By: Colleen Bunker LAc
Spring is here all in the magnificent grandeur typical to Portland. Coming from the east coast, I’m am still in awe of the diversity and magnitude of the flowering trees and shrubs! Unfortunately for many of people, it’s the onslaught of seasonal allergies. Just as the weather begins to break and people want to get outside to enjoy the sun and beauty, symptoms such as sinus congestion, wheezing, running nose, itchy and burning eyes, headache and fatigue are suffered by as many as 45 million Americans.
Many people suffer year in and year out, relying on pharmaceutical medications or by simply trying to limit exposure to the offending pollens. None of these approaches are curative, not to mention the many negative side effects and risks involved with long-term use of antihistamines. Besides sleepiness, low libido, and increased appetite; infertility, anxiety, impaired thinking and depression have all been linked to standard allergy medications.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) offers another alternative. Acupuncture, combined with herbs, can relieve acute symptoms and at the same time begin to build a person’s Wei Qi (similar to the western immune system). In TCM, anytime the body exhibits symptoms, there is an underlying weakness or imbalance that needs to be addressed. When a person has recurrent allergies, the most common weaknesses are found in the Lung, Spleen and Kidney energies. A skilled TCM practitioner will initially choose acupuncture points and herbs to alleviate the acute symptoms, while gently supporting the whole body. The proper time to begin really focusing on the underlying system weaknesses is after the particular offending pollens have passed. At this time, support and advice will be given on diet and lifestyle habits, along with acupuncture and herbal medicine, to rebuild and support Wei Qi, overall balance and good health. With the commitment of the patient, particularly between allergies seasons, to receive regular treatment and to implement immune building lifestyle changes, seasonal allergies can be greatly alleviated and in many, many cases, healed completely.
Lao Tzu, China’s founding Taoist philosopher wrote:
“If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself. If you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself. Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation.” (c.605 BC)
It’s been a long winter, colder than many of us expected and challenged by a nervous questioning of what we individually and collectively value and stand for. In Chinese Medicine, winter is the time we withdraw from the world and reside in a deeper sense of self. It is a time when we enter our personal darkness. The season is ruled by the Kidneys and the water element that welcomes us back into its amniotic fluid. Returning to this deepest part of self, we may come into confrontation with how comfortable we actually are in that space of confinement, solitude and quiet. We nestle in and attempt to create comfort. The attempt in and of itself is an act of self-preservation and regeneration.
Now, as the rain has sunken deep into the soil to nourish the seeds that laid dormant, as cold gradually gives way to warmth, the Tiger awakens. The Tiger represents the Wood element, the Gall Bladder and Liver; the spark of ferocious life that can no longer contain itself and has the courage and will to sprout. The Liver and Gall Bladder rule over our sinews and create the impulse to move, run, stretch and twist our bodies out of winter’s stagnating comforts. Wood seeks growth, expression and change. It is the element of self-transformation. Whatever that means in your life, now is the opportunity to use Spring’s impulsive surge to act on your goals and new year’s resolutions.
It takes new perspectives and flexibility (Gallbladder) to create change. For change to last however, vision and planning (Liver) are necessary. To support this process, Spring is the best time to detox physically and mentally, to exercise and stretch regularly, to spend time in the woods and begin to eat lighter foods (plenty of greens, sprouts and aromatic foods such as citruses, vinegars and bitters, less sugar, less fried food, less fats).
Remember, that although Spring is the time for self-transformation, trees do not grow in isolation. Find your forest, find the people that seek similar growth and support each other through your process. Let go of the old and make room for the new.
Wishing you all strength, courage and growth in this Spring Season!
Naike Swai, L.Ac & The North Portland Wellness Center Team
Join the Wellness Center for a free Ear Seed Treatment every second Wednesday of the month from 12:45-1:30 through June 14th! This New monthly Walk Williams event kicks of Feb. 8th and continues the second Wednesday of every month. From 5-9 pm, Walk Williams and explore the Williams District. Discover one-of-a-kind Williams District deals from unique businesses. Follow the lighted balloons in the evening to old favorites and brand new hot spots. Join your neighbors for a social night out. Find all your needs in Williams District – food + drink, shopping, recreation, medical and services. Gather stamps at each participating business to be entered in to win gift certificates from area businesses. See the link below for a complete list of participating businesses.