channel medicine

What Autumn Holds for You

Seasonal change isn’t instant. Especially here in the Bay Area, it’s gradual. 1 step forward, 2 steps back, until it isn’t. It takes a special focus to notice it as it shifts. We may yet get our warm Late Summer days that often show up in late September/ October, but Autumn has already been happening. There’s that chill in the air. A certain crispness. A lot of complaints of dry throats.

My favorite tree on the Vassar Farm (Oct 2003)

My favorite tree on the Vassar Farm (Oct 2003)

Eastern Medicine takes its cues from the natural world. As it is in nature, so is it in our bodies and emotional landscapes. Spring and Summer both have an energy of new growth and expansion. There’s a fullness and flourishing. In Autumn, we start to draw back into the interior.

There are five elements (sometimes also called Five Phases) in Eastern Medicine: Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood. The Five Elements have corresponding seasons, tastes, channels, energies, diseases, and so much more that there is an entire school of thought in Chinese Medicine defined by this focus.

Autumn is the Metal season. Metal cuts like a knife and holds like a copper cup, dividing and separating, creating boundaries. This season we ask, What do you need that you should keep hold of? What is not yours that you can release?

Classically in cultures around the world this is the season for harvesting. It’s a time to take stock of and appreciate the bounty the year has brought you. What have you accomplished? Be grateful and take pride.



The Metal meridians: Lung and Large Intestine

The emotion of the Lungs is Grief.
As we take stock in this season of our year and our lives, certain goals and accomplishments we may have set no longer serve us. They may be inaccessible or simply no longer appropriate. It’s ok to grieve that loss or change before moving forward. Once you’ve allowed yourself space to grieve, you can become clear and focused, paring back to the essentials to figure out what the new or important goals are and get them done. You can do it! There’s still time!

If you have lost someone or something this year or in this season, you may find that the grief feels larger or has resurfaced. That’s natural, but it doesn’t mean you have to feel it alone or that there isn’t a supportive therapy you can reach to, from speaking that grief with friends and family, to working with a trusted therapist, to seeking acupuncture to balance the emotions and meridians. Grief is a natural emotion, but it also shouldn’t be overwhelming forever. If it’s feeling unmanageable, please ask for help.

The corresponding emotion of the Large Intestine is Letting Go.
Don’t keep it in. Let that sh*t go!

Autumn’s climate is Dryness, which injures the Lungs.
There’s a danger of holding too much in, in that it can dry out and get stuck (sometimes literally, as constipation or dry phlegm). It’s important to keep your Lungs hydrated and strong as they govern your immune system. Lily bulb and pears are wonderful supporters of the Lungs.


My Fall recommendations:

  • Make sure your favorite sweater is within reach and put the kettle on

  • Always carry a scarf (aka make sure your neck is covered)

  • Stock up on pears (amazing just as they are or steamed, baked, or poached with ginger and honey)

  • Come in for acupuncture to address your emotional health and strengthen your immune system before you feel yourself coming down with a cold!


FOUND THIS INTERESTING? RELATED POSTS ON A CUPPA QI:

Treating Stress, Anxiety, and Depression with Acupuncture

Why is Chicken Soup Good for a Cold?

Stress Relief and the Pantone Color of the Year


ABOUT SHAWNA

Shawna Seth, L.Ac., Dipl. Ac. is a California state licensed and nationally certified acupuncturist focused on promoting women’s health, especially surrounding menstrual health and fertility. She uses the gentlest effective methods possible to guide her patients to balance. Shawna sees patients in her private practice on Sutter Street in San Francisco. Make your appointments online or email contact@shawnaseth.com. To learn more about Japanese medicine and the world of acupuncture, follow her blog A Cuppa Qi.

Header and Pear Images: Unsplash

Treating Stress, Anxiety, and Depression with Acupuncture

Forest of Feelings (Figure out what what you’re feeling)

Positive Vibes Only? Definitely not. Negative emotions are natural and can signal a need to change our relationships, environment, or behavior. It’s when negative emotions become chronic and feel like they arise without cause, that you turn to guiding practitioners like therapists and acupuncturists who can help you figure out what forest of feelings you've wandered into and how you can find your way back out again.

Whether your depression, anxiety, and stress are chronic or not, tamping down negative feelings or denying them in favor of only positive feelings is neither realistic nor helpful. What is helpful and what acupuncture helps facilitate is giving all your feelings a space and distance from yourself to be acknowledged, fully felt, and then allowed to pass. That can be an extended grieving period and or as short as a few minutes to recognize that you're getting frustrated and need to breathe deeper and take a walk.

Understanding what you're feeling, giving that feeling space, and then letting it go is essential in our modern world. With these skills, you can begin to move past the thicket of a bad stretch. And when you have one bad day, you'll realize that's part of being human, not a sign that you're broken.

Negative emotions are natural and can signal a need to change our relationships, environment, or behavior.

A First Step

Simply being aware of what it is that you're feeling is a good first step. Rather than putting a label on it (I have depression, I'm an angry person, that's just who I am), try, "What is this that I'm feeling? Am I angry right now? Is it sadness and frustration at the same time?" Then you can take a step back and say, "that sadness and frustration are not who I am. I am not a sad and frustrated person. I just feel those things right now and there's got to be a reason for it."

Next, ideally with the help of a guide, you can put on your detective hat and figure out why those feelings are coming up so the signal doesn't keep coming regularly while you don't understand what it's trying to tell you (a real recipe for frustration).

Acupuncture and Therapy Work Well Together

I am not a therapist. What I am is an acupuncturist and Japanese medicine practitioner.

I recommend that my patients who find themselves in these patterns for longer periods of time or with frequency see a good therapist. Many of you often are in therapy already when you seek my care. Acupuncture works really well in combination with therapy, especially talk (cognitive behavior therapy and other methods) and somatic therapies. The way I tend to explain it is that acupuncture helps you become more centered and clear – more aware of what it is that you're feeling so you can express it in therapy and to yourself.

What acupuncture helps facilitate is giving all your feelings a space and distance from yourself to be acknowledged, fully felt, and then allowed to pass.

Acupuncture also helps protect against those feelings settling in and becoming something more (pain, stiffness, adrenal fatigue, cardiopulmonary symptoms, etc). Plus, we can treat the already existing symptomatic expression of your anxiety, depression, and/or stress, whether physical (like headaches, insomnia, and palpitations) or mental/emotional (like a racing or foggy mental state).

Japanese and Chinese medicine look at our emotions as expressions of imbalance in the relationships of our different systems (sometimes called channels, meridians, or organs). So the questions above are the same sorts of diagnostic questions I ask in the office to figure out what channels are out of harmony. That information allows us to help them back into their proper relationship so you feel more centered, grounded, balanced, and clear. And this also gives you the opportunity to make small or large changes that might put you in a healthier space and thus treat that signal/feeling at the root of its expression.
 

What kind of treatments do you offer?

Acupuncture: Gentle correction of the relationships of your physical and energetic body. Using the traditional functions of the points and channels plus modern understandings of physiology, acupuncture helps to regulate the nervous system so that the parasympathetic (rest, digest, heal) outweighs the sympathetic (fight, flight, freeze). Patients report feeling more at ease, rested, calm, and grounded after treatment. Many patients fall asleep on the table during in-office treatment and often sleep better at home as well.

Acupressure: Earseeds and self-massage as coping mechanisms between treatments and as regular care for treatment and prevention of symptoms. These methods are often subtle enough to be performed in the workplace or social gatherings without attracting attention.

Qigong: Breathing exercises and gentle movements. Ranging from short and sweet visualizations and meditative practices to healing sounds and simple movements that target the organ systems and channels that are out of balance. Most of the movements can be done while seated or standing and we can adapt them for your body's range of motion.

Herbal Medicine: Personalized prescriptions for herbal formulas and supplements for symptomatic and deep cause treatment. Protect your system against physical effects of emotions on the body (adrenal fatigue, shortness of breath, palpitations) and amplify the benefits of treatment. Taking a herbal formula regularly can decrease the frequency of recommended in-office visits.

Moxa/ Moxibustion: Depending on the causes and symptoms of your emotional patterns, this herbal heat therapy can be very helpful to increase motivation, combat fatigue, and reawaken interest in activities. Patients have described it as feeling like painful or tight spots are melting or unwinding, that they can breathe deeper, and that they feel more awake. If applicable, I instruct my patients on how to do moxibustion safely at home as well as perform moxibustion in the clinic with you.

Essential Oils: Recommendations for home care to combine with acupressure points. Especially helpful for travel and nighttime symptoms.

How long does treatment take? When will I be better?

My treatment plans are personalized for each patient. I see people at various stages of their emotional journeys. Some people come in soon after a crisis (important to note that I am not a substitute for emergency services such as hotlines or the ER - please see information below if you are in crisis). But the short and honest answer is it depends on you - where you are in your relationship to your emotional health and how much farther you have to go to come to terms with what balance is going to look like for you.

Acupuncture is not here to "fix" you. It's medicine, not magic. I often tell patients when they praise my touch that I'm just getting stuff out of the way so your body can do the work it is already trying to do. Our bodies want to get back to homeostasis. Balance.

You are doing the work and the work can take some time. But it's a lot easier when you surround yourself with experts who can guide and support you, and that's where I see myself on your team.

If you are in crisis

National Hopeline Network: 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)

If your depression is leading to suicidal thoughts, please call the National Hopeline to connect with a treatment center in your area. Includes live chat feature for anyone who doesn't want to or is unable to call. This hotline can dispatch emergency services to you if needed.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Another resource for anyone dealing with suicidal or other harmful thoughts is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. They also offer a chat service1-800-799-4889.

Acupuncture is not an emergency service. When you need the tools I can provide and a new member of your cheering squad, please be in touch. You are worthwhile and cared for.

Additional resources

About Shawna

Shawna Seth, L.Ac., Dipl. Ac. is a California state licensed and nationally certified acupuncturist focused on promoting women’s health, especially surrounding menstrual health and fertility. She uses the gentlest effective methods possible to guide her patients to balance. Shawna sees patients in her private practice on Sutter Street in San Francisco. Make your appointments online or email contact@shawnaseth.com. To learn more about Japanese medicine and the world of acupuncture, follow her blog A Cuppa Qi.

Photo: Death to the Stock Photo

Understanding Acupuncture Through Children's Books

Whether you're shopping for a child or looking for a good way into the world of acupuncture yourself, these children's books are worth checking out. Here are my takes on each of the children's books on acupuncture I've encountered so far:

For more info, visit www.acupuncturekidsbook.com

For more info, visit www.acupuncturekidsbook.com

Maya and Friends Visit the Acupuncturist

By Samara White, L.Ac. and illustrated by Troy White

Children's books have to streamline concepts and so are often unexpectedly helpful in explaining complicated ideas simply and clearly. This book has been a big hit in my waiting rooms and at health fairs. In it, a little girl named Maya wakes up with sniffles and sneezes, then listens to the advice of her friends, Ellie the Elephant and Bobby Bear, and goes with them to visit Dr. Meow. I love elephants so Ellie totally won me over (so cute when she gets cupping!). Dr. Meow also sends a very important message for children (and adults!) when she makes it very clear that nothing happens to your body without your consent. And how can you resist a teddy bear marveling at meridians?

This book offers simple explanations for qi, yin, yang, and herbs and moxa in addition to expectations for the patient experience. And it rhymes so you might find yourself recalling lines here and there.

Pro: The best overall explanation of acupuncture and Chinese medicine, fun to read out loud

Con: Some of the illustrations are a little uncanny

Verdict: If you only get one book, this one's my favorite overall.

My Visit to the Acupuncturist

By Stacey V. Leung and illustrated by Daniel Griffo

This bold and colorful book is so sweet! It focuses on how acupuncture can help kids (and, by extension, any patient) get back to their favorite activities and how sessions work so you don't have to be scared. A little boy injures his ankle playing soccer and just wants to get back to playing ball. He finds that acupuncture isn't scary and it helps him heal over a series of sessions.

"My Visit" is a nice complement to "Maya and Friends" that focuses on the patient experience and in general has nicer illustrations. A big bonus is seeing acupuncture in an integrative context: the doctor who examines the boy's X-ray is the one to tell him Jane (the acupuncturist) will help with "the swelling and pain" and her office is right next door to physical therapy (just like mine!).

Pro: Uncomplicated, a simple introduction to the patient experience of acupuncture, illustrates integrative care

Con: Doesn't talk about how acupuncture works

Verdict: If you (or your little one) are nervous about going to acupuncture, this one is probably the best for allaying fears. Also great focus on sports medicine. 

The Five: A Journey to Find a Home

By Dr. Coleen Smith and illustrated by Alaina Schreiner 

This colored pencil style volume is billed as a children's book, but instead I would recommend it for anyone beginning acupuncture school. I never got into Zoo Cards (a set of flashcards for learning Chinese herbs), but this feels like a similar tool. The book illustrates the five elements and their characteristics in a way that feels less like a story and more like an elaborate mnemonic device.

For example the story has Livgall the green-eyed monkey, Luli the white bird, Kibla the blue fish, Splesto the yellow lion, and Hearsi the red dragon search for the perfect environment to call home. Character names are not smoothed into something a character might be called but just direct combinations of the channel pairs (Livgall is Liver and Gall Bladder, Luli is Lung and Large Intestine, etc). The adjectives that describe the characters and their chosen environments align with the five element sounds, smells, cardinal directions, etc.

I could imagine finding this book useful in the beginning of school when there is so much information to take in and anything sweet and colorful is a helpful respite! Maybe even as a little treat when studying for California Licensing and National Board exams.

Pro: Detailed five element overview equals good study tool (there's even a chart in the back)

Con: More educational than enjoyable

Verdict: Great for first year acupuncture students or for board exam study! Probably not a kid favorite.

Have I missed any acupuncture children's books that you know and love? I love book recommendations so send me your suggestions!

ABOUT SHAWNA

Shawna Seth, L.Ac., Dipl. Ac. is a California state licensed and nationally certified acupuncturist focused on promoting women’s health, especially surrounding menstrual health and fertility. She uses the gentlest effective methods possible to guide her patients to balance. Shawna sees patients in her private practice on Sutter Street in San Francisco. Make your appointments online or email contact@shawnaseth.com. To learn more about Japanese medicine and the world of acupuncture, follow her blog A Cuppa Qi.

Header image: illustration by Troy White from "Maya and Friends Visit the Acupuncturist"

Stress Relief and the Pantone Color of the Year

The Pantone Color of 2017 is Greenery. Leaves. Fresh greens and dark, shadows and tendrils. The classics say green is the color of Spring and of its associated meridian, the Liver (not to be confused with your anatomical organ).

The Liver is easily injured by anger, whether felt rightfully when we are not respected or felt in excess when we seek more than we're due. A smooth Liver meridian allows for the free movement of energy (qi), properly nourishing other body processes and meridians and relieving pain, stress, and tension. Since the Liver governs the sinews and tendons, we can stretch and move freely in our physical body as well as in our emotional range when the channel is free of stagnant energy and substances.

And when the Liver needs soothing, as it does when we are stressed and angry, we should walk among trees and soothe the liver by looking at leaves and grasses. It's almost as though Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute, knew of this connection as she explained, "Greenery bursts forth in 2017 to provide us with the reassurance we yearn for amid a tumultuous social and political environment. Satisfying our growing desire to rejuvenate and revitalize, Greenery symbolizes the reconnection we seek with nature, one another and a larger purpose."

I couldn't think of a better color for 2017. Get outside, everyone, rain or shine, and find the greenery. Just take a scarf to protect your neck from the wind!

ABOUT SHAWNA

Shawna Seth, L.Ac., Dipl. Ac. is a California state licensed and nationally certified acupuncturist focused on promoting women’s health, especially surrounding menstrual health and fertility. She uses the gentlest effective methods possible to guide her patients to balance. Shawna sees patients in her private practice on Sutter Street in San Francisco. Make your appointments online or email contact@shawnaseth.com. To learn more about Japanese medicine and the world of acupuncture, follow her blog A Cuppa Qi.

Treating Jetlag: Modern Acupuncture

To understand acupuncture as a developing form of medicine, let's examine how we handle a fundamentally modern ailment: jetlag. There is no ancient equivalent for having traveled so far so fast as to feel out of time. Yet jetlag responds well to acupuncture treatment. How?

We find success in treatment when our understanding of theory and diagnosis is strong. Thus, a good practitioner does not rely on specific protocols, but on our grasp of medical theory and diagnostic principles to create the best treatment for an individual patient, no matter the ailment(s).

Photo credit:    Unsplash

Photo credit: Unsplash

Common jetlag symptoms include insomnia, irritability, inability to focus, and disorientation. Therefore it makes the most sense to assess and balance the channels that pertain to the body's internal and external sense of itself (yin wei and yang wei) and bring the mind and body back to a grounded present by choosing a point along the center line (preferably one that calms shen, the concept of mind or spirit). Sometimes additional grounding by using the points of the yin qiao and yang qiao channels is also helpful. These channels control gait and balance for the inner and outer aspects of the legs (in addition to a myriad of other symptoms and functions).

This is an elegant approach and one that suits most patients. However, there is always room for adaptation and individualization. Perhaps the patient also needs immune support or pain management after their travels. Adding points or using different channels will still work if the practitioner is paying clear attention to the patient's presentation and needs.

In addition to treating jetlag for patients after travel, I have successfully used this method on myself to prevent jetlag by applying vaccaria seeds (wang bu liu xing) to acupuncture points before boarding and continuing to wear them through air travel. I found this worked better than only using an ear acupuncture protocol (including ear shenmen, point zero, insomnia points, and the pineal and endocrine gland points), but I have not yet tried to combine them.

Vaccaria seeds are herbal medicine applied to acupuncture points to gently stimulate the point and extend treatment over a few hours to days. Magnets or other metals are sometimes used instead of the seed, but the key is gentle pressure on the acupoint. Your practitioner will show you how to gently press the seed to stimulate the point intentionally and direct you how often intentional pressure is advised. Seeds may fall off on their own or need to be removed after 3-5 days depending on advice from your practitioner. Side effects are rare, but if the point itches or feels too sensitive with the seed on, simply remove the seed and contact your acupuncturist.

As you can see, it's just a seed on sticky tape like a small bandaid.

As you can see, it's just a seed on sticky tape like a small bandaid.

Vaccaria seeds can be applied to any point on the body, but because they are commonly applied to one of the hundreds of points on the ear, they are often referred to as earseeds.

Vaccaria seeds can be applied to any point on the body, but because they are commonly applied to one of the hundreds of points on the ear, they are often referred to as earseeds.

Consider acupuncture to decrease or prevent jetlag either before you depart or upon your return. Happy travels!

Many thanks to my teacher Mike Morgan for shaping my initial thoughts on treating jetlag.

ABOUT SHAWNA

Shawna Seth, L.Ac., Dipl. Ac. is a California state licensed and nationally certified acupuncturist focused on promoting women’s health, especially surrounding menstrual health and fertility. She uses the gentlest effective methods possible to guide her patients to balance. Shawna sees patients in her private practice on Sutter Street in San Francisco. Make your appointments online or email contact@shawnaseth.com. To learn more about Japanese medicine and the world of acupuncture, follow her blog A Cuppa Qi.

Photo credit: UnsplashUnsplash, earseed photos by Shawna