Study Finds Acupuncture Does a Great Job with Seasonal Allergies

Source: Annals of Internal Medicine

Researchers recently investigated the effectiveness of acupuncture for the treatment of seasonal allergy symptoms. More than 400 people who qualified as having allergic nasal symptoms or pollen allergies were divided into three groups: one that received 12 acupuncture treatments and took antihistamines, one that received 12 fake acupuncture treatments and took antihistamines, and a third that only took antihistamines, but did not receive acupuncture treatment.

The findings suggest that those participants who received acupuncture reported an improvement in allergy symptoms and a decrease in their use of medication in comparison to volunteers who did not receive acupuncture treatments. The study suggests that acupuncture treatment can help improve symptoms for people suffering from seasonal allergic rhinitis.


Spring is a happy time. Nature comes alive! Flowers emerge in long forgotten corners of your garden. The birds return and sing so loudly they wake you in the morning.  This is not a time to be irritable, frustrated or angry, but according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, these emotions are exactly what you can expect if you don’t balance your wood element.

In TCM, spring is represented by the element wood. Wood represents birth and newness, the time for fresh ideas and new starts. Unsurprisingly, its color is green like the fresh growth of spring.

Wood governs your spine, joints, muscles, ligaments and tendons. A wood imbalance can lead to spinal problems, poor flexibility or arthritis.  Most important for your mood, wood governs your liver. Your liver is responsible for the smooth flow of Qi (vital life force or energy) and smooth flowing Qi means health and vitality. The emotion associated with your liver is anger. If your liver is imbalanced your Qi will be disrupted and you’ll be angry.

Healthy (and happy) spring acupuncture practices mean balancing your wood element and caring for your liver.

Healthy Spring Acupuncture Practices

Try these spring acupuncture recommendations, to keep your wood element balanced and your liver healthy.

  • Cleanse. Cleaning your colon releases accumulated toxins, undigested food, parasites and fungi. With a clean colon your digestion is more efficient and your body is healthier.
  • Detox your liver. Reduce or eliminate alcohol or drugs that are toxic to your liver. Consider a detox that specifically targets your liver. Check with us for information on available detoxes.
  • Stretch. Start or recommit to a healthy stretching routine. Try yoga, Tai ChiQi Gong, or other exercises that move, loosen and flex your joints.
  • Exercise your eyes. Massage your face, especially around your eyes. Roll your eyes and move them in figure 8s. Practice focusing on distant objects and then focusing on close objects in quick succession. Put time limits on your computer sessions. These exercises strengthen your eyes and can improve your eyesight.
  • Control your anger. Create a healthy anger management plan. Journal, meditate or get counseling. Put limits on stressful situations. Find activities that refocus your anger in healthy ways. High expectations and unrealistic planning can lead to frequent disappointment. Reassess your expectations and plans and consider a more gentle approach during this time of year.

Healthy Spring Acupuncture Diet

Follow these tips for a healthy spring diet that supports your liver.

  • Eat light. Overeating taxes your liver.
  • Eat greens. Sprouts, wheatgrass, spinach, kale and dandelions are particularly good foods in the spring.
  • Eat sour? Sour is the flavor associated with spring, however sour flavors are only recommended for certain constitutions. Instead of dousing your greens with vinegar or lemon juice dressings, consult with me to find out what flavors are best for you.
  • Drink milk thistle tea. Milk thistle detoxes your liver.
  • Season your food. Pungent spices like basil, fennel, marjoram, rosemary, caraway, dill and bay leaf are excellent for spring cooking—and they taste good!

By keeping your wood element balanced and your liver healthy you will experience more happiness. You’ll feel vital, flexible and clear. If you have questions about healthy spring acupuncture practices feel free to call us for recommendations.


Meditative Breathing In Traffic


meditative breathing in traffic by acupuncture silver spring

Traffic is a funny thing.  It happens in the DC at all times of day and it makes us tense up, grow angry, maybe even lash out as we begin to risk running late to our destination.  While we can do little to abate the traffic, it tends to leave us tense and stressed as we sit watching the clock and knowing we are running later and later and later…..  The only thing we can ever really change is how we react to it.  Smooth the stress and tension with meditative breathing.

Mediative Breathing is very useful when you need to be calm and alert to your surroundings. It is the kind of breathing used by martial artists and athletes in stressful situations.  Here are some simple steps for using Meditative Breathing in traffic:

Prep for the Drive ~   When you first start your car but before driving off,  bring your awareness to your Center Point … that place an inch or two below your navel.  Keep your attention there for a few slow, deep breaths.  By the time your car is ready to go, you will be too, just a little calmer than usual.

In this area, of course, it is always helpful to begin your trip with a margin of time to allow for some traffic congestion.  So, where possible, allow for it.

Breathe ~  As the traffic builds, begin:

Step 1: Keep your eyes open and let your eyes relax, like when you’re looking at a candle flame.

Step 2: Become aware of your breath: letting it become slower, longer and deeper.

Step 3: If traffic is completely stopped: keep taking … long … slow … deep breaths … but now start to count them. See how many you can count before you start to get fidgety. When that happens … start from one again. Enjoy this little game to see how many long … slow … deep breaths you can take before you have to start over again.

Step 4:  At some point, traffic will be moving again, and you’ll feel even calmer than when you first got into the car.

And that’s how to use Meditative Breathing in traffic.

Sweet and Nutritious, Stress Reducing Smoothie


- 1 banana (you can freeze peeled banana chunks beforehand, especially if you like your smoothie very cold like I do)

- 1 orange
- 1 cup (240 g) of frozen mixed berries
- 1 tbsp of ground flaxseeds
- 1 apple (if you have frozen apples slices, then it’s even better)
- 1 cup (not packed) frozen spinach (or a couple of frozen chunks if you buy them from a freezer section of any supermarket)
- splash of any organic prepared tropical juice (e.g. pineapple, mango)



1. Put frozen spinach into blender first and puree.

2. Add all of the other ingredients one by one so you don’t overload the machine.

3. Blend until it reaches a smooth consistency. Add extra juice to change its thickness if required.

4. Pour into glasses and serve. (I usually place extra glasses in the frig to grab for snacks)

Why it is Stress – Reducing?

Because it contains the following ingredients:

Spinach: 1 cup of spinach provides 40% of your needed daily intake of Magnesium that may reduce or prevent headaches and general fatigue.
Oranges: 1 orange provides around 40 g of vitamin C- vital for boosting our immune system and for reducing cortisol levels and blood.
Berries: Berries are full of antioxidants and vitamins, especially vitamin C. Both antioxidants and vitamin C are found to be stress-reducing.
Flaxseeds: Flaxseeds are little powerhouses of nutrition that decrease the amount of bad cholesterol in the blood by 7-14%.
Bananas: Bananas are known as a great source of potassium, a vital mineral that regulates blood pressure, Manganese and Vitamin B6, which help to produce serotonin – the hormone of happiness and feeling good.

American Heart Association Points to 10 Stress Relieving Habits

Healthy habits can protect you from the harmful effects of stress. Here are 10 positive healthy habits you may want to develop.stress management

  1. Talk with family and friends.
    A daily dose of friendship is great medicine. Call or write friends and family to share your feelings, hopes and joys and ask them to share theirs.
  2. Engage in daily physical activity.
    Regular physical activity can relieve mental and physical tension. Physically active adults have lower risk of depression and loss of mental functioning. Physical activity can be a great source of pleasure, too. Try walking, swimming, biking or dancing every day.
  3. Embrace the things you are able to change.
    While we may not be able to do some of the things we once enjoyed, we are never too old to learn a new skill, work toward a goal, or love and help others.
  4. Remember to laugh.
    Laughter makes us feel good. Don’t be afraid to laugh out loud at a joke, a funny movie or a comic strip, even when we’re alone.
  5. Give up the bad habits.
    Too much alcohol, cigarettes or caffeine can increase blood pressure. If you smoke, decide to quit now. If you do drink alcohol, do so in moderation.
  6. Slow down.
    Try to “pace” instead of “race.” Plan ahead and allow enough time to get the most important things done without having to rush.
  7. Get enough sleep.
    Try to get six to eight hours of sleep each night. If you can’t sleep, take steps to help reduce stress and depression. Physical activity also may improve the quality of sleep.
  8. Get organized.
    Use “to do” lists to help you focus on your most important tasks. Approach big tasks one step at a time. For example, start by organizing just one part of your life — your car, desk, kitchen, closet, cupboard or drawer.
  9. Practice giving back.
    Volunteer your time or spend time helping out a friend. Helping others helps you.
  10. Try not to worry.
    The world won’t end if your grass isn’t mowed or your kitchen isn’t cleaned. You may need to do these things, but right now might not be the right time.

And What Is Yoga Teacher Training Really Like?

Read one student’s view of the Yoga Teacher Training at  Blue Heron Wellness Yoga  ….

It’s the new year.  The time when we are bombarded with messages convincing us to make some sort of change in our lives.  Take on something new.  Progress.  Transform.  Turn over a new leaf.  And whether you are taken to making specific “resolutions” or not, the very ideas of experiencing growth, beginning new journeys, and gaining insight seems not only appealing but natural and expected in our lives — whether we actively seek out new paths or simply recognize those moments changes are taking place (as they always are!) and “go with the flow” in the midst of our movement.
If you’re still reading this, it may be that whatever I’ve written thus far has resonated, or maybe you’re just interested in seeing where this line of thinking is heading in light of what you may be considering about pursuing yoga teacher training program at Blue Heron.  I can’t tell you “Yes, you should take the leap and sign up for teacher training.”  I can, however, share a little bit about my experiences in the program in 2013 should they serve as food for thought as you consider next steps and how you may want to share your yoga with others.
I recently wrote a new year’s blog post on my yoga website titled “This is what it sounds like” -  - It was thematically structured (in part) around a yoga playlist, the songs of which provided some representation as to the meaning I was seeking from all of the different stories that left some mark on me as viewed from my (albeit often surreal) social media window.  On another level, the post was a bigger picture reflection on all that led to where I stood in the new year — with everything that came before and visions for the future.  And, like my practice has gifted me, the appreciation for those moments that I was simply “in it,” with awareness of the constant flow of change that was around me.  The songs and stories were echoes from the diverse range of voices of the people who brought me to this new “now.”
There were twelve woman who were teachers in training in our 2013 Blue Heron group (or “kula” as the lovely Cindy so wonderfully bestowed upon our collective); two amazing, knowledgable and devoted lead teachers; and various guest teachers who led parts of our training and whose insights, instruction and passion in specific areas were remarkable.  As I think back to all of the different readings, discussions, practices, reflections, and teachings, I can clearly recall (at least one!) memory of each of their voices that offered a new ring of truth to my ears, a resonance of inspiration, or a powerful (and much-needed) call of challenge to my practice or way of thinking.
The training experience helped me find my own voice as I began the exciting and intimidating entry into teaching after graduation.  After finishing the program, the voices of my beautiful students, my fellow teachers at the wonderful studio where I am honored to teach, and the greater yoga community in our area (and beyond) joined the chorus that sings to me every day and continues to influence my practice and teaching both on and off the mat as I enter every new “now.”
If you are interested in learning more about my yoga journey or joining me for one of my classes, you can find me at  I wish you all the best in the new year as you welcome whatever changes are to come.  And I am also honored to share another voice from the 2013 class, Theresa Preston, a woman whose grace and wisdom continues to inspire me as we stay connected along our yoga journeys.
All my best,
Kathleen Reynolds

Spiced Nuts ~ Perfect Nibble for the Winter Solstice

Sweet, warm and fragrant with spices, this spiced nut recipe is the perfect accompaniment for the winter solstice.  This time of year is made for hunkering down with a great book, a cup of tea, and a comforting snack.  So take a few minutes to make these sweet nuts, enjoy their fragrance while they are roasting, and then wrap up in your favorite quilt and relax!

Sugar and Spice Nuts

3 egg whites

2 tablespoons water

3 cups walnut halves

2 cups pecan halves

1 cup whole unblanched almonds

2 cups sugar

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground ginger

2 teaspoons grated orange peel

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves


In a mixing bowl, beat egg whites and water until frothy. Add nuts; stir gently to coat. Combine the remaining ingredients. Add to nut mixture and stir gently to coat. Spread into two greased 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pans. Bake, uncovered, at 300 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring every 10 minutes. Cool. Store in an airtight container.


Acupuncture as effective as drugs in treating pain, trial shows

Acupuncture as effective as drugs in treating pain, trial shows

Julia Medew
Published: March 30, 2014 – 3:00AM

An acupuncture trial in four Melbourne emergency departments has found it is just as good as drugs in relieving lower-back pain and that from sprained ankles and migraines.

The finding could open the door to Australian hospitals offering the low-cost Chinese therapy, which is used by more than 1 billion people worldwide for pain relief.

Emergency physicians at The Alfred, Northern, Cabrini and Epworth hospitals partnered with RMIT’s school of health sciences to see if acupuncture could relieve acute pain in hundreds of patients presenting to hospital with either lower-back pain, sprained ankles or migraines.

While data from the study is still being analysed and finalised for publication in a medical journal, one of the researchers, Dr Michael Ben-Meir, said it showed acupuncture offered the same level of pain relief as analgesic drugs when patients rated their pain one hour after treatment.

”Acupuncture was equivalent to what we defined as conventional medicine standard care, which was strong oral analgesia, such as Endone, Panadeine Forte, Voltaren and Valium,” he said.

Dr Ben-Meir, director of Cabrini Hospital’s emergency department, said the randomised controlled study of about 550 patients also found that the combination of acupuncture with standard pharmaceutical care delivered equivalent pain relief to acupuncture alone or standard care alone.

The emergency physician who studied acupuncture nine years ago and has since used it on patients at Epworth and Cabrini said the results aligned with his own experience of its efficacy for acute pain.

He said it was particularly good for people who did not want drugs, such as pregnant women, and for those whose pain was not relieved by Western medicine.

”I find acupuncture doesn’t always help all patients, but occasionally it’s the thing that really shifts them and gets them home and gets their symptoms resolved,” he said. ”It has an effect, there’s no doubt about that. It’s just, when do you use it? How often? Which points? And who delivers it? There’s a lot to be thought about and analysed before something like this is a standard therapy.”

The director of emergency medicine at The Alfred hospital, De Villiers Smit, said although he was initially sceptical about acupuncture, the study convinced him it was safe and effective in improving pain management.

He said study participants treated with acupuncture also tended to leave hospital earlier, suggesting it sped up emergency department care.

Another chief investigator of the project – the head of the school of health sciences at RMIT and a registered Chinese medicine practitioner, Professor Charlie Xue – said the study showed a very low rate of minor adverse events, such as bleeding at the needling sites.

While about 10 per cent of Australians use acupuncture in community-based clinics, Professor Xue said until now very little research had been done on its use for acute pain in hospital settings.

Dr Ben-Meir said although the exact mechanisms of acupuncture remained unclear, this was also the case for some Western medicines.

He said rising health costs should encourage more scientific assessment of low-risk complementary medicines because new drugs were expensive to develop and could cause side effects.

This story was found at:


A Healthy Chocolate Smoothie?


A healthy chocolate smoothie still sounds like an oxymoron, huh?   But we have all seen research suggesting chocolate is no longer a guilty pleasure.  In fact, recently in a study in the Nature Neuroscience journal, a group of healthy middle-aged participants were reported to have performed better on memory tests after drinking an antioxidant-rich, cocoa flavanol mixture. The improvement was on par with people twenty or thirty years younger. So, if I eat that dark chocolate bar will I remember where I put my keys?  The studies will continue; however, here’s a Smoothie to enjoy while researchers figure it all out!


Velvety Chocolate Smoothie

2 cups of almond milk (unsweetened)

3 large Medjool dates, pitted

1 tbsp. of unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tbsp. of Vanilla Protein (I tried brown rice protein and ½ cup old-fashioned oatmeal*)

1 tbsp. of hemp or flax seeds

1 large frozen banana (peeled)

6-8 large ice cubes



  1. Combine all ingredients in high-speed blender.
  2. Puree until smooth.
  3. Add more almond milk for thinner consistency or add more oatmeal (or whatever protein you are using) for thicker, heartier smoothie.


*I prefer oatmeal (uncooked) because it is a whole food and has a reasonable amount of protein in it.  Flavored powdered protein often has a lot of sugar, not to mention other ingredients I would prefer to avoid, in it.  The dates and the banana will certainly add the sweetness pop.  If you need a little more sweetness, try adding another ½ banana or a bit of honey.  You can also go off-recipe and try adding a couple berries or some coconut (adds in some medium-chain fatty acids!).

This recipe makes 2-3 servings.


Essential Oils for Pain Relief

It is safe to say that a great number of clients come to massage seeking relief from muscle and joint pain. Many will also be suffering from stress and need to relax. Others may be athletic or high-powered performers who want pain relief without becoming tired or drowsy.


The most famous essential oil for pain relief and relaxation is lavender (Lavandula officinalis, L angustifolia, L vera.) Distilled from the flowering tops, the best lavender oil comes from Bulgaria, France, England, Yugoslavia and Tasmania, though it can be grown all over the world. Lavender Vera is grown in higher altitudes, which produces more esters and a finer scent. Lavender has a long list of applications for skin; because of its anti-inflammatory and cell regenerating properties, it is one of the only essential oils that can be applied neat, or undiluted, to the skin.

Lavender is also antimicrobial, anti-infectious and antiseptic, making it effective in the treatment of wounds and as a frontline defense against respiratory infection. It is tonic to the cardiovascular and digestive systems, lowers blood pressure and helps thin the blood due to the presence of coumarins. Lavender is indicated for muscle spasm, sprain, strain, cramp, contracture and rheumatic pain. It is sedative to the central nervous system and relieves headache, nervous tension, and insomnia; it can also help balance mood swings. Spiritually, lavender is said to balance the physical, astral and etheric planes.

Because of lavender’s many therapeutic properties, if aromatherapists were stranded on a desert island with only one essential oil, many would hope it was lavender (it also takes the itch out of insect bites and helps heal sunburn!) But what other essential oils can be called in to use here in civilization? What should you use if your client does not want the deep relaxation or sleep-inducing effect of lavender, or if they have a tendency toward lowered metabolism or low blood pressure? What if they need to relax because they are about to take an exam, give a presentation or walk down the aisle? It’s a good idea to ask the client who indicates a need to relax what their stress is about and what life circumstances may be contributing to their pain cycle. This will help you select an essence that is most appropriate for their needs. Also keep in mind that when too much lavender is used it takes on the stimulating effect of a cup of espresso, so it is good for both you and your client to vary the relaxing, pain-relieving blend.

We’ll begin with an exploration of aromatherapy for pain and stress, and profile some other sedative oils. Space allows for a partial list of the properties; consult The Aromatherapy Practitioner Manual, Vols. I and II by Sylla Sheppard-Hanger, Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit by Gabriel Mojay, and others for more information on each essence.

When you want slightly less sedation but powerful pain relief, there is another type of lavender,Lavandula latifolia, L. spica, or Spike Lavender. A hybrid of lavender officinalis and latifolia, Lavandin, Lavandula-super is less expensive and often used to adulterate true lavender but is still a powerful antispasmodic well-suited for muscular, respiratory and circulatory problems, and not as a sedative for the mind.

Moving away from the lavenders altogether, other pain relieving sedative oils are chamomile (Roman, Anthemis nobilis and German, Marticaria recutita), Clary sage (Salvia sclarea), helichrysum (H. angustifolium), sweet marjoram (Origanum majorana), sandalwood (Santalum album) and vetiver (Vetiveria zizanioides).

Chamomile is a highly effective anti-inflammatory. It eases headache, neuralgia, dull muscle and low back pain, and TMJ syndrome. It relieves dysmenorrhea, PMS and stress that manifests as digestive symptoms.

Clary sage (not to be confused with sage, Salvia officinalis) is considered mildly intoxicating and euphoric, and should be used in small quantities and preferably not before an evening of cocktails, as it augments the effects of alcohol. Apart from this, the ability of Clary sage to relieve spasm, muscle ache and cramping makes it extremely useful in massage. It is a digestive aid and can be blended effectively with chamomile for tension and discomfort due to PMS and dysmennorhea.

Along with lavender, Clary sage is one of the essences chosen to ease labor. It is also associated with dreams and increased inner vision.

Helichrysum has a long history as anointing oil, but well deserves an honored place in therapeutic massage. With many of the properties of lavender, helichrysum is also indicated for bruising and burns, depression, shock and phobia, and is helpful in detoxification from drugs and nicotine. Helichrysum is said to improve the flow along the meridians and to increase spiritual awareness.

Sweet marjoram is highly sedative. It relieves pain, stiffness, sprain, spasm, neuromuscular contractions and is indicated for both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, dysmenorrhea and migraine. It has a powerful effect on the mind and emotions, relieving deep trauma, grief and heartache.

Sandalwood, well known in Ayurvedic treatment and as incense, also relieves muscle spasm and is helpful in treating sciatica and lymph congestion. It is tonic in the cardiovascular and digestive systems and relieves depression, insomnia, obsession, grief and aggression. Sandalwood opens the mind to spiritual connection and grounds this awareness in the material world.

Vetiver is interesting because it relieves arthritis, muscle ache, pain, sprain and stiffness, but increases venous circulation to help detoxification of tissues. It is said to balance the central nervous system and is grounding and revitalizing, while relieving insomnia, tension and depression.

Apart from lavender, all of the sedative essences listed are pretty potent and require few drops in a blend. The flower essences: rose, jasmine, neroli and ylang ylang, relieve anxiety and have properties that induce relaxation and pain relief.

The citrus oils: sweet orange, grapefruit, lemon, lime, tangerine and Mandarin, reduce tension and instill courage and optimism. Flower and citrus oils blend well with the other sedative oils and add their own dimensions to the therapeutic experience.

By Shellie Enteen, RA, BA, LMBT