Blog by Melissa and David Sokulski, L.Acs.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

5 Flavor Coleslaw



This delicious coleslaw is a great way to end cravings and balance health and emotions by balancing all five flavors (bitter, sweet, pungent/spicy, salty and sour) in your diet. Certainly you don't always have to eat a balance of flavors in every single dish, but here is one that balances all five flavors beautifully (especially with the apples added at the end!)

The dressing was made in the vitamix:

  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (sour)
  • 2 Tbsp gluten-free tamari (salty)
  • 1 Tbsp brown or deli style mustard (pungent, salty, bitter)
  • 1/2 inch nub of ginger (pungent)
  • 2 small cloves garlic (pungent)
  • handful raw cashews (sweet)
  • mustard (pungent, sour)
  • water (enough to cover cashews, you can adjust water depending on how thick or thin you'd like the dressing.)

The salad consisted of:
  • cabbage (bitter, pungent, sweet)
  • beets (bitter, sweet)
  • carrots (sweet)

Sliced apples (sweet) were added at the end.

Delicious!

For more information on five flavors, five elements, acupuncture, Chinese medicine, or to set up an appointment give us a call: (412) 381-0116.

In Health and Wellness,
~ Melissa and Dave Sokulski
Licensed Acupuncturists

Birch Center for Health

(412) 381-0116

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Monday, February 25, 2013

Detox With Ear Acupuncture And Herbal Tea

In Chinese medicine, ear detox treatment consists of five points, which balance and support detox organs and systems of detox. We needle shen men, which balances the nervous system, sympathetic point, which balances the endocrine system, and then the 3 organs of detoxification; lungs, liver and kidneys.

These points can help when the body is detoxing from anything physical to emotional. These points are used in hospital detox clinics as part of the support for people detoxing from drugs and alcohol. They can also be used when people are detoxing from sugar, caffeine, nicotine, wheat, dairy, or even unhealthy relationships, lifestyle choices, or toxic thoughts and self-talk. Needling these points bring immediate and lasting balance and relief.

Another way to support the body with detox is with herbal tea. We can choose herbs which mirror and support the points and organ systems chosen:
  • oatstraw for the nervous system
  • cleavers for men and red raspberry leaves for women, to support the endocrine system
  • nettles to support the kidneys
  • dandelion to support liver
  • mullein to support lungs
We can choose one at a time, mix and match, and add things like lemon balm, spearmint and peppermint for flavor.

Many of these plants can be found right outside most people's doors. They can be harvested, dried and stored to have available year round. We have a sister website, Food Under Foot, filled with information, pictures, videos and recipes for identifying and using wild plants. Cleavers, nettles, dandelions and mullein are easy spring weeds to find.

We are also holding a wild herbal tea workshop this summer at the Birch Center, which will include a wild edibles walk, discussion of medicinal herbs for tea and a tea tasting. We hope you'll attend.

If you have any questions about ear acupuncture detox, acupuncture, or herbal tea, please give us a call today: (412) 381-0116.

Be well,
~ Melissa and David Sokulski
Acupuncturists
Birch Center For Health

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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Feel The Qi: Laser Acupuncture Great For Children and Others

In the ancient Chinese texts that both the Chinese and Japanese use as the basis for acupuncture, there is the directive to needle until qi is felt. Interestingly, there is no pronoun as to who is to feel the qi: the practitioner or the patient.

The Chinese have interpreted this text to have the patient feel the qi, and is why the practitioner may manipulate the needle asking the patient to let her or him know when a sensation is felt: a pulling, heaviness, tingling, ache, whatever the sensation may be (qi is felt differently at different points, and differently by different people.) The Japanese have interpreted so that the practitioner feels the qi, which has led to different styles of technique.

In general, Japanese needles tend to be inserted much more shallowly and the patient may not feel them at all. The practitioners develop strong sensitivities in their fingertips, feeling for subtle energy. In fact, a tradition of blind acupuncturists has grown in Japan, where their fingers are so sensitive they often don't even insert the needles into the skin to feel the qi, and changes in the body's energy. An entire style of Japanese acupuncture, Toyahari, has grown from this style.

We are able to see is that as long as the acupuncture point is stimulated with intention, change can be affected in the body. Inserting needles may not be necessary to affect this change. In fact, moxibustion, or burning an herb over specific points, is also enough to cause desired effects in the body.

Laser acupuncture, or stimulating points with lasers, has also proven to be a successful way to affect change and treat disease and conditions. In Germany, a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial showed that laser acupuncture was extremely effective in treating children with headaches and migraines. There have been many other studies, too, exploring the use of laser acupuncture on children and adults with all sorts of conditions, including carpal tunnel disease, paralysis after stroke, pain relief and headaches. Laser acupuncture is also useful and effective for treating pets, especially animals like birds and cats, who will not stay still for needles (dogs usually love the needles, and relax right away.)

After taking a pet acupuncture class,  we bought a laser used for these acupuncture treatments, and we use it at the Birch Center today. We use it mostly for young children who are afraid to have needles. Severe fear of needles can be counter-productive to treatments, if fear is strong enough it can cause qi to become scattered. We have also used it on adult clients who are afraid of needles (though every single one of those people have gotten over their needle-phobia once they saw the needles and have gone on to needle treatments), people with chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia where needles seemed too fatiguing.

Laser treatments take less time than regular acupuncture treatments., The points are stimulated but obviously no needles are left in while the client relaxes on the table, which is common for regular treatments. After the intake, pulse and tongue examination, the acupuncture points are stimulated with the laser (which the patient does not feel at all), Depending on the reason for the treatment and client, adjunct treatments such as moxa or cupping may be employed just as in a regular acupuncture treatment.

If you have further questions, please call us today: (412) 381-0116.

Stay healthy,
~ Melissa and Dave

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

Want Free Shipping on Vitamix Blenders and Excalibur Dehydrators? Check out our recommendation page to find out how! (You will be taken to our sister site, Food Under Foot, but in a new window.) 

Read these articles by Melissa Sokulski, L.Ac. in Natural News for more information:

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Turning a Breech Baby with Acupuncture and Moxibustion


Many people may not know this, but acupuncture is quite successful in turning breech babies!

American Studies have shown 60-70% success rate, while Chinese studies put the success rate at 80-90%. And the treatment is comfortable and easy: just heating the outside of the (mother's) little toe with moxabustion.

A moxa pole is a cigar-shaped stick made from the Chinese Herb Ai Ye, commonly known as mugwort (Artemesia vulgaris. A Chinese species of Artemesia - similar to vulgaris - is also commonly used.) The moxa is held over a point at the end of the Bladder meridian, heating and stimulating the point.

Like most acupuncturists who use moxabustion to turn breech babies, at the Birch Center we often combine this treatment with acupuncture (though it can be done alone.) The acupuncture treatment helps relax and balance the energy in the body and is helpful at any stage in pregnancy. Often the mom reports feeling the baby become very active right away or later that day. We send her home with a moxa pole and diagram of just how to do the treatment, and let her spouse or friend continue the treatment until the baby has turned (usually to be checked by midwife or doctor.)

The treatment is most effective done at the end of the pregnancy: after 36 weeks. This is so that once the baby turns it has less chance of turning back around.

For more information you can visit our website: www.BirchCenter.com/breech, or give us a call at (412) 381-0116.

Stay Healthy,
~ Melissa and David
Acupuncturists
Birch Center for Health

Read these articles by Melissa Sokulski, L.Ac. in Natural News for more information:
(above photo credit: pexels.com, free stock photos)

Monday, February 18, 2013

Heart Healthy Sweet Treats with Nuts and Dates


Chocolate treats don't have to be bad for you. And if you don't like cocoa/cacao, simply leave it out...these treats are no worse for it! (In fact, they taste even sweeter, because the cacao adds a bitterness that is eliminated when it is.)

They don't have to be hard to make, either. These took a few minutes (literally!) and no cooking or baking was involved.

 I took heart healthy whole ingredients: walnuts, cashews and dates, blended them in a food processor, and molded them into hearts with cookie molds. You could also simply roll them in balls. They store well in the refrigerator and will be gone before you know it!

 Walnuts are full of omega 3 fatty acids (like those in salmon and flax), anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatories. Walnuts are protective against metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular problems, and type 2 diabetes (see this website for more information.) Cashews are good for the heart, good for the teeth, and eating whole raw nuts can actually aid in weight loss. Dates are an incredibly sweet whole fruit that easily takes the place of any added sugar, honey or syrup in any recipe. Dates contain fiber, nourish the muscles by containing high amounts of calcium, iron, and magnesium (among many other minerals and vitamins.) Dates are great for the intestines, preventing constipation while also protecting against diarrhea (high potassium content.)

Heart Healthy Sweet Treats:
  •  1/2 cup raw walnuts
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 1 cup medjool dates, pitted
  • 2 Tbsp shredded unsweetened coconut (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder, or *raw cacao (optional)
  • pinch sea salt
  • pinch pumpkin pie spice (cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves)
Blend in food processor. Mold into shape or roll into balls. Eat immediately or refrigerate to preserve.

Looking at our 5 taste chart, we can see this is a balanced food that will satisfy and reduce cravings.

The sweetness is produced by the dates, cashews and coconut.
Bitter is provided by walnuts and cacao (or cocoa.)
Sour is given by walnuts.
Salty: I added a pinch of sea salt.
Pungent: I added some pumpkin pie spice, which has ginger and cinnamon.

For more information on food for balanced emotions and reduced cravings, or to set up an acupuncture appointment you can give us a call: (412) 381-0116.

Love to all,
~ Melissa and Dave

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

Want Free Shipping on Vitamix Blenders and Excalibur Dehydrators? Check out our recommendation page to find out how! (You will be taken to our sister site, Food Under Foot, but in a new window.) 

Read these articles by Melissa Sokulski, L.Ac. in Natural News for more information:
*Raw cacao can be purchased at www.iherb.com. I use Nativas Natural brand. Receive $5 off first order with coupon code: MEL526





Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day, Here's To Your Heart

Happy Valentine's Day!

Perhaps with a nod to St. Valentine's Day, February has become American Heart Month, in honor of the health of our hearts.

There has been a lot of research about what is healthy for our hearts. Many arrows point to the incredible benefits of a plant-based diet. There are books such as The China Study, and movies like Forks Over Knives (watch for free on hulu with commercials, or if you have netflix without commercials) which highlight the correlation between heart disease and a diet high in animal products such as dairy (milk and cheese), eggs and meat.

Below is a CNN documentary, The Last Heart Attack, by Dr. Sanjay Gupta, MD featuring former President Bill Clinton. It is worth a watch.




Here at the Birch Center we advocate plant-based diets. We find that they allow people to feel lighter, happier, more energetic and healthy. We offer great recipes on this blog, but also on our sister blog Food Under Foot, which incorporates super wild foods into recipes.

We hope you have a wonderful Valentine's Day. Do something special for your heart today! For more information or to set up an appointment you can give us a call: (412) 381-0116.

Love to all,
~ Melissa and Dave Sokulski
acupuncturists, Birch Center for Health

(412) 381-0116

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

Want Free Shipping on Vitamix Blenders and Excalibur Dehydrators? Check out our recommendation page to find out how! (You will be taken to our sister site, Food Under Foot, but in a new window.) 

Read these articles by Melissa Sokulski, L.Ac. in Natural News for more information:
And check out these articles on this blog...which come up when I search this blog for "heart."

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Balance Emotions End Cravings With Five Tastes

In Chinese medicine, there are five elements - fire, earth, metal, water, wood - which correspond to organ systems, emotions, tastes, color, seasons, and many more attributes.

Recently I made a chart for wild greens substitutions: Turn Your Favorite Recipes Wild, (in our sister blog, Food Under Foot), and today I thought about expanding it in terms of Chinese medicine.

Often, when we experience cravings, it is because we are not eating a balance of all 5 tastes. In our culture, we tend to stick with sweet, salty and sour, ignoring bitter and pungent/spicy almost completely. (Incidentally, the amount of wild greens that fell into the sour category was huge!)

Check out the chart below and see if you can add more balance to your menu. You will feel more satisfied and widen your range of nutrients. The balance and health of your emotions, organs and whole body is effected by the foods we eat.

Taste Element Emotion Organs Food Wild food
Bitter Fire Joy, lack of joy Heart/small intestine Lettuce, endive, kale, green tea Dandelion, chicory, broad dock greens
Sweet Earth Compassion, worry Spleen/stomach Grains, spinach, squash, fruit Lambs quarters leaves and seeds, nettles, chickweed
Pungent/spicy Metal Sorrow, letting go Lungs/Lg. Intestine Onion, garlic, arugula Garlic mustard, onion grass, ramps
Salty Water Fear, wisdom, will power Kidney/Bladder Sea salt, seaweed, soy/tofu, swiss chard Wild orach, plantain leaves, seaweed
Sour Wood Anger, creativity, growth Liver/gall bladder Fermented foods, cheese, collard greens Yellow dock leaves, Japanese knotweed shoots, staghorn sumac, sheep sorrel, wood sorrel

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

Love to all,
~ Melissa and Dave

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

Want Free Shipping on Vitamix Blenders and Excalibur Dehydrators? Check out our recommendation page to find out how! (You will be taken to our sister site, Food Under Foot, but in a new window.) 

Read these articles by Melissa Sokulski, L.Ac. in Natural News for more information:

Monday, February 4, 2013

Acupuncture, Herbs, And Tea to Treat Colds and Flu

photo: Wikimedia Commons
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
  • 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

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

Want Free Shipping on Vitamix Blenders and Excalibur Dehydrators? Check out our recommendation page to find out how! (You will be taken to our sister site, Food Under Foot, but in a new window.) 

Read these articles by Melissa Sokulski, L.Ac. in Natural News for more information:

2013 Is The Year Of The Snake

Picture from Wikimedia Commons
  Gung Hay Fat Choy!

According to the lunar Chinese calendar, February 10, 2013 begins the Year of the Snake.

Snakes are powerful totems. They represent transformation and healing. Creative forces are awakening this year. You may notice your intuition sharpening.

According to this website, some famous people born in the year of the snake are Bob Dylan, Greta Garbo, Brad Pitt, Brooke Shields, Oprah Winfrey and Virginia Woolf. Snake years include 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, and of course 2013.

Caduceus picture, Wiki Commons
Snakes represent wholeness and infinity. You will find the snake a powerful symbol in mythology. The two intertwining snakes - caduceus - is a symbol of modern medicine, but the caduceus was also used in ancient Greece as a symbol of Hermes (as readers of  Percy Jackson will know: they were named Martha and George in that series). They are also symbols relating to the gods/goddesses Isis, Hera and Athena. The most famous Gorgon, Medusa, had snakes for hair. Snakes are strong symbols which can evoke power as well as fear.

We hope you have a wonderful year full of healing, power, intuition and creativity. This is the year to shed your skin and transform, becoming ever closer to your true essence with each shedding.

Happy New Year, Gung Hay Fat Choy!

~ David and Melissa Sokulski, L.Ac.

To schedule an acupuncture appointment, please call (412) 381-0116 or email BirchCenter@gmail.com.

Questions about acupuncture? Call (412) 381-0116 or email BirchCenter@gmail.com

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Saturday, February 2, 2013

Chronic Back Pain Gone! - Thanks to Dave at Birch Center

 Dear Birch Center,

I want to let everyone know how much David Sokulski of the Birch Center helped me with my chronic back pain. In fact, it is still unbelievable to me that it is completely gone.

I have been living with back pain most of my life. I am 44 years old now. It began when I was a gymnast in high school with a pinch in my low back. In college my first episode hit when I could not stand up straight or put weight on one leg because of intense pain. I went to the doctor and he said it was a herniated disc in between my sacral and lumbar vertebrae, and he wanted to operate immediately. I was terribly afraid to do this so I convinced my parents to wait. Meanwhile, the doctor gave me muscle relaxants which I took, and it felt better enough for me to play frisbee (I know, maybe not the smartest thing!), but after that the pain did not come back to that degree and surgery was off the table, thank goodness.

Throughout the years it would be better and worse. I am athletic - running, walking, swimming, yoga, and I was able to manage even with the constant sharp low back pain. I find when I cut out gluten and dairy the pain almost goes away completely, but I have let dairy back into my diet and recently the pain returned so severely I was again at the point of not being able to stand, walk, function in my daily activities. I was feeling depressed and frustrated. I was seeing a massage therapist and going to yoga. The yoga helped me through the day, yet every morning it was back worse than the day before. The massage felt great but truthfully, it hurt so badly right afterwards from laying on the table it was hard to get up and function afterward until I had stretched quite a bit. I was convinced it was my mattress.

I have had success with acupuncture for other things before but really didn't think it could possibly help (especially since I had convinced myself nothing would change until I got a new mattress, changed my diet and lost weight, all of which I have not.) However I was desperate and I gave it a try.

David put some needles into my low back/sacral area right where the pain was. I didn't even feel the needles, they are so tiny. I had to show him where the pain was and he just tapped them in. He added a couple needles to my ankle and low leg (only one leg because of how I had to lay on the table...on my side.) He simply left the needles in for half an hour and did nothing else. When he took the needles out I was shocked - I cannot express how shocked I was - the pain was gone.

The next morning I stretched and rolled in bed and cringed with fear, afraid the pain would return (this was my worst point of the day), but it didn't. Over the next couple days I noticed my depression lifting - I hadn't really connected it to my back pain but living with constant pain for so long must really take a toll. For a few days I was entirely pain free.

Then one morning I felt it return slightly as I moved around in my bed - oh no! I called Dave immediately and had another treatment. I was so scared it wouldn't work again, but it did. I got off the table totally pain free and the pain has not returned. I am still eating dairy (which I know I shouldn't, but I just want to say that I didn't get rid of this trigger) and am still on the same old mattress. I didn't think I could go skiing this year with the pain (I was unable to sled with my daughter earlier this winter), but I went cross country skiing the other day with no pain and have a day planned to go downhill.

My fear is leaving, my outlook is up, and I just feel so much better overall than I have in years. I wanted to write this and asked Dave to share it with others. I am telling everyone I know about him. Thank you so much!

~ H.C. from Pittsburgh, PA

Birch Center note:

In Chinese Medicine low back pain is often associated with Kidney energy needing to be supported. The Kidney relates to the water element, and kidney problems often increase in the winter. Other symptoms which may be associated with weakened kidney energy are:
  • dental cavities
  • infertility
  • back pain
  • knee pain
  • weak bones/osteoporosis
  • fear
  • lack of will
  • growth issues
  • developmental delays
  • neurological issues
Any time of year is appropriate for treatment, especially as symptoms occur. When we have symptoms associated with the water element (winter), winter is a particularly powerful and effective time to receive treatment.

Give us a call today with questions or to schedule an appointment:

(412) 381-0116

We hope you are enjoying your winter! The ground hog didn't see his shadow today, so spring is surely on the way!! ;-)

~ David and Melissa Sokulski, L.Ac.

To schedule an acupuncture appointment, please call (412) 381-0116 or email BirchCenter@gmail.com.

Questions about acupuncture? Call (412) 381-0116 or email BirchCenter@gmail.com