Immune System Tip #4 Stop Thinking

Over-thinking and Digestion

A lot of people are experiencing stress and anxiety about the Corona virus and its effects on the world. Are you finding yourself worrying, or perhaps having trouble sleeping?

In Chinese medicine it is clear that anxiety and worry effect our digestive system. Overthinking damages the Spleen, and, conversely, a weak Spleen leads to propensity for overthinking. The Spleen represents the Earth element and the digestive system.

Eat well to strengthen your Earth energy, your digestion and ultimately your immune system. Foods that benefit the Spleen include hearty stews, roasted root vegetables, and meat. The Spleen likes warming spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and fennel. Minimize intake of grains, carbohydrates and sugars.

Reigning in your thoughts can also help your digestion and your immune system. Preoccupation with what-ifs, obsessing over COVID stats, excess worry, rumination, and excess thinking, even studying or working, are not ideal for our health. Guide your own thoughts as best as you can.

One of my teacher’s teachers put it well, “In life you think or don’t think. If you choose to think, make a decision/take action. If you can’t make decision, don’t think about it. Sometimes it is better to not think.”

Put down the phone. Put down the media. Keep media in its place, which means not letting it take over your thinking!

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Immune System Tip #3 Focus Inward

I encourage you to focus inward. Of course we want to connect with our community and not be completely isolated. But don’t just focus outward. Bringing your energy inward is good for your immune system because the exterior of our body is where our defensive Qi is, but it comes from having strong Qi grounded in the deeper interior.IMG_5608

Be kind to yourselves and don’t over-do it at work. Use this time as a precious opportunity (assuming everyone is healthy) to follow your heart. Give yourself permission to do an activity that allows you to rest and/or brings you joy.

Joy is the emotion of the Heart and the element of Fire. Fire can burn an extra Wood (Liver) energy that may be accumulating in the form of frustration, irritability or anger. Following your heart can help balance these emotions so joy can end up on top. Exercise helps, too, when the Wood/Liver energy is predominating.

Bring back something that you used to do that feels good. Prioritize some me-time each day:

meditate, biking, play some music, read a book that’s on your shelf, gardening, exercise, take a NAP, play chess, scrap-booking, learn HTML?!, work on that project…

It took me a month, but I re-upped my online guitar lessons and started learning Hey Joe on my electric guitar last weekend (see, before I even finished this newsletter, go me!). I intend to make time for playing every day for the next month. What about you? What non-urgent thing have you been putting off doing for yourself?

Put down your phone. Focus inward. Follow your heart. Joy is medicine.

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Immune System Tip #2 Get Some Sleep


That’s it. Sleep.sleep-3

Sleep is one of the best things you can do to boost your immune system. Get enough sleep at night and if you are tired, take a NAP. Naps, or even some down time with a book, are a great way to maximize your energy. I feel like I am stating the obvious, but there you have it.


If you are having trouble sleeping, it is worth following up on that and finding what helps you. Some people find meditating helpful, or getting off/limiting media and screens, particularly before bedtime. Others notice a difference with a diet change, and for many herbal medicine can help.

If you are not getting enough sleep at night, you really deserve to give yourself naptime in the daytime to make up for lost hours.



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Immune System Tip #1 Put Down Your Phone

One good thing you can do for your immune system is put your phone down. No, I’m serious. Putting down your phone is one of the best things you can do for your immune system. person-holding-black-iphone-5

Do you check Facebook and/or other media regularly? Are you experiencing anxiety and stress these days?

Cortisol levels in the body go up when we are emotionally stressed, which is the opposite of what we want for good health.

Not only is the extra cortisol coursing through you body not good but also the effect of the electromagnetics of the device on your body can weaken your immune system.

Limit the time you engage in media, whether that is the news or social media. Read that book, start a project, or even watch a funny movie on TV. There are so many healthier things you can do.

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Important Intake Questions for COVID-19 and/or Flu

Here is a list of symptoms that I will want to know if you (my current client) are looking for treatment for COVID-19 or a serious cold/flu:

What symptoms came on at the beginning of this?

What symptoms are present now?

Body temperature – Do you feel hot or cold, or both alternating? Do you feel feverish, hot, flushed? What time of day? Do you have a fever?

Perspiration – What is your sweat like normally? Have you sweat since you have been sick?

Cough – What kind of cough – dry or productive? What color is the phlegm? Is it watery or thick? Is there a tickle in your throat? Or a barking cough? How often is the cough? Is it worse with lying down?

Breathing and chest – Are you having trouble inhaling? Taking deep breaths? Is it worse with cold air? (you can stick your head in the freezer to check)

Is your chest tight? Is there pressure in your chest? Worse with lying down?

Nose, sinuses, head – How are your sinuses and nose? Stuffy? Sinus pressure or headache? Where? Post nasal drip? Runny nose? Sneezing?

Digestion – How are your bowel movements? Any other digestive symptoms? Let me know if any of these are new symptoms.

Energy & sleep – tell me about your energy levels and sleep.

Emotions – how are you doing emotionally? What is coming up for you now?

Add anything else about your current state of health that you can share.

Is there anything about your general state of health that you would like to share or remind me of?

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Chinese Herbal Medicine Consultations

New clients will need to fill in my intake forms and do an online intake, which will take approximately 45-60 minutes.

Current clients can schedule online follow-up visits, which will take 15-30 minutes.

15 minutes = $45

30 minutes = $85

45 minutes = $125

60 minutes = $165

Most herbs are 30 cents per gram, which ends up being around $18-28 per week. Some of the herbs are more expensive.

If you are experiencing financial hardship and need a reduced rate, I am willing to work with you, just let me know.

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Corona Virus COVID-19, flu, epidemics & Chinese herbal medicine

Chinese medicine has historically proven effective for colds and flues, including epidemics such as SARS and COVID-19. I have been reading what my teachers and colleagues in China and the US have been writing about the presentation and treatment of COVID-19, including cases, and Chinese herbal medicine has clearly been very helpful. A have a ton of information at my fingertips with regards to effective Chinese herbal formulas.

The COVID-19 virus has been presenting as a Cold Damp invasion in the Lungs with Toxic Heat, plus whatever blockages or deficiencies patterns were there before the pathogen invaded the body. Some cases are more mild, without a lot of Lung symptoms, while others have serious Lung issues, such as a lot of phlegm clogging the Lungs and difficulty breathing. Some cases are showing with body aches and extreme fatigue that lingers, and others are presenting with digestive issues such as loose stools.

It is a little hard to know exactly what is what considering the lack of COVID-19 testing that is currently available. For treatment with Chinese medicine, it doesn’t matter if you have a positive test or not, because with Chinese medicine we treat according to your symptom presentation. We first diagnosis your pattern, and then treat with an herbal prescription that is written according to your differential diagnosis.

So, if someone had a history of constipation and sinus issues, there is likely to be a background of Yangming Heat, which translates to stagnation in the “tube” that runs from the sinuses down through the throat and GI system to the anus. For this person, I would probably (after asking more questions) recommend a formula that unblocks and clears heat from the Yangming tube plus herbs that help open the Lungs if there are breathing problems, clear phlegm from the Lungs if there is phlegm, and warm the Lungs if there is cold.

If someone is more deficient, is quite sensitive emotionally, and tends to flush and/or have a low grade fever in the afternoon I would likely use Cinnamon Twig Decoction in addition to herbs for the Lungs.

If there is fatigue or exhaustion with deficiency, I will likely include Ginseng or other tonifying herbs. If there is cold in the Lungs, I might added dried Ginger. If there is a deficiency of body fluids, I will moisten fluids.

I have been seeing clients both with and without a positive test for COVID-19, and so far the result have been good.

It is important that treatment of a serious flu such as COVID-19 get treated as soon as possible in order to keep the chest open  to and therefore reduce serious symptoms. As little as one or two doses of herbs can open restricted breathing, reduce phlegm and cough, and make a person feel much so better. If you get sick, let me know ASAP.

Some of the herbs that are used for COVID-19 are hard to get and I see some practitioners are scrambling to find there herbs to no avail. I had already stocked up on these hard to get herbs via special sources in Canada and Vietnam and have them available in concentrated granules (powdered, just add hot water) AND raw herbs (you have to cook for 30 – 60 minutes). For acute situations, sometimes we need large doses of some of the herbs and the raw herb formulas are more effective because the concentrated granules contain fillers, which are fine in regular dosages, but can be too much for the digestive system. The loose herbs are more pure, you could say, but the granules, or tablets if appropriate, are totally fine in regular doses.

Remember, if you get sick, especially with something that look like it could be COVID-19, it is best to start herbs as soon as possible. There is no need to have a positive test result before starting Chinese herbs.

Please see this blog post for a list of important questions that I will need ask in order to do a differential diagnosis and prescribe an herbal formula.

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Chinese Herbal Medicine for Immunity and COVID-19 Coronavirus PART II

I have been following case studies of people with COVID-19 and have included one of the articles that I read, written by a doctor who does both western medicine and Chinese herbal medicine in an integrated hospital. He has seen 30 cases of COVID-19 which were treated with both western and Chinese medicine. They found that the steroids they were using were not helping and that Chinese herbal medicine was very helpful. The article includes CT scans. They found that the patients started feeling better with the Chinese herbal formulas but the CT scans didn’t start clearing up for another day or so, when they were actually able to have some productive coughing. The URL for the article is included below.

I have focused my Chinese herbal medicine studies on classical formulas, where the approach is to correct imbalances in the body so that things can flow naturally and pathogenic factors don’t get stuck – as opposed to focusing on killing the pathogen.

In part I of this post I mention Yin Qiao Jie Du Pian – which is a combination of the two approaches. It has Yin Qiao Pian, which is is a formula at releases the exterior when needed at the beginning of a cold. There are some cold, harsher herbs added to this formula, notably Andrographis, which is known to be a killer of microbes, an herbal antibiotic of sorts. This formula is most appropriate for the very beginning of a cold/flu with heat signs, and probably a pretty sore and red throat would be the most common symptom. This formula, Yin Qiao Jie Du Pian, would be used before you even were tested for COVID-19.

If someone did have COVID-19 and you started having Lung and breathing symptoms, they would be moving to the next stage of the illness. From my research thus far, there could be difficulty breathing in, wheezing, and lack of sweating with a fever would likely be needing a formula with Ma Huang, Ephredra. There are several formulas in this formula family and there would be further differentiation to see which one fits the pattern.

The doctors in the article differentiated the patterns and treated accordingly, and found a lot of similarities with the patients patterns as well. The main pattern that they have seen in China has been Cold Damp invading the Lungs. It can be cold, damp, and smoggy in China, and environment can have an influence on how the patterns emerge.

So, it may show up as Cold Damp invading the Lungs here in Vermont, or it may be a little different. Also, the patterns that we have before getting sick definitely effect the way the illness hits us.

Here’s that article:

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Chinese Herbal Medicine for Immunity and COVID-19 Coronavirus PART I

I am writing to let you know a few things with regards to COVID-19 and my practice.

Firstly, I have Chinese herbal formulas that treat colds and flus as well as herbs for the immune system. I have stocked up on Yin Qiao Jie Du Pian, which is a formula that is commonly used for the onset of a cold/flu. Yin Qiao San is the base formula that was developed 150 years ago as a treatment for epidemic heat ailments (i.e. influenza and the like) – the version I ordered has extra herbs added that are known to have strong anti-microbial and anti-viral effects. Yin Qiao San is a great formula to have in the medicine cabinet for the early stages of a cold/flu. This version is extra strong and it is my go-to now with the Corona virus circulating.

I also have other formulas that would be appropriate at the early stages of a cold/flu as well as formulas for mid and late stages of respiratory illness and cough.

In addition, I have formulas that are helpful for bolstering the immune system when you are not sick. I have some formulas in tablet form, as well as my herb dispensary, which I can use to customize a loose or powdered herb formula for you. The very best way to bolster your immune system is to treat according to your system’s weaknesses or imbalances, with a focus on adding herbs to strengthen your “exterior.” If I have seen you as a patient in the past, I have insights into your constitution. Acupuncture also can help.

My practice will remain open for the time being, but I am being extra cautious and ask that you don’t come if you have any cold symptoms. I am being fastidious about cleanliness around the office as well, but stay home if you feel better with that.

For people who are sick and would like herbs, we can have a phone conversation and I can make herbs that can either be picked up from my porch, or potentially dropped off for you.

Protect your health by getting plenty of sleep, avoiding sugar and alcohol, and eating soups with chicken or beef broth – or just drinking the broth straight. Broths made from bones are great for the immune system, which starts in the stomach.

Please call or email me if you have any questions at all.

Be well!

PS Below is a post from last year about making soup. Enjoy!

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2020 Year of the Rat

Year of the Rat2

Chinese New Year starts on January 25, 2020 – it’s the Year of the Metal Rat.

The Rat is the first sign in the 12 animal cycle of the Chinese Astrology, and this is just one reason that 2020 is considered a year of new beginnings and renewals!

In the Chinese Zodiac there are 12 animals and 5 elements, which makes for a 60 year cycle. We are now at the start of a new 60 year cycle – and a new decade, the 20’s. This is a fabulous year for planning and starting something, setting goals and working hard.

The Metal Rat Year is going to be a strong, prosperous, and lucky year for almost all Chinese Zodiac signs. Everyone will show determination regarding their goals, aspirations, and even their hobbies. Those who plan to buy real estate, to start a business or to invest money in a long-term project have great chances of being satisfied in the future. But, beware! This type of initiative will only be successful if they are carefully planned.

In matters of health & physical vitality, the Rat type is “active” or “preoccupied”. One needs to be careful and remember not to over-exert in activities that could cause injuries to the lower parts of the body. Adequate rest and a proper diet are also important things to consider, since the Year of the Rat will prove to be busy.

2020 is a “make it or break it year” in the love department. In love relationships, Rats find it easy to start a new relationship with someone, but they also break-off relationships easily. Although business partnerships will bring success, couples will be tested. Some will get stronger as a result, while others may collapse. With an active nature, Rats enjoy a flexible social circle. They are interested in attending different kinds of social occasions. This is an auspicious year to make new friends and cover new ground.

The Year of the Pig (2019) was fundamentally about completion, self-care and balance, while the Year of the Rat (2020) is expected to be more about progression and starting a new project with great energy. This will be a good year to expand your knowledge or receive extra training in your career. Success will flourish in the workplace, yielding benefits of all kinds. Hard work will be rewarded; your clever skills, quick-thinking, and optimism will drive you forward. Remember, the Rat is resourceful and able to free itself from tight spots.

The Rat is considered a protector and a bringer of prosperity in the Chinese culture. Finances should be thriving for the entirety of the year! It would do you well to save and invest your hard-earned money. Try to avoid spending it all on luxurious items and vacations. Instead, splurge on little experiences here and there. Rats have a love for hoarding – try to avoid will wasting money on unnecessary things.

1900, 1912, 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020

People born in the Year of the Rat are instinctive, acute and alert in nature which makes them brilliant business people. They can always react properly before the worst circumstances take place. They are also sophisticated and popular in social interaction. They are survivors and very adaptable, being popular with others. Due to their acute instinct and calmness, they can do well in business. Disaster will make their capability more outstanding. Some live a thrifty life but still strive hard in work.

Some Rats like criticizing and complaining when problems occur. They are also a bit picky in others’ shortcomings, which usually offend others unconsciously. Occasionally rely on their outstanding instinct too much. They might be stubborn, and hardly listen to advice from others. They are likely to change jobs frequently, lack of persistence and stability, so it’s hard for them to concentrate in one thing.

Some FAMOUS FOLKS born under the influence of this Chinese Astrology Sign are: Katy Perry, Antonio Banderas, Avril Lavigne, Ben Affleck, Cameron Diaz, Churchill, President Jimmy Carter, Grant, Jude Law, Julianne Moore, Kathy Bates, Kenny Loggins, Marlon Brando, Mozart, President George Washington, Samuel J Jackson, Sean Penn, Shakespeare, Mark Zuckerberg, Prince Harry, Prince Charles, Mandy Moore, & Scarlett Johansson.

In short, 2020 will be another year of change as the Universe continues in its accelerated transitional period but, given the rat’s traits, the world will be equipped to cope!

written by Gretchen Hidell, intuitive astrologer

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