Conquering Your Sugar Cravings

My sister sent me a rum cake. She makes them every year; the recipe, I believe, involves super-moist cake mix, vanilla pudding mix, and a lot of butter and rum poured over the top. It’s loaded with everything a self-respecting acupuncturist would avoid putting in her body. It’s obscenely delicious. And, in the name of holiday stress, celebration, and family tradition, I pretty much ate the whole thing.

The holidays are like that. And that’s fine. The entire purpose of holidays is to get us out of our daily rut, shake things up a little, and give us permission to enjoy pleasures that we don’t indulge in every day. Continue reading

Late Summer: Harvest, Abundance, and Nurturing


It’s hard to believe it’s already the end of September! If you aren’t quite ready for it to be fall, have no fear: there’s a fifth season in Chinese medicine, late summer, that gives us a little buffer zone.

“Late summer” roughly corresponds to harvest season: it’s the time of year when things are cooling off at night, but it’s warm during the day, the leaves are mostly still green, and the crop fields are producing like mad.

I’ll have to admit, when I learned that Chinese medicine has five seasons, and that one of them was “late summer,” it seemed like a bit of a stretch – contrived, perhaps, to match the five elements and five organ systems used in Chinese medical theory. Continue reading

Smoothing the Winter ~ Spring Transition

Happy Spring, and Happy Daylight Savings Time! Turning the clocks ahead is one of the best events of the year, in my book — I just love the longer, lighter evenings and the promise that spring really is coming.

In that erratic, New England way, but it’s coming. As I write this, it’s April 1, the front yards in my neighborhood are practically carpeted with crocuses, and it’s snowing. Need I say more?

I’ve been feeling a bit erratic myself — both more energetic and a bit more impatient. Which makes sense, actually. From a Chinese medicine point of view, our bodies are little microcosms of the world around us. Continue reading

Get Ahead of Your Allergies

Anyone who has seasonal allergies knows: if spring is coming, so is pollen season.

If you’re looking for an alternative this year to the usual round of antihistamines, inhalers, and other drug therapies, Chinese medicine is a very effective way to get allergy relief. And right now — before allergy season really kicks in — is the best time to get started.

Chinese medicine, like Western medicine, sees allergies as an imbalance in the immune system. Western medicine describes this as an over-reaction to a minor irritant. Chinese medicine sees it as a weakness of the Wei Qi (pronounced “way chee”) — the protective layer at the surface of the body that keeps out foreign substances. Continue reading

Dealing with the Darker Months: Wisdom from Chinese Medicine

When I was in college, I did a 6-month off-campus study program in India. Being so far south, the hot season was can’t-move hot, and during the “cold” season you might need a light sweater in the evening.

Living near the equator also meant that the length of the days didn’t change much at all from season to season. The sun rose at 6:30 AM and set at 6:30 PM, year-round. Of course, it took several months for me to notice this, but I was amazed how disorienting it was to be without the usual (for me) rhythm of long, luxurious summer days where it’s light until 9:00, and deep winter nights that begin in the midafternoon. Continue reading

Holiday Prescription

Here we are, smack in the middle of the holiday season. It’s still hard for me to register 50 degrees as a December day, but as I’m writing this it’s 4:15 and the sun has already gone down, so it must be true. In just a week the days start getting longer again, and we’re about to step into the year 2011.

This month-plus of holidays — Thanksgiving, Hannukah, Christmas, New Year’s — is a tricky time. It can be a reminder to cherish family and friends, and to enjoy and appreciate all the blessings we have in our lives. It also can become a time of painful self-evaluation, or a sad time when we feel our losses even more acutely than usual. Continue reading

Keeping Cool in Summer

Summer heat can feel great; or, sometimes it can be a bit much. If you’re feeling cranky, exhausted, lethargic, yucky-all-over, or just plain too hot these days, you’re not the only one! Try these suggestions for keeping you happy, healthy, and cool when it’s hot and muggy outside:

1. Check out the list of cooling foods below, and incorporate them into your diet (watermelon is actually listed in ancient texts as a medicinal substance for a condition called “summer heat,” which is similar to sunstroke or heat exhaustion).

2. Try eating cold soups.  I’m a new convert to this one — they’re light, cooling, and a great way to get vegetables when you finally get tired of salad.  Continue reading