The seasons

Winter & Ròu guì

Article by Bob Malecki R.TCM.P

It is the season of moving inward, and downward. Of darkness, and stillness. Of cold and … warmth? Yes, warmth!

In the depths of winter, a small flame trudges on inside you and we must nurture and preserve it. It is the yang within yin. Without feeding our inner fire, the cold of the winter can leave us chilled and shivering, cold and lethargic, weak and fearful.

We must eat warm cooked meals and bundle up inside and out. What do we do if that cold has already moved inside, and we are chilled to the bones? Then we will need stronger medicine than food, we will need herbal medicine. There are many herbs that are hot and warm, so how do we choose? With Chinese herbal medicine great care is taken when prescribing medicinals, each patient is unique and presents with very nuanced symptoms. One herb may be irritating for one patient, and a perfect match for another.

I want to introduce a herb that is very important this time of the year.

Ròu Guì – Cinnamomum cassia or “Cinnamon bark”

The Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica written by Bensky et al says this herb is acrid, sweet and hot. It says that the herb enters the Heart, Kidney, Liver and Spleen channels of the body. Key functions include warming and tonifying yang, disperses cold and promotes the movement of blood.

Acrid also means pungent, or spicy. This combined with the sweet flavour has the ability to nourish the yang of the body. Acrid moves outward like branches of bamboo growing up towards the sun. The sweet flavour has the ability to build and nourish.

Yang is the inner fire inside of us, it is the metabolic processes happening on a cellular level, it is what keeps things moving and warm. Yin is the material, the substance that exists as matter, as fluid, as structure. Yin is also cold, and too much yin can create cold in the body. This can manifest as loose stools, poor appetite, chills, cold hands and feet, sharp pain, arthritis, and more. Ròu Guì has the ability to combat these symptoms with yang and when combined with other herbs. Cold contracts, it causes things to become still. When the blood slows in the body it can create pain in the muscles, joints and organs – especially the heart. Ròu Guì warms and moves the blood, to treat these pains and bring fresh nourishment to the tissues, and channels. It has an affinity for the Heart, Kidney, Liver and Spleen channels – but must be combined with other herbs to have an outstanding effect on any one of them. Chinese herbal medicine relies heavily on herbal pairing and formula building. Rarely ever do we use one herb at a time.

If you are interested in ròu guì or Chinese herbal medicine, you can book a free consultation with me and we can find out if herbal medicine is right for you!

The seasons

Healing Foods for Winter: Rice Congee recipe

Article by Allie Franczak, RAc

Rice congee is a traditional and highly nourishing Chinese breakfast used for healing since the Han Dynasty (206 BCE). 

For those not familiar with congee, it is a rice porridge made with 1 cup of jasmine rice and between 6-9 cups of water or stock (depending on your preference for consistency). The rice is cooked until it breaks down into a porridge (approximately 40 minutes – 1 hour on stovetop or overnight in a slow cooker). I like to use chicken stock or bone broth for flavour. Think oatmeal but savoury and made with rice instead of oats. 

Congee is prescribed when Spleen Qi – the energy that propels digestion and the production of qi and blood – needs to be replenished. It is great for those with chronic illness, digestive issues (diarrhea or constipation), postpartum or simply for those who are stressed or overworked. 

This is also a wonderful breakfast for those who skip breakfast because they don’t have time or aren’t hungry first thing in the morning. In Chinese diet therapy, we encourage patients to eat a small and simple meal first thing in the morning to get the digestive system moving. Rice congee is easy to digest and simple in flavour which makes it a great option for people who tend to skip breakfast. 

Why is congee so healing? It is particularly beneficial for the stomach and intestines as it is gentle and breaks down easily. Traditionally, chopped green onion is added after cooking as well as freshly-grated ginger. This is hugely supportive to the Spleen Qi and also helps to warm the Kidney Yang. It is wonderful for the digestive system, helps combat fatigue and boosts immunity. It is so nourishing because the warmth of this meal supports normal Spleen function even in times when the Kidney’s may be weakened. 


Any congee will strengthen Spleen qi and digestion, but depending on your taste and goals you may consider adding in any of the following: 

  • Vegetables such as spinach and boy choy will support a healthy liver function
  • Eggs, meat, dark coloured berries or beets will build blood
  • Cardamon, ginger, and cinnamon will support the lungs, clear phlegm and aid digestion
  • Nuts and seeds will nourish yin, generate fluids, and helps with symptoms such as hot flashes or dry cough

Try starting your winter mornings with this simple yet nourishing meal. You can make a large batch and re-heat in the mornings on the stove top by adding a bit of water or stock. 

You’ll be amazed at how well your digestive system responds by adding this into your morning routine.

The seasons

Hello Summer!!

Article by Allie Franczak

Summer is the season of yang and fire. Everything is in full bloom and we take the time to enjoy all the summer activities that this season brings . Get outdoors, and get moving – but don’t forget to replenish and recharge yourself with lots of water and cooling foods. 

In TCM, the organs that go hand in hand with summer are the Heart and Small Intestine. The Heart is considered to be the most important of all the internal organs. Sometimes described as the ‘ruler,’ ‘emperor’ or ‘monarch,’ the Heart regulates our emotions, houses the mind (shen), and is the organ of joy and laughing. 

The Small Intestine separates the pure from the impure. This works on a physical, emotional and mental level! A healthy small intestine channel gives us the ability to clearly see our choices and make decisions. It gives us the power to extract what is good and discard the rest.

Acupuncture Points to Support the Heart and Small Intestine

Small Intestine 11 (SI-11) – Heavenly Ancestor: Located on the centre of the scapula, this is one of the most important spirit points on the Small Intestine channel. This point is used to help clear the internal mental and spiritual chaos of someone who has lost clarity and certainty. This point opens the chest and calms an anxious heart . 

Heart 7 (HT 7) – Spirit Gate: This point is located on the wrist, and is an important point for emotional issues such as anxiety and worry. It is also good for those struggling with insomnia, poor memory, depression, or lack of libido.

Heart 7 (HT 7)

How to Keep your Fire Organs Healthy according to TCM

  • Stay active – try some yoga, Qigong or Tai Chi, or any activity that makes your heart sing!
  • Healthy diet – red foods help nourish the heart by making up for the loss of yang or fire energy in the body. Some healthy foods for your heart includes tomatoes, beets, cherries, red beans, watermelon, apples and strawberries. Try the smoothie listed below from 
  • Quit smoking – since the hearts function depends on the health of your lungs, now is a good time to quit smoking. You can look to your herbalist for astragalus, which helps with the anxiety that can often come with quitting smoking. 
  • Develop good sleeping habits and get a good quality sleep – after a long, hot day outside, make sure to get lots of good sleep at night to balance levels of yin and yang. 
  • Control your stress levels – The heart houses the shen which is often translated as “mind” or “spirit.” The shen is thought to regulate your emotions, consciousness and other mental functions. When your shen is healthy, you are able to think clearly and rationally, feel calm and peaceful, and cultivate healthy relationships with other people. Try some meditation, stillness or practice joy through singing or dancing.
  • Laugh – the sound of summer is laughter.  Watch more comedies, tell silly jokes, find a laughing yoga class (yes that’s a thing!), do the things that make you laughand your heart with thank you.

Chinese Herbs to Tonify the Heart

There are many great formulas out there to help bring balance to the heart including a few of our favourites from Dao Labs.  Physical Tranquility helps to relax and cool a restless body for a more peaceful sleep by supplementing the yin in the heart and kidneys.  Mental Tranquility calms an active mind and improves mental awareness by nourishing the heart and spleen qi. 

Magical Moon Medicinals also has an amazing line of bath salts and bombs that include Chinese herbs.  If you’re not into ingesting your herbs, then why not enjoy a bath and let them soak in through your skin. The passion soak can e used to calm the spirit, get blood moving, help nurture connection through self love and/ or romantic love, bring more passion into your life and encourage your heart to open to love.


This smoothie is beautifully bright and red in colour which will nourish the heart and blood. The berries are perfect for cooling for the body during the summer months. 

  • 1 cup plant milk (oat, hemp, rice, almond, soy) or coconut water
  • 1 frozen banana 
  • 1 small beet (washed, peeled and cut into sixths)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen strawberries
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon hemp seeds, honey to taste

Live in the sunshine. Swim in the sea. Drink in the wild air.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson
The seasons

Dive into Spring with TCM

It’s time.

We are shedding our winter coats and emerging refreshed into spring. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, spring is the time to stretch our limbs, and channel our newly stored winter energy into growth.

In TCM, the organs that go hand in hand with spring are the Liver, the Yin and the Gallbladder, the Yang. These organs play pivotal roles in tendon, eye and nail health. Your Liver is where blood and emotions flow through, so any imbalances can cause an emotional buildup. It’s paired with your Gallbladder, which not only secretes bile but is a source of inspiration, planning and dreams. When you work to heal and restore these functions, you will notice a shift in your mood. On the flip side, if you are out of balance, you may find yourself experiencing irritability, anger or forgetfulness.

The spring season is the time to begin to utilize our regenerated Qi. We may find ourselves making changes and having emotional breakthroughs. Imagine you are a flower, this is the time to bloom through the cold hardness of winter into a fresh and clear spring. A few ways to help get your energy moving smoothly are:

  • Getting outdoors, soaking in nature
  • Spring cleaning your home/spaces
  • Regular exercise and stretching
  • Saunas/Steaming
  • Practice spontaneity

Keep yourself de-stressed and focused with regular acupuncture, cupping and meditation. Spring is a great time to plan, journal and manifest your desired goals. You’ll feel an uptick in creativity, along with energy and mood which is perfect for taking on that big clean you’ve been dreaming of doing, or starting a new project. Paint the house, turn your shed into a hangout spot, prep your garden and lean in to this shift!

Our favourite acupuncture point for this season is GB34. This Gallbladder point is perfect to kick start the flow of Liver Qi to ease stress and give you motivation. It’s a great point to help deal with tendon or ligament pain so you can get moving this season without that standing in your way!

What you put into your body also shifts with the seasons. We’re leaving behind the warming, heavier meals of winter and switching it up to lighter meals, slowly incorporating raw foods. “Detoxifying” foods are recommended for these months to help aid in Liver function. We love this recipe from Natural Harmony TCM


1 apple

¼ inch piece of ginger

1 beetroot, washed and stem removed

2 large carrots


Juice Blender

Glass for serving


1) Wash and remove stem of the beetroot.

2) Put all ingredients into a blender.

3) Blend, pour, enjoy!


Beetroot is the perfect food to improve your circulation, by tonifying blood flow and preventing blood stagnation. Beetroot also benefits the large intestine and digestive system overall, as the large intestine is responsible for filtering good fluid from bad and removing the bad from the body. Ginger also benefits the body through its warming qualities, particularly for the lungs, spleen and stomach. Through the warm nature of ginger, blood flow is encouraged and in turn improves circulation! (from natural harmony TCM)

If you don’t have a juicer, use a high power blender and strain through cheesecloth for easy at home juice!

Some more foods to incorporate are:

  • Arugula
  • Basil
  • Bay leaves
  • Beet
  • Black sesame seeds
  • Broccoli
  • Broccoli Rabe
  • Cardamom
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Chives
  • Coconut milk
  • Complex carbohydrates (brown rice, millet, potatoes, amaranth, etc.)
  • Cucumber
  • Daikon
  • Dill
  • Grapefruit
  • Green Tea
  • Legumes
  • Lemon

We love living on Vancouver Island surrounded by amazing places to explore. Some of our absolute favourites for Comox Valley Locals to explore are Rosewall Creek, Trent River, Goose Spit and so many more. Check out All Trails for even more amazing spots to explore while staying safe and close to home!

We wish you a happy Spring, and be sure to book your acupuncture appointments ASAP to get ready!

The seasons

Embracing Winter with Traditional Chinese Medicine.

We’ve all felt it. The deep need to lay low, stay cozy and rest when the temperature drops. The urge to hibernate. In TCM, Winter is the time to take a pause, reflect inward and regenerate energy for the coming Spring. Your kidneys and bladder are the stars of this season, they are the source of your most basic and fundamental energy, your Jing.  Kidneys are the Yin organ while your Urinary Bladder is the Yang. They play a huge role in fluid regulation. With each new season comes it’s corresponding element, for winter this means water. Meaning when your energy isn’t flowing optimally, you will really feel it. The deep watery depths of winter help us replenish what we have put out that year. Water brings all the elements back around, and emphasises this time for self reflection.

So, what can you do to bring TCM into your life this Winter?

To start, you can take a look in your kitchen. So much of our health begins with the food we put into our bodies. It’s found best to avoid cold, raw foods and to instead focus on warming foods that will help generate energy, rather than deplete it. Eating cold foods in cold seasons means your body will be working extra hard to generate warmth. A good place to start is with using seasonal foods, things that naturally are harvested or used during the Winter. 

Some of our favourites include:


-Root Vegetables

-Bone broth

-Black or Kidney Beans

-Sweet Potato

-Whole grains

-Dark leafy greens






You can create a multitude of delicious meals using local, seasonal foods, such as hearty soups, roasted vegetables, golden mylk and so much more. It’s best to avoid excessive salt, while consuming warm water and teas throughout the day. 

Here’s an easy  bone broth recipe to help get you through these colder months.

Bone Broth


  • 3 pounds bones (chicken, beef, pork, lamb etc.)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 12 cups water
  • 2 bay leafs
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • finely ground real salt


  1. Heat the oven to 400 F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Arrange the bones on the baking sheet, and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Next, roast them for 30 minutes, or until slightly brown. Turn half-way through to promote even cooking.
  3. Using a pair of kitchen tongs, transfer the bones to a heavy stock pot. Pour in the wine and water. Drop in the bay leaves and peppercorns. 
  4. Bring the pot to a boil over medium-high heat, and then immediately turn the heat down to low. Simmer, uncovered, at least 8 hours and up to 16 hours. Skim any foam that appears at the surface of the broth.
  5. Strain the broth, and season it with fine sea salt as you like it. Serve immediately, or pour into jars to store in the fridge for up to 1 week and in the freezer up to 6 months.


For you + your home

Take a deep breath. It’s okay to rest. 

Winter is the time for inward energy, for self care and reflection. The quietness is welcoming to our strung out senses. We are now at the beginning of a new cycle, getting ready to blossom into spring. It can be hard to let go of our work stress and overstimulation in exchange for quiet inward reflection. Our nervous systems are overwhelmed and ready to slow things down. Some ways to help strengthen and grow your energy can be as simple as a nourishing oil hair mask and warm bath, or tuning in with meditation. Slow, stretching exercises pair well with winter, as it’s best to avoid too much strenuous activity. Just let your body move freely. Book that deep tissue massage you’ve been dreaming of and lean into relaxation. KI3 is one of the best winter acupressure points as its said to be the source point for the kidneys’ energetic system.

While our damp Island winters bring a little extra chill, try to stay warm, dry and cozy as much as possible. Dress for the season, including adding some extra layers and thick scarves to protect all areas of your body, but especially your shoulders and neck, from the cold. You can always take off layers if it gets too warm!

Remember, TCM is all about finding a balance in all aspects of your life. In Winter you should be focused on enriching yin and subduing yang. Making efforts to find just a little more balance with the elements in your body can go a long way towards better health and vitality.

Refer back to our Winter graphic for tips to keep yourself healthy in this fifth season.

Photos by Alessandra Vitozzi and The Collective Folk

The seasons

Awaken into Spring with Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine

Spring is here!!

Spring is the season of wood. Its color is green. Its energy is emerging and that of rebirth. Its taste is sour. It relates to the eyes. Its organs are the liver and gallbladder.

When the wood element is balanced there is harmony with nature. There is a clear vision of the future. Choices come through clearly using the lens of the past and seeing the possibilities ahead which will enable unclouded decision making.

When the wood element is out of balance there tends to be frustration, anger and confusion. There is a sense of feeling blocked and being stuck. There is no sense of growth or rebirth in the springtime. All ability for decision making has gone out the window. There may be headaches, brain fog, PMS, digestive issues, side body pain, vision problems and injuries.

To nourish the liver and gallbladder, to stay in harmony with the wood element, there are many simple things you can do. Start by incorporating plenty of leafy greens, fresh herbs and sour foods into your diet. Add lemon to everything, including your water every morning. Eat smaller meals to give your digestive organs a break. Make sure to stay hydrated. Avoid alcohol as much as possible, it tends to aggravate the liver. Find time to rest, to meditate and unplug, but don’t forget to stay active. Being active helps to spread that liver energy to avoid stagnation. Make sure to get plenty of sleep.

One of the best ways to stay balanced during these spring months is to surround yourself in nature. If you live in the city and can’t get to some trees make your home a forest. Surround yourself with house plants. Listen to nature sounds when you’re meditating or drifting off to sleep. Be creative, but be in nature.

You’ve hopefully been at rest over the winter months. You’ve been gathering your energy to burst out with new ideas and vibrant visions of what’s to come. You’ve been comfortable and cozy, but now the days are getting longer and brighter. There is new growth all around. It’s time to get out once again and rekindle the friendships you had put away. Now is the time to plant the seeds for what you’d like to see come to fruition. The possibilities are endless.

Chinese herbs to keep the liver happy

Xiao Yao San or Emotional Balance is a great and gentle formula to keep liver qi and the good vibes flowing all springtime long.

Acupuncture to keep the liver happy

Liver 3 (Taichong)

Located on the top of foot between the first and second metatarsal bones. Massaging this point aids in smoothing out liver qi, regulating liver blood, regulating menses, nourishing liver yin, calming excess liver yang, soothing liver fire, clearing and calming wind, calming the mind, reducing pain, and easing spasms. Press on this point while inhaling and release while exhaling. Do this for 3 minutes on each foot a few times a week to feel the full benefits.

Dandelion tea to detoxify the liver

Dandelions are packed with nutrients and antioxidants that can boost your health. Every part of the plant from dandelion roots and dandelion leaves to the vibrant dandelion flowers is edible. The leaves are often used in salads and cooking and have a mildly bitter taste. Bitter foods have a cleansing effect on your liver. However, dandelion root is even more beneficial to your liver because it is extremely bitter.

Dandelions are a good source of fiber to aide in streamlining digestion. The leaves of the dandelion plant contain more protein than spinach, making it a good choice post-workout.

Dandelion roots are often used to make tea and boast significant health benefits. They contain high levels of potassium, calcium, and phosphorous. Magnesium in dandelion root helps to relax muscles and alleviate pain. Dandelion root works as a diuretic and detoxifier, purifying the entire body. It can increase the flow of bile through the liver and biliary tract. It can be a mild laxative.

To start your tea go out to the yard and harvest a bunch of dandelions. Once you have gathered enough roots, take them to the kitchen. Wash them thoroughly and pick off the fibrous stringy bits. Rinse them again and then cut into small pieces. You want them ¼ – ½ inch pieces or smaller.

Place on a roasting pan and bake at 250 degrees for 2 hours.  Flip after one hour to make sure all the sides are roasted.  Once they are cooked try to chop them even smaller.

Put your root pieces or powder in a tea infuser and steep for about 20 minutes. When you are making tea you never want to steep the tea in boiling water. You should bring the water to a boil and then let it sit for a few minutes before adding your diffuser or tea bag.

The seasons

Staying Active this Summer with Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine

Summer is the season of yang. It is a time of joy, heat, and abundant energy. The days are long, filled with sunshine and there’s a feeling that anything is possible.

The abundance of the summer time yang energy also brings on summer time injuries. Sprains and strains are common at this time of year. They tend to go untreated and usually ignored. This can lead to further injury and develop into chronic pain. It’s important to rest and get proper treatment when an injury occurs. Treating the injury with acupuncture can help to reduce inflammation, increase blood circulation, decrease pain and prevent the development of chronic pain.

Overheating during the summer months can also be a problem. Eating smaller meals and cooling yin foods can help to prevent heat stroke or summer-heat which can keep you away from the fun yang activities. Some of the foods to include in your diet are watermelon, lemon, peaches, oranges, asparagus, sprouts, broccoli, cucumber, spinach, seaweed, cilantro, mint and dill.

Summer is also the season of the heart. In western terms, it’s a time to join in activities that pump oxygen rich blood through the body. In Eastern terms, it’s a time to nourish the spirit and engage in the things that bring joy to your life. Together this means to climb that mountain you’ve been wanting to climb, but make sure to take the time to enjoy the view and take care of yourself afterwards.

This summer focus on what you love. Whether it’s running, biking, kayaking or just being active in your community acupuncture will help you to feel better and perform better. Remember, anything is possible if you stay healthy this summer.

Cold Chrysanthemum Tea (For Quenching Thirst & Mild Sunstroke)

This is an ideal drink for hot summer days. As well as helping to prevent sunstroke it also clears Heat, benefits Qi, promotes body fluid secretion and is an excellent thirst quencher.


  • 60 – 80 White Chrysanthemum Flowers
  • 3 teaspoon of Jasmine Green Tea
  • Rock sugar or honey
  • 4 liters of water


  1. Wash the chrysanthemum.
  2. Put chrysanthemum and tea into a cooking pot.
  3. Pour in 4 liters of water and bring it to boiling.
  4. Reduce heat and continue to cook for 20 minutes.
  5. Put in rock sugar or honey.
  6. Remove pot from the heat and allow to cool till room temperature.
  7. Strain the tea and put into refrigerator.

Serve the tea chilled and enjoy!

The seasons

Staying Healthy during Winter

Winter is approaching, and our bodies respond to shifts in seasons by adapting. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda, both Eastern Medicine faculties, support the flux of adaptations by suggesting lifestyle changes we can make to create ease in the shift.

As the temperature drops, and brings with it feelings of dampness, especially in our moist ocean flowing air, the theory supports our intuitive knowledge to practice ways of internal warmth and grounding. The recognized darkness of SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder, is the shift in mood as the daylight hours decrease, as we fall into more susceptibility towards anxiety, depression, low energy and sleep disturbances.

To balance these emotions, there are habits around eating, movement and mindful self-awareness practices to stay grounded and healthy.

TCM explains that this seasonal shift affects our Qi and blood in our bodies. From this stems all connections for the foundation of health. A good maintenance of Qi is required to prevent illness, to facilitate healing, to adapt to stress and age gracefully. It is especially important to be aware of our Qi levels as it is highly susceptible to depletion. Therefore, the following habits will help to stay well rested and repleted:

Foods for Winter:

  • In winter, internal heating foods are to be focused on:
  • soups and stews
  • root vegetables
  • beans and cooked whole grains (oatmeal, barley, rice)
  • wholesome meats, eggs
  • warming spices: cinnamon, ginger
  • Immune boosting foods: garlic, onion, turmeric

Foods to avoid:

  • raw or cold foods
  • cold drinks, smoothies
  • overly oily/sugar ladden foods
  • frozen foods

Mindfulness Habits:
Winter is a time for reflection, and more stillness. Cozy up by a fireplace with a warm cup of tea, nourish your family and interpersonal relationships and get plenty of sleep. It is easy to drain our resources when they are already low due to the seasonal shift. By being aware, we can avoid falling ill to the cold or flu, headaches, and other forms of dis-ease.

Incorporating a meditation practice is another good way to tune into our body’s needs. As we wane out of the season and warm up, this energy preservation will allow us to approach spring with gusta being fully repleted.

Practices like yoga, counselling, and simple relaxation self-habits like a warm bath might help reduce the likelihood of falling out of touch with your needs (especially when the gift-buying tendencies of Christmas approach, and we busy ourselves thinking of others and forget that we also need to refill our own cups!).

Winter Exercise:
As we shift, it is important to also maintain movement in the body to avoid excessive and mindless weight gain, with keeping in tune the need to replenish. Therefore, staying balanced by practicing outdoor sports, yoga, and going to the gym is a good idea. The focus in this season is more on building muscle strength as opposed to aerobic exercise:

  • skiing/snowboarding
  • weight training
  • yoga
  • moderate outdoor sports (running, XC skiing, moderate biking)

Recover well with good foods, stretching and stillness.

Staying in tune with these practices is a lovely way to ground ourselves, and if we really listen in, we’ll find that we already had this intuition all along. These guides are a great reminder to practice self-care and that we are human after all, and therefore allowed to practice self-care.

We remember that seasonal shifts truly do require us to treat ourselves compassionately – we’re not superhuman! Everyone is affected by the winter shift.

Take good care,

Melanie Sakowski