Moving is no small feat - finding a place to live, packing up your belongings, recruiting helping hands, finding a friend with a truck, tying up the pieces at your old place and remembering all of the little details for getting settled in smoothly at a new home. It is no wonder that moving is often considered to be one of the most stressful events in life!
Austin is a rapidly growing city with much to offer new residents. Depending on how far you are moving (i.e. across town vs. across the country); the process of finding a place to live may be different. No matter where you are starting from, the following insights will help you stay organized as you navigate the Austin rental market.
What to Consider When Searching For a Place to Live:
Consider Your Exact Move-in Date
Knowing your move-in date will help you determine when you need to be ready to sign a lease. Some apartments only list their availability 30 days prior to a potential move-in date whereas others list availability 60 days prior. Privately owned houses, condos, and duplexes usually have openings based on 30 day notices, possibly even shorter times, and are generally looking for quick move-ins. As a general rule of thumb, it is best to start your housing search 45-60 days before your anticipated move date.
Before starting your search, it’s important to have an idea of what you are looking for. Most apartment communities in Austin offer one year leases. Some properties may offer nine and six month leases, however leases lasting less than six months can be very difficult to find. Many apartment communities charge an up-grade fee for leases shorter than one year, and such fees can be as high as an extra $150 per month. Privately owned properties like rental homes or duplexes almost always offer one year leases.
An alternative option for a shorter term lease is to sublet. Subletting a property can offer a temporary home-base while you explore Austin’s many neighborhoods and search for longer-term accommodations.
Rental Application Fees & Deposits
When you have found a place you like and you are ready to submit an application, it is important to keep in mind that there will be associated application fees and deposits required. Planning for these fees will help you create a realistic moving budget.
Application fees can range from $35 to $150 and will vary depending on location. These fees are applied to the cost of running criminal background and rental history checks for potential tenants.
A rental deposit is typically required to be paid to the property owner or management company. Deposit amounts are variable and can range from $200 to $1,000 per unit. Newer apartment communities that offer more amenities typically ask for higher rental deposits. Some apartment communities may include an “administrative fee” as part of the deposit that is frequently non-refundable and may be as much as half of the deposit. However, this type of fee is usually only found in larger, newer apartment communities. Owners of houses, duplexes, and condos often ask a new tenant to deposit the first and/or last month’s rent up front.
With many animal-loving residents in Austin, pet deposits are a very common feature of the rental market. Amounts and specific policies may vary depending on individual properties; though, a typical pet deposit will be around $300 - $500 for one pet. Half of this deposit is usually refundable while the other half is typically a non-refundable cleaning fee. Having more than one pet usually incurs additional deposit costs (often $250 per additional pet), and many communities limit the number of pets allowed to three. In some cases apartment communities may charge pet rent instead of a deposit. Pet rent is a monthly fee paid in addition to rent and can vary from $15 - $50 per month, per pet. If you have furry friends, it’s important to ask about a property’s pet policies before applying.
Before paying any deposit, it is important to verify with the leasing agent whether a deposit is refundable if the rental application is cancelled, withdrawn, or refused. Once an application is approved, the rental deposit is no longer refundable.
Qualifying Criteria for Rental Applications
When evaluating a rental application, apartment communities and property owners will consider/ verify the following:
- Applicants must be 18 years of age or older
- Previous rental history (broken leases, evictions, lack of rental history)
- Criminal background checks (any convictions, misdemeanors, felonies, etc.)
- Credit history (outstanding housing debts/payments, utility or rental payment history, etc.)
- Whether renter’s insurance is required (many properties require policies for $100,000 worth of rental insurance)
- Number of vehicles or pets owned (properties may limit the number of each allowed)
- Current income
When considering a potential tenant’s credit history and income, apartment communities typically expect to see that an applicant’s monthly income is approximately three times the amount of monthly rent. Combined income from roommates, financial aid received by students, and potential co-signors’ income are additional factors that may be considered. Most communities will allow co-signors for applicants that do not meet the earnings criteria. Co-signors are generally expected to own a home and earn five to six times the amount of the unit’s monthly rent. Depending on employment status, applicants may be required to present paystubs, income tax information, bank statements, or confirmation of financial aid eligibility to verify income.
Applicants with less than 6 months of rental history or a low credit-score may be required to have a co-signor on a lease or pay an additional rental deposit. Factors such as a history of broken leases, evictions, or a criminal background will generally result in co-signors being refused. While apartment communities always perform criminal background and rental history checks, not all private owners do so. New residents should discuss the qualifying rental criteria in detail with the apartment community or property owner during the application process.
Apartment rental rates are generated based on city-wide occupancy rates, meaning prices can fluctuate frequently. Rental prices will also vary based on the type of unit available (e.g. number of bedrooms, square footage, amenities, etc.) and exact location. In addition to checking rental prices for specific properties online, it is also advisable to contact a property directly to verify the current rate and to inquire about any move-in specials that may be offered. Cost of living calculators can help new residents moving from another city or state to estimate housing costs in Austin.
Getting Help with Your Housing Search
It’s always ideal to visit a potential house/apartment in person before making a commitment and signing a lease. Unfortunately, this is not always an option if you are moving from a different city or state. Recruiting the help of a leasing agent or apartment locator can help to narrow down your options and find a place that meets your criteria and standards for quality of life. Many apartment locating agents in Austin offer free services to clients looking for housing and it’s important to choose a locator that is responsive, professional, and respectful of your housing needs.
In addition to individual leases, alternative housing opportunities exist including roommate arrangements, house shares, and cooperative living. Check out our next blog post in the Moving to Austin series for more information on this topic!
Michelle Gonzalez is an Austin-based real estate agent and AOMA student. Prior to beginning her studies within AOMA’s master’s degree program in acupuncture & Chinese medicine, Michelle worked as a full-time licensed real estate agent at Team Real Estate. She has years of experience and expertise within Austin’s rental and home-buying markets.
As AOMA’s Admissions Coordinator, Jillian Kelble works one-on-one with new students to support their transition to graduate school and is the administrator of AOMA’s bi-weekly new student housing digest. In addition to her role within the Admissions Office, she has also worked as a property manager for a privately owned rental property in downtown Austin. A transplant from the west coast, Jillian brings personal insight about the process of relocating to her work.
You’ve done it! 4 or so hard years, bushels of tests, late night studying, endless intern clinics, harrowing Board exams; your diploma is clutched in your rosy hand, and the future waits just outside the door of the auditorium. Then it hits you – you have no idea what to do next.
For the last four years, your life has been more or less ordered for you – class times, clinic times, study times, work times – and now it’s totally up to you. How do you take all your training and make it work for you, to build a future? There’s no sure pattern for success, and your mentors and teachers are no longer watching over you every day to give guidance. The world can look very scary out of the school setting, but before you pull your lab coat over your head and hide, take heart. You can survive, and thrive, as an acupuncturist.
Hopefully, you started working on what you were going to do and where long before you graduated. Finding a good location that’s not in a saturated area is important, and establishing a name for yourself in that area is vital, even before you graduate. If you joined your local Chamber of Commerce, some local networking groups and service groups, you have a head start, because all your fellow members are prospective patients. If you haven’t joined those organizations yet, now is the time to do it. You’ll probably have a few months before your license is granted, so use the time wisely. Network, meet people, shake a lot of hands – your enthusiasm will be contagious, and people will be curious. Make sure you’re armed with business cards, brochures, and a website before you go into battle. Get a name registered as a DBA in your county, and get yourself a shirt with the name and logo on it. Then wear it. Everywhere. You’d be surprised how many people will ask about it.
Find someone who is established to start with so you can learn the ropes. Most established acupuncturists are more than willing to take on an intern to work the front desk and learn the business; you can also find a lot of chiropractors who are happy to take an acupuncturist on. Even though some of them advertise they can do acupuncture, most of them don’t have the time to do it, and welcome new graduates. When your license comes in the mail, you’ll be ready to jump into the pool, so get your feet planted somewhere while you’re waiting.
Once licensed, use all those contacts you made. Hand out gift certificates – one free treatment isn’t going to break you, and those people will come back for more. Use them for door prizes at local events, especially women’s events. Use them in Chamber Auctions, for Chamber Lunches, or to support an auction at your local High School. Give them as gifts for birthdays. Soon, those patients will tell others, and you’re on your way. Participate in events and go to some health fairs – let people see and get to know you. Utilize social networking as well, you can learn a lot from other acupuncturists, both established and just beginning. Use free time wisely to learn more about running your practice. Before you know it, you’re treating 20 patients a week, then thirty, then forty, and your first year will be coming to a close.
As long as you realize that learning doesn’t stop when school ends, you’ll do just fine. Reach out, and your practice will grow. Above all, trust in yourself, and your hard-won skills.
Kathy Kerr, LAc, MAcOM, AOBTA, is an Acupuncturist practicing in Georgetown, TX. She graduated from AOMA in 2008 and has taught several brown bags and business development classes. Her undergrad is in marketing and management, and foreign language. Kathy lives in Round Rock with her husband, two dogs and a bird named Qing Long. Visit her website here: www.orientalmedicineassociates.com.
In honor of The American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout, AOMA is partnering with East Communities YMCA
to offer FREE acupuncture for nicotine cessation.
NOVEMBER 21 & 22
Free, walk-in appointments
East Communities YMCA
in the portable building
5315 Ed Bluestein Blvd
Austin, TX 78723
Despite all the well-researched facts regarding the negative effects of smoking, people continue to smoke cigarettes because of the addictive nature of nicotine. Many smokers try various quitting methods with not much luck, struggling to find a solution that is sustainable, lasting and healthy. Acupuncture has been shown to have great success with treating the full range of addictions and addictive behavior, and has been proven to be especially useful and successful in helping people stop smoking[i].
Acupuncturists are trained to address addictions, especially nicotine addiction, following the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine. The addiction is analyzed from several perspectives, all of which include the full spectrum of physical, mental, and emotional addiction.
How Acupuncture Treats Smoking Cessation
Acupuncture works to adjust cravings by balancing the body's brain chemistry and also helps heal the physical damage the body undergoes from smoking. There are many recognized protocols to help people stop smoking.
Auricular acupuncture, or ear acupuncture as it is commonly known, is often used in the treatment of addictions. Protocols for nicotine addiction may use ear points alone or along with other body points [ii] to help balance a person's overall pattern. In this technique, fine needles are inserted into a set of five acupuncture points on the ear, as promoted by The National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA), a not-for-profit organization who teaches and endorses this acupuncture detoxification protocol.
For this protocol, the patient may even be sent home with small beads placed on the ear using adhesive tape. When stimulated, these small beads continue to help curb withdrawal symptoms (an application of auricular acupressure). In general, one can expect frequency of visits to be several times per week for the first week or two (recommendations vary per acupuncturist and patient’s condition).
Beating the Addiction Symptoms
The goal of the practitioner in the treatment plan is to support patients through the acute phase of withdrawal, improving their success at kicking the nicotine habit. Commonly, patients experience a decrease in cravings, changes in sensory perception as the taste and smell of cigarettes becomes intolerable, and an increased state of calm and relaxation.
The multiple withdrawal symptoms that one can experience when trying to quit are well-known, including but not limited to insomnia, fatigue, feeling jittery, cough, chest tightness, dry mouth, constipation, irritability, depression, anxiety, and lack of concentration. Acupuncturists routinely address these issues independently, and improvements in such symptoms are commonly experienced as side benefits by patients. In the scientific community, there has been a huge influx of insightful findings on acupuncture’s complex mechanism of action, offering explanation of why this ancient treatment works. Research supports acupuncture’s role in influencing the various aspects of the nervous system, thereby modulating things like your gastrointestinal system, heart rate, stress response, and mood.
In 2011, the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), a subsidiary of the US Department of Justice, in collaboration with the American University, evaluated the effectiveness of acupuncture as an adjunct to substance abuse treatment. This initiative ensued as a result of many drug courts using acupuncture as an adjunct to the substance abuse treatments provided to drug court participants. In the BJA review of the literature, they determined a number of acupuncture studies demonstrated reduced cravings and symptoms of withdrawal when coupled with conventional treatment plans.
Helping You Quit - For good!
Here at AOMA, we take a vested interest in the life quality and health of our patients and community. That means we not only want to help provide affordable and sustainable care for those who are committed to quitting smoking, we also want to offer treatments for those who are simply curious to exactly how effective acupuncture can be in treating addiction!
Not only does AOMA host the Great American Smokeout every year in November, offering free treatments to those in the community wanting to stop smoking, we also have a special herbal remedy specially tailored to smoking cessation. This formula was masterminded by one of our renowned professors and doctors, Jamie Wu, LAc, MD (China), MS, Vice President of Faculty. The formula, called Clear Lung, Calm Shen formula, or Dr. Wu’s Stop Smoking Formula, is a specially formulated herbal remedy made of herbs that specialize in treating addiction, lung health, and the physical, mental, and emotional symptoms of withdrawal. These herbs are powdered and encapsulated in our herbal dispensary (AOMA Herbal Medicine) and then sold through prescription from practitioners in our clinic.
There are multiple other herbal prescription formulas available at AOMA Herbal Medicine that are tailored to treat addictions based on your specific pattern, constitution, and individual needs and preferences. Come see us at the clinic for more information!
If you have never heard of the Great American Smokeout, check out the details below. Don’t miss this special yearly event -- get a start on your New Year’s resolution to give up the cigarettes early!
Free acupuncture for the annual Great American Smokeout!
In honor of The American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout AOMA is partnering with East Communities YMCA to offer FREE acupuncture for nicotine cessation.
NOVEMBER 21 & 22
Free, walk-in appointments
East Communities YMCA
in the portable building
5315 Ed Bluestein Blvd
Austin, TX 78723
For more information, call 512-693-4373
[i] Starkey, J (LAc). Acupuncture Can Help You Kick the Habit. Retrieved online on November 3, 2013.
AOMA alumna Sadie Minkoff was a modern dancer in a company based in New York City when she injured her sacrum in a rehearsal. Minkoff says, “I was studying Eastern philosophy and Shiatsu and was petrified of needles so I was hesitant to try acupuncture until I got injured.” Minkoff finally mustered the courage to travel to New York’s Chinatown to try out acupuncture.
Most “needle phobic” patients are generally surprised to find out that acupuncture needles are a thin metal filament about the width of a human hair and cannot deliver the same kind of impact as a needle used for a flu or tetanus shot. Minkoff, being terrified of needles, was no different. She was pleasantly surprised to find that the sensations from the needles were minimal and the treatment itself was very enjoyable and effective. Minkoff says, “The injury resolved quickly but what was even more exciting to me was how good I felt after my acupuncture treatments. So I continued getting acupuncture and started learning about Chinese Medicine.”
Eventually Minkoff found herself at AOMA studying acupuncture. Her journey as a practitioner has taken her many places including an interdisciplinary clinic in Washington, DC and a western medical clinic in Austin. She has also worked in a couple of integrative settings with IUI and IVF patients. In 2012 Minkoff received hospital privileges when a local doctor invited her to do acupuncture during fertility treatments in the hospital where he worked.
Currently, Minkoff owns a private practice with her partner Michelle Schreiber in Austin. Sage Acupuncture focuses on both fertility and oncology. Minkoff reflects, “We have created a beautiful sanctuary where people can feel comfortable and supported in their healing process.” As Minkoff’s clientele grows she holds the intention to continue to work from her heart and serve her community.
Since Minkoff has been in the acupuncture field she has learned that listening and compassion promote success in her practice. She has also learned that no matter how many tools she has to share with her patients she does not heal the patient, the patient heals herself. This philosophy has kept patients coming back to her years after they get pregnant and have their children.
AOMA is holding a food drive to benefit local families in need this Thanksgiving!
All donations will given to the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas. Items will be collected from Nov. 1 - 26, 2013.
Each year, the Capital Area Food Bank provides more than 24 million pounds of food and grocery products to approximately 300,000 people in need. These items serve local non-profit organizations and social service agencies. AOMA's community hopes to make a difference by providing extra goods and meals during the busy Thanksgiving season.
Begining November 1, 2013 - Bring Donations to:
- AOMA Campus - 4701 West Gate Blvd., Austin, TX 78745:
- AOMA Admissions Office (Building C)
- AOMA Herbal Medicine Center (Building B)
- AOMA Student Clinic (Building A)
- AOMA North Clinic - 2700 W. Anderson Lane, Austin, TX 78757:
The items most in need are:
- Healthy, non-perishable foods
- Canned vegetables & fruits
- Canned meat like tuna, white meat chicken, chili or stews
- Pasta & pasta sauce
- Whole grains (brown rice)
- Canned, low-sodium soups
- Beans (canned or dry)
- Peanut Butter
- Healthy Cereals
- Full meals in a can/box
When selecting items, please choose:
- Items with intact, unopened consumer or commercial packaging
- Food with the expiration date printed on package
- Choose pop-top cans for canned good
- Items with non-breakable packaging (NO GLASS, PLEASE)
Questions may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Throughout the years, AOMA has been engaged in many community collaborations. To learn more about other community collaborations, please visit aoma.edu/community-classes/community-collaborations/.
You’ve probably heard someone describe the sensation of nervousness as having “butterflies in the stomach.” Perhaps you’ve referred to a person displaying restraint in the face of hardship as having a “stiff upper lip,” or a sensitive person as “wearing their heart on their sleeve.”
What about complimenting someone’s gallbladder when they accomplish something brave? Probably not, right?
This saying, often heard in China (and AOMA’s classrooms), has its foundations in the Traditional Chinese Medicine concept of the gallbladder as the source of courage and judgment. Attributing emotions, bodily manifestations, and physiological functions to organs is an important aspect of our medicine and an incredibly informative lens through which to view the body.
This practice is referred to as the Zang-fu system; it is a foundational tenant of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It builds upon Yin Yang theory as well as Five Element theory and is used as a launching pad for more complex TCM diagnosis. (If you need to brush up on Yin Yang theory and Five Element theory, read our Chinese Medicine School posts on the topics.)
The Zang-fu consist of eleven organs in total—five of which are considered Yin in nature and six of which are considered Yang in nature. The five Yin organs—Liver, Heart, Spleen, Lung, and Kidney—are referred to as the Zang. The Zang are solid organs and are responsible for the generation and storage of Qi, Blood, Body Fluid, and Essence.
Every organ has unique characteristics and functions. They are also said to “open into” certain body parts (thereby controlling that body part’s functioning) and manifest in others.
- Stores Blood
- Controls the flow of Qi throughout the body
- Controls tendons and ligaments
- Houses the Ethereal Soul (“Hun”)
Opens Into: Eyes
- Governs blood and controls the blood vessels
- Houses the mind (“Shen”)
- Controls sweating
Opens Into: Tongue
Manifestation: Facial complexion
- Governs transportation and absorption of food and water
- Controls the generation of ingredients for Blood
- Holds Blood inside the vessels
- Controls the muscles and the limbs
Opens Into: Mouth
- Governs Qi and respiration
- Controls channels and blood vessels; Governs the exterior of the body
- Controls dispersing and descending of substances in the body
- Regulates water passage
- Houses the Corporeal Soul (“Po”)
Opens Into: Nose
Manifestation: Hair of the skin
- Stores Essence
- Governs birth, growth, reproduction, and development
- Generates Marrow
- Controls Bones
- Controls water
- Control the reception of Qi (“root” the breath)
Opens Into: Ears
Manifestation: Hair of the head
Each Zang is paired with a Fu—one of the Yang organs. The Fu organs are hollow. They primarily receive and transport food and water throughout the body. These more active functions are the reason they’re considered to be more Yang than Yin. The organs and their pairings are listed below.
Fu: Small Intestine
Fu: Large Intestine
Zang: Pericardium (Though not always grouped with the five Zang organs, the Pericardium is considered the protector of the heart; it is also an acupuncture channel.)
Fu: San Jiao (also called the Triple Warmer and Triple Burner)
It is important not to conflate the TCM organ with the Western anatomical organ. For instance, the Spleen in TCM isn’t necessarily the organ that filters the blood. Some features do overlap—for example, the Heart being involved with blood —but it’s best not to think of the Zang-fu as literal organs, but rather consider them figurative entities.
Just as the Five Elements follow a generating and controlling sequence, the Zang-fu system can also be examined in this context. (For an overview of the Five Elements and to view the generating and controlling sequences, check out our blog post on the subject.)
These controlling and generating sequences are used to visualize the source(s) of pathological conditions and can be used to approach a treatment. For example, it is said in TCM that if an element (or organ) is in excess, an acupuncturist should “sedate the child.” So, if the Liver organ was hyperactive in a patient, the acupuncturist may choose to sedate the Heart.
The Zang-fu system is an incredibly important and consequential method of TCM diagnosis: It influences the diagnostic decisions, treatment plans, herbal prescriptions, and overall understanding of acupuncturists and herbalists the world over. The Zang-fu organs (including the Pericardium) also constitute the twelve primary acupuncture channels and are consequently used on a daily basis by most practicing acupuncturists. Take a moment to review the Zang-fu system and soon you will discover an entirely new way of viewing the human body.
It’s 1976, and my mom and dad are sitting quietly with their eyes closed, hands resting upward — thumb and index finger touching — while my younger siblings crawl on their backs and shoulders. My older two brothers and I sit nearby, holding our own meditation poses, bored, rolling our eyes and counting the minutes until this ritual will end.
At least once a week or whenever things got stressful, my parents would pull all five of their children — ranging in age from ten to one — into our library for a family meditation. As much as I complained, a part of me yearned for this spiritual practice.
Spiritual renewal is essential to our emotional well-being. It helps us nurture our essence, feel centered, build inner strength, live in integrity, and trust life. It allows us to experience a connection to a higher power, feel a sense of purpose, and experience meaning in our lives.
There are many different ways we explore and nurture our spiritual lives. For some this includes spending time in nature, yoga, prayer and meditation, or musical or artistic expression. Some of the daily practices that provide me spiritual nourishment include:
We all crave sacredness and ritual in our everyday lives — not just around birthdays and weddings. Rituals can be both carefully planned events and casual but regular remembrances such as voicing gratitude before a meal or creating dedicated space in your day for contemplation.
When we mark important transitions or milestones in our lives — whether it’s your daughter’s first period or your son starting kindergarten — we connect to the sacredness of everyday life. We remember that life is mysterious and we’re more than our to-do lists!
Stillness, whether experienced through prayer, meditation, or reflection, is our time to be alone and connect to our inner wisdom or our higher power — what I call our internal GPS system. It’s essential for all of us to carve out time for quiet reflection each and every day.
One of the biggest gifts I’ve received from a daily meditation practice is the ability to live more comfortably with what is--whether that’s my husband’s recent layoff or a car accident. Life is like the weather in Texas — constantly changing. Meditation has helped anchor me, so that despite this impermanence and turmoil, I’ve learned how to be still and find my center in the face of it all.
Practicing Service to Others
Mother Teresa says, “The fruit of love is service.”
We are all interconnected. The more we reach out and are present to one another’s pain and suffering, the stronger we become and the easier it is to embrace the esoteric idea that we’re all one. I believe huge shifts in consciousness can occur when we reach out and help one another navigate this sometimes scary, often isolating and perplexing, but beautiful world. Sometime that might look like serving soup at your local homeless shelter and other times, it’s helping out your neighbor who just lost her husband.
Living in the Present
Many great spiritual teachers believe the answer to everything is to just “be here now,” and that our suffering and emotional distress would end if we simply stopped resisting the present moment.
One weekend as I sat on the couch with a full-body cold: a splitting headache, body chills and a nonstop runny nose, I thought about this principle. And, as I watched the things I was missing fly out the window — my friend’s birthday party, my son’s piano recital — I connected to my breath and felt myself arrive in the present moment. I sensed my resistance begin to dissipate and a feeling of peace slowly settled over me. I temporarily suspended my desire for things to be different and I embraced that on the couch, with a cold, was exactly where I was supposed to be.
Three of my immediate family members died unexpectedly between my twenty-sixth and thirty-fourth birthdays. For years I let those losses dictate how much and how often, I could experience joy. Anytime I started to feel light, free, or happy, the old feeling of “waiting for the other shoe to drop” would creep in.
Can you only be happy if things are going your way and all the stars are aligned in your favor?
I believe we’re born with the innate capacity to experience emotional well-being and joy; it’s our birthright to feel good. Happiness comes from within; we’re wired for it. We just have to remember to choose this moment to moment.
It’s easy to forget who we really are. To lose sight of what really matters. To fall asleep and not remember how interconnected we all are and that we’re fully human and, at the same time, divine.
A regular spiritual practice — whether that’s daily prayer or meditation, being in a spiritual community, or singing— serves to anchor us. It grounds us and helps us navigate the challenges we face from just being human. It helps us stay awake.
So ultimately, we can begin to let go, trust the rhythm and flow of life and relax into the beauty of our true nature.
Austin-based life balance coach/speaker Renée Peterson Trudeau is president of Career Strategists and the author of the new book Nurturing the Soul of Your Family. Thousands of women in ten countries are participating in Personal Renewal Groups based on her first book, the award-winning The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal. Visit her online at www.ReneeTrudeau.com
When I started studying Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) I was overwhelmed with what seemed like the exotic nature of the plants we used. I developed a reverence for these plants and imagined they were somehow different, that they must be grown on the misty sides of mountains and tended by enlightened monks. I kept this notion for an embarrassingly long time, which was confirmed by my inept attempts to grow some of the herbs I thought would be able to take the Texas heat.
(protip: turns out you have to water and care for plants and just because the nursery sells it doesn’t mean it is a good match for my special kind of neglect.)
Fast-forward a couple of years and I had a nice little coincidence convince me just how wrong I was. We have to use the Latin names for herbs on our labels, so I started to get used to going back and forth between pin yin and Latin. Then I did a little work with the City of Austin invasive plant monitoring team, which involved a lot of pouring over lists of, you guessed it, Latin plant names. I started to see Chinese herbs everywhere and quite a few of them are considered invasive. So let’s go through a quick list of some Chinese herbs that you probably walk past almost daily.
Number one on the list of Central Texas invasive list that is also a Chinese herb:
1. Taraxicum officinale or T. mongolicum – Common Dandelion – Pu Gong Ying
This perennial aster long considered the scourge of the suburban lawn also has an extraordinarily long history of use as medicine and food. The common name dandelion is a corruption of the French “dent de lion” meaning “tooth of the lion” which refers to the toothed or lacerate leaf margins. The younger tender leaves are tasty in salads, the flowers can be used to make wine and the whole plant is used in TCM where it is listed as a Clear Toxic Heat herb and is one of the five herbs that makes the formula Wu Wei Xiao Du Yin so effective.
Harvest this plant when it starts to flower but before it goes to seed and dig as much of the long root as you can get. Let it soak in tepid water to loosen dirt and then remove any additional dirt with running water. Dry the whole plant on drying screens in the sun. You can separate the leaves and flowers as they will dry faster than the root and don’t need as much cleaning.
2. Cyperus rotundus – Purple nutsedge rhizome – Xiang Fu
Hated is probably not too strong a word to describe how people feel about purple nutsedge. In fact, it is listed as one of the world’s worst weeds because it propagates vegetatively, is a perennial, and resists almost all control measures. It produces about inch long rhizomes, which is the part we want to use. The rhizomes can be separated from the roots and aerial portions of the plant, pressure washed and then put on a screen in the sun to dry. Xiang Fu is used in TCM as a qi-regulating herb mainly focused on liver qi stagnation.
3. Lonicera Japonica – Japanese Honeysuckle – Jin Yin Hua
Honeysuckle does very well in Texas. It can take the heat and is pretty drought tolerant. If you are out hiking around in a greenbelt in Austin and keep a sharp eye you are likely to come across some. The key way to identify the Japanese honeysuckle is contained in the Chinese name. Jin Yin Hua translates as “gold silver flower”. If it has coral colored flowers then it is L. sempervirens and not what you want although the nectar is just as sweet and there is something about sucking the nectar out of honeysuckle that just brings out the kid in you.
Harvest this flower right as it about to open. If it has already opened it is too late. Then, because this flower is delicate, you should dry it quickly. It would be hard to get any appreciable amount of product from a wild stand of L. japonica as you will work pretty hard just to get a couple of grams of dried flowers.
So let’s talk about some trees that are everywhere in central Texas.
4. Ligustrum luciduim – Glossy Privet – Nu Zhen Zi
This is so invasive that in just about any disturbed area near water you will find them, in fact unless controlled they can easily take over large stretches of mid-canopy trees in established forests. In the spring they have a very nice cluster of flowers that develops in late summer to a cluster of dark purple fruits. Each fruit contains one or two seeds and that is the portion used in TCM. Pick them when they are ripe, but you will have to beat the birds to them. Dry on a drying screen. You do not have to remove the seeds from the fruit to use as an herb.
In TCM Nu Zhen Zi is used as a Yin tonic and is frequently used in formulations for menopause.
5. Mimosa Julibrissin – Persian silk tree – He Huan Hua and He Huan Pi
This invasive is as likely to be found in disturbed park areas as it is to be in someone’s yard planted as a specimen tree because of its unusual and beautiful flowers. Both the flower and the bark are harvested but harvesting the flowers can be fiddly work. They are delicate and sticky and don’t all flower at the same time. They need to be cooled after harvest and then dried. According to Wilson Lau, president of NuHerbs, it takes 3 man-hours to properly clean half a kilo of He Huan Hua so that it looks like you are used to seeing it in clinic. Peg Schafer, author of The Chinese Medicinal Herb Farm harvests the flowers but recommends leaving them whole with the calyx and a bit of stem if need be, but to warn potential buyers that there are stems. The bark can also be harvested but, by in large, requires cutting down the tree or at least large branches.
Both the flower and bark of M. julibrissin are listed in the Calm Shen category of TCM herbs for constraint due to liver qi stagnation.
6. Morus alba – White Mulberry tree
Sang Ye Leaves
Sang Bai Pi Root Bark
Sang Zhi Twigs
Sang Shen Zi Fruit
You are probably more likely to find M. rubra (red mulberry) here in Central Texas, but if you look closely you will find the species, M. alba (white mulberry) that is indicated for so many uses in TCM. If you do find one, what you have found is a runaway. M. alba was imported from China in an attempt to start a silk industry that was floundering because M. rubra, a sort-of native, was not the silk worm’s preferred species. That industry floundered further when they could not compete with the low wages paid in China and Japan. (Sound familiar?) However large stands of M. alba still can be found in the panhandle of Texas where they were also planted as windbreaks. Some of our runaways come from those too.
So what is the difference? Well, you can’t really tell from the fruit or the bark but you can see the difference in the leaves. Both M. alba and M. rubra have leaves that are anywhere from simple ovate leaves to ones that are deeply lobed but there are two distinguishing characteristics. M. alba has leaves that are really shiny on the topside and the leaf margins have teeth, but think molars (slightly rounded) and M. alba has duller topsides and its leaf margins have teeth but think incisors (much sharper) You are also much more likely to find M. alba in full sun and M. rubra is more shade tolerant.
This tree’s uses in TCM are varied, from dispelling wind heat, helping with cough, directing herbs to the shoulders and yin tonic. The most likely plant part you will be harvesting will be the leaves, which are frequently used. Pick them then wash in warm water and leave out on screens to dry. It’s just that easy. The twigs should be harvested from the higher parts of the tree, which can be dangerous over a certain height and will require some cutting and drying. If you want to prepare them the way the are prepared for use in China you will need some heavy duty cutting gear.
This is not a simple preparation and will require specialized equipment. However, the fruit doesn’t require anything but beating the birds, raccoons, and possums to it. Everybody loves mulberry.
So get out to the parks around central Texas and see if you can find all six of these Chinese herbs and if you do, think about processing them for personal use. Some things to think about when you are wild crafting is pollution, both air and water. If you are harvesting along Shoal Creek, say in Pease Park, think about where the water came from. It is largely rain runoff and it washes down oil, herbicides, and fertilizers just to name a few. Lamar Blvd. is a pretty well traveled street and every car that goes up and down it, is leaving behind combustion residue. The good news is that most of this stuff will make it into the soil where it often gets mechanically filtered and then bacteria and fungi in the soil go to work on many of the toxic substances. Of course, some of these chemicals are filtered out by the plants and not taken up in the roots and rarely make it to the leaves and fruits. As far as airborne pollutants go, washing the part of the plant you are going to use is a pretty good way to remove most of them.
About the author:
David Jones L.Ac., a graduate of AOMA, is one of the founders of The Third Coast Herb Co. where he is chairman of the board and the vice president of new product development, which is quite a mouthful so he prefers Chief Herb Nerd.
Illustration notes and credits
T. Official – Medicinal Plants – An illustrative and descriptive guide Charles F Millspaugh M.D. 1892
C. Rotundus – Flora of China
L. Japonica – Fleur de Jardiner 1836
L. Lucidium – Curtis’s Botanical Magazine vol. 52 1825
A. Julbrissin – Missouri Botanical Society
M. Alba – Saint Hilaire Arb. Pl. 44 1824
AOMA student Blake Gordon is known on campus for her infectious smile and her extensive knowledge of naturopathic medicine.
Although Blake’s home is in East Texas, where she attended school from high school through graduate school, she wasn’t introduced to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) until she moved to Arizona to attend Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine (SCNM). It was there that she first experienced the amazing effects of TCM personally and saw firsthand how it improved the lives of patients she treated.
As Blake neared graduation from SCNM, she knew that she wanted to come back to Texas and offer Texans another approach to health and healing. However, she wanted more training in TCM, so she asked her TCM professor which schools in Arizona and Texas he thought were the best. Fortunately, he was a graduate of Chengdu University in China, and noted that many of the professors from AOMA were as well. According to him, Blake would get the best TCM education from AOMA, because he knew that the AOMA professors there had received the best training in China. Per his suggestion, she later visited AOMA and upon touring the campus: “I knew that it was the best place for me to truly learn TCM,” Blake said. “Thankfully, his recommendation stands true!”
She certainly has a lot of experience to offer her patients and her community. Not only is she a working as a Naturopathic Doctor (ND), but with an extensive background in teaching and bachelor and master’s degrees in Biology, she also conducts multiple nutrition and health talks for the local Salvation Army Rehabilitation Center. She definitely keeps busy, also working part-time at Peoples Pharmacy in Westlake.
Blake admits her hard work is not always easy. This is now her 12th year of post-high school training as she pursues her goal of being both an ND and Licensed Acupuncturist (LAc). “It can get a little cumbersome at times,” Blake said. Blake’s intended graduation date of December 2014 is only a little over a year away, however.
Although it can be a challenge to remain steadfast in her studies, she credits her perseverance to her faith in Jesus Christ and having a group of supportive family and friends to keep her going. In her free time, she usually chooses to relax by catching up on sleep or watching a variety of shows on Hulu Plus.
One of the reasons Blake was drawn to Chinese medicine was its unique blend of simplicity with brilliance and wisdom. “I love the fact that Chinese medicine was developed centuries ago; however, it is still applicable to any person today. TCM incorporates all parts of the person, i.e. physical and emotional aspects, as well as addressing the person’s lifestyle.”
As a naturopathic doctor, she is a big fan of how food, the environment, one’s emotional state and thoughts, lifestyle choices and numerous other factors are all major contributors to a person’s state of health within the TCM diagnostic process.
Blake’s advice to other AOMA students? “Know that God has a great plan for your life and that it’s up to you whether you chose to participate in His plan for you or to go your own way.”
It is important to have plenty of energy when returning to school and in the fall season. There are herbs and foods that can help you maintain and gain/store energy.
Choose herbs and foods that help us maintain energy. For example, why do we eat chicken soup when we are sick? It is very nourishing. (Nature has provided us with foods & herbs to stay healthy and energized.)
There are herbs that I highly recommend for maintaining energy:
Da zao (Chinese date) is a herb that augments energy (Qi), weakness, and treats reduced appetite.
Shan yao (Wild yam) treats fatigue, lack of appetite and spontaneous sweating, treats shortness of breath and dry cough.
Huang qi (Poor man’s ginseng) is another favorite that treats fatigue, weakness, excessive sweating, low appetite, blood loss recovery, cough, asthma, frequent colds, and shortness of breath.
I have combined these herbs for my Maintaining energy formula. It is simple to prepare: soak for 20 min, bring to boil, simmer 20 min and drink. I HIGHLY recommend adding this formula to chicken soup with other foods that nourish your energy.
Nourishing Energy (Qi) Foods
Fruit should be eaten warm &/or grilled/cooked/baked – Cherry, Dates, Figs, and Grapes (these are ok – if eaten raw) and Goji berries
Asparagus, Sweet Potato, Potato, Carrots, Parsnips, Pumpkin, Yam, Onions, Winter Squash – acorn, butternut, spaghetti, etc., Mushrooms, Peas
Beef, Chicken/Chicken Liver, Lamb, Mutton, Almonds, Black sesame seeds, Coconut (meat), Chicken Egg,
Grains & Legumes
Oats, Rice, Quinoa
Author: Adrianne Ortega, LAc is a graduate of AOMA practicing in El Paso, Texas. You can contact Adrianne at 915.201.9303, email@example.com, www.almaacupuncture-ep.com