Winter Christmas Baking

As I mentioned last week, I LOVE Christmas, and for us in the Northern Hemisphere, the festive period occurs in the depths of Winter – the time of most Yin, and it is associated with the Water Element, and it’s organs of the Kidneys and Bladder. As I say in the video below, it is the darkest and coldest time of the year, where we need to eat warming, nourishing foods that will increase our Yang, increase the blood and Qi circulation in our bodies, sustaining us through the season.  The easiest way to get more Yang in to our diets is through energetically warming or hot spices as outlined in Chinese Food Energetics.

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Recipe for Winter Christmas Cookies:

1/4 cup of coconut oil

1/2 cup of good / local / raw honey

1/4 cup of pure molasses (all the nutrients & minerals are in there!)

2 & 1/2 cups of rice flour

Pinch of baking soda (optional)

2 tsp ground mixed spice

1 tsp cinnamon (I LOVE cinnamon!)

Pinch of sea salt (again, optional)

Splash of water if the mixture is too dry to get into a ball to roll out

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Christmas Cookies

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Method:

1. Measure out the coconut oil, molasses & honey, place them in a bowl & mix together.

2. Measure all the dry ingredients into a separate bowl.

3. Then sift all the dry ingredients into the bowl containing the wet mixture.

4. Mix together until a ball can be formed – add a splash of water if necessary.

5. Create a ball of cookie dough with your hands & place on to cling film on the counter.

6. Roll out to around the thickness of a £1 coin, cut out shapes & place on baking sheet.

7. Bake in the oven at 180 degrees C (350 degrees F), for around 10 mins, but check!

8. Leave to cool on a rack & ENJOY!

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Energetics:

Coconut Oil – warm, sweet, tonifies Qi & Blood

Molasses – warm, sweet, nourishes the Kidneys & Lungs, boosts Qi & Blood

Honey – sweet, supports the Lungs, tonifies Qi & promotes Blood circulation

Rice Flour – warm, sweet, nourishes Qi & Blood

Nutmeg – warm, pungent, boosts Yang, Qi & Blood circulation & counteracts Cold

Cinnamon – Hot, pungent, sweet, supports Kidneys & Lungs, boosts Qi & Yang, & counteracts the Cold & Damp, and promotes Qi & Blood circulation

Coriander Seed – pungent, sour, counteracts the Cold, & helps circulation of Qi

Dill Seed – warm, goes to the Kidneys, tonifies Yang, counteracts the Cold, promotes Qi

Ginger – hot, boosts Yang, circulates Qi & Blood, counteracts Cold, resolves Phlegm.

Cloves – warming, boosts Kidneys & Yang, counteracts the Cold & promotes Qi circulation

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And if you don’t fancy baking or eating something sweet to nourish you over the festive period, then why not check out a blog post from this time last year to see how you can get all of the sweetness but none of the sugar – although I reckon this recipe here comes close to that, why not have your cake & eat it too?!!

Acupuncture can help you through the Winter with the challenges of the season – coughs, colds, chest weakness, asthma, circulation issues, constantly feeling cold, low mood, Seasonal Affective Disorder, digestive issues, and so on – contact me here for more information. Sending you so much goodness and cheer for a VERY MERRY Christmas – keep well, keep warm, and ENJOY! xx

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© Rhiannon Griffiths 2012

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12 Days of Christmas – Fire & Water Balance

So for the last three weeks my life has been in limbo whilst everything else (except treating in clinic of course) has been put on hold for me to revise for my paediatric acupuncture exams. Ideally, I had wanted to merge my 30th birthday celebrations in November, straight into Christmas loveliness, but sadly it was not to be. I have been absolutely itching for my Christmas season to get started, but have had to hit the books in every spare waking moment! But the exams were today (three of them, lasting the entire day!), and now my Christmas can officially begin! Yay!

To celebrate the fact I can now embrace Christmas in all its excess sparkliness and magic, I am partaking in “12 days of Christmas”, where I intend to do one thing each day that is inherently of festive spirit! And as it is me, there might be a couple of healthy holiday activities, a big dose of self-care, but it might be purely because it is good for the spirit, not hugely virtuous – even I like to indulge a little at this time of year! Why not join me and enjoy 12 days of Christmas joy?! Post photos of your Christmassy things each day over on my Facebook page – you’ll find all my photos there too!

And speaking of Christmas spirit, it is THE part of the holidays that I adore the MOST – how it makes me FEEL. This year is a little different in the fact that I have had to “put a cork in it” for the last few weeks, and the bubbles, sparkles, excitement and magic have been building up and building up, so now it is all gushing out in a waterfall of child-like craziness! It is this pure JOY, merriment, warmth, and upward, outward energy that corresponds to the Fire Element. Fire is all about socialising, love, celebration, parties, connections to others and joy! And this is EXACTLY what Christmas is about! Everyone gathering around an open fire, exchanging presents and good wishes, drinking mulled wine, smiling, laughing, loving – that IS Fire. I love how literal Chinese Medicine is sometimes – or most of the time actually, a lot of the theory comes from observing nature around us.

open-fire-in-fireplace

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But for those of you who have read about Water on this blog before, you may be thinking “but Christmas is in Water Winter time, not Fire time” – yes, this is true, unless you are lucky enough to live in the Southern Hemisphere (Hello Aussies and Kiwis!), the Fire time of the year is the Summer, and it is the traditional time for warm, sociable Yang energy – think BBQs, garden parties, days at the beach with family and friends – we do more, socialize more, enjoy time together. Winter is a Water time of the year where we hibernate, stay indoors, do less, go to bed earlier, enjoy a more inward, still Yin energy.

Yin-Yang-Fire-Ice

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And yet our Christmas celebrations seem to be at odds with the seasonal energy at this time of year. But it is all about BALANCE – Fire and Water balance each other out. Without the Water to temper and dampen down the Fire, it can rage and burn out of control – this is like getting sunstroke from too much sun and not enough water to rehydrate you. There are many other conditions I treat in clinic that have an imbalance of Fire and Water at their root – menopausal hot flushes, anxiety, insomnia and heartbreak to name but a few.

Conversely, if we do not have enough warmth from Fire, the Water becomes frozen, the Fire is needed to warm the Water, to make it bubble, sparkle and move. And this is exactly what we get at Christmas – we need the joy, excitement, fun, love and light at the very darkest, coldest part of the year – it’s like the candles, the lights on the tree, tinsel and sequinned decorations that shine and reflect the light and warmth. Just seeing a tree decorated beautifully makes me smile and brings me happiness. Without this, the deepest depths of Watery Winter would be pretty tough to get through.

candles

And that is also what acupuncture is about – bringing balance; balance to the body, mind, spirit and emotions. If you think acupuncture could help you with your balance of Fire and Water, don’t hesitate to contact me! And don’t forget to share your 12 days of Christmas JOY with me on my Facebook page – for my first day, I bought myself some festive flowers, partly for the Christmassy spirit, but also to congratulate myself on getting through all my exams! Go have a look at the photo, they’re BEAUTIFUL! Off to bed now, see you tomorrow for day 2!

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© Rhiannon Griffiths 2012

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Open or Shut the Gates?

So the pre-Christmas build up and the day itself has been and gone, but we’re still gearing up for the New Year celebrations – for my family there are birthdays too! Everyone in the world wants to meet for a “Christmas drink” – we don’t see these people for most of the year, but somehow as soon as December hits, everyone wants to meet, your diary is chocka-block and you don’t even have a window in which to pick up the Turkey!

Now this isn’t a bad thing in itself, the invitations are offered in the jolliest of spirits, everyone is full of Christmas cheer, overtaken by the excitement of the festivities and the warmth of being with people you love… but the emphasis must be on exactly that, being with people you love. At this time of year, many of us struggle with saying no to acquaintances and well-meaning neighbours, so that our social calendars over the holidays are stretched to bursting point and we don’t have time to do the things we really want to do, or the things that are going to nourish us the most.

This kind of joy, the bubbly, jolly socialising, reaching out to others to make connections and relationships is all associated with the Fire Element in Chinese Medicine. It is to do with the Heart organ (with the Small Intestine), and the Pericardium (Heart Protector) with the Triple Burner (temperature regulator in Chinese Medicine). All the associations we recognise to be aligned with the Heart, are synonymous with the Fire Element – love, happiness, people, parties, laughter, warmth and closeness with others. However, conversely, the opposite is also true, at the other end of the spectrum, i.e. a lack of joy, not wanting to socialise, hating parties, feeling miserable and flat – the key is to keep the Fire Element in a state of balance, so the emotions don’t fluctuate massively from being incredibly up, to plummeting down into the depths. This is the case for all of us, as we all have all five of the Elements within us, but it is particularly important for Fire CFs (those people who have Fire as their Element or Constitutional Factor, which is like their energetic default setting)…

This was particularly evident in the last couple of weeks before Christmas, as in clinic, I noticed I was treating nearly all of my Fire Element (or Fire CF) patients with what we call the luo-junction points, Pc 6 and TB 5 – my quota totally sky rocketed as we got nearer and nearer to Christmas!

These points, called Pc 6 (Pericardium 6, Nei Guan, Inner Gate) and TB 5 (Triple Burner 5, Wai Guan, Outer Gate), can provide us with a valuable lesson during the festive period, as it is about maintaining a healthy balance between reaching out and opening our hearts to others, or retreating inwards and “closing the gate” to people around us.

I have used this point combination a lot during December, to allow patients’ spirits to feel more balanced, to get emotionally prepared or “fired-up” for the upcoming onslaught of celebrations, and to feel like they are actually allowed to say no to some social engagements if they so wish – however hard it feels! The Inner Gate (Pc 6) reaches the inner aspect of the person, regulating the opening and closing of the gates of the Pericardium, which protects the Heart. When this inner part feels weary, fearful or overwhelmed by social engagements, the point can stimulate the Heart Protector’s compassion, connection and warmth, allowing us to go “out” whilst still feeling protected.

The Outer Gate (TB 5) has the function of actively discerning who may enter and leave through our gates. It regulates our external boundary, helping us to reach out (physically and emotionally – hence its location on the arm, towards the wrist) to make contact with positive people… when it is not functioning correctly, we may reach out to too much (showing too much of ourselves to others), to too many people, or the wrong people, creating a negative affect.

So remember, think carefully about your own inner and outer gates as you gear up for the New Year parties – are you seeing the people you really want to see? Are you reaching out and making connections with loved ones who are important to you? Or have you succumbed to “accidentally accepting” an invitation that came in whilst your inner gate was too open? Were you unable to protect your heart when someone asked you to celebrate with them? Do you need to do something quieter at home, instead of a drunken night on the town?

Choose to welcome in 2012 with something that will nurture yourself – you can open the gate, or close the gate, whatever suits your own energy, just listen to your intuition as this will be very different for different people. Wishing you all very happy New Year celebrations, whatever they may look like!

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© Rhiannon Griffiths 2011

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All of the Sweetness, None of the Sugar

So I seem to have overdosed on Christmas movies in the last couple of weeks! (Hence the gap in writing the blog – the intention was there, but the Christmassy procrastination / hibernation reigned supreme!).

Having found that “Movies 24” changes to “Christmas 24” from the 1st December, there is a veritable feast of cheesy, sickly sweet, American straight-to-TV Christmas films that start every hour on the hour – a one-stop-shop for festive merriment of baking and icing gingerbread men, threading popcorn for the tree, singing carols around the piano (how come everyone can always sing in tune, and there is always someone who plays beautifully?!)…

That heart-warming, fuzzy, contented feeling that comes after seeing the happy ending, where the couple finally get together underneath mistletoe, or the family are reunited (after facing potential misery) beside the giant sparkly Christmas tree covered in snow, as happy shiny people in brightly coloured scarves, hats and ear muffs skate behind them in the background shot – it not only boosts our Fire Elements (the Heart, and emotions of jolly joy and warmth, about happy socialising and people), but the stories feed the Earth Element, nourishing the Spleen (Earth organ).

The Earth Element is all about nourishing, mothering, home-making, feeling centered and grounded, bringing family and communities together, with sympathy, understanding and looking after each other in the sweetest, most supportive way. The virtues of Earth are about care of others, putting others before yourself, a love of family, food, and the home (we won’t dwell on the vices of Earth in this post – that’s just not festive!!). The over-the-top niceness and sweetness that comes in these movies portrays this Element perfectly – so much so that my Wood CF sister cannot sit through them without getting impatient… I however, adore them – the cheesier the music, the more predictable, more magical, more sticky-sickly-sweet the better!! It really does satisfy my Spleen’s craving for sugary loveliness. The Spleen loves sugar, and when imbalanced (to any degree, slightly or hugely), causes us to crave (and eat!) more sugary things like cake and biscuits…

It is also no surprise that these types of films can be called “cheesy” as the Spleen also loves cheese and dairy – though, as described previously, depending on your constitution, cheese may not love your Spleen! It can cause phlegm to build up in the body, creating symptoms like a blocked nose, increased snoring, catarrh in the throat, heavy limbs, or a muzzy head – I treat this in the clinic a lot, especially after all the consumption of Christmas Cheese boards! Cheese hates me, but I can get my fix of sticky, milky, satisfying cheesiness from these films, without compromising my health! And an unblocked nose is always a bonus at Christmas!!

Supporting the Earth Elements (Stomach and Spleen) can reduce cravings of sugar or dairy, and acupuncture certainly does this by boosting the function of these organs. But you can support your own Spleen at home, at this time of the year, by nourishing it in a more abstract way – not with actual food, but with “food” for the spirit of the Element. So if you go to reach for another mince pie, or a Christmas Tree shaped cookie, why not stick a Christmas movie on instead, and get all of that delicious sweetness, but none of the actual sugar! Holistic health in the holidays! Enjoy!

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© Rhiannon Griffiths 2011

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