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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Woody Springtime

So Spring has sprung… well, it kinda sprung, then jumped to a week or so of Summer heat, then the snow came back and we all put our mittens and earmuffs back on… and now, it sort of seems right, April showers are here and we’re uncertain what kind of coat we should be wearing – yep, that sounds like Spring to me!

In Chinese Medicine Spring is the season associated with the Wood Element. It represents a new beginning, a coming out of the hibernation and inward energy of the Winter. There is a real push to this Yang Woody Spring energy, a force to it – like the “shout” tone of voice, the assertion, justice and defiance associated with the Element. I guess there has to be a strength to this Element and season, all the shoots need this kind of energy – they are coming up and out of the bulbs and seeds after a Winter underground, waiting, storing all their energy ready for this time when the light and temperature increases.

The colour of the Wood Element, and Spring is very aptly green, the movement of energy (or Qi) is upwards and outwards. Quite literally, I see the Wood Element in my mind as a tree, the branches reaching upwards to the sky, and outwards, growing, moving forward with strength, blossoming and blooming with leaves, flowers, and fruits – it is this positive, busy, expansive and increasing energy that we can tap into at this time of year.

The Wood Element (along with its organs of the Liver and Gall Bladder) is all about vision of the future, planning, acting on those plans and moving forward. The sense organ of Wood is the eyes, so we can “see” things in different ways during the Spring. We may have new visions, feel compelled to start a new venture, or to pick up on something we put down during the Winter months… its no surprise that everyone feels inspired to get to work on the garden, the home or the DIY as soon as Spring arrives! It’s all about new projects!

People who have Wood as their CF (Element, or constitutional factor) can thrive during this time – as the old saying goes, they really can be “in their Element”!! Ideas blossom, things flower – reflecting the activity in nature and in our gardens. Or it can be a difficult period where they feel as though they should be moving forward, but can’t. It can be difficult to “see” where the future plans or vision should be, the Qi (or energy) doesn’t flow upwards or outwards as it should, it can get stuck and stagnant… this can create what I refer to as a Springtime depression.

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And don’t forget, although we tend to revert back to one “default Element” or CF – mine is Water – we do actually all have all Five of the Elements within us, working together (harmoniously, or otherwise!), so we can ALL feel pushed positively forward on this wave of Woody springtime energy, or feel a bit lacking and unable to “see” ahead.

A tree can be flexible, bending in the wind, and weathering the storm, as long as it’s branches are properly nourished… if the tree is lacking or deficient, it can become stiff and brittle, breaking easily at the first sign of stress. And this is how some of us can feel during the Spring. We may have done too much during the Winter, or been exhausted by coughs and colds at the beginning of the year… as the rest of the world around us starts to blossom and push forward with Wood energy, we can feel flat and unable to move forward at all.

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This disparity between what we feel inside, and what the rest of the busy world appears to be doing outside, can cause us to feel hopeless, stuck and numb, we may feel as though we (or “our branches”) might break if we even try to do anything at all.

Whichever way you’re feeling at the moment, acupuncture can provide a real boost during this change of season, helping you to top up your energies, to move forward in a way that you want, overcoming any stagnation or frustrations. Treatment at this time can also help with hay fever (that might be starting to creep in around now?!) and can expel any pathogens left over from Winter that we haven’t quite managed to shake off yet… and in true Wood Element style, this “forward planning” of sorts, actually leaves our immune systems in better shape for next Winter! So Spring into action and contact me now, to start something new and positive today – acupuncture!

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© Rhiannon Griffiths 2012

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Enough Petrol in the Tank?

Here in the UK things have gone a bit crazy on the petrol front. Everyone queuing to fill up their tanks, beeping at each other, blocking surrounding roads, running the petrol stations dry, general hysteria. And all of this is BEFORE the potential strike by tanker drivers even happens, before it is even the same week of the proposed strike. The general advice is fill up so your tank is full to the brim.

This panic buying reminds me of the yang side of the Water Element. As I have described before, there are five Elements in Chinese Medicine – Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood – and each of the five Elements have organs associated with them, one yin and one yang (though Fire is greedy and has four!!). The Water Element organs are the Kidneys (Yin) and Bladder (Yang). And although the Kidney energy has a lot to do with “reserves”, it is the Bladder energy that makes us feel panicky over “running out”, before the potential threat has even happened.

On a physical level the Bladder (and Kidney) regulates the balance of Water in our bodies by adjusting the volume of urine. Emotionally, an imbalance in the Bladder official (or energetic organ, not necessarily the physical organ itself) on an energetic level, can give rise to the huge fear, or lack of fear, associated with the Water Element. When the well is dry, there are no reserves of water for the coming year to bring fluid and nourishment; when the bank’s “rainy-day fund” has gone, the reassurance from having a monetary back-up disappears… the general notion that there might not be “enough” for the future is scary, and can induce panic. This is how I am viewing the public’s behaviour this week with the petrol – as I always say, I see the world through “Five-Element tinted glasses”!

When we feel we don’t “have enough” (emotionally and physically) to get us through into the future, everything appears to be a threat, and we may imagine all the worst possible outcomes, never secure in the knowledge that we can survive. The mental and emotional impact can be huge if our Water Element is depleted, particularly if we have a perceived “lack” of actual physical things in our lives too – in this case, a lack of petrol – or should that be a PERCEIVED lack of petrol?!

To a Water CF (a person who has Water as their main Element or Constitutional Factor i.e. CF), it does not matter if there is a perceived threat or a real threat, the fear or panic is exactly the same. It is a case of managing the fear and managing the road towards catastrophisation; for example, A and B leading to X, Y and Z in one or two jumps instead of twenty five!

This case is an incredibly accurate and timely working example of this route that the Water Element and fear can go down – a potential strike of petrol tanker drivers has made the country jump to the conclusion that there will be no petrol, no Easter holidays away, no getting to the doctors or hospitals, patients will suffer, people will not get to work, they will lose money, lose their houses etc etc – the escalation from “the drivers MAY strike”, to “the UK will be ground to a standstill and everyone will suffer” seems to have been one simple step – creating the crazy panic buying seen in the last few days! I reckon quite a lot of people need their Water Elements treating at the moment!!

As a Water CF, I am trying hard not to buy into this mass hysteria and panic buying, though I do have a full tank at the moment (both petrol, and energetic tank from having had acupuncture myself this week!), so perhaps that makes it easier to keep calm! If you recognise feelings of fear of the future, feeling easily overwhelmed, worried about whether you have enough energy to survive what is coming your way, you could benefit from Five-Element acupuncture. This is my favourite part of acupuncture (as a patient and a practitioner!) and it can have a huge impact on your quality of life – contact me here, keep calm and feel better!

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© Rhiannon Griffiths 2011

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Year of the Water Dragon

Happy New Year! No, I’m not on a time lapse, or having some kind of deja vu, it is the start of the Chinese New Year today! As you may already know, the Chinese calendar attributes different animals to different years, and depending on the year you were born, you are a different animal – I am a Dog! If you don’t know what animal you are, you can check it out here!

This year (2012) is the year of the Dragon in China, or more specifically, the Water Dragon. So, as we say goodbye to the year of the Rabbit, and enter into one of the most revered years in the Chinese Zodiac, let’s see what goodies it has in store for us, and how we can make the most of it…

The Dragon has supernatural powers and is a deliverer of good fortune and intense power; according to the Sung dynasty, he has a head of an ox, body of a serpent covered with fish scales, and feet of a phoenix. He gives happiness and success, watches over good, honest people and the family, cultivating smart and healthy children. Which I guess makes it a very good year for me to be doing a paediatric acupuncture diploma! If you have children, ensure holistic health (body, mind and emotions) features big this year; and if you don’t  have children, but are intending to start a family, this year is the one for you!

It is a time for boldness, big ideas and new projects on a work and social level, as the Yang part of Water of this “Water Dragon” year, is more like an ocean or a rushing stream, opposed to a stagnant pond. It is powerful, dynamic and has strong energy. So think outside the box, push the boundaries of your comfort zone, and try something new – this year, nothing is off the table, you can achieve whatever you put your mind to – after all, you have the power of Water behind you, pushing you forward!

It brings all the qualities we know and love about the Water Element in Chinese medicine – bringing wisdom and perception, re-evaluting situations, researching when necessary, assessing levels of risk – making plans even more successful, as the pitfalls have already been thought of and accommodated for. So if you’re embarking on a new project this year, ensure you do all the research, and it’s likely to be a success. Or why not use your wisdom and passion inspire others – organise a talk or seminar, invite the girls round to talk about your favourite books, make a video on what you know about and post it on you tube! Spread the word and lead the way, as the Dragon would!

The parts of the body Water relates to include the kidney, immune system, sexual organs and the urinary system; so ensure you keep an eye out for kidney problems, kidney stones, inflammation of urinary tract, and general virus or bacterial infection. Drink enough water to keep your body hydrated, to reduce vulnerability to these issues; and acupuncture can help keep your immune system topped up.

The Dragon is said to be a karmic animal, bringing the positive, loving energies we have given to others, back to us! (You have been giving out positive, loving energies, right?! If not, make this something you do this year – give big and you’ll get tons back). This year is set to have love and success at the top of its agenda, and who wouldn’t want that?! New love can blossom, and as the Dragon is associated with festivals and celebrations, 2012 is THE year for engagements and weddings! And its not just small successes, Dragons bring those BIG dreams to life!

So take the opportunity to start with your new year’s resolutions all over again, grab hold of the Dragon’s optimism and positivity, get rid of those January blues, and embrace a new start, for a second time!

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© Rhiannon Griffiths 2011

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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