The Magical Mystery Soar part 3 – Free and Easy Wanderer

Yang naturally sprouts upward in the spring and that upward flow can get blocked creating stagnation. Help it flow smoothly by moving your body, being outside in nature and getting your creative juices flowing.

Wood is the element related to spring and which is the beginning of the new cycle of life when yang emerges. This is the year of the yang wood dragon and the dragon’s natural is inherently earth. So wood and earth are themes this season, specifically yang wood and yang earth.

Acupuncture is awesome this time of year to balance the wood and earth energies. Read on to learn about three wood – earth Chinese herbal formulas.

Yang Earth & Yang Wood
When wood energy is constrained (aka Liver Qi stagnation) it can build up and eventually over act on the earth element.
Earth is connected to the digestive system, which can be affected by emotion – notably stress/anger/frustration, which corresponds to wood element stasis. If earth is weak to start with, it will be more susceptible to attack by wood.
Earth = Spleen / Stomach          Wood = Liver / Gall Bladder    
Yang earth = St channel          Yang wood = GB channel          

Keeping emotions inside also leads to constraint of wood energy, which can build up inside until it bursts. So don’t do that!

Three Wood-Earth Formulas

The wood-earth combination puts me in mind of a well-known modern Chinese herbal formula called Free and Easy Wanderer. Just like it sounds like, the formula keeps things moving smoothly. It’s based on the next classical formula.

Free and Easy Wanderer

Chai Hu – Bupleurum

Dang Gui – Angelica Sinensis

Bai Shao – White Peony Root

Bai Zhu – White Atractylodes

Fu Ling – Poria

Zhi Gan Cao – Honey Fried Licorice

Gan Jiang – Dried Ginger

Bo He – Mint

For the pattern of Wood overacting on Earth, or in TCM terms Liver Qi stagnation and Spleen Qi deficiency with dampness and blood deficiency.

Minor Bupleurum is a classical wood – earth formula. It is even more focused than Free & Easy Wanderer on wood and earth. It has both Bupleurum and Scutellaria to treat the wood element, ie course the Liver Qi (Shaoyang). It also has several herbs for the earth element (Taiyin) – Ginseng or Codonospsis, licorice, dates, ginger.

Minor Bupleurum

Chai Hu – Bupleurum

Huang Qin – Scutellaria

Ban Xia – Pinellia       

Ren Shen – Ginseng

Sheng Jiang – Fresh Ginger

Da Zao – Dates

Gan Cao – Licorice

Excess wood constraint and xu wood constraint

Wood constraint (liver qi stagnation) can come from chronic stress which is ubiquitous in our modern world, and is commonly seen in the clinic. Qi stagnation often presents as physical pain or emotion unease or irritability. People with wood constraint may notice that they need to exercise a lot to feel better, since exercising moves the qi and blood.

Wood constraint can come from taxation – this would be a deficient wood constraint pattern and would imply/indicate blood deficiency. It may come with cold.

Wu Mei Wan is a classical wood – earth formula for a deficiency wood pattern with major stagnation in the earth. In this pattern the yang cannot descend normally and instead shoots upward as in headaches, vomiting, insomnia with digestive symptoms and cold hands and feet.

The main ingredient is a prepared sour dried plum (Wu Mei) which gives moist nourishment to the liver blood (wood) so that the holding can relax and function returns to normal.

Nutrition and Lifestyle recommendations for Spring

Regular movement/exercise – 30 min 3-4 x weekly – don’t over do it – include strength training

Sour is the flavor and green is the color of wood. Eat sour foods. Eat greens.

Protect neck from cold and wind. Don’t take off your jacket to early this spring.

Spend time in nature. Green is the color of wood. Hiking, walking, forest bathing.

Earth grounding. Meditations on mother earth.

Let it go exercise – imagine a tube to the center of the earth. Drop excess thoughts and stuff down the tube to recycle back to the earth.

This is part three of the Magical Mystery Soar 2024 series.

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The Magical Mystery Soar part 2 – the Green Laughing Dragon

This is the year of the yang wood dragon. The wood element is related to spring and the sprouting up and opening of new life (yang). Green is the color that symbolizes spring and wood, which is considered the beginning of the 5 element cycle.

I love the image of the green laughing dragon –  expansive + bright + joyous like an exuberant child. Inquisitive. Testing boundaries. Exploring. Like toddlers or teens expanding their worlds.

Young dragons are not self-conscious, even though they can be clumsy and do not know their own strength. Be like a green dragon. Don’t take yourself (or others) too seriously, laugh it off, and focus on the positive things about yourself.

Use this year as an opportunity to about learn more about yourself. Love who you are now. Accept the gifts your body and mind have given you thus far. Let go of the rest. You are already awesome!

Now is a great time to think about some affirmations that you can say to start replacing negative self talk. You can write one or many. Say and visualize them daily or even hourly.

This will help you get your footing and feel grounded as you fine tune your direction.

Take a chance. Relax and ride the dragon.

This is part two of the Magical Mystery Soar 2024 series. I’ll be sending daily(ish) short articles about the Year of the Dragon over the next week or so.

This post was inspired by a conversation on the podcast for acupuncturists: Qiological – episode 342 – Laughter of the Universe with Gregory Done.

Next up is the Free and Easy Wanderer.

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Year of the Dragon 2024 – the Magical Mystery Soar

Today is the first day of the Yang Wood Dragon year. Happy Lunar New Year to you all.

The mysterious magical affable dragon symbolizes connection, transformation & freedom.

Dragons have a strong sense of purpose, feel connected to their path and have trust in their way of being and seeing. We can all borrow that energy this year and see what’s possible.

Last year was a Rabbit year and it was about security, introspection and going deep. It’s time to come out of our holes…
This year brings yang light, expansiveness and a wild card to use as you desire.

Trust yourself, let go of baggage, chose a path, relax and go in that direction. Ride the dragon’s momentum. Aim and soar.
This is part one of the Magical Mystery Soar 2024 series. I’ll be sending daily(ish) short articles about the Year of the Dragon over the next week or so. I’m excited to share the year of the Dragon with you.

Next up is the Green Laughing Dragon.

If you are not on my mailing list and would like to be, email me or subscribe here.

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Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art

James Nestor’s book is a non-fiction page turner. I recommend it if you are interested in potentially improving your health by simply breathing a little better, and the learning about the history and scientific insights of pulmonauts from around the world over the last couple centuries. He reviews the anatomy of the nasopharynx and jaw and the changes in our anatomy with our modern lifestyle, and he gives lots of examples of people who have changed their health trajectory… nasal congestion, sleep apnea, snoring, anxiety, high blood pressure and more. Improved blood circulation, lung capacity and immune system It may not be the panacea for everything that ails us, but might be worth giving it a go to see if you notice changes with this low investment life hack.

  1. Breathe through your nose. The main point, for which Mr. Nestor gives historic and scientific background, is to breathe in and out through your nose to the extent that you can. If you tend to breathe through your mouth, build up by inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth when you need to. If you are congested, do the best you can and over time you will be able to breathe more and more through your nose. The author experimented with taping his mouth shut at night – and in some cultures, parents gently close a baby’s mouth while sleeping to help instill the habit of nose-breathing.
  2. Slower longer exhales + pause between breaths. As it turns out, too much oxygen isn’t best for anxiety, for example. In fact, a higher ratio of carbon dioxide can help anxiety. Who knew!?! Well, maybe the yogis and Taoists knew. Maybe that’s why we were told to breathe into a paper bag when in a panicked state.

Basic breathing exercise. Gently breathe in through your nose for a count of 4 – then exhale through your nose for a count of 4 – you can extend this to a count of 6. Repeat three times or more. No need to count once you get the rhythm.

These breaths need not be big deep breaths, just gentle natural breaths. I recommend breathing into all directions of your lungs and rib cage – not just the front of the body but also feel the subtle movement of your gentle breath into your back and sides without added effort.

Once you’ve got that, you can add a pause after your exhale for a count of 2-4 or more.

I recommend doing this breathing exercise each morning and night – plus during the day from time to time, especially if you feel anxiety coming on. Just three breaths a few times a day is a good way to get the habit going. Also, throughout the day, notice if you are breathing through your nose, if not, close your mouth. The goal is to breath like this naturally.

Breathing through your nose during exercise can be difficult at first, but you can work up to it. For example, if you are hiking, you can keep your pace slow enough that you can breath through your nose, slowing down or pausing when necessary, and exhaling through your mouth sometimes too is totally fine. Over time you will get better at this. If you are huffing and puffing at the end of a work out, there may be a better way…

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Moxa Season and Moxa Heat Packs

As we head towards winter, one way to strengthen our Qi is with the use of moxibustion, which is the burning of the herb Artemesia vulgaris ( mugwort Ai Ye). November is fall moxa season, during which time moxa can penetrate more deeply than usual into the “Life Gate” or Ming Men (aka Lower Dan Tien or the lower belly) because it is open during this time. This is great for preventing illness by strengthening your system. February is winter moxa season, another time in which we get extra benefits from moxa.

Moxa strengthens the constitution and immune system, builds Qi and Blood, increases the energy and circulation of the whole body, can help pain due to cold and damp, and can soften lumps.

Plus moxa feels great. In addition to the traditional way of applying moxa, which is to light a moxa stick or cone and warm the skin at particular acupuncture points, I have been using moxa heat packs. Moxa heat packs are activated by shaking and squeezing the pack – once it is warmed up you can apply it to your low back or belly, or other areas – when you are done you put it in a jar with a lid. The next day you can take it out and reactivate it. You can get about 15-20 hours out of these – and once they no longer self-activate, you can heat them in a microwave.

My clients are loving these. I just ordered a few more boxes, so let me know if you want one (or two). They are $4 each – or you can buy yourself a box of 10 online.

I also do Japanese moxa treatments which involve treating acu-points with little moxa cones. I recommend this for clients who haven’t regained their energy back after being sick, or for those who have chronically low Qi or fatigue. Usually I do it as an add-on to acupuncture or Zero Balancing sessions for $20. If this interests you, let me know and we can talk about if it is an appropriate for you.

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7-10 December 2023 in Burlington VT

Advanced Zero Balancing class taught by Michele Doucette JUST ADDED, by popular demand:  FREELY MOVEABLE JOINTS

What is more fun than a freely moveable skeleton? Join this joyful, creative and clinically essential class and set things in serious motion in your ZB practice!  We will explore all the non-foundational joints like knees, ankles, toes, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hands, tmj, and more. We will learn to use ZB principles to come up with unique fulcrums as needed in a session. This one is always a blast.

25-hour professional, hands-on, body-mind therapy training, taught by Michele Doucette DC at Vermont Acupuncture and Wellness – 161 North Street in Burlington Vermont.

One of my favorite classes – so practical, useful, effective. I’m excited to be hosting and assisting this one!

25 CEUs for MT, PT, OT, DC (VT), LAc
Register before Nov 7 at $695, $795 thereafter

This is an advanced Zero Balancing class – ZB I and ZB II are prerequisites.

Note: Zero Balancing I is happening the weekend after this. Read about it here: ZB I Dec 15-17. Read More

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Zero Balancing I

14-17 December 2023 in Burlington Vermont

ZB I is a 25-hour professional, hands-on, body-mind therapy training, taught by Michele Doucette DC at Vermont Acupuncture and Wellness – 161 North Street in Burlington Vermont.

25 CEUs for MT, PT, OT, DC (VT), LAc
Register before Oct 14 at $595, Nov 14 at $695, $795 thereafter

What is more fun than feeling vital life force moving through your bones?  How does the skeleton relate to the deepest flow of energy and information in the body?  What happens in a patient’s life when they become grounded in the feeling of their unique embodied essence and and begin to live life with presence, ease, and grace?  How do tension patterns in the body form filters trough which people relate to themselves and others?  What are the mechanisms of held trauma and how is it released from the body? How can skilled, conscious touch reach all levels of a person; physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual? How does transformative touch contribute to the evolution of humanity?  Join this joyful, creative, theoretically expansive, and clinically essential class and set things in serious motion in your personal and professional life. Read More

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Okra and Onions sauteed with Spices and Tomato

Masala Bhindi

I cannot think of anything I would rather do with okra than make this. If I get eggplant from my CSA, look out! Kelly is making Indian food all weekend. I posted this receipt over 10 years ago and it’s still true.

Get the spices measured out and ready, then


2 T ghee or coconut oil


1 large onion, finely chopped

1 pound okra, trimmed & sliced length-wise on a slight diagonal

After 5-8 minutes, add:

2 T garlic, minced Read More »

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Belamcanda chinensis, She Gan

aka Leonard Lily and Blackberry Lily

Belamcanda is bitter & cold and enters the Lungs. It clears heat and transforms phlegm. It is used for coughs and wheezing with phlegm obstruction, and for sore throat with swelling and painful obstruction in the throat. It breaks up clumps to drain heat. This is only used short term for acute conditions.

I love to grow it – it’s a gorgeous spunky little lily. Luckily I haven’t had to use it much, as it is for pretty serious conditions and there are lots of other herbs for cough, such as aster, which is currently just starting to bloom in late summer.

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September Supplement Sale

FAE41808-7B41-47D2-AD38-C7F5B7687FF5_1_105_cTomorrow until September 14, I’m offering 20% off on all supplements in my Fullscript dispensary. You will have access to the whole catalog, and you can check out my Favorites.

Fullscript ships fast, stocks professional-grade trusted products, and ensures your supplements are safe and effective. Make sure you sign up for your free account to shop the sale!

Sign up for Fullscript here.

Last fall I wrote all about supplements that are great to have on hand during the fall and winter. Check out Cold Season Medicine Cabinet. Many of these supplements I mention are available through Fullscript but the Chinese herbs are limited – for most herbs you can contact me. You can check out my Favorites – including Cold Season Medicine Cabinet – which has multiple versions of many of the supplements, such as vitamin C, D, zinc, NAC, and Quercetin. You’ll even see Cinnamon Twig formula there! With 20% off, now is a great time to stock up on your immune boosting supplements.

You can check out my other Favorites, such as Gut Health, where you will see my favorite high quality spore-based probiotic – Microbiome Lab’s MegaSporeBiotic (which includes 5 strains including HU28) – and also HU28 (which only contains 1). For most people who want a probiotic, MegaSporeBiotic is a good place to start, but for people with more serious gut issues, starting with HU28 is recommended.

I offer 10% off of the whole Fullscript catalog for all of my patients everyday, but for the next two days during the September Supplement Sale, September 13-14, everything is 20% off.


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