Red Phoenix Healing Arts Blog - Feng Shui, Herbs, Acupunture, Chinese Astrology

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tumeridc flower.jpgAs Yogi Berra so famously said, "It's déjà vu all over again."  While yet again researching Vitamin D ~ I stumbled upon a report singing the praises of the spice Turmeric. It reported that Turmeric ~ in combination with vitamin D ~ helps fight Alzheimer's disease and obesity (by suppressing growth of fatty tissue). Researchers have been examining the anti-inflammatory properties of Turmeric for many years.
ground tumeric.jpgTurmeric is made from the roots of a plant in the Ginger family (Curcuma longa) and is known as Jiang Huang in Chinese Herbal Medicine.   For the details on this versatile healing botanical, I would like to quote Registered Herbalist David Winston, RH (AHG), a founding member of the American Herbalists Guild and author of "Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina and Stress Relief".

Winston writes that Turmeric has a wide variety of healing abilities...
* Powerful anti-inflammatory components safely reduce the pain and swelling of arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, bursitis and tendonitis.
*Anti-inflammatory benefits also extend to gastrointestinal (GI) problems, such as gastric ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis.
* Potent antioxidants help squelch unstable oxygen molecules that can otherwise run amok, damaging cells and opening the door to dangerous diseases, such as cancer. 
* Curcumin, an active compound of Turmeric, has been shown to modify more than 250 oncogenes and processes that trigger cancer tumorigenesis, proliferation and metastasis.
*Turmeric helps curb excessive immune responses that characterize conditions such as allergies, asthma and possibly even multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer's disease, where (in animal studies) Curcumin appears to inhibit development of amyloid plaques.
* Studies suggest a still wider range of healing benefits, such as lowering cholesterol, preventing atherosclerosis and protecting the liver against chemicals and viral damage.


Don't confuse Turmeric with its most well-known active compound, Curcumin. Turmeric contains a variety of inflammation-fighting compounds known as curcuminoids ~ the most widely known and extensively studied of which is Curcumin.
Importantly, large doses of Curcumin can cause gastric upset, while the herb Turmeric contains a number of active ingredients that combine to have a gastro-protective effect.

Winston says that he prefers the herb Turmeric (commonly in capsule or tincture form) for some uses (gastritis, gastric ulcers, arthralgias)
Standardized Curcumin for others (cancer prevention and treatment, Alzheimer's prevention and treatment, and protecting the liver against hepatitis B and C). Check wth your Doctor or Practitioner regarding dosage and vendor
soy_cardturne more.jpgI fell in love with Chinese Medicine because it is so balanced. Chinese Nutrition is really about the Middle Way.  When I was in my twenties and I was searching for a cure for my migraine headaches I lived in Health Food Stores - and I researched and visited Healing Gurus around the world as I pursued my career in television.  I remember that Macrobiotics was very popular and people were constantly trying to convert me. I remember looking at many of them and thinking you have 3 hairs on your head - your skin looks gray and you're only twenty-five - so why should I listen to you ~ and yes sometimes I voiced my thoughts.  I still feel that way today ~ my hair color is still the one I was born with and my skin is holding up.  As friends and later colleagues embraced the Church of Soy ~ I just never bought into it.

Soy has become synonymous with healthy eating. Who hasn't heard of the benefits of Soy? Even Dr.Weil has jumped onto the Soy band wagon. The USDA recently approved the use of Soy in children's school lunches. But could something that sounds so healthy actually be dangerous?  Before you reach for that next bite of tofu and wash it down with some great tasting soy milk, I want to share with you ~ the Dark side of Soy.
When I was studying Oriental Medicine I discovered Sally Fallon the author of Nourishing Traditions: "The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats."  I credit her and  The Weston A. Price Foundation, Washington, DC. with much of this research and with not being afraid to voice it.

There has been a decade-long marketing campaign to gain consumer acceptance of tofu, soy milk, soy ice cream, soy cheese, soy sausage and soy derivatives, particularly soy isoflavones like genistein and diadzen, the estrogen-like compounds found in soybeans.

The propaganda that has created the Soy Sales Miracle is all the more remarkable because, the soybean was considered unfit to eat - even in Asia.  During the Chou Dynasty (1134-246 BC) apparently the soy plant was initially used in crop rotations as a method of fixing nitrogen.

The soybean did not serve as a food until the discovery of fermentation techniques, sometime during the Chou Dynasty. The first Soy foods were fermented products like tempeh, natto, miso and soy sauce.

The Chinese did not eat unfermented soybeans as they did other legumes such as lentils because the soybean contains large quantities of natural toxins or "antinutrients". First among them are potent enzyme inhibitors that block the action of trypsin and other enzymes needed for protein digestion. In test animals, diets high in trypsin inhibitors cause enlargement and pathological conditions of the pancreas, including cancer.

Soybeans also contain hemagglutinin, a clot-promoting substance that causes red blood cells to clump together.  Trypsin inhibitors and hemagglutinin are growth inhibitors. Rats fed soy containing these antinutrients fail to grow normally.

Soy also contains goitrogens - substances that depress thyroid function.

In 1992, the Swiss health service estimated that 100 grams of soy protein provided the estrogenic equivalent of the Pill.

The claim that Soy prevents osteoporosis is considered false by many researchers given that Soy foods block calcium and cause vitamin D deficiencies.  Once again - I've been able to fit in Vitamin D.  If you learn anything,  from this blog it's to test for and then take your Vitamin D.  If Asians indeed have lower rates of osteoporosis than Westerners, it is because their diet provides plenty of vitamin D from shrimp, lard and seafood, and plenty of calcium from bone broths.

There is a very important discussion and there is much more to write about ~ so stay tuned.

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green-tea sm.jpgIs there any more one can say about Green Tea?  Like the supplement Vitamin D which never seems to amaze me, it seems that there is always new research coming out to promote the health benefits of Green Tea.
Now researchers are reporting new evidence that Green Tea could help improve bone health. They found that the tea contains a group of chemicals that can stimulate bone formation and help slow its breakdown.  The beverage has the potential to help in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis and other bone diseases that affect millions worldwide, the researchers suggest.

In this study, the researchers note that many scientific studies have linked tea to beneficial effects in preventing cancer, heart disease, and other conditions.  Recent studies in humans and cell cultures suggest that tea may also benefit bone health.  But few scientific studies have explored the exact chemicals in tea that might be responsible for this effect.

These scientists exposed a group of cultured bone-forming cells (osteoblasts) to three major green tea components: epigallocatechin (EGC), gallocatechin (GC), and gallocatechin gallate (GCG) for several days. They found that one in particular, EGC, boosted the activity of a key enzyme that promotes bone growth by up to 79 percent. EGC also significantly boosted levels of bone mineralization in the cells, which strengthens bones.
The scientists also showed that high concentrations of ECG blocked the activity of a type of cell (osteoclast) that breaks down or weakens bones.
The green tea
components did not cause any toxic effects to the bone cells.

My personal preference is  Japanese Green Tea.
box geen tea.jpg
1. Ping Chung Leung, et al. Effects of Tea Catechins, Epigallocatechin, Gallocatechin, and Gallocatechin Gallate, on Bone Metabolism. American Chemical Society. ACS News Service Weekly ressPac:
small congee.jpgWhat is a traditional Chinese Breakfast? Many Chinese begin their day with a warm bowl of Congee, a watery rice gruel that bears a marked resemblance to porridge.  Congee can be sweet or savory; seasoned with everything from chicken to mushrooms.   Often, the meat is marinated before being added to the rice.
The word Congee (also known as Jook in Canton) comes from the Indian "Kanji", which refers to the water in which the rice has been boiled.  In parts of India today the word Congee still refers both to the boiled water and the rice dish itself.   In Chinese Food, Kenneth Lo notes that Congee serves two purposes - besides warming the body, it also takes the place of a beverage.

The weather is cooler and I thought that it might be nice to share a recipe to boost immunity.This is ideal for those suffering from exhaustion, post partum mothers or those recovering from an illness.

Congee is traditionally made by cooking 1 cup of rice with 5-6 cups of water. The pot is set on very low heat and cooked for 5-6 hours, stirring every 20-30 minutes to prevent it from sticking.
Serves 4-6
1 medium (3-5 lbs) free range chicken, (skin removed
1 cup of mixed grains (brown and wild rice)
6-8 Shitake Mushrooms, chopped
1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 bunch of scallions, chopped
 Sea Salt
Optional: Organic Milk- preferably Goat's Milk

In a large Soup Pot, saute 1 tablespoon of Olive Oil and Onions until they turn translucent or sweat,
Put the Chicken and Rice mix into the pot and cover with water.
Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat, cover and simmer 1-2 hours or until chicken is falling off the bones.

Remove the pan from the heat, remove and discard the chicken carcass and bones.  Shred the Chicken and return it to the Congee.

In a separate pan, saute the Shitake Mushrooms with a tablespoon of Olive Oil ~Add to the Congee.

Simmer the Congee for another 30 minutes
Add Sea Salt to taste - or add non MSG  Boullion instead.

Serve and add Scallions to individual servings
** To make a heartier soup ~ add 1/2 cup of Organic Milk or Goat's Milk during the last 30 minutes of cooking.
Enjoy ~
* This recipe is from a former classmate of mine ~ Laura Kaufman - however I have modified it slightly according to my beliefs. 
best heart.jpg New research at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston suggests that ancient Chinese Herbal Formulas used primarily for cardiovascular indications including heart disease may produce large amounts of  artery-widening nitric oxide. Findings of the preclinical study by scientists in the University's Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine for the Prevention of Human Diseases appear in the Sept.15 print issue of the journal Free Radical Biology & Medicine.

Nitric oxide is crucial to the cardiovascular system because it signals the inner walls of blood vessels to relax, which facilitates the flow of blood through the heart and circulatory system. The messenger molecule also eliminates dangerous clots, lowers high blood pressure and reduces artery-clogging plaque formation.

The results from this study reveal that ancient Chinese Herbal Formulas "have profound nitric oxide bioactivity primarily through the enhancement of nitric oxide in the inner walls of blood vessels, but also through their ability to convert nitrite and nitrate into nitric oxide," said Nathan S. Bryan, Ph.D., the study's senior author.

Herbal Formulas are a major component of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which also includes acupuncture and massage.  "Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine, has provided leads to safe medications in cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes," said C. Thomas Caskey, M.D.. "The opportunity for Dr. Bryan's work is outstanding given that cardiac disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the United States."

In the study, researchers performed laboratory tests on Dan Shen, Gua Lou and other Chinese Herbs to assess their ability to produce nitric oxide.  Ancient Chinese Herbal Formulas used primarily for cardiovascular indications are made up of three to 25  individual herbs in a formula.  The formulas can be administered as tablets, elixirs, soups and teas.
To Western doctors, insomnia is the inability to sleep soundly. If there is no obvious physical reason, it will usually be seen as an emotional problem such as stress, anxiety, or depression.  For chronic insomnia the usual treatment is sleeping pills.

In Oriental Medicine the term Insomnia covers a number of different problems such as inability to fall asleep easily, waking up during the night, restless sleep, waking up early in the morning and dream-disturbed sleep. 

Oriental medicine relates insomnia to the Heart.  According to Maciocia, a well-known educator and practitioner, the amount and quality of sleep depends on the state of the Mind.  "The Mind is rooted in the Heart; if the Heart is healthy and the Blood abundant, the Mind is properly rooted and sleep will be sound." 

Diagnosing the cause of one's insomnia is very complicated.  There is not just one generic acupuncture point for insomnia that will cure the condition.  Your practitioner of Oriental Medicine should check your tongue, your pulse on both wrists, check your body for scars, moles and broken capillaries whose existence and location are indicative of certain problems.  One of my teachers is a great believer in Gua Sha which is diagnostic as well as a treatment. 

Once a diagnosis has been arrived at it is still a process; I often compare it to the peeling of an onion.  Treating certain organ and channel imbalances must be constantly reevaluated and the treatment adjusted.  Often Herbs are called for.  Make sure that your practitioner has been trained in Oriental Herbs.  I have heard people say that they are taking herbs to harmonize them.  Of course everything one does is to achieve balance and harmony but there is only one category of herbal formulas that harmonizes; this involves complex processes in different levels of the body as well as hot and cold. These formulas rarely relate to insomnia.

The commonest types of insomnia are as follows

good health.jpgChinese Medicine treats the whole body.  It looks at life-style, diet and emotional states.  The most important and first line of treatment is always nutrition.  They feel that what you eat and how you prepare it is the foundation for Health and Healing.  Then after Diet and Nutrition comes Herbal Medicine.  Asian people grow up knowing herbs and herbal formulas to treat common ailments and also to prevent disease.  Acupuncture is last. 

This is the exact opposite of how it is viewed in the United States.  I have my Masters Degree in Oriental Medicine which includes Nutrition and Herbal Medicine in the curriculum; yet in New York State only acupuncture is licensed.  In addition to my acupuncture license I went on to take the National Boards in Herbal Medicine and to become a Board Certified Herbalist.  There is no uniformity in the US.  Some states require both acupuncture and herbs to be licensed and some states have their own board exams.

Classically acupuncture is viewed as moving energy or Qi, that is why it is so successful in treating pain.  There is a Chinese saying: "Where there is pain there is stagnation; where there is stagnation there is pain."  Classical acupuncturists will argue that for conditions that require more than just moving energy that you must employ Nutritional and Herbal therapies.  I know that there are many acupuncturists that will argue that acupuncture can do everything - however I side with the Classical approach as this has been practiced for over two thousand years.  Japanese acupuncture is another discussion for another time.

hawthorne (2) - Copy.jpgMemorial Day  That great American Holiday when we honor our war Veterans.  Yet the ritual always seems to end with overindulging ourselves with our favorite food and drink ~  to diet at this time would seem positively un-American.  Although I primarily believe in Preventative Medicine ~ in this case I have a few tricks in my bag to get us through. 

Fructus Crataegi, also known as Hawthorn Berry, is the best herb for food stagnation due to overindulgence in meat or greasy foods with symptoms of abdominal distention.  Recently this berry has also been used for hypertension, coronary artery disease, and elevated serum cholesterol. It's always fascinating how much those Chinese Doctors understood over two thousand years ago.

 Hawthorn Berry is used dry fried for food stagnation.  This is such a fascinating herb.  It has also been used in research at a 20 percent solution of Fructus Crataegi and Sugar to treat bacillary dysentery.

So after hot dogs, hamburgers and of course ribs, drink a cup of Hawthorn Tea.  Hawthorne Berry  is also available in a tincture or capsules.  In Chinatown, in New York City, they sell a Hawthorn Berry chewing gum that is regularly chewed after meals.

But if pasta and breads are your downfall  ~

                                                          I have other herbs to help you.



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Mary Chamberlain, LAc.

I started out in New York City as an actress. Eventually I went behind the camera as a television producer and traveled the world producing commercials and staging large events like Avon’s 100th Birthday. Through my travels I developed a love for all things Asian especially the art and science of Feng Shui. When I worked for NBC on the Olympics in Seoul, Korea I decided then that I would study Acupuncture. I went back to school to earn my Masters in Oriental Medicine and become a licensed Acupuncturist and Herbalist. From Oriental Medicine to Feng Shui there is so much ancient wisdom to share - where better than in the city of the Healing Springs.