Beginning of Autumn 立秋 Seasonal Node

In the traditional Chinese calendar August is the start of Autumn, and this year Friday, August 7th, marks the beginning of the new season. Although in the western world Autumn is a summer month, the Chinese calendar is concerned with the relative balance of Yin and Yang in the natural environment, which is closely tied to day length. Summer Solstice in June was the longest day of the year. By now the days are getting gradually shorter, and we are only 6 weeks away from the Autumnal Equinox, a day of balance light and dark. Even though August weather can still be hot we are in the time of Yin and contraction in the natural environment.

The first five days of this seasonal node are called Liang Feng Zhi (涼風至) – Cool Winds Arrival. There is a Chinese saying that goes, “in the morning, once Autumn has arrived, in the evening the weather is cool and dry” (早上立了秋,晚上涼颼颼). The weather here in New Jersey this week has been relatively cooler – at the end of last week the evening lows were in the upper 50s.

Although the weather is beginning to shift, August can still be quite damp and humid. In Chinese medicine, weakness in the Spleen and Stomach leads to damp accumulation. This time of year we therefore need to avoid dampness and simultaneously strengthen the digestive organs. One way to accomplish this is to eat light and clear foods, increasing the amount of seasonal vegetables and eating a little less meat. Vegetables can be consumed lightly steamed or stir-fried, or in the case of light salad greens, raw. In general avoid overly hot, spicy foods. Congees are appropriate to help strengthen the digestive organs and one traditional congee recipe for this seasonal node is Euryale Seed and Discorea Congee (Qian Shi Shan Yao Zhou 芡實山藥粥; see below). In addition to dietary recommendations is basic acupressure on supplementing points such as Zu San Li (ST-36). If patients tend to cold and vacuous patterns of the Spleen and Stomach, gentle direct thread moxa at Zu San Li is also applicable.

Autumn is the season associated with the Lungs. As such, even though we want to avoid very spicy foods, mildly acrid foods are good this time of year for Lung function. These foods include ginger, scallion, leek, and black pepper. Mildly sweet and slightly sour fruits also help moisten and benefit the Lungs, including the now in-season stone fruits (i.e., plums and peaches).

This season we need to be cautious of sudden return of very hot and humid weather. In Chinese this is called “The Old Tiger of Autumn” (Qiu Lao Hu 秋老虎), and is similar to what in the west we would call an Indian Summer. When the old tiger rears its head again Summerheat pathogens are a risk – symptoms of this include headache, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, poor appetite, stuffy chest, heavy or fatigued limbs, and possibly diarrhea. If intense hot and damp weather returns, focus the diet on foods that are cooling and moistening. Foods to consider adding on a daily basis include all sorts of sprouts (e.g., mung bean or alfalfa), cucumbers, muskmelon, winter melon, tomato, and loofah. Mung beans are very cooling, and in hot weather they can be made into a sweet dessert soup.


Euryale Seed and Discorea Congee (Qian Shi Shan Yao Zhou) 芡實山藥粥


·      1 cup rice (use glutinous rice if available)

·      200g Euryale seed (Qian Shi 芡實)

·      200g Discorea (Shan Yao 山藥)

·      200 g sugar


1.     Grind rice, Euryale seed, and Discorea to a powder. Mix the three together with sugar and blend well so evenly mixed

2.     In a pan, add 50 – 100g of blended powder to cold water, enough to make a thick soupy consistency

3.     Put over medium flame and warm for several minutes, stirring occasionally

4.     Enjoy in the morning on an empty stomach (consume warm)


Functions: Strengthens the Spleen, stops diarrhea

Contraindications: Diarrhea due to infections, damp heat type diarrhea

Minor Heat 小暑 Seasonal Node

Monday, July 7, is the beginning of the next seasonal node – Minor Heat (Xiao Shu 小暑). This important time period marks a major transition in the movement of Qi in the natural world. Summer Solstice (Xia Zhi 夏至) began the transition from Yang-expansion to Yin-contraction in the environment. Therefore, Minor Heat is the first seasonal node in the Yin time of the year. That said, it is still hot out! Even the name of this seasonal node acknowledges this. Although we are transitioning into the Yin time of the year, weather change happens slowly. Think of it like a train barreling ahead at high speed. Once the conductor decides to stop the train and put it in reverse, he first puts on the breaks. Even though the breaks are applied, it takes several hundred feet before the train actually stops. Only then will it very slowly start moving in reverse. The movement of the seasons is just like this. Once we have flipped the switch from Yang to Yin, the weather still continues to warm for some time before the very slow movement in the opposite direction begins.

The most important “to do” during this time is to nourish the Heart by maintaining an optimistic outlook. Why is this? June and July are the months associated with the Fire phase. Also, if we overlay the 12 time periods of the day with the 12 months of the year (i.e., the 12 two-hour periods of the day that each correspond to one of the primary channels), June is the time of the Heart channel and July the Small Intestine channel. Both are Fire phase channels. Since this is the time of year of the Fire phase, it is the time of the Heart Zang. We nourish the Heart by keeping a calm mind and being optimistic. Pessimism or other negative emotional states can lead to patterns such as Liver stagnation, which in turn can transform into heat and harass the Heart. Modern research has shown that positive attitudes are beneficial to health. For example, researchers at the Mayo Clinic found that pessimistic people have a much higher risk of developing dementia in later life, and the risk is even higher for people with a pessimistic personality and anxiety (click here to read more about this study).

During this seasonal node, the first 5-day period is known as Wen Feng Zhi (溫風至), - Sultry Winds Arrive. This certainly describes what is happening in the weather right now, especially in the Northeastern United States! The weather has been very hot, and very humid. Therefore, we also need to be careful about environmental dampness damaging the body. People who are prone to damp patterns (ask your acupuncturist if this is you!) need to be carful about how to eat, dress, etc… In this light the main “to avoid” this time period is undue exposure to cold and excessive consumption of cold items (both cold temperature and cold thermal nature). While it may seem logical to be in cold places in cold weather, there is certainly a problem in the west with, for example, using air conditioners to cool rooms to temperatures lower than we’d feel comfortable with in winter! Recently in our clinic we’ve seen quite a few patients with summer colds from frequently going between very hot and very cold environments. Furthermore, the overconsumption of cold food and drink, especially cold and very sweet food and drink damages the Spleen leading to more damp accumulation. Instead, we should drink beverages that are cooling as well as either bitter (to drain) or acrid (to move). This will cool the body without developing damp stagnation. This type of drink includes chrysanthemum and mint, or even green teas. For example, in China summer is the season to drink green teas such as the famous Dragon Well – Long Jing Cha 龍井茶.

In the next post we look at some diet recommendations for Minor Heat.

Stay dry and cool (but not too cool!)

Taiji (Tai Chi) More Effective than Physical Therapy

Taiji (Tai Chi, or Taijiquan 太極拳) is a traditional Chinese movement art that was originally developed as a martial art. Yes, even though it is sometimes practiced slow, it was originally a power method of fighting! There has been a lot of research on Taiji and health. One of the significant benefits of Taiji practice, especially for older people, is improvement in balance, walking, and, therefore, fall prevention.

A recent study published in the journal Disability and Rehabilitation compared patients undergoing regular physical therapy to help prevent falls to those taught Taiji. While both groups of patients had improvement (in terms of fewer falls and reduced severity of falls), the patients who were taught and practiced Taiji did better than the others. Thus, Taiji practice seems to be better than regular physical therapy for fall prevention in the elderly. To read more about the original study please click here.

Acupuncture and Pain Research

A study was recently published that looked at how acupuncture compares to different controls (e.g., different placebo "needling") for pain management. In the study authors pooled together data from numerous other studies (something known as a "meta-analysis") on acupuncture in treating pain. They concluded that "[a]cupuncture was significantly superior to all categories of control group." Click here to read the original study. For more information on treatment for pain in our office, please call us at 973-660-0110.

Bearded Grain (Mang Zhong 芒種) Seasonal Node (Jie Qi 節氣) - Friday, June 6, 2014

In addition to the four seasons with which we are all familiar, traditional Chinese calendars break down the year into roughly two week periods of time. These are called the Seasonal Nodes, or Jie Qi 節氣. By knowing what is happening in the natural environment at any given time of the year, we can understand how to take care of our health.

This Friday, June 6, 2014 is the beginning of the Bearded Grain (Mang Zhong 芒種) seasonal node, the ninth of the year. Bearded Grain is the last node just before the Summer Solstice, the Solstice representing the most expansive and Yang time of the year. The name, ‘Bearded Grain,’ is a reference to crops. The word Mang () refers to the maturing crops, especially the winter wheat, which is harvested about this time of year. The word Zhong () is a reference then to the new rice crops that are planted at this time. This gives us the image of one thing coming to maturity (as in the growing Yang of the season) so that it can eventually perish (i.e., be harvested), then allowing a new crop to be started. The image of transfer and renewal is characteristic of the transition period of the solstice that is fast approaching.

During Mang Zhong there are several things traditionally recommended for healthy living. The first is taking a siesta – in other words an afternoon nap (in Chinese, Wu Shui 午睡). During this time of year damp and heat evils in the environment start to predominate. In Chinese medicine the Spleen is susceptible to dampness, the disease evil associated with the Earth phase. The Spleen governs the flesh and the four limbs. Damp evils encumber the flesh of the four limbs making them feel heavy and weary, leading our body feeling fatigued and without strength. Napping is a way to recuperate vitality, especially when done during the most Yang/hot time of day. Napping traditionally allowed people a rest from the summer heat and dampness, and offered a way to support the Latter Heaven (hou tian 後天) of the Spleen.

The second recommendation is to regularly clear toxins. Toxins in this case refers to both heat toxins and water toxins, since, again, this is a time of increasing dampness and heat in the environment. In much of Asia, this time of year is the rainy season. Although this week in New Jersey the weather has been just about perfect in temperature, hotter and more humid weather may just be around the corner. During this Seasonal Node it’s important for us all to be sure we stay cool and dry inside. Be cautious of overexposure to the heat, especially during the middle part of the day. People who are prone to internal damp conditions should be reduce salt or other similar dietary intake that can lead to accumulation of fluids and swelling.

Our next admonition is both a “to do” and a “to avoid.” First, Mang Zhong is the time of the year to really keep our environment sanitary – this is to help us avoid things around us developing molds. Warm, humid, and rainy weather is the perfect combination for toxic molds to start growing. Keep your houses clean and dry, and quickly patch up any areas of water leaks that may lead to mold growth. Natural products such as Tea Tree Oil and even plain white vinegar are effective anti-mold cleaning agents and patients should be encouraged to make use of them! This is important for just about everyone, but especially so for people with various environmental sensitivities, breathing difficulties, or damp patterns.

Diet for Clear and Bright 清明 Seasonal Node - Jade Screen Chicken 玉屏雞

Saturday April 5, 2013 was the beginning of the Clear and Bright (qing ming 清明) seasonal node (jie qi 節氣). Clear and Bright is the node just after the Vernal Equinox and the next step in the progression of Spring. As I sit here in northern New Jersey, the weather is a bit chilly although the Spring warming has certainly started. Trees are setting buds, and the tree peonies in my yard are starting to grow. The sky this morning is crisp and clear, reminding me of the name of this seasonal node – Clear and Bright. The character for “Ming” 明 in the name is written in Chinese with the characters for both moon 月 and sun 日 next to each other. The basic definition of the character is “brightness.” Certainly, the combination of moon and sun together demonstrates the idea of bright illumination. That said, the characters of moon and sun also represent a Yin-Yang pairing. The Spring, even though it is a time of expanding Yang in the natural world, also is a time of balanced Yin and Yang. It is one of the times between the Yin-Cold of Winter, and the Yang-Warmth of Summer. So, I think a character that combines moon and sun is especially appropriate at this time.

The “avoids” for Clear and Bright are related to diet. First, Chinese medicine recommends that patients avoid very acrid and spicy foods. While somewhat acrid foods and herbs are appropriate to Spring (such as leeks or scallions), overly spicy foods may potentially either stir internal Yang or dissipate internal Qi. The second type of food to avoid is very sour or greasy foods. Both sour and greasy foods create stagnation internally, and thus inhibit the normal coursing of Qi. Since Spring is the time of Wood-Liver, it is important to keep Qi moving internally.

In general the diet for Clear and Bright should reflect the name of the seasonal node. Light and clear foods that neither block the Qi mechanism nor overly stimulate it are appropriate. Gentle movement and easy to digest should be the focus. As more vegetables become available, patients should increase consumption of fresh produce. Traditionally this is the time for greens such as spinach and mustard greens. In the west certainly April is the season for fresh asparagus. All these greens are beneficial to the Liver.

Patients who are somewhat Qi deficient, or patients with seasonal allergies can try making Jade Screen Chicken at home.

Jade Screen Chicken – Yu Ping Ji 玉屏雞


  • 1 whole chicken (about 2 lbs.)
  • Huang Qi 60g
  • Bai Zhu 20g
  • Fang Feng 20g
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Rinse and clean chicken
  2. Take herbs and stuff inside, close chicken to retain herbs inside the cavity
  3. Place chicken in a slow cooker and cover with water, allow chicken to cook for until done

This can take a long time to cook in a slow cooker, but I think it will yield the best results. I suggest this be set up overnight and put on the low temperature setting. By lunch the next day it should be done as cooking can take 8 hours or more. Patients can both consume the meat as well as drink the resulting broth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. The recipe helps nourish Qi, secure the exterior and expel cold.

Happy Spring everyone!

Henry (爾博)

Taiji (Tai Chi) for Cognitive Performance

A recent research review looked at the question of whether Taiji (Tai Chi) practice could enhance cognitive performance in older adults. The researchers pooled together data from 20 distinct studies, representing over 2,500 participants. The authors concluded that, "Tai Chi shows potential to enhance cognitive function in older adults, particularly in the realm of executive functioning and in individuals without significant impairment." Click here to read more about the study on the U.S. National Library of Medicine website. You may also go to to read more about the health benefits of Taiji and other Asian approaches to longevity.

Awakening of Insects Seasonal Node 驚蟄

“Awakening of Insects” (jing zhe 驚蟄) is the third seasonal node of the year, and this year it started Thursday, March 6. This is the next segment of Spring, and as the name suggests it is the time when we should start seeing the very initial stirring of life in the world outside. Here in New Jersey snow still covers most of the ground. However, this week I saw the first robins of the year - Spring is slowly on its way. Early plumb and peach blossoms are not far off.

The first “to do” for this period of time is to guard and protect the Yang qi. Even though we are in Spring (in the Chinese calendar), this early part of the season is still quite cold. Continue to dress appropriately. As Yang qi grows in the natural environment, this is also the time to start doing more gentle exercise. This recommendation conforms to what the Neijing says in the second chapter of the Su Wen, the The Great Treatise on Regulating the Spirit with the Four Seasons (Si Qi Tiao Shen Da Lun 四氣調神大論). There Qi Bo recommends that during Spring we should “upon waking take a walk in the courtyard, loosen the hair and relax the body, thus focusing the will on life.” Movement, especially in the morning, is a Yang activity. Elsewhere the Neijing recommends that “in Spring and Summer nourish Yang, and in Autumn and Winter nourish Yin” (春夏養陽, 秋冬養陰).

The “to avoid” during Awakening of Insects is undo stress and strain. The mental pattern associated with Wood phase, and thus Spring, is anger. People who are prone to Liver depression or Liver repletion patterns should be monitored during this time period to be sure qi is circulating smoothly. This is the time of year where formulas in the Chai Hu family are appropriate for many people. For those prone to resentment and anger, contemplative practices such as Japanese Naikan are appropriate.

Stay warm!

Henry (爾博)

Rain Water - February 19, 2014

Wednesday February 19, 2014 marks the second seasonal node of the new-year and the new Spring – 雨水 Yu Shui, “Rain Water.” During Rain Water the birth of Yang in the natural environment continues. In addition to the 24 Seasonal Nodes that we have been mentioning, each of the 24 periods can be further broken down into 3 five-day periods (making up the 72 Manifestations of the year in total). The 3 periods of Rain Water are “Otters Sacrifice Fish” (tai ji yu), “Swan Geese Appear” (hong yan lai), and “Vegetation Sprouts” (caomu mengdong). The swan goose is a rare large goose native to northern China. While we don’t have them here in the US, we do have other species of geese. Interestingly, this past weekend, I saw a small flock of geese flying north again!

One of the statements in Chinese related to Rain Water says, “Yu shui lai lin shi qi zhong, dang xin pi wei shou shang hai” – “as Rain Water arrives damp qi is heavy, be careful not to damage the Spleen and Stomach.” Walking around outside (between the piles of white), I’m struck by this change in the environment. With all the heavy snow we’ve been having, there is a lot more dampness in the environment compared with earlier in January and December. One of the problems of early Winter is not only cold, but also the real dryness in the environment. And now, that is shifting.

This brings us to some of the basic “to do” recommendations for the Rain Water period of time. First is to supplement the Kidney and strengthen the Spleen. We do this because the weather is still cold. Along these lines the basic “avoid” during Rain Water is “don’t rush to put away winter clothes.” The northeast US is still really cold. Later this week may be promising with a mild warming trend. But, it looks like the cold is not completely over. So, the recommendation to not rush to put away winter clothes is spot on! Even though we will soon see some warming outside, and even though in the Chinese calendar we have passed the beginning of Spring, be cautious to protect yourself against the cold. Stay warm, and remember to use moxabustion as necessary.

The second “to do” for Rain Water is eat congee! Congee is basically rice porridge or soup (depending on how thickly you prepare it). Why eat congee? Because it dovetails with the other recommendations for Rain Water. First, congee is warming and supplements the Spleen. Furthermore, congee is mildly damp draining so it protects the body against the increase in dampness in the natural environment. Congee is incredibly easy to make, and in China it is a common breakfast or brunch food. People of all levels of health can benefit from being taught to make and eat congee.

For more information on congees, moxibustion, or simply staying healthy from season to season, contact us.

Henry McCann

Tai Chi / Qi Gong in Multiple Sclerosis

Tai Chi (Taijiquan 太極拳) is certainly popular these days. It is a form of internal martial arts that represents perhaps one of the pinnacles of Chinese martial sciences. Today however most of the time it is taught and practiced as a health promoting exercise. The good news is that not only is Taijiquan a practical martial art, it is also effective for a wide variety of health concerns. In 2000 a small pilot study was done to investigate how Taiji related Qigong exercises could help patients with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). In a relatively short period of time, practicing Taiji exercises helped MS patients with physical balance and depression. While this study is small, it is very encouraging. To find the original article click here.

A Cure for the Snow and Cold Weather - Cinnamon Tea

Today was a very snowy day here in northern NJ. While it wasn’t as cold as the previous few weeks, walking around outside in the damp cold weather is sure to chill fingers and toes! For those interested in a delicious and healthy way to warm up, here is an easy recipe for cinnamon tea.


·      1 or 2 cinnamon sticks (about 3” long each; based on taste preference – use 2 for a spicier tea)

·      1 teaspoon Gou Qi Zi (Goji Berries)

·      1 ½ cups of filtered water or spring water

·      Honey to taste (optional)

To make a wonderfully warming and healthy tea, place the cinnamon and Goji berries in about 1 ½ cups of filtered water or spring water. Bring to a boil and simmer on low for about 20 minutes. That’s it! Remove from the heat and strain out the cinnamon sticks. The Goji berries can be strained out or, preferably, eaten with the tea. Honey may also be added to taste if desired.

Cinnamon is one of the most important herbs that we use in Chinese medicine. It is traditionally used to warm the body and treat pain conditions, or treat the common cold and flu. Modern research has also shown cinnamon lowers blood sugar and cholesterol, and is a great adjunct for some diabetics.

Goji berries (known properly as Gou Qi Zi in Chinese) are an antioxidant superfood containing important phytochemicals such a beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, betaine, polysaccharides (LBPs), trace minerals and vitamins. In the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing, the first text of herbal medicine written in China, it is said that long term consumption of Goji berries strengthens the sinews and bones, makes the body light, and slows ageing. And if that wasn’t enough, they’re delicious. We do carry high quality Goji berries if you need a source – and if you’d like to try some just ask!

Chinese Medicine and Osteoporosis

Chinese herbal medicines have been used to treat a wide range of diseases for thousands of years. Most westerners may not know this, but in China, herbal medicine is even more widely used that acupuncture! One all too common disease in modern times is osteoporosis, or a gradual weakening of bone density that can potentially lead to fractures. While there are several drugs on the market that treat osteoporosis, recently doctors have become aware that long-term use of certain medications has significant side effects. For example, in 2008 researchers in Singapore started linking long-term Fosamax use with certain non-traumatic fractures (in other words, taking the drug increased risk of some fractures).

Chinese herbal medicines have also been used to treat disorders of the skeletal system including weakening of bone density. This month researchers in Japan published a paper exploring the effects of herbal medicines on osteoporosis. In their study, the Japanese scientists examined three commonly used Chinese herbs and found that they had several beneficial effects on bone cells, including the inhibition of osteoclast proliferation. In other words, they lowered the activity of those cells in the body that are responsible for bone breakdown. While this research is still very academic, it sheds light on the effects these herbal medicines have on promoting healthy bone without the same risks as drug therapy. Click here to read the original article.