Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Wellness Wednesday: Specials at the Birch Center

At the Birch Center for Health, we've put together some special treatments at discounted prices to help you get through the winter healthfully and comfortably!

In February and March, acupuncturist and massage therapist Melissa Sokulski is offering Spa Thursdays!

On Thursdays from 2 pm until 5:45 pm, you'll receive:

  • hot tea
  • aromatherapy foot bath
  • your choice of either Balancing acupuncture treatment* or foot reflexology

all for just $55!

You can also opt to combine both the balancing acupuncture treatment and the reflexology (at the same treatment) for just $95 (regularly $115.)

You can come in once or as many times as you like, through March 31, but call to reserve your appointment: (412) 381-0116.

*Balancing Acupuncture Treatment
- is a wonderful treatment put together by acupuncturist Melissa Sokulski. It utilizes Japanese 5-phase treatment, in which the pulse is taken and points chosen based on which five phase pattern is found. Points on the midline are added to balance the chakras. The treatment is deeply healing, relaxing, and grounding.

Moxibustion Treatments

Acupuncturist David Sokulski is offering the warming, healing moxibustion treatments though March 31.

is a treatment in itself, without needles, to allow a person to fully experience the balancing and healthful effects of Chinese medicine, even if wary of needles.

Moxibustion, or the warming of a healing herb Artemisia vulgaris, on or above specific points and areas of the body, can be used to treat:

  • arthritis
  • pain
  • injuries
  • digestive disturbances
  • infertility
  • breech baby
  • menstrual pain
  • fatigue
  • insomnia
  • colds and flu
  • asthma and allergies
  • many other symptoms!

These special treatments are being offered for just $40, please call to reserve your space today: (412) 381-0116.

Thanks and be well!
~ Melissa and David Sokulski

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Treatment Tuesday: Acupuncture to treat Colds and Flus

Tonight I'm giving a talk at Gilda's Club called "Staying Healthy Through the Winter." It is based on an article I wrote by the same name that was published in our November, 2008 email newsletter. (If you don't get our monthly e-newsletter yet, you can sign up here.)

Also, if you haven't heard of Gilda's Club yet, but you or someone you love has or has had cancer, you can check them out on their website here.

One thing I mention in the article and talk is how helpful acupuncture can be, both in preventing becoming sick, but also to speed recovery if you do find yourself with a cold or flu.

According to Chinese Medicine, when we catch a cold or the flu, an external pathogen has entered the body, like a foreign invader entering a country. We must mount our own defense and try to push them back out. The symptoms we feel: aches, headache, stuffy nose, sore throat - are evidence of the battle going on.

Acupuncture treatment helps in two ways:

  1. It strengthens the body to help it mount the immune response
  2. It helps to release the pathogen.

Instead of using the terms bacteria or virus, in Chinese Medicine we use the terms: Wind, Cold, and Heat. Usually Wind-cold enters the body, causing the classic cold and flu symptoms: headache, runny nose, aches, fatigue. If it turns to heat in the body, you will feel a sore throat and may have more of a fever as well. We use special herbal formulas depending on the symptoms: classically Yin Qiao for the Wind-Heat type, and Pe Min Gan Wan for the Wind Cold. If the symptoms linger in the sinuses or a sinus infection is present, we may also use Bi Yan Wan. These formulas are groups of many herbs which are specific to those symptoms.

At the Birch Center, during acupuncture we tend to use points such as:

  • Spleen 6 and Stomach 36 (on the lower legs) to support the energy, giving strength to the body to be able to fight the infection
  • Large Intestine 4, (on the hand) especially if headache is present
  • Triple Warmer 5 (on the forearm), to help release the pathogen, especially useful if there is fever alternating with chills
  • Lung 7, (wrist) to stimulate the "Protective Qi" of the body, which is controlled by the Lungs
  • Large Intestine 11 (forearm, near elbow crease) which is an immune point, according to Japanese Acupuncturist Kiiko Matsumodo
  • We may use points on the head and face, especially if headache or sinus symptoms are present
  • Gall Bladder 20 (where the back of the head meets the neck) to release the external pathogen
  • Bladder 12 and 13: to clear sinuses, and stimulate the Lung energy
  • Bladder 20: to help support the body's energy and digestion

We also frequently use a technique called sliding cups along the Bladder meridians of the back. This gentle treatment feels great, and also powerfully released Wind (Cold or Heat) that is trapped in the body, especially causing achiness and other symptoms.

Things you can do at home include:

  • using plenty of garlic, onions and ginger
  • making a tea by simmering pieces of fresh ginger and cinnamon sticks (you can add honey before drinking. Recipe below.)

All the above foods and spices are also considered herbs in Chinese medicine. They help release Wind and Cold from the body. They are also slightly warming, and the ginger cinnamon tea is great this time of year!

Ginger Cinnamon Tea

Fresh Ginger
Dried Cinnamon Sticks

  • Cut 3-5 slices from the ginger and put in pot with 4 cups of water.
  • Add a cinnamon stick and bring to boil.
  • Turn heat down and simmer for about 20 minutes.
  • Pour liquid into a mug, add honey to taste and enjoy.

*If you like a stronger tasting tea, add more ginger and/or cinnamon, or simmer longer.

For more information or to set up an appointment you can give us a call: (412) 381-0116.

Love to all,
~ Melissa and Dave

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Mmmm....Monday: Melissa's tastiest "fries"

These delicious fries are not fried at all. In fact, they are raw daikons! (A daikon is a kind of long white Asian radish, very mild in taste.)

This is one of my new most delicious (and quick) things to eat. All you need is:

  • daikon (you can use a turnip, carrots, sweet potato, or jicama instead. I like daikon best for its crisp juiciness!)

  • juice of 1/2 lemon

  • 1 Tbsp tamari

  • 1 clove garlic - chopped small or pressed

  • 1 Tbsp chili powder (I don't use the very spicy kind!)

  • a drizzle of olive oil

Just peel and chop the daikon (or turnip) into fry shapes, kind of like "julienne" chopping, if you're familiar with the term.

Then toss with the juice of 1/2 lemon, tamari, garlic, olive oil and chili powder.

That's it! And it's soooo good.

Love to all,
~ Melissa

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Year of the Ox

Happy New Year!

Today is Chinese New Year, and this is the Year of the Ox!

We have a very special mailing due to go out in a couple of days. We love this mailing so much...if you want to be added to our mailing list, just send us an email with your name and mailing address to: and we'll add you.

Some points of interest for the upcoming year:

The Ox is a sign of prosperity through fortitude and hard work. This bodes well for the economy...we need a "bull" market, and President Obama was born in an Ox year (1961.)

Ox people are strong leaders, eloquent speakers. Quoting from Wikipedia: "This powerful sign is a born leader, being quite dependable and possessing an innate ability to achieve great things. As one might guess, such people are dependable, calm, and modest." To read more about the Year of the Ox, visit Wikipedia here.

Happy New Year!!!

Love to all,
~ Melissa and Dave

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Mmm...Monday: Mint-Chocolate Mylk Shake

Ella and I created the most delicious mylk-shake on Monday!

We blended:

1/2 cup cashews
3 1/2 cups water

to make the mylk.

Then we added:

2 bananas
1+Tbsp cacao
1+Tbsp honey
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp mint extract

and blended again.

It was so delicious!

I'm going to make it again soon and this time TAKE A PICTURE!!! (I'll post it when I do.)

I thought about also adding a bit of spirulina...for a greener (minty colored) shake.

Love to all,
~ Melissa

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Moxibustion - Warming for the Winter

Moxibustion is the application of heat to a specific area of the body to treat disharmony. The herb Artemesia vulgaris (Mugwort) is burned over specific points and areas to warm the body and balance the energy, just as acupuncture uses needles. It can be done in conjunction with acupuncture, or as a treatment in itself. In fact, the Chinese character for "acupuncture" is actually made up of two characters: one for needle, the other for moxibustion: zhēnjiǔ (針灸).

In China, there is evidence of heat being used in conjunction with needling techniques over 10,000 years ago. The Nei Jing, written 100-200 BC, describes the use and origin of moxibustion:

...moxibustion originated from the north, as the northern places are shut off from heaven and earth, and where high and mountainous areas are attacked by piercing cold wind and are surrounded by much ice....moxibustion is the method of treatment.

Moxa can be used to treat many conditions, including asthma, arthritis, vomiting, diarrhea, rheumatic pain and abdominal pain. We have also found it very useful for the treament of PMS and menstrual cramps, infertility, cold limbs, back pain, and pain anywhere in the body. It can also be used to turn a breech baby, stop bleeding, and treat insomnia. Anyone wanting to experience the balancing (and warming) effects of Traditional Chinese Medicine but are wary of needles would do very well with a moxibustion treatment. it is a wonderful choice of treatment during these cold days!

Moxibustion is often used with acupuncture, especially during these cold days. It is included with no extra cost to regular acupuncture treatments ($65).

Through March 31, 2009, we are also offering moxibustion treatments on their own, for just $40 a treatment. The treatments are about half hour, and include the same intake as acupuncture treatments, in which the pulse is taken and symptoms are assessed according to Chinese medicine.

Please give us a call if you would like more information, or to schedule an appointment: (412) 381-0116. We can also be reached by email: Or visit our website:

Stay Warm!!
~ Melissa and David Sokulski, licensed acupuncturists
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Thursday, January 8, 2009

What to do if the stomach bugs gets you...

That stomach bug is really going around right now!

Even though the "acute" phase seems to be 12 - 24 hours, people are reporting feeling quite lousy for some time afterward. We've put together some ideas of things to help you get over this faster.

  • If you are not pregnant, nursing, or have compromised health issues, taking a day away from food, drinking plenty of water, is a great start to rest your digestive system. You can also take probiotics at this time (see below.)

  • Eat simply, maybe even taking time away from solid foods. You can juice your own fruits and veggies, make smoothies, or have some light soups, like miso.

  • Now is definitely the time to stop eating by 7, or even before. When I had it recently, I found I couldn't eat much after 4 if I wanted to make it comfortably through the night.

  • Now is also the time to look at your food combining. Here are some simple ideas about it:

    • eat fruit on an empty stomach. If eating fruit with a meal, eat it first, and wait a bit (20 minutes) before eating the rest of the meal.

    • do not each starches like rice, potatoes, and bread at the same meal as proteins (meat, eggs, tofu, cheese, beans.) Greens and veggies combine well with either protein or starch, but not together. So no mac and cheese, pizza, fish and rice, etc. You can have a salad with fish, and then the next meal have a salad and pasta (no cheese) etc.

    • Wait until your stomach is empty before eating again. If you are properly combining food, this will be between 2 - 4 hours, depending on what you eat. (Fruit and veggies digest faster than proteins like meat, tofu or cheese.) Poorly combined meals can take 8 hours to digest.

    • You can find more info about food combining online, and a great book is Fit for Life by Harvey Diamond.

  • do not stuff yourself at meals, especially not late in the day

  • Take probiotics, like acidophilis. Especially if you've had diarrhea, the intestinal flora may be wiped out. Another good probiotic can be found at pharmacies, it is OTC, but you may have to ask for it. It is called florastor, and it contains Saccharomyces Boulardii Lyo, which is actually a culture of beneficial yeast found on lychees and mangosteens. This is reportedly very helpful when recovering from this stomach bug.

  • Digestive enzymes may also be helpful to take at meals to help digest.

  • Chinese herbs, like the formula Bao He Wan, are very helpful if you find you are having trouble digesting food. (We do have this available at Birch Center.)

  • Acupuncture can help strengthen the digestive system, calm nausea and help the bowels as well. It can also help with the fatigue that seems to follow this bug.

As always, if you feel like you have something more serious going on, or if vomiting or diarrhea persists, please do not let this advice substitute for medical attention.

Thanks, and be well!
~ Melissa Sokulski, L.Ac.

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