Quick and Easy Meditations

Yoga Class

The holiday season commences next week! I know, I was surprised, too. Thanksgiving is a time to spend with loved ones, friends and family. Despite the holidays being a joyous time many people report increased stress and anxiety from juggling an increase in obligations and events. Below are some quick and easy meditations you can practice during the holidays to stay even keeled and calm. Meditation is a practice and is most most effective when practiced daily. But feel free to step away from the turkey dinner for 5 minutes and breath.


Walking Meditation

Whenever possible, walk in a place where you are making a connection with nature.  Focus your attention on your breath as you start to walk, noticing where your breath is in your body, and then taking that breath deeper into your lungs.  Next, bring awareness to your body by taking notice of your feet making contact with the earth. Pay attention to how the breeze feels on your skin. Now listen, look around you, and observe everything that you see. The simple act of stopping to take notice of everything around you will keep your attention grounded in the present.


Humming Meditation

This form of meditation is exactly what it sounds like, making a hum in the back of the throat with one single note (like a chant of “Om”).  Fill the throat and neck with the hum.  This is a gentle vibration and will help to relax tight neck and shoulders.  Then concentrate on extending the hum up into the top of your head.  With each subsequent breath, allow the hum to move down the body, filling your body one area at a time.  Take a few breaths to notice the hum vibration gently oscillating your body, and the relaxing effect that this has.  If you’re still not relaxed after doing this exercise all the way through, then try changing the “color” of the hum: filling your body with a cool color (blue, green, purple) in the same way that you did the hum.


4-7-8 Meditation

Throughout this meditation, hold the tip of your tongue against the back of your teeth, where your teeth meet your gums.  Begin by exhaling sharply through your mouth, then inhale through your nose while counting to 4.  Hold your breath to a count of 7, then exhale through your mouth for a count of 8.   This is one cycle of the meditation.  Repeat this for 4 cycles, inhaling again to a count of 4, holding for 7, and exhaling for 8.  It’s best to repeat this meditation at least twice a day, but you can do it as many times as you’d like.  It’s especially great for when you find yourself in stressful situations, or sitting in traffic.


Meditation of 100 Breaths

The goal of this meditation is to give your brain something else to do, while you relax and breathe.  You can do this sitting or lying down, and, taking full, deep breaths, count 1 for each breath until you reach 100.  You can set goals for yourself, such as, “Today I’ll take 10 breaths.”  And when you reach 10, you can decide whether you’d like to continue beyond that.   The next day maybe you’ll decide to count 15 or 20 breaths.  You can also begin counting your breaths in bed at night, and see how high you can count before falling asleep.


Keep Your Lungs Healthy in the Autumn 秋燥傷肺

By Candace Liu LAc, B. Med, MSOM, DAOM

The Chinese have a saying “the autumn sky is clear and the air is crisp秋高氣爽”. This saying explains that autumn is a wonderful season after the summer’s heat and before the winter’s cold. Autumn is a colorful season to gather the harvest.

A Traditional Chinese Medicine explanation of the Lung

In Traditional Chinese medicine each season relates to a certain organ system. Autumn relates with the lung, which can easily be attacked by dryness. An ancient text that covers the foundations of Traditional Chinese Medicine titled Su Wen states “excess drought causes dryness”. The lung is a delicate organ, intolerable to cold and heat and easily attacked by pathogenic factors. One of the functions of the lung in Traditional Chinese Medicine is to govern and regulate the water passages. This refers to the function of the lung propelling, adjusting and discharging fluids in the body. Dryness can easily affect the lung and damage the body fluids (Jin Ye) resulting in dry mouth, dry lips, dry nose, dry throat, dry stool, dry skin and other symptoms. Sometimes drinking more water does not improve the symptoms of dryness. This is when it is important to use acupuncture and herbs to treat the lung organ and lung meridian.

Foods to support the Lung

The lung relates with the color white in Traditional Chinese Medicine. White foods can nourish the lung. Some examples are radish, cauliflower, cabbage, Chinese cabbage (napa), tremella (white fungus), sugar cane, almonds, Chinese yam, white sesame, etc. Generally white foods are energetically cooling in the body and should not be overeaten especially for constitutionally deficient people. In addition to the above, the following foods can help to nourish the lung: pear, tangerine, kiwi, lotus root, alfalfa, honey and soy milk. During the autumn it is best to avoid spicy foods such as peppers, chilies, ginger and cinnamon.

Teas to Protect the Lung in Autumn:

  1. Chrysanthemum tea
    1. Chrysanthemum 15g
    2. After the water is boiling add the chrysanthemum and boil for 5 minutes. Drink while warm.
    3. Add honey to taste when drink is warm but not hot
  2. Rose tea
    1. Rose 15g
    2. After the water is boiling add the rose and boil for 5 minutes. Drink while warm.
    3. Add honey to taste when drink is warm but not hot
  3. Oolong tea
    1. Oolong 5g
    2. Boil water then steep oolong leaves for 1-2 minutes.
    3. Add honey to taste when drink is warm but not hot
  4. Goji berries tea
    1. Goji berries 15g
    2. After the water is boiling add the Goji berries and boil for 5 minutes. Drink while warm.
  5. Chen Pi (dried orange peel) tea
    1. Chen Pi 5g, Green tea 5g
    2. After the water is boiling add the Chen Pi and green tea leaves and boil for 5 minutes. Drink while warm.
    3. Add honey to taste when drink is warm but not hot


  1. Basic Theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine


How to Use Peach for Longevity and Health

Candace LiuBy Candace Liu LAc, B. Med, MSOM, DAOM

In Chinese the peach also called the longevity fruit.

One raw medium peach (147 grams) has 50 calories, 0.5 grams of fat, 0 grams of cholesterol and sodium, 15 grams of carbohydrate, 13 grams of sugar, 2 grams of fiber and 1 gram of protein. It provides 6% of your daily vitamin A needs and 15% of daily vitamin C needs. One medium peach also contains 2% or more of the daily value of vitamins E and K, niacin, folate, iron, choline, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, zinc and copper.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) function of peach

Peach flavors are sweet and sour and the energetic temperature is warm. From a TCM perspective, these flavors enter the stomach and large intestine meridians. Peach can be used to revitalize the intestines, promote blood circulation and nourish the skin.

Regularly eating peaches may assist with chronic bronchitis, bronchiectasis, pulmonary fibrosis, atelectasis, silicosis and tuberculosis. Peach can help with symptoms such as dry cough, hemoptysis, chronic fever and night sweats. It can be used to nourish yin, tonify Qi and invigorate the lungs.

Peach can be used when recovering from an illness. A person recovering from an illness can be considered qi and blood deficient with symptoms such as a yellow face, muscle weakness, palpitations and shortness of breath. Peach can replenish Qi and blood, nourish Yin and body fluids.

Peach has an anticoagulant property so it may help with bleeding disorders such as regulating menstruation, dysmenorrhea, amenorrhea and easy bruising.

Contraindication of Peach

  1. People who usually feel warm or hot should avoid.
  2. People with weak gastrointestinal function should avoid peach because it will increase the burden on the stomach.
  3. Immature peaches may cause bloating.
  4. People with diabetes or high blood sugar should use moderation


Peach yogurt

Efficacy:                Improve constipation

Ingredients:         2 firm peaches and unsweetened yogurt

Practice:                Wash and brush the hard meat peach. Put the peach in boiling water for 30 seconds or until the skin is easily removed. Cut the peach in 8 pieces and mix it with yogurt.

Stewed fresh peach

Efficacy:                   Chronic cough

Practice:                 Peel the skin off of 3 fresh peaches. Steam the peach and add rock sugar to taste (once per day)


Nutritional Breakdown of Peaches by Karen Ensle Ed.D., RDN, FAND, CFCS




Xiao Yao San

Sarah Bartle

By Sarah Bartle LAc

If you have seen me in the clinic then you probably know I love the herbal formula Xiao Yao San and its cousin Jia Wei Xiao Yao San. This formula is a must have in my personal medicine cabinet and one that I frequently prescribe clinically. In America, Xiao Yao San, is commonly translated to Free and Easy Wanderer. It is a poetic translation albeit not a direct translation describing the formula’s intended purpose to relax and reduce obsessive worries.

Xiao Yao San is a gentle but effective formula to treat anxiety, depression, gastrointestinal issues and fatigue brought on by everyday stresses. Our modern, inner city, American lifestyle leaves very few of us immune to the side effects of a fast paced life. We tend to overwork and overthink which leads to these very common issues. Other common symptoms treated by Xiao Yao San are hypochondriac pain, headache, vertigo, dry mouth and throat and bitter taste in the mouth.

Xiao Yao San is also a workhorse at treating menstrual disorders. Irregular or painful menstruation, PMS, breast distension and abdominal masses are treated with Xiao Yao San or Jia Wei Xiao Yao San as appropriate. Due to the ability to regulate the menstrual cycle it is frequently used by women suffering from infertility.

The formula was first recorded in the year 1078 in the book Imperial Grace Formulary of the Tai Ping Era. I love that this formula is almost 1,000 years old! Even though the cause of stress was very different when this formula was made it is still quite useful today. I feel that shows a great thread in humanity linking us through medicine.

As practitioners, we don’t always have enough time in clinic to give a detailed description of a formula. Let me know if you found this useful and I can share information about other commonly used formulas in future blog posts.


Chen, J., & Chen T. (2009) Chinese Herbal Formulas and Applications. City of Industry, CA: Art of Medicine Press, Inc.

Awesome Apps to Keep Your Health on Track

Hillary Catrow LAc

Awesome Apps to Keep Your Health on Track
By Hillary E. Catrow, MSOM, L.Ac.

Technology and our constant access to it can get a bad rap. But there are many benefits too. Especially
when our little cell phone companion can give us insights into ourselves, our bodies and help us set good
intentions for our health.
Below are a few of my favorite apps and why I love them. And yes, they are all free.

1) Oak – This is a great meditation app, similar to Calm and Mindspace, but I love this one because
of it’s simplicity, great design and doesn’t require a subscription to access the features. You can
choose the classic mindful meditation options, but my favorite are the breathing exercises which
are visual, rhythmic and deliciously relaxing. There is also a soothing sleep sounds option to help
you wind down at night if you are into that sort of thing. You can set a daily reminder and the app
keeps track of how much time you spend meditating and breathing which is fun for those
competitive types.

2) Clue – Hands down, the most perfect period tracker. I like it because its not covered in butterflies,
sparkles, flowers and other pink girly nonsense, which makes it gender neutral and for all people
who menstruate. This app focuses on menstruation health, not getting pregnant, which makes it
ideal for documenting symptoms like bloating, acne, mood swings, breast tenderness, intercourse
and all the other wonderful and not so wonderful things that go along with sexual health. The app
is matter of fact, easy to use, has a sense of humor and provides lots of little health insights that
can help normalize the experience for any age. #noperiodshame

3) Moodpath – This app was designed for people dealing with depression. But I love this it because
it’s an awesome way to keep a log of how you are actually doing and experiencing your daily
activities. The process is automated so it makes it great to use when your life is busy. After 14
days you get a nice little assessment and a few exercises that can help you address what comes
up. This app is perfect for anyone who might want to learn more about how their feelings impact
their body and life on the day to day. Besides it’s not very often, unfortunately, that we get asked
to check-in with our feelings and they asker actually stick around to hear the answer.

4) Youper – This app is part journal, part emotional health personal assistant. This guy checks in
with you daily and guides your through an emotional check up via an informal and conversational
format. Based on how you are feeling, the assistant might suggest an exercise to help support
you, like mindfulness, creating intentions, or listing gratitudes. The prompts are not overly
involved, which makes it super easy to keep up with. What I love the most is that after a few days
of use you get insights into how your feelings match up with the actual influences in your life, like
work, home, exercise, social media. Helping you gain perspective on what in your life might be
worth exploring further, taking a break from, changing all together or just giving you a chance to
be grateful.

Summer Diet

Candace Liu, LAc, B. Med

by Candace Liu LAc, B. Med, MSOM, DAOM

Hot summer days make people want cold drinks and foods. It seems that the food and drinks in the refrigerator are beckoning. From a TAM (Traditional Asian Medicine) perspective, cold food can cause cold and damp in the body. It will damage the Yang Qi of the organs and decrease the body’s circulation. Everyone’s tolerance to ice drinks and cold food is different. The damage may not show up right way but we still need to pay attention to the side affects of ingesting ice drinks and cold foods. Summer is the season when bacteria easily breed and cause infection. Common diseases caused by improper diet during the summer are diarrhea and gastroenteritis (food poisoning). Some common conditions that can be caused by cold and damp in the body from a TAM perspective are:

  • Dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation)
  • Decreased metabolism
  • Edema
  • Eczema
  • Allergic rhinitis, asthma
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Hypertension

How can we eat for health in the summer? The summer diet should be fresh and light which helps to maintain a healthy heart and gastrointestinal functions. The following foods can be used to reduce body temperature and replenish water and vitamins.

Ideal summer foods:

Fruits –

Apples, mangoes, pineapples, cantaloupes, pears, plums, peaches, grapes, papaya, dragon fruit, mulberries, figs, peach, watermelon, bananas, lemons, limes

Vegetables –

Bittermelon, asparagus, lettuce, cucumber, sweet potatoes, sweet potato leaves, cilantro, jicama, purple carrots, sweet peppers, corn, garden peas, green beans, turnips, blackberries, portabella mushroom, summer squash, cabbage, arugula, lettuce, thyme, celery

Meat –

wild Alaskan salmon, soft-shell crab, arctic char fish, catfish, rainbow trout, crayfish, sardines, turkey


Mung bean, barley, wheat, oats, kidney beans, lima beans


  • Drinking boiled water moisturizes the body organs (Boiling water improves metabolism and regulates body temperature)
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables
  • Do not eat deep fried food
  • Limit caffeine, alcoholic and sweetened drinks
  • Limit cold foods or iced drinks
  • Limit dry, spicy and salty foods

The Benefits of Community Acupuncture

Hillary E Catrow L.Ac

By Hillary E. Catrow, MSOM, L.Ac.

At Chicago Healing Center, we offer community acupuncture. Which means that anyone can come into
the clinic and be treated in a group format. Each person is at various stages of their healing process and
are treated individually based on their specific health concerns. We love this model of treatment because
it allows us to see more patients at a time, keep prices lower without sacrificing the treatment quality and
offer a more convenient appointment schedule, plus leave availability for walk-in treatments.

But by far, the biggest benefit of the community acupuncture model is precisely that treatments are done
as a group.Humans are social animals. We evolved over thousands of years among large family groups and
cultural tribes. We learned to communicate and develop techniques to protect the group from the natural
elements and competing predators. Together we gathered and prepared food, took care of our young and
elderly. It is because of our group mentality that we survived and thrived.

Our vision is that people will come together to heal through acupuncture. To gather their friends, families
and community groups and visit the clinic together. Coming together in this way to heal our bodies gives
all of us the rare opportunity to repair that natural human connection, without having to talk or share more
than just proximity. In a group acupuncture treatment we have the chance to notice what it feels like when
another person’s heart rate slows down and their breath becomes more even. This collective
environment creates a barometer that can help us become more in tune with how our own bodies feel
which is turn allows us to recover and heal faster.

I’m curious. Have you noticed group resonance in your last acupuncture treatment? How about at another
time in your life? Afterwards, what did you notice about your body? Your mind? How did that experience
change your relationship or connection to the people around you?


TAM Accessory Techniques

Sarah BartleSarah Bartle LAc

If you have visited Chicago Healing Center you have most likely experienced moxabustion, cupping or gua sha along with acupuncture. Moxabustion, cupping and gua sha are considered accessory techniques practitioners use to further a treatment. Moxa is the dried mugwort herb and is used to treat a myriad of symptoms such as fatigue, plantar faciitis, tight IT band, low libido and general inflammation. It is generally burned on the skin or close enough to generate heat. Cupping uses suction to pull stagnant blood from an inflamed area to encourage fresh, uninflamed blood to rush the area. Gua sha is a scraping technique performed on the skin with a flat stone. It is used to reduce cold and flu symptoms and muscle pain. Each of these techniques could have its own blog post and many books have been written about each technique. I am going to share a short case study to demonstrate the power of these accessory techniques to reduce inflammation.

My partner began experiencing De Quervain’s tenosynovitis pain in November 2017. He had pain in the tendons at the base of his thumb, the extensor pollicis brevis and abductor pollicis brevis were inflamed.

De Quervain’s is caused by repetitive motion such as lifting a baby or painting. My partner is a painter and his job was taking a toll on the tendons in his forearm. Since he is lucky enough to know an acupuncturist who makes house calls (our house) I took on the job.

I started out doing local acupuncture on his arm, particularly the channels that passed through the area that caused pain. I was shocked that this therapy made his pain worse. Next I tried gua sha with white flower oil. Gua sha is a scraping technique performed on the skin usually with a flat stone and white flower is a cooling oil. This also made his pain worse. I was getting frustrated. Nothing frustrates an acupuncturist more than a therapy not getting favorable results.

My partner had the month of December off from work. I told him that having a prolonged rest from work would surely give the inflammation time to reduce. After 4 weeks of no painting the pain was only getting worse. Now he was getting concerned he would need to quit his job. I got even more frustrated.

The major breakthrough came when he described the pain to me as ice shooting through his arm. Ah, ice! That is a symptom I can work with! Acupuncturists frequently ask their patients about perceived body temperature and for good reason. We use this as a diagnostic tool to help us know what temperature we should be using in our treatments. To combat an icy sensation we use heat. I began using moxabustion on his arm and wrist everyday. After two weeks the pain was down by 50%. Then I incorporated Po Sum On oil with gua sha on the forearm. Po Sum On is a warming oil with cinnamon, quite different from the cooling white flower oil that increased his pain. After 2 more weeks his pain was down 80%. The last step was incorporating cupping on the upper arm and shoulder. This released the last amount of pain and his pain was completely gone. After six weeks of regular moxa, gua sha and cupping he went from pain so bad he thought he would need to quit his job to the pain being completely gone. Now he requires maintenance treatments since he is still painting and does repetitive motions.

What I like so much about this case study is that it does not involve acupuncture. I was able to reduce his pain and inflammation using only “accessory” techniques. This demonstrates the importance of each technique under the umbrella of Traditional Asian Medicine. Acupuncture is the best known technique in America but moxabustion, cupping, gua sha, herbs and nutrition are extremely powerful techniques to heal the body.

Traditional Uses of Ginger

Candace Liu, LAc, B. Med

By Candace Liu, LAc, B. Med

Ginger is a regularly used spice in the kitchen but it is also an important herb in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Nutrition therapy is an important component of TCM and ginger is commonly used in formulas or kitchen recipes. The nutritional content of ginger includes dietary fiber, carbohydrates, amino acids, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and potassium.

The many uses of ginger include:

  • Reduces nausea especially due to morning sickness or motion sickness
  • Induces sweat during a head cold
  • Stops cough and decreases clear sputum
  • Stimulates blood circulation
  • Increases appetite
  • Promotes the secretion of digestive juices
  • Detoxifies

Fun fact: Fresh ginger counteracts seafood poisoning, which is why it is always served with sushi.

Due to the warming nature of ginger it is best to avoid if you regularly experience constipation, sore throat, yellow and sticky phlegm or feel hot.

Here are a couple home recipes to add to your self-care regimen.

Brown Sugar Ginger Tea

Ingredients: Brown sugar, Fresh Ginger, water


  1. Cut thin slices of ginger. The amount depends on how much you enjoy the spicy flavor of ginger
  2. Put the slices of ginger in water and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer for 10-15 minutes
  3. Add a pinch brown sugar, continue boiling for 3-5 minutes

Contraindications: Don’t drink before you go to bed. Eating or drinking sweets before bed may lead to excessive sugar reserves in the body which can cause diabetes, obesity or tooth decay.

Note: The best time to drink the brown sugar ginger tea is in the morning. Morning is the time that Yang begins to rise in the body. This tea can have the effect of strengthening digestion and strengthening Yang.

Honey Ginger Tea

Ingredients: Honey 1 spoon, Ginger 10g, water


  1. Grind ginger into a paste
  2. Put ginger paste into a cup
  3. Add warm water
  4. Add a spoonful of honey and mix


  1. Increases the body’s antioxidant levels
  2. Improves skin circulation
  3. Promotes digestion
  4. Aids the immune system and prevent colds

Contraindications: This tea can promote digestion so it is not good to drink before sleep.


Kastner, MD, LAc, Joerg. Chinese Nutrition Therapy. Thieme. 2009.

Yifang, Zhang. Your Guide to Health with Foods & Herbs. Better Link Press. 2012.

Building the Potential for Growth

Hillary E. Catrow, MSOM, L.Ac.

By Hillary E. Catrow, MSOM, L.Ac.

Spring is here and if nature has anything to teach us about making changes in our lives it is this: Today may be cold and gloomy but regardless of what’s happening on the surface under the soil great things are brewing. Lush roots are stirring, and a force much greater than us is propelling the seasons forward. You could try but there is no stopping the season’s potential for growth and blooming.

Similarly change in our own lives can be hard, regardless of how badly we want change to eat better, be more active, run a marathon, lose weight, be healthier, smarter or stronger. Having a few tools in our toolbox can be helpful in making the process less daunting and more enjoyable.

  1. First comes first, you are already enough and you are the best you right now. Period. There are
    no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Celebrate how far you have come and your willingness to move
    forward, write it down, take stock and relish in it. Repeat often. Change can be slow and the
    journey itself deserves to be celebrated.
  2. Start Small. As Lao Tzu says “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. Breakdown your big goal into smaller and smaller segments. What can you do today that will set you on your path? Can you add veggies to every meal? Or choose to walk to the coffee shop that’s a block farther than your go-to cafe. Add a few squats in while you’re waiting on hold with customer service. Stay present and build on each day. Before you know it you’ll be 100 steps closer.
  3. Have fun. You’re more likely to succeed if you enjoy the process. If you don’t like going to the gym, maybe you prefer dancing or grab your pup and hit the trails. Make meal planning social by inviting some partners in crime over for a cooking soiree. There are tons of phone apps that can make meditation, food logging, working out more of a game than a choir. Be creative.
  4. Change your language. How we talk to ourselves matters, especially when it comes to doing things that are challenging. Replace phrases with “I can’t have this” or “I have to do that” with “I choose to…” Create a self-love mantra like “I love myself enough to take the actions required for my happiness and health”. Focus on what change is adding to your life, not what it might be taking away.
  5. Be prepared to fail and know it’s ok. Just like Spring, change will often move in like a lion and out like a lamb. So what if you ate eight cookies today or you laid around all weekend watching The Office. Success is just as much about the rest, recovery and reflection as it is about the hustle. Revisit Step One of this list and remember how amazing you and how far you’ve come. Love yourself and move on. Tomorrow is a new day.