Sunday, July 8, 2018

Post Partum Doula Services Available!

Acupuncturist Melissa Sokulski, L.Ac., is now offering post partum doula services! She will come to your home after your baby is born, and support the new parents as they transition into their life with a new baby.

A post partum doula provides non-judgmental caring and support to the new family. Each situation is different depending on need. Some things Melissa can provide are:

  • Breastfeeding or bottle feeding support
  • Help with emotional and physical recovery after birth
  • Light housekeeping
  • Food preparation (vegetarian) 
  • Run errands
  • Help with holding, changing, and caring for baby so mom can get some rest
  • A sympathetic ear and support to the new family.
  • Referrals to local health care and resources as needed
Additionally, as a licensed acupuncturist, Melissa can offer ear acupuncture to the mother and other adults in the household during the visit for a discounted rate of $35 per treatment, which can help balance hormones, relieve stress, and tonify organs, and help the body heal.

Melissa is a mother of two, and is trained in:
  • Acupuncture, L.Ac., M.Ac., PA Board of Medicine Licensed, and Nationally Certified since 1996
  • Therapeutic Massage: Swedish Massage, Deep Tissue, Tui Na, Sports Massage, Foot Reflexology
  • Certified Yoga Instructor (RYT 200 hours)
  • Herbal Medicine: Chinese and Western herbs (Nationally Certified in Chinese Herbology since 1996)
  • Homeopathy and Flower Essences
  • Energy Healing: Polarity Therapy, Reiki, Hands On Healing, Quantum Touch, Yin Tui Na
  • First Aid/CPR (to be renewed August, 2018)
  • PA Act 33/34 Clearances
  • Experience working with infants and children with brain injury and special needs
Daytime post partum doula care can be scheduled from 8 am - 8 pm. Each visit must be at least four hours, and is offered at $30*/hour (*current acupuncture clients of either Melissa or David Sokulski receive 10% discount off doula services). Payment is due at time of visit.

An initial acquaintance visit can be scheduled for $30, to assess needs and get to know each other before committing to longer visits.

Questions, for more information, or to schedule an initial visit, please call the Birch Center at (412) 381-0116, or leave Melissa a message on her cell: (412) 886-4026. You can also email:

Melissa is also available for acupuncture treatments at The Birch Center, and can help at all stages of pregnancy, from regulating the menstrual cycle and easing PMS, to boosting fertility and helping with conception, easing pain, discomfort, and nausea during pregnancy, turning a breech baby with moxabustion, helping bring on labor in overdue pregnancies, and post partum recovery. Acupuncture can also help later in life ease the symptoms of menopause. Please call the Birch Center at (412) 381-0116 to schedule an appointment.

We look forward to working with you!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Happy New Year: Year of the Dog!

The Chinese New Year starts today, February 16, 2018.

Gung Hay Fat Choy: Happy New Year!

It's the year of the Dog!

2018, 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970, 1958, 1946, 1934, 1922

Dog people are honest, loyal, and friendly. Dogs are also sensitive and can take on the issues of people around them, especially people they love most. Make sure this year is full of good self care.

Dog's energy is social and bountiful, making it a great year of opportunities, especially in business. Everyone will notice this energy and be able to take advantage of it, not just people born in dog years.

Celebrities who are born in these years include Benjamin Franklin, Prince William, Madonna, Queen Latifah, and Ellen Degeneres. You can find a more complete list here.

Welcome Year of the Dog!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Lentil Sweet Potato Chili To Warm These Cold Winter Days

It's snowing again! And soooo cold out. I want to share with you one of my favorite recipes ever, though in the winter it somehow soars even higher than usual. Lentil Sweet Potato Chili. I make this recipe at least once a week. 

The original recipe is from Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine's 21 Day Kickstart, which I can't recommend enough. Fantastic whole food plant based meal plans and recipes which come to you for 21 days, starting the first of the month. Sign up for free and you'll get the recipes sent to your email. Or check the website out, the recipes are always there: here is week 1, week 2, and week 3. (Ooh, not to get off track, but today I think I am going to make the Aloo Gobi - Cauliflower and Potato Curry - from week 3! The only reason I'm not making the Lentil Sweet Potato Chili is I am out of lentils from making it so much!)

Yum, look at that sweet potato! Full of beta carotene and vitamin C, plus lots of other minerals and vitamins. In Chinese medicine, its sweet taste and rich orange color let you know it's beneficial to the Spleen/Pancreas and Stomach - Earth element - and excellent for digestion and to boost energy (qi).

Here is how I make this delicious vegan chili:

  • 1 cup brown lentils, rinsed
  • 1 cup red lentils, rinsed
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3-5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 2-3 handfuls of baby spinach (it shrinks!) or lots of chopped kale or other chopped greens to add at end
  • 1/2 -1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • red pepper flakes, optional
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 6-8 cups water (or you can use broth or veggie broth cubes or whatever, I just use water)
  • 28 oz crushed tomatoes or 14 oz tomato sauce or small jar tomato paste, whatever you have around


* Because I don't use oil in cooking and because I like to make things as easy as possible, I just put everything into a pot without sauteing things first, so...

1. Into 6 cups of water (or broth) as it comes to boiling, add:
  • both kinds of rinsed lentils
  • onion
  • celery
  • garlic
  • sweet potatoes
  • spices
2. Let that come to a boil, then cover and simmer until the lentils are cooked through, about 25 minutes, adding water and stirring as necessary so it doesn't burn.

3. Then add the tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes, let it come back up to boil again.

4. Finally add the greens at the very end, and cook until wilted. 

5. Taste to adjust seasonings and enjoy!

I love to eat this chili with hot sauce.

If you don't have (or don't like) sweet potatoes, it is delicious with regular potatoes as well. 


~ Melissa

Monday, February 5, 2018

Cinnamon, Ginger, Onions, and Garlic Strongly Protect Us From Colds and Flu

Cinnamon sticks
As the winter progresses, the cold weather can affect our Lungs in the form of coughs, sinus issues, colds and flu. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the metal element corresponds to the Lungs. The taste that strengthens the Lungs is pungent: the spicy flavor of foods and spices like cinnamon, ginger, garlic, and onions.

In traditional Chinese medical theory, when one gets sick with colds or flu it is thought that an external pathogen has invaded the system. Western medicine similarly holds that colds and flu are caused by bacteria or viruses. Each of the five tastes (sweet, salty, bitter, sour and pungent) has a specific action. The pungent taste has the action of pushing outward and dispersing unwanted "invaders" through the skin, as evidenced by sweating.

When coming down with a cold or flu the herb to take is actually a food: scallions. Known as the Chinese herb cong bai, scallions release the pathogen by inducing sweating. Simmer scallion or other onion along with garlic and ginger and drink the broth to keep a cold or flu from going deeper.

If a cold or flu has gone deeper and has affected the muscles, the herb of choice is cinnamon, known in Chinese as gui zhi. Cinnamon is warming and can help when the person is feeling weak especially if sweating does not help them feel better. In this case, cinnamon will warm, strengthen and increase immunity.

Fresh ginger (sheng jiang) is also warm and releases the pathogen. Ginger is especially good if the person feels cold and is coughing. Similar to cinnamon, ginger strengthens the immunity for weaker people who are sweating without relief of symptoms.

A nice tea when feeling chilled and recovering from a cold or flu, is made by simmering a couple of cinnamon sticks and sliced fresh ginger in water for at least 20 minutes, strain and drink as needed.

If there are heat symptoms such as a sore throat or fever, switching to a cooler herb which still releases the pathogen is appropriate. One such herb is mint, or bo he. Flowers such as chrysanthemum (ye ju hua), honeysuckle (jin yin hua), and dandelion (pu gong ying) mix well with mint to cool the body and release the pathogen.

One important note: herbs such as ginseng, astragalus and bee pollen also strengthen the immune system, but these herbs have a sweet taste and will actually strengthen pathogens. They are wonderful to take as prevention, but if you end up coming down with a cold or flu, stop taking them and switch to one of the above remedies. Once the illness has passed completely, it is safe to take the sweet strengthening herbs again.

And of course acupuncture is always helpful to boost your immune system to prevent and/or recover from cold or flu. If you'd like an acupuncture appointment please give us a call at (412) 381-0116 and we'd be happy to see you!

Food is the best medicine! Eat well, drink lots of water, and incorporate these wonderful spicy tasting foods, herbs, and spices into your life!

Be well!

Melissa and David Sokulski, licensed acupuncturists
Birch Center for Health

(412) 381-0116

a version of this article first appeared in Natural News.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Winter And Traditional Chinese Medicine

Winter has no doubt arrived in Pittsburgh! With the temperatures below freezing for a week and counting, I think it's time to discuss winter, traditional Chinese medicine, and ways to keep warm!

Winter is the time of year which corresponds the water element. In our bodies, that relates to our Kidneys and Bladder. In five element theory, the color correspondence is black or blue, and the emotion is fear.

Symptoms which may be associated with the Water element include

  • bladder and/or kidney infections
  • low back pain
  • knee pain
  • cavities in teeth
  • weak or broken bones
  • infertility
  • premature gray hair or hair loss
  • ringing in the ears
  • increase of phobias or fears

To strengthen the Water energy and keep the body in balance, it's important to keep yourself warm. Wear scarves around your neck and extra layers or scarves around your mid-section (in Japan, this is called a haramaki, or belly warmer: a tube of material which can be fashionable, which goes around your midsection to keep your abdomen and kidneys warm.)

If you are on a high raw or 100% raw food diet, you can add spices such as ginger to your juices and cinnamon to your foods. You can gently warm soups, and make sure to eat plenty of well blended food, as these meals are easier to digest. Fresh cranberries also make a nice addition to juices or purees this time of year, and help protect the bladder and kidneys from infection as well (especially if you are prone to this type of infection.)

Here is one of my favorite winter juice recipes:

Juice the following:

  • 5 carrots
  • 3 apples
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries
  • 1 inch knob fresh ginger

I usually add water to the juice, especially because this one is so sweet.

Warm miso soup is also a wonderful meal: heat the water and let it cool back down to ninety or one hundred degrees (warm to the touch.) Add scallions, sliced mushrooms, wakame (a sea vegetable), grated ginger and carrots, and miso, which is best first made into a paste with warm water and then added to the soup. Enjoy this soup warm.

In macrobiotic cooking, aduki beans and black beans are beneficial for the kidneys. Millet and winter squash are also good choices for balancing energy this time of year.

Herbs which benefit the kidneys are nettleshe shou wu (also known as Foti root), and the formula Liu Wei Di Huang Wan, or Rehmannia Six.

Now is a wonderful time of year to get acupuncture, especially if you notice any of the above symptoms. Points such as K3 and K6 on the ankle are helpful to boost the Kidney energy, as well as bladder points along the spine on the back. Moxibustion is wonderful this time of year to help add heat to the body via the acu-points, abdomen and meridians.

As always, we are happy to answer your questions. Please comment below, email us at or give us a call (412) 381-0116.

David is now seeing clients in the North Hills, at St. Barnabas Health Center (lots of FREE parking!!!) in addition to our regular South Side location, so give us a call today!

Stay cozy and warm!

Melissa and David Sokulski
Licensed Acupuncturists
The Birch Center for Health
(412) 381-0116