5 Reasons to Drink Yerba Mate

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Reasons to Drink Yerba Mate

  1. Strengthens Your Body & Boosts Your Immunity

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

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

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

  2. Gives You Energy without Caffeine Jitters

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

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

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

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

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

  3. Clears Toxins from Your Body

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

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

  4. Helps Improve Digestion & Elimination

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

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

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

  5. Can Help You Get Rid of Stubborn Belly Fat

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

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

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



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

The Upside to Feeling Down: The 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liver Qi Stagnation Generates Heat

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

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

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

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

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

The Liver Can Insult the Lungs

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liver Qi Stagnation Can Lead to Liver Blood Stagnation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What You Can Do to Balance Your Liver Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

6 Dietary Tips to Support Your Winter Health

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Transitioning into Winter: The Doyo Period & Your Family Relationships

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Begin the Process of Healing Your Relationships

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

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

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

  2. Creating healthy boundaries.

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

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

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

5 Tips to Stay Healthy through the Holiday Season

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

The holiday season is both beautiful and challenging.

Sure, it’s easy to cultivate yourself and maybe even reach enlightenment while you’re away from society, meditating in the Himalayan mountains. But can you achieve this same state of peace and presence when you get triggered by a family member during a discussion about the past?

Top that challenge off with the changes in your diet, the weather, the stress of buying gifts, and of course your immune system can suffer.

Luckily, if you gather your tools and apply them, the holiday season has great potential for healing. And if you don’t overdo it with the shopping and sugar, you may even strike enough of a balance to feel great.

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5 Tips to Help You Stay Healthy Through the Holidays:

  1. Sleep more - less sunlight during shorter days increases the secretion of melatonin in the body and naturally supports us to sleep longer hours. Try not to resist this need for more sleep (with more sugar and caffeine!) and be mindful to allow more time for rest overall.


  2. Practice Yoga or Qi Gong regularly - doing a daily practice that connects breath with movement helps you be more present in your daily life so you can attune yourself to your needs and the choices that will be most nurturing for your self-care. Plus, it’s essential to keep your Lung Qi strong for healthy immunity and resistance to colds, flus and other infections.


  3. Take colloidal silver - known to stimulate the immune system, regular intake of colloidal silver can help ward off infection and disease. Other benefits of colloidal silver include that it can kill pathogens, oxygenate the body and lower inflammation.

    This is why Dr. Stephen West, DL, PMD (son of Dr. C. Samuel West, DN, ND, renowned chemist and internationally recognized lymphologist), concludes, “Silver ions stimulate the lymphatic system by cleaning out the dead cells and bringing oxygen to the healthy cells.”

    I can say from personal experience that my immune system has never felt stronger since I was introduced colloidal silver, and I don’t even take it every day. You can find out more information at The Silver Edge.


  4. Create healthy boundaries - you don’t have to say yes to all the holiday parties and gatherings and even if you do, try to shift back to a healthy regimen that resonates with what you know will help you stay strong. Enjoy yourself but then remember to nurture yourself if you overdid it. Eat soups, reduce sugar, dairy and gluten, and properly hydrate to help cleanse the body of the unhealthy food and drink that can compromise your immune system.

    Try to keep boundaries not only with your relationships but also with the choices you make with your self-care.

    Eating warm, nourishing foods and lots of vegetables when you can ensures that you’re enjoying equally clean, healthy foods to balance out the indulgence of holiday gatherings.

    Like your Lung Qi, your Spleen Qi is essential to your immune function, so eating a lot of sugar or just eating too much too often will tax the Spleen Qi and leave you feeling groggy and exhausted.

  5. Be gentle with yourself - the pressure of the holiday season can only wear on you if you let it. Take time to do the things you love, even if that means spending some time alone, take time in nature and let go of perfection.

    Naturally, you won’t eat the way you normally do, be as active or keep a regular daily rhythm during the holidays, especially if you travel to see loved ones during this time.

    Just be present with the changes and savor the joy and challenges with your family and friends knowing that it’s all supporting your growth and helping you on your journey to greater wellness.

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.

How Your Gut Feeling Relates to Your Gut Health

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

We've all walked away from situations where we wish we'd listened to our 'gut feeling' - that still, small voice that seems to speak from the depths of our solar plexus to give us guidance that always directs us toward our heart's truest desires. At times, the direction we're being pointed may seem illogical, but looking back we realize there was always a reason for this guidance. 

When you struggle to listen to your gut feeling, it’s often because this feeling is being obstructed by excessive processing in the mind as well as the digestive system.

Understanding the connection between the gut that's related to your digestion and the gut feeling that guides you in the most favorable directions in your life is essential to your well being.

 

Understanding Digestion According to Chinese Medicine

In Chinese Medicine, the Spleen and Stomach comprise the Earth element which is said to govern the late Summer and all seasonal transitions. This is why it’s important for us to pay attention to and strengthen these digestive organs during times of transition (seasonal or otherwise) in our lives.

According to Chinese Medicine, the Spleen is mostly responsible for the breakdown and transformation of food to produce Qi energy, blood and fluids. It is also the organ that is most likely to accumulate phlegm or dampness from improper food choices and weakness in its transformation function.

Digestion of food can be impeded by stress and too much consumption of damp or phlegm-producing foods such as dairy, sugar, and processed foods. 

The Spleen is also the organ that governs our thinking process and, because of this, it’s the first organ to be affected by overthinking and being obsessive compulsive.

For this reason, it's common for students who are mentally overstimulated for extended periods of time to develop weak Spleen Qi, or energy. Weakness of the Spleen energy will cause a reduction in mental focus and concentration and create a lower level of energy production in general. This can manifest as fatigue.

Fatigue leads students to grab fast foods and sugar for quick energy, but this energy burns fast. In addition, these types of foods can be toxic and create dampness in the Spleen, thereby weakening the digestive system and creating a vicious loop of low energy and poor decision making with food choices. 

Since students tend to be young adults their tolerance is in general higher than older individuals. However, even these young adults will crash over time with physical symptoms ranging from allergies and asthma, to digestive problems and even fibromyalgia that can manifest as a result of severe Spleen weakness causing muscle pain throughout the body.

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 The Spleen and Stomach Digest Thoughts, Ideas, Emotions, and Food

Your digestive system is not just digesting the coffee and scone you ate for breakfast, but also what the woman at the coffee shop said to you this morning or the argument you had with your spouse, or the earful of stressful news you heard at work. 

The busier the mind, the greater the burden on the Spleen to break down the plethora of thoughts and information you are processing throughout the day.

Metaphorically, the Spleen has to transform this information similarly to the way it does food because the Spleen controls your Yi, your Mind. So what you digest either physically or psychologically will impact your state of mind.

Furthermore, your physical state is impacted by your mental state. For example, excessive stress causes the body to produce cortisol, the primary stress hormone, much of which is actually produced in the gut. Increased cortisol levels lead to the proliferation of an unhealthy microbiome in the gut, which can lead to indigestion, fatigue, insomnia, as well as problems relating to your brain and mental function. 

When you eat while you’re in a meeting you’re putting twice the impact on the Spleen as it not only has to process the food that you’re eating but also all the information from the meeting.

Having your energy diverted to your mental processing inhibits sufficient energy to support your digest. Over time this pattern will cause a serious dysfunction in the digestive system and weaken the Spleen energy. This then leads to common complaints such as fatigue, poor digestion, muscle weakness, and generalized body pain since the Spleen also governs the muscles.

The fact that your mental and digestive processes are so connected makes it clear that your gut health will impact your ability to listen to and follow your gut feeling.

The Gut-Brain Axis Helps Us Understand How Emotions Affect Digestion

Modern research on the gut-brain axis (GBA), which refers to the biochemical signaling that takes place between the gastrointestinal tract and the central nervous system (CNS), affirms the connection between the mind, emotions and the digestive system.

Both clinical and experimental evidence suggest that enteric microbiota has an important impact on GBA, interacting not only locally with intestinal cells and the enteric nervous system (ENS), but also directly with the central nervous system (CNS).

The vagus nerve, the longest cranial nerve in the body, passes through the neck to the abdomen and interfaces with parasympathetic control of the heart, lungs and digestive tract. Evidence indicates that microbiota communication with the brain involves the vagus nerve, which transmits information from the luminal environment to the central nervous system (CNS). The enteric microbiota is distributed in the human gastrointestinal tract and relative abundance and distribution along the intestine is similar among healthy individuals. This microbial community has important metabolic and physiological functions and contributes to homeostasis.

The constant communication and interplay between the gut and the brain has the potential to influence and intersect with sleep both directly and indirectly. Breus (2016) summarizes some of the ways that might occur:

  • Mood. Disruptions and imbalance of gut microbes have been strongly connected to anxiety and depression. This has potentially significant implications for sleep, as both anxiety and depression can trigger or exacerbate sleep disruptions.

  • Stress. Research is also revealing a complicated, two-way relationship between stress and gut health. Stress is an extremely common obstacle to healthy, sufficient sleep.

  • Hormones. The intestinal microbiome produces and releases many of the same neurotransmitters, including dopamine, serotonin, melatonin and GABA, which help to regulate mood, and also help to promote sleep.

In sum, the health of the gut impacts the health of the brain and therefore our ability to process information, manage stress, balance our emotions, and digest and assimilate food.

 

Tuning in to Your Gut Feeling

Since so much of your mental, emotional and food processing occurs in the gut, gut health is essential to your overall health.

A healthy microbiome in the gut supports ease in the digestive process, which supports healthy elimination, and results in clarity of mind.

In the same way, the combination of a well-balanced diet, a clear, calm mind and harmonious emotions support the production of healthy microbiome in the gut to support digestive and overall health.

When your body is healthy and your mind is calm, you have the clarity to hear and listen to the still small voice that always provides you with the least resistant path to achieve your goals and dreams.

Healthy digestion thus allows attunement to your instincts and a closer connection to the guidance that's offered by your gut feeling.

Staying on Purpose: Insights on the Heart/Kidney Relationship

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

The relationship between the Heart and the Kidneys in Chinese Medicine is the basis for having a clear sense of purpose and the drive to live out that purpose.

Physiologically, the Heart plays a vital role in sustaining our lives, bringing oxygenated blood throughout the body to nourish its estimated 100 trillion cells. On the other hand, the Kidneys are vital organs that help eliminate waste products from the blood to prevent autointoxication.

In Chinese Medicine these two organ systems have other dynamic and critical functions that are important to understand if we are to cultivate healthy longevity in body, mind and spirit.

The Heart stores the Shen, or Spirit, and the Kidneys store the Zhi, or Willpower.

The Kidneys are also the storage center for the Jing, or Essence.

Jing is our most precious substance as it relates to the constitutional aspect of our physical body, i.e. our genetic material. The more well preserved our genes, the more well preserved our physical health.

The process of preserving this precious resource is essential because the Kidney Essence relates to our reproductive resources on a hormonal level as well.

Your body's hormonal status declines with age, so preventing the acceleration of this decline process is key to promoting graceful aging. Daoist cultivation practices for physical health are based upon slowing down this process.

Equally as important as the Kidney Essence is the Spirit and how it becomes embodied during the process of our physical creation. 

The Spirit and Conception

At the time of conception, the Jing of both parents unites and captures the Cosmic Qi of the Spirit to be incarnated.

This Cosmic Qi contains an incarnating Spirit's Zhi, or Willpower, also referred to as the Will.  This Will is the driving force behind a Spirit's incarnation and gestational development. This spiritual energy called the Zhi, or Will, becomes stored in the Kidneys upon development.

Once conception happens, the three trimesters of the gestational period unfold during which not only the body forms but also the Spirit of the baby becomes more fully embodied. 

 

How the Body and Spirit Integrate During Gestation

According to Chinese Medicine, there are three main aspects to the Spirit, known as the Po, Shen and Hun.

During the first trimester of pregnancy, the first Spirit that gets embodied is called the Po. This is said to be the most physically dense of the other soul Spirits.

The Po is the soul that's stored in the Lungs. 

Earth energy keeps the Po connected to the developing fetus during the first trimester of pregnancy. This is why it's indicated to support the Spleen, which along with the Stomach is one of the primary Earth organs, during the first trimester in order to prevent miscarriage. During the first trimester, it's also common for pregnant women to suffer from morning sickness with nausea and vomiting, symptoms that can be attributed to a weak Spleen. When the Spleen's Qi energy is very weak during the first trimester, prolapse and leakages are likely to occur, and this can lead to a miscarriage.

During the second trimester, the programming of a person's new life begins. This is the trimester associated with the Fire Element, the Heart and the Shen/Spirit it contains.

During the second trimester, the Shen becomes programmed with the life curriculum that a person is going to experience. This life curriculum contains one's purpose in life. Once this embodied Spirit called the Shen begins to gather information about one's life curriculum, the experiences needed to fulfill this curriculum begin to get programmed into the blood. This leads us to the third trimester.

The third trimester relates to the Wood element and the Liver organ. The embodied Spirit that gets stored in the Liver is called the Hun.

The Hun is like our 'collective consciousness' that contains a record of all memories - past, present and future. So as the blood gets programmed with all of this information, it gets recorded and stored in the Hun of the Liver making this organ a very important system for the health of our memory retrieval.

Once a baby is born, these three spirits - the Po, Shen and Hun - become more and more integrated until around the age of five when the process is complete. 

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The organ systems are in general weak and delicate until we mature. With puberty, the Kidney's Yang Qi, called Ming Men, or Life Gate Fire, also becomes strong. 

The blossoming of the Kidney's Life Gate Fire is the impetus for the Zhi, or Will, to take life on as a young adult and to move the Kidney's Yin resources, the Jing, in a way that will allow one's life curriculum to unfold.

It is therefore imperative that both the Kidney Yin (Jing) and the Kidney Yang (Ming Men), both of which are related to the Water element, are abundant and flowing freely. This ensures that the Water energy will not become stagnant or accumulate toxicity so that our life curriculum, which ultimately gets stored into the level of Jing, can unfold naturally as we grow and mature as individuals.

Furthermore, when the Water energy is strong and pure it is able to properly manage the Fire energy.

If there is excessive Fire energy in the Heart, the mind will become overactive, manifesting as restlessness, insomnia, anxiety, and even mania. The excess Fire person will struggle with too many distractions and lack clarity of mind to live out his or her dharma or purpose in life.

Excessive Fire can cause a person to make choices in life that are counter to his or her dharma and thereby divert from experiencing a sense of completion in life. 

On the other hand, if Fire energy is too weak, a person can become emotionally cold and not feel joy or a sense of interest in life. The weak Fire person is essentially apathetic to having a purpose at all. In this state, the willpower and passion to live are lacking or, in Chinese Medicine terms, the energy of Water and Fire are deficient. 

 

Balance Between Fire and Water Allows Us to Stay On Purpose

A healthy balance between the Kidney's Water energy and the Heart's Fire energy ensures strong Heart/Kidney communication.

Through this interrelationship, we're able to establish healthy self-love and a clear sense of purpose in our lives.

Strong Kidney energy allows us the willpower to fulfill our Heart's desires and live out our destiny. Working together, the Heart and Kidney energies motivate us to have dreams and provide us with the drive to pursue those dreams.

Nevertheless, we have a freedom of choice as to whether to live out our path in this lifetime or choose instead to deviate and go a different way. The latter choice would be considered the result of weak communication between one's Heart and Kidneys.

Fortunately, Chinese Medicine which has created these theoretical models has also created tools with which to cultivate a strong Heart-Kidney relationship. This can be done through Qi Gong and meditation, Acupuncture, herbal medicine, and nutrition to help rebalance Fire and Water energies so that we all have the opportunity to fulfill our life purpose.

Body, Mind & Spirit According to Chinese Medicine

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

The integration of body, mind and spirit is essential to holistic healing practices and is gaining an increased level of importance in the conventional medical world as well. Having once been considered non-scientific, this trinitarian concept is becoming embraced by Western medicine and accepted as an integral basis for explaining the cause of certain health disorders, especially those considered to be idiopathic or psychosomatic. 

Chinese Medicine has established a theoretical model that's based on this trinity as well and forms a framework to help us understand these concepts systematically in order to gain greater clarity about the integration of our body, mind and spirit.

 

The Trinity of the Triple Heater System

Early Daoist philosophers who were fundamental in establishing Chinese medical theory were also intrigued with this trinitarian concept of body, mind and spirit. These philosophers articulated this trinity in terms of Heaven, Humanity and Earth to explain our connection to the universe. Superimposed on the body, the microcosmic system of this macrocosmic trinity is referred to as the Triple Heater.

The Triple Heater is a system comprised of three energy centers: the head, the chest and the abdominal/pelvic region.

The head is part of the Upper Heater and relates to Heaven; the chest comprises the Middle Heater, which relates to Humanity; the abdominal and pelvic regions comprise the Lower Heater and relate to Earth.

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The Upper Heater Relates to the Level of Heaven

The Spirit can be related to the Upper Heater of the Triple Heater system by virtue of the brain and the sensory organs of the eyes, ears and nose.

According to Daoist teachings, the sensory organs of sight, hearing and smell are considered gateways and when 'opened' allow an awakening of perception to higher dimensions of consciousness.

In Chinese Medicine, the head - because of its location on top of the body - is in closest proximity to Heaven's energy above. This gives the brain a close relationship to the energy of Fire. Since the brain as an organ is supported by the Kidney system, it also relates to the element of Water.

This creates an interesting association of the brain as Fire and Water - two energies in opposition based on the control cycle in Five Element theory.

Since the brain has aspects of both Fire and Water, a healthy balance of these two energies is required for optimal function.

Chinese Medicine has established diagnostic parameters for assessing the activity of these energies within the body which helps guide the treatment process to bring these energies into a state of greater balance. Through this process, a normalization of organ function can be achieved to impact one's mind, body and spirit.

 

The Middle Heater Relates to Level of Humanity

The Middle Heater of the Triple Heater system is comprised of the chest and relates to the Heart and Pericardium organs which are associated with the Fire element and the level of Humanity.

The Shen, or spirit, is stored in the Heart.  Fire energy is about "intelligence" and "awareness" so in this way we see the correlation of the Heart and the Middle Heater with the level of Humanity as an expression of higher intelligence.

Physically, the pericardium is a protective membrane around the heart and in Chinese Medicine the major function of the Pericardium organ is more metaphorical as it protects our spirit from emotional trauma.

It is said that the Pericardium holds the traumas that occur in one's lifetime and therefore protects one's spirit from being disrupted by past emotional stresses.

However, if there is an excessive amount of trapped energy in the Pericardium from past emotional stress, a person's heart and mind will be impacted physically and psychologically causing health disorders of the heart itself or mental illness.

 

The Lower Heater Relates to the Level of Earth

Corresponding to the Kidney system and the Water Element is the Lower Heater and this level energetically most closely relates to the health of the body itself. Water comes from the earth, so the energetics of the Lower Heater helps us gather energy from the earth to sustain our physical life.

Your Jing, or Essential Qi, is stored in the Kidney system and corresponds on a cellular level to your genetic material, the chromosomes and DNA.

Since Jing or Essential Qi is stored in the Kidneys, the health of your physical body intimately relates to the Water energy. Daoist practices are generally based on the idea of "Yang Shen", to nourish life. From this perspective, we see how nourishing our life is about sustaining cellular health and maintaining healthy gene expression.

Telomeres, a segment of DNA at the end of chromosomes, are indicators of cellular health. As the telomeres shorten, the lifespan of the genes shorten, so we can see how the integrity of the genes and the process of aging relates to the abundance of Water energy contained by the body.

In this regard, maintaining the health of the Kidneys, including the genitourinary and reproductive systems as a whole, is integral to maintaining the health of the physical body.

 

Balance Among the Triple Heaters is Essential to Balance in Body, Mind and Spirit

Historically, the belief in psychosomatic causes of disease was readily accepted in Chinese Medicine.

Chapter 8 of the ancient text the Ling Shu, or Spiritual Pivot, the canon of Acupuncture dating back to the 5th Century B.C., states that "all diseases are rooted in Spirit."  

From a Daoist Chinese medical perspective, it's clear that maintaining the health of the spirit supports the health of the mind and spirit. With these aspects being rooted in the Triple Heater system of the body, we can understand that maintaining balance of these heaters on a physical level is essential to having balance in body, mind and spirit. 

5 Teas to Grow in Your Garden This Summer

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

Each season has its gifts and the greatest gift of Summer is that the longer, warmer days encourage us to be more active, social and to spend more time outdoors.

But like anything, this Fire energy that keeps us active must be balanced in order to prevent it from becoming pathological (learn more about Fire energy here and here). 

Since summertime is inherently warmer, it's important to harmonize this heat with more cooling foods and drinks. 

*These 5 non-caffeinated teas will not only help you stay cool and hydrated during the hot Summer days, but they're also packed with extraordinary benefits to support your health year round.

Each one can easily be grown in a small pot right in your garden or balcony then dried or steeped fresh in hot water to make a delicious cooling tea.

 

1. Peppermint 

Peppermint is one of the most popular herbs used to make tea.

Peppermint is one of the most popular herbs used to make tea.

Also known as Mentha piperita, Peppermint is one of the most popular and rapidly growing herbs in the world.

The menthol in Peppermint creates both a cooling flavor and effect to help with fever and inflammation.

Peppermint helps reduce inflammation and improves digestion. It's one of the most common oils and teas used to treat gastrointestinal issues including bloating, cramping, constipation, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). 

Peppermint tea is also antispasmodic, so it helps to treat vomiting and nausea as well as respiratory conditions that may be present during a cold or flu.

In Chinese Medicine, Peppermint is one of the most important herbs to regulate Liver Qi which can manifest as agitation, irritability and PMS. It's also commonly used to clear Wind Heat with symptoms that include headache, fever, nasal congestion, dry cough, as well as sore eyes and throat.

Besides alleviating symptoms, Peppermint tea protects against bacteria and can boost immune function. Its menthol flavor helps remove bad breath and its antibacterial properties kill the germs that can lead to halitosis.

 

2. Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm grows abundantly in my mother's backyard.

Lemon Balm grows abundantly in my mother's backyard.

Lemon Balm, or Melissa officinalis,  is both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. In addition to its antioxidant benefits, Lemon Balm can reduce chronic inflammation, help protect against disease and relieve pain. 

Studies have shown that both Lemon Balm essential oil and extract can support the treatment of diabetes by reducing blood sugar levels and reducing oxidative stress related to diabetes.

Lemon Balm is my favorite herbal tea for anxiety and insomnia.

Lemon Balm can help relax the nervous system, supporting improved mood and better sleep. You'll notice how light your heart feels after drinking a cup of Lemon Balm tea.

From a Chinese medical point of view, Lemon Balm clears Liver and Heart Fire, both of which can cause the emotions to flare up. By clearing this Fire, Lemon Balm calms the spirit, known as the shen. Lemon Balm essential oil can help relax and open the chest as well as descend Stomach Qi to alleviate vomiting, belching, morning sickness, vomiting, and food stasis.

Lemon Balm essential oil (also known as Melissa) is also helpful for reducing PMS symptoms and for treating the herpes virus when used topically during an outbreak and to increase time between outbreaks.

Like many of the other teas on this list, Lemon Balm is beneficial as a digestive aid.

We love to grow Lemon Verbena in our backyard. The gorgeous leaves can be dried or steeped freshly into hot water to make a soothing herbal tea.

We love to grow Lemon Verbena in our backyard. The gorgeous leaves can be dried or steeped freshly into hot water to make a soothing herbal tea.

3. Lemon Verbena

Lemon Verbena is one of my favorite plants that grows right in our backyard.

Scientifically known as Aloysia citrodora, Lemon Verbena is a perennial shrub that has a strong lemony scent when touched. The leaves can be dried then steeped to support metabolic processes.

Packed with antioxidants, this tea can help reduce inflammation and anxiety through its effects in hormonal balancing. It's also been shown to reduce oxidative stress levels leading to stronger immune function.

Lemon Verbena is a great digestive aid that also clears phlegm and dampness, helping to reduce bacteria as well as congestion.

 

4. Lemon Peel

Lemon Peel, or lemon zest, can be steeped in hot water to make a cooling tea. It contains a full spectrum of vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin C, Vitamin A and potassium, and is more nutrient dense than lemon fruit and juice.

Lemon Peel also contains high amounts of fiber so it can help prevent and treat constipation.

Lemon Peel makes an easy and healthy homemade tea that's packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber.

Lemon Peel makes an easy and healthy homemade tea that's packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber.

This tea cools the Liver which can help alleviate irritability, anger and even allergies.

With its high content of calcium, lemon peel supports healthy teeth, hair and nails. Its antimicrobial properties ward off a host of bacteria.

 

5. Chamomile

Chamomile, also known as Martricaria Chamomilla, is an annual plant with white flowers that's commonly used in traditional medicine for anxiety, insomnia and digestive disorders including heartburn, nausea and vomiting.

Chamomile is rich in antioxidants, is anti-inflammatory and is also cooling for the Liver.

Steaming Chamomile extract and breathing in the steam can be effective to treat common cold symptoms.

A recent extensive study published in Molecular Medicine Reports describes the use of Chamomile in traditional medicine with regard to evaluating its curative and preventive properties. The study explains that the flowers of Chamomile contain 1–2% volatile oils that possess anti-inflammatory properties.

The authors also discuss the anticancer properties of Chamomile, noting that preclinical models of skin, prostate, breast and ovarian cancer have shown promising growth inhibitory effects.

Chamomile is cooling and can have a calming effect on both the nervous system and gastrointestinal system. Studies in preclinical models suggest that Chamomile inhibits Helicobacter pylori, the bacteria that can contribute to stomach ulcers. Chamomile is believed to be helpful in reducing smooth muscle spasms associated with various gastrointestinal inflammatory disorders.**

From a Chinese medical point of view, Chamomile is especially effective to regulate Liver Qi for symptoms such as headaches, anger outbursts, intercostal distention, muscle cramps and spasms, dysmenorrhea, and PMS. It also helps clear Liver Fire that can be caused by excessive emotions, especially Liver Fire that invades the Spleen and Stomach causing epigastric burning and reflux that's aggravated by stress, and even ulcers.

Chamomile's sedative effect helps calm anxiety and hyperactivity, and makes it a great sleep aid.

The efficacy of Chamomile is amplified as an essential oil though these benefits can be experienced to an extent by drinking the tea.

Chamomile is a flower that can be dried and steeped in hot water to make a cooling, calming tea.

Chamomile is a flower that can be dried and steeped in hot water to make a cooling, calming tea.


*Please note: this article is for educational purposes only. Please consult your healthcare practitioner to determine what foods and drinks are suitable for your condition. 

** Srivastava, J., Shankar, E. and Gupta, S. Chamomile: A Herbal Medicine fo the Past with Bright Future. Molecular Medicine Report. 2010 Nov 1; 3(6): 895-901.

6 Tips to Have Your Healthiest Summer Yet

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

Each season is inherently associated with an element that grows stronger during its season. One of the most important ways to maintain your health throughout the year is to understand the various associations and learn how to balance these energies from season to season.

The Fire energy grows strong as we transition into Summer. 

Fire is associated with creativity, inspiration, connection, and gives us the ability to be present in our lives. When out of balance, Fire energy leads to inflammation, fatigue, burnout and aging (learn more here).

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These 6 tips will help you stay cool and balanced throughout the season:

1) Stay hydrated: a good general tip is to drink 1/2 of your weight in ounces of water, i.e. if you weigh 150 pounds, try to drink 75 ounces of water per day.

2) Eat cooling foods such as celery, watermelon and cucumbers and cooling teas such as peppermint, chamomile, lemon verbena, and green tea that are especially therapeutic on days when the weather is warmer. 

3) Avoid eating too much fruit. Summer fruits are hydrating and make wonderful Summer treats. Just be sure to eat them - like anything - in moderation. Too much sweet fruit can create dampness and lead to more heat and inflammation in the body. Dampness and phlegm negatively impacts the digestive system and leads to fatigue and weight gain. Keep a healthy balance of cooked and raw foods in your diet and stay lighter with your meals in the warmer months. 

4) Exercise early in the day: Do high activity exercise first thing in the morning when the weather is cooler. You can do more gentle exercises in the evening. Cooling practices such as Qi Gong and Yin Yoga are excellent ways to calm the mind and counter the heat of the season.

5) Spend more time outdoors, but don't forget your internal cultivation. Mangano Calcite, our Summer balancing stone (see below), can provide support.

6) Play more: have fun, open your Heart, and allow the playful energy of this warm season to weave through all aspects of your life!

 

Summer Balancing Stone: Mangano Calcite

Mangano Calcite is an excellent stone to cool and calm the heart and mind.

Mangano Calcite is an excellent stone to cool and calm the heart and mind.

In general, calcites provide a fast acting cooling effect on the body, so they can be used for acute cases of excessive heat, or Fire.

Mangano Calcite calms a nervous heart and temperamental mind. 

This stone clears heat that can cause agitation and high blood pressure, allowing for greater clarity and focus. 

The pink color of Mangano Calcite comes from the mineral manganese which influences balanced function in the brain and the entire nervous system, especially in regards to inducing a relaxation effect on the motor nerves that control muscle function. 

Signs for using a manganese stone such as Mangano Calcite include an acute period of impatience, anger, quarrel, anxiety, heart palpitations and general nervousness.

Mangano Calcite is an important stone to strengthen Heart Qi and move Heart Blood to treat cardiac insufficiency and shortness of breath.

Among the calcites, Mangano Calcite is the most appropriate for intentional work. It can be taped in the depression under the ball of the foot at Kidney 1 or at the tailbone to ground your energy during Qi Gong practice. 

Even when used topically on acupuncture points or simply held in the hand or on the center of the chest, the vibration of Mangano Calcite is quite potent to quickly induce relaxation and calmness in the body and mind.

You can experiment with the power of Mangano Calcite if you ever experience an acute bout of anxiety or anger. It's likely you'll notice it help quickly cool your temper and calm your mind.

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.

Restore Movement to Restore Your Health

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

In Chinese Medicine, one of the fundamental ways to optimize the health of the body begins through restoring and normalizing the movement of energy within the body. 

This article will outline key zones of the body where energy flow can become bound up and why releasing these restricted areas is essential to normalizing body function in order to optimize health.

 

The Yin & Yang of Movement

As the basis of Chinese Medicine, the concepts of Yin and Yang are depicted as the dark and light divisions of a Tai Ji circle. 

Yin and Yang are two parts of the whole. Yin is the solid part relating to form and Yang is the non-solid part relating to function. Together, Yin and Yang create the material world of form and function. 

Philosophically, there is no separation of Yin and Yang in the living world as there is always Yang within Yin and Yin within Yang as can be seen in the tiniest atomic particle (Yin) which contains a tremendous amount of energy and power (Yang).

In this view, our body’s structure (the form) is seen as Yin, while the body’s function is Yang.

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Qi, often translated as energy, is an aspect of Yang, and relates to function and movement. When there is proper Qi flow in the body, there is a normalization of movement within the body including the normal flow of Yin circulation which includes all the fluid substances.

Internal fluid circulations include such things as the vascular system and the movement of blood throughout the body, the secretion of glandular and organ fluids to support the many aspects of organ function and metabolism, and the distribution of lymphatic fluids to support healthy immune function and proper detoxification. 

These Yin fluid circulations occur because of the movement of the organ energies in relation to the Five elements.

 

Understanding Movement through the Five Element Energetic Vectors

In Chinese philosophy, the universe is a macrocosmic system made of elemental energies described as the Five Elements. Each of the Five Elements relate to a pair of organ systems and the movement of each of these elemental energies support its respective organs' ability to function.

When in balance these elemental energies all move within the body in a concerted manner to create harmonious function between the organ systems.  Ensuring that these energies move according to their nature is fundamental to keeping the body and mind healthy. 

The following Five Elemental energies support Qi flow throughout the body:

The Wood Element is related to the Liver and the Gallbladder organs. The Wood element energetically supports the ascension of energy, like a tree shooting up into the sky. In this way, the Liver organ supports sending blood into the head for nourishment and healthy function of the brain. The Gallbladder system is important to release the pressure and stagnation out of the brain, in other words, to detoxify the brain. 

The Fire Element is related to the Heart. Fire energy spreads upward and outward, similar to how a fire spreads in nature.  This Fire energy supports the spreading of circulation throughout the body, especially into the four limbs to bring warmth. If a person has cold hands and feet, this indicates that the Fire energy needs more support. On the other hand, when the Fire energy is too hot, the Heart and Mind will be overstimulated leading to a state of being anxious and mentally "scattered".

The Earth Element governs gathering and consolidating energy into the center of the body. In this way, Earth energy supports the Spleen and Stomach for proper digestion and elimination. Through the consolidation of energy into the center, energy then spirals upward and downward to support the transformation process attributed to these two organs. Specifically, the Spleen ascends energy extrapolated from food into the heart for the final production of blood (according to Chinese Medicine) and ascends fluids into the lungs and into the head so there is proper moisture for all the sensory organs (eyes, ears, nose and mouth) to function optimally. The Stomach on the other hand, descends the energy so the digested food can transport smoothly through the intestines on its way to being eliminated. 

The Metal Element governs the Lungs and Large Intestine to descend energy through the body. 

Essentially, the downward movement of Lung Qi (energy) supports peristalsis of the Large Intestine for bowel movements, and descends energy through the Bladder for urination. The Lungs also descend energy to support the release of blood during menstruation. The downward movement of energy, in general, is facilitated through deep respiration, hence the benefit of belly breathing for "getting out of our head" and reducing the over-ascension of energy in times of stress.

The Water Element relates to the Kidneys which is about the state of inertia, or stillness. Through the process of being still, we can recuperate our energy so we can then move outwardly into the world. When the Kidney energy is weak, the lumbar region often tightens up and restricts our ability to move. This is an innate response by the body in its effort to consolidate energy back into its core. Lumbar pain and stiffness, if not due to injury, is therefore seen as a symptom of weakness in the Water energy of the body.  An injury to the lumbar region will create weakness in the Kidney Water energy as well, especially when it is a chronic condition. 

 

The Four Rings

There are four circumferential regions in the body where excessive muscular tension and pressure develops thus inhibiting movement and the circulation of the Five Element vectors of Qi described above.

All of the organ and glandular systems reside within four cavities of the body divided by these four regions: the head, the thoracic, the abdominal and the pelvic cavities. 

An important part of evaluating a person’s physical functionality is through assessing the tightness around the four rings of tension that separate these regions anatomically. 

Each of these muscular rings of tension have the following anatomical associations:

  1. The occipital, temporal-mandibular joint and hyoid bone 
  2. The clavicular region made up of the scalene muscles, sternocleidomastoid muscles and the trapezius muscles
  3. The diaphragmatic region created by the diaphragm muscle
  4. The pelvic region created by the muscular tension around the waist associated with the psoas, para-vertebral, quadratus lumborum and abdominal muscles.
Acupuncture treatment as well as practices like Yoga and Qi Gong can help release tension and restriction in the body's four rings.

Acupuncture treatment as well as practices like Yoga and Qi Gong can help release tension and restriction in the body's four rings.

When these regions hold abnormal tension, the increased pressure will impede movement in the related external structures as well as the organs that lie within these areas as well. This is how normal body function begins to decline both externally and internally.

It's essential to have freedom of movement in all four rings as chronic tension patterns can stay trapped in the body indefinitely until they are released.

A number of physical therapies as well as Yoga and Qi Gong exercises are especially effective to release these four rings. One of the primary therapies is Acupuncture.

The purpose of Acupuncture is to normalize Qi flow throughout the body both internally and externally. In this process of normalizing Qi flow, function and movement are restored.

As a result, Acupuncture also reduces and can resolve pain patterns, but this effect is often overlooked by the medical establishment. 

In fact, a common misunderstanding by Western medical science is that Acupuncture only temporarily numbs pain by blocking pain signals to the brain. In reality, Acupuncture restores function to allow the body to move more freely without pain. 

In the process of restoring functionality, the overall health of the body is restored as well. 

 

Conclusion

Abnormal or lack of movement within the body not only decreases function but it also impedes the normal detoxification processes imperative for health and vitality.

Freedom of movement is therefore necessary to restore healthy function throughout the body.

Healthy movement is induced and supported by manual therapies such as Acupuncture, physical therapy and bodywork, and can also be restored through gentle exercises such as Yoga and Qi Gong practices.

Spring Cleaning for Your Body and Mind

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

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As we move deeper into the Spring season, you may feel the desire to clean up and create more space in your environment and life.

Every year our hometown hosts a Spring Cleanup Campaign that gives us the opportunity to clear out any old items and waste that’s accumulated over the past year. It’s incredible how much we unconsciously accumulate and it’s no wonder our minds often feel so cluttered as well.

Your outer world is a direct reflection of your inner world, so the more clear and open you can make your environment, the more clarity you’ll feel inside.

Last year I became inspired to tidy up using the KonMari Method and it was amazingly powerful in helping us reduce - and keep away - so much clutter. KonMari founder, Marie Kondo, recommends that you go through all of your belongings and only keep the items that 'spark joy.' In other words, only keep what makes you truly feel happy, whether it’s a suit, a necklace or a notepad.

The idea of surrounding ourselves only with things that “spark joy” has made a tremendous impact on my and Salvador's personal life and continues to enhance the beauty of our sacred spaces at home and in our clinic. It also has created space for each of us to find more ways to practice and share self-cultivation and self-care.

Marie Kondo herself states that “when your room is clean and uncluttered, you have no choice but to examine your inner state.”

As you tidy up your external space, you may feel the need to clear your internal space - both body and mind - as well.

Since Springtime relates to the Liver, this is the ideal time of year to do a Liver cleanse.

Severe seasonal allergies, fatigue, low immunity and irritability can all be indicators of the accumulation of toxins in the body. 

You can start with a simple dietary cleanse avoiding all sugar, coffee, alcohol, gluten, dairy and soy products. Make sure to stay hydrated and eat lots of leafy green vegetables, fresh fish, olive oil, small beans such as adzuki or lentils, and non-gluten grains, including millet, brown rice and buckwheat. 

Allergic reactions come from an over-stimulated histamine response by the body and it is the role of the liver to detox these histamines from the blood. If the liver is too congested with toxicity, this function will decline leading to increased allergic reactions and a vicious cycle develops. To address excessive heat (toxicity) in the liver, antioxidant supplements that support liver detoxification are important at this time. These include milk thistle and N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine to boost cellular glutathione levels, as well as alpha-lipoic acid. Reishi mushroom is another important single herb remedy that can be used at this time as it modulates both an under-active or over-active immune response to support both allergy or low immunity issues. To help modulate the over-activation of histamine release during the Spring or anytime you find yourself having increased allergies or inflammation, bioflavanoids such as quercetin are very beneficial as well.

In addition, keeping the flow of Qi circulating smoothly is an important aspect to maintaining a healthy liver. Committing to a regular exercise routine that doesn't over-stimulate the body is most suitable for this purpose. Yoga and Qi Gong are most supportive for circulating Qi without the side-effect of depleting your Liver's blood storage which occurs with more stimulating exercise that can burn-out an exhausted body. Furthermore, Meditation practice will calm your mind and body, as well as cool the heat in the Liver therefore reducing the irritability you may tend to feel during this season.

Clearing your body of toxins helps you cultivate greater clarity and a deeper connection to your intuition so that you can more easily harness your goals and desires.

Cleaning and clearing fosters renewal and rebirth and can have profound effects on your overall health and life.
 

Chiastolite: The Perfect Stone to Support Springtime Detoxification

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

Chiastolite is a unique looking stone that has a cross in the center. The name derives from the Greek word chiastos meaning “cross marked.” In Chinese philosophy, the cross represents descension and ascension to make the connection between Heaven and Earth as we see in the Christian tradition as well. Wearing or holding Chiastolite can help you become more grounded as you connect with the spiritual aspects of life.

Since it contains lithium, Chiastolite can calm the emotions and help the Heart and Kidney connect so you feel on purpose in your life. It's therefore a very useful stone to use during meditation.

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Chiastolite is also a powerful protective stone that wards off negative energy and repels negativity rather than absorbs it.

In stone medicine, Chiastolite is very important to alkalize the body to reduce excess heat causing inflammation especially in the Liver.

Since Spring is the time for cleansing the Liver, Chiastolite can be taken in an elixir for a month or two for detoxification.

Chiastolite also contains chromium which makes it very beneficial for people with Syndrome X symptoms of high blood sugar, high cholesterol and hypertension as it can cleanse and break up blood stagnation in the arteries.

Springtime is also the windy season and in regards to Spring's relationship to the Wood element, symptoms of Wind can be experienced during this time.

Wind symptoms during springtime are related to allergies and can involve redness, itching, watery eyes, and sneezing.

Wind also irritates the nerves causing numbness and tingling, radiating pain, as well as irritability, nervousness, twitching, and tics. In Chinese Medicine, these neurological patterns are called Wind Bi, meaning obstruction due to Wind. Chiastolite is one of the most important stones to help reduce Wind Bi, or any problem related to hypersensitivity of the nerves such as sciatica or neuropathy with numbness and tingling in the arms, hands or legs as well as Wind-Bi in the face including conditions like Bell's Palsy and trigeminal neuralgia.

Chiastolite can be taped directly on the skin over the problem areas or acupuncture points related to these conditions. It can also be used as a massage wand to scrape along broad regions affected by the Wind Bi. Scraping massage with Chiastollite helps move the blood to release the Wind and its related symptoms.

How to Allow Yourself to Receive

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

I used to think that to get what I want, I have to strive and work tirelessly. Not until I started to practice Yoga regularly in college did I learn that the opposite is true. The more I practiced, the more I relaxed and the more relaxed I felt the more opportunities came to me. The more I focused on self-cultivation and being still, the less effort I had to make in my pursuits.

In order to receive what we want, we have to let go and be fully present. This means that both the body and mind have to be relaxed, clear and calm. I learned this through both my personal practice and through my training with a number of master Yoga instructors, in particular Erich Schiffmann.

Erich emphasized the power of entering the silence and listening for guidance. The one word I heard repeatedly from Erich was “pause.” He encouraged us to listen inward and taught me that the answer to everything comes in the empty spaces between your thoughts, when your mind is quiet.

Mindfulness-based movement practices such as Yoga, Qi Gong or Tai Chi release physical tension to prepare the body to sit quietly so you can experience a quiet, empty mind that allows you to be fully present.

Only when you’re fully present can you tune in to receive guidance that will allow into your life anything and everything you’ve ever wanted.

As a society of achievers, the challenge for many of us is accepting that only through stillness can we align ourselves with anything and everything we want.

As a society of achievers, the challenge for many of us is accepting that only through stillness can we align ourselves with anything and everything we want.

To get to the place where you can receive, you first have to create space by letting go.

 

Receiving by Letting Go  

According to Chinese Medicine, the Lungs govern the circulation of oxygen and Qi, or energy. The more deeply we breathe, the more freely this Qi can circulate throughout the body.

Deep breathing practices including Pranayama strengthen the Lungs. In addition, practices such as Yoga asana and Qi Gong, which coordinate breath with movement, unbind tension in the body thereby allowing the Lung Qi to circulate more freely.

As I've mentioned in previous articles, the Lungs are the primary organs that help us to let go. (You can read more about this here and here). As we inhale, we draw in fresh energy and oxygen. With our exhale we release toxins, as well as thoughts that no longer serve us.

By allowing us to take a deep breath, the Lungs anchor us into the present moment.

The Lungs have an important relationship with the Kidneys. As the Lungs draw in Qi through the breath, the Kidneys grasp this Qi and use it to consolidate the fundamental energy of the body. 

The Lungs also play an important role in harmonizing our emotions through their relationship with the Liver. Whereas the Lungs govern the circulation of Qi, it’s the Liver that ensures the smooth flow of this Qi throughout the body. (Learn more about the Liver/Lung relationship here). Stress of any kind can impede this smooth flow and cause mental agitation and even anger. The simple act of taking a few deep breaths helps open the diaphragm to release stagnation in the Liver meridian and the Liver system as a whole, and thus smoothes the flow of Qi to regulate the emotions.

So, feeling better starts with taking deep breaths. 

When you take a deep breath, you become more present. When you're more present, you feel more in alignment. When you're more in alignment, you're able to receive the messages that guide you to what you truly want. 

 

Tools to Fine Tune Your Ability to Receive

Years ago, Erich Schiffmann taught me to wear a stopwatch and set it so that I’d receive a notification on the hour, every hour as a reminder to pause, to breathe and be more present in that moment. I encourage you to try this powerful practice.

As the days go by and you pause every hour—simply by stopping what you’re doing for a moment to take a deep breath—you’ll start to feel a deep sense of calm seep from those moments into nearly every part of your day.

I've attached the video below as a guide for you to practice ujjayi breathing, a simple technique that profoundly calms the mind. You can practice this form of breathing as you pause throughout the day, before bedtime to help you fall asleep, and even integrate it into your exercise regimen.

Ultimately, our minds more than anything block our ability to receive what we truly want.

Have you noticed that oftentimes when you grapple with an issue it just seems to get harder? Then the moment you let it go everything seems to fall into place. That’s because once your mind tunes its frequency away from that issue, away from the struggle and negative thinking, it can receive the guidance to handle that situation.

Only when we turn our focus away from the problem can we allow in the solution.

It’s crucial not just to shift the thoughts you think but also to empty the mind, to fully let go, so you can receive messages or inspiration from a higher source.

Inspiration arises only from a receptive, quiet and undistracted mind. It’s not a coincidence that the word inspiration is related to breathing, as it's rooted in the Latin word inspirare, which means 'to breathe upon' and is also related to the word inspire, which means 'to breathe in.' 

Sometimes inspiration, or what we may call ‘gut feelings,’ aren’t logical. You may be guided to do something even when your mind may be telling you otherwise. 

For example, you go to the grocery store and something tells you to buy extra vegetables. You may ignore this because it logically doesn’t make sense—you’ve picked out enough vegetables for dinner. But this gut feeling always makes sense later. You may go home to find that your daughter has brought her friend over for dinner, and this friend happens to be vegetarian.

As you practice quieting your mind so that you can receive guidance in these small situations, you’ll be more tuned in to receive this guidance for more significant situations, like when to quit the job you hate to pursue your dreams.

The process of quieting your mind to become receptive all begins by taking deeper, fuller breaths. Allow yourself to relax more, do less and just be. Only by being present can you allow in all that you’re meant to receive.

Dr. Setareh Moafi shares the importance of deep breathing for your yoga practice and daily life.


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