Charles River Acupuncture Blog

Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine in Cambridge, MA

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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!