargy and fatigue, and strengthen a weak, achey back.

  • Cedarwood is a tonic for the kidney organs themselves and an effective diuretic. These benefits are very helpful in the treatment of hypertension and gout.

  • In addition, as the Kidney system relates to the reproductive system in Chinese Medicine, Cedarwood can tone the hormonal glands to help with menstrual irregularity and pre-menstrual type syndromes involving cramping and mood swings.

Sandalwood Essential Oil is a well known essential oil for its spiritual attributes and in Chinese Medicine we say it helps calm a person’s Shen, or spirit. Symptoms related to a Shen disturbance are anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia and restlessness. 

  • Sandalwood also treats all of these symptoms by cooling heat in the heart for symptoms like anxiety and insomnia, especially when related to a deficiency of Yin fluids in the Kidneys.

  • Sandalwood is especially effective as an antiseptic and diuretic to cleanse the urogenital system and can be helpful in the treatment of cystitis, prostatitis, vaginal infections and even ovarian cysts and hemorrhoids due to the accumulation of damp heat in the pelvic region.

Juniper Berry Essential Oil is an oil to use with caution as it can be toxic for a person with weak kidneys. Juniper oil can however be very useful for a person who has serious arthritic pain due to Wind Damp Cold factors as it has a very warming quality to break up toxicity in the joints. It's also an important oil for Cold in the Blood causing amenorrhea or the type of painful menses that feels better with a warm heating pad placed over the area.

  • More specifically in its application for Yang Water types, Juniper Essential Oil as a diuretic is also useful for diabetes and gout as it acts as a detoxifying agent and helps clear uric acid out of the blood. In general, Juniper is an important essential oil for most circulatory problems including hypertension, varicose veins and edema.

Basil Essential Oil is one of the beneficial oils for the Yin Water type.

Basil Essential Oil is one of the beneficial oils for the Yin Water type.

The Yin Water Type Person

The Yin Water person is more aligned with the typical pattern of Kidney weakness in Chinese Medicine as this type of person tends to be timid and fearful.

A Yin Water type will lack the warmth and vigor of Yang energy. They are constitutionally on the delicate side with poor stamina and circulation, and prone to injury with weakness in the bones and joints.

The Yin Water type is much less physical but more intellectually oriented than the Yang Water person and will persevere toward goals with patience. In general, this person is more mental and spiritually oriented than physical and is considered the philosopher of the Five Elements. If this type gets too stuck within, he or she may become a hermit, which is an archetype for the Yin Water type.

Yin Water types enjoy meditation over socialization. These individuals need their adrenals to be stimulated for motivation and to come out of themselves. Active exercise is important to invigorate the Qi in these sedentary individuals. In extreme cases, this type of person can become a reclusive hoarder.

Because the warming Yang energy in a Yin Water type is weak, he or she tends to have a soft voice rather than a robust voice like their Yang Water counterparts.

Yin Water types have a weak metabolism. They tend to feel cold inside and are sensitive to cold in their environment. Their delicate immune system creates low resistance to diseases so the Yin Water person is more prone to get sick easily. 

Because their Yang Qi is not strong the Yin Water type's sexual vigor may also be lacking. If this issue concerns you personally, then becoming more physically active is a good start to help warm your Yang Qi. Martial Arts and, in particular, the restorative practice of Qi Gong is designed for this purpose.

Kidney Yin Water Types tend to be pessimistic and can easily have weight problems due to a sluggish metabolism. With a weakness in water metabolism, this person is also prone to fluid stagnation and issues of edema which can show up under the eyes and in the lower legs, particularly in the knees and ankles. 

Since the lower back and knees relate to the Kidney system in Chinese Medicine, the weak constitution of the Yin Water type person will give him or her a greater tendency to have problems related to these areas, such as soreness and weakness in the lumbar area and knees.

 

Essential Oils for the Yin Water Type Person

The primary essential oils to consider for the Yin Water type person are warming and stimulating oils such as Rosemary, Basil and Fennel.

Rosemary Essential Oil is a very important oils to stimulate the immune system and improve circulation. It's a key oil to open the diaphragm and invigorate the heart circulation specifically. Through these mechanisms the sensitivity to cold and the feeling of cold internally can be reduced or resolved. 

  • Rosemary is also useful for improving problems with digestion and elimination, including bloating and constipation.

  • Rosemary is considered an adrenal stimulant for problems related to chronic fatigue and low metabolism.

  • The Kidney system correlates to the brain in Chinese Medicine, so Rosemary will help stimulate a person mentally to reduce brain fatigue and brain fog.

Basil Essential Oil is a key essential oil to help strengthen a person’s Kidney Yang energy and in this way bring warmth and stimulation to a person’s overall metabolism. 

  • Basil essential oil is also an important oil for a general lack of vitality, weakness in the lumbar region, and low sex drive or impotence.

  • Basil essential oil is an adrenal stimulant for fatigue and supports a person who may feel a lack of confidence or low self-esteem.

Fennel Essential Oil is a unique essential oil in that is has estrogenic properties to help regulate menstrual problems and treat problems related to menopause.

  • Fennel is also a diuretic and helps decrease an excessive appetite, so it's useful for weight loss. Fennel can also help stimulate a weak appetite, so be mindful that the effect is dosage dependent. The higher the dosage, the more Fennel oil reduces the appetite. However, used excessively Fennel may stimulate Liver Wind which means it can cause nervousness and anxiety.

  • Fennel can also strengthen the Kidney’s Life Gate Fire thereby improving low energy, weakness in the lower lumbar, impotence or low libido, weak willpower and an apathetic disposition which the Yin Water type person is inclined to experience.

Ideally and for best results, it's important to support an organ system prior to the season to which it corresponds. However, it's important during every season and essentially every day to nurture our Kidney energy to bring balance and optimize its function. The critical issue with the colder weather during Winter is that it becomes especially important to maintain the body's warmth to protect the Kidney Yang Qi. Elderly people have a decline in this energy and that's why they are especially challenged physically at this time of year.

Essential oils are profound sources of plant based biochemicals that resonate directly with the human body's Jing Essence or constitutional energy. When used properly, the six essential oils discussed here can have profound effects to bring balance to the Yin and Yang Water type person and the physical and emotional syndromes he or she often suffer. I suggest you try them for yourself. For complicated health conditions, it is advisable to consult a professional aromatherapist to target your specific needs in a safe and effective manner.

 

Please note: the recommendations in this article are provided as suggestions and guidance and are not meant to cure the illnesses and imbalances described. Please consult your healthcare practitioner or schedule with us to get specific guidelines, formulations and treatments for your specific needs.


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, 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 Virtue of Grief: Life Lessons from a Powerful Human Emotion

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

Every human emotion provides a unique message that helps us learn about ourselves and others. Emotional intelligence comes from managing our wide spectrum of emotions and harnessing their respective power. 

The problem is that most of us have been taught to value certain emotions more than others. Joy is considered a "good" emotion while anger and sadness are often considered "bad" emotions. Since "good" emotions are more acceptable, I believe many of us feel shame or self-doubt around fully expressing the "bad" emotions. This leads us to suppress these feelings, which can exacerbate the emotional upheaval internally and cause damage to the corresponding organ system with which the emotion is associated.

Grief is one of the most difficult emotions to process, but when properly transformed, it can provide powerful life lessons that can propel you to grow immensely on your path of self-cultivation.

Grief is the path to heal past wounds and arrive more fully into your authentic self.

Grief is the path to heal past wounds and arrive more fully into your authentic self.

The Emotions According to Chinese Medicine

Huang Di Nei Jing, a foremost classical Chinese medical text, defines seven emotions as major internal causes of disease. These emotions are joy, anger, fear, fright, anxiety, pensiveness and grief. We all experience all these emotions but when any one of them become excessive or are not properly transformed, they can damage their respective organ systems.

It's important to note that all emotions have the potential to negatively impact your health, including the ones we often deem as positive, such as joy. According to Chinese Medicine, over-joy can be likened to anxiety, which is an emotion with which many of us are familiar. Anxiety has the potential to aggravate the Heart and Pericardium system, or Fire element.

Other emotions can also cause damage when chronic or in excess. Worry, or pensiveness, leads to obsession and can damage the Spleen and Stomach system, or Earth element. Anger can turn to rage and damage the Liver and Gallbladder system, or Wood element. Sadness can turn to chronic grief and damage the Lungs and Large Intestine system, or Metal element.

Organ systems are particularly vulnerable during their respective seasons. The Liver and Gallbladder are for instance most vulnerable during the Wood season of Spring, while the Lungs and Large Intestine are most susceptible to harm during the Metal season of Autumn. Consequently, you're more likely to feel the imbalanced emotion of each element during its respective season. In other words, it's common to feel angry or irritable during springtime while sadness is a common emotion during the Fall season.

Sadness and grief are the emotions associated with an imbalance in the Lung and Large Intestine system, and thus the Metal element, which is most active during the Fall season.

When we learn to properly transform grief, not only can it help us develop a greater capacity emotionally, but it can also help us deepen our self-awareness and self-cultivation.

 

Grief and the Lungs

Grief is the unbalanced emotion related to the Metal element, which encompasses the Lungs and Large Intestine, as well as the skin.

Grief directly impacts the Lungs and overwhelms our ability to let go, which is the virtue of the Lungs in their balanced state.

Your lungs are part of the respiratory system, and they provide a connection between your external and internal worlds through the breath. Inhalation draws in fresh oxygen and Qi, or energy, while exhalation helps you let go of toxins. 

The Lungs' natural movement is to disperse and descend Qi.

The Lungs disperse, or spread, the body fluids as well as the Wei Qi, the defensive Qi that runs on the surface of the skin to protect you during the day and travels into the body to help you sleep at night. This ensures that Wei Qi is equally distributed under the skin and to the muscles to warm and moisten the skin, allowing for a normal amount of sweating, and to protect the body from external pathogens that can cause colds, flus and skin problems (see more about this in a previous article).

As the uppermost organ, the Lungs also descend Qi to communicate with the Kidneys, which are said to 'grasp' the Qi of the Lungs. This allows for deep breathing. The Lungs also direct body fluids downward to Kidneys and Bladder. Dysfunction in the communication between the Lungs and Kidneys can result in wheezing and asthma or accumulation of fluids either from the failure of the Lungs to descend the Qi or weakness in the Kidneys that prevent the grasping of the Lung Qi.

Dealing with grief weakens your Qi, which then demands that you slow down and turn inward to process the depths of your emotional state.

Dealing with grief weakens your Qi, which then demands that you slow down and turn inward to process the depths of your emotional state.

The Virtue of Grief

Grief weakens the Lung Qi and inhibits the natural ability of the Lungs to disperse Qi, thereby preventing the Lungs from letting go and extending your energy out into the world.

Grief also impairs the Lungs' ability to descend Qi into the Kidneys, which can further weaken the Kidneys. As a result, when faced with tragedy such as death or other loss, you may feel isolated and vulnerable.

Since grief directly impacts the Lungs, it's common to have Lung problems develop after a loss, including asthma, cough, and even pneumonia.

Dealing with grief can be draining and weakens your Qi, which then demands that you slow down and turn inward to process the depths of your emotional state.

Turning inward allows you to consolidate your Kidney Qi, which supports the Lung Qi, governs Willpower and holds the Life Gate Fire known as the Ming Men that stokes all of the body's energy.

Turning inward and slowing down is thus essential for the Lungs to regain the strength necessary to help you let go and express yourself in the world once again.

It's therefore necessary to have a hibernation period to build back your energy and process your grief.

The best time to do this is during the slow, Yin seasons of Fall and Winter, which are the seasons of the Lungs and Kidneys, respectively.

Grief can be particularly challenging to process because it stirs up the regrets, insecurities and unresolved issues of your past.

Grief is the path to heal past wounds.

Left alone, the wounds of your past become more and more painful and inhibit you from living a fulfilled life.

These unhealed wounds can be likened to what author Michael Singer calls "inner thorns" in his book, The Untethered Soul. Singer explains that these "thorns" are sensitivities that lie in the human heart. When something touches these thorns, we feel pain deep inside.

Singer says that you have two choices to deal with these inner thorns. You can either compensate for being disturbed by avoiding feeling the thorn, or you can remove the thorn and not have the focus of your life revolve around it. To remove the thorn, he says that you must "look deep within yourself, to the core of your being, and decide that you don't want the weakest part of you running your life" (Singer 81).

When you avoid or compensate for your emotions, they become the inner thorns that manifest into your greatest blocks.

When you instead take time to process your grief, it'll guide you to insights that help you heal your inner thorns; your deepest wounds from the past.

Through this healing, you’ll cultivate a more grounded connection to yourself.

 

Conclusion

If you don't process grief, it ferments in your body-mind and later manifests as more severe, chronic emotions such as depression and even rage.

Like every emotion, the full expression of grief is the process by which it's brought to the surface to heal.

When you catch a cold, your body attempts to clear it through your orifices with symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing and coughing. Similarly, the body needs to process an overwhelming loss through the expression of emotions, including grief, which must be felt and experienced fully to transform and clear from the body.

Loss is a natural part of life, and we're all grieving something most of the time, whether it's the loss of a loved one, a career change, a move, a breakup, or the simple inner transformations that can occur daily.

Every change in your life, whether positive or negative, can stir up grief about what you're leaving behind. Every change therefore has the potential to offer new wisdom and insights through the virtue of grief. When you allow this grief to transport you to the depths of your heart, you can hear the lessons of your past, let go, and regain the strength and clarity to more fully experience your authentic self.


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


Essential Oils for the Five Element Personality Types - Wood

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

The Five element model begins with the Wood element as it relates to Spring, the season of growth and new beginnings. The Wood element also relates to time management. Difficulty with maintaining a schedule and the tendency to be late to meetings and events for example may relate to an imbalance in Wood energy. Difficulty maintaining discipline is also a weakness in Wood energy because this has to do with an inability to keep a schedule or routine. Difficulty getting things started also relates to a Wood imbalance as it relates to Qi stagnation of the Liver with Qi not moving well in a person's life. 

The Liver and Gall Bladder are the primary organs of the Wood element and the reason this element relates to time management is based on the Liver's primary function of maintaining the smooth flow of Qi, or energy, in the body.

Issues of time also relate to cycles in one's life, such as a woman's menstrual cycle. If the menses tends to be early, delayed or comes irregularly, it may also indicate Wood imbalance. In fact, maintaining regularity is a Wood energy issue even in relation to having regular daily bowel movements. This is why when the Wood energy gets full and stagnates right before the onset of a woman's menses it is common for a woman to experience constipation during her premenstrual phase.

Wood energy is a part of all of our lives and learning about it's energetic qualities allows us to become more self-aware and self-empowered. For some, learning how to enhance the Wood energy in their life will help them become more assertive since Wood relates to assertion. For those who have excessively strong Wood energy on the other hand, toning down this assertiveness will help them less aggressive in dealing with others. This can foster diplomacy and an easy going attitude rather than the tendency to force one's agenda which a strong Wood type person often has. 

The following discussion will outline how Chinese Medicine breaks down the nuances of Wood energetics that can be expressed with great variation based on the Yin and Yang characteristics that define the dualistic nature of each element. The Yang energy is more masculine and assertive and Yin energy is more feminine and receptive.

Essential Oils to Balance the Wood Personality Types

A Yang Wood type of person is a strong, courageous and enthusiastic personality who likes to be in charge because they like to be noticed and are very competitive in nature. This person is very Yang with a lot of energy, tremendous stamina and drive so it can be hard for people trying to keep up with them. Yang Wood types can be very entertaining, but also with so much heat in the Liver system they can be emotionally volatile with a hot-temper and prone to anxiety attacks or nervousness.

The Yang Wood type person typically bites off more than he can chew so though a good leader, this person needs others to support him in following through with plans. 

Another typical trait of this personality is that he's often in a rush; he runs from one commitment to another and often gets very uptight if he's late for any date. Rather than being unable to keep to a schedule, the excessively Yang Wood person is obsessed and rigid about keeping to a schedule.

Typical imbalance symptoms of Yang Wood types are high blood pressure, heart disease, muscle spasms and stiffness of the neck, insomnia, headaches and gastrointestinal disturbances such as stomach ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome. 

Essential Oils that can be used to calm the nervous stress and cool the emotionally hot-tempered and uptight nature of Yang Wood personality types are: Roman and German Chamomile, Lavender, Lemon and Spikenard. These oils are all powerfully effective for the associated physical imbalances as well. German Chamomile is stronger than Roman Chamomile so for children exhibiting the very temperamental qualities of a Yang Wood imbalance it is best to use Roman Chamomile.

A Yin Wood type personality is also nervous but more timid and indecisive (vs. the overbearing leader that is displayed by Yang Wood personalities). The Yin wood person, though highly intelligent, lacks the courageousness we associate with the Yang Wood person. 

And even though a Yin Wood person is success driven, he tends to have a low self-esteem or self-worth issues,  feeling insufficient and not good enough within himself.  To help fortify this sense of insufficiency, the Yin Wood person needs to nourish the Liver Blood. 

In Chinese Medicine, Yin Wood types are also moody and emotionally unstable, and since they often withhold the expression of their feelings they can be physically rigid and tend to have a wiry type of muscular build. These people typically are not very flexible in body or mind. As they tend to internalize their feelings and emotions, Yin Wood types are prone to both depression and anxiety as a result of the emotional build up from repression.

Yin Wood types have a lot of ideas streaming through their minds, so it can be difficult for them to focus on a particular project. They are prone to headaches, digestive upsets and sexual frigidity, nervous tics and twitches. 

The Yin Wood type personality needs to also calm his or her nervous system but rather than cooling the system down, he or she will need more blood nourishment to relax internally. Supporting the blood will help boost vitality so they are more courageous and sexually invigorated.

Essential Oils that support nourishment of the blood are Angelica sinensis root (Dang Gui), Angelica Archangel (seed and root),  Ligusticum Wallichi (Chuan Xiong), Carrot Seed, Celery Seed, Rose and Vetiver. Winter Savory is also an important essential oil to stimulate the Spleen in its production of blood to benefit the Liver.

All of these oils can be diffused or made into blends and applied topically over acupuncture points to regulate and nourish the Liver or to sedate the Gallbladder thereby establishing a healthy rhythm for your Wood energy. Some of these oils can be taken internally as well. Please consult an acupuncturist who practices Medical Aromatherapy to learn specific protocols for your particular 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.

Managing Anger & Power: Liver & the Wood Element

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

Springtime brings renewal, rebirth and growth. These qualities can be seen in nature with birds nesting to bring new life, and the blossoming flowers and trees. 

According to Chinese Medicine, springtime relates to the Wood element. The central characteristic of Wood is growth and the related organs are the Liver and Gallbladder. Energetically, the Liver smooths the flow of Qi and thus allows one to create and execute change. The Gallbladder is necessary for the change to occur, as it is the organ responsible for making decisions. 

When the flow of Liver Qi is not smooth, we tend to feel angry, irritable and restless. Over time, this "Liver Qi stagnation" can lead to overstimulation of the sympathetic nervous system, elevated cortisol levels and therefore greater stress, all of which can compromise the immune system.

The emotional and intellectual aspects of Wood can be understood by examining a plant. Starting out as a tiny seedling, it grows and expands and its roots stretch further out. Over time, it needs more space, and thus begins to encroach on the space and feed on nutrients of the neighboring plant. This process stirs up competition and conflict. The stronger or more adaptable plant eventually survives.

The skill to be adaptable can transfer to the intellectual level related to Wood, which has to do with ingenuity, inventiveness, and the willingness to explore something new.

On an emotional level, Wood is represented by the spirit of a pioneer for which one needs to be brave and trust one's own abilities and power. This person is a leader, and leadership serves the community to grow and to expand.

Anger is an integral aspect of the Wood element.

Anger erupts most commonly as a result of two circumstances. First, if an individual violates one's boundaries, attacks one verbally or physically, one will become angry and defensive. The second circumstance that commonly arouses anger is if someone or something stands in one's way, thus hindering one's progress or expansion.

A certain amount of anger can drive one to create positive change, but excessive anger can damage one's health as is often driven by a hunger for power or control.

Wood type personalities are ambitious, focused, and driven. They can be entrepreneurial, decisive and make wonderful leaders. 

When in balance, Wood types are like knights in shining armor: brave, gallant, strong, and always on a mission. When out of balance they can be very controlling, angry, and combative.

The Liver stores the blood, which gives us the fortitude to make decisions and feel supported. Liver blood deficiency often manifests as fatigue, lack of luster and color in the hair and nails, and problems with the eyes. The vulnerability that one can experience as a result of blood deficiency can result in loss of clarity around one’s vision. When one lacks fortitude to face challenges, it’s easy to feel victimized and unable to adapt to changing circumstances.

Women, because they go through menstrual cycles, have a greater tendency to experience Liver blood deficiency. Wood types in general tend to push themselves very hard and thus it’s important that women with these personalities consciously slow down during their cycles in order to avoid burnout. 

The Liver is in charge of detoxification, ridding the body of chemicals, hormones and toxins. It also manufactures all the essential proteins necessary for the body. Wood types therefore need to especially be cautious of taking in substances that burden the Liver’s function, such as over the counter medications, alcohol and drugs. 

Alcohol in particular, which we often refer to as ‘fire water,’ creates a lot of heat in the Liver, which can stir both the heart and liver, intensifying emotions such as anxiety and anger. Ironically, alcohol is one of the main forms of relaxation to which Wood types resort, especially if they are tightly bound through accumulated stress from their hard work. It's vital, however, to be conscious of this tendency and instead turn to more natural methods with which to cope with stress and smooth the Liver Qi such as Yoga, tai chi, or even more active movement and martial arts.

During Spring, the Wood element becomes active both within us and in nature, so it's important to balance its energy.

Here are a few Wood-balancing tips:

1. Exercise daily: practicing Yoga, Qi Gong or Tai Chi or martial arts especially help smooth the Liver Qi. 

2. Meditate or journal daily. Writing is an excellent tool with which to transfer busy thoughts from the mind onto paper so that they feel less burdening. Writing helps us to process our emotions and get clear about our goals, which is especially important for Wood types who are very goal-oriented.

3. Eat lots of leafy green vegetables and berries. Both of these foods help build Liver blood. Leafy green vegetables also help drain dampness, which can accumulate in the sinuses causing headaches and allergies.

4. Avoid alcohol, coffee and recreational drugs, which aggravate and heat up the Liver and impede its detoxification process causing more anger, irritability and restlessness.

5. Try Essential Oils to calm your mind and settle allergic reactions which can be triggered by an overheated Liver: Peppermint, Lemon, Lavender and Roman Chamomile can be very beneficial to relax irritability and nervousness and reduce allergies. You can directly inhale or diffuse these oils in your home. Peppermint is cooling, refreshing and stimulating for your mind and can be used during the day to keep you mentally alert. Lavender and Roman Chamomile are cooling and relaxing, best used in the evening to wind down and rest. Lemon soothes a tight Liver due to toxicity and helps reduce emotional frustration and irritability. As a food, lemon zest can also be put in warm water or steamed with vegetables providing the natural benefit of Lemon essential oil. 

Discipline is key to balance the Wood type personality, so it's important to commit to these habits and practices daily. You'll realize that by making this commitment to smooth the flow of Liver Qi, your life will flow more smoothly as well.


Setareh Moafi, 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

Finding Courage: Kidneys & the Water Element

by Setareh Moafi, Ph.D, L.Ac. & Salvador Cefalu, M.S., L.Ac. 

Life is formed and develops in the water that holds the Essence of the body, called Jing. The Kidneys comprise the organ system that stores this Essence and are the primary organs that provide the Yang metabolic energy which drives the entire function of the body. In this way, our Kidney Essence is the foundation for all Yin and Yang energies of the body. 

Preserving Kidney function is therefore fundamental for health on every level. 

The Water element stores and represents our Essence, and it is through connecting with our Kidney energy that we connect with the deepest aspects of ourselves, especially memories and emotions that have been buried within our subconscious.

As the primary energy of our entire being, the Kidney energy relates to our fundamental drive to live and the willpower to fulfill our goals and dreams. 

On an intellectual level, the Water element deals with philosophy, spirituality, and the great, essential questions of life. The related emotion is what one feels in the presence of the divine, or when one understands the marvels of life. In other words, the sense of awe.

In Chinese Medicine, the Water element brings one through time. It houses the prenatal Qi that we derive from our ancestors, which can be understood as our inheritance or genetic makeup. In this way, our DNA is the fundamental physical aspect of our Essence. 

From a psychological perspective, a Water personality is a deep-thinker, a seeker of sense rather than sensations; someone who strives for enlightenment or the presence of the divine. These people are easily taken as being aloof but they are enormously loyal and can help untangle the most complicated situations. Unlike their opposite element, Fire, which is fully in the moment, Water types are mostly concerned with and have great perspective on the past and future.

The Water type personality is the prototypical hermit as Water types enjoy spending time alone in contemplation. As such, Water type personalities can also be considered “the philosopher.”

The Water type person does not like to conform to social norms.  In general, the Water type likes to be alone to contemplate, collect and simply do his or her own thing his or her own way without interference from the world.  

Some people are naturally very Water oriented and it's easy for them to slow down and relax, however, when a person is too Water he may become stuck within himself,  and may therefore need motivation.

Earth energy helps to balance the excessive Water energy, which may cause one to become overly reclusive or self-absorbed. Earth energy involves community and social relationships.

By cultivating social activity (Earth), a person who is an overly Water-type individual can become more balanced. Doing social work or having an enthusiastic partner or friends can keep the Water type active and prevent being disengaged from society.

Active invigorating exercise is also very important to move the Water personality who can be very content sitting and lounging all day in front of the television or computer. 

Classical Chinese Medicine teaches that the root of most disease is emotionally or spiritually based. Therefore, to change a disease condition, a person needs to change on a deep emotional and spiritual level. Chinese Medicine therefore takes an active approach to get a person moving from their comfort zone in order to experience life in a different way and, hopefully, in a way that is supportive of their healing.

For an ill person who is a highly introverted Water type, the provocation for change needs to be induced through social interaction. For healing to take place on a deep level, it is crucial to move the energy of that person out of the reclusive mode and into a space involving more interaction. This of course can be very difficult for an introverted person and take them out of their comfort zone, but this is the type of interaction necessary nonetheless to stimulate the changes for true healing to take place. 

Whereas a person with excessive Water needs to be socialized, a person who lacks Water energy needs to counter the tendency to be overly extroverted and social by spending more time in contemplation through practices such as meditation. For an extrovert, this practice can be provocative and challenging. Qi Gong and Tai Chi are other practices that support the person lacking Water energy by helping draw their focus and energy inward to strengthen the Kidney Qi as well as calm and ground their restless mind. 

A major aspect to supporting a healthy Kidney system requires giving attention to the adrenal glands located above the kidneys. Through proper nutrition, rest and exercise we can manage the impact of stress which deplete the function of these essential glands.

Especially during the winter months when there is less light, it is best to slow down and go to bed as early as possible. In general, it is essential to reduce the amount of stimulation in one's life in order to restore adrenal function. This includes avoiding or reducing caffeinated beverages, reducing time in front of the computer especially playing computer games, over exercising, over working and engaging in too much sexual activity. It is also critical to reduce exposure to unhealthy or stressful relationships as much as possible to maintain calmness in mind and emotions in supporting adrenal recovery.

These changes will create the opportunity for the body to draw energy back into the Kidneys to strength one's willpower throughout the winter so a newfound courage can sprout forth in the coming spring season, the season of Wood, growth and new beginnings. 

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

Salvador Cefalu, M.S., L.Ac. is the Founder and Co-Director of A Center for Natural Healing in Santa Clara, California, a wellness clinic that specializes in Classical Chinese Medicine & Japanese Meridian Therapy, a rare non-insertion form of Acupuncture. Salvador also teaches Qi Gong at the Dharma Studio within A Center for Natural Healing.

Cultivating Self-Love and Overcoming Addictions: A Five Element Perspective

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

There are five basic elements categorized in Chinese Medicine: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. Each element has its own characteristic features and goes through a generation cycle through which it transforms into another element.

Five Elements

The Five Elements begin with Wood because Wood represents growth and new beginnings. The season of Wood is Spring as new growth begins to sprout forth.

The active energy provided by Wood creates Fire and Fire is about maturity and relates to the season of Summer, the hottest time of the year. 

Fire creates ash as it burns and this ash creates the next element, Earth. Earth is about harvest and corresponds to a period known as Late Summer. Earth also corresponds to a 16 day transitional period that occurs during each seasonal transition. 

The minerals found in the earth are metallic, so the Earth element creates the element of Metal. Metal is about decline, corresponding to the season of Autumn, a time when nature transitions toward a state of dormancy. 

As Fall enters full dormancy, we enter the Winter season, which relates to the element of Water. Water relates to going within, introversion and introspection. Winter is the gestational period that supports the consolidation of energy back into our Kidneys for physical rejuvenation and inner transformation. Through this process, we can blossom forth a resurgence of new growth energy that ensues in the springtime as the 5 Element cycle starts again.

The Summer's Fire Energy can set Addictions Blazing --

 Since we are in the season of Summer, the element of Fire is in its full effect potentially overheating our body, especially our blood.  Hot blood creates an over-stimulated emotional state. If we add hot natured food to our diet such as coffee, alcohol and hot spices such as garlic, rosemary, basil, ginger, peppers and onions, the internal fire can really get out of control during this season causing inflammation, high blood pressure, skin rashes and emotional disorders such as anxiety, irritability and outbursts of rage. 

If we don't make an effort to keep the body cool and calm, patterns of ADDICTION can become more of a problem during this time of year too as the Heart Fire starts to blaze and a person will crave substances such as sugar, medications, alcohol, cigarettes and drugs such as marijuana to numb out.  

One of the very interesting aspects about the Heart is that it is the organ related to us having emotional control in our lives. If we are stuck in patterns of addiction, then our Heart Fire is overwhelming the function of our Earth. The Earth relates to the Spleen and the Mind so one's mental control becomes overwhelmed by their emotions if the Heart Blood gets too hot. The Earth/Spleen energy also relates to the Pancreas so we can see as the emotions get over aroused with Heart Fire, a person will crave sweets and damp-inducing comfort foods to numb out and placate one's restless emotions. Even fruit, which is very high in sugar and prevalent during the Summer when eaten in excess will create a lot of dampness which further compromises a person's mental capacity to control their heart's emotional fire. In addition, as dampness accumulates in the body, it creates a sluggish circulation of Qi energy and a person will reach out for stimulants to get their energy moving which can perpetuate the state of internal heat that is driving  the emotional imbalance and the addictive behavior.  Internal dampness relates to the popular topic of CANDIDA which underlies many health problems from the head to the toes.

Managing the internal fire driven by addictions is a very important issue underlying all Chronic Degenerative Disorders --

Whether the addiction is substance related or other such as an addiction to work, exercise or masturbation, these habits induce a smoldering of internal heat that grows and grows deep in the body. This is a dangerous condition that we call "Latent Heat or Latent Fire"  that becomes suppressed so a person may not be aware of it because they are not symptomatic. However, over time as this suppressed heat that is trapped in the body slowly burns out the body's resources to stay repressed, various symptoms of disease will start to manifest. These diseases are all related to inflammation from this latent heat escaping anywhere in the body and is the underlying cause of chronic diseases such as arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, auto-immune disorders and cancer. 

Breaking the Addiction cycle is about CHOICE --

The more severe the addiction, the more involved a person's treatment may need to be. However, it's ultimately about choice. We've all seen people with longterm addictions to cigarettes who stopped smoking on a dime when they made up their mind to do so for whatever reason. Chinese Medicine is a powerful ally to support a person to clear the fire in the blood in order to reduce the restless emotions and the addictive cravings. Cultivating a daily routine of calming practices such as taking nature walks and doing Qi Gong, Tai Chi, Yoga and Meditation are very important especially during the summer season to help calm the emotions so one can regain mental control of their lives and break the addiction cycle.

From a dietary perspective, eat more of a vegetarian diet during the hot summer months and follow a diet that is cooling and alkalizing for the body. And always remember, those morning protein smoothies that include everything but the kitchen sink, well, they induce a lot of dampness and heat in the body so try to simplify your morning smoothie and have a nice green vegetable based juice instead to alkalize your body.

Green juices have a bitter, cooling nature that effectively drain and clear out the heat in the blood, calm the heart and mind and help you to once again gain mental control over your emotions. 

Calming the Heart supports cultivating Self-Love --

As the blood becomes more alkaline, the Heart energy calms down and this allows the Kidney Jing, also called Essence, to be conserved. Conserving one's Kidney Essence relates to cultivating Self-Love because the Kidney energy relates to one's relationship with oneself.  

Essentially, through the process of calming the Heart, a person becomes more Spiritually oriented as one's desires of the heart begin to settle down and become less important in one's life. This process of detaching from one's desires allows one's sense of Self-Love to grow and expand.

If you find yourself this summer getting a bit overwhelmed, frazzled and feeling "out of control", remember, you have a choice to be calm, to cultivate detachment and embrace yourself with more love as you sit back and sip your tall glass of green vegetable juice. 

Start your day this way and you'll really enjoy your summer with a happy calm heart!


Salvador Cefalu, L.Ac. is the Founder & Co-Director of A Center for Natural Healing in Santa Clara, CA, a wellness clinic that specializes in Classical Chinese Medicine & Japanese Meridian Therapy, a rare non-insertion form of Acupuncture. More information at www.acenterfornaturalhealing.com