by Lauren St. Pierre-Mehrens
Open your windows, everyone... fall is here! As the Autumnal Equinox just happened, we look forward to dusting off our sweaters for cooler days, apple- and pumpkin-picking, and digging into nourishing comfort foods. We are transitioning out of the active, highly social energy of summer. Fall is ruled by the metal element and is a season for letting go. It ushers in a time for wrapping up projects from the previous months and looking more toward introspection and stillness, and it’s a wonderful time to reflect and spend quality time with loved ones.
In TCM, during fall we are most susceptible to dryness which can affect the lungs, skin, and digestion. Common signs of disharmony in the fall are thirst, dry nose and skin, itching, and sore throat. There are a number of things we can do to combat dryness and fortify our bodies for the coming winter months.
1. Drink water
So simple, yet often overlooked. It’s always beneficial to be hydrating with teas and water, and it’s an especially good idea during the fall when dry skin and constipation are a bigger issue.
2. Sleep more
As the days grow shorter, allow your body to rest. In a city like Austin, with so many fun things to do at night, it can be hard to rest. But if you feel ready for bed at 9pm, allow yourself to snuggle in with a good book and move with the energy of the season. It can be restorative for your body and mind.
3. Incorporate moistening foods and thoughtful meal preparation
The raw, cold foods that sustain us in the summer can be too harsh on the system at this time of year. Soups, steamed foods, and cooking “low and slow” are all in harmony with fall.
Ingredients that have moistening qualities:
- Pears, Apples, Persimmons, Loquats
- Lotus Root (available at many specialty stores and Asian markets), Yams, Spinach
- Edamame, Tempeh, Tofu
- Almonds, Pine Nuts, Peanuts, Sesame Seeds
- Lily bulb (bai he) and Chrysanthemum (ju hua) are good herbs to use in teas or in a congee. Ask your acupuncturist about using Chinese herbs in recipes.
4. Organize what feels scattered and let go of what you don’t need
It’s a great time to transition from the outward energy of summer in preparation for the contracting energy of the coming winter.
- Pay your bills
- Organize your kitchen pantry
- Check expiration dates on food, medication, and personal care products
- Donate those shoes you haven’t worn in three years
5. Avoid processed sugar
It’s acidic and drying and in nearly every tempting treat that will come your way in the following months. Make conscious choices with food, and your immune system will thank you for it during flu season. Cravings too much to take? Drink a glass of water and eat some apple or pear lightly drizzled with honey and a bit of cinnamon.
6. Dress for the season
While fall in Austin sometimes feels like summer, it’s a time when we again can be more susceptible to common colds, sore throats, and coughs. Make sure to layer your clothing in case a cold snap or an unexpected thunderstorm hits. Scarfs and cozy sweaters for everyone!
7. And of course...get acupuncture!
What better way to harmonize your body and boost your immune system than a restorative session with your acupuncturist at AOMA. The great thing about working with an acupuncturist is the opportunity to get tailored information, herbs, and food recommendations based on what your specific body constitution needs.
About the author
Lauren has lived in Austin since 2006 by way of Lake Tahoe, California. While pursuing her MAcOM at AOMA she continues to work with The American Cancer Society as a cancer information specialist. She counts ATX as her home with her husband and two Boston terriers. http://www.earthspringacupuncture.com/
Eating organic is something many of us aim to do; however, doing so on a student budget can be tricky. Here are some of the top tips for affordably eating organic.
1. Look for generic organic brands made by the stores which carry them. Costco, Whole Foods, and Central Market have their own organic foods that are much more affordable.
2. Opt for frozen veggies, fruits, and meats if the fresh prices are out of your range.
3. Choose bulk over packaged foods. Many stores like Central Market, HEB, Whole Foods, and Sprouts have an excellent selection of bulk food items which can be snagged at a fraction of the price.
4. Follow what is in season because the locally grown food is usually cheaper than that which had to travel miles to the store. Here is a guide for Texas.
5. Support local farms through CSAs or Farmers Markets. Also, if you shop toward the end of the market you can likely get deals because they'd rather sell it than take it back to the farm.
6. Grow at least one thing yourself.
7. Coupons! Websites or social media sites of your favorite companies have coupons and specials. Some other sites are Mambo Sprouts, Saving Naturally, Organic Deals, My Organic Coupons, Organic Deals and Steals. Writing companies with compliments or complaints usually will result in their sending coupons.
8. Read Wildly Affordable Organic for tips on organic eating for $5 a day or less.
9. Buy at least the dirty dozen organic if you can't afford to buy everything organic. The dirty dozen are from the Environmental Working Group's research and have the most pesticides:
Sweet bell peppers
The Environmental Working Group classified the following as the clean dozen, which have fewer pesticides:
Sweet peas (frozen)
Sweet corn (frozen)
10. Research other sustainable food options in your area, from businesses to stores, at eatwellguide.com
Janessa Benedict is a senior student at AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine. She currently writes a financial aid newsletter, contributes to an Oriental medicine website, and looks forward to saving the world.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.almaacupuncture-ep.com
I was groomed from a young age to love watermelon. Growing up in Florida, almost every week in the summer my father would stop at a roadside stand and carefully select one of the heavy, green melons. There would be thumping, weighing and sniffing and finally he would select his prize. When we got home, he’d cut off the watermelon in large rounds, place it on a plate and eat it with a spoon--leaving behind just an empty, cylindrical rind and seeds floating in sweet juice. He would always cut me off a piece too and I’d enjoy this summertime ritual with my dad.
It wasn’t until I became a practitioner of Chinese medicine that I learned watermelon was way more than a sweet summer treat. It is actually a useful medicinal food in the summer, especially for those of us that live in very hot climates.
In Chinese medicine, foods and herbs have energetic properties that have specific healing capacities. Watermelon is described in Chinese medicine as affecting the heart, bladder and stomach. It clears heat and is cold in nature. As we all know, it is full of delicious juice, which nourishes the fluids of the body while helping to promote urination. This is a very effective strategy to help clear that summer heat from the body! In Chinese medicine it is said that heat can cause constipation, and watermelon is a wonderful antidote for this common ailment as well. Perhaps best yet, watermelon has a calming effect on the spirit and helps to ease frustration, restlessness and worry. So if rising mercury is making you irritable—make sure to cut yourself off a juicy slice!
Waste not, want not: the seeds of the watermelon can also be used as medicine as well. Dried seeds can be boiled in water and consumed as a tea. The seeds are said to help the kidneys in Chinese medicine—helping to promote urination and also acting a vasodilator to lower high blood pressure.
Those who have a weak digestive system should enjoy watermelon sparingly. In Chinese medicine it is understood that cold foods and raw fruits and vegetables are hard on the digestive tract. Because of this, if you have gas and bloating, eat watermelon in moderation. You could also visit an acupuncturist in your area to help you improve your digestion-either using acupuncture, herbal medicine, or both.
From a western nutritional perspective, watermelon is high in carotenoids such as lycopene and antioxidants such as vitamin A and C. It is also high in electrolytes, which is why it is so good for helping us stay hydrated.
East or West—any way you look at it, watermelon is a healthy and delicious summer food. Watermelon is tasty enough on it’s own, but also check out the recipe below for another “cool” way to enjoy this yummy fruit.
Recipe—Cooling Watermelon, Tomato & Basil Salad
2 cups ripe tomato, cubed
2 cups watermelon, cubed
¼ cups pine nuts
1 Tbl. fresh mint, minced
1 Tbl. fresh basil, minced
Pinch of sea salt
1. Place all ingredients, except for salt, in a bowl and toss together until combined.
2. Sprinkle the salt over the top and stir again. Chill, then enjoy!
Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford
The Tao of Healthy Eating by Bob Flaws
The World’s Healthiest Foods by George Mateljan
About the author:
Kendra Lay, AP, LAc, ACN is a graduate of AOMA practicing in Florida. She specializes in combining Chinese medicine with modern nutrition. Visit her website at www.KendraLay.com
The practice of Chinese dietary therapy comprises of choosing specific foods to cause a desired change in health. Summer is the season of active growth and heat. Energy is strong and rises easily. Here are some TCM nutrition tips on how to “eat for the heat.”
The dominant organ in the summer according to TCM is the Heart. A common excess pattern in summer is known as “Heart Fire.” Some of the symptoms of heart fire are: irritability, mental restlessness, dream-disturbed sleep, thirst, mouth ulcers, red face, and palpitations. When this pattern occurs the “fire” dries out fluids (yin substances). Due to the intimate relationship between the Heart and Small Intestine, the heat tries to eliminate through increased urination. It is best to eat foods that are cooling in nature and to avoid excessive alcohol as well as spicy, rich, and greasy foods.
5 Foods for Summer Heat
Sweet & cool
Nourish Heart & Stomach
Clear toxic heat, summer-heat, and promote urination
Help lower blood fat and renew arteries
Low fat, high fiber, high protein, high iron
Cautions: Not suitable for Spleen deficiency type diarrhea (chronic loose or watery stools, poor appetite, fatigue, abdominal distention after meals)
Sweet & cool
Strengthens Spleen, regulates Stomach, nourishes Liver
Clears heat, promotes urination, and reduces edema
Slightly Sweet, ranges from warm to neutral
Nourishes Spleen, Stomach, & Kidney
Generates fluid, relieves thirst
Sweet & cold
Nourishes Stomach & Small Intestine
Clears heat, relieves thirst, promotes urination, clears toxins
Sweet & cold
Nourishes Heart, Stomach, Bladder
Clears summer-heat, eliminates restlessness, relieves thirst, & promotes urination
Cautions: Not good for diarrhea due to Spleen deficient cold or for diabetics
Chilled Cucumber Soup
4 cups cucumber, chopped
2 cups water or broth
1 cup yogurt
1 clove garlic (optional)
Several fresh mint leaves
Puree everything in the blender. Serve chilled. Serves 4-6.
Jade Green Soup
1/2 cup tofu, diced
2 cups leafy greens, chopped
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon oil (optional)
3 cups broth
Sauté or steam tofu 5 minutes. Add salt.
Add greens. Sauté 2 minutes.
Add broth and simmer until greens are bright-colored.
Lu, Henry. Chinese Herbs with Common Foods: Recipes for Health and Healing. Kodansha International 1997.
Pitchford, Paul. Healing with Whole Foods Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition. 2002. North Atlantic Books.
 Within Chinese medicine, each “organ” is not just the actual, individual organ, but rather a whole system unto itself that regulates many aspects and functions of the body. There is a close relationship between these organ systems, the five flavors of food, and the elements.
Approximately 27 million Americans suffer from the pains of arthritis, making it one of the most common causes of physical disability among adults. Although it becomes more common as one ages, arthritis can affect adults of all ages.
Symptoms of arthritis include joint or muscle pain in any joint area including the spine, hips, and fingers. Other symptoms include morning muscle/joint stiffness, loss of appetite, low-grade fever and loss of energy. Joints may become swollen when inflamed and even turn red.
Osteoarthritis vs. Rheumatoid arthritis
The most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the most common, affecting an estimated 21 million adults in the US. It begins with the breakdown of joint cartilage, resulting in pain and stiffness in the fingers, knees, hips, and spine. Repetitive injuries and physical trauma may contribute to the deterioration of osteoarthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis can affect the joints and in some cases, may affect the blood, lungs, or the heart. Inflammation is the main cause of the pain, stiffness, and swelling. People who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis are familiar with “flares” or active symptoms and “remissions” when the symptoms dissipate for a period of time. This ebb and flow of symptoms can go on for years or a lifetime.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Arthritis with Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine
According to Chinese medical theory, arthritis occurs when the Qi (energy, life-force) in the body becomes blocked. Unique acupuncture points will be determined after a careful evaluation of the patient’s medical history and once the licensed practitioner pinpoints the root cause of the patient’s Qi blockage. The practitioner will also likely prescribe Chinese herbs and make lifestyle and/or dietary recommendations.
In a study by the National Institutes of Health/National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, acupuncture was shown to reduce the pain and functional impairment of osteoarthritis of the knee. Participants had a 40% decrease in pain and improvement of joint function from baseline evaluation after only 14 weeks of treatments.
Lifestyle and Dietary Recommendations
Lifestyle and diet can make a huge impact on quality of life for people who suffer from arthritis. A healthy diet can ease arthritis pain and help keep your joints healthy. Chinese medicine nutritional therapy would recommend avoiding “damp” foods such as greasy and spicy foods, as well as dairy products.
Here are some other foods to consider adding to your diet:
Ginger - A natural anti-inflammatory. Take according to supplement label or make a tea with half a teaspoon of grated ginger root and eight ounces of boiling water. Steep for 10 to 15 minutes.
Pineapple - Bromelain, an enzyme in pineapple, reduces inflammation.
Cherries - Cherries are an excellent source of nutrients that may help to reduce joint pain and inflammation related to arthritis.
Fish - Cold-water fish such as salmon and mackerel contain omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce pain and swelling as well as keep joints healthy.
Turmeric - A natural anti-inflammatory. Take according to supplement label and use as a cooking spice whenever possible.
 Acupuncture for Arthritis by Diane Joswick. https://www.acufinder.com/Acupuncture+Information/Detail/Acupuncture+for+Arthritis
Goji berries have been used for 6,000 years in Chinese herbalism to protect the liver, help eyesight, boost immune function, improve circulation, and promote longevity. Goji berries, also known as Lycium barbarum, wolfberry, gou qi zi, and Fructus lycii are usually found dried. They are shriveled orange-red berries that look like red raisins.
Goji berries have been eaten in Asia for ages to promote longevity and currently are used to help treat diabetes, women’s health, high blood pressure, and age-related eye problems. Goji berries can be eaten raw or cooked and are becoming more prevalent in juices, herbal teas, and medicines. Since they have short shelf life it is a good idea to store them in a cool place or even in the refrigerator.
What are the health benefits of goji berries?
Goji berries are rich in vitamins and antioxidants, particularly carotenoids such as beta-carotene and zeaxanthin. One of zeaxanthin's key roles is to protect the retina of the eye by absorbing blue light and acting as an antioxidant. In fact, increased intake of foods containing zeathanthin may decrease the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (ARMD).
Some studies using goji berry juice found benefits in mental well-being and calmness, athletic performance, happiness, quality of sleep, and feelings of good health. Significant animal research has demonstrated anticancer, antidiabetes, antihypertensive, anti-infertility, anti-myelosuppressive, antioxidant, hypolipidemic, immune-stimulating, and radiosensitizing properties.
Goji berries are a member of the nighshade family, so if you are sensitive to nightshades, it may be a good idea to avoid or limit your intake of goji berries.
Goji Berry Congee Recipe
Traditionally known as “rice water”, congee is eaten throughout China as a breakfast food. It is a thin porridge, usually made from rice, although other grains may be used. 
1 cup rice, millet, or quinoa
6 cups water
1/4 cup goji berries
1 pear, cut in half (optional)
2-3 dates (optional)
Cook in a covered pot four to six hours on warm, or use the lowest flame possible; a crockpot works well for congees and can run on low overnight. It is better to use too much water than too little, and it is said that the longer congee cooks, the more “powerful” it becomes.
Five more ways to eat Goji Berries
Put them in your cold cereal or oatmeal like raisins.
Make a cold or hot tea infusion.
Bake them in cookies or muffins
Combine them with your favorite nuts and dried fruit in a trail mix.
Cover them in chocolate!
Our society is bombarded with the latest designer diet every day. There are so many ways to approach the topic of healthy eating: multi-vitamins, probiotics, fiber, etc. But are all these supplements and foods appropriate for your body? What does your body really need?
A holistic philosophy, like the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) approach to nutrition, would be to listen to what your body is asking for and not to subscribe to advertisements or trendy diets. Eat what YOU need. But how do you know the difference in what you need and what you crave?
There are many unique body types according to traditional Chinese medicine. This isn’t the same as eating right for your blood type (possibly another trend). Simply put, what may be healthy for your friend may not really be the best nutrition for your body or your digestion. Take fiber as an example: people suffering from constipation need to eat lots of green leafy vegetables. But too much fiber would not be good for someone who has loose stools or even worse, suffers from something like ulcerative colitis, or bloody stools. See recommendations for colitis below.
So, how can you find out what your body type is? Do you run cold or hot? Do you have a tendency towards constipation or loose stools? Are you overweight or underweight? These are a few of the factors in defining your unique body type or constitution. It is recommended to contact a licensed acupuncturist for a consultation.
What foods do I need?
How can you find out what types of foods are best for you? Through a comprehensive medical history questionnaire, and tongue and pulse diagnosis, TCM practitioners strive to determine the differentiation pattern of each person to make a unique treatment plan and dietary recommendations. Depending on the diagnosis, a TCM practitioner can suggest foods based on the treatment for these TCM patterns.
For instance, many hypertension cases can have the differentiation pattern of hyperactive Liver yang. Suggested foods would be those that help to clear heat and reduce hyperactive yang. Someone with high blood pressure (caused by hyperactive Liver yang) would do well to drink a cup of juice made from fresh celery and tomato every morning. Of course, there are many other food recommendations for hypertension. For more about TCM treatment of hypertension, read our previous blog post.
Healing with Whole Foods
Many practitioners of Chinese medicine would agree that Paul Pitchford’s Healing with Whole Foods is considered the bible of TCM nutrition and use it as a resource. You can look up the properties of specific foods along with recipes for the foods. The book also addresses seasonal and environmental connections according the TCM philosophy, organ systems, disease syndromes, and recommendations for chronic imbalances.
Here’s an excerpt from the book about colitis and enteritis:
These inflammations of the colon and small intestine can be generated by emotional repression and the related energy stagnation of the liver…Typical symptoms of intestinal inflammation include abdominal pain and cramping, diarrhea, and rectal bleeding in severe cases. Because food is not being properly absorbed, there is often weight loss and weakness.
In intestinal inflammations of all types, chewing food well breaks it down better so that it is less irritating, stimulates proper pancreatic secretion, and provides well-insalivated complex carbohydrates which as like a healing salve on the intestinal coating. Raw food is not tolerated because it easily irritates delicate surfaces of inflamed intestines. Many of the symptoms of enteritis and colitis can be caused by dairy intolerances, which are sometimes merely intolerances to the poor quality of the dairy products used.
At this point Pitchford refers to a section of the book on dairy recommendations which include:
Full fat milk (avoid low-fat dairy)
Goat’s milk is preferred
Raw milk (if available)
Soured and fermented products: yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, etc
Avoid homogenized milk
Simple idea: Listen to your body.
With so many mixed messages in the media about the “miracle” diet, it’s not a wonder that we are confused about what to eat. By following some simple ideas based on a holistic approach to nutrition and listening to your body, you can discover what your body really needs to thrive as YOU.
Author: Dr. Violet Song’s medical practice focuses on female disorders, stress, insomnia, hormonal disorders, respiratory diseases, facial acupuncture, as well as pediatric herbal consultations. She also has a passion for dietary and Chinese herbal consultations.
Join AOMA Student Amy Babb in a conversation on how she uses Traditional Chinese Medicine in daily life with nutrition and mind-bodywork.