Blog by Melissa and David Sokulski, L.Acs.

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Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy New Year - Year of the Dragon!


photo: image from Wikimedia commons image file

This should be one exciting year. Last time the year of the dragon rolled around (2000, the infamous Y2K) there were also predictions of the end of the world - computers were supposed to crash, death and destruction all around. Dragon is a powerful year and will bring about change.

The dragon is the only mythical animal on the Chinese zodiac. Unlike our idea of dragons in the West (as monsters to be slayed), in the East dragons are revered as divine and are symbols of luck and intense power.

People born in the year of the dragon (2012, 2000, 1988, 1976, 1964, 1952, 1940, 1928, and so on in 12 year increments) are free spirits who don't like to follow rules. They tend to be extroverted and irrepressible. Confident and fearless, they are often successful. Famous dragons include Al Pacino, John Lennon, Sandra Bullock and Joan of Arc.

This is the year to think outside of the box. Let your imagination and enthusiasm go - think big and act on your ideas. 2012 is a water dragon year, the water will naturally add a calming element to dragon energy which will be balancing. Take chances, meet people, get your ideas out there and make something big and wonderful happen.

What are your big ideas and plans for 2012? Make them happen. If health issues or pain is getting in the way of your big plans, make sure you come in to The Birch Center to see us. Give us a call today (412) 381-0116. We want to see your ideas manifest - the world needs you!

In health,

~ Melissa and David Sokulski, L.Acs.

The Birch Center for Acupuncture
(412) 381-0116

Please sign up for our monthly newsletter! We have raw recipes, information about Acupuncture and Chinese medicine, and overall wellness information. Sign up today and receive your free gift: 10 Ways to Improve Your Health Right Now. We'd love to stay in touch. Thank you!

US Bridal Guide has more great information about Chinese horoscopes.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Smoothie Smackdown: 6 Steps to Elixir Nirvana

smoothie made from wild paw paws

Smoothies have gone mainstream. So mainstream that McDonalds sells them. And even if you go to a juice and smoothie bar, how healthy is a smoothie that's sweetened with frozen yogurt and pasteurized juice...even if you "boost it" with spirulina? Hmmmmmm....

Have no fear. Stay home and make your own delicious smoothie. Of course add your favorite fresh and/or frozen fruits and maybe even some veggies like cucumber or carrot. But don't try to imitate the chains. We're going to skip the fro yo and frozen juice concentrate (or store-bought juice) Here are six ways to turn a not-so-great-for-you smoothie into a delicious health elixir!!

  1. Junk the store-bought juice or juice concentrate. Why do that to yourself? At best it is just sugar water, at worst it may contain corn syrup from genetically modified corn and other additives or preservatives. But even when you get 100% organic juice, it has been pasteurized, destroying any life-giving enzymes, and greatly reducing if not also destroying all the vitamins and minerals. Plus...who knows what is really in those 100% organic juices? It wasn't long ago when it came out that those organic apple juices were found to be laced with arsenic. Alternatives? Sure!


    • Water - add good old fashioned water to your delicious smoothie! Maybe it doesn't need the extra sweetness. (and if it does, add a squirt of honey, maple syrup, agave or even stevia at the end.)

    • Coconut Water - from a young Thai coconut. Crack one of these open and pour that delicious clear sweet nectar right in. While you're at it, scrape out the pulp and add that to your smoothie as well. (Google "opening Thai coconuts" for more info.)

    • Fresh veggie or fruit juice that you juice yourself, in your juicer! Mmmmm.

    • Freshly made nut milk...or just add a few nuts and water to your smoothie and it will automatically blend up into a "milk" base.

      To make nut milk just add 1/2 cup soaked nuts (almonds, cashews) and 4 cups of water to your blender with a pinch of sea salt and a little vanilla (those are optional.) Blend 'til nice and white. If using cashews you won't even have to strain it!

    • Herb tea. Maybe you've even harvested and dried your own nettles, or raspberry leaf. Steep it into tea and use that as the base for your smoothie.

    • Mushroom tea, from reishi, maitake, shiitake. I know...not as inviting. But mushroom tea is an ultimate health elixir: boosting immunity and even fighting cancer. Add some to your smoothie as a base, you can always add a squirt of honey, maple syrup or agave nectar (or stevia) if you need a little extra sweetness.


  2. Drop Kick the Dairy. You don't need it. Skip the fro yo, non-frozen yogurt, milk or ice cream. Dairy causes congestion and dampness in the body. It may even be full of hormones and corn syrup. Yuck. There are plenty of other, healthier, ways to get calcium (see greens, below.) Leave the dairy to the cows.

  3. Pitch the Protein Powder. Again, you probably don't need it. We are fed quite a line about needing X amount of protein, and as vegetarians or especially vegans we are often asked about getting enough protein. It's very likely we do, but if we do end up needing a protein boost skip the protein powders: Consumer Reports did a very thorough study and found most protein powders are contaminated with heavy metals: Lead, Mercury, Cadmium, and Arsenic. Some have quite a lot of all those things. In our country protein deficiency is not a big problem, even in athletes, though heavy metal toxicity is.

    But if you need a boost of protein consider adding this instead:

    • Whole hemp seeds - they will blend right up in your smoothie and are not only full of protein but omega fatty acids as well

    • Chia seeds (my latest YUM!) also chock full of omega fatty acids.

    • GREENS (see below) have surprisingly high amounts of protein and of course are low in fat.

    • Algae like spirulina and blue-green algae are also high in protein.

    • Quinoa, which is actually a seed rather than a grain. You can add it sprouted or cooked, it will blend splendidly and is high in protein.

  4. Grab some Greens - Yes, say it loud say it proud! Adding leafy greens like spinach, kale, collards, and swiss chard will add protein, calcium, vitamins, enzymes, iron, and so much else! Start with a handful of spinach...I promise you won't even taste it. Then you can add more and more and begin expanding to other greens.

  5. Go Wild - For the ultimate elixir experience, add wild plants to your smoothie. Wild greens like nettles, violet greens, and chickweed. Flowers like black locust flower, dandelion and clover blossoms. Wild berries: mulberry, blueberry, huckleberry, blackberry. Wild plants trump even organically grown produce for their vitamin and mineral content, to say nothing of their wildly off the charts life force. Learn about one local wild edible and start with that. Make sure you are 100% sure you know what it is before adding it to your drink and never add wild carrot greens (Queen Anne's Lace) because although they are edible they can too easily be mistaken for the deadly poison hemlock. You want more info on wild plants? Pictures, identification, recipes?? Visit our sister site Food Under Foot. We've got you covered.

  6. Presence, Joy, Gratitude. Look what you have in your hand! An amazing, delicious, totally healthy smoothie - nay, elixir - that you made yourself. You can smell the blended freshness. Take your time, enjoy everything. Visualize your cells being nourished with every sip. Cheers!


Here is a simple elixir smoothie recipe that you can play with:

Green Smoothie with Nettles

2 bananas
1 cup frozen mangoes
1/2 cup mulberries (or blueberries, fresh or frozen)
handful (a careful handful…don’t get stung!) fresh wild nettles
2 cups water (can add coconut water, herb tea, etc.)

Blend well. Nettles lose their sting when blended. This makes 2 - 4 servings, depending on how much you want.

In health,

~ Melissa and David Sokulski, L.Acs.

The Birch Center for Acupuncture
(412) 381-0116

Please sign up for our monthly newsletter! We have raw recipes, information about Acupuncture and Chinese medicine, and overall wellness information. Sign up today and receive your free gift: 10 Ways to Improve Your Health Right Now. We'd love to stay in touch. Thank you!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year! Reishi Give Away

Happy New Year!

We have so many great things planned for 2012 - and they involve YOU.

Many of you know that we have such a big interest in using wild plants for food and medicine that we started our own educational website: Food Under Foot. 2012 is going to be the year that Food Under Foot gets happy feet! More on that later, but for now....

We are having our very first give-away! That's right, we want to send one lucky person 4 oz (1/4 pound!) of some of the gorgeous dried reishi mushroom (Ganoderma tsugae) we harvested this past year from the old growth hemlock forests of Northern Pennsylvania.

Basket of Ganoderma tsugae (reishi mushroom)

To enter:

  1. Visit and like our Food Under Foot facebook page*

  2. Find the entry that says: REISHI GIVE-AWAY

  3. Under that entry leave a comment telling us where you are from, your favorite thing to forage (all the better if it's a local treat) and what you love to do with it/how you love to eat/use it.

  4. Share so your friends and family can have a chance to win (one entry per person please.)


That's it! And please share the info with your friends and family so they can join in the fun (who knows, maybe if they win they will share, as I'm sure you'd do the same ;-) )

4 oz dried Reishi (Ganoderma tsugae)

Reishi is a medicinal mushroom which you boil in water and drink the tea. Known in China as Ling Zhi - the mushroom of immortality, the tea is known for its health giving properties. It's been used for thousands of years in Asia. It boosts the immune system and is anti-cancer and is known for supporting overall wellness and vitality.

You have until Sunday January 8, 2012 to enter, then on Monday January 9, we will assign everyone who entered a number, and randomly pick a number from a hat and whoever matches that number wins!!

We will pay shipping for the US...if you are outside the US we still invite you to enter, but we'd ask that you please help us pay for shipping.

Ganoderma tsugae (reishi) growing on a fallen hemlock tree

Good Luck!!

~ Melissa and David Sokulski, L.Acs.

The Birch Center for Acupuncture
(412) 381-0116

Please sign up for our monthly newsletter! We have raw recipes, information about Acupuncture and Chinese medicine, and overall wellness information. Sign up today and receive your free gift: 10 Ways to Improve Your Health Right Now. We'd love to stay in touch. Thank you!

* If you don't have a facebook account but would still like to enter, please send me your name, where you live, favorite wild edible and what you love to do with it...send it to Melissa@FoodUnderFoot.com, subject: Reishi Give-Away, and we will get you entered to win.