Monday, June 29, 2009

Herbs East and West: Mulberries

I've been having an interesting online conversation with someone who read my article about mulberries in Natural News, and felt that mulberries don't cure tinnitus, since he has tinnitus and he's eaten huge amount of mulberries...sometimes as much as a pound a day.

So I've been thinking about this, and it brings up the difference between the way Chinese herbs and Western herbs are used.

In the West, we think of a specific herb to treat a specific condition. For example: Headache? Try skullcap. Migraines? Give feverfew a whirl. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. Why is this?

I believe the answer lies in the East. The way Eastern herbs are used is not symptom-specific. Instead, the root cause of whatever is going on is what the herbs are given for.

So, if someone does have tinnitus, we don't just say: Try eating some mulberries. Instead, we ask more questions about the onset, the pitch of the ringing (high or low.) Is it constant or does it come and go? We also ask about other things: how is the person's digestion? Emotions? Other symptoms? And we look at the tongue and take the pulse, all to truly get an idea of what is going on with the person.

Mulberries don't treat tinnitus, per se. Mulberries help tonify yin and build blood. Often tinnitus is caused by Yin and Blood deficiency, and if so, perhaps eating mulberries will help. However, sometimes tinnitus is caused by Liver congestion, sometimes a trauma to the ear, and there are other causes as well.

In Chinese Medicine, we try our best to get to the root cause of the person's total imbalance, and then we prescribe herbs (usually in formulas, less often singly, which is also a difference between Chinese and Western herbal medicine.)

I've studied herbal medicine in both traditions, and this is one of my favorite topics to think about and discuss.

There is also much more to learn. Please feel free to keep sending in (or writing in the comments) your thoughts, ideas and questions about this.

Thanks so much!

~ Melissa

Birch Center for Health

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Upcoming Events

We have a couple things coming up within the next week you may want to know about:

Saturday, June 20, 2009, 3 pm:

Wild Edible Walk
Hunker, PA
Maggie's Organics Farm Festival (Festival is from 1 pm - 8 pm)
Admission to the Festival is $10 adults, $5 children
Click Here for more information, or call Maggie's Organic Farm: 724-925-9474

Thursday, June 25, 2009, 7 pm:

Acupuncture and Natural Treatments of Seasonal Allergies

East End Food Coop, 7516 Meade Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15208

Join Acupuncturist David Sokulski of the Birch Center for Health as he discusses acupuncture and other natural treatments for seasonal allergies.

David is a PA licensed acupuncturist and owner of the Birch Center, located in Pittsburgh's historic South Side.

The talk is free and open to all, call the coop at (412) 242-3598 for more information.

We hope to see you there!

~ Melissa and Dave

Birch Center for Health

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Acupuncture Treats Depression, Anxiety

One of the most common questions we get these days is if/how acupuncture can treat depression and anxiety.

Acupuncture is often very useful in both these conditions.

Health, in terms of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) depends on the smooth flow of qi (energy) throughout the body. This is important for mental health as well as physical health. In fact, problems in the energy flow often show up first as difficulties in mental health, whether it is feeling stuck in a current situation, not being enthusiastic about life, to experiencing anxiety and clinical depression.

When someone comes in for an acupuncture treatment or consultation, we assess the energy flow in the entire body and see where the cause may be for any symptoms (physical, mental or emotional) they may be experiencing. Often even seemingly unrelated symptoms may have a similar root in Chinese medicine. We find where energy flow may be blocked, weak, or not flowing in the proper direction.

There are many ways to address these imbalances. Of course, acupuncture - placing small, sterile needles in specific points on the body designed to balance energy flow, is one safe effective method we use at The Birch Center.

We can also address the root of the problem with herbs. For example, if smooth flow of energy needs to be restored, we may prescribe a Chinese formula called Xiao Yao Wan. Other formulas, which calm the Heart and settle scattered qi, can often address anxiety and sleeplessness. Depending on each person's specific case, formulas can be given to strengthen digestion, or the overall yin or yang of the body.

We also may discuss lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise, modifications of which can often be extremely helpful to a person's mental and physical well-being.

Finally, we can look at what is available around us. Blooming all around Pittsburgh right now is St. John's wort (pictured above), which is a traditional European herbal treatment for depression. St. John's Wort is used in Germany and other European countries much more often than the prescription medications we use in this country. St. John's wort can be taken as pill, tincture or tea, and is fun to gather yourself, once you learn to identify it.

So if you or someone you love is struggling with depression, anxiety, or other issues, please know that acupuncture can often be a great help.

You can call our office to speak with an acupuncturist directly (412) 381-0116, and can even schedule a free 20 minute consultation with David Sokulski, our head acupuncturist.

For more information about herbs and plants growing locally, please visit Food Under Foot.

Thanks so much!

In Health,

Melissa and David Sokulski, L.Ac
Birch Center for Health

Please sign up for our monthly newsletter! We have raw recipes, information about Acupuncture and Chinese medicine, and overall wellness information. Thank you!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Podcast is Up!

The Podcast is up!

Now you can listen to our interview with Rhio on NY Talk Radio for free, at your convenience.

We know you'll enjoy this interview! It's light and humerous, and full of interesting information. Rhio is an excellent interviewer...I think we covered everything from Birch Center to Food Under Foot to Wild Edibles to Raw Pregnancy (and more)!

Please listen when you get a chance, and let us know what you think by commenting below.

Thanks so much!

~ Melissa

Monday, June 8, 2009

Wild Edibles Walk for Folks from MAFA

This past weekend I had the pleasure of leading the folks of the Middle Atlantic Folklore Association on a wild edibles walk.

Their annual meeting was close to Pittsburgh this year, and they brought me in to do a walk, talk, and food demo (wild green smoothies, of course!)

We were about 1 1/2 hours south east of Pittsburgh (in the Laurel Highlands) and our walk was around a little pond. We did see the usual suspects: plantain, dandelion, clover, garlic mustard, violet, chickweed, and burdock, but we saw some other things as well:

  • skunk cabbage (not edible, though some books say otherwise…it is used to make medicine, though)
  • cattail
  • horsetail
  • daisy
  • wild raspberries
  • wild blackberries

They were also interested in herbal aspects of the plants, so I got to talk about that, including the differences between Chinese herbal medicine and Western botanical medicine (one of my favorite topics.)

I demonstrated a wild green smoothie using bananas, mangoes, water, ice, plantain leaves and red clover flowers and leaves:

I also did some chair massage for them:

It was such a nice meeting with a wonderful group of people. Thanks so much for having me!

~ Melissa

*** To schedule a walk or chair massage for your next function or event, please view our services page for details, or call The Birch Center at (412) 381-0116. ***

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Reshape Your Life/Redesign Your Destiny

by Trish Casey
of Serenity Yoga

August 7-9, 2009

Pittsburgh will host the World Renowned Yogi Amrit Desai at California University Campus.

Don't miss this opportunity to spend in-depth time with a living master of yoga!

Yogi Amrit Desai, lovingly known as Gurudev, is widely recognized throughout the world as one of the leading authorities of yoga. He began teaching in the 1960's and is one of the earliest masters to bring the practice of yoga to the West. Author of several books on personal growth and transformation, Gurudev is the founder of the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, the largest center of its kind in North America . Thousands of teachers are certified in his methodology and teach in more than 33 countries throughout the world.

Yogi Desai's teachings are filled with insight and depth. His special gift as a teacher is to present the most profound essential truths in a joyful light-hearted manner. These teachings are great in impact yet easy to understand. His presence radiates warmth, joy, wisdom and a spiritual energy which is the outward expression of an awakening consciousness. Thousands have experienced the power of shakti embodied by Yogi Desai.

Aimed at deep personal expansion, this program includes satsang, guided Yoga Nidra meditation, intention, yoga, chanting, pure living foods instruction, art, dance, film performances, and transformational discourse with Yogi Desai.

What is Yoga Nidra?

The focus of this workshop is Yoga Nidra. The literal translation of Yoga nidra is yogic sleep. It is an ancient form of meditation that will take you to the deepest levels of relaxation while still remaining fully aware. When practicing the Amrit Method of Yoga Nidra, your brain waves drop into the alpha and theta states. It is from this unified state that visions become reality and you gain acess to the extraordinary powers of your own intuition, creativity, health, and abundance.

This workshop is designed to help you:

  • Clarify and act on your purpose in life
  • Promote healing in the body and boost your immune system
  • Release blockages that hold you back from living life joyously and fully
  • Let go of destructive habits and beliefs with ease rather than with struggle
  • Revitalize your personal and professional relationships

Program Cost:

The cost of the program is minimal and has been kept so to allow Gurudev's teachings to be accessable. The program is only $259.00 which includes:

  • workshop sessions with Yogi Desai
  • 2-nights/3-days lodging at California University Campus
  • six meals
  • yoga classes
  • dance instruction
  • art instruction
  • evening drumming and chanting sessions
  • film performances
  • pure living foods demonstration
  • access to fitness facilities

Continuing Education Credits (CECs) are available for Mental Health Professionals, Yoga Instructors, and Body Workers.

Please note: free space is available for participants who wish to advertise, sell products, or offer services. If you are interested in table space, please contact Trish Casey at 412-580-3287 or to reserve an area.

For registration: Please contact Trish Casey: (412) 580-3287, or

Monday, June 1, 2009

Wild Foods and Wild Times at the Birch Center

We had an exciting weekend at the Birch Center for Health!

On Saturday morning, we had our Wild Edibles Workshop, which was a blast! We took a walk in Frick Park and saw:

  • garlic mustard
  • burdock
  • chickweed
  • cleavers
  • motherwort
  • mugwort
  • plantain
  • wild raspberries (not yet ripe)
  • prickly lettuce
  • dandelion

Then we returned to our beautiful Squirrel Hill location and we all made garlic mustard vinegar:

We sampled delicious food made with wild edibles, including Red Clover Apple Cookies, Plantain Crisps and Dandelion Wine. Melissa demonstrated Wild Green Smoothie, Mint and Lamb's Quarters Pesto, and Burdock-Apple-Ginger juice. (Recipes are available in our free eBooks, which you get when you sign up at Food Under Foot.)

It was a great time with great people! Thanks to all who attended.

Then, on Sunday morning, we were interviewed by Rhio, of NY Talk Radio!

Our interview - about both The Birch Center and our new Wild Edibles endeavor: Food Under Foot - will be on Hooked On Raw this week, and available for podcast ever after. We'll put in podcast link as soon as it goes up.

Our monthly newsletter will be out soon - full of very exciting upcoming events and in depth articles - if you're not on our email list, please sign up.

Also, if you are interested in Wild Edible Plants and haven't received our free 5-eBook series (starting with Burdock!), please visit Food Under Foot and sign up there.

Thanks and Live Healthy!

~ Melissa