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By West Norwood Therapies Team, May 16 2019 09:34AM

Acupuncturist Philippa summers considers the view from her allotment and how this interpretation of nature and environment mirrors Chinese medicine's approach to our bodies.

I have recently found an unexpected place of peace, tranquillity and contemplation in the heart of London. It is particularly beautiful at this time of year, with spring flowers, fruit trees in blossom and song birds in full chorus. Sitting on a hill above the worst of the pollution with spectacular far reaching views across the city, it is a world of discovery and unexpected surprises. Today we found lizards beneath some wooden boards. It’s an allotment, or rather a share of one, which is even better and far more manageable, in a stunning location close to Brockwell Park. I frequently use metaphors of nature, landscape and environment to illustrate the way that Chinese Medicine views the body. Working on the allotment has fuelled those ideas.

The allotment is quite different from my garden. More mess and earth, getting down and dirty in the soil, with plenty of muck involved. I’ve learnt a thing or too already from the other plot holders generously sharing tips on what grows well up there and how to improve the soil. It’s clay, which is rich in minerals but heavy, and by adding well rotted horse manure and straw the texture and drainage is improved. It feels good to look at the soil more closely, feel its texture rich in fat worms, and know the difference it will make to the health of the plants and the taste of the produce if the slugs don’t get there first.

The muck is like eating really good fresh vital food, as opposed to processed foods and vitamin pills, the equivalent of chemical fertilisers. An organic approach to gardening builds strength in the plants naturally so that they withstand pests, akin to having a healthy immune system. Nurturing and nudging health in positive directions through good nutrition, appropriate exercise, adequate rest and relaxation, affects how we feel in body, mind and spirit. Even when it comes to genetics, we now know that how we live influences which genes are switched on and off.

People often ask if acupuncture can help, such and such a condition. Of course, acupuncture is better suited to treating some things than others, but it is the bodily landscape that is at the heart of a Chinese Medical diagnosis and treatment, rather than the condition. The landscape - be it hot, cold, dry, damp, stagnant, depleted, etc - creates the conditions in which certain imbalances are more likely to arise and progress. The disease label is very often not as important as the landscape against which it has arisen. Two people with migraines may have very different types, arising from very different bodily landscapes and they will be treated differently. A landscape that gives rise to stomach pains in one person, may cause anxiety in another and the treatments may be very similar. So the landscape, rather than the disease label, is more important when it comes to treating with acupuncture and often has more influence on how easily a health issue will resolve. By addressing the imbalance people often find that their overall health and wellbeing improve, not just the issue that they sought treatment for.

Chinese Medicine sees the body as an interconnected whole, where every part of the body is interrelated, and each part exerts an influence on the whole. With climate change we can see just how delicately balanced and interdependent the whole planet is. This too is reflected in our small allotment, with its lizards, foxes and insect life. Our bodies are not so different, as an example I think of the influence that a healthy gut biome has on brain function.

I find the Daoist view, where the internal landscape of the body is influenced by the same forces that influence nature, to be enlightening, inspirational and nature is a great teacher, as well as a great healer. We often give priority to nurturing our physical health and we can do the same for our mental health and wellbeing. Being out in nature is a soothing counterbalance to the bustle of city life. I have found that tending the allotment and looking out over the view in quiet contemplation, or while hanging out with friends, is food for mind, body and soul, both literally and metaphorically. I certainly wouldn’t do it for economic reasons – at an hourly minimum wage it probably works out about £100 a spud!

By West Norwood Therapies Team, Sep 13 2018 09:00AM

Acupuncturist Philippa Summers shares some Chinese medicine wisdom around supporting your digestive system particularly around this time of year.

It’s Late Summer, the short 5th season in the Chinese 5 element calendar, the time of Earth and the harvest. The Earth element and its associated organs – Stomach and Spleen – play a central role in digestion. In particular the Spleen has a very broad digestive function with an influence throughout the body, very importantly on the quality of qi, blood and fluids. When Spleen Qi is out of balance there is a knock-on effect and many aspects of our health can be affected. Giving attention to the Earth element and the function of the Spleen is frequently a starting point of treatment, so it seems an appropriate time to take a closer look at digestion.

Spleen means pancreas

I should clarify that in Chinese Medicine the Spleen was a mistranslation and the ancient Chinese texts were actually talking about the pancreas. For continuity the digestive system has continued to be named as comprising Stomach and Spleen. The actual spleen actually comes under the role of the Liver in Chinese Medicine and is more concerned with storage of blood. So, whenever we use the term Spleen in Chinese medicine, think pancreas, and the important role it plays in secreting enzymes into the intestines and controlling blood sugar.

A Healthy Earth Element

In health a strong Earth element with good Stomach and Spleen qi provide nourishment for the whole body. It keeps us strong, active and stable with endurance and a good appetite and digestion. It also provides qualities that enable us to nurture ourselves and others, and fosters free thinking, imagination and creativity.

Spleen Qi

When the Spleen Qi is weak we often experience tiredness and a tendency to bloat after eating. Stools may be loose and appetite low or erratic with a tendency to food intolerances It can manifest in other ways affecting concentration, food intolerances, menstrual issues, anaemia, weak limbs and give a tendency to prolapse, such as haemorrhoids. Difficulty regulating weight can be part of the picture, either overweight without overeating or thin and unable to gain weight. If it is allowed to worsen then signs of cold can also appear – cold limbs and a chronic aversion to cold. The Spleen likes easily digestible simple warm food.

Accumulation of Damp and Phlegm

When the ability of the spleen to transform fluids is compromised ‘damp’ builds up which often manifests as feelings of heaviness in the limbs and joints along with soreness and aching. Our head may be affected with foggy thinking, a heavy sensation in the head, mental and physical stagnation and a feeling of being ‘stuck’ which hampers creativity.

As damp gets worse the fluids become thicker, more cloying, toxic and gooey often causing mucousy discharges and encouraging the proliferation of microbes in the body with conditions such as candida and thrush.

If they become even more congealed and stagnation builds up then they can progress to phlegm in the lungs or cysts in the genitourinary tract. Weak Spleen Qi, certain foods and also living in damp conditions all contribute.

Stomach Qi

The stomach is responsible for preparing the food we eat for absorption further down the gastro-intestinal tract. Erratic eating habits, rich food and overindulgence play havoc and can lead to acid reflux, heartburn, burning pains, gas and bloating. The stomach does not like to be hot and dry, so dehydration and too many of the hotter spicy foods can affect the stomach. So can flooding it with too much fluid at mealtimes, overdiluting the digestive enzymes. It is about getting a balance.

Next time: How to Support Your Digestion

My next newsletter piece in a couple of weeks will focus on things you can do to aid digestion and keep your inner Earth element happy and functioning well.

By West Norwood Therapies Team, May 4 2018 08:00AM

Jade & Gua Sha Beauty Ritual

by Holistic Face Therapist & Natural Skincare coach Veronica Massa

£10 off Special Offer on Jade & Gua Sha Facial for the month of May.

Normal price: £110 (90mins with honey and green tea face pack), £85 (1hour).

Discover the ancient health & beauty secrets of Gua Sha & Jade and how they can help you rejuvenate and release facial tension while leaving your skin with a beautiful glow.

Would you like the beautiful skin of a Chinese empress? This facial ritual created by Veronica, uses the beneficial effects of jade stone massage to keep your skin smooth and youthful.

“Regular facial guasha promotes the growth of new skin cells, helps renew your complexion and can effectively reduce clogged pores, control acne and pimples, reduce acne scars, tighten the skin and enhance the ability of your skin to absorb products,” said Zhuo Junqing, doctor at the Chinese medicine health care centre of Beijing Modern Hospital.

”What an amazing treat the Jade Facial I had with Veronica. Her expertise and gentleness makes this experience so worthwhile. It’s relaxing, nourishing, my skin was feeling radiant and smooth like silk afterwards. You will definitely seem me regularly”. Anamarta - Taoist Teacher at Jade Circle® & Healing Tao

How will you benefit from this beautiful Facial?

• Have a smoother, tighter and stronger skin

• Iron out fine lines, diminish eye bags, dark circles and lift the face

• Relax your face and calm your mind

• Reduce and manage tensions in your face, head and neck

• De-stress, sleep better and replenish your energies

• Nurture yourself and rejuvenate

• Ease sinus pain and headaches, relieve puffiness on the face (as improves lymphatic drainage and dissipated heat)

• Stimulate Qi – what the Chinese call the “life force”.

Gua-Sha is an ancient way to decongest the skin and to improve blood circulation, so it is anti-aging and it is preventative for acne, breakouts and helps decongest the sinuses and has shown lasting effects for smoothing out wrinkles, minimizing hyperpigmentation, dark circles and puffy eyes and to removes blockages.

About Jade Stone

In Chinese culture, Jade is known for its healing properties which relax the nervous system and aid in removal of toxins. Jade carries a soothing and nourishing energy that can feel very healing as it purifies your energy field and creates a serene feeling of harmony and balance.

Jade has an affinity with the Kidneys and the Hearth. It improves the health of the heart, lungs and thymus. It supports with kidneys and adrenal gland disorders. It aids in detoxification by strengthening the body’s filtration and cleansing system.

Boost the immune system.

By West Norwood Therapies Team, Mar 28 2018 09:00AM

Acupuncturist Philippa Summers considers spring as the real start of the year and shares some thoughts about how we can engage with this time of the year to embrace freshnesss in our lives

I’m thinking back to the 1st of March. In India it was Holi, the Hindu festival of colour and a celebration of spring, with everyone taking to the streets and throwing coloured powder in wild abandon. Here in the UK we were in the grip of sub-zero temperatures, ice and snow and, ironically, it was the first day of spring according to the meteorological calendar. If you use the ‘does-it-feel-warm-enough-to-take-your-coat-off’ calendar then spring may still be some way off. Somewhere between the two, and for most of us I imagine a more meaningful indicator of spring, is nature herself. Waiting to burst into life, false starts, a warmer day, yet another cold blast…the anticipation… and then finally eruption everywhere - birdsong, green shoots, warmth, sun and a freshening up of life. So, here are my personal ponderings on this favourite time of year and its influence on our wellbeing.

Spring feels, to me, like the true beginning of the year. Forget January with its resolutions and plans for the New Year, it’s an uphill struggle against my natural inclination to semi hibernate and takes things gently. Spring’s different, buoyed along by the eruption of life in nature with everything growing anew and the ideal time to tap into that surge of energy unfolding around us. It is a time to take a leaf out of nature’s book and embrace life with renewed vigour and creativity.

It is a time of excitement and anticipation. I have snowdrops in the garden, a reminder in the very depths of winter of life and that spring will be on its way. Through the winter I put out feed and love seeing which birds frequent the garden, reminded of the struggle of their tiny bodies against the cold. There is a nest box on the wall, frequented for the past few years by a pair of blue tits. They survived the cold! It’s a small but important connection to nature for me, amongst many other things. I take great pleasure in watching the pair take up residence, busy themselves with preparations and then watching them toing and froing with bugs and caterpillars for their young. Then, a highlight, watching eagerly for the fledglings to emerge and take their first tentative flights out, flapping frantically as they aim for a safe place to land. By observing the rhythms of the natural world we can remind ourselves that we too are a part of that natural world and feel a connection to it.

Daoism and the seasons

The earliest forms of acupuncture emerged from a Daoist tradition where people lived in close harmony with nature, and the seasons held particular significance. Their philosophy and language still enrich and influence the practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Although we now have scientific explanations for some of the mechanisms of acupuncture, which I find fascinating, they touch the surface and do not convey the holistic nature of traditional interpretations accumulated over several millennia of close observation. It is the interconnection between different parts that is emphasized and understood in traditional acupuncture – connection between different bodily systems and also between the mental, physical and emotional or mind, body, spirit. Treatment based on a holistic diagnosis taps in to the body’s own complex systems of maintaining balance to bring the body back towards better health.

Metaphors, such as those expressed in relation to the seasons, contribute towards that holistic

interpretation according to the laws of nature, where the external are mirrored within the body.

The wood element

Chinese Medicine has a philosophical framework that encourages balance between activity and rest,

doing and being. The five phase theory of which wood is one of the five phases offers a useful model for

further refining these ideas into a cyclical rhythm of birth, growth, harvest, decline and rebirth. Spring is

associated with the wood element. We all need balance of work, rest and play, community, family and

time to ourselves, moments of excitement, celebration and joy and also quiet times of contemplation and renewal. Inevitably there will be times of sadness, frustration, worry, regret and grief, too. Being able to move with a degree of fluidity between these differing and contrasting aspects of life are important foundations of health and well-being. In terms of our outlook the wood element is associated with vision, fresh ideas, planning, determination and the movement of these ideas forward. It has tremendous energy, epitomised by the strength of a small shoot bursting through hard ground, even tarmac.

In a dysfunctional state the wood element tends towards stagnation, not having the vision or energy to

move forward smoothly and can be characterised by a stop start approach or feeling totally stuck. That

energy is trapped within and can build like a pressure cooker of pent up frustration that can then

manifest in any number of ways within ourselves wreaking havoc on maybe our digestion, our mental

wellbeing, possibly breaking out in the form of a headache or some other unwanted symptom. Of course, this can happen at any time of year but the energy of spring acts as a manifestation of the wood element in its healthy state and by reflecting on what happens in nature we can maybe feel a resonance within ourselves. Finding ways of moving, physically and mentally, through exercise and by giving freedom to our ideas are often key to unlocking the stagnation and feeling better.

Embrace Spring

Spring is the time of new beginnings, movement and birth and a time when we may feel that extra


• If you have been relatively inactive over the long winter months you can awaken the spring

within by beginning each day with some stretches, like yoga, tai chi, qi gong or pilates. Get

outside, a brisk walk in the park or a glorious garden and feel the warmth of the sun.

• It is a time to eat lightly, with less of the rich fattier foods of winter and more raw sprouted

grains and seeds, young sweet root vegetables and spring greens. Balance the raw and the

cooked according to your constitution as raw foods can be too much for people with weaker

digestion, consider lightly steaming instead.

• It can be a great time to move ideas along, especially if you have been procrastinating. Focus on

the things you really want to do that will inspire you, enrich your life and be easier to sustain.

Grab the moment and get things moving, put shape to some revitalising creative ideas – a spring

clean of life with new possibilities.

• That may be easier said than done for many people and if you are not feeling too motivated, in a

rut or just feeling a bit stuck then acupuncture may help. Having the space to talk, be heard and

understood often helps us to see things in a new light. Acupuncture can give you a boost and

help you to feel calm, relaxed, uplifted and revitalised. It can help to put that spring back in your

step and get you going again.

• Every journey really does start with one step.


Here are some quotes that inspire a sense of spring – hope, creativity, new beginnings, plans, vision,

motivation, movement and the anticipation and excitement that spring brings:

“Spring drew on...and a greenness grew over those brown beds, which, freshening daily,

suggested the thought that Hope traversed them at night, and left each morning brighter traces

of her steps.” Charlotte Brontë

“The beautiful spring came: and when Nature resumes her loveliness the human soul is apt to

revive also.” Hariet Ann Jacobs

“I am a spring leaf trembling in anticipation.” Maya Angelou

“April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.” William Shakespeare

“Plan your year in spring, your day at dawn.” A Chinese Proverb

“Some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle and end: Life is about not knowing, having to

change and taking the moment, making the best of it, without knowing what is going to happen

next. Delicious ambiguity.” Gilda Radner

“You don’t need endless time and perfect conditions. Do it now. Do it today. Do it for twenty

minutes. And watch your heart start beating.” Barbara Sher

“Keep on beginning and failing. Each time you fail, start all over again and you will grow stronger

until you have accomplished a purpose – not the one you began with, perhaps, but one you’ll be

glad to remember. “ Anne Sullivan

“It was such a spring day as breathes into a man an ineffable yearning, a painful sweetness, a

longing that makes him stand motionless, looking at the leaves or grass, and fling out his arms to

embrace he knows not what.” John Galsworthy, The Forsyte Saga

“Despite the forecast, live like it's spring.” Lilly Pulitzer

Here’s to Springtime and the year ahead!

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