Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A dose of my own medicine

I have developed a whole new appreciation for health and disease over the past week. After pulling it together for the holidays, I finally met the couch last Saturday, and haven’t moved far from it since. That is, except for my big adventure yesterday to visit my former professor, and Chinese medical doctor, Dr. Cao. From past experience as a patient and student, I knew I was in for an authentic experience.
            “It just isn’t the same to needle yourself,” I told him while I was lying on his treatment table. He nodded and wisely smiled. He propped me up with pillows to lessen my cough, handed me a bottle of dark brown liquid and told me to drink it, unwrapped a carton of Chinese herbal lozenges. He positioned 3 heat lamps around me and felt my pulse, looked at my tongue. After quickly identifying my condition, he began burying needles in several obscure acupoints. I’m not gonna lie, it hurt like hell. Traditional Chinese Medicine, as it is practiced in China, is much more aggressive than the Chinese medicine we practice in the States. We Americans are, to but it bluntly, total wussies.
            But I toughened up and kept my eye to the finish line:  feeling better. If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that Dr. Cao is truly a master in our profession, and he knows exactly what he’s doing. I have never seen anyone work with more precision, unwavering skill and concentration. Not to mention wisdom and integrity.
            Dr. Cao came back several times to re-stimulate the needles, just as the intense sensation had subsided. I winced and he said, “Sorry, has to be strong.” Before and after the treatment, he also performed Tui Na (Chinese massage) that nearly had me clinging to the ceiling. (Again, wussy.)
            I immediately felt better after the treatment, and I told him so as I handed him a tip, which he adamantly refused. He wrote me a prescription for a raw herbal formula, and I thanked him. This was the moment I had been looking forward to… and dreading.

            Raw herbal decoctions are hands-down the most effective way to take herbs, as opposed to powder, pills, or capsules. However, the trade-offs are that it’s time-consuming to prepare, it smells awful and tastes worse. I sometimes fantasize about having a full raw herbal pharmacy, but then I always stop and ask myself, “Would any of my patients actually do this? I don’t know if I would!”
            Well, prepare a raw formula I did. (It’s been awhile.) And I re-discovered a certain satisfaction in the making of your own medicine.

Cheers to your health!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Drumroll please...

The new treatment room!

Come experience the coziness.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Immortal Palace is expanding

Lots of exciting things happening at Immortal Palace! Finally got a sign out front, for starters. Thanks to Lisa Rundall--designer extraordinaire--and her awesome dad.

Also, thanks to the recent success of an Immortal Palace Groupon, I have rented out a second treatment room. Right now, it just looks like a pile of furniture in the corner, but I am going to have it set up by Friday.

Speaking of Friday... Immortal Palace will be open for Tennyson Street First Friday Art Walk

Stop by this Friday, December 4th from 6 to 9pm to check out the new treatment space, sip a plastic cup of wine (very classy), and admire new resplendid glass pieces from artist Susan Mattson, and whimsical lamps by artist Lisa Rundall. (Lisa also makes gorgeous jewelry!)

Receive your coupon for $15 off your first acupuncture session at Immortal Palace. They expire at the end of the month, so don't miss out!

Also, there is a new business moving in downstairs from Immortal Palace called Grassroots. They are a coffee shop, art gallery, and medical marijuana dispensary, and they hope to be open sometime in the next month or so. I especially like the new paint job they did on the building!

Hope to see you Friday!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Enjoy autumn, prepare for winter

Chinese Medicine recognizes each season as corresponding to an element. Currently, we are in the Metal time of year, quickly transitioning into Water. These photos were taken on a recent hike outside Evergreen just before the height of the changing Aspen leaves--a breathtaking event in Colorado.

As autumn departs, follow these tips to prepare for winter:

1) Eat warm foods, drink warm liquid. Don't put out your digestive fires with cold, raw salads or ice water. Steam or wilt your salads. Or drink a mug of warm water as you eat your salad to keep your belly warm. Soups are your new best friend. (Keep an eye out for future posts on yummy soup recipes.)

2) Buy an old fashioned hot water bottle at your local drug store. You know those red rubber ones with the screw-on stopper? Just warm some tap water in a kettle, take it off the heat before it boils, and fill the hot water bottle 3/4 full. Forget what I said about soups, this will actually be your new best friend. Take it to bed with you to warm up your feet, cuddle up on the couch with it on your lap, wedge it between the couch and your lower back, sling it over your shoulder and lean up against it -- pain will melt away, your cheeks will get rosy, and, I swear, it's the next best thing to taking a hot bath.

3) Get an electric kettle. I LOVE electric kettles. I really can't say enough good things about them. I probably use mine at least 5 times a day. The wonderful thing about electric kettles, as opposed to stovetop kettles, is that they boil water sooner than you can reach for a tea bag. And since you will be drinking more warm beverages (ahem) and filling up your new hot water bottle, you will need it.

4) Visit your acupuncturist for a seasonal alignment treatment, or to boost your immune system for the upcoming cold season. Prevention is key!

Here is a recent email from a patient, who prefers to remain anonymous, after I helped her through a nasty flu virus:

Just wanted to let you know I think I am FINALLY feeling better. Much better now! Thank you so much for taking care of me and helping me through this thing. Thanks, Josie. Just wanted to let you know your treatment plan worked. Again."

Be well, and stay warm!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

If you can melt butter, you can make ghee

Ghee is the best of both worlds -- rich, buttery taste without the dairy. Ghee cooks well because it doesn't burn, and its nutty, slightly carmelized flavor is delish. Buy it at the supermarket, however, and you will curse your acupuncturist for recommending it to you. (What, does she think I'm made of money??)

Broke, dairy-sensitive, butter-lovers rejoice! (Or those just wanting to nurture their inner homemaker.) It will only cost you as much as the cheapest pound of butter you can find.

What you'll need:

1lb. unsalted butter (salted will burn)
Rubber bands
Stainless steel pan (will not work with non-stick pans)
Empty jars with lids

Put the stove on med-low heat, unwrap all the butter and plop it in the pan like so...

Once the butter has melted, turn the heat down to low and listen for the "cooking" noise. It's not a boil; if it's boiling, turn down the heat. It's more like the low gurgling noise your tummy makes if it's unhappy or digesting. (In the biz we call it "borborygmus.")

Let the butter cook for 30 minutes. Once you get the hang of it, it's easy to make ghee while you are cooking dinner or cleaning up the kitchen... or baking gluten-free zucchini muffins (recipe to come)!

While the butter is cooking, prepare your jars. For each jar, cut a large square of cheesecloth -- enough to fold over once and still have enough to cover the mouth of the jar and form a small well in the center to catch the dairy solids. (Cheesecloth usually comes already folded two layers thick. Fold it one more time before straining the liquid, so that it is four layers thick.) Place the cheesecloth over the jar and secure it with a rubber band.

Now, after 30 minutes has passed, start looking for dairy solids collecting on the bottom of the pan. The ghee is ready when the dairy solids are slightly browned. Gently tip the pan towards you, so that you don't get splattered by bubbling butter, and take a look.

If it looks like this, it's not ready yet.

If it looks like this, you're good to go!

Remove the pan from the burner and let it cool. (Pouring the hot liquid in the jars can make them crack.) Don't let it cool so much that it turns solid, just enough so it's warm and still liquid. (If you let it cool too long, just warm it up again.)

When it's the right temperature, pour it into your jars. (I like to use mason jars with wide mouths, or old jelly jars.)


Once you are done, screw the lids on and leave on the counter overnight. When they are room temperature, I like to keep one jar in the fridge for later, and one on the counter so that it remains soft and spreadable for everyday use.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Confucius considers disease

"Disease arriving is like a mountain crashing. Disease leaving is like silk unraveling."

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Testimonial: The effects of acupuncture are immediate

One of my patients wrote me an email after her second treatment, and I wanted to share with you an excerpt. Thank you, Brenda, for your warm responses and for letting me pass this on to my readers!

"Dear Josie,
I told [my daughter] on Friday, that her b'day present to me, which was an introduction to the 'Immortal Palace,' has been my best present ever. I had not expected the two treatments I've had with you so far to be so effective, so quickly!
1. No more collapse of my left nostril while sleeping, since treatment on Wednesday. Left eye has stopped watering and is no longer red!
2. While my knee area is not yet pain free, the pain is definitely less than it was.
3. I am continuing to be able to sleep 6-7 hours a night without waking. This is such a break though for me.
4. As for the herbs, they are absolute magic! For the first time in a long while, I am hopeful that I shall be able to lose weight. I took them around 6:00 p.m., after I returned home from my appointment with you. That evening, NO feeling of the need to munch after dinner! Since then, I find I have to remind myself to eat at regular times!... It makes it easy to eat healthfully and I have no interest in foods with white flour or sugar! (Still fancy ice cream on occasion though. That interest has not completely gone away!)

So, thank you for everything, Josie. You have obviously been a good student during your studies of the last four years. Looking forward to my next appointment with you.

Affectionately, Brenda"

Monday, August 31, 2009

Immortal Palace will be open for First Fridays!

Friday, September 4th
6:00pm - 10:00pm
3867 Tennyson Street (go around left side of the building and upstairs)

Enjoy wine and snacks while browsing innovative local art, and receive a special discount on your first acupuncture treatment!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Chinese medicine sees the body as a garden

This afternoon I came home and saw the first cheerful bloom of our mini-sunflower patch. Nearly six feet tall, it looked me right in the eye. This seemed like nothing short of a miracle to me--not only because I planted it from seed, and it somehow turned sun and water into a gigantic flower perched on a human-sized stalk, but also because I planted these seeds weeks past the universally accepted "seed planting" date with no more green thumb strategy than my fingers crossed. But there it was--against all odds! My miracle sunflower! Staring me in the face.

Even though I wasn't sure my flowers would grow or even bloom, I kept watering and weeding. All summer. Even though my funky little flower bed looked a little pathetic and sparse, I kept at it. Some part of me had faith and hope. And then one day, they all started blooming like fireworks. One after the other--first my cosmos, then my zinnias, both also planted from seed.

Which got me thinking: Gardening is a powerful metaphor for healing the body.

Every time you think a thought, you plant a seed. When you focus on that thought--whether it is positive or negative--you are watering the seed. The more this thought is nurtured, the more it will grow, eventually into physical manifestation--whether positive or negative. Against all odds.

As a practitioner of Chinese medicine, I see many patients who are affecting their own health by the way they are tending to their "inner garden." Interestingly, the body and its state of health is likened to the garden in Between Heaven and Earth: A Guide to Chinese Medicine.
"Both the garden and the human body are microcosms of nature. The processes, cycles, and condition that exist in a garden can also be observed in the life of a human being."
-Harriet Beinfield, L.Ac. and Efrem Korngold, L.Ac., O.M.D
Between Heaven and Earth
My advice as a novice gardener, as an acupuncturist, is to pay attention to the thoughts you are planting. Are they improving your health or diminishing it? Are you watering flowers or weeds?

Cooling summer foods

I just ate the juiciest, sweetest, fattest Colorado peach that has ever graced my taste buds! Oh, how I love peaches in the summertime! Is there a more sumptuous fruit?

In Chinese medicine, peaches are indicated to moisten the intestines and help with constipation; peach kernels are prescribed to treat blood stasis in the body.

Many common foods are used therapeutically in Chinese medicine. This August, while we are experiencing above 90 degree temperatures here in Denver, I prescribe the following foods to relieve summer heat:

- Peaches
- Pears
- Watermelon
- Green tea (yes, it is cooling!)
- Mung beans (soak and cook them like a porridge)
- Cucumber
- Lotus root
- Water chestnut
- Bamboo shoot
- Seaweed

And for dessert, I prescribe this soul-healing concoction:

Vanilla ice cream (Try this gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, best-ice-cream ever!)
Sliced peaches
Cinnamon (sprinkle on top)


Saturday, August 22, 2009

Acupuncture can help induce labor

My dear friend Ashley had her baby girl yesterday! This photo was taken on Monday, right before I gave her an acupuncture treatment to induce labor.

In Chinese medicine, needling certain acupoints can help encourage the body to begin labor. I use a technique called e-stim which introduces a small current of electricity through needles inserted in the lower back area. Although this procedure sounds intense, the sensation is quite mild and feels like a light tapping. Ashley reported feeling extremely relaxed and fell asleep during her treatment.

In addition to needling and e-stim, I also insert a tiny needle in the ear that represents the uterus. Stimulating this area of the ear, according to Chinese medicine, actually stimulates the uterus. In fact, your entire body is represented on your ear! How did they figure that out??

I was happy to learn this morning that Mom and Baby are doing so well that they are going home from the hospital this afternoon, a day early. Welcome to the world, little Ella! I can't wait to meet you tomorrow!

Monday, August 17, 2009

What are you creating with your thoughts?

"In the same way that sculptors mold clay into the creation that pleases them, you create by molding Energy. You mold it through your power of focus--by thinking about things, remembering things, and imagining things. You focus the Energy when you speak, when you write, when you listen, when you are silent, when you remember, and when you imagine--you focus it through the projection of thought."
--Esther and Jerry Hicks, Ask and It Is Given

Imagine if everyday for 5 minutes you focused on a thought that filled you with such overwhelming joy that every cell in your body was bathed in that emotion and responded by functioning at its absolute best.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Gwyneth Paltrow loves acupuncture

Remember when Gwyneth Paltrow showed up to a red carpet event with bruise-colored circles on her back? No, they were not octopus kisses (I know that's what you were thinking). These markings are from an ancient Chinese therapy called cupping.

A cotton ball is soaked in 90 proof alcohol, lit on fire, placed inside the glass cup, and then quickly removed to create a vacuum-like suction. The cup is then placed on an area of the body such as the back, stomach, or shoulder. I use cupping on my patients to promote blood flow and circulation, remove toxins from the body, and relieve pain. Cupping is useful for many ailments such as the common cold, asthma, hives, shoulder and back pain, to name a few.

Recently, Gwyneth Paltrow began a weekly newsletter called GOOP where she shares healthy recipes, favorite travel destinations, books to read, among many other useful tidbits. Check out this installment where she talks about acupuncture and Chinese medicine! Thank you Gwyneth!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Testimonial: Acupuncture speeds up post-surgery healing

One of my patients wanted to share with me and my readers her experience with acupuncture. Thanks, Rachel!

“I had surgery on my hand to reattach a cut nerve and tendon. My doctor and occupational therapist told me that I should not expect to gain full range of motion in my affected finger. In addition to my regular therapy treatments and massage, I saw Josie Bouchier weekly for 8 weeks of my recovery. She used a variety of techniques to break up scar tissue and promote nerve growth. On my last visit with the Occupational Therapist, he told me he was honestly surprised that I have regained my entire range of motion, and that I was in the 95th percentile of those who had the type of procedure I had. He said, "whatever you're doing, keep doing it!" I attribute my successful recovery to acupuncture, and Josie's thorough understanding of the healing process. I would highly recommend her to anyone seeking speedy recovery from surgery or other wounds, or any other issue for which western advice and prescriptions only partially treat.”
-Rachel, Business Administrator

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Saturday morning pancakes (gluten free!)

In Chinese medicine, every organ in the body has a certain time of day where it functions at its best. The Spleen and Stomach, which rule digestion, have the strongest qi (or energy, pronounced "chee") in the morning hours. As the day goes on, their qi weakens.

Many people eat the least amount of food or nothing at all in the morning, more in the afternoon and the most at night. This not only causes indigestion and other related issues such as heartburn, acid reflux, gas, bloating, etc., but can also lead to weight gain, sluggishness and insomnia.

Thus, it makes more sense to eat--as my professor, Dr. Cheng, used to say--"like a king in the morning, a layman in the afternoon, and a pauper at night." To add to that, a different professor, Dr. Cao, used to emphasize "take 100 steps after every meal." When I follow these two ancient Chinese rules, I am always grateful. And you will be, too!

To start your morning like a king (or queen) try this yummy egg free, dairy free, gluten free pancake recipe!

1 cup Pamela's gluten free pancake mix
3/4 cup hemp milk (Living Harvest is the best brand)
1/3 cup apple sauce (as an egg and oil substitute)
small capful of vanilla extract
a few generous shakes of cinnamon (also try a little ginger and nutmeg)
3/4 cup chopped frozen peaches (or blueberries, or raspberries)

also try adding 1/2 cup or so of your favorite ground seeds (sunflower, flax, sesame, etc.). However, you may need to add a little more hemp milk so the mix does not get too dry. Adding seeds to your recipe will keep you satiated for MUCH longer.

Preheat a skillet on low heat and mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Try using ghee (clarified butter) to cook your pancakes. (Ghee is a great alternative for butter when cooking because the dairy solids are removed so it doesn't burn. Keep an eye out for a future post on how to make your own ghee.) Pour a couple blobs of batter onto the sizzling ghee and be patient while they brown. Gluten free pancakes without egg cook slower than regular pancakes.

Garnish your pancakes with a little dash of cinnamon, your favorite maple syrup and a dollop of plain goat yogurt. (Many people who are dairy sensitive can eat goat dairy with no problem.)

(And don't forget to take 100 steps afterwards!)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Immortal Palace Grand Opening

After painting the floors, walls, and trim...

Immortal Palace opened its doors.

Much to my delight, friends and family came in happy droves and enjoyed snacks and wine.

Now the space feels properly introduced to the world! Thanks to everyone who came!