Charles River Acupuncture Blog

Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine in Cambridge, MA

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Taking Charge of Your Fertility

This week is Infertility Awareness Week, so I thought it would be a good time to write a little bit about some guidelines that I tell my patients who are hoping to conceive,  aside from just taking a pre-natal vitamin.  I know that at times, couples can feel hopeless and powerless when they are having trouble conceiving, but there are things that can be done to increase ones chances.

For most of my fertility patients, it is quite a stressful and emotional time, so managing stress is a key component.  Acupuncture can do wonders during this process for calming the sympathetic nervous system and lowering cortisol levels in the body.  Acupuncture can also help to balance hormones, especially while undergoing fertility treatments, which can help with mood swings and other uncomfortable side-effect like bloating or hot flashes.  Other helpful things include yoga, massage, tai chi, and even just sitting quietly and listening to some music.  I often encourage my patients to begin a meditation routine, even if it is only a few minutes a day.   Also keep in mind that if you are undergoing treatments such as IVF, it may not be the best time to change a job or buy a new house (or both!).  Don’t add more to your plate than is necessary.

This is also a great time to pay attention to the diet… the key here is using fresh, good quality ingredients free of chemicals and hormones.   Yes, this means organic, so go organic as often as possible, especially with meats, dairy, eggs, and thin-skinned fruits and vegetables like grapes or cucumbers.   Leafy green vegetables, beets, brussels sprouts, and broccoli can help cleanse the body of toxins and help balance hormones as well.  Essential fatty acids (EFA’s) are, well, *essential*… good sources are fish, fish oil, flaxseed oil, raw nuts and seeds, and those leafy greens.   EFA’s are important for ovulation, so I encourage my patients to take a fish oil supplement daily.

A couple things to stay away from: melatonin and triclosan.  Many people take melatonin as a supplement to help with poor sleep, and of course, a lot of women trying to conceive are stressed out and can’t sleep.  However, there is some evidence that melatonin supplements (a natural hormone), can have a negative effect on fertility.  The jury is still out on this one, but I tell women to stay on the safe side and try other supplements such as valerian root or kava-kava to help with sleep (and acupuncture!).

Triclosan is a chemical commonly added to soaps to make them “anti-bacterial.”  However, all that triclosan does is interfere with your fertility, when regular soap and water is enough to kill germs adequately.   The FDA is still trying to determine if it is safe or not, but again, I encourage my patients to err on the side of caution here and avoid it whenever possible.  Check the labels. Lastly, I think one of the most important things one can have when struggling with infertility, is having a good support system.  It can be quite a strain on relationships, so having someone aside from your significant other that you can talk to about frustrations or concerns is important.  Friends and family can be well-meaning and helpful, but might not always understanding of what you are going through.  A support group, either online or in person, can help women to realize that they are not alone in their struggle.   One great resource can be found at the RESOLVE website here:

If you or someone you know is having difficulty getting pregnant, I am always willing to give a free consultation to discuss the options available before trying fertility treatments such as IUI’s and IVF.  Or, if you’re in the process of treatments, I can let you know how Chinese Medicine and acupuncture can help.  I can be reached at


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The Liver and Spring

freeimage-106202-webSpringtime is abundant with new energy and life… we see it all around us with the flowers blooming (finally!) and the birds chirping.  People are coming out of their houses more and becoming more active, too.  There are all kinds of changes going on, and our bodies feel the springtime season change as well… and I’m not just talking about allergies.

Often times I will have patients coming in to me this time of year reporting of a feeling of increased frustration and irritability… or their sleep is off the last couple weeks… or maybe their digestion is “off” for no particular reason.  All of these things can be explained by the hightened energy of the liver in the spring.

I hear you say, “There’s something wrong with my liver??”  Well, yes and no.  There is most likely nothing wrong with your actual liver.  But in Chinese Medicine, each of the bodies organs have their own energy that circulates throughout our bodies, and and each organ has a season associated with it when that energy is at its highest.  That season now is the liver, and if there is an imbalance with the liver’s energy, that can manifest in the symptoms I listed above.  When there is too much liver, and not enough spleen energy, there may be problems with digestion.  When the liver irritates the heart energy, it can affect sleep.

So how do you quell that angry liver energy?  Well, the best way is through acupuncture and herbal medicine from your favorite acupuncturist (i.e. ME!).  Other ways include going for a walk or doing some yoga first thing in the morning to get that energy moving.  Side bend pose is particularly helpful for working the side of the body where the liver resides.  Certain foods can help, too;  a squeeze of lemon or lime in your drinking water, or mint teas throughout the day.  Consider adding more cabbage, celery, broccoli, goji berries, pomegranates and plums to your diet.

Things to avoid include heavy, fatty foods and red meat, and an excess of alcohol.  Also, if you’re feeling irritable, make sure to recognize it, take a deep breath, and let it out.

Seasonal changes can affect us all, but with a little regular self care, we can avoid some of the discomfort associated with it and just enjoy the warmer temperatures. Happy spring!

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Can you lend an ear?

About a year ago, I was interviewed by the Improper Bostonian about using press balls to stimulate points in the ear… it is a handy tool that I use to continue the treatment long after the patient comes to see me.   The press balls are tiny stainless steel balls that stick to the ear with a tape-like adhesive.  When they are placed on the points, they  look like ear jewelry (so they are fashionable as well!), and they can last up to a couple weeks when they eventually fall off on their own or the patient removes them.  The patient may stimulate the points whenever they like by gently rubbing or pressing them when they may be feeling stressed, or when they may be feeling pain.

shanghai ear

From Acupuncture: A Comprehensive Text, Shanghai College of Traditional Medicine

The reason why the acupuncture points in the ear are so helpful is because of the high concentration of nerve endings and blood flow to the ear.  A French neuroscientist named Paul Nogier pioneered ear acupuncture, and through various trials, he eventually created a map of the ear corresponding to every body part.  To quote one of my textbooks, Acupuncture, A Comprehansive Text:

A large number of sites have been identified on the ear which become spontaneously tender or otherwise react to the presence of disease or injury elsewhere in the body. Stimulation of these ear points in turn exerts certain therapeutic effects on those parts of the body with which they are associated.  The range of indications in ear acupuncture is broad, the method is relatively simple, and there are few side effects.  For these reasons, ear acupuncture has become increasingly popular in both China and abroad. 

So, in a nutshell, if a patient comes in to me for digestive complaints, I may needle the stomach, spleen and large intestine points on the ear, and then send them home with the press balls on the same areas. For fertility, the uterus and hormone points might be used, along with points like shen men which is used for its calming effect.  Ear acupuncture is also extremely popular for treatment of addictions such as cigarette smoking and for help with weight loss.

To sum up:  press balls on the acupuncture points of the ear is a long-lasting, side-effect free treatment that can really help!  I also offer it with no additional charge if you come in to see me for an acupuncture treatment.

Have you had ear acupuncture before?  Do you like the press balls?  Please leave your comments!


This picture was taken in Tortuguero, Costa Rica in a rainforest wildlife preserve

This picture was taken in Tortuguero, Costa Rica in a rainforest wildlife preserve

So I’m giving this blog thing a try. In the near future, hoping to post some really interesting stuff about acupuncture, herbal medicine, and all things healthy. Please leave me a comment if there is anything that you would like to know more about, or if you just want to say hi… I love feedback! I will post more soon.  In the meantime, please enjoy this picture that I took during my trip to Costa Rica in 2012 in the Tortuguero wildlife preserve.