Gua Sha

Gua Sha is a traditional healing technique in East Asian medicine. It is used widely in Vietnamese, Indian and Indonesian cultures as well as in Traditional Chinese Medicine. The name Gua Sha is taken from the classical text, The Shang Han Lun, 220 CE and translates to “scraping – bruises”.

In a typical Gua Sha treatment the surface of the body is pressed and stroked with a smooth edged instrument, like a spoon, coin, or egg, to raise therapeutic petechiae. Petechiae, or bruising, appears as small red or purple spots on the skin which is a result of minor bleeding due to broken capillary blood vessels.

Practitioners use Gua Sha to release stagnation, pain and heat that is trapped in the body. By scraping the muscle or meridian, blood flow increases and toxins and heat are released. The amount of bruising or sha present after a treatment clues the practitioner in to how much stagnation is released.

I utilize gua sha therapy in the clinic to reduce pain, increase well-being and reduce stress. At home I use gua sha on my children if they have a fever or are tense in their shoulders (they are always doing gymnastics and jiu jitsu).

Even this past week I had the opportunity to use gua sha to treat my 9 year-old who was suffering from a headache and 104 degree fever. I typically try to avoid NSAIDS and let their fevers run their course.

My treatment included starting with a warm bath and then slowly added cooler water so the temperature dropped slowly as not to give her the shivers. I avoided wetting the hair. After she was dry and clothed I laid her down on the living room floor and had her pull up her shirt to expose her back and neck.

I applied some light oil – I like to use aromatic oils to reduce fevers – like something with a hint of mint or eucalyptus – to her upper back.

Occasionally I use castor oil too which, has immune boosting properties. I then took the lid off of a jelly jar and began doing Gua Sha to her upper back. I held the lid in my right hand and applied short and quick strokes along her upper back.

I spent a lot of time at the area right at the base of her spine scraping the cutaneous skin. In Traditional Chinese medicine the spot below C-7 called Daizhu or DU 14, because of its fever reducing property.

Because she is young I kept the pressure very light and avoided getting a lot of sha or bruising. I spent about 10-minutes on her back and then covered her quickly with a towel and then had her get dressed immediately to avoid catching chill.

Her temperature lowered significantly and her pain was markedly reduced. Her color returned to her face. She reported feeling really calm and relaxed and asked me to do it again!

We continued this treatment 2 x over the next two days until she was back doing cartwheels instead of walking.


The Power of Mugwort and its Role in Traditional Medicine


Moxibustion, or Moxa for short, is a Traditional Chinese Medicinal Therapy using dried Mugwort.  The tips of the mugwort plant are pulverized into a fluffy substance which is then burned over specific points on the body to promote healing.

Mugwort or Artemisa Vulgaris in Latin, has a long history in Traditional Medicine and has been used throughout China, Tibet, Korea and Japan. Additionally, mugwort is regarded as a sacred plant of divination and spiritual healing by traditional people of North and South America.

All of the parts of the plant can be utilized; leaves are consumed as tea or added to food and according to medieval practices, placed under pillows for dream enhancement. Mugwort was also referred to as a traveler’s herb and was traditionally used to strengthen and protect travelers. Additionally, Chinese Folklore recommends draping a bunch over the door to promote health for the entire year.

Mugowort can be spotted popping up between sidewalk cracks and along the side of highways. Mugwort is all over New York City.

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Mugwort apparently thrives in the urban jungle. 

In Notes on Bian Que’s Moxibustion, it says, “When a healthy man often has moxibustion to the points guanyuan, qihai,mingmen, and zhongwan, he would live a very long life, at least one hundred years.”




Moxibustion is a panacea. Moxibustion has the power to travel to all of the channels of the body, which means that moxa can systemically warm the body and stimulate circulation.

Moxibustion Uses:

  • Moxibustion treats “cold conditions”, which may manifest as pain, reduced circulation and arthritis.
  • Moxibustion has an ability to support the immune system and decrease inflammation, this makes moxa useful for the treatment of chronic illnesses, fatigue, allergies and lowered immunity.
  • Additionally, moxa has the special ability to guide to the uterus. Often called a “woman’s herb” moxa is effective for the treatment of delayed, painful and irregular menses.
  • Turn breech babies. This is an empirical usage for moxibustion and have been proven an effective treatment for cephalic positioning in numerous clinical trials.

Moxibustion for Fertility:

Moxa is considered an emmengogue, which means an herb that stimulates blood flow to the uterus.

Moxa is particularly useful for treating “cold” reproductive health conditions that manifest as:

  • Irregular menses
  • Painful, clotty periods
  • Stagnation

Cold, stagnant conditions could be considered endometriosis, fibroids and cysts in the allopathic paradigm.

Using pole moxa or direct moxa over the uterus brings warmth and Qi into the organ. Blood flow quickly increases and pain diminishes.

A moxa box can also be utilized. Moxa box is literally a box stuffed with fresh moxa and burned over the abdomen. This can help concentrate the warming powers of moxa into the uterus.

Types of Moxibustion

Indirect Moxibustion:


Indirect moxa can be applied by using Pole Moxa. Moxa is pressed and rolled into sticks that are waved over the acupuncture points or regions of the body. Pole moxa comes in smokey and smokeless forms. Smokeless Pole moxa is useful for pregnant women.

Sticky Moxa:

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Stick-on moxa is a great modern day product created in Japan, Korea and China. The base is a self-adhesive to the treatment point.

“Warming Needle”:

  • Fresh moxa is rolled into a ball and placed in the end of an acupuncture needle and lit. This drives the heat into the acupuncture needle, which is transmitted deeply into the acupuncture point.
  • “Shish-kebob moxa” are pre-rolled cones of moxa that can be applied to the tip of the needle.IMG_1457

Direct Moxibustion:

A practitioner will roll small balls otherwise known as ‘Rice Grain Moxa” and place them directly on the skin, typically over a salve to prevent accidental burning. The moxa is often lit with a stick of incense and removed when hot.

Additionally moxa can be pressed into cones that are also applied to the skin and lit.

Additional Techniques:

  • Ginger Moxa:

To enhance the warming power of moxa, direct moxa can be burned over a slice of ginger on the navel. This technique is particularly effective for stomach and intestinal conditions like diarrhea and nausea.

  • Salt moxa:

Burning direct moxa over sea salt in the umbilicus is another way to deeply warm the core of the body. This is very effective for the treatment of lowered immunity, hypothyroid and GI issues such as diarrhea.

Mugwort Leaf, Ai Ye:

The leaves of the Mugwort plant are also used medicinally in Traditional Chinese Medicine. This herb, called Ai Ye is typically added to a customized formula to bring warmth to the uterus.


Pole Moxa:

  • Light the pole
  • Hold the pole approximately 1.5″ from the skin. Make small circles with the pole or a pecking motion with the pole.
  • Do not touch the skin.
  • Heat each point for 3-10 Minutes.
  • Extinguish in a mason jar.
  • Do not attempt direct moxa at home.

Acupuncture Points Recommended:

zusanli (ST-36): 

Frequent moxibustion on zusanli can invigorate the spleen and stomach, assist in digestion and strengthen the body. 

Shenque (Ren-8): Frequent moxibustion on this point can tonify Qi and strengthen the body.

zhongwan (Ren-12):  Frequent moxibustion on this point can tonify Qi and strengthen the body.

yongquan (KI-1): Frequent moxibustion at this point can strengthen the body and contribute to longevity, for it replenishes the kidney and invigorates yang. When using moxa sticks for moxibustion, it should last 3-5 minutes, and in the case of using moxa cones, 3-7 cones are usually needed each time.

For Turning a Breech Baby:

Use smokeless moxa at UB 67, the lateral tip of the pinky toe for 10 minutes on each side daily. Start between 34 weeks and 38 weeks for best results.

Healing Acute Ear Infections Naturally (Otitis Media)

Anyone who has suffered from an earache can tell you that they are awful. Both for the parent and the child. Up all night wailing and holding their little ears…this kind of pain isn’t for the weak. Fortunately, acute ear infections usually come on fast and furiously and hopefully with correct treatment, retreat just as quickly. p8061392-e1367936849158

The Science: What exactly is Otitis Media? Otitis media refers to inflammation of the middle ear. This happens when a cold, allergy, or upper respiratory infection, and the presence of bacteria or a virus  lead to the accumulation of pus and mucus behind the eardrum, blocking the Eustachian tube.

Incidence: Acute and chronic ear infections account for 15 to 30 million visits to the doctor each year in the U.S.

Otitis media with effusion: OME is the chronic build up of fluid behind the ears that creates pressure and can affect hearing. This often causes the eardrum to bulge outwards and sounds may become more muffled. This is the most common reason children undergo surgery to receive ear grommets or tubes to release the fluid build up. I am not sure about you but I thought Grommets were little surfer dudes?

Earaches & Traditional Chinese Medicine:

TCM looks at earaches a bit differently. While Western medicine mainly observes external causes, Traditional medicine investigates both internal and external causes of disease.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine there are three main reasons why a child would have an earache:

1) An external attack of wind, heat or cold entering the ear. Translation: virus or bacteria.

2) Internal causes of earaches are usually heat or cold accompanied by dampness. Translation: diet, stress, lifestyle and anatomical differences can all affect how one responds to a pathogen.

3 ) Lingering Pathogenic Factor. Translation: repeated bouts of antibiotics, a lingering virus that has never completely cleared like Lyme, or from a vaccine.

One major culprit for earaches is systemic inflammation.

Inflammation can cause a swelling of the tonsils, sinuses, adenoids, lymph nodes and parotid gland. This creates an obstruction and fluid builds up which often leads to infection. Inflammation also slows down the healing process.

How does inflammation occur?

External causes:

  • Dietary factors such as dairy, wheat, gluten, artificial colors and sweeteners.
  • Allergies to animals, dander, mold, pollen, grass, pesticides, hormones
  • Cigarette smoke

Internal causes:

  • Emotional volatility and stress can lead to stagnation which impedes blood flow and circulation.
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Overuse of antibiotics
  • Obesity

Chronic ear infections may present with:

  • Hearing loss
  • Milder pain
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness

Supplementing your child’s treatment at home:

Dietary therapy: It is important to immediately look at the child’s diet. There may be an allergy to dairy or wheat that is contributing to phlegm accumulation.

Try a challenge by removing an offender ( I would start with cows milk ) for two weeks and see if you see a reduction in symptoms. Reintroduce the milk two weeks later in a small dosage and see if the symptoms return or get worse.

If there are no changes then try eliminating wheat and then sugar.

Adding supplements and foods:

  • Quercitin: I found a great Vitamin C and Quercitin powder by Designs for Heath that works seamlessly into a smoothie. Note this is very tart.
  • Bee pollen (high in quercitin and flavinoids)
  • Bee Propolis: cant say it tastes great but worth a try.
  • Boswellia (AKA Frankincense) & Myrrh: The OG of anti-inflammitories.
  • Omega fish oil: I like Nordic Naturals. They are very tasty. Just make sure to floss afterwards as gummies are notorious cavity makers.
  • Turmeric

Probiotics to boost the immune system and help fight against dampness and phlegm. Klaire labs makes a great powdered probiotic. I find it very easy to slip the powdered probiotics seamlessly into smoothies and yogurt. My kids hated the chewable kind but my husband liked them so that was easy.

Herbal Therapy: Jia Jian Xiao Chai Hu Tang. Please check in with your acupuncturist about this classic formula.

Rub Castor oil along the lymph nodes around the throat and neck. I like to apply this at night with a little massage on the nape of the neck. Because castor oil is so goupy I make sure to put on old towel on the pillow and tie up my kid’s hair.

Acupressure: the goal is to clear heat and relieve pressure.

Try these acupressure points. I would apply a light tapping pressure with a small spoon.

Treat acute pain:
Acupressure on SJ 5
Gallbladder 41
Large intestine 11
Large intestine 4

  • Cranio Sacral Therapy
  • Chiropractic
  • Shonishin treatment is a great way to reduce the pain and swelling around the ear. Make an appointment with your acupuncturist.

Sometimes that pain is so intense that any sensation around the ear feels like torture. For these I avoid the local area and focus on these points on the arms and feet.


Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and Traditional Chinese Medicine


What is PCOS?

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (abbreviated PCOS or PCO), also known clinically as Stein-Leventhal syndrome, is an endocrine disorder that affects approximately one in ten women. PCOS affects all races and nationalities and is the most common hormonal disorder among women of reproductive age.

The principal features of PCOS are lack of regular ovulation and/or menstruation, weight gain and excessive amounts or the effects of androgenic hormones. While the causes are unknown, insulin resistance, obesity and diabetes are all strongly correlated with PCOS. There is also a strong genetic component. One of the main clinical signs of PCOS is the observation of numerous follicles in the periphery ovaries, often referred to as having the appearance of a “string of pearls”. Interestingly polycystic women ovulate much more frequently when they are underweight which might be an evolutionary trick to keep the population going in times of famine.

Symptoms of Typical PCOS:

  • Oligomenorrhea (irregular menstruation), amenorrhea (no menstruation)
  • Hirsutism (excessive body hair)
  • Dyspareunia-pain during intercourse
  • Acne
  • Dark patches of skin
  • LH: FSH ratio 2:1 instead of 1:1
  • Insulin resistance
  • Prolonged PMS

If you have read Jill Blaeway’s book, Making Babies you would identify this pattern with Waterlogged, Tired and/or Stuck. Usually when I treat classical PCOS I immediately reduce all sugary foods and simple carbohydrates. Women are much more likely to ovulate with a reduction in weight, just a 5% reduction can help tremendously. Additionally I strengthen the Spleen and Kidneys and provide herbs to induce ovulation by reducing dampness and phlegm.

How Typical Ovulation Works:

At about cycle day three Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) is released from the brain that sends a message to the ovaries to grow an egg. Many eggs “hear” the message and grow in response to the hormone. As the eggs grow they secrete estrogen. The bigger the egg, the more estrogen it secretes. Once one egg gets large enough and secretes a high enough level of estrogen it turns off the FSH. This prevents the body from releasing too many eggs in one cycle. At this point Lutenizing Hormone (LH) is secreted and the egg ruptures from the follicle causing ovulation. The corpus luteum that surrounds the egg begins to secrete progesterone and more estrogen.

PCOS and Anovulation:

Women with PCOS usually have a cluster of cysts in the ovaries as detected by transvaginal ultrasound in addition to a set of symptoms. This little cluster of eggs secretes enough estrogen to tell the body to turn off the follicle stimulating hormone but they are not large enough to ovulate. This creates a stalemate between the ovaries and the brain and no ovulation occurs. In this situation there is an abundance of estrogen and testosterone floating around the system but very low levels of progesterone.

“New PCOS”

Lately I have seen a rise in women diagnosed with PCOS as determined by cysts on their ovaries but they do not have the aforementioned symptoms. Interestingly this group presents entirely differently from the original PCOS group that I have both studied and treated extensively. This “new” group appears entirely different. These women tend to be very thin (not anorexic thin, as low leptin and fat levels can also inhibit ovulation), just typical “New York thin” if you will. Another remarkable factor is long-term birth control pill usage. I usually discover that the women had regular cycles before going on the birth control pill but after taking the pill for 10-18 years consecutively they are having difficulty ovulating after stopping the pill.

Commonly observed new PCOS:

  • Observable cysts on the ovaries
  • Long term birth control pill usage
  • Prolonged PMS
  • Digestive complaints like reflux, IBS
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Light or no flow on the BCP
  • Anxiety
  • Poor sleep

I find myself tapping my pencil about this on a weekly basis… Did the birth control pill have the effect on the ovaries or was the condition already present but masked due to years of anovulatory cycles? Have the ovaries been trying to ovulate for 10+ years? The findings seem to suggest that there is a link between the birth control pill and polycystic ovaries in cases where the hormone levels are normal and there are metabolic issues such as sensitivity to glucose.

Traditional Chinese Medicine and Typical PCOS:

As always we treat conditions based upon the symptoms in addition to information gleaned from ultrasounds and lab work. This “New group” is already thin and in our medicine, I find them to be Blood Deficient, Yin Deficient and Stagnant aka Pale Type, Dry Type and Stuck Type. Treatment is geared towards nourishing and moving Qi and Nourishing Blood and Yin. Typical solutions are providing an herbal formula to help regulate progesterone and estrogen levels. Vitex Chastetree is a singular herb that I prescribe to take daily. I also do a lot of acupuncture points and herbs to clear stagnation and help rid the body of the excess estrogen floating around. Another good way to do this is by adding Probiotics to make sure the colon is clearing out excess estrogen. I have had a lot of success helping women resume ovulatory cycles. Depending on the severity of the condition it can take a 3-12 months to regulate a cycle. If you are looking to get pregnant quickly, PCOS responds very well to Assisted Reproductive Technology and can be a effective way to get things moving. We do however suggest three months of treatment to help adjust the hormone levels in the body so the eggs that are stimulated are more hormonally balanced.

All in the Family, Shonishin Pediatric Massage for You and Yours

Shonishin pediatric massage is a Japanese treatment that uses small tools to tap, rub,  press, scratch and stroke the body’s skin. Shonishin translates to “Children’s Needle” although primarily used for children, Shonishin massage can be applied to anyone.


Traditional Shonishin pediatric massage became widely popularized in the 20th century in Japan. Unlike traditional acupuncture, Shonishin focuses on massage rather than needle insertion. Shonishin tools made of silver, stainless steel, bronze and even gold. Many of the tools have cute names and resemble objects like the “bug” and the “rake”.

Shonishin massage is a pragmatic system of treatment with minimal theory needed to apply treatment. Children are highly receptive to treatment and love it! Since the treatment is harmless,  I usually let the children apply a bit of massage to themselves and even to me.

Other treatments that are used in conjunction with shonishin massage are the application of light cupping on the body to release stuck energy and/or heat. Cupping was popularized in America by in image of Gwyneth Paltrow wearing a backless gown exposing purple colored circles on her back. Unlike Ms. Paltrow’s treatment cupping on children is very gentle and leaves little to no markings.

To supplement the massage a practitioner may insert a few acupuncture pins. Depending on the child’s age the pins are usually not retained rather the pin is inserted and withdrawn in a painless way that the children barely know what happened. Additionally, ear seeds little gold or silver balls backed with tape or tiny press tacks can be left on the acupressure points for up to 48 hours to strengthen the treatment.

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Painless Press Tacks placed on San Jiao 5, for earache (left). San Jiao 17 and Gallbladder 20 for earache and congestion (right).

I started my search into Shonishin massage because I was on the hunt to find a non-invasive way to treat my daughter’s enlarged tonsils. She contracted mononucleosis in Pre-K and since then her tonsils remained enlarged. Although she didn’t report feeling sick she failed her hearing test in Kindergarten.  An ENT suggested surgery or hearing aids.  I was devastated and I felt terribly guilty that I let her catch mono in the first place!!! (No one said being a mom came with rational thinking).

Before embarking on surgery I decided to do 30-Day intense treatment that included acupressure, neck massage, acupuncture, homeopathy, dietary changes, moxibustion and castor oil packs on her neck. Her hearing completely improved and she did remarkably well on her hearing test. Overall, she is stronger and more resilient. Her pediatrician was impressed.

One of the greatest elements  of  Shonishin pediatric massage is the ability to teach parents how to continue treatment at home. This not only expedites the healing process but can  help parents feel more connected to recovery.

In the clinical setting and at home Shonishin pediatric massage is a great complimentary therapy for any child. Please have all children evaluated by their pediatrician first as Shonishin provides an excellent complimentary treatment to Western medicine.  Children love treatment and you may find yourself getting a little massage yourself from your little one!

Tapping # 1 Back of the Body

Tapping # 2 Front of Body

Stroking #3 Front and Back

Dietary Therapy & Acupuncture for Candidiasis

Dietary Therapy & Acupuncture for Candidiasis

Traditional Chinese Medicine (acupuncture, herbs and dietary therapy) is a great way to treat Candida overgrowth. In Chinese medicine we view candida as a condition exacerbated and created by dampness. In a simple way, one can think of it as a pooling of fluids in the wrong places (in this case the GI or urinary tract). Simple dietary adjustments as well as acupuncture to help irrigate the body’s meridians properly can help regulate this pattern.


What is Candida?

Candida is an organism that is generally colonized in the GI tract and skin. Candida results when an overgrowth of a common yeast, C. albicans, becomes over abundant on the intestinal of gentio-urinary tract. Women are frequently affected with vaginal candidiasis-especially after anti-biotic treatment.

In Chinese medicine candida is related to dampness.

General signs and symptoms of dampness are:
•    Feelings of heaviness and sluggishness
•    Mental dullness
•    Fatigue
•    Possible yeast infections
•    Edema
•    Eczema
•    Excess mucus

Candida overgrowth symptoms:
•    Mental sluggishness
•    Chronic vaginitis
•    Bloating & digestive problems
•    Mucus in the stools
•    Frequent colds
•    Sweet cravings
•    Lowered immunity
•    Fungal infections
•    Scattered, unfocused mind
•    Allergies to foods and environmental substances

Causes of Candida:

  • Damp generating foods: sweets, cold foods, stale or rancid foods (like old nuts), fermented products, alcoholic beverages, yeasted breads,
  • Excess raw foods
  • Chronic worry and stress weakens the digestive system making
  • Oral contraceptives
  • Antibiotic use

Moderating the effects of antibiotics:

  • Take an acidophilis culture
  • Raw sauerkraut
  • Deep green vegetables
  • Barley grass

Dietary Modifications to control Candidiasis:
Grains: Millet, roasted buckwheat groats, rye, oats, barley, amanranth, quinoa
Legumes: adzuki and mung beans

Starchy vegetables:
Avoid sweet potatoes and potatoes add: carrots, parsnips, beets

Avoid refined sugar and artificial sweetners

Raw goats milk, fish, free range animal products

Parsley, kale, collards, chard, watercress, romaine lettuce, cabbage
Microalgae: barley grass, wheat grass, -best in powdered form

Raw saltless sauerkraut, seaweeds, garlic,
Flaxseed oil & olive oil
Kelp and seaweed-contain selenium which, is important for building immunity.