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Lesley Tierra's Blogs

Lesley Tierra's Blogs

I don’t know what it is about the holidays and me, but when this time of year comes around I think about spices. It’s probably because of the season – winter, colder weather, Kidney time – and spicing up meals enhances all three of these. So once again I give you something about spices, although this time with a different twist -- I’ve found a perfect book not only for your kitchen, but as a lovely gift option as well. Titled, Healing Spice: How to Use 50 Everyday and Exotic Spices to Boost Health and Beat Diseases, this fabulous book by Bharat B. Aggarwai with Debora Yost (Sterling, 2011) does exactly what it says: presents 50 spices along with their health uses, science, how to buy and use them, and my favorite part – recipes! I was so inspired by this book that I completely restocked our spice cabinet, throwing…
"What is the difference between a tonic in eastern versus western herbalism?" This question, launched at me during our last seminar, was a good one that deserved more attention than I could give at that time so I decided to write a blog about it. However, the more I dug into this topic, the longer the response grew. Just the essentials are included here. First, let’s take a look at the meaning of the word "tonic" as defined by various dictionaries: "A medicine producing a sense of well-being"; "A medicine that invigorates or strengthens"; "An invigorating, refreshing, or restorative agent or influence"; and "Increasing or restoring physical or mental tone." The short answer to the difference between an eastern and western tonic is this: Whether an herb is a tonic or not depends on its culture. In other words, tonic herbs are culture-specific. In general, the main difference between eastern…
You’ve just made an herbal formula for a new client. She took it for several days, but then began to get sick! You wonder: Is your client having a ‘healing crisis,’ or did you give her the wrong formula? Telling the difference between a healing crisis or a reaction to the wrong formula is usually not difficult, but at some times of the year, it can be tricky. Transition periods between seasons are when people are more vulnerable to colds and flu, and summer to fall is the riskiest of these. A client like the one mentioned above might get sick now neither from a healing crisis nor wrong formula. Seasonal influences aside, let's review how you can tell the difference between a healing crisis and when you have administered the wrong formula. The Healing Crisis A "healing crisis" manifests as an acute illness after beginning a healing protocol, such…
Recently I read an article in Acupuncture Today titled "The Devil is in the Details" written by acupuncturist Douglas Briggs, who is frequently called upon to give his opinion on standard care in depositions for malpractice cases. Briggs has experience with the legal demands that determine standard patient care, including proper case documentation. In a recent case where he was called for his opinion, Briggs listed various questions asked to determine proper patient care, which gave insight into how the legal realm looks at patient records. Apparently during a deposition an attorney can ask anything about your care of a patient, whether you wrote it down or not. What you "think" or "remember" is not credible. If it’s not written down, it’s not part of the record! While this deals with licensed practitioners, it also applies to all health care providers including those who practice complementary medicine. As these modalities…
Healing means "to make whole." This is frequently forgotten by western medicine as it typically approaches the body like a machine and expects it to respond as such. We herbalists can also forget, as we use herbs for organs and systems, and ignore other aspects of the person. To make whole, however, means attending to all parts of a person – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. As well, it means knowing that any one of these parts can be the single cause for disease, not just the physical body itself. I did an interview on this topic last January. Called, "Healing the Whole Person," it was with Dr. Susan Allison on her Empowered Healer show, held on VoiceAmerica. Here is a link to that show: http://www.voiceamerica.com/episode/59113/treating-the-whole-person. That show gives more detail than provided here so you may want to listen to it to get a fuller perspective (her other shows…
AMAZING! That’s the only word that best sums up our East West 2012 seminar – amazing! While our annual seminars are always great and well received, somehow this one was quite exceptional. Everything seemed to coalesce beautifully – students, teachers, food, setting, classes, guest instructors – you name it, it worked! When all of us at East West compared notes, we agreed about this year’s stellar seminar and felt quite inspired by our attendees’ enthusiasm, appreciation and genuine heartfelt presence. You, the East West Family, are the best ever! Perhaps one of the elements that helped was a new idea this year: to have our guest speakers, Efrem Korngold and Harriet Beinfield, teach Five Element theory to the entire group on our first day together. As we split into breakout groups to discuss our element types (or brag about them – you know who you are!), we bonded beyond class…
Turmeric has become increasingly popular over the last decade, first for blood purification and then for joint pain. As it’s hit the mainstream, its uses have narrowed at the same time. While turmeric is a fabulous herb with many beneficial applications, it’s also quite powerful and can strongly imbalance the body if over-used or misused. Most people aren’t aware of this and definitely should be. First, the good news. While both turmeric tuber and rhizome are considered medicinal, the rhizome specifically is both the spice used in Indian cooking and western herbalism. It has a warm energy with a spicy and bitter taste and enters the Spleen, Stomach and Liver. It invigorates the Blood and Qi and has analgesic, emmenagogue, cholagogue, antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric rhizome treats amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, sports injuries, trauma pain and swelling, flank, gastric or abdominal congestion and pain, and eases painful obstruction due to…
Mitochondrial DNA is big on the alternative scene these days. Brain research and the role mitochondria play has given rise to many new products. Some are quite expensive and promise great brain health and to recharge the mitochondria. The question is, should we take them? Will they really help? And should we jump on this bandwagon? I won't tell you the answer to these questions because you have to decide what's right for you, of course. However, I will say we herbalists have an advantage, particularly when we couple our knowledge with TCM. Simply put, the tiny powerhouses we call mitochondria are nothing more than Spleen Qi; we immediately know what herbs supplement Spleen Qi -- astragalus, ginseng, and reishi, for starters. Taking these herbs alone will build your mitochondria (and if you want to spark your ATP as well, then include Kidney Yang tonics). Admittedly I wrote a blog…
Weight has never particularly been a problem for me. Yes, I've weighed more than I "should" at various times in my life, but when I focused on losing it, the weight came off. In the last few years, however, not only has it been impossible for me to shed weight, I've also watched the scale increasingly climb to my highest number ever, sans pregnancy, and it was closing in on that record, too. Yes, I hit a landmark age this last year (you can guess all you want), but I also exercise five days a week. So what was happening? Why did I finally buy some pants a size up, something I swore I'd never do but lose weight instead? What was up with this weight? As I looked back to when I stated gaining weight, it was simultaneous with writing and editing our new herb course. I put much…
Yes, you read that right! I wish you a do-be-do-be-do-be year! Now what in the heck is that? In today's world, most people are action oriented, or "do"-oriented. We make plans, cross off completed items on lists, work several jobs, garden and raise a family. "Do-ers" are action oriented; it's all about getting things done. Studying your herb course lessons, seeing clients, making products, sending in your lesson tests, these are all "do" parts of your life. When we stop to sit, rest, mediate, read a book, take a siesta or contemplate nature, we have moved into the "being" mode. Stopping to "be" makes something interesting happen. The right brain consciousness opens so insights pour out, realizations arise and understandings click. "Being" rejuvenates as it refreshes the mind and body. It's nearly impossible to receive such insights while in a "doing" mode. "Being" is essential to all levels of our…
When people study herbs and natural medicine they tend to focus solely on physical health. And yet the health of one's spirit is just as important to one's well-being. After all, we are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but spirits having a human experience! This is one of the times of year when people in the West pay attention to their spiritual health. While emphasis is placed on love, peace, generosity, and in general, thinking of others, this can easily be interpreted commercially. TCM has long recognized the importance of the spirit to health. Spirit, or Shen, is linked to the Heart, and reflects the entire physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health of the body. It includes the capacity to think and act coherently and appropriately, the personality's magnetic force, and the joy to live life. Shen is distinguished by the sparkle in the eyes, an overall vivaciousness,…
Ever since I learned Barefoot Doctor techniques I have been most thankful, as they often heal conditions where nothing else works. They were named as such for the native healers of China who would walk from village to village (thus, the name "barefoot" doctors) and treat all manner of diseases. Barefoot Doctor techniques include cupping, moxibustion, dermal hammer, scraping, needling, bleeding and massage. (As well, barefoot doctors were skilled at bone setting.) Although they may sound like exotic Traditional Chinese Medicine therapies, these techniques are not native to just China. Barefoot Doctor tools are actually folk remedies which have been, and still are, used throughout most cultures in the world, including those in Chile, Argentina, France, Germany, Poland, Turkey, Greece, Egypt, India, Bali, Java, Czech Republic, Russia, Iran, Mexico, Italy, Vietnam, Japan, China, and Korea. They are also used by several Native American tribes of North and South America. I…
As many of you know, our past AHG president, Aviva Romm (shown at right), stepped down this past year. While there have been many wonderful past presidents and we have a great new president in KP Khalsa, I want to honor Aviva for the incredible work she has done in developing our herbal organization the last 10 years. When Aviva became president, the AHG had moved through its infancy into childhood and was about 12 years old. She thus had the joyful/arduous task of bringing it through its adolescence into young adulthood. When she took over, the AHG had no regular home or administrator, but bounced around from person to person and location to location. You can easily imagine the difficulty this would bring to a budding organization. It had no journal and symposium attendance was irregular. Aviva changed all of that. Further, she stabilized, polished and expanded the organization…
While most people dream of their projects and ideas going viral, there is one area in which we definitely want to avoid this -- our health. And we are just at the most vulnerable time of year for "going viral"! There are four times when the seasons transition, and this particular one, when summer turns to fall, is when energies most radically shift, making us most susceptible to colds and flu. Viruses are very interesting. Microscopic in size (smaller than bacteria), it must exactly fit a receptor's docking site in order to activate (which is why viruses are species-specific). A virus can stay dormant in the body seemingly indefinitely. It is when the host immune system lowers that the virus hijacks the cell's functions to reproduce and dump into the blood stream. Not all viruses are the same. Some we can live with, while others are deadly. Viral diseases include…
Agastache urticafolia, a very close relative of huo xiang, growing in Stanislaus National Forest, CA. Photo by Ben Zappin. Summer's end can be a tricky time of year health-wise. It is the completion of Spleen/Stomach time, the season of monsoons in much of the world. This means that forms of dampness can be a particular problem now, causing such issues as weight gain that won't respond to dieting, feelings of heaviness, lung mucus, cough, chest fullness, edema, oozing skin eruptions, abdominal distention, nausea, vomiting, sore, heavy or stiff joints, bloating, fluid retention, loss of appetite, acid regurgitation, gas, bloating, the need to clear the throat after eating, excessive drooling, snoring, runny nose, post-nasal drip, lymphatic congestion, swelling, or stuffiness in the epigastrium. Further, there may be no thirst, or a desire to only sip in small amounts. Part of the reason for this is that hot temperatures outside can lock…
I first learned about Wan Hua Oil over 20 years ago when my seven-year old son ran into a doorpost. A huge lump immediately rose on his forehead above his right eyebrow, turning black and blue before my eyes. Thankfully, I was at a friend's acupuncture clinic and he immediately pulled out a bottle of Wan Hua Oil and dabbed it on. Within 10 minutes the bump was nearly gone and the next day there was no bruising at all. While arnica oil is similarly effective for bruising and trauma, Wan Hua Oil has many other applications. In fact, the name Wan Hua Oil means "Traumatic Injury Ten-Thousand Flowers Oil," which may refer to its "thousands" of potential applications just as much as to its multiple flower ingredients. I have used it on people with 20-year old lumps the size of a fist and seen it substantially soften and shrink…
I have treated a LOT of people for low back pain this past month -- far more than usual. Even people whose back pain was gone had it flare up again, though they had been exercising, eating well and taking their herbs. And I, who rarely experience back pain, started to feel it, too -- a very unusual experience for me -- and it didn't respond to my normal formula. What was going on? The first thing I thought of was that being June, it is opposite the Kidney time of year, which means the Kidney-adrenal energy is at its lowest now -- and will remain so through the first week or so of August. What results is that anyone with low Kidney energy anyway, or who has over-worked too long (moi!) or not gotten enough sleep or rest, will experience Kidney symptoms stronger this time of year. Not only…
What a sensational seminar we had this year! Everything seemed to click and come together perfectly. We had created several new changes and all were received successfully. We had more people than ever with a huge practitioner track added in this year, several guest teachers presented exceptional classes, and even the weather cooperated when the sunniest, warmest day of the week sparkled on our new garden party day. Several people attended from afar this year -- Japan, Singapore and Trinidad. The Foundation students came well prepared with a solid base knowledge of herbs, diet and theory. Although this is not necessary, it was obvious they had done their reading and were actively involved with herbs. The Intermediate students soaked up lots of case studies, herbs and formulas, while the Advanced track not only worked hard in clinic, but found time to celebrate their progress and graduation a few times during…
Recently I had an experience with someone that reminded me again about the major tenet of TCM 'treat the person and not the condition.' While to our students and TCM practitioners this may seem obvious, it's also very easy to fall into a simplistic mode of 'this for that,' even when following energetic practices. I was treating someone with a Yin Deficiency condition coupled with co-existing Phlegm, which can be quite a tricky situation, let me tell you! Yin Deficiency presents with signs of deficient Fluids and Empty Heat such as night sweats, malar flush (redness and burning heat along the cheeks and nose), burning sensation in the palms of the hands, soles of the feet and in the chest, afternoon fever or feelings of heat, restless sleep, dry throat or thirst at night, agitation, mental restlessness, dry cough, dry stools, and scanty dark urine. Now how can someone with…
In honor of the near end of Liver/Gallbladder time of year, here's another favorite formula of mine: Wen Dan Tang. It has many uses, especially as a sedative and expectorant, but it is specifically said to 'warm' the Gallbladder. Already prone to Dampness and Heat, how can the Gallbladder ever need to be warmed? Either when it is 'tired' 'hypo-functioning' or overly Damp. If an excess of Dampness collects in the Gallbladder, it stagnates and can't properly perform its functions. This in itself can lead to hypo-functioning. Usually, however, when Dampness collects it arises from a Cold Damp Spleen, Thus, two types of Dampness co-exist here, both Cold Damp in the Spleen and Damp Heat in the Stomach and Gallbladder. Symptoms arise such as profuse white phlegm that's foamy or frothy, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, palpitations and insomnia. The tongue has a greasy yellow coat and the pulse is slippery. These…
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