Photo by Susan Sandlin

All photos © Susan Sandlin

In this issue…

Allergies- Causes and Treatment Strategies
Sinus Rinsing
Spring Health Tips
Roasted Asparagus Detox Salad Recipe

After a seemingly endless winter, storm-weary Richmonders are welcoming spring with an extra measure of gratitude. We are fortunate to be enjoying some cool spring days rather than rushing headlong into the 80’s and 90’s without a gradual transition. Even so, emerging from the hibernation of winter can present some health challenges. In this issue, the first we have published in a while, we’ll explore some simple seasonal health tips for making the adjustment a little more graceful.

Allergies: Causes and Treatment Strategies

A few days ago I ran into an old friend in a yoga class. He asked my opinion on a popular supplement and its use for treating allergies. Apparently, everyone was raving about it. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treats each person individually based on constitution and health history. We seek to resolve the root cause rather than placing a band aid on the symptoms. There is no single supplement or herb that is right for everyone. If you are experiencing seasonal allergies, it is important holistically to address the cause.

TCM views allergies and sinusitis as one disease with two different imbalances in the body. When allergy symptoms first appear, the allergens (known as wind cold or wind heat), cause sneezing and runny nose due to an underlying constitutional deficiency. This low body energy is viewed as a weakened immune system (or Wei Qi) and relates to the lung and entire respiratory system. With the addition of itchy watery eyes, we find the liver function is weak because the eyes correspond to the liver.

Here at West End Eastern Medicine, we provide an acupuncture treatment plan designed specifically for your symptoms and constitutional needs. The initial focus is to treat the symptoms followed by strengthening the underlying deficiencies. Over the years, I have heard countless allergy patients say they could feel their sinuses clearing while on the treatment table. Along with acupuncture treatments, you will receive dietary recommendations and herbal formulas as we work together to achieve immune harmony. Many patients enjoy complete relief during the season and some never have a difficult pollen season again.

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Sinus Rinsing

In TCM, wind refers to anything airborne like pollen, mold, dust, smoke, chemical scents, animal dander, smog, bacteria, viruses or a literal breeze. The nose is the barrier between the atmosphere and our bodies. The mucus and hair cells in our nose filter the air from airborne particles.  Without cleaning the mucus out often, the particles can end up in the stomach.

Nasal washing, often referred as sinus rinsing, is a practice that has been around for thousands years. As a means to ultimate health and better breathing, it is used to clean out the nasal passageway to counteract pollution exposure, allergies, and sinus problems. This cleansing method is safe, comfortable, and effective for most people.

The process uses either a Neti Pot, which looks similar to a teapot, or a squeeze bottle. Either of these is sold widely in both natural food stores and drug stores. Fill the Neti Pot or bottle with tepid filtered or distilled water and 1 or 2 premixed packets of buffered saline and baking soda. You can use pure non-iodized salt (packaged specifically for this purpose) but it may sting a bit. Then lean over a sink with your nose slightly higher than your lips and leaning toward one side. Breathe through your mouth; insert the spout of the pot or bottle in or near your upper nostril until it forms a comfortable seal. Raise the pot or bottle to allow the solution to flow through the upper nostril and out the lower nostril.  After you are done, be sure to exhale vigorously through both nostrils, simultaneously, to clear the nasal passages. Repeat with the other nostril.

Many of my patients have used nasal washing in conjunction with their acupuncture treatments and have found the combination to be life-changing. Since we experience such high mold and pollen counts in our area, I recommend incorporating sinus rinsing into your daily routine. It becomes something you want to do just like brushing your teeth.

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Spring Health Tips

In the five-element theory of Chinese Medicine, spring corresponds to the wood element, the color green, the shouting sound of the voice, and the emotions of anger and irritability. In the body, the wood element relates to the liver, the tendons, and the eyes.

  • Spring is the season to attend to the liver and gallbladder.
  • Like we clean our homes in Spring, gentle liver cleansing may help relieve a sense of stagnation that has accumulated over the winter.
  • A simple way to both nourish and cleanse the liver during Spring is to add more young plants, like fresh leafy greens, to your daily intake (see recipe below).
  • Try to avoid anger or frustration-inducing situations and take a deep breath when you feel irritability rising.
  • Prepare for temperature fluctuations by dressing in layers.
  • If you have not received an acupuncture treatment in a while, this is a great time to do so to maintain your balance with the shifting season.
  • Express yourself and your essence by devoting time to creativity. It is a good time to write, paint, take photos, etc.
  • Renew your spirit by spending time in nature.

Another simple method of liver cleansing is to eat lightly for several days.  You can optimize the liver cleanse by drinking a mixture of 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil and the juice of half a lemon or lime (or a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar).  Preferably these ingredients would be organic.  When ingested first thing in the morning, this process helps draw toxins out of the liver.  After 3 to 6 days, the entire body feels renewed.

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Roasted Asparagus Detox Salad

This Spring recipe combines two of the season’s freshest, most flavorful treats and has some amazing health benefits. Asparagus, lemon, garlic and leafy greens all have detoxifying benefits to the liver. It is preferable to use local organic ingredients for highest nutrient content. Farmer’s Market season has begun and it’s a wonderful time to meet your local organic growers and pick up some of these ingredients.

1 bunch (about 1 pound) asparagus, rinsed, fibrous ends chopped off
2 T. olive oil
Celtic sea or Himalayan pink salt and freshly ground pepper
5 oz. arugula
2 T. pine nuts (lightly toasted in a dry skillet)

Arrange the arugula on a large platter. Toss the asparagus with the olive oil, sea salt and several grindings of black pepper and place on a rimmed baking pan. Spread the coated asparagus evenly in a single layer. Broil 4 inches from heat until slightly bubbling. It will be toasted, but will still be tender/crisp. This process will take about two minutes per side for a total of 4 minutes per 1/2” diameter asparagus.

Remove from the pan and arrange while still hot over the arugula. Strew pine nuts over everything.

1 clove garlic
¼ tsp Celtic sea salt or Himalayan pink salt
¼ tsp fennel seeds
¼ tsp pink peppercorns (black will be fine)
¼ tsp dried tarragon
¼ c fresh parsley, finely minced
1 shallot, thinly sliced
zest of 1 lemon
1/3 c. olive oil
2T fresh lemon juice from a deseeded lemon (you could use apple cider vinegar instead)

Blend the ingredients in a blender or food processor. If you are a purist, mash the first six ingredients with a mortar and pestle. Stir in the lemon zest, shallots, and olive oil and leave the mixture to macerate for half an hour for optimal flavor blending.

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