How to Nourish and Use Tonics in the Winter

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

In order to withstand the cold temperatures in winter, the body needs more energy and good nutrition to maintain physiological activities and improve disease resistance.

The best method to maintain health during the winter without adding unnecessary burden to the body is to use correct nourishment. What is correct nourishment? That depends on the individual constitution. This post discusses who should use tonics in the winter and who should avoid tonics in the winter and how to use them appropriately.

Which group of people should use tonics in the winter?

  1. People who have a cold abdomen, special in the Dan Tian area (3 inches below the navel)
  2. People who easily catch the common cold
  3. People with chronic cold hands and feet in the winter season

Who should not use tonics in the winter?

  1. People who currently have symptoms of the common cold, such as fever, sore throat, and yellow phlegm
  2. People who have constipation
  3. People who have canker sores
  4. People who have skin allergies or skin itch
  5. Pregnancy and postpartum
  6. Young children
  7. People with high blood pressure, high blood lipids and high blood sugar (diabetes)
  8. People with gout
  9. Postoperative patients
  10. People who have hot and dry constitutions
  11. People who have gastrointestinal disease, cardiovascular disease or kidney disease
  12. People with autoimmune disease like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus erythematosus

A Method of tonic that is Suitable for the whole family

  1. Go bed early and wake up late: go to bed before 10pm and wake up after sun rise
  2. Eat seasonal and local food
  3. The ratio of vegetables to meat should be 4:1 or 5:1, especially for people who have chronic disease
  4. Exercise during the day light, especially for children and seniors.
  5. 3×30 minutes rule for longevity: 1: walk 30 minutes in the morning, 2: take an afternoon nap for 30 minutes, 3: walk 30 minutes after dinner

How to expel cold in the winter?

  1. Ginger essential oil
    1. Ginger can expel cold and drain damp. Use ginger essential oil to accelerate blood circulation, promote body sweating, relax tight muscles and boost mental state.
    2. Put essential oil in a bath or soak feet for 15-30 minutes until feels body warm.
  2. Tonic Foods:
    • Warm tonic foods:
      • Meat: beef, lamb, dark chicken
      • Vegetables: chestnuts, almonds, pumpkin, sweet rice, oatmeal, sweet potatoes3Fruits: peaches, cherries, papayas, longan
      • Spicy: chili, garlic, green onion, cinnamon, leeks and ginger

3. Neutral tonic foods:

  • Meat: chicken, turkey, pork and striped bass
  • Vegetables: corn, sweet potato, spinach, carrot, broccoli, Chinese yam
  • Fruits: apple, strawberry

The constitution of who can use tonics in the winter is very complicated and cannot be easily classified. If you are interested, please come to our clinic for a consult.


How to Use Cabbage for Your Health

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

Cabbage Nutrition

Cabbage is high in Vitamin K and anthocyanins. Vitamin K plays a key role in helping the blood clot and preventing excessive bleeding. Cabbage contains anthocyanins, a type of flavonoid, which is a class of compounds with antioxidant effects. In addition to fighting free radicals, anthocyanins may offer anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and anti-cancer benefits. The combination of Vitamin K and anthocyanins may help with mental function and concentration.

Tradition Chinese Medicine (TCM) Nutrition

The ancient Chinese herbology tome Compendium of Ben Cao Gan Mu describes the flavor of cabbage as sweet and neutral. Cabbage can be used to nourish the kidney and tonify the marrow (bone marrow and brain). In TCM, nourishing the kidney does not refer to kidney disease but rather supporting bone growth and preventing osteoporosis.

Cabbage has laxative properties due to the high water and dietary fiber content. These components promote peristalsis and prevent constipation. In addition, cabbage can be used to assist in weight loss because it is low in calories and sugar and high in fiber. Cabbage can also stabilize blood sugar levels.

Benefits of Cabbage

  • Protects the stomach and improves stomach conditions
  • According to The National Cancer Institute cabbage has been found to reduce the risk of  stomach cancer, colorectal cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer
  • Prevents osteoporosis
  • High in antioxidants
  • Cardiovascular support
  • Regulates the blood sugar

Side effects of Eating Too Much Cabbage

  1. Flatulence
  2. Hypothyroidism


1. Cabbage juice – Has an analgesic effect on the stomach and duodenal ulcers and promotes ulcer healing

  • Blend cabbage with some water in a blender
  • Slightly warm the fresh cabbage juice on the stove top before drinking
  • drink 1-2 glasses daily, before meals


2. Cabbage juice – Good for asthma and anemia

  • Combine cabbage, carrot, honey to taste and a moderate amount of water in a blender


3. Cabbage juice – Good for gout and rheumatic neuralgia

  • Combine cabbage, honey to taste and a moderate amount of water in a blender


4. Hot & Sour cabbage- Nourishes the spleen and stomach; warms the body and increases the appetite; detoxifies; and relieves stagnation.

  • Wash and cut the cabbage into slender strips
  • Boil cabbage in water for less than one minute
  • Mix cabbage with chopped garlic, chopped green onion, white pepper, salt, chili oil and sesame oil


5. Stir-fried cabbage – Strengthens the spleen and stomach; nourishes the brain; strengthens the body and nourishes body fluids (Jin Ye).

  • Wash and cut the cabbage
  • Stir-fry chopped garlic until it turns brown. Add cabbage to the pot and include a moderate amount of water. Cover with a lid and boil until soft. Add goji berries, salt and slight amount of vinegar and mix


Overeating and Bao He Wan

To combat the feeling of overeating after the Thanksgiving feast we usually pop a few Tums and take a nap. On the other hand, TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) uses perfectly balanced herbal formulas to promote digestion and relieve symptoms of overeating. In TCM there is a term for the side effects of over eating and over drinking called Food Stagnation. The indications of Food Stagnation may sound familiar.

Indications of Food Stagnation

  • Indigestion with abdominal bloating and fullness
  • Possible intermittent abdominal pain
  • Acid regurgitation, belching or nausea
  • Constipation or diarrhea

Sounds like many of the common symptoms of overeating and over drinking, right? One of the most popular herbal formulas to address Food Stagnation is called Bao He Wan (Preserve Harmony Pill).

Actions of Bao He Wan

  • Promotes digestion and reduces food stagnation
  • Regulates digestion, improves appetite
  • Relieves acid, indigestion, bloating and regurgitation

How does Bao He Wan achieve these actions? By careful combinations of specific herbs with particular functions. The herbal actions are described below.

TCM Actions

  • Shan Zha (Fructus Crataegi) promotes digestion of meat and fatty, greasy foods
  • Shen Qu (Massa Medica Fermentata) strengthens the Spleen and promotes digestion of alcohol and stagnant foods
  • Lai Fu Zi (Semen Raphani Sativi) guides Qi downward and promotes digestion of carbohydrates
  • Ban Xia (Rhizoma Pinelliae Tematae) and Chen Pi (Pericarpium Citri Reticulatae) activate Qi circulation and harmonize the Stomach
  • Fu Ling (Scierotium Poriae Cocos) strengthens the Spleen and dispels Dampness
  • Lian Qiao (Fructus Forsythiae Suspensae) clears Heat associated with Food Stagnation

Bao He Wan may be the perfect formula to have on hand after Thanksgiving feast to relieve bloating, heartburn and diarrhea. The formula is gentle enough that you can even share with the family members you like!


Source : Chen, John K, Chen, Tina T. Chinese Herbal Formulas and Applications. City of Industry: Art of Medicine Press. 2009.

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?