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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Yin and Yang 101

In clinic I talk about Yin and Yang a LOT. Whether it be because I am talking to a menopausal woman about needing to replenish all the cooling, moisturising, nourishing Yin energy in her body to help hot flushes, or whether I am explaining how we see migraines occurring when the hot, loud, strong Yang energy rushes up to the head, Yin and Yang are key. They are the basis of diagnosis and treatment in the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) form of acupuncture, as opposed to the Five Element side of things, which is, unsurprisingly, the remit of the Five Element style of acupuncture – I am lucky as an integrated practitioner, I truly get the best of both worlds!

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So, as I like to try and at least pretend I am not some old hippy sprouting out groovy, psychedelic mantras about yin and yang, I thought I would share the basic differences between the two types of energy, so you can get a feel of where we acupuncturists come from when we see this energy manifesting in the bodies of our patients, but also in the outside world.

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YIN

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YANG

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We each have our own balances of Yin and Yang in the body, and this will change according to the time of day, the season, our emotional state, or any illness we are suffering… the key is to ensure that despite the fluctuations in Yin and Yang at different times, we maintain some balance that bares resemblance to Yin and Yang in nature and the universe around us. This is what maintains health.

For example, at night time Yang should be receding and the Yin energy coming to the fore, as night time is Yin time; symptoms like hot flushes at night or insomnia where you cannot fall asleep, or you keep waking throughout the night, suggest that there is a lack of the Yin energy during a time where it should be abundant. And vice versa, during the day we should be alive, energised, happy and moving – if we feel tired, as though our limbs are heavy, everything is an effort and we need to sleep during Yang time, it indicates we are deficient in Yang energy to get us going. Acupuncture can help restore this balance, and help symptoms, by working with the levels and relationship of Yin and Yang in the body.

If you want to know more about Yin and Yang, or feel that they may be out of balance in your body (and / or emotions), contact me today, or leave a comment below – Yin and Yang, it’s not just for old hippies!

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© Rhiannon Griffiths 2012

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Chinese Food Energetics

Chinese Food Energetics is another way of looking at food and nutrition, and formulating an eating plan or diet that is most suited to us. Just as acupuncture itself is tailored specifically for that one individual patient – and no two patients are exactly the same, no matter how similar they appear to be – Chinese Food Energetics creates guidelines or dietary advice to suit that one specific individial patient too.

For example, some patients can eat dairy literally until the cows come home (pun absolutely, utterly intended!), and another person (like me!) only has to look at a piece of cheese and the nose, sinuses and throat start to fill with mucus or phlegm. This is because dairy is a “damp-forming” food, and some patients are more susceptible to the formation of damp, due to the deficiencies or imbalances that are present in their system.

The “energetics” of food is different to the energetic calories present in food, it is not about the amount of energy available in a nutritional or chemical sense – it is about the affect the food has on the energy or Qi in our bodies. Food is described in Chinese Medicine as having certain qualities – temperatures (hot, warm, neutral, cool or cold), flavours that link in with the Five Elements (salty, sour, bitter, sweet or pungent), routes into the body (the organs it affects most), and actions (moves Qi, resolves phlegm, nourishes blood etc).

When we speak about the temperature of a food, it is not the temperature of it in the mouth i.e boiling hot soup vs freezing cold ice cream, it is the “energetic temperature”, the affect it will have on the body once it has been digested. For example, apples are energetically cool, and pears are energetically cold – so pears are energetically colder than apples, despite them feeling the same temperature to touch on the skin when you hold them in your hands. Furthermore, a red apple is energetically warmer than a green apple! Again they both feel exactly the same to touch on the outside skin, but energetically the temperature is slightly different… but as they are both apples, they are still both warmer than the cold pear – you still with me?! Let’s do a little more explaining…

Energetically hot foods warm us up internally, so a slice of ginger root even if eaten raw, cooked or not cooked, at room temperature or straight from the fridge, will always bring heat into the body when digested. Another example is courgette, which is cool in temperature (foods that contain a lot of water content are often cooler in energetic makeup), will always cool the body internally whether you eat it raw and shredded in a salad during Summer, or cooked in the Winter as part of a stew or ratatouille. We can go further in that the raw one would be more cooling than the one that is cooked, as there is some influence on the energetic temperature of food by the method of cooking, but the cooked one would still be cooling energetics wise. So as to not confuse things too much, more exploration of that can be saved for another post!

And on the actual physical temperature of food, please never eat things straight out of the fridge! Energetically cold food, eaten physically cold, is a double whammy of cold – the digestive system struggles with this. The Stomach is like a cauldron that is warm, bubbling away, digesting everything that goes in. Its job is to get the best goodness out of the food, and it is that job it should be expending its energy on.

However, when physically cold food (actual temperature wise) hits the warm juices in the Stomach, it brings down the temperature of the bubbling cauldron. So the Stomach therefore has to invest all of its energy into bringing the cauldron back up to optimum temperature for digestion, which means it overworks, doesn’t digest effectively, and in the longterm can become very depleted – leading to symptoms like tiredness in the morning, loose stools, undigested food in the stools, discomfort in the epigastrium (just below the rib cage, in the middle). Always bring food up to room temperature so the Stomach and Spleen don’t have to work as hard to digest it, plus you get more nutrients and more energy as a result!

Food as medicine can be incorporated into your treatment plan, to compliment the acupuncture prescribed. Each food has a particular flavour which pertains to one of the Five Elements. For example, the salty flavour belongs to the Water Element and enters its organ – the Kidney; so a little salt will benefit that organ, but too much will inhibit its action. And as mentioned earlier, eating dairy (and/or sugar, wheat, bananas, peanuts and fried foods) will make a phlegmy condition, such as sinusitis or cough, worse; consuming bitter (Fire Element) or pungent (Metal Element) flavours – onions, mustard, olives or green tea – will help clear the mucus. Chinese Food Energetics dietary advice can contribute towards a more effective overall treatment plan.

If you feel you could benefit from some dietary advice based in Chinese Medicine, email me on info@rhiannongriffiths.com or visit the “Acupuncture Plus” page on the website for more details.

© Rhiannon Griffiths 2011