Are you getting the (health)Care that you deserve?

Do I have a story for you!  I think you will resonate with it.
 
This is about two medical doctor interactions that I recently had.
One demonstrates a “don’t do this”.
The other “do this”, for me and how I approach my health.
 
This story’s also about:
What it’s like to challenge the accepted norms.
What I look for (and most importantly: avoid!) in any kind of healthcare provider – from a massage therapist, to an acupuncturist, to a general practitioner, and so on.
 
This path, life, isn’t always the easiest.
But it is definitely made easier with community, sharing, and knowing that you are not alone.
And boy do I have some doozy stories from years gone by.
 
This is the first of what may be many “healing journey” stories. It’s time to share with you what my story has been so far. About what’s possible when you step on this path. Then, you can understand not just who I am, but why I work the way I do. How I started on this path, and the myriad twists and turns. Also, maybe, about that one time I did a liver cleanse and had a job interview moved up a week that I went to, reeking of garlic and who knows what else…
 
I’ll share what I’ve learned, and where I’m at now.
(Spoiler alert: BETTER THAN EVER! GETTING BETTER EVERY DAY! Yep, all caps for that one.)
 
Ready? Let’s dive in!

Last week I had a really, truly, crappy experience with my general practitioner (GP) at my annual physical.  I went so that I could keep an eye on certain blood markers, and so I could have an emergency-use (for migraines) prescription refilled.
 
This experience reached peak terrible around how to “treat” my thyroid condition.  I left the appointment feeling bullied.
Like worse than Mean Girls bullying bullied.
 
This GP berated me for not wanting to medicate thyroid medication. And…
 
For not needing thyroid medication to manage my Hashimoto’s thyroiditis in the first place.
 
And then she questioned my endocrinologist (the one doctor I see very regularly), and suggested that I was some sort of irresponsible person for, gasp, not wanting to take unnecessary medication.
 
I know I don’t need this medication because I see my endocrinologist several times a year, closely monitor my health between observation and lab work, and discuss the entirety of my health-life with my endocrinologist at my appointments.
 
Did the GP ask me these things?
 
No.
 
And here’s the thing that had me all worked up the entire weekend:
 
Patients should not be bullied or made to feel bad, or infused with fear, over how they are managing their chronic conditions. Especially when they are a success story.  And even moreso if they are struggling!!!
 
Being educated about one’s condition should be considered a GOOD thing. Not something seen as a liability, a form of defiance or combativeness.
 
Successfully managed chronic conditions should not be weaponized against the patient.
Heck, no doctor should be weaponizing a patient’s health and health-history in the first place!
 
How the GP acted and reacted is not how medicine (of any kind) should be practiced. Period.
 
Medicine is about doing no harm.
 
It’s about bringing people to more health through compassion, and care, not through bullying and shame.
 
Doctors should not be saying, “you are here so I can fix you” to a patient with long-term, complex, chronic conditions.  Especially not without engaging in more inquiry about the situation, person, and so on.
 
Or, I don’t know, asking if the patient wants to, or feels they need, “fixing” to begin with?
 
This is especially true when that person sees you once a year or less for a 15 minutes appointment.
 
This approach is not only downright arrogant. It’s harmful.
 
Everything I have experienced on my long health-journey tells me that true health and wellness is not rooted in arrogance.
 
Acting from such an arrogant place severs the bonds of trust between patient and practitioner, between the medicine and the potential benefactor (the patient)…
 
Arrogance is also a barrier between myself and my own wellness. Between me and the world. Between me and God/Source/Universe/Spirit. Between me and love. Me and others. (Gosh, any time I’ve gotten arrogant about anything in my life, it has done nothing but cause harm!)
 
Arrogance severs and prevents connections.
 

This interaction exemplifies why I said, “screw this” and began turning to “alternative” medicine 18 years ago.

It’s why I enrolled in a clinical herbal program when my health was in the toilet.

I knew there had to be another way. 

On the other end of this spectrum with a medical doctor…
 
I had a wonderful recent experience with my endocrinologist.
At our last appointment, I challenged a recommendation of hers and said I was more comfortable approaching this recommendation from a different angle. We discussed it, and she said, “sure, if that’s what you want to do. Just know, this delays any measures we can take until this testing is done.”
 
I was fine with that. My endocrinologist was too. She got it.
 
When I told my endocrinologist about my GP visit, she rolled her eyes. My endocrinologist assured me that what I said to the doctor was SPOT ON regarding thyroid health, treatment, labs, and so on, that I wished I could have hugged her.  I was so relieved.
My endocrinologist and I talked about my lab results, how I’m feeling, what’s going on with me outside of the labwork health-wise. Oh, and that recommendation that we shifted to testing first so I was more comfortable?  Yeaup: didn’t need to do anything.
At the end of the appointment, she said, “well, your labs look great! See you in six (6!) months! Keep up the good work!” Can’t argue with that. (This is the first time that she’s said see you in 6 months since we started working together. Usually it is one, two, or three…)
 
As you know, I spent the weekend in a tizzy over how my GP talked to me last week, and this appointment was just what I needed.
Speaking up pays off.
 
 
It’s really hard for me to “stand up for myself”, to stay rooted in myself, when there is a huge conflict such as my appointment last week.
I’m getting better at it, but this is a huge challenge for me.
Advocating for yourself is not easy. 
 
You have to educate yourself and then advocate for your health needs.  You have to remember that you are the expert of your health, that you know you best.  You have to observe how you feel, what works for you, what doesn’t, and act accordingly.
 
This is especially true if you have a complex chronic health condition, or multiple conditions. Or don’t want to be taking medication when a dietary change will do.  Or, if you want to be the gorgeous self-empowered human that you are!
 
Self-advocacy is the key to well-being.
Self-advocacy is what gets you eating those vegetables.
Telling your practitioner, “that’s not going to work for me because…”
Getting out and exercising because you know you feel better when you do.
Getting enough sleep every night.
Not eating that food that you know aggravates your health condition.
 
We all need and deserve a care team that honors our lived experience.
 
You deserve someone who understands that you are unique, that your experiences are your own, and that there is so much healing that can happen simply by working with the whole picture.
For me, having a care-team involves not just “alternative” practitioners and practices, but the standard allopathic ones as well.  I know what I get from each practitioner and how it fits together, but it took me 18 years (holy moly, I still can’t get over that) to get here. 
For you, and your team, the bigger picture will be different.
No matter what your picture looks like, in the end…
 
All that matters is that you are getting the care that you deserve.
 
Self-advocacy and being health-empowered help you winnow out the people who are not right for your care team.
 
The process can be exhausting. Enraging and frustrating.
It can leave you feeling unheard, invalidated, dismissed, bullied, “fired”… I’ve been there.   I’ve been fired by doctors on more than one occasion.  Yet, all this has been worth it.
 
It’s worth it because ME and MY HEALTH are worth it.
 
If all you have is one person who “gets it” – that can make a world of difference.
 

That’s whats taken me to the next step, on more than one occasion!

How are you taking your next step towards living a health-empowered life?

Coffee Alternative: Buddha’s Hand with Cherries Tea

 

My piece de resistance blend of the moment, now that I’ve quit coffee, is new crop sencha green tea, sour cherries, dried Buddha’s Hand, and fresh ginger. Sometimes I’ll add teensy bit of raw honey, just to give it a little more sweetness and body.  Other times, I’ll leave out the green tea and use tulsi instead.

As you can see, this has a lovely rich color, it is light but has substance, and when I drink it I sigh.  I always sighed while drinking my coffee and eating my chocolate, so I know this is hitting something deep within that my body is saying “yes!” to, and an attempt at correcting an imbalance.

(For those of you who want to know what sighing means in Chinese Medicine, it’s a sign of Liver Qi Stagnation.  The sigh after drinking this means that there is a release of stagnant Liver Qi, and that I clearly still have a stagnant Liver. Sigh, always something to improve upon.)

 

Get a large glass heat-proof pitcher or other vessel (to fit 8 cups)

  • Into your pitcher, place:
    • 1 piece of Buddha’s hand
    • 1 small handful of dried sour cherries (unsweetened) about 8-20 cherries*
    • 2 slices of fresh ginger
  • Bring a quantity of water to a near boil in a pot (7-8 cups), add 3 teaspoons of Sencha green tea (I use flatware teaspoons, not measuring spoons). Cover and let steep for 2 mins.
  • Strain the tea into the pitcher with the herbs, and let steep for 10+ minutes.
  • Pour into a mug and drink with a touch of honey, if desired.
  • Store in the refrigerator up to four days.  Remove the piece of Buddha’s hand after 12 hours.  (You can leave the Buddha’s hand piece in the tea, but I have found that it makes the tea a little too bitter for my taste. You may also remove it sooner than 12 hours if you would like to experiment with the flavor profile.)
  • Reheat the tea on the stovetop, in the quantity as desired; or, drink slightly cool or at room temperature.

 

By the third or fourth day, the tea will become ruby-tinged.  Enjoy the different flavors that this tea progresses through!

I might even add cardamom for those days that are chilly or wet, especially since it is one of my favorite herbs/spices.

 

Some notable benefits since drinking this tea: clearer and more luminous skin, warmer hands and feet, better body temperature regulation in general, overall better digestion and assimilation, absolutely no cravings for chocolate or coffee whatsoever, the desire to eat breakfast first thing in the morning, and better distribution of energy and focus throughout the day.

Did you make the tea?

What do you think about it?

What have you noticed about how it behaves in your body?

Please share your experiences in the comments section below.

 

 

Here are the Chinese Medicine reasons why each element is included in this tea blend:

 

Green tea (lu cha in Chinese) – is sweet, bitter and cooling.  It is affiliated with the Stomach, Heart and Lung Organs/Meridians.  It clears the head, harmonizes the Stomach (symptoms: nausea, indigestion, diarrhea), reduces fidgetiness and thirst, and dispels Dampness (this is due to a weak digestive system, and can be caused by external environmental factors such as a damp climate or eating dampening foods). While green tea contains caffeine, the benefits of the polyphenols, EGCG and l-theanine outweigh most adverse effects from caffeine for most people.  Your mileage may vary.

 

Cherries, Sour (shuan yin tao) – are warming, moistening, sweet, and they tonify the Qi and Blood while also moving Blood. They are associated with the Spleen, Stomach, and Kidneys and some sources cite the Liver or Heart also being part of the equation. Cherries are known to help eliminate excess body acids, and are beneficial for those who feel cold on a regular basis.  They are also a rejuvinative, benefit the skin and body, strengthen the Spleen and stimulate the appetite, quench thirst and prolong life. Additionally, cherries are high in iron and help with anemia.

 

Buddha’s hand (fo shou) – is less drying than dried orange peel, and is fast becoming one of my favorite gentle Liver Qi regulating herbs.  It is acrid and bitter; it is also warming, and penetrates to the Liver, Spleen, Stomach and Lungs. Compared to coffee’s Qi dredging properties, Buddha’s hand spreads and regulates Liver Qi providing long-lasting benefits without the mess left behind.  It is commonly used to harmonize the Stomach and strengthen the Spleen (meaning: the key symptoms of this pattern are: epigastric pain, fullness and distention, lack of appetite and belching and/or nausea).  In other words, this herb not only gets and keeps your Liver’s energy/Qi moving smoothly, but it also wakes up your digestive system.

(Note: this herb is not to be used alone, or in large amounts over a long period of time.)

 

Fresh ginger (sheng jiang) – is a warm, spicy herb that is affiliated with the Lungs, Spleen and Stomach.  It is often used in formulas to circulate the herbs through the body, and to relieve any digestive discomfort or toxicity of the other herbs in a formula.  In this case, ginger is used to warm the Stomach and Spleen.  Dried ginger may also be used, but it is much warmer (hot!) and acts differently enough in my body that fresh ginger is best used.

 

Honey is utilized as a remedy for dryness (throat, mouth, bowels), and is considered a panacea by many. Here, it tonifies the digestive system (Spleen/Stomach in CM).

 

In short: Between Buddha’s hand and cherries, there is Qi and Blood movement, and the cherries tonify Blood, which make for a more balanced combination than coffee can offer. Fresh ginger has the added benefit of increasing the flow of bile, something that coffee does offer! Green tea can perk you up with the minimal amount of caffeine, but also help create balance and not draw upon your Kidney’s reserves, when combined with the other herbs in this blend.

 

*Cons: I have found that this does not stimulate peristalsis the way that coffee does.  If you are reliant upon coffee to promote your morning constitutional, you will meet with an interesting transitional period.  If you tend towards constipation, use the smaller amount of cherries in this recipe.

 

My advice during this transitional period between being a coffee drinker and a non-coffee drinker? 

– Ensure that you are getting enough fiber in your diet – this makes a world of difference!

An easy way to get enough fiber is to have a cooked salad of greens (I like kale), avocado and tomato with a small amount of salad dressing as your “salad” during lunch or dinner.  This yields approximately 12g of fiber (nearly half of your fiber intake for the day).

– Move every day, walk, run, bike, dance, yoga, qi gong, whatever works for you, do it.

Additionally, pick one and give it a try for a week:

– Eat 2-3 dried plums after dinner, take 2 tablets of Triphala before bed, or have a cup of hot water with a squeeze of lime (or lemon) and a pinch of salt upon rising to get things moving.

– Take digestive bitters before meals.

– Include small amounts ferments and probiotics into your daily dietary intake. (Avoid kombucha as it is yeast based.)

– You can also rub your belly in a clockwise direction with or without oil.  If you would like an oil to use, I prefer St. John’s Wort as it has antispasmodic properties that can help soothe an irritated gut.

 


Sourcing Buddha’s hands and possible alternatives:

Buddha’s hands may be found in specialty markets and “high end” food stores as a fresh citrus.  Dean and Deluca, Gourmet Garage, Fairway, Whole Foods are all stores where I have found this fruit fresh. Look for firm fruits that are free of blemishes, with a nice color that has no green.

If you are using dried fruit, as I am, you can head to your local Chinatown herb shop and ask for “fo shou”. It should be in the $20/lb range.  It should be green/yellow in color, and free of debris.

Pearson Ranch in California appears to have finger citron/Buddha’s hand for $45/5 fruits.  http://www.pearsonranch.com/buddhas-hand-citron.html  If you slice then dry them yourself, you will have tea for many years to come! They are harvested for a short time beginning in October, and the quantity is limited.  (I have not ordered or worked with this company in the past, if you do order from them please comment on your experience with them here, please.)

 

If you cannot find, or afford, this delicacy:

Try combining dried rose petals (or rose buds) with dried orange peels and use those instead.  I would suggest something like 3TB rose petals and 2TB dried orange peel to help mimic the actions of Buddha’s hand.

As fo shou/Buddha’s hand is spicy, bitter and slightly warm, the orange peel and rose petals will also contribute spiciness, bitterness, warmth, sweetness and an aromatic quality to the tea.  Between these two herbs, you will also get the benefits of opening up the Liver, Lung, Spleen and Stomach meridians/Organs.  I would not have this as a daily tea in the long-term though, as dried orange peel is quite drying to the Yin of the body, whereas Buddha’s hand is not.

If you try this alternative combination, I would love to hear from you in the comments below.

 

 

 

Some of the sources I referred to when writing the coffee series of posts:

itmonline.org/arts/coffee.htm

http://www.cnn.com/2016/02/20/health/coffee-liver-cirrhosis-irpt/

https://acupunkyoga.wordpress.com/acupuncture/coffee-and-chinese-medicine/

https://www.nicodermcq.com/products/how-to-use-nicoderm-cq.html

https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/chocolate-pros-and-cons-of-this-sweet-treat

http://ispub.com/IJPHARM/9/1/4575

http://blogs.plos.org/speakeasyscience/2012/02/14/the-curious-toxic-chemistry-of-chocolate/

https://academic.oup.com/aje/article-pdf/149/6/550/570818/149-6-550.pdf

http://fairtradeusa.org/what-is-fair-trade

https://teabuddy.wordpress.com/2011/11/23/the-dirty-secret-about-decafs/

https://happyearthtea.com/blogs/tea-101/17953352-can-caffeine-be-rinsed-from-tea

Pitchford, Healing with Whole Foods Revised Edition

Ni, The Tao of Nutrition 3rd Edition

http://www.pingminghealth.com/article/761/cherry-and-arthritis/

East West School of Planetary Herbology Professional Herbalist course materials

http://www.shen-nong.com/eng/lifestyles/food_property_food_tcm.html

http://www.acupuncturetoday.com/herbcentral/ginger.php

Bensky, Materia Medica 3rd Edition

https://www.sacredlotus.com/go/chinese-herbs/substance/fo-shou-finger-citron-fruit

http://www.acupuncturetoday.com/herbcentral/greentea.php

http://www.shen-nong.com/eng/cm/cm10.html

http://www.americandragon.com/Individualherbsupdate/LuCha.html

Kamwo’s Herb App

TCM ClinicAid App

Nourish (or Deplete) Your Blood

I’ve been turning over the idea of living life with more Blood: passion, spirit, vivacity, courage and wisdom and how what we do creatively and in connection with others can be a source of nourishment and expression of what we feel.

From an emotional and spiritual perspective, we can nourish our Blood through the experiences that we have and in which we engage that bring us a sense of joy or fulfillment. Physically, we can nourish our Blood (or deplete it) based on the activities we choose to engage in, and the food we ingest on a regular basis.

Here, I touch upon a few points about the activities and lifestyle choices we make that can affect our Blood and I go into greater depth on my favorite topic of discussion (aside from Chinese Medicine): food.

 

We can deplete our Blood, physically, through several ways.  These include:
Overworking – using coffee, soda, sugar, caffeine, stimulants, etc. to push through tiredness, working despite exhaustion, trying to do it all without adequate rest
Over-exercising or too much physical work – some folks can exercise every day for an hour, for others a half hour of aerobic activity is plenty, and some others still need small regular bursts of activity.
Overthinking – this includes worry and anxiety, excessive mental work (including spending a lot of time futzing around on the computer, playing games, reading, etc.)
Staying up too late, not getting enough sleep – sets one up to be in a vicious cycle that is hard to get out of (see list of Blood depletion signs below)
Not eating according to your body’s unique needs – this includes eating processed/fast/junk food in lieu of healthier options, and being on a restricted diet that does not adequately provide key nutrients for you and your needs (for example: some folks do great eating a paleo diet, others thrive on vegetarianism)

As we know, Blood in Chinese Medicine is more than the blood in modern medicine.  In Chinese Medicine, Blood is an alchemical mixture of our body, mind and spirit which penetrates to all parts of our bodies (organs, vessels, down to the cells themselves).  With blood in modern medicine, it is the physical manifestation of oxygen, plasma, minerals, nutrients, and cells.

 

In modern medicine, you may be told that you have iron deficiency anemia, but the anemia and Blood Depletion are not necessarily interchangeable as iron deficiency anemia signs include:
Sore and/or swollen tongue
Shortness of breath
Headache
Irritability
Fatigue (lack of energy, or quick to fatigue)
Cravings for non-foods (ice, dirt, etc.)
Blood-test results

 

Blood Depletion (or Deficiency) signs in Chinese Medicine are:
Dry skin, hair and/or nails
Lusterless and/or pale face, nails and/or lips
Numbness and/or weak tremors in the limbs
Tiredness
Insomnia (when you are so tired you cannot sleep, you are tired-wired, or you have trouble falling asleep but then sleep well)
Poor memory
Thinness, or emaciation, of the body
Dizziness
If you menstruate: scanty menses, or lack of menstruation altogether
You may also experience: heart palpitations, anxiety, unusual dreams, restlessness (these indicate that your Heart doesn’t have enough Blood for your spirit/soul to be calm and settled); muscle spasms, spots in the visual field, or possibly other signs of impaired vision(your Liver is likely to be implicated here); mental fatigue, and/or the tendency to be easily startled

How do you know if you have a depletion of healthy Blood according to Chinese Medicine?
If you have at least three of the above Blood Depletion symptoms you are in the running for making some changes to your diet and lifestyle.

As you can see, even from a non-practitioner perspective the solution to the problem is likely to be vastly different.


What you can do about Blood Depletion (aka Deficiency)

Adjust your diet:
I’m sure that everyone is sick of me writing this, in fact I anticipated a groan whilst typing this (maybe that was me groaning to myself though…)

But, we are what we eat and if we are tired and run down, and dry and pale and lusterless, it’s a good idea to take a look at not only one’s water intake, but one’s diet.

What have you been eating lately?

Does your diet need a tune-up in the form of more nutrient-dense foods like:
Liver (chicken, beef, calf – from local, humane, grass-fed, organic sources only)
Beef, eggs
Bone broths – medicinal (see below for a recipe)
Mussels, oysters, sardines, tuna and octopus
Molasses
Aduki and kidney beans
Dates, figs, raisins
Goji Berries
Apples, apricots
Longan berries, mulberries (especially the dark ones)
Black sesame seeds
Sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin
Artichokes, cabbage, celery, dandelion (greens), mushrooms (shiitake, button mushrooms)
Watercress, wheatgrass
Cooked spinach, dark leafy greens, and beets

Minimal consumption of these items is recommended:
Alcohol
Caffeine
Greasy, heavy or oily foods (fried foods included)*
Dairy products*
Refined carbohydrates (white flour, white sugar)*
Grains (yes, grains!  A couple of times a week is okay if they are whole grains like quinoa or brown rice.)
Tofu, soy milk*
Raw foods (green juice, smoothies, salads, etc.)*
Cold foods (iced drinks, beer, ice cream, etc.)*

*This is because these items are cold and “dampening” – meaning they slow your digestion down and thus make it much more difficult to extract the vital nutrients from your food.  For more  reasons why these items (including alcohol and grains) are recommended to be minimally consumed, if at all, please refer to my article on Elimination Diets and Spleen Qi Deficiency with Dampness (it’s free!).

 

Rest enough, but not too much:
Make sure you get 7-8 hours of sleep per night if you are an adult, and that you exercise but not to the point of exhaustion.

Take time at night and on the weekends to relax, “do nothing” (meditate, yin yoga, take a bath, go for a quiet walk in the woods, sit outside and watch the neighborhood or birds, have lunch at the café and watch life go by, listen to relaxing music, etc.), in short: give yourself permission to take a breath and not be productive.

Set up a bedtime ritual such as: dimming the lights as the evening develops, changing into your pajamas, brushing your teeth to calming music, taking care of your skin, meditating, then getting into bed without your phone/iPad/laptop/other back-lit device.

 

I have a secret: if you are run down and you keep going anyway, your productivity levels will not be as high as when you give yourself that half hour to “do nothing” and you’ll eventually feel that wear and tear in the form of the list of signs above!

 

Put herbs in your food (see below for recipe ideas)

Goji berries are a popular Blood Tonic (tonics are herbs/foods that build something that is depleted), so are raisins!  I love the green Hunza ones, as they are often rated to have higher iron contents than a lot of the other dark raisins.  Let your taste-buds be your guide here.

Goji berries can be steeped with hot water (1TB berries per mug) with a slice of ginger, to provide a lovely herbal tea that is easy on the wallet, tasty, and particularly good for the Liver and eyes.  When you are done with your tea, you can eat the softened berries.  I often drink this when I am working at the computer a lot.  (Dragon Herbs’ goji berries are my favorite: they have the best taste and consistency out of all the other goji’s that I’ve tried.)

You can make chai with turmeric and raisins, leaving out the honey, which results in a strangely delicious drink too.

 

Speak with a practitioner if you would like to have more detailed information about how to handle your health situation.

Speaking with a practitioner is especially helpful if you have a pre-existing condition that requires medication, if you have been trying different approaches on your own for more than three months with little to no positive results, or if you feel overwhelmed with all of the (often conflicting) information out there.

((It goes without saying that I recommend you consult with a physician if you have health concerns.))

 



Recipes:

Nourishing Bone Broth, to be used as a base for soups or stews -or to drink on its own:

Bones – preferably beef or chicken, or even pork – organic, local, humane, all that jazz – two pounds of bones or the carcass of at least two chickens.  (If using beef or pork bones, roast in the oven at 425F for 15-20 minutes to brown – to help develop the flavor of the broth.)
Water – the amount depends on the size pot you have
Ginger – 1″ piece sliced into 1/8″ rounds
Rice vinegar – 1/3 cup

Carrots – 6 large, roughly chopped
Onion – 1, roughly chopped (or 3 leeks sliced up)
Celery – 3 ribs, roughly chopped
Goji berries – 1 handful (approximately 1/3 cup)
Mulberries – optional, 1 handful (approximately 1/3 cup)
Dang gui – 6 slices
White peony – 4 slices
Shiitake mushrooms – 8, fresh or dried
Ginger – 1″ sliced into 1/8″ rounds
Bay leaves – 3
Thyme – optional, 3 sprigs
Parsley – 1/2 bunch

  1. Place the bones, vinegar and ginger in a large stock pot, cover with water by at least 3″.
  2. Cover the pot, bring it to the boil, then reduce to a simmer for at least 24 hours.
  3. After the first 24 hours, add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for another 24 hours.
  4. I like to let the bone broth (bones/water) simmer until the liquid turns white, then I’ll add the remaining ingredients.
  5. Let the broth cool to room temperature then strain and place into freezer-safe containers for later use.

It’s a bit of time/work, but when you make a giant pot of it it is worth having all of the broth in the freezer!

I’ll use this broth as a base for soups, stews, even miso soup and hot chocolate!

My favorite way to have it is as a sulung tang type of soup.


Bone Broth with Meatballs, Vermicelli and Greens

1 handful of cooked vermicelli (rice) noodles
Small beef meatballs (see recipe below)
2 scallions – chopped
1-2 handfuls of the greens of your choice – I like spinach, baby bok choy, and other greens available at the Asian markets
Bone broth to cover
Himalayan pink salt or grey salt, and pepper – to taste

Bring a small pot of water to a boil, season it with salt.
Wash and coarsely chop (if need be) your greens.
Heat the meatballs in the bone broth in a separate pot.
Place your greens in the boiling water, boil for 2-5 minutes (depending on the greens you use, they may take more time to cook through – I like them just tender for soup.  If you are using baby spinach, you can skip this step entirely.).  Once cooked, strain  the greens.
Place the noodles in the bottom of a soup bowl, sprinkle the scallions over the noodles, then add the greens, the meatballs and broth.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Enjoy!

 

Beef meatballs:
1lb beef (I use local, organic and humanely raised, pasture fed beef)
2 eggs
1/2 cup cooked brown rice
1 clove garlic – minced
1 1/2″ piece of ginger – chopped
2 fresh scallions -chopped- OR 1/2 onion sautéed until brown with the garlic and ginger added at the end to heat through*** (*** this way is my favorite)
2-4TB gluten-free tamari sauce – to taste

  1. Preheat your oven to 400F
  2. Place the brown rice and eggs in a food processor and whiz until smooth.
  3. Once smooth add the garlic, ginger, scallions (or onions), tamari sauce, and beef.
  4. Pulse until blended and sticky-smooth.
  5. Make walnut sized meatballs, and place on a parchment lined tray.
  6. Roast for approximately 10-15 minutes until just cooked through.
  7. Cool and store in the refrigerator up to five days or freeze.

 


Black Sesame Hot Chocolate:

You may know this by now, but my favorite “herb” for rebuilding Blood is black sesame seeds.  As mentioned in this recipe post, “black sesame is regarded as great food to keep hair healthy and dark, which is no wonder since this tiny seed is filled with a plethora of nutrients. It tonifies the Kidneys and Liver in Chinese Medicine (CM), helping to build Blood and Jing, and lubricates dryness in the intestines.”

I like to have black sesame seeds ground (in a spice grinder, mortar and pestle, or food processor) with cocoa powder and a pinch of cardamom as a base for hot chocolate.  It’s delicious with a splash of milk (dairy, non-dairy) first thing in the morning, and there is a nice body to the cocoa that is just satisfying enough for those who are not keen to eat soon after waking.  I notice my skin looks more vibrant and plump when I drink this on a regular basis, and the energy it provides it far more sustainable than a cup of coffee or tea.

Sometimes I’ll make this as a snack when I get home, and instead of using cocoa powder, I’ll add cinnamon, ginger and a pinch of nutmeg to make a mock-chai.

Ingredients:
2TB ground black sesame seeds (toast the seeds before grinding)
1TB cocoa powder (note to those who avoid caffeine, cocoa powder has anywhere from 8mg to 12mg of caffeine vs 163mg in a standard cup of brewed coffee)
1/4tsp cardamom – or more to taste
Honey – optional, to taste
Milk of your choice

  1. Bring a kettle of water to a boil
  2. Place sesame seeds, cocoa powder and cardamom in a mug, stir to combine
  3. Pour boiling water into your mug, stirring as you go
  4. Add milk and/or honey if you choose
  5. Enjoy!

Lastly, I adore calf’s liver and for a deeply satisfying meal (albeit one that may take some time to learn to appreciate):

Calves Liver with Sauteed Onions and Cranberries, with Cooked Greens
1 calf liver (organic, local, humanely sourced)
1 onion – sliced
1 cup frozen cranberries
1 sprig of thyme (fresh or dry)
Splash of vermouth

2-3TB bacon fat
1 package of fresh baby spinach – washed and set aside
Dijon salad dressing (2 parts olive oil, 1 part rice vinegar, 1/2 part dijon mustard, salt and pepper) – optional
Salt and Pepper to taste

  1. Clean the liver, rinsing it under cool water, and remove any vessels or membrane – pat dry with a paper towel
  2. Salt and pepper the liver on both sides
  3. Place 1TB of bacon fat in a large saute pan and heat on medium
  4. Add the onions to the hot pan, and saute until golden brown (adjusting the pan’s temperature as needed)
  5. Once the onions are golden brown/caramelized, add the cranberries, sprig of thyme
  6. Cook until the cranberries have burst and released their juices, then move contents of pan to a bowl then cover.
  7. Set the cooked onion and cranberry mixture aside, add the splash of vermouth the the pan to deglaze the pan.
  8. Once the pan is deglazed, pour the remaining liquid over the onions and cranberries in the bowl
  9. Add another lump of bacon fat to the pan, heat over medium high heat
  10. Place the liver into the hot pan, and cook on each side for 3 minutes.  (It should be nicely browned on each side, and just cooked through.)
  11. Move the liver to a plate, cover, then add the spinach to the pan with another splash of vermouth (or water) if the spinach is dry.  Let steam through for 1-2 minutes.
  12. Place the spinach onto the plate with the liver and onions/cranberries.  Dress the spinach with salad dressing.  (I like my greens with a bit of dressing, especially with a rich meal such as this one)
  13. Enjoy!

Sources:
itmonline.org/arts/iron.htm
Lotusrootacupuncture.com/nutrition.html

https://tughillholistics.com/blog/tcm-terminology-for-all-part-1/

The Too Small Pot: Expand your Roots

 

I have a plant that sits next to my computer. It is in dire need of a larger pot.

In fact, it is so big it is growing up and out of the pot that it is in, yet the leaves are starting to wither.  The plant is starving and dying to grow – it cannot expand its roots thanks to the too small pot.

I cannot help but think of this plant, its too small pot, and the energy that all of us expend to stay rooted in the same ways of doing things.

What holds people (including me) back from taking on more of the life we individually dream?  We all wonder, worry, and fear if this new pot that we want to move to is not going to be right, a good fit, too big, make us suffer or feel uncomfortable. When we stay rooted in our current situation, we expend an immense amount of energy and complexity involved in maintaining the status quo.

We expend tremendous resources to reroute the energy that should be expanding outside of the status quo, growing into something new, and end up expressing this energy in unconstructive ways that ultimately hold us back.  In doing so, we resist the deep inner call to step outside of our self-limited spaces.

We get angry, irritable, depressed, anxious, downtrodden, and listless. We can develop strange symptoms that are seemingly unrelated, and can make ourselves crazy with chasing one thing after the next after the next. Have periods that are painful, outbursts of anger, or mood swings with insomnia? Hot-tempered or easily angered in situations that are not going according to plan, or running smoothly in general? Have bowel movements that alternate from diarrhea or loose stools to constipation, or belching, abdominal distention, or gurgling in the abdomen? Or, do you feel plain old stuck in life – like there are too many obstacles in your path that you cannot see or work around?

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Are you plain old stuck in a pattern that is no longer working for you?

When was the last time you looked at your roots?

Just like a potted plant or tree that has outgrown its home and is no longer thriving, if you have been in your modus operandi for too long, you may start to feel stifled, frustrated, angry, and have mood swings. If you have been forcing yourself to tap into your reserves of energy (i.e. pushing yourself to keep going even though what you are currently experiencing is no longer nourishing you), it is time for you to consider what sort of pot, soil, land, you are living in and how you are taking care of yourself, is your life taking care of you.

Is your modus operandi too small for the life you want, the life you are living?

Is it time to break out of your too small pot, to expand your roots?

In Chinese medicine, the creative – or Hun- spirit rests in the Liver. Much like life, the Hun and Liver operate on a cycle: sleep-wake, birth-growth-maturity-death; spring-summer-fall-winter; day-night; creation-destruction-creation from the destruction; menstrual cycles; and so on. We, as humans, go through creation cycles just as much as the world around us. The Liver energy is in charge of ensuring that these cycles run smoothly – that no step is missed or out of sync.

If we get out of sync (i.e. stuck in production day-time mode all the time), everything else suffers. We cannot function the way we were intended to, we cannot grow -nor rest- the way we need. We get stuck in a dysfunctional modus operandi.

This energy gets very frustrated when it cannot grow and move the way it needs to – sound familiar to you?

We all have a seed of potential within us that can be nourished and cultivated to manifest fully in our lives. It doesn’t matter if you live in a concrete jungle, or in wild unspoiled terrain – life finds a way to manifest in the smallest cracks, on rock cliffs, even deep in the arctic and the depths of the sea. It is all there, waiting to be nourished and to grow. As one season follows the next, our creative energy (Hun) follows our soul’s spirit (Heart, the Shen) throughout the cycle of life, in a dance between sleep and activity, creation and contemplation.

If we listen to, and follow, our Heart to manifest the potential in our life the Hun will ensure that we have creative solutions and plans to manifest those dreams. I think this is why, when we follow our Heart’s inner call, things seem to fall into place for us. Solutions which once seemed impossible spontaneously manifest, plans come together, teachers appear at the right time, help shows up, we flow and get what we need – all so we can follow our inner call.

Listen deeply, carefully, and sincerely; then make the choice to start, take the first step, the next, and another, and another, ad infinitum. If we are moving forward, toward the dream, the goal, nourishing our inner call and potential, we are unable to stagnate and become root-bound in our too-small pots and lives. The world opens up for us, our roots can grow where they need and we can rise to the occasion free of the exhaustion and frustration of another dead-end or block, free of the feeling that we are stuck in the same patterns of living. You become free, your body and soul open up, take it all in, and uses that energy to catapult you forward.

What is stopping you?

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