Red Yeast Rice

Hóng Qū ~ Red Rice

Red yeast rice is a fermented rice product that has been used in Chinese cuisine and medicinally to promote “blood circulation” and lower cholesterol [1]. Red Yeast Rice does this as it contains varying amounts of naturally occurring substances called monacolins and plant sterols.  Monacolins are produced by the yeast and block the production of cholesterol.  This is also known as a HMG CoA reductase inhibitor [1]. Other active ingredients in red yeast rice that may affect cholesterol lowering include sterols (beta-sitosterol, campesterol, stigmasterol, sapogenin), isoflavones, and monounsaturated fatty acids [2].  Plant sterols are naturally occurring plant molecules.  Plant sterols interfere with cholesterol absorption in the intestines as they are not well absorbed in the digestive systems as they attach themselves to cholesterol receptors in your intestines. This means that less cholesterol is able to pass from your intestines into your bloodstream.  Thereby cholesterol levels in the blood are lowered through these two mechanisms.

Before explaining the studies though, one first needs to understand what normal cholesterol levels are:

Normal Adult Cholesterol Values See Your Doctor Right Away Values!
Total Cholesterol <200 mg/dL >240 mg/dL
LDL-C <100mg/dL <100mg/dL
HDL-C 40-60 mg/dL 40-60mg/dL
Triglycerides <150 mg/dL <500mg/dL


Red Rice Yeast has been shown in multiple studies to lower cholesterol.  One such study measured the efficacy of red yeast rice for cholesterol lowering was evaluated in a prospective, double-blind study in which 83 patients with hyperlipidemia (total cholesterol 204 to 338 mg/dL [5.28–8.74 mmol/L], LDL-C 128 to 277 mg/dL [3.31–7.16 mmol/L]) who were not receiving cholesterol lowering therapy were randomly assigned to receive red yeast rice (2.4 g/day) or placebo[2]. The following results were reported:

  • The total cholesterol concentration decreased significantly between baseline and eight weeks in the red yeast rice compared with the placebo-treated group (208 versus 251 mg/dL [5.38 vs 6.57 mmol/L]).
  • The LDL-C concentration also decreased significantly in the red yeast rice group (135 versus 175 mg/dL [3.49 versus 4.53 mmol/L]).
  • HDL-C was unaffected.

Allopathic physicians most commonly treat high cholesterol, Hyperlipediam, with Lovastatin, a statin used to reduce cholesterol.  Lovastatin uses monacolin K to reduce cholesterol in patients.  Monacolin K is a naturally occurring component of Red Yeast Rice.  The average dose of Lovastatin contains about 4.8 mg of red yeast rice. Studies suggest though that the plant sterols in red yeast rice also contribute to red yeast rice’s cholesterol lowering activity [1].

Beyond the aforementioned study, there are still other studies that have found that red yeast rice lowers total and LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) [4,5]. In one randomized trial, patients who had discontinued statin therapy tolerated treatment with red yeast rice, 1800 mg twice daily and achieved significant reductions in LDL cholesterol[4,5].

Of course, any treatment for abnormal cholesterol should be supervised by your primary care physician.  And, the best advocate for your healthcare is you.  To be the best advocate you can, it’s important to do your research, look at the options and talk with your primary care physician to make the most informed choices possible for your health care.


Written by:
Dr. Catherine Freeman, DAOM holds a Bachelor of Science in Acupuncture from Bastyr University, a Masters in Traditional Chinese Medicine from Five Branches University and a Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine from Five Branches University. She maintains a acupuncture license in Washington state.  She owns and operates Acupuncture Garden and Wellness Garden Integrative Medical Clinic in Lake Chelan, Washington.




  1. Li CL, Zhu Y, Wang Y, et al. Monascus purpureus-fermented rice (red yeast rice): a natural food product that lowers blood cholesterol in animal models of hypercholesterolemia. Nutr Res 1998; 18:71.
  2. Patrick L, Uzick M. Cardiovascular disease: C-reactive protein and the inflammatory disease paradigm: HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, alpha-tocopherol, red yeast rice, and olive oil polyphenols. A review of the literature. Altern Med Rev 2001; 6:248.
  3. Heber D, Yip I, Ashley JM, et al. Cholesterol-lowering effects of a proprietary Chinese red-yeast-rice dietary supplement. Am J Clin Nutr 1999; 69:231.
  4. Wang J, Lu Z, Chi J, et al. Multicenter clinical trial of the serum lipid lowering effects of Monascus purpureus (red yeast) rice preparation from traditional Chinese medicine. Cur Ther Res 1997; 58:964.
  5. Becker DJ, Gordon RY, Halbert SC, et al. Red yeast rice for dyslipidemia in statin-intolerant patients: a randomized trial. Ann Intern Med 2009; 150:830.

Spring into Wood

Spring Growth

Living with the Seasons

The shift from darkness to light, yang bursting from yin is officially upon us.  Spring brings a dramatic shift in seasons with longer days, warmer weather, budding blossoms, fresh earthly scents, and a rebirth of plants breaking through the soil.  Spring’s time of renewal, expansion, and growth offers many lessons to be learned from observing nature’s cyclical transitions.  Chinese Medicine is strongly based on the natural rhythms, expressions, and phases of nature.  Together with the philosophy of Yin-Yang, the theory of the Five Elements (Wu Xing) sets the foundation for Chinese medical theory.  Each season is viewed as possessing and expressing its own unique energy which directly influences all aspects of life, health, and balanced well being.

This theory correlates an element and specific characteristics with each season:  Wood (Spring), Fire (Summer), Earth (Center point of transition between seasons), Metal (Fall), Water (Winter).  Five Phase theory evolved as an observation of nature’s phenomena, cyclical processes, and functions.  Similar patterns of transitions in physiology and seasonal characteristics were observed in humans. These observations became a comprehensive system of understanding how nature influences us all.  Each one of us is moving through these Phases, right along side nature, whether we realize it or not.  Living in accordance with the seasons lays the foundation of health and well being.

The Wood Element

Chinese Medicine attributes Spring to the Wood Element.  A time of expansion and new growth within nature brings forth a phase of renewal, vision, and forward momentum within people.  A shift outward from the inward directed energy of winter.  The Wood Element brings forth a sense of purpose and sturdiness, yet with flexibility, just as a tree is firmly rooted into the ground yet able to sway with the wind.  When a person’s Wood Element is in balance they have confidence and good judgement.  A sense of emotional maturity with the ability to express themselves appropriately and adapt to change as needed.  Wood in balance allows one to be firmly rooted in the past, stand tall in the present, and have a clear vision for the future.

Each Element has a strong influence on specific organ systems and their respective acupuncture meridians.  The Wood element’s Yin organ is the Liver.  According to Classical Chinese Medicine, the Liver stores the blood, ensures the smooth free flow of Qi, blood, and emotions throughout the entire body, regulates menstruation, and houses the  the Ethereal Soul (Hun).  The Hun plays a vital role in our mental/spiritual health by providing us with creativity, inspiration, and a sense of purpose and direction in life.  From a biomedical perspective the Liver is a vital organ responsible for numerous functions including detoxifying the blood to rid it of harmful substances, producing bile to aid in the breakdown of fats, converting several hormones and glucose into their active forms, breaking down hemoglobin, and storing several vitamins and iron.  Enormous jobs to say the least!

The Yang organ correlated with the Wood Element is the Gallbladder.  The gallbladder’s primary function is to provide the storage of bile and recognize when it is the appropriate time for release into the digestive tract.  The significance of the gallbladder’s decision making is viewed in Chinese Medicine as our ability (or lack there of) to not only make wise decisions, but the courage to act upon them as well.  The yang qi of the gallbladder is said to provide the capacity of movement and action to the Ethereal Soul (Hun).

During the Spring season it is common to see the Wood organ systems out of balance.  This disharmony in the Element can create both physical and emotional symptoms.  Anger is the emotion of Wood and stored in the Liver.  Anger is a natural and necessary emotion of life, a mixture of every emotion combined into one.  When Wood or Liver Qi becomes stagnant, however, anger can become aggressive, persistent, inappropriate, and even violent. Chronic anger and frustration can not only become mentally debilitating, but negatively impact the health of your liver, detoxification, and reproductive system.  Common ailments seen in the Spring (or when Wood is out of balance any time of year) include:


~Muscle tension, prone to have tendon and ligament injuries
~Sciatica (radiating pain from lower back into buttocks and down the leg – GallBladder Meridian)
~Headaches, especially migraines
~Impaired detoxification, allergies, multiple chemical sensitivities
~Visual disturbances
~Menstrual irregularities, PMS, fibroids,
~Digestive disturbances, including heartburn, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers
~High blood pressure, with tendency toward atherosclerosis


~Outbursts of anger and irritability
~A blockage of forward movement and personal growth leading to frustration
~Inappropriate expression of emotions
~Lack of vision, purpose, and inability to make decisions
~Inflexibility to change, lack of resiliency and ability to adapt

Maintaining Balance within Wood

To stay healthy the Liver needs movement and so do you.  With the longer days and warmer weather it is a perfect time of year to get outside, take long walks in nature, observe and embrace the changes going on all around you.  Take a risk and try something new.  Take a new yoga class, try Qi Gong or Tai Qi, hop on a bike, or run on a new trail.  Movement comes in many forms.  Make a 3-month exercise plan to inspire yourself move more and feel great for the upcoming summer months.

Spring is the perfect time of year for a seasonal cleanse.  Clean up your diet to assist your body in purifying and rebuilding itself from the inside out.  Emphasize whole, organic, non-genetically modified foods (especially fruits and vegetables) that provide the vitamins, nutrients, enzymes and antioxidants the body needs for detoxification.  Give your overburdened Liver a break by eliminating all packaged, canned, processed, fried foods, gluten, sugar, and alcohol.  Focus on emphasizing a plant based diet, with healthy fats, quality sources of lean meats, and lots and lots of water.

Detoxify Your Environment
We are exposed to external toxins on a daily basis.  These include pollutants, pesticides, and man-made chemicals.  Reduce your toxic exposure in your home by filtering your tap water, using an air purifier, and removing all plastics from your home (tupperware, water bottles, sarane wrap, non-stick pots and pans).  Opt for non-toxic cleaning products, such as ones labeled “green”cleaners that don’t contain chlorine or ammonia.  Choose products that say “petroleum-free,” “biodegradable,” or “phosphate-free.”  Or better yet, make a cleaner yourself!  Trade out your synthetic bath and beauty products for those that contain only pure organic nutrients.  If you shouldn’t eat it, then it doesn’t belong on your skin either!

Use the visionary energy of Wood to plan for your future, set goals, and begin taking steps to achieve them.  Write down any new thoughts and ideas you have no matter how big or small.  Think of your ‘big picture’ goals for the upcoming year.  Break down the 12 months into actionable steps that you can take each month to help you get there.

Practice Forgiveness
Think of forgiveness as the opposite of Anger.  The ability to forgive ourselves and others keeps our Wood element healthy.  Forgiveness allows for forward movement and growth, without ruminating and getting stuck on bitter situations of the past.  True forgiveness is gratitude for the lessons that every experience and interaction gifts us.


Written by:
Brianna Brownfield, LAc is the owner of Whole Roots Health in Truckee, CA.  She integrates Classical Chinese Medicine with Functional Lab Diagnostics to provide a comprehensive, holistic approach to healthcare.  She specializes in Women’s Health, Fertility, and Digestive Disorders.  Learn more at


Maciocia, Giovanni. The Foundations of Chinese Medicine, CAc Nanjing. 2005.  Print.

Beinfield, Harriet.  Between Heaven and Earth: A Guide to Chinese Medicine, Ballantine Books. 1992


How Qigong is used to improve symptoms of Asthma, COPD, depression, and anxiety

“Diet and exercise”, those are three words that you may have heard before from your friends, your doctors and the countless articles, just like this one, offering new advice for your health.  Incorporating either of these things is for most people no small feat.  Sure, a 30 day challenge with low carbs or 20 min of daily meditation should be no big deal. However, for some reason keeping up with health routines is for me and many others, a continued struggle.

Another phrase comes to mind when I notice something that seems difficult to grasp as a life practice….”Keep it simple stupid”.  They say you’ve got to crawl before you can walk and in my experience simple and foundation building practices tend to stick. Even when you take a break from walking, you can always crawl.

RyanK_8The practice of Qigong, pronounced (chee-gong), is an exercise form that incorporates martial arts and meditative movement to promote balance between the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and the functions of organs which it governs, ie-heart, lungs, intestines, bladder.  Using slowly performed postures and utilizing mental concentration, muscle relaxation, and relaxed breathing, qigong offers a safe and accessible exercise for all. (1)  No matter the age or fitness level, anyone can begin a lifelong cultivation of strength and flexibility without the risk of injury that can come with conventional weightlifting or running.

In treating COPD, (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder), many patients report psychological issues that accompany the physical limitations.  Some of the common symptoms  exhibited include shortness of breath, chronic productive cough, and frequent pulmonary infections.  As these symptoms progress further manifestations such as anhedonia, feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness and low energy can accompany the decline of one’s health.(2)  Along with traditional medical treatments, pulmonary exercise has been utilized to increase endurance during physical activity and decrease breathlessness.  Reports using TaiQi and Qigong have shown better functional capacity and pulmonary function in patients with COPD.(1)

In Chinese medical philosophy all of the major organ systems are categorized into 2 groups, either Yin or Yang.  Yang Organs are generally the hollow, digestive organs of the body and the yin organs are the more solid and vital organs.  The yin organs most associated with anxiety, COPD, and other pulmonary disorders are the lungs and heart.  The lungs being responsible for oxygen and carbon dioxide transfer in and out of the blood stream and the heart, embedded within the lungs are responsible for spreading out the oxygenated blood throughout the body.

It makes sense that when trying to strengthen the body to treat pulmonary disorders and anxiety, focusing on both of these organs and the muscles that encompass the chest would be part of an integrated treatment strategy.  On the anterior portion of the chest the muscles to focus on are the pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, and serratus anterior.  The muscles of the upper back include the trapezius, rhomboids, infraspinatus, teres major and teres minor.  Knowing these muscles of the chest will help when isolating the breath during the Qigong exercise.

For this particular exercise, while standing in a shoulder width relaxed posture, as you inhale the arms will gently float up directly in front of the chest at about the level of the heart.  The palms will be facing the ground and as you exhale slowly the arms will spread gently toward the sides of the body and then as the body gently inhales, the palms turn up toward the sky and come back toward the center line of the body.  The whole time the arms stay at the level of the heart.  Ideally this pattern is repeated 20 times, slowly and with even breaths.  When beginning this practice 20 repetitions is a good goal, while it may be difficult at first, a daily practice will help to strengthen weak muscles, circulate blood and relax the nervous system.

Admittedly, learning this practice via text is not the most optimal platform, which is why I have created a simple video to follow along.  Use this video to see the details of this exercise as it will help to demonstrate what I have described earlier.


Written by:
Ryan M. Killarney L.Ac.




1. Ngai SPC, Jones AYM, Tam WWS. Tai Chi for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2016, Issue 6. Art. No.: CD009953. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD009953.pub2.

2. Cantor,Current Psychiatry. 2003 November;2(11):45-54)

Local Gardens & Farms

Colorado's 4th annual CSA event. People came here to eat delicious local food and plan their community-supported agriculture memberships for the year.

Colorado’s 4th annual CSA event. People came here to eat delicious local food and plan their community-supported agriculture memberships for the year.

Whether you are already a healthy eater who is striving to be more environmentally friendly and sustainable in their eating habits, or you are learning to eat more wholesome, local foods, it is great to know where your food comes from and to have a personal connection with the farming communities who serve us. Kid’s and adults alike can enjoy learning more about how their food grows and where it comes from.

Where do I start connecting with local foods?  Get in touch with your local community farmers market.  Most cities, big and small have weekly farmers markets. Depending on where you live, there may be seasonal or sometimes year round farmers markets to feast on and learn about local delights. At most farmer’s market you can buy produce directly from the farmers who grow them as well as purchase and peruse other artisanal goods. Often you can talk to the farmers themselves or the volunteers working the booth and learn more about the farm and even get involved directly with the farm.

Many vegetable farms allow you to volunteer for a day, usually the day they harvest and put together their CSA boxes, and get some veggies in return!


Plant or buy fruits, herbs and vegetables with medicinal properties. In Chinese medicine, Goji berries (Gou qi zi) help to alleviate sore low back and knees, impotence, dizziness, blurred vision, poor vision and treats dry coughs.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA): Some farms have CSA programs where you can have a weekly box of fresh fruits and vegetables delivered to your door or pick-up your box of goodies at  designated locations. A lot of farms have add-ons for your box of food such as fresh milk, eggs, meats, flowers and baked goods. Most CSA farms like you to pay ahead of time to help them buy the supplies they will need for their crops but some have payment systems in place to pay individually for each box.

If you are a meat eater, getting involved in animal shares can be great too. Buying half a lamb or cow (through a local organization with pasture raised meat) with a couple friends and freezing it to eat throughout the year can save on money in the long term and ensure that you are getting high quality, grass-fed meat.

Community Gardens/Community Farms: You may have driven through neighborhoods or schools where little community gardens can been seen. If you like to garden but don’t have yard space, community gardens are a way to share land and resources and bring to life your own vegetable garden within the city! If you are interested, check them out and see how you can get involved, add to the gardens, and reap the benefits of getting your hands in the soil and soon harvesting and eating your very own freshly grown food.


Backyard gardening in Lakewood, Colorado. Research shows, getting your hands in the soil helps with depression and anxiety.

Some community gardens/farms hold workshops where you can learn more about gardening, farming, composting, cooking and so much more. I live and practice acupuncture in Lakewood, Colorado and one example of a local community farm here is Sprout City Farms. Sprout City Farms ( is  a nonprofit organization that helps create healthier, more resilient communities and enables them to bring affordable, healthy food to schools, neighborhoods, and beyond, donate food to community organizations and families in need, educate youth and adults about farming and build community. Last year they offered workshops on water conservation/drip irrigation, composting/vermicomposting, pickling/fermenting, canning, preserving, seed saving, soil building/composting.

How else can I get involved in a sustainable healthy future? Grow your own garden! What are your absolute favorite fruits and vegetables? Ask your local farmers if they grow well where you live and if they have a recommendation on where to buy your seeds. Local nurseries and gardening stores are really knowledgeable and helpful too. They can help you sort through logistics like when and where to plant certain foods and when to harvest all the amazing food you have created in your own home.  If you don’t have a backyard or gardening space, hanging wall planters or tiny planters full of herbs can be a great start to adding some home grown deliciousness to your meals. Or, as mentioned earlier, volunteer or get involved in your community gardens or farms!


Written by:
Crystal Jancovic, L.Ac is co-founder and president of Summit Community Acupuncture Clinic in Colorado which is the first non-profit community acupuncture clinic in the state. She believes fully in offering affordable healthcare to her community and becoming an active community member through supporting local businesses, growing her own food with her family, attending community events and keeping her patients healthy and happy.


Information on local Denver farm projects:
Information on gardening helping with depression:
Information on Goji berries: Acupuncture Desk Reference Book by David Kuoch

The FoodRemedy @ Wellness Garden

Summer 2017 Program

The FoodRemedy is the leading culinary medicine cooking school in Ireland inspiring wellness through wholefoods that nourish.  It was founded by Plant-Based Chef, Fanny Binder, and Nutritional Therapist, Tara Zuluaga Dorgan.

Tara is originally from the Chelan valley and has been living abroad for the past 9 years.  She is bringing her family home this summer and is excited to share her skills with the community.  Tara is the director of Root Health Nutrition, specialising in digestive health, autoimmune disorders and chronic disease. She holds a bachelor degree in Health, Community and Applied Ecology from Western Washington University and a diploma in Naturopathic Nutrition from the College of Naturopathic Medicine in Ireland, where she now lectures and supervises the clinical studies of nutrition students in their final year.

Tara is a wholefood enthusiast with years of experience as a chef in America and Ireland. She believes that food can be your medicine and trusts that using nutrition as a tool strengthens the our innate response to heal.

At the Food Remedy, the intention is to inspire and ignite a love of real food, get creative in the kitchen and help people find their own path to wellness.  Our classes reverberate the concept that everyone is biochemically unique and there is no one right way to health.  All of the classes and courses are designed to provide a deeper understanding of food choices and impart a confidence to cook delicious food in balance to maintain health physically, mentally and emotionally.

The school does not follow one particular diet (everybody has their own food journey), however, all classes are dairy, gluten and refined sugar free by default providing an anti-inflammatory baseline.

This summer Tara will be offering culinary medicine classes from Wellness Garden in Lake Side. The classes can be taken as a once-off, but together they create a unique 6-8 week program which introduces step-by-step tools to improve overall health through the application of the Five “R” Framework used in functional medicine: Remove, Replace, Repair, Reinoculate and Rebalance.   The program is designed as a whole to assist individuals in taking charge of their own health providing a foundation of knowledge to seek out the root cause of disease and utilize food as a tool to achieve optimal health.

  • This program is suitable for individuals interested in health and nutrition, and for professionals in the health & wellness space, including Nutritionists, Dietitians, Naturopaths, Nurses, Doctors, Herbalists, Fitness Instructors, etc. wanting to introduce healthy food preparation and support into their business.
  • Classes will be held at Wellness Garden in Chelan.
  • Dates have yet to be determined but will include Monday daytime classes, one week night class and some Saturday full day courses.  Classes are typically 2 hours and course times may vary.
  • Costs are yet to be determined

Food for Health Summer 2017

Although the program is not yet set in stone, the topics covered will look something like the following:


These classes will include live food preparation demos, generous tasters, information sharing and discussion. Each participant will receive a collection of “Food for Health” recipes, along with a list of Pantry Essentials and a recommended reading list.


Written by:
Tara Zuluaga Dorgan, Dip NT Nutritional Therapist –
Medicinal Chef –

The Power of Wellness Planning

Wellness planning is a new concept for many of my patients. In a time when people are more reactive to health symptoms than proactive towards wellness, how can we apply our understanding of business and strategic planning to managing our own health?

Every business faces greater and greater challenges as it continues to grow. A successful business remains adaptive and flexible while approaching challenges with a holistic mindset, which is rooted in sound planning. In fact, to hear real-life stories of the most successful entrepreneurs of our time and the obstacles they overcame to create their business check out the NPR podcast, How I Built This.

Planning Logo

So what does business planning have anything to do with health?

Just as an individual aims to build a business, one can equally take steps to shape their health.

Author Graham Kenny discusses the differences between “the plan” versus “planning” in his article “Strategic Plans Are Less Important Than Strategic Planning”. He says that the plan is a static construct that becomes obsolete upon completion and that planning develops the framework to actually achieve goals. His message reminds me how crucial planning is to cultivating good health.

Cultivating vibrant health and wellness is no different than leading a successful business. Health requires steady resources like nutrition, rest, and social involvement. It needs constant maintenance in the form of meditation, exercise, and wellness treat- ments like acupuncture. Health must be perpetually evaluated through medical screen- ings, checkups by healthcare practitioners, and personal assessments to determine the body’s integrity. Finally, one’s health must be rooted in a vision that constantly renews, reaffirms, and propels it into the future. Similarly, steady resources, maintenance, ongo- ing evaluation, and a commitment to renewing one’s vision are the same practices that lead to successful business management. In other words, health is an action, not merely an end-goal.


How does one start wellness planning?

  1. Assess your current state of wellness and the factors influencing your health.
    Basic parameters used to assess your wellness include: current weight, quality of sleep, levels of energy throughout the day, mental clarity, stress levels and causes, and results from a physical from your medical doctor and complimentary medicine practitioner.
  2. Determine your health goals and decide on time frames to attain those goals.
    Based on your assessment, decide on the areas of health that you want to cultivate. It could be improving your physical stamina, bolstering daily energy, or reducing stress. Create SMART Goals for yourself by ensuring they are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.
  3. List all of your health resources and find the resources you need.
    Acupuncturists, psychologists, doctors, massage therapists, dietitians, organic grocery markets, gyms, personal trainers, and yoga studios can be considered health resources. These people and places will help you maintain your quality of health.
  4. Incorporate wellness activities that you ENJOY to benefit your physical, mental, and emotional health.
    Wellness activities include much more than exercise. They could include meditation, drawing, cooking, healing retreats, gardening, vacation, dancing, counseling or psychotherapy, or community service. Getting healthy doesn’t just mean your physical health, and doesn’t have to be agonizing or painful. It can be easy and enjoyable.
  5. Set your wellness plan in motion.
    Make it easy. Start on an area of your health that is easiest to make a positive
    change. It might be as simple as drinking more water until it becomes a part of your everyday routine. It’s achieving the small goals that allows you to make giant leaps.



Written by:
Paul Robison earned his Master’s degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine at Five Branches University. He operates a successful acupuncture practice in Washington, DC, which includes wellness coaching and education. When he isn’t practicing Chinese medicine he is fermenting foods, cultivating his physical practice, meditating, and seeking adventure with his partner. Learn more about his practice at



Graham K. Strategic Plans Are Less Important than Strategic Planning. Published June 21, 2016. Accessed May 5, 2017.
SMART Goals: How to Make Your Goals Achievable. . https://www.- Accessed May 5, 2017.

Mindfulness and Deep Breathing

By now, mindfulness is a mainstream word.  It is being practiced in businesses to increase productivity and in schools to improve learning, attendance, and attention.  In the healthcare field, conventional physicians cannot deny the benefit to their patients overall wellbeing.  Last month a patient of mine told me that her Primary Care Physician recommended meditation to lower her high blood pressure.  She came to me to learn how.

Go to any newsstand and you will see a popular magazine with a cover story pointing to how mindfulness improves our lives.  Dr. Oz regularly speaks of it.  Oprah has interviewed notable experts in mindfulness.  Deepak Chopra, Echart Tolle, Thich Naht Hahn and many other people have dedicated their lives to bringing mindfulness practices to a wider audience.  My patient was excited to learn and wanted to follow her Physician’s recommendations, yet at the same time she was both overwhelmed and intimidated by the vastness of information out there.

In 2009, researchers at the University of Camerino in Italy linked one hour or diaphragmatic breathing (deep abdominal breathing) to improved recovery time, decreased stress hormones and and increased melatonin in athlete.  Mindfulness exercises appear to reduce the prevalence of PTSD and other anxiety disorders as well.  By incorporating breathing with various postures and stretching (Tai Chi, Yoga and Qigong, for instance) one’s quality of life can improve.  An article published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism points to regular deep breathing decreased the anxiety of people suffering from PTSD.

imagesAll the way back in 1991, the journal Physiology & Behavior published a study tracking biochemistry and how it was improved using regular meditative practices.  It found that after meditation, serum cortisol levels were significantly reduced, serum total protein levels significantly increased, and systolic pressure, diastolic pressure and pulse rate significantly reduced.  Vital capacity, tidal volume and maximal voluntary ventilation were significantly lowered after meditation than before.  There were also significant decreases in reaction time after meditation practice by 22%.  Meditation produces biochemical and physiological changes and reduces the reaction time.

There is a lot of information and techniques to try when learning mindfulness practices.  Downloading popular apps for your phone can help guide you.  I know many who feel immediate affects.  As for my patient and her blood pressure, we decided that simply taking deep abdominal breaths daily for 10 minutes.  This along with acupuncture, and a diet focused on whole foods and moderate exercise, she has begun to stabilize both her systolic and diastolic values.  She feels less fatigued, more focused and generally happier.  I asked her out of all of the changes she has implemented, which did she feel was the most effective.  Without pause, she said her mindful breathing.  She states, “I can feel my blood pressure lowering with each exhale.”  She can’t wait to return to her Physician to show them her progress.



Written by:
Christopher Miller, L.Ac. holds a Masters in Traditional Chinese Medicine from Five Branches University. He maintains Acupuncture licenses in both Oregon and California and holds multiple certifications from the National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, the American Academy of Physical Oriental Medicine and the International Institute of Medical Qigong. 



1. Daniele Martarelli, Mario Cocchioni, Stefania Scuri, and Pierluigi Pompei, “Diaphragmatic Breathing Reduces Exercise-Induced Oxidative Stress,” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2011, Article ID 932430, 10 pages, 2011. doi:10.1093/ecam/nep169

2. Sang Hwan Kim, Suzanne M. Schneider, Margaret Bevans, Len Kravitz, Christine Mermier, Clifford Qualls, Mark R. Burge; PTSD Symptom Reduction With Mindfulness-Based Stretching and Deep Breathing Exercise: Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial of Efficacy. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2013; 98 (7): 2984-2992. doi: 10.1210/jc.2012-3742

3. Ratree Sudsuang, Vilai Chentanez, Kongdej Veluvan, Effect of buddhist meditation on serum cortisol and total protein levels, blood pressure, pulse rate, lung volume and reaction time, Physiology & Behavior, Volume 50, Issue 3, September 1991, Pages 543-548, ISSN 0031-9384,


Replenishing Emotional Resilience

emotional res - image 1

The ability to have the depths of the world’s oceans with the flexibility of bamboo are two images that rushed to mind when I was recently asked about how to support and cultivate emotional resilience. In a world where we are constantly surrounded in mental stimulation, how does one keep their cool? How do we maintain enough emotional capacity to not only stay calm and collected for ourselves but for others in our life especially when they are in a time of need?The four fundamental aspects that first come to mind not only support emotional resilience but are also key factors in maintaining optimal health and vitality. These four fundamentals have been talked about for thousands of years within ancient medical systems and with each new year comes more research from modern science that sheds light and gives insight into why they are so important. Chinese Medicine teaches that maintaining a healthy life balance through nourishing the different elements of the body through these four fundamentals will help to maintain mental and emotional stability and resilience. Cultivating these four fundamentals pieces is simple, but not easy!!

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So, what are these four ancient and modern fundamentals for emotional resilience? Simply put: nutrition, physical activity, sleep, and stress management. Why?

Nutrition is not only what we are putting into our body, but what we are absorbing into our body as well. Chinese Medicine views the Earth element (Stomach and Spleen) as the central axis for nutrient acquisition and transformation necessary for all other elements to have the proper nourishment they need to function properly . As medical research has shown, we have millions of microbes in our small intestine that are fundamental in processing the foods we consume so that we can actually benefit from all the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients so vital for our body to run efficiently. One of the easiest ways to support this complex system is to add leafy greens and fresh colorful foods into your daily eating. This wide variety of colors will ensure you are getting the fiber, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes necessary for optimal health. Those leafy greens help to feed those little micro organisms that are so imperative to our mental and physical health. Don’t just eat those tasty white and brown colored foods that we all love to munch on. Get creative and eat the purples, reds, blues, yellows, oranges, and of course greens!

Physical activity supports circulation to help with oxygenation of tissue, mitochondrial function, detoxification, endocrine balance, and helps decrease sympathetic tone to name a few. Getting movement in our lives, according to Chinese Medicine, ensures that the Wood (Liver) and Metal (Lung) energy flows smoothly to ensure that we all retain emotional flexibility and nourishment. We do not all need to put lengthy hours of time into physical activity daily to maintain good physical and mental health. Think about how to ensure movement occurs throughout the day, whether at work, at home, in school, or traveling. Get up! Move those legs, stretch, dance, wiggle, jiggle, jump, walk, swim, bike, skip or run. Remember have fun and smile while getting that heart racing a little and if possible feel a little burn in some muscle somewhere. Don’t get caught in the trap of analysis paralysis, just get up and move!

emo res - image 3 oceanSleep, like nutrition, is one of the aspects of health that helps us to cultivate that deep level of emotional resilience. The root level of the body systems balance can be found in the Water (Kidney) and Fire (Heart) elements of Chinese Medicine. Taking the time for adequate sleep is one way that we can give these elements the time to rest, restore and replenish. While we take this restful reprieve from the actions of our daily lives we give ourselves, hopefully, uninterrupted time to restore, heal, and balance our many body systems. One quick tip, whether you sleep in the day or night, make sure it is dark wherever you are sleeping. Feel free to shut those blinds, cover those LED lights, or wear an eye pillow if necessary.

Stress management is perhaps the most complex of these four topics discussed. While the above three topics are of the upmost importance they are also more straightforward on where to begin and how to implement them in you life. Mindful stress management seems to be the place where all of the elements in Chinese Medicine can harmonize together to provide balance emotionally and mentally. Stress management may feel to be a far off concept that we just can’t seem to grasp, but it can be more simple than imagined. Despite your own spiritual background or religious preference, one of the more succinct steps to stress management I have witnessed is rooted in the Buddhist teaching of the Noble Eightfold Path.

emotional re - image 2The practice and exploration of Right View, Right Thinking, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Diligence, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration is perhaps the most inclusive and yet simplest approach to overall stress management. Hundreds of books and thousands of pages have been written about this ancient teaching and I do encourage a deeper inquiry into these approaches if desired, but the fundamental teaching is to be practicing mindfulness in our daily lives. To truly be aware of where we are, what we are doing, and how we are feeling so that we have the opportunity to begin to peel back the layers of stress that may engulf and distract us in our daily lives. These ancient steps are reminders of how to maintain balance mentally, emotionally, and physically, so that we can cultivate the deep wells and agile flexibility of emotional resilience.


Written by:
Matthew Mattox, L.Ac., A.P., Dipl. O.M, earned a Masters of Traditional Chinese Medicine from Five Branches University. He has practiced in Santa Cruz, CA with a focus on Sports Medicine and is currently practicing in Jacksonville, FL where he combines Chinese Medicine and Functional Medicine to provide integrated holistic care for his patients. Learn more about his practice at



Hanh, T. (1998). The Heart of the Buddha’s Teachings. 51-118.
Maciocia, G. (2005). The Foundations of Chinese Medicine. 84-88, 99-101
Sult, T., Roundtree, R. (2016). Institute for Functional Medicine. Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice Lecture Series.