Looking into your Heart

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Valentine's day is here, and we're inundated with images of hearts as a symbol for romantic love. February is also 'Heart Health Month,' focused on heart disease in a literal sense. It's also Black History Month, a good time to acknowledge the burden that experiencing racism and oppression have on health, notably cardiac health. Hearts have been on my mind so I dug into the Traditional Chinese Medicine view of the Heart energetically, as well as the physical organ.

The Emperor

The heart holds the office of lord and sovereign. The radiance of the spirits (shenming) stems from it. - Nei Jing Su Wen

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Heart is the seat of consciousness, the Shen. Like an Emperor seated in a vast cinnabar throne room, our heart requires stillness and calm to make the highest level decisions that keep our spirits in tune with our deepest selves and our heavenly destinies. In the vision of the human as a well-ordered society, the Heart-Emperor is protected and aided by the other officials, the organs and conduits of the body that allow it to remain in contemplative meditation and connection with our true self. When we're balanced, we're able to respond appropriately to life events, to avoid over or underreacting, and to proceed in harmony with our true desires and natures.

Circulating Health

Traditional Chinese medicine texts recognized all varieties of heart conditions and understood clearly blood circulation and the role of the physical heart. Acupuncture and herbal medicines can be very helpful in preventing and treating heart disease. From the kitchen pharmacy, there are many food herbs which can be taken daily as tonics for cardiovascular health, including maintaining healthy blood pressure and circulation. Here are a few faves:

Hawthorn Berry Tea: Hawthorn has been extensively studied as a cardiovascular health supplement, including all parts of the plant, berries, leaves and flowers. In TCM, the berries are used to aid in the digestion of fats, and from a Western perspective seem to lower serum lipid levels.

Chrysanthemum Blossoms: I often use the bitter, refreshing tea of these flowers to aid with allergies and eye irritation, but the same energetic action that sends energy down to calm eyes and headaches can act to lower blood pressure. Hawthorn berry and chrysanthemum blossom tea is a tasty cardiac combination.

Heart-friendly Foods: Despite what we were taught for many years, fat consumption by itself is not the guilty party in heart disease. Overconsumption of sweet, refined and processed foods increase inflammation in the body and our bodies reaction to it can result in stagnation and impaired circulation. Eating a whole foods, balanced diet with an emphasis on vegetables and fruits is a vital move for all of us. Foods with an especially beneficial effect on the heart and circulatory system? Try celery, onion, garlic, carrots, apples, pears and tangerines. Black fungus, shitake mushrooms, water chestnuts and mung beans are other tasty recommendations.

The Emotions of the Heart

'Symbolic image of the heart: Chinese/Korean/Japanese' . Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY

'Symbolic image of the heart: Chinese/Korean/Japanese' . Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY

The Heart holds a powerful symbolic role in many cultures. Associated with the element of Fire in the 5 Element cosmology, spiritual and emotional dysfunction of the Heart can show up in a variety of ways.

Too Hot: An excess of Fire element affects our Heart energy with overexuberance. We can't stop talking, our minds race. Our sleep is disrupted, especially falling asleep. Anxiety and restlessness can make us feel overwhelmed and make it difficult to think clearly. In addition to proper treatment with a practitioner, cooling foods and herbs and calming activities such as meditation can help chill us out and give our Hearts room to breathe.  

Too Cold: Deficiency in the Fire element often manifests in physical symptoms of coldness and poor circulation, but emotionally we can feel detached, listless and depressed, unable to access our feelings or communicate them. Together with treatment, warming herbs and foods and gently stimulating activities can help stoke our Heart fire.

Check out 5 Element Healing Anointing Oils for some gentle aromatherapy designed to support the 5 elements and our emotional well-being.

Wishing you a happy heart!

Sources:

The Tao of Nutrition, Maoshing Ni and Cathy McNease

The Treatment of Modern Western Medical Diseases with Chinese Medicine, Bob Flaws and Philippe Sionneau

Nourishing Destiny: The Inner Tradition of Chinese Medicine. Lonny S. Jarrett

The Foundations of Chinese Medicine, Giovanni Maciocia

Chinese System of Food Cures, Henry Lu

Healing with the Herbs of Life, Lesley Tierra

Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica, Dan Bensky and Andrew Gamble

Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) in the treatment of cardiovascular disease, Mary C. Tassell, Rosari Kingston, Deirdre Gilroy, Mary Lehane, and Ambrose Furey


 

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TCMTalk for 2017 - Holistic Healing for The Times We've Been Given

“I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.
"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

This quote has been front of mind for me many times in my life, but never more so than in the months leading up to and following the American presidential election of 2016. These are grim days for those of us committed to a vision of world filled with diversity, with mutual care, with celebration, with love of our planet, and commitment to the future we leave for generations to come. Angelica & Peony and my work in the world is about healing - so even though being a potion maker and an acupuncturist may not seem inherently 'political,' it absolutely is.

Coming to the United States in my late 20s from Canada via Israel, I encountered a country without universal public health care for the first time. I was shocked to treat people as an intern at TCM school who would ask for herbs to treat serious infections. "I want you to see an MD, you may need antibiotics." or "I'd like you to have some tests so we can rule out some things" to be told "I don't have insurance, I can't afford to go to the doctor, that's why I'm getting treatment for my pneumonia at a student clinic for acupuncturists." I also vividly remember one of my first patients, a woman in her 70s with a severe heart condition. She was desperate for help to get back on her feet so she could return to work before she got fired. Every acupuncturist and healer I know has suffered with their patients for whom crushing economic and social realities stand in the way of health and well-being.

Denise and I have spent time discussing how we can contribute to what is and must become a growing national and global movement for the human future. As well as our personal activism, we are dedicating this year's episodes of TCMTalk, our video series about Traditional Chinese Medicine and holistic healing, in support of activists - all of us.

Join us through the year as we explore the energy of each season with a special focus on connections to activism and resilience, and ideas for self and other care to help us all stay as sane and healthy as we can. We begin at the beginning with Spring! Denise explores the element of the season, Wood, how to find balance, and common issues that we can be especially prone to at this time of year. Kirsten gets specific with her best advice for getting good sleep - especially when faced with imbalances in the Wood Element characterized by stress, anger and waking in the middle of the night.

You can watch all the TCMTalk videos on our YouTube channel - subscribe to get notified whenever a new video comes out!

You can also find us on social media like facebook, twitter, pinterest and of course e-mail!

Denise and I will also be combining our activism and our healing at a great event on April 30th - Karma Clinic. We'll be offering Element balancing aromatherapy acupressure treatments, using unique essential oil healing blends that we've developed over the past year. All proceeds go to benefit Planting Justice. See the schedule for the day and book now with Energy Matters.

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November 15, 2016 Reflections from a practitioner of traditional medicine

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Like many people in my community, my clients and my patients, I have been reeling this week from the results of the American election. I react to these events from my own life as a Jewish woman, a queer person, an immigrant, and a friend and family member of people of color, Muslims, transfolk, immigrants and others who have been targeted and scapegoated by the individuals and forces represented by those who are claiming a victory this week. My response is shaped by my history and my training, and in that spirit I share some resources from traditional Chinese medicine as I have been taught. I encourage all of us in the days, weeks, months and years to come, to continue to turn to our teachers, our ancestors, our guides, for resources and support. I am not a scholar of TCM, but a practitioner, so these thoughts reflect my lived experience of these teachings, not necessarily academic understanding.

(quotes from Statements of Fact in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Bob Flaws. The statements are traditional conclusions based on millenia of practice and observation and are used to ensure our treatment decisions are sound and consistent. Bob Flaws has translated and compiled these statements for the English speaking student)

“In acute disorders, treat the branch (aka the symptoms)"

“In chronic conditions, treat the root (aka the causes)”

In holistic and traditional medicine, we recognize that both relieving symptoms and treating the underlying cause are necessary. The immediate must be treated immediately. The underlying must be treated over time. Both are called for.

“Act in accordance with seasonal, geographic and personal factors”

We are not all the same. Healing comes when we recognize where we are, and apply the remedy that is needed for the particular situation and history. All the different approaches to social change that are underway are part of the medicine we need, for so many different approaches, insights, actions and strategies will be needed to address the many different stories that have brought us to this moment. Before acting, reflect on the ‘seasonal, geographic and personal factors’ at play - both for you the actor, and the situation or persons you wish to bring healing to.

“If one does not have righteous qi to recover, evil will not retreat”

One cannot treat disease without nourishing the strength of the body. It takes qi (energy, vitality, strength) to cast out and heal from external disease. If we only focus on treating what is wrong from the outside, without strengthening what is within, we will not heal. On an individual level, this means caring for our well-being while we do our work for a better world. On a larger level, this means we nourish the physical and mental well-being of our communities, organizations and even nations and world. We strengthen from the inside while we push against what assails us.

Finally,

“Yin and yang may transform into each other” or in the words of modern day prophet Octavia Butler (z’l)

All that you touch
You Change.

All that you Change
Changes you.

The only lasting truth
is Change.

God
is Change.

Nothing is fixed. Nothing is over. The very fabric of reality is change. This is the very, very, very long view, and it’s available to us to step into whenever we need it.

In love,

Kirsten

Jade Shield Aromatherapy Room Spray
20.00

Jade Shield is back! I had to find new sources for ingredients to make an even better Jade Shield and I know you’ll love it as much as I do.

An aromatherapy interpretation of the classical Chinese formula Jade Windscreen, Jade Shield combines conifer oils with floral, citrus and a hint of mellow earth into an irresistible but not overpowering boreal-forest scented blend that fortifies the wei, lung and spleen qi, nourishes the heart and uplifts the spirit, while clearing the air.

Use any time extra support is needed to avoid illness and feel protected.

Quantity:
Add To Cart

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Friday Roundup - April 28, 2016

What I've been reading, writing, thinking about and indulging in this week.

The Trouble with Clean: I am always inspired by modern American herbalist matriarch Susun Weed. Today she shared one of her occasional essays, this one challenging the notion of 'clean' and cleanses.

"Where are we going to throw away that which we have cleaned away? What shall we do with the toxins, the filth, the disgusting waste, the foul, unneeded, unwanted, unloved parts? Where is far enough away? Can I ever get away from my shadow?" 

Rings of Power: I was mesmerized by these wood and resin rings that capture entire miniature worlds on your finger. Created by Vancouver jeweler Secret Wood, each one is handmade so no two are identical.

I love the cooking blog My Heart Beets, mostly paleo recipes by blogger Ashley. She has a great collection of Indian recipes, including lots of regional dishes. Her Coconut Egg Curry, a scrumptious and frugal dish of eggs simmered in a fragrant coconut sauce is on my menu this week.

Have a great weekend!

 

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