SMILE AND SAY “QI” (pronounced chee)


One of the first things we tell patients when they come in for a treatment is about the concept of Qi. It’s a funny word. It’s a magical word. It’s one of those words that when you look at it on paper, you don’t know what to make of it. Like awry or queue. Things went awry when the colonel queued up the machete. Wahhh?

And then there’s the many derivatives of the good word Qi. There’s chee (pronunciation is self explanatory- I hope), ki (kee), chi/c’hi (chee) and just to make it more confusing, some people pronounce qi as “kee.” QI IS EVERYWHERE. For instance, Prana is the concept of qi in the hindu culture.

The concept of qi became more familiar to my generation due to the blockbuster film Star Wars. Obi-Wan Kenobi, the ultimate sage teacher, describes the Force as “an energy field created by all living things.  It surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together.”  This is analogous to the concept of Ch’i, the Chinese word used to describe the spiritual energy of the universe.  It may be likened to the Buddhist view of the vast Godlike reservoir of energy that connects all living things.” –Pswinson,Art of Dharma, 12/7/09.

So what is Qi? Qi loosely translates to our Life Force, our Energy. Disease and discomfort occur when our:

-qi is out of balance

-qi is not flowing smoothly

-qi is stuck, or stagnant

This can effect our physical body, the emotional body and the spiritual body.

 Acupuncture’s healing effect is based on balancing qi and unblocking it’s flow. Placing needles in acupuncture points can open up energy flow and help correct excesses and deficiencies. Picture a river of energy running throughout the body. If the river is overflowing in one area, and just a trickle in another area, there is an imbalance. If there is an obstruction, a dam in the river of qi, perhaps caused by an injury or illness, then symptoms will occur. We place the acupuncture needles in specific points according to the signs and symptoms that are present.

Try acupuncture to break down those dams, open up, and let the qi flow. May the Force be with you.




  1. EAT SOMETHING.   Don’t come on an empty stomach. No need to guzzle down a huge T-Bone, but a light meal is perfect. Once those endorphins start pumping, it will be helpful to have some sustenance in your belly. Otherwise, you may feel like you’ve had one too many glasses of champagne. I know that may sound appealing to some, but remember- you have to drive home afterwards. As much as we love to hear our patients say they wish they could hang around and have a nap or a good meditation sesh when their acupuncture treatment is finished, this is not the Hilton.
  1. DO NOT COME UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF ALCOHOL OR DRUGS.  You don’t need to!   Do your best to come au naturel. Let the acupuncture do it’s thing and you’ll be feelin’ just fine!   Licensed Acupuncturist Warning: Having acupuncture under the influence of recreational drugs confuses your qi and may not have the desired effect on your body, mind and spirit. Don’t waste your time or your money.
  1. WEAR LOOSE COMFORTABLE CLOTHES.  You always have the option to wear one of our fashionable hospital gowns during treatment – they are stunning and provide ample air circulation for your backside. However, many of our patients prefer to stay in their own comfy clothing for treatment. So wear something loose, that leaves access to your arms and legs and the other areas that may need treatment.
  1. GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK.     Acupuncture treatments can take anywhere from 1 – 2 hours. Yes, you heard it right. We are the fine dining of the treatment world.  No 10 minute drive-thru for us. You need to hang out for a while to let the needles do their thing.   There’s nothing worse than achieving that “I’m Floating On a Cloud” feeling only to fall off when you are late for your next commitment.
  1. SKIP THE COFFEE.  I know it’s your morning ritual and you think it makes you feel alive and ready to conquer the world. But think flow, not conquer. You will find the treatment much more relaxing if you’re not jacked up on caffeine. Coffee is a stimulant which scatters your qi flow. Your acupuncturist needs a true reading of your energy and coffee gets in the way of that. If you have your acupuncture later in the day and you need that cup of joe, give yourself 3 hours to metabolize it before you get your needles on.
  1. TURN OFF YOUR CELLPHONE.  This is your downtime.   Don’t interrupt it with letting the outside world invade into this time you have scheduled to take care of yourself. Nothing is as important as your good health. Also, be considerate to others. Remember my fine dining reference in #4? Would you like it if the dude at the next table at Tavern on the Green was talking loudly on their cellphone? Probably not.
  1. FILL OUT YOUR PAPERWORK BEFORE YOUR INITIAL CONSULT /INITIAL TREATMENT.  Complete your new patient paperwork when you can carve out some time to really think about the information we are asking for. Try not to leave areas blank as each section is helpful for our diagnostic process. You may wonder why certain questions are on there. Remember that Traditional Chinese Medicine is a holistic medicine, so we take into account all aspects of the Body Mind & Spirit. Make sure to write down or bring a list of any supplements and medications you are taking. Come in with completed paperwork in hand so you are not rushing through it during the time you are supposed to be receiving treatment. As my little Asian mama would tell me, do your homework!




Top TCM style tip. WEAR A SCARF. It hides any unwanted neck hair and looks faaaabulous with this season’s Boho chic style. That’s not the real reason why, silly! Wear a scarf to cover up your wind points.

You probably never knew you had wind points. According to TCM, wind is how pathogens can enter our body. It disrupts the balance of the body, leading to illness. (And you thought wind was something that could just exit your body.)

Think of your body as your home. If there are cracks in the windows and walls, wind can enter and make it difficult to regulate the temperature and the environment inside of the home.   Wind does the same thing to your body. External wind can bring on the common cold or flu. Have you ever noticed a stiff neck and/or upper back when you are starting to feel sick? It’s at the location of these points.

“The Yellow Emperor’s Classic”, the authoritative text on Chinese Medicine dating back over 2,000 years, says that “Pathogenic wind is the root of all evil.” Wind is also called “the thief of a thousand disguises, and the Chariot for One Hundred and One Evils.” This wind is a serious thing! That’s because it is how illness can enter the body.

Here are 3 acupoints, know as the “wind points,”  that are used to expel pathogenic wind.  They are also the points that should be protected by a scarf to avoid attack of wind.  You can massage these points when you exposed to germs or feel like you are coming down with something.

San Jiao 17 (SJ17)- Shielding Wind – In the indentation behind the ear lobe.Dispels wind and cold, clears heat, transforms phlegm, clears sensory orifices, benefits ears.Treats ear disorders, hypertension, heaviness of head, blurred vision, temporomandibular pain,

Gallbladder 20 (GB 20) – Wind Pool- Run finger from behind ear to base of skull, after the first prominent bump, your finger will fall into a hollow, which is between 2 major neck muscles.Releases exterior conditions, dispels wind, subdues liver yang.Treats hypertension, common cold, body aches, insomnia, vertigo, dizziness, stiff neck and shoulder, trigeminal neuralgia

Du 16- Wind Palace – In the hollow at center of the back of the head, just below the base of the skull.Benefits and clears the brain. Dispels wind.Treats common cold, sinusitis, headache, dizziness, seizures, mania, aphasia due to stroke, neck stiffness. (IFp. 286)

And I like to add one more point in there that I have found to be clinically relevant when treating illness:

Gallbladder 21 (GB21)- Shoulder Well – Located at the highest point of the shoulder muscle, halfway between the midline and the highest point of the shoulder joint. 1-2 inches from the side of the lower neck.Benefits the shoulder, Clears heat, dispels wind and cold.Treats vertigo, headache, cough, chest pain with fever, difficulty breathing with profuse mucus, shoulder and back pain.

Wrap that scarf around your neck to cover up these important wind points. Especially when you’re feeling tired or vulnerable. Wrap up after an acupuncture treatment – your wind points may have been needled leaving them more open to external qi.  I like to keep a pashmina size scarf or some sort of wrap with me when I travel. Traveling is taxing on the immune system, especially if you are switching climates which leaves you more vulnerable.    I was so excited when scarves became a statement in every season. Scarves…they’re not just for winter anymore! Who knew a scarf could be so good for your health.

KICK A GERM JUICE: How to Fight off that Nasty Cold!

So my daughter’s cold has taken residence in my nostrils. It’s not pretty –thankful for the Puffs with lotion or I think my nose would be rubbed clear off my face by now.   Time to steep some Kick a Germ Juice.

Kick a Germ Juice

This brew will make you sweat and bolster your immune system to help fight off a cold. I know, I know, the garlic and cayenne may sound gross in tea. But give it a try, it actually tastes fine and you can just feel the goodness happening. It’s like somehow your taste buds know this is just what you need at the moment.

Here’s the recipe:

Fresh Squeezed Juice of One Lemon

1 tsp of chopped fresh garlic

1 tsp of chopped fresh ginger

dash of cayenne pepper

honey (preferably local, raw)

Place ingredients in a large coffee mug. Pour boiling water over ingredients. Steep for 10 minutes. You can strain if desired. I prefer to leave all the stuff in the bottom of my mug, refill and get a few rounds out of it. Add raw honey to taste.

My ritual is to take that first sip and raise my mug in a big “Cheers” to my teacher, Greg Bantick, L.Ac., who first told me about this healing tea. Cheers Greg!


1383717_693494490680424_477286086_nThere’s always a bump in the business at Balance Acupuncture and Wellness Center in September. One of top reasons is it’s Back to School time!  Whether they’re little and in grade school, or BIG and at home on summer break from college, they take up a lot of time and energy! By the time September rolls around, we are ready for a set schedule again. We are ready to notch ourselves up on the self-care ladder after a few months of putting other’s needs first.

Fall is the best season to do just that. It’s the time of harvest when fresh produce is in greatest abundance. Going to the farmers market is a feast for the eyes as the tables spill over with colorful vegetables. We feel inspired to stock up for the week, and maybe even for the winter season as we find ways to preserve all the bounty.

Here are some simple tips to get you back on track.

  1.  Journal – Write it down to make it happen. Make a commitment to journal for 5 minutes each morning. Think of journaling as mapquest for your goals. Writing down your plan will give you direction for what you really want to achieve. It will also keep you in the moment so you enjoy the journey to good health.
  2. Exercise  – Try and fit in 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise. That’s 30 minutes 5 days a week. If you’re feeling stale in your exercise routine, try out something new. Go for a hike or to a new yoga class.
  3. Meditate – Put your mind where you mouth is. Take 10 minutes each morning to center and just Be. Take this time for yourself to become clear with your inner feelings and goals.
  4. Find an Accountability Partner or Join a Group – Share these tips with someone who will help keep you on your path. Start them together and keep each other accountable.   Many of us are motivated by group energy so use that to your advantage.
  5.  Take a trip to the Farmers Market and/or a Health Food Store – Being in an environment where you are surrounded by healthy choices is like taking the full immersion route when learning a foreign language. If you are familiar with the good-for-you choices already, it’s like coming home again. You see those old friends you once knew and made you feel good about yourself. If you’re in the how-the-heck-do-you-say (let alone cook!)-quinoa category, then take some time to read the packages at the health food store. Educate yourself about different natural ingredients. At the Farmer’s Markets, ask Farmers questions – they will likely give you information about their produce and recipes! Build relationships with the folks you encounter. They want you to get healthy too!
  6. Go to an Expert – If all of this seems daunting to you, or if you saw a practitioner in the past who has helped you jump start your wellness plan, by all means – BOOK THAT APPOINTMENT! Our acupuncture patients come in to re-boot when they are far off their path of wellness. Come in for a treatment. Part of the treatment is guidance! We all need a little of that sometime




In our neck of the woods, it feels like we have 2 seasons, snow for 9 months and summer for the remaining lovely 3. Summer in Upstate New York’s Finger Lakes country is like an extended vacation with bursts of color gracing our once bleak landscapes. We try and squeeze as many activities as we possibly can into our waking hours. We embrace every moment of sunshine living breezy lives with open windows, and dining al fresco. It’s pure bliss. But sometimes, we find ourselves run down and overwhelmed with all the movement, all the celebrating.

Summer is the most yang season and relates to the element of fire. It is a season of heat, light and movement. We reflect the cycle of the sun, waking earlier as it rises, and going to sleep later after it sets. Our environment is going full tilt with the plants and trees growing fast and furious. We need to take measures to balance this yang nature so that we don’t burn out.

 Here are a 5 tips to keep you going during the busy summer months so you don’t miss a beat!

  1. Yes – drink water, an obvious one. Hydrate with fluids that are replenishing and healthy. Avoid the sugary drinks with artificial ingredients. If you’re chugging Gatorade because you think its a healthy sports drink – guess again. It’s not much better than drinking a can of soda. Water wins to rehydrate over both of those beverages.   Hydrate through your food choices as well. Choose foods that will build the yin, the moistening and cooling aspect of your body. Suggestions are watermelon, peaches, lettuce, cucumbers and many other fruits and veggies.   And lastly, hydrate from the outside in as well. Use a natural lotion or moisturizer on your skin that may be parched from the summer sun.
  1. Wake up and take a few quiet moments. Start out your day with 5 minutes of deep breathing and then 5 minutes of journaling. Center yourself before you hit the ground running.
  1. Be aware of your schedule.   Don’t try and squeeze too many activities in a short amount of time.   Set a number of activities you allow on a daily basis and do not go over it. Make sure you schedule breaks as well. Kick up your feet and sip a glass of tea.
  1. Be present. Be in the moment. When we rush, we are frequently thinking of the future, what we have to do next. That comes at the expense of enjoying the wonderful happenings around you at the moment. To help out with this, take mindfulness moments. Set an alarm on your phone 3 times a day and when it sounds, take 3 deep breaths and focus on the present moment. Perhaps repeat the mantra “I am Present” with each breath. I like to set my alarms at 10 am, 2 pm and 6 pm.
  1. Make sure you get enough sleep! These precious restful hours are oftentimes the first sacrificed when        we are trying to fit more into our day. Guard those hours and cherish them for what they are, restful hours where our bodies get a chance to restore and heal. It’s also the yin time of our day, which keeps all of our summer yang activities in balance.

  Now get out there and enjoy the heck out of your summer!



food_series_of_picture_5_169063My face aches. Something is definitely amiss. I open up my mouth and stare at my back molars. I probe my gums with my finger. Red, inflamed, tender. Yup, infected.

Today I get my tooth extracted. After confirming my suspicions of infection, my dentist refers me to an endodontist and asks me if I have any questions.

“Yes. How long before I can eat?”

I get home and my husband looks concerned. He inquires,” How long will the procedure take? What type of anesthesia do they use? What is the risk of infection?” When I looked at him dully, with no light in my eyes, I realize, “ Oh, THOSE were the questions I was supposed to ask.”  Not just, “When will my next meal be!” I fish through my messy purse and give my husband the number to the endodontist’s office. Happy Dialing. Now back to food planning.

I speak to my mom who is preparing our weekly Wednesday Night Family Dinner.  I can see her in my mind cradling the phone between ear and shoulder as she rolls out dough to make fresh scallion pancakes.   Oh wait, back to reality – she is jotting down our order for take-out. She gave up cooking years ago. This mid-week tradition popped up as my kids became miniature professional athletes who seem to have games at all sorts of times during the jam-packed weekends.   The need to keep the once a week ritual of breaking bread together, or slurping noodles, is a strong one for my mom.   Even if it’s not on a Sunday.  And it’s take-out. After all, we’re an Asian family- our connection stems around food.

My adorable Chinese Mama exclaims “Your tooth?! What should I make you? I don’t have any soft rice!”

Emergency! Call Congee 911!

Congee, or soft rice is also known as Shi Fan and Jook. It is what my mom made to heal whatever ailed us. Yes, there was a day when she cooked. And she cooked, and cooked, and cooked.   The breakdown was 90% Asian and 10% Western meals, which was all she could slide by my Dad without a fuss.

What is congee? It is a rice porridge with vast medicinal purposes according to Traditional Chinese Medicine. Different ingredients are added to satisfy your taste buds and according to the therapeutic properties you want to impart. There are entire books written about how to prepare congee medicinally for all sorts of ailments. It also happens to be the perfect food to eat when you have no use of your teeth.

In China, congee is a common breakfast dish as well. During a stay at a Zen Monastery in the mountains of Vermont, just before sunrise and after an hour of meditating in a room where I could see my breath, I made my way to the dining room for breakfast. I lifted the lid of a crock pot, fully expecting oatmeal, but found congee.   I was on a silent retreat, which was new to me, and seeing the steam rising from the rice porridge brought me home and comforted me in my foreign surroundings.   Simple ceramic rice bowls rested next to the crock pot with sliced green scallions, red chili garlic paste, golden ma yu or sesame oil, and a small spouted pot of soy sauce. I scooped out my comfort from the crock pot, drizzled it with oil and sprinkled small amounts of each topping onto my congee.   The golden brown of the sesame oil with the vibrant green scallion and the brightness of the red hot chilis were striking against the starkness of the cool fall morning.

After meditation and congee, my spirit and my stomach were at peace.

 Zen Monastery Congee

1 cup rice

1-2 tsp salt to taste

8-10 cups water

Combine rice all ingredients in a thick-bottomed pot.   Bring to a boil over medium heat. Lower heat and simmer for 1 – 1 ½ hrs, stirring occasionally to prevent the bottom from burning. Congee is done when it reaches a creamy porridge like consistency.

Additions – to be added and cooked with other ingredients

Meat – Before serving, cut it into small pieces and return to pot.

Ginger- add a 1 inch piece of ginger

Garlic – add 1-3 cloves of chopped garlic

Sweet potatoes, carrots, orange squash – bite size chunks

Peas – add these towards the end of cooking


Sesame Oil

Chili Garlic Sauce or Sriracha


Chopped Scallion

Julienne-cut Ginger

Soy Sauce

There are really no rules to congee. Add what you have a yearning for and see what happens. To learn more about thereapeutic congee recipes read The Book of Jook, Chinese Medicinal Porridges by Bob Flaws.

Good Bye Resolutions. HELLO AFFIRMATIONS!


I was inspired by an article by Omatara James from the Art of Dharma about the power of affirmations. As I read it, I exclaimed praise for each and every beautiful expression of love. I found myself shifting my thought about the annual resolutions we make on New Year’s. Resolution comes from the word resolve, which has implications that something needs to be fixed. That’s not the type of energy I want to bring forth into the New Year.

An affirmation is a declaration that something is true. It’s a positive message to the world that you mean business. It’s staying present in the here and now. It’s not about fixing, it’s about being. I like that. So when I read the affirmations listed, I felt at peace.

Adapted from the Omatara James,  Art of Dharma:

1.“(Breathe in for 4.) Thank you. (Breathe out for 5.) No thank you.”         (This is a wonderful affirmation for those moments that seem like an incredible hassle, but will benefit you in the long run.)

2. “My best efforts will be successful.”    ( Keepin’ the faith.)

3.“ Let me accept all the gifts and challenges from the universe together, with gratitude and patience.”            (Letting the world know that I am ready!  I like the contrasting balance between the gift and the challenges.)

4.  “I am surrounded by love and connected to the earth through the infinite inside me.”          (When looking for  a connection and compassion for others.)

5.  “ The universe will provide.”     ( Doesn’t she always? Gives encouragement. A reminder about the bigger picture.)

6. “ Slowly. Surely. Truly.”      (When needing calm or when in a hurry and things don’t seem to be moving fast enough. A reminder to enjoy the journey.)

7.  “No matter what, we are all blessed beings of the universe.”    (When feeling puny. Or when feeling inflated. To avoid judgement and comparison.)

8.  “I am enough. I have enough.”    (When feeling ruled by desire, or looking to the outside to feel full on the inside)

9.  Happiness is happening right now.   (When I need inspiration…or need a reminder that the present is the present.)

– Wishing you all a Happy Healthy New Year. What are your affirmations? –


The flu, or something that resembled it (we never got him tested), hit our household over holiday break. Wyatt, my 15 year old went down first. As we waited for his ride to the ski resort for a day at the terrain park with his buddies, the extreme fatigue set in.   “I’m so tired that I can’t even lift my arms up.   Do you think I should still go skiing?” Duh. Then came a new experience for him, a big, fat headache.

My buddy was down. He hit the couch and didn’t surface until bed time. I started with the oscillococcinum right away and followed up with this herb/supplement regimen.  

Oscillococcinum * – a homeopathic flu remedy made by Boiron.  Works best at earliest onset of symptoms.  Sometimes it’s difficult to know if you have a cold or the flu.  If fever and body aches are present, take it.                                                                                                                 dosage:  1 vial every 6 hours, for 3 doses.

Lung Essence Tonic/ Resilient Defense combo **– A liquid tincture that is a combination of Chinese herbs.  Great for those prone to upper respiratory complications.   Also for that nagging cough that hangs on even after the rest of the symptoms have dissipated.                  dosage:  3 dropperfuls 3 times a day

Mucus Relief  – homeopathic remedy from Heel, a company that has been around since 1936.   For chest congestion, mucus build up, cough.                                                                                                     dosage:  1 pill 3 times a day

Emergen-C lite in water or seltzer – A powdered blend of vitamins and minerals to help immune system.  Kids like it too – it’s fizzy!        For the little ones, there is Emergen-C Kidz                                                                                         dosage: 1-2 packets a day * (available at Wegmans and many drug stores)

And for the rest of the household, Yin Chiao **!

Other tips: Mint tea helped his sore throat. Avoid heavy foods and dairy which can exacerbate congestion. Really push the clear fluids.

We got through it relatively painlessly in about 2-3 days. And even better, it didn’t morph into anything else, which tends to be common with this years flu.

*available at Wegmans and Walgreens,probably other drug stores as well

**available at balance acupuncture & wellness center


If I had to choose one herbal formula to have in my herbal medicine cabinet, it would be Yin Chiao (pronounced chow).

Yin Chiao’s main ingredients are honeysuckle and forsythia. Not sounding so foreign now right? In fact, many of you may have these beautiful plants growing in your backyard.  Now don’t go chewing on your plants before you know what you’re looking for.

What is amazing and truly humbling is the long history of this herbal combination and the fact that it’s still so frequently used today. My patients who are teachers swear by it due to their exposure to the walking talking petrie dishes, a.k.a. students, who seem to have no sense of managing their bodily excretions.

So how would I describe it? Incredibly effective. Some patients have even dubbed it THE MIRACLE FORMULA. The one that kept them well and allowed them to make their vacation plans, see them through a wedding, or keep them healthy so they could take care of a household full of sickies.

Here’s the million dollar tip which will keep you from catching that cold. Yin chiao is most effective in the first 12-24 hours when you’re feeling sick. You know at bedtime when you have that sense that you’re feeling a little off? That’s when you need to take it . Don’t wait until the morning – it may be too late. Take a dose and go to bed. You may find that you feel just fine when you wake up.   But don’t fall asleep on the job. Make sure you follow up with the proper dosage for 24 hours after your symptoms are gone.

Best time to take your herbs? Whenever you’re going to remember them. If you remember best with meals, take them before you eat. If they make you feel too full with your meals, take them in between. Just space them out about 4 hours between doses. Compliance is everything.