Seed Cycling for an Irregular Period
Chinese Herbs & Supplements, Self-Care

What can you do about an irregular period?

What’s causing your irregular period?

If you’ve ever searched online for treatment options to regulate the menses, most sites list few options: hormonal therapy and/or possibly nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication. Well, I’m happy to say, for many women, these are not your only options. A lot of women can regulate an irregular period with seed cycling at home and/or Chinese medicine support. Before you can figure out truly what your options are, however, it’s important to have your particular situation assessed by a medical professional. The causes of an irregular period can vary significantly; and depending on the severity of your condition, home remedies may not be advisable.
Seed Cycling for an Irregular Period


Will seed cycling help?

Largely promoted by Naturopaths, seed cycling is a method of naturally regulating the hormones through diet. It’s not a traditional Chinese medicine practice; but I have seen it benefit many women. Typically folks are encouraged to ‘seed cycle’ for three to four months before the period is expected to regulate. To learn more about this home remedy, I’d suggest reading, “Seed Cycling for Hormone Balance – Gentle Ways to Restore Normal,” and/or “Seed Cycling for Hormonal Balance.”

What about Chinese medicine?

Whereas seed cycling divides the cycle into two phases of treatment, Chinese medicine actually considers a cycle to have about four phases of treatment. This may include Chinese herbs, acupuncture, moxibustion and/or dietary therapy. Our treatment principles will vary depending on these four phases:

Days 1-4: Regulate the qi and blood

goji berries for bpa-induced reproductive damageDuring this phase, we want everything to run smoothly. When the blood or qi is stagnant, we can experience more blood clots, cramps, or breast tenderness. To counter this, we can use herbs and acupuncture focused on moving the blood and qi.

Days 5-12: Nourish blood and yin

After the period, we want to replenish the body’s lost resources. When we are blood deficient, we experience more fatigue, poor concentration, and unrestful sleep. As such, it’s important during this phase to nourish the blood and body’s viscous fluids.

Days 13-16: Regulate qi and blood

If you’re someone whose ovulation is delayed, we would want to reinforce your body’s battery, or “yang,” as well as move the qi and blood during this phase. At ovulation the body is making a big shift from estrogen production to progesterone. By regulating the qi and blood we help make that a smooth transition.

Walnuts for healthy spermDays 17-25: Warm and tonify yang

At and after ovulation, we want the body’s temperature to warm up. You’ll notice your body basal temperature should go up about 0.3-0.5 degrees during this phase. If a woman’s yang is insufficient, she’ll find her lower abdomen can be cold to the touch, she’ll have a slow rise to her luteal phase and tends to have clots almost black in color. In Chinese medicine, we can use warming foods, medicinals, and moxa to support this phase.

It’s important to note that, for some women, too much heat can cause an irregular period. In that case, we wouldn’t want to warm during this phase, but rather support the overall cooling of her system. Too much heat could present as a shorter cycle.

Where do you go from here?

If you haven’t already, in addition to seeing your ob/gyn, I’d encourage you to start tracking your body basal temperature. Get a second opinion on your options by seeking a consultation with a Chinese medicine practitioner. The earlier in life you regulate your hormones, the easier it is to avoid pregnancy when desired, to increase chances of pregnancy when desired, and to smoothly navigate later life changes. It’s worth it!

Chinese Dietary Therapy Cookbook
Chinese Herbs & Supplements, Self-Care

Chinese Dietary Therapy Cookbook – Free Online Resource

Chinese Dietary Therapy Cookbook

Chinese Dietary Therapy: Self-Care Recipes for Health

Acupuncture is pretty magnificent when you think about it — that something we do for 20min to 1h in a day could affect how we feel during all the remaining hours! Like meditation, yoga, taiji, etc – building these small windows of self-care into our day can create profound changes over time. So, what about diet? Chinese medicine has so much to say on the subject. Some even consider Chinese dietary therapy to be its own pillar of Chinese medicine, distinct from herbal medicine, and complementary to acupuncture and qi gong practices.

Online Chinese Dietary Therapy Cookbook

To this end, I was looking up a recipe for a patient recently when I came across this cookbook: Traditional Chinese Medicine Medicated Diet Recipe Book. What a great reference! As an extension of Chinese herbal medicine (you’ll find a lot of Chinese herbs in the ingredient lists), it’s important to note Chinese dietary therapy requires a Chinese medicine differential diagnosis. Once you know you’re diagnosis, you can look up remedies under the header or “Actions/Indications/Functions” sections included with each recipe. The easiest way to do this, is run a search on the pdf for your keyword, e.g. “Lung” or “yin deficiency,” then you can skip to related recipes. As with all medicine, please consult your certified Chinese herbalist before exploring self-care options.

Sample Recipes

What are your favorite recipes?

Have a favorite Chinese dietary therapy recipe? Let us know in the comments!

Natural prozac alternative: Turmeric
Chinese Herbs & Supplements

Turmeric: A natural prozac alternative for depressive disorders?

Curcuma longa roots: Prozac Alternative Turmeric

2013 Study on Turmeric: A safe and natural Prozac alternative?

Efficacy and Safety of Curcumin in Major Depressive Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Researcher Highlights

  • Adverse effects of antidepressants continue to impel researchers to find safer alternatives
  • In this study, (1) group I received fluoxetine 20 mg/day in the morning (2) group II received curcumin 1000 mg/day (500 mg BD, containing total curcuminoids 88% and volatile oils 7% from rhizomes of Curcuma longa Linn); group III received fluoxetine 20 mg/day and curcumin 1000 mg/day (500 mg BD).
  • Curcumin dose was calculated using data from Chinese medicine using dry rhizome of Curcuma longa at 3–9 g/70 kg adult for treatment of depression like disorders.
  • Curcumin has been shown to have anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, anti-cancer and neuroprotective properties.
  • Curcumin’s anti-depressant effects include: “Neurogenesis in the hippocampus and rise in the serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline brain levels by inhibiting monoamine oxidase enzyme.”
  • Curcumin was found to be equivalent to fluoxetine in terms of change in Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAM-D17) score from baseline after six weeks of treatment.

With researchers concluding, “curcumin may be an effective and safe agent when used as a modality of treatment in patients of MDD without concurrent suicidal ideation or other psychotic disorders,” turmeric may just be the safe Prozac alternative they’ve been looking for!

Turmeric in Chinese Herbal Medicine

Interestingly enough, in Chinese medicine we have three different herbs that come from the plant genus Curcuma: 郁金 (Yu Jin), 姜黄 (Jiang Huang), and 莪术 (E Zhu). Jiang Huang is the only herb that exclusively comes from Curcuma longa (that which is cited above). However, Yu Jin can also come from this plant (specifically from the root tuber, as opposed to the rhizome, which is Jiang Huang).


While, Jiang Huang, Yu Jin and E Zhu have unique properties and are used to treat different symptoms and signs in Chinese medicine, these three herbs are all in the same class of herb: Herbs that Regulate the Blood. For this reason, in our medicine, Jiang Huang is considered contraindicated during pregnancy and Yu Jin contraindicated in case of obstruction due to qi deficiency.

As always, please consult a certified herbalist to make sure an herb is appropriate for your condition and your constitution before deciding on what would constitute a safe Prozac alternative for you.


Chinese medicine cancer treatment for improved quality of life

Improved quality of life with Chinese Medicine cancer treatment

Chinese medicine cancer treatment improves quality of life//

A systematic review of nearly 24,000 studies has found that traditional Chinese medicine can benefit cancer patients.

Source: Meta-Analysis Reveals TCM’s Benefit To Cancer Patients | Asian Scientist Magazine | Science, Technology and Medicine News Updates From Asia

Meta-Analysis of Traditional Chinese Medicine Cancer Treatment

Practice of traditional Chinese medicine for psycho-behavioral intervention improves quality of life in cancer patients: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Key Points

  • Traditional Chinese Medicine psycho-behavioral interventions (TCM PBIs) improved quality of life for cancer patients
  • Chinese medicine interventions included acupuncture, Chinese massage, Traditional Chinese Medicine five elements musical intervention (TCM FEMI), Traditional Chinese Medicine dietary supplement (TCM DS), Qigong and Tai Chi
  • Both TCM and non-TCM PBIs resulted in pain relief, depression remission, reduced time to flatulence following surgery and sleep improvement
  • Chinese medicine cancer treatment showed more beneficial than non-TCM PBIs when it came to reducing fatigue and gastrointestinal distress

Chinese medicine: More than just acupuncture

What I love about this analysis, is that it acknowledges Chinese medicine is more than just acupuncture. Here in the States when people ask me what I do I often simplify and say, “Acupuncturist” because that is how we are typically licensed (i.e. LAc – Licensed Acupuncturist). In WA state we have the perhaps more appropriate title of EAMP: East Asian Medicine Practitioner. It’s an important distinction as the medicine is so much more than just acupuncture — it’s also physical medicine involving massage and exercise; it’s also dietary and herbal medicine, acknowledging that what we take in is affecting our health. To best benefit from Chinese medicine, it’s best to use all of it.

Chinese medicine cancer treatment: One size does not fit all

Part of understanding the system of Chinese medicine is understanding it treats everyone individually. Each person has a unique constitution and a unique set of living conditions. Not all people with cancer, therefore, receive the same treatment. Interested to learn more about some of the approaches used in Chinese medicine cancer treatment? Consider reading more about medicinal mushrooms and moxibustion.

what is stomach heat?

What is Stomach Heat? Sean Evans and Chili Klaus Eat the World’s Hottest Chili Pepper

Stomach Heat in Chinese Medicine

You’ve heard me talk about the relevance of food when it comes to self-care. In the post “Foods to Clear Heat” I mention the different organs that can run hot and require cooling foods for balance. While it may seem unfamiliar– this, thinking about internal organs as running warm or cool, our diagnostic system is thousands of years old and came out of what can be clearly observed through questioning, palpation, pulse taking, smelling, listening, and inspection.

When I came across this video I thought — yes! What a great example of Stomach heat. You want to know what Stomach heat means? Watch these two men eat the world’s hottest chili pepper, the Carolina Reaper.

Sean Evans and Chili Klaus Demonstrate Excess Stomach Heat

Skip ahead to 7:45 to watch them get to it! (Head’s up — there is an F bomb thrown in there if you are sensitive to that….)

Signs of Stomach Heat

You’ll notice as these men eat the peppers, a number of things happen:

  • Their faces turn red
  • They begin to sweat and tear
  • They belch and hiccup
  • They experience pain

The nature of heat is to rise — so we start to see the warmth move to the head. This also causes what we can “rebellious qi” uprising, i.e. the belching and hiccuping. Heat can damage body fluids; and here we see the fluids lost through excretion. Pain is always interesting as both heat and cold can cause pain. By combining all the symptoms and signs a differential diagnosis determines which to treat.

How to know if I have Stomach Heat?

Not all cases are this obvious. If you know one food causes too much heat for your comfort or health (e.g. peanuts, chili, etc), the easiest thing to do is avoid it. But not all Stomach heat comes from too much of something; it can also be caused by underlying deficiency. The best thing to do if you’re wondering about your gut’s health is to check in with an herbalist or acupuncturist. Too much Stomach heat-clearing can be damaging to the system if inappropriately administered. Be wise and be kind to your body!

Making Chinese Medicinal Soup
Chinese Herbs & Supplements

Chinese Medicinal Soup for the Seasons, Pregnancy, Postpartum and Kids

Chinese medicinal soupChinese medicinal soup recipes

The Chinese Soup Lady is one of the most comprehensive websites I’ve seen for Chinese medicinal soup recipes. Some sample recipes for winter include:

What makes Chinese medicinal soups ‘medicine’?

It’s not uncommon in China to cook with Chinese herbal medicinals. You’ve heard me say “food is the first medicine;” and with Chinese medicinal soups folks are able to benefit even more by intentionally adding in foods or herbs that address seasonal changes or deficiency from childbirth, etc. For a number of these recipes you’d need to visit your local Asian market to procure the included Chinese medicinals. Here in Seattle, you might have your Chinese herbalist order you the necessary herbs from Bastyr (best, regulated quality) or you might visit Lucky An Dong in the ID.

What’s an example?

Looking at the above recipes, we find the following Chinese medicinals:

Any cautions?

Of course! Any time you are incorporating medicinals into your diet, you’ll want to discuss your intentions and choices with a healthcare professional familiar with the medicine. In the case of Chinese medicine, for example, Korean ginseng can be way too drying or hot for some. This might present as heightened anxiety, irritability, headache, dizziness, unusual vaginal bleeding etc. Far from ideal! Need help deciding what’s best for you? Come on in for an herbal consultation!


Acupuncture Effective for Chronic Functional Constipation Relief


“Laxative abuse can cause damage to the intestinal structure, damage function, and aggravate constipation, whereas acupuncture is a safe and a non-toxic choice with no side-effects.” Source: Acupuncture in Treatment of Chronic Functional Constipation | InTechOpen

[wproto_divider style=”gap”]

Constipation relief: dependent upon a differential diagnosis

Just as there are a number of reasons in Western medicine why one would be constipated (e.g. slow transit constipation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), obstructed defecation syndrome (ODS), etc), Chinese medicine also differentiates between presentations. Our diagnoses may include any or a combination of the following:

Deficiency of qi, yin, yang, or blood

  • Lung qi deficiency
  • Spleen qi deficiency
  • Blood deficiency
  • Kidney yin deficiency
  • Kidney yang deficiency

Interior cold

  • Intestine Cold due to Spleen and Kidney yang deficiency
  • Intestine Cold due to external Cold

Excess heat with deficient fluid

  • Stomach and Large Intestine Heat
  • Liver Heat
  • Febrile Disease

Qi stagnation

  • Liver qi stagnation

For such a seemingly simple condition, the picture can get quite complex!

Different diagnosis, different treatment

Case studies tend to systematize treatment for control purposes; and even with controls acupuncture can get pretty great results. For example, in Acupuncture in Treatment of Chronic Functional Constipation, researchers Ding et al list two sets of points found to provide constipation relief to 67.7% of 90 cases when treated every day (30 minutes, alternating each day between sets) for a total of 20 sessions:

  • Set 1, treating the front side of the body: Bilateral ST25 (Tianshu), SP15 (Daheng), SP14 (Fujie), CV6 (Qihai), CV4 (Guanyuan), ST36 (Zusanli), and ST37 (Shangjuxu).
  • Set 2, treating the back side of the body: Bilateral BL20 (Pishu), BL23 (Shenshu), BL25 (Dachangshu), BL33 (Zhongliao), BL34 (Xialiao), and GV20 (Baihui).

In practice, however, treatment will likely vary based on a differential diagnosis. I’ve included some of Chinese medicine’s favorite points on this post’s featured image above. We often use a mix of local and distal points to help regulate energy, rather than bringing all the energy to the one area that’s already plugged up.
Laxatives- Use Caution (11825448006)

Laxatives: Not safe for long-term use

It’s important to realize laxatives, while helpful in the short-term, are not long-term solutions. Chronic use of stimulant laxatives can lead to fluid/electrolyte imbalance, excess fat in the stools and/or protein loss due to malabsorption, softening of the bones, and vitamin/mineral deficiencies. It’s recommended that even a ‘natural option’ like senna be used for no longer than two weeks to prevent dependence and bowel function disruption.

Constipation relief beyond acupuncture

As Ding et al have concluded, “From our clinical experience, if the patient does not respond to acupuncture, then with biofeedback, electrical stimulation, herb medicine, or moxibustion maybe still [sic] have desired effects. However, if one of the therapies is partially successful in integrating, others may shorten the working threshold time and enhance efficacy.” In my personal experience, I can say it’s never too late to try. After hearing of my grandfather’s discomfort in his late years, I sent him a bottle of teapills (Chinese herbs). I was grateful he tried them and ever grateful for the medicine when he came back to me saying, “Yea! Can you get me some more of those pills? They really worked!”

Breathe in air, breathe out fat: The role of the Lung in weight loss

Breathe in air, breathe out fat: The role of the Lung in weight loss

just breathe: breathe to lose weight

“These results show that the lungs are the primary excretory organ for weight loss….”

Article on role of breathing in shedding fat

This is where body fat ends up when you lose weight – ScienceAlert

Author’s Key Points

  • When we shed pounds, the fat is not converted to heat or energy, but rather carbon dioxide and water.
  • Of 22 lbs of fat, roughly 84% (18.5 lbs) is breathed out as carbon dioxide, and only 16% (3.5 lbs) excreted as water through the urine, sweat and other bodily fluids. (Mind blown!)
  • To lose a pound of fat, a person would need to take in roughly three times its weight in air.
  • Breathing isn’t solely responsible for our losing weight; exercise is still required to unlock the carbon and break down the fat.

Fat in Chinese medicine

In Chinese medicine, fat is considered a “phlegm and damp” (i.e. pathogenic fluid) accumulation. A differential diagnosis might target different organs* responsible for this water imbalance, e.g. Stomach heat with Spleen deficiency, qi stagnation, external pathogens from diet, or a Kidney deficiency affecting the Urinary Bladder and what we call the Three Burners. For this reason, not all obesity is treated the same in Chinese medicine.

The Lung’s role in Chinese medicine

Nonetheless, if we trace back to Chinese medicine fundamental theory, the Spleen is the referred to as the generator of phlegm, and the Lung is considered the container of phlegm. To rid the body of excess damp-phlegm, then, we employ the Lung and support the Spleen (in addition to addressing the underlying imbalance as clarified by the differential diagnosis). For this reason, I found this article fascinating– I love it when Western science verifies something Chinese medicine has been practicing for millennia. Slowly, they’re catching up! [wink!]

Chinese medicine for treating phlegm

Chinese medicine has a lot of different herbs for resolving phlegm and draining damp; but a differential diagnosis is required to be sure a formula is the right fit. Additionally, a 2009 study found “combined acupuncture and scraping therapy is quite effective for simple obesity and in improving phlegm-dampness constitution of simple obesity people.” (For more on scraping therapy, see gua sha under adjunctive therapies.) Additionally, if you missed my earlier blog post, you might be interested to read more about auricular acupuncture’s effect on appetite suppression.

*In Chinese medicine, the organs, e.g. Spleen, Stomach, etc, are umbrella terms used to tie together a number of different physiological functionings; they are not necessarily referring to the Western medicine physical organ.

Studies Cited

Acupuncture, Chinese Herbs & Supplements

Effects of Marijuana According to Chinese Medicine

Cannabis sativa (Köhler)

A Note to Readers

People often ask me how Chinese medicine sees marijuana use; and it for this reason I include this article on my blog. I am neither endorsing or challenging drug use with this article; I am simply sharing a viewpoint of how it affects the body.

Article on Marijuana and Chinese Medicine

Marijuana, Apathy and Chinese Medicine, Part 1 by Chinese medicine practitioner, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Leon Hammer, MD.

Author’s Key Points

  • Marijuana in Chinese medicine is considered cold in nature, and clears yang from the Liver. [This is the Chinese medicine “Liver,” an umbrella term for multiple physiological functions in the body, not necessarily the Western medicine organ.]
  • By draining Liver yang, marijuana renders “the Liver relatively unable to perform its functions of moving physical and mental energy and containing it for when it is needed. The result is that while there is no problem making plans, when it is time to move on these plans, there is no coherent energy to do it.”
  • In addition to Liver qi-yang deficiency, substance abuse can manifest as the separation of Liver yin and yang.
  • Western medical research points to dose-dependent decline in executive cognitive functions (e.g. attention, concentration, decision-making, impulsivity, self-control of responses, reaction time, risk taking, verbal fluency and working memory).

Chinese Herbs to Support the Liver

The author goes on to outline certain Chinese herbs that help recover Liver qi-yang and to yin-yang’s separation:

  • Individual Herbs: Huang Qi and Dan Shen.
  • Modified Formulas: Gui Pi Tang, Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang, and Yi Guan Jian.

Marijuana and Depression

Dr. Hammer cites a study highlighting “[h]igh doses of cannabis in humans appear to increase the risk of depression, especially in the young.” I wondered is this the chicken or the egg? Cannabinoid receptor sites in the brain include the basal ganglia, hippocampus and cerebellum. As I’ve written before, damage to the cerebellum has been demonstrated in cases of depression and schizophrenia. A 2011 study found “long-term heavy cannabis use in healthy individuals is associated with smaller cerebellar white-matter volume similar to that observed in schizophrenia.”  Another study found, “heavy cannabis use can disrupt timing-related synaptic plasticity within the cerebellum, even after the cessation of cannabis use.” I was surprised to find what constituted “heavy use” — just a single joint per week, for at least one month of use.

The good news is “acupuncture works by neuromodulation, which may raise or flatten physiologic reactions, based on the direction needed for homeostasis. The latest functional brain imaging studies on acupuncture illustrate such modulatory neural and autonomic responses in various parts of the brain, including the limbic, paralimbic, and subcortical gray areas, as well as the cerebellum.” So, if you’re looking to balance out side effects of marijuana use or work on harm reduction, you might consider adding acupuncture and herbs into your treatment plan.


Acupuncture, Self-Care

Circadian Rhythm Surprise: How Our Body Clocks Help Shape Our Waistlines : The Salt : NPR

Biological clock human

“We humans are time-keeping machines. And it seems we need regular sleeping and eating schedules to keep all of our clocks in sync.”


“Researchers found that the timing of meals can influence how much weight people lose,” via Circadian Surprise: How Our Body Clocks Help Shape Our Waistlines : The Salt : NPR.

Studies Cited

Key Points

In sum, let’s do what we can to minimize this:

Main complications of persistent high blood pressure, circadian rhythm

Main symptoms of diabetes, circadian rhythm


The Circadian Rhythm and Chinese Medicine

In Chinese medicine, the organ’s individual clocks are set in two-hour blocks (view on Pinterest). When we find symptoms showing up during a certain window of time, we know that particular organ is not at its strongest. We also believe there is a mid-day mid-night correlation. For example, we believe resting the Gallbladder in sleep, for example, between 11p and 1a at night, we can help nourish the Heart who peaks from 11a to 1p. We would also maintain that keeping a regular sleeping and eating schedule is key to keeping the digestive organs strong and heart healthy.

What message are you sending your organs?

If your activities are sending a message to your organs, be clear on what you’d like them to do. If you’re not sure what you think they might want to be doing at certain times, see the Chinese organ clock. Two of the most important times to consider is eating and sleeping. In Chinese medicine, the Spleen is in charge of both thinking and converting our nutrients; so we’d recommend that when you eat, just eat. Don’t eat on the run; don’t eat while working. Send one message to your Spleen’s clock: Now is the time to make nutrients from nourishment. Likewise, before bedtime, what message are you sending your body with your activities? Is it ‘time for bed’ or ‘time to take-in and synthesize information’?

Acupuncture and the Body Clock

Chronoacupuncture, also known as circadian acupuncture, takes timing to a whole new level! The practice dates back to the Han dynasty (206-220 CE) and suggests that certain points are more active during different times of day. Thus, to maximize the efficacy of treatment, certain points are included in the point prescription as well certain times of day recommended for treatment. If you’re curious about the practice, you can learn more at

Seeking treatment

Are you waking up at the same time at night? Symptoms worse a certain time of day? Come on in for an assessment; and let’s discuss how we might balance those organs!