Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Yin and Yang, The Basis of Chinese Medicine

Fundamentals of Chinese Medicine - Yin and Yang
by David and Melissa Sokulski, L.Acs.

The concept of yin and yang is fundamental to Chinese Medicine.

The Chinese character for yin can be translated as the shady side of the hill, and so corresponds to dark, night, rest, coolness. Yang is the sunny side of the hill: light, day, activity, warmth.

What makes the idea of yin and yang so unique to Eastern thought, is the idea of relativity. Nothing is purely yin or yang, in fact nothing is yin or yang on it's own, it is only in relation to something else. For example, if heat is considered yang, is Florida considered yin or yang? It's climate is yang compared to New York's, but yin compared to areas on the equator. Nothing can be considered by itself, nothing is either one thing or the other.

Similarly, yin and yang are always transforming into each other. Day changes to night, and back into day. Summer to fall, winter, spring and back to summer. Even high noon is not purely yang, it has a seed of yin that grows and allows day to give way to evening and night.

The concept of yin and yang is extended to the body, health and Chinese Medicine. In fact, at it's most basic, Chinese medicine can be reduced to yin and yang, and treatment techniques can be thought of in these terms:

  • strengthening yin
  • strengthening yang
  • eliminating excess yin
  • eliminating excess yang

depending on what kind of imbalance is occurring within the patient.

Yet again, it is not as simple as it appears. If a person has a condition of heat: fever in the evening, night sweats, rapid we consider this excess yang or insufficient yin, both of which would lead to heat? The distinction is vital in terms of treatment. In this case the heat is likely due to insufficient yin (fluids which cool the body) because the fever and sweats occur only at night, so the treatment principle would be to strengthen the yin rather than clear away yang.

Sometimes it is helpful to pare things down to the basics, to begin to understand the simplicity, yet depth and wisdom of ancient medicine.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Neuropathy and Acupuncture

Neuropathy and Acupuncture
by David and Melissa Sokulski, L.Ac.

Neuropathy, or Peripheral Neuropathy, is defined as having numbness, tingling or lack of sensation in nerves especially of the hands and feet (the periphery.) It is a fairly common symptom, occurring in people with spinal injuries, diabetes, and genetic conditions such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth Syndrome. Acupuncture can be an effective way to treat these symptoms, bringing energy, life and feeling back into the extremities.

Neuropathy is a serious symptom, which often effects people's quality of life. When we don't feel parts of our body, we are more prone to injury and infection, as well as finding difficulty in daily tasks such as walking, fine motor work, or gripping. People who have this symptom as part of a genetic disorder also deal with the fears and hopes that go along with having a rare medical disorder.

Acupuncture is a powerful tool not only to balance qi - or energy - in the body, but to bring peace, hope and alignment into the mind, emotions and spirit as well.

When we have numbness in our peripheries, the way Eastern medicine views this is that not enough qi (energy) is reaching these areas. This can be for a variety of reasons, but mainly either

  1. there is too little energy in that organ system/meridian (energy pathway)
  2. something is blocking the energy from reaching the area.

There is also often a combination of the two, and often multiple organ systems/meridians involved. There are also different causes for the condition. Each of these things is considered and address by the acupuncturist, and a treatment plan which best suits the patient is mapped out.

Acupuncture often brings immediate relief, though it will likely take a series of treatments for the feeling to come back completely and for the body to stay in balance, providing lasting effects. How often or how long treatment should proceed will be individual, depending on the cause and the overall constitution and health of the patient.

Acupuncture works by treating the person as a whole, balancing body, mind and spirit, and allowing the body to do what it needs to do to heal itself. Acupuncture helps remove blocks, helps the body focus on increasing energy in areas of deficiency, help the patient be more present and focused, but ultimately it is our own body's and energy that are able to heal.

To schedule an appointment or for more information, please call David Sokulski, PA licensed acupuncturist, at (412) 381-0116, or email him at

Dave also offers FREE 20 minute consultations, either by phone or in person at the Birch Center for Health. Please call today to schedule your appointment: (412) 381-0116.


Dave recently gave a talk to a support group for people living with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disorder.

Some notes on Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disorders (from CMT Facts III, Special Report):

  • CMT is the most common inherited neuropathy, affecting about 125,000 Americans
  • CMT is also known as peroneal muscular atrophy and hereditary motor sensory neuropathy
  • does not affect life expectancy
  • can vary greatly in severity, even within a family
  • is the focus of significant genetic research

More information can be found by contacting:

Charcot-Marie-Tooth Association
2700 Chestnut Parkway
Chester, PA 19013

People can join the association and receive their newsletter by contacting them through the address above, or by calling Pennsylvania Department of State at: 1-800-732-0999.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Breastfeeding Protects Women's Hearts...Acupuncture Helps Women Breastfeed

Breastfeeding has long been known to be good for mother and baby. La Leche League International lists many benefits, including that breast-milk is easy for the baby to digest, and has natural antibodies protecting the baby against bacteria and viruses. Now a new study by the University of Pittsburgh has shown that breastfeeding protects women from heart disease, heart attacks and strokes as well.

Published in the May issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the study finds that if a woman breastfeeds for one year or more, she is ten percent less likely to have heart attacks, heart disease or strokes. Dr. Eleanor Bimla Schwarz, a researcher at the University of Pittsburgh and author of the study says, "Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women, so it's vitally important for us to know what we can do to protect ourselves."

The study found that even one month of breastfeeding lowers the rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, all of which lead to heart disease. Yet Dr. Swartz points out, "The longer a mother nurses her baby, the better for both of them."

Acupuncture promotes lactation in many ways, including:

  • Helping relax mom and allowing milk to flow naturally
  • Soothing aches and pain, especially in upper and lower back and neck, which also allows milk to flow more smoothly
  • Smooths flow of Qi (energy) in body
  • Tonifies blood and yin, important after pregnancy and which helps the body produce ample fluids, including breastmilk
  • Clears heat and swelling, in the event a new mom experiences mastitis

Herbal remedies are also available to women who feel they don't have enough milk. Pu Gong Ying (Dandelion), for example, is excellent to promote lactation. Herbalist Susun Weed recommends women begin taking dandelion - either by eating the leaves, drinking the root tea, or as a tincture - the last two months of pregnancy and throughout the time they are breastfeeding.

Other Chinese herbal formulas are more specific: Rambling Formula to assure smooth flow of Qi, and Heat Clearing formulas in the event of mastitis.

If you have any other questions or feel we can be of help to you, either by providing more information or offering an acupuncture appointment, please give us a call at (412) 381-0116. You are also welcome to email:

Thanks so much!
~ Dave and Melissa Sokulski
Licensed Acupuncturists
Birch Center for Health

Monday, April 20, 2009

Did You Get our Free Ebook on Burdock Yet?

Did you get the free ebook on Burdock over the weekend? If not, just sign up below and it will come within the day:

We are so excited about our new website, Food Under Foot! The interest is amazing! Thanks so all who came on our Wild Edible Walk on Saturday, if you missed it, we have another one coming up this Sunday, April 26 at 11 am. We'll meet down by the river on the south side, if you want more information give us a call: (412) 381-0116, or visit the Events Page at Food Under Foot.

Also, our great friend Wendi Dee of Pure Jeevan was kind enough to take a video on Saturday's walk of me discussing Burdock, please visit Food Under Foot to watch it!

Thanks, and we hope to see you soon!

~ Melissa

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Earth Day Wild Edible Hike at Frick Park

Thanks to everyone who came on the hike today at Frick park! What fun!

If you haven't check out our new website, please check us out at Food Under Foot. When you get there, please do sign up for the Food Under Foot'll get our 5 part series on 5 common wild edible plants.

Today we saw:

  • garlic mustard
  • wild onion
  • burdock
  • plantain
  • dandelion
  • may apple
  • false mermaid
  • red clover
  • cleavers
  • wintercress
  • a smaller cress
  • fiddleheads
  • violets
  • mugwort

I also mentioned the burdock'll hear more about that in part 1 of the series, but here is a sneak preview:

The ingredients: 3 apples, 1/4 lemon with peel, piece of burdock root (peeled), some ginger:

The juice: (it was very good!):

Our next hike is next Sunday, April 26, down by the river on the south side (see our events page.) Please come! We'll try to keep it as a smaller group, so please call to register: (412) 381-0116. If there are lots of people, we'll break it up into two walks, so let us know if you'd want an earlier hike that day!

Thanks again, and we hope to see you soon!

~ Melissa and Dave

Friday, April 17, 2009

Wild Edible Video! and Upcoming Walks and Workshops

Here's our first video of the year! I describe how to identify and harvest early spring mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) and show making a vinegar.

I also mention our new site:, please check us out!

Below the video you'll find our schedule of spring walks and workshops...we hope to see you soon!

Spring Walks, Talks and Workshops

Saturday, April 18, 2009
2:30 pm - 3:30 pm
Wild Edible Walk
Frick Park Nature Reserve, Squirrel Hill
Part of Frick Park Earth Day Celebration: 11 am - 4 pm

Sunday, April 26, 2009

11 am - 12 noon
Wild Edible Walk
South Side River Trail, Pittsburgh, Pa (follow 18th street toward river, park under bridge, meet by yellow gate at start of upper trail)
$5, please call (412) 381-0116 to register

Sunday, May 17, 2009
11 am - 12 noon
Wild Edible Walk
South Side River Trail, Pittsburgh, PA (follow 18th street toward river, park under bridge, meet by yellow gate at start of upper trail)
$5, please call (412) 381-0116 to register

Thursday, May 28, 2009
7 pm - 8 pm
Talk: Wild Edibles in the 'Burgh
East End Food Coop, Meade Street, Pittsburgh
free, call (412) 242-3598 to register

Saturday, May 30, 2009
10 am - 1 pm
Workshop: Wild Edibles!
Birch Center for Health, 1931 East Carson Street, Pittsburgh, Pa
$35, call (412) 381-0116 to register
In this workshop we'll discuss wild edibles, take a wild edible walk around the south side, and return to the Birch Center for wild edible recipe demos and sampling, including the vinegars made and discussed in the video!

Hope to see you soon!

Melissa and Dave

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Holidays...and What I'm Up To

Happy Passover and Happy Easter to everyone!!!

Though not quite ready for the big drum roll and announcement...if you want to see what I've been up to, take a look at's a website all about wild edibles that I have been putting together with Dave and also my brother Jason.

Let me know what you think (and don't forget to sign up for the newsletter over will come with a 5-part mailing of five favorite Wild Edibles!!!)

And remember to check out our events page...our early spring walks are coming right up! And there's a lot growing out there: garlic mustard, onion grass, dandelion, burdock, coltsfoot, mullein, name just a few.

Hope to see you soon!