Slowly Easing Back into Work

I am starting to see a few patients and will have some July appointments available.  Reach out for a telehealth consultation, too!  Here are some basic herbal tips in the meantime:

 

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Office Safety Precautions in Effect During the Pandemic

My office is taking the following precautions to protect our patients and help slow the spread of COVID-19.

  • We all wear masks.
  • We all maintain safe distancing, except for when the needles are placed.
  •  Restroom soap dispensers are maintained and everyone is encouraged to  wash their hands.
  • Hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol is available in the treatment room and at the reception counter.
  • We schedule appointments at specific intervals to minimize the number of people in the office.
  • We ask all patients to wait in their cars or outside until no earlier than 5 minutes before their appointment times.
  • Credit card pads, pens and other areas that are commonly touched are thoroughly sanitized after each use.  No-touch payment is available.
  • Tissues and trash bins are easily accessed. Trash is disposed of on a frequent basis.
  • Common areas are thoroughly disinfected between patients and at the end of each day.

Public Health & Love

In regards to COVID-19, I wanted to check-in and share some basic reminders of how to prevent the spread of viruses.  I also want to reassure you that we have many anti-viral treatments from plants; all the way from Chinese Herbal Formulas like Gan Mao Ling or others containing Andrographis, Isatis, and Scute Root, to more local and Western remedies like Elderberry Syrup, Oil of Oregano, Thyme Tea, Olive Leaf, Lauricidin (extracted from coconut), and also simple Vitamin C, D, and Zinc.  You can also cook with more ginger, thyme, and garlic, yum! 

Here are some basic precautions that can be calmly integrated into your daily routine, as we should do with every flu season:

● Avoid close contact with people who are sick, and you may already be sheltering in place.  My physical clinic is currently closed and probably will remain closed until early June.

● Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. 

● Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.  Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60%-90% alcohol if soap and water are not available.  COVID-19 can transmit through both respiratory droplets and via stool, so careful hand-washing is critical.  Here is a video to visually show the steps to make sure you get soap on all parts of your hands.  

● Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then throw it in the trash can.  Cough or sneeze into your elbow and not your hand if you do not have a tissue available.  If you contaminate your hand and then touch other objects, you will spread the virus. 

● Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. 

● Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. 

● Get good sleep, and prioritize your self-care.  Sleep is crucial to optimize immune function. 

● Eat nutrient-rich foods, and prioritize a healthy diet.  Your diet provides building blocks used by your immune system to fight illness.  Here is a link about food safety.

● Optimize your vitamin D, zinc, and vitamin C levels.  You can order supplements here.  Sun your face. 

● Stay hydrated. Water is at the foundation of our health. 

● Stay calm.  An outbreak is scary, but most people will experience COVID-19 as a mild illness.  Prolonged, toxic stress inhibits immune function, so whether it is fear about the virus or excess stress at home or work, do what you can to give your system a break and restore.  Exercise, acupuncture, nutritional and herbal supplements recommended by your healthcare practitioner, qigong, yoga, meditation, or whatever your “go-to” to unwind must take priority now.  These are not luxuries!  Take care of yourself.

Chinese herbs are so powerful in treating colds and flus and have been used on the frontlines in China against COVID-19.  Even though my physical clinic is closed at this time, I am offering donation-based 20-minute consultations about herbs, stress-management, and to discuss any symptoms you may be having.  Pay whatever you want for the chat, and I can let you know how much additional herbs would cost.  My Venmo account is Erin Wood @ErinLiseWood, or a check can be sent to me here in the mountains.  If you are having any acute symptoms such as trouble breathing or a high fever, call your MD or advice nurse to see if you need to go to urgent care or the ER.

Keep practicing spacious solidarity and take care of one another!

~Erin Wood, L.Ac.

Another Acupuncturist Endorses Bernie

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Politics are personal.  They have been immensely personal to me since I was 29.  That was when, in the last year of acupuncture school, I found out I had a neurological autoimmune condition called myasthenia gravis and a tumor in my chest.  I had a high-deductible Blue Shield plan at that time, since I really only went to the doctor once a year for a check-up and used herbs, food, and dance as my medicine.  The surgery to remove the tumor cost me, in addition to my monthly premiums, copays, and lab or radiology fees, over $6000.  Then, since the tumor was Stage II cancer, I needed 5 weeks of radiation, which also cost me over $6000 since that was in a different calendar year.  And of course, I couldn’t work during this time, both recovering from chest surgery where they sawed through my sternum, and getting radiation in another city is like a full-time job.  I lived rent-free that year, bouncing from my mom’s apartment, staying with my boyfriend, and finding house-sitting gigs.  Since my overhead was relatively low, I could focus on studying for my board exam to become an acupuncturist.  After going through all that, I felt like nothing could scare me, and certainly not the 5-hour acupuncture exam that felt like going through intense airport security into a massive room of jittery test-takers.  I passed and started working that fall as an acupuncturist and herbalist.

As an acupuncturist who has taken insurance over the years, I can honestly say that with each passing year, it becomes more of a headache to bill and get reimbursed.  This year, a middle-man organization called American Specialty Health came through Blue Shield.  This organization makes billing such a hassle and reimbursement so poor, I can no longer treat most Blue Shield patients.  I have a Blue Shield plan myself through Covered California and there are hardly any more acupuncture providers that will take my plan.  I basically stopped taking my own plan!  Talk about dissonance!!!!  Acupuncture isn’t covered by Medicare and Medi-Cal reimburses so little, around here, only the acupuncture school takes it.  The clients of the methadone clinic where my partner works mainly have Medi-Cal and instead of having ear acupuncture on-site, they go to the acupuncture school, and are mainly treated by students.  Ear acupuncture is proven to help with detoxification and there is a protocol of 5 points in the ear that was designed in a hospital in New York to curb cravings and diminish stress.  So much more benefit could be gained by making acupuncture available at more clinics and recovery centers, and have licensed professionals leading the ear acupuncture groups.  Unfortunately and so obviously, the system is in a broken holding pattern.  And people are still dying all the time, whether from lack of access to care, institutional racism, misogyny, suicide, or any combination of those forces.  Care should be based on need, not some intermediary privately-owned company and their profits.  Medicare for All would save billions of dollars a year, money that could be spent on the care itself.

Over the years, the recurring theme of stress for me has been my health.  And it isn’t simply the fatigue, pain, and managing symptoms, medications, appointments, herbs, supplements, and anti-inflammatory foods.  The root of the stress is wondering if my health issues will bankrupt me one day.  As for student loans, I basically just pay the minimum amount each month, based on my income, and try to put those tens of thousands of dollars of debt out of my mind.  What is worrisome is all the uncertainty that comes with increasing premiums with less coverage on top of having to add state disability insurance as a self-employed person, which is over $500 quarterly.  It is so fortunate that I had state disability insurance a few years back, when a flare-up of the myasthenia gravis came back after almost 10 years.  My muscles were so weak, I couldn’t pull my hair back in a ponytail, I couldn’t put my dishes away in the cupboard, my neck muscles strained to keep my head up while driving, and my eye muscles couldn’t prevent blurry vision, making it hard to drive at all for a time.  I was off work for a few months, and then gradually started back part-time.  What helped the most was rest and intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) infusions to tell my antibodies they didn’t need to go bonkers and gum up the synapses between my nerves and muscles.  I did these infusions 5 days in a row for 3 months, and at the end of the 5 days, had blinding and debilitating headaches, a sort of meningitis as a side-effect of the medication.  I still do infusions every 7 weeks, just 1 day at home, and my nurse is the absolute best.  The first infusions were in a hospital, so that bill was disproportionately high and that was the third time I had to go on a monthly payment plan to pay the bill off over a few years.  Luckily, these home infusions, are only $45 each.  I imagine they can keep their overhead low by not needing a facility, just an incredible nurse and the medication delivered to my door.

All this to say, having health issue is damn expensive and takes a lot of my mental energy, mental energy that I could be using for work, activism, self-care, and enjoying life.  It gets especially taxing when I need authorization from Blue Shield before treatments recommended by my neurologist are covered.  Or the concern and not knowing if a brain MRI, and ultrasound, or another CT scan will be covered this time since the fine print of my plan changes from year to year.  I just don’t believe this stress should be added onto the chronic illness.  I fully acknowledge that I am one of the more privileged ones,  I come from a white family that has financial resources and I know I will always have a place to live, somewhere.  I have been given access to the best schools in California due to redlining and racist realty practices.

So when Kendrick Sampson spoke at a very recent rally in San Antonio and asked us to think of the most vulnerable people in our lives, and know that we are all working together to uplift one another in community, I knew that I was all in with Bernie.  I think about my nephew and niece.  I want a better world for them.  I don’t want them experiencing wildfires multiple times a year.  I don’t want them being scared at school after lock-downs and active shooter drills.  I don’t want them saddled with student debt the way me and my peers are.  I don’t want anyone to worry and struggle like I have when faced with health issues.  I don’t want anyone else to die from lack of medical attention.  And I want our elders to have the support they need.  I don’t want my mom to worry about housing as she ages.  And I want my beloved city of Oakland to be able to house all of our residents.  Living in one of the wealthiest regions of the entire world, the disconnect and discrepancy of wealth is so heart-wrenching.  I know that the system is working the way the 1% have planned and schemed for centuries, since way before Nixon.  AND, we all deserve better.

 

Another movement doing incredible organizing on the ground is the Poor People’s Campaign.  They are continuing the work of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.

To get an idea of where I am gathering loads of inspiration and updates, check out both Vote Save America (from Pod Save America), The Daily podcast and Fair Fight with Stacey Abrams.  I also highly highly recommend this Rumble Episode with Michael Moore.  What are some of your favorite resources?  And what are some of the issues closest to your heart?  Feel free to share your experiences in the comments section.

We got this!!!!  Not Me. Us.

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As Autumn Turns to Winter

🍃 Support During this Season 🍃

Fall is associated with the metal element, the organs of the lungs + large intestine, along with the skin, pores, nose, grief,  justice, boundaries + relationships.  Fall is a time when we prepare to move into the water element of the wintertime, which is connected with fear, wisdom, the kidneys + bladder.

The alchemist is the archetype of Fall.  They observe, study, discern, look for order, and “What is Right?”  Autumn is a time when the energy of an ax or sword clearing out what is no longer needed is especially strong.

Self-Massage:  

LU1 is a point on the pecs called “letting go” and letting go is a theme for the metal element.  One can be constipated if not letting go. Try massaging LI4 in the web of the thumb and forefinger and also your abdomen when you are on the toilet to get things moving.  If you are congested in the nose, press up into the sinuses at LI20 and ST3, right below the cheekbones.  I can show you these points at your next session.

Foods: 

*Fermented foods like kefir, kombucha, yogurt, sauerkraut, and miso help the gut flora.  L-Glutamine powder or bone broth can help heal the gut.

*Pears are shaped like lungs and are white like the color of the fall.  Poach some pears in hot water with chai spices and vanilla beans!

*Dark, leafy greens, cruciferous veggies, garlic, leeks, onions, shiitakes, ginger, turmeric, carrots, and green tea. 

*Focus on organic, grass-fed animal products.

*Get more omega-3s by eating fish, such as sardines, salmon, mackerel, or flaxseeds + evening primrose oil.

*Dandelion root tea or bitter greens like arugula, mustard, or dandelion greens can help resolve skin issues, which can crop up in Fall.

*Decrease your intake of vegetable oils, sugar, refined carbs, alcohol, and caffeine.


Herbs + Supplements:

These can help boost your immune system and increase your resistance to colds and flus:

*Medicinal mushrooms like Reishi, Turkey Tail, Shiitake, Maitake, or Cordyceps

*Adaptogens like American Ginseng, Astragalus, or Eleuthero (Siberian Ginseng)

*Vitamins C + D + Zinc

*Elderberry (Sambuca) Syrup

*Yu Ping Feng San

*Airborne

What to do when you feel the first signs of a cold coming on:

  1. Ginger and green onion tea   

  2. Eucalyptus and Tea Tree steam over the stove   

  3. Gua sha scraping on the back of the neck with a spoon or stone

  4. Promote a sweat, bundle up and sleep it off    

  5. Get acupuncture/cupping to moves phlegm

  6. Herbal remedies like gan mao ling, yin qiao san or herbal cough syrup with elderberry, wild cherry, osha root or loquat leaf

Because the mind is free
Listening to the rain
Dripping from the eaves,
The drops become
One with me.
~Eihei Dōgen

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Change is in the Air!

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I am in the process of moving to the Santa Cruz Mountains, in a cabin surrounded by redwood trees, near a babbling brook.  I have been living in the East Bay almost all of my life and looking forward to this change of surroundings and pace.

I will still be coming up to my Opal Street office two weeks a month, all day Tuesday and Thursday, and will continue to be in San Leandro for those 2 Mondays a month in the afternoon as well.  Talk to me directly and we can work something out, either on my schedule or with a trusted colleague.

Here are some referrals of fabulous acupuncturists who can also see you:

Ozben Felek in El Cerrito, online booking and she takes Kaiser referrals: https://felekacupuncture.com/

For any Kaiser questions, call Amy Lee at 510.504.3721.

Linda Kim at 510.290.1014 at the Opal Street Center, cash only.

David Heron at 510.982.1875 in the Oakland Hills, takes some insurance.

On a completely different note……As a holistic practitioner, I am always looking at the root cause of suffering and upset.  When looking at our country, the root cause of our divisions, violence, and unrest is slavery, and how it was intertwined with capitalism.  Please take a moment to watch this video and read this article, written by Nikole Hannah-Jones.  It is the most comprehensive summary of our country’s past that is still deeply affecting our present.  Learn more about The 1619 Project here.  And if you want to take a listen to This American Life and The Problem We All Live With, click here.

Thank you for taking the time.

Be well, contribute, unearth the truth, and build bridges.

~ Erin

Be always coming home……..

 

“Please bring strange things.
Please come bringing new things.
Let very old things come into your hands.
Let what you do not know come into your eyes.
Let desert sand harden your feet.
Let the arch of your feet be the mountains.
Let the paths of your fingertips be your maps
And the ways you go be the lines of your palms.
Let there be deep snow in your inbreathing
And your outbreath be the shining of ice.
May your mouth contain the shapes of strange words.
May you smell food cooking you have not eaten.
May the spring of a foreign river be your navel.
May your soul be at home where there are no houses.
Walk carefully, well-loved one,
Walk mindfully, well-loved one,
Walk fearlessly, well-loved one.
Return with us, return to us,
Be always coming home.”

~Ursula K. Leguin

 

VOTE EARLY & VOTE YOUR HEART OUT! <3 <3 <3

From the Talmud:

NOW

Get out there and vote for democracy next Tuesday, our rights depend on it.

If you are voting by mail, the ballot must be received on Election Day. You can drop it off at a polling place, as long as the polls are open. Polls are open 7:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.

And if you are in Oakland, vote for Cat Brooks as first choice, Pamela Price for second, and leave Libby out of it, not even as a third choice, she has let Oakland down time and time again. Don’t let her “I saved our community members from ICE and Trump” fool you.  She let ICE work with OPD in August of 2017. to deport a Guatemalan man.  Consider donating your money or time in these last few days before the election to Cat Brooks!

Also, Vote YES ON 10!!!!!!!   As someone recently displaced from their home, it is important to repeal Costa Hawkins, a loophole for landlords and developers to raise rents and evict tenants.

And here are a few voter guides:

Oakland Voter

Another radical Oakland Voter

State Props

League of Women Voters

Oakland Rising

With love and solidarity,  Erin

Happy Fall and First Rain!

SUMMER WELLNESS SERIES: MOVING INTO FALL

From Kirsten at Angelica and Peony, thanks for a lovely collaboration and to all of you readers for joining us this summer:

 

This article is the final in a special Summer Wellness Series I’ve collaborated on with my colleague Erin Wood L.Ac. Read all the installments here or follow on Instagram #tcmsummerwellness

 

 

With the Fall Equinox this week in the Northern hemisphere, we are deep in the transition moment from Late Summer in Fall. The days are perceptibly shorter, there may be a nip in the air in the morning, and even in the Bay area where there are still hot days to be had, the sidewalks are beginning to have piles of leaves, and our energy is turning inward and slowing down.

It’s an oft-noted irony that the time when the Earth is encouraging us to slow down and go inward is the time in our external calendar when things are getting busiest – back to school, the ramp up to the holiday season, and for us in the United States this year, an extra layer of work and anxiety around the mid-term elections and all that is at stake.

Your body might express this experience of cross-purposes with trouble sleeping, digestive upset, and as the Fall moves on, skin complaints, allergies, colds and sinus trouble. Seasonal self-care through the Summer (see the #tcmsummerwellness series!) can help buffer some of these, and here are a few self-supporting practices to consider incorporating this month;

  • sleep more. The days are shorter, and our energy is waning. In pre-industrial times (ie most of human history), we went to sleep and woke with the sun. Even 15 minutes earlier can make a difference. Chronic sleep deprivation is one of the most serious health issues facing modern people.
  • eat cooked foods. Save your raw salads and melon for next summer – save your body some energy by transitioning to cooked foods – if a salad is a must-have for a lunch on the go, try making one with cooked veggies – blanched greens, roast zucchini and peppers topped with chickpeas under a dijon vinaigrette, topped with a few toasted seeds or almonds for crunch. Very chic and easy to transport in a mason jar!
  • Give your lungs extra TLC. The Fall is the season of the Lung – they are especially vulnerable to allergens and viruses at this time of year. Improve the quality of the air indoors with an air purifier, air purifying plants and give your pillows a wash to eliminate allergens. Ask your acupuncturist about allergy treatments (best started before you are sneezing!) and buy or make some natural cold remedies to keep on hand so you can take them at the first signs of illness. Try Fire cider, Ginger-Scallion tea and this go-to list from Erin on natural remedies and herbal formulas for cold. My fave essential oils to keep on hand at this time of year, especially for steam inhalation: Rosemary verbenone, balsam fir and sweet thyme (linalool).
  • Going deeper: I wrote this essay on resting in sync with the earth a few falls ago. What does it mean when we don’t get enough rest? What are the personal and global consequences of our exhaustion and burnout?

May your Fall be filled with love and health, and time for darkness, rest and contemplation! For help with specific health challenges, including scheduling treatments or finding a practitioner in your area, contact Erin and me!

Herbs for the Late Summer + Earth

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Welcome to the late summer!!!  This season is the transition from summer to fall, the time of the spleen organ.  The spleen prefers a dry, warm environment. Cold and damp climates and certain cold or raw foods can hinder its function and gunk it up.  We can balance this dampness and support the spleen by sprinkling these additional herbs and spices into our food and drink:

  • Cardamom

  • Sichuan peppers

  • Ground white pepper

  • Tangerine peel, and other citrus like the Buddha’s hand

  • Licorice root, sometimes fried in honey

  • Dried ginger root

  • Green or Jasmine Tea

  • Raspberry Leaf Tea

  • Nettle Leaf Tea

  • Turmeric, like Kirsten’s Golden Milk recipe

  • Garlic

  • Parsley

The category of herbs that most support the spleen is the Tonify the Qi group, which means to boost the available energy and vitality.  Two of these Tonify Qi herbs are also adaptogens: Ginseng and Astragalus. An adaptogen is a natural substance considered to help the body adapt to stress and to have a normalizing effect overall.  I prefer American Ginseng over Korean Ginseng, it is actually slightly cooling, thirst-quenching, helps with diabetes and doesn’t raise blood pressure. Astragalus is a sweet and warm herb that goes to the lung and spleen channels to boost the immune system.  Red Chinese dates also Tonify the Qi, they are easy to digest. Dates are delicious in well-cooked rice with carrots and some ginseng slices, a super energy booster!

For a bit of self-acupressure, there is a point just below the knee, on the outside of the leg called Stomach 36 that helps increase white blood cells and supports the spleen.  Stomach 36 counteracts indigestion, diarrhea, muscle weakness, parasites, gurgling in the stomach, and soothes sore knees. You can massage it anytime or tap on it in an afternoon slump to get some endurance.  See a video here!

There is evidence that various deficiencies of zinc, selenium, iron, copper, folic acid, and vitamins A, B6, C, and E can alter immune responses in animals, so it is always a good idea to eat a variety of foods and consider a mineral supplement.  The Zinc Tally test and supplement can be helpful to find out if you are getting enough zinc, as well as a way to add more.  You can order some here or ask me about doing a test in my clinic.

Along with zinc, here are a few more helpful supplements:

~Fiber, also known as roughage, bulk, or dietary fiber can help our health.  Soluble fiber is found in plants such as nuts, beans, apples, carrots, psyllium, and blueberries and switches immune cells from pro-inflammatory to anti-inflammatory, which helps us to heal faster from infection.

~Resveratrol, found in red grapes, can help immune function.  

~Probiotics or fermented foods like kefir, raw sauerkraut, and miso can help balance the gut flora and keep the immune system ready to respond to new infections.

~Fish oil is rich in DHA, an essential fatty acid, and has been found to enhance B cell activity, which could be promising for those with compromised immune systems.

~Vitamin D, especially in liquid form, can help immunity and mood.  Research suggests that vitamin D activates T cells that can identify and attack cancer cells.  Vitamin D has also been shown to reduce respiratory infections.

I am a fan of keeping things simple, so stick with these basics if you get overwhelmed or don’t want to add herbs or supplements:

  • eat plenty of fruits & vegetables, all the colors of the rainbow!

  • exercise, gentle movement, deep breathing

  • quit smoking, acupuncture can help!

  • drink alcohol only in moderation

  • get enough sleep, at least 8 hours

  • avoid infection through regular hand washing

  • reduce stress, find ways to decompress & get out of fight-flight-freeze

As we talk about the bigger picture in regards to health, it is important to remember that part of life is suffering.  It is normal to not be well or what might be considered 100%. As health care practitioners, we are not trying to prevent any illness or death.  Sometimes we need to be under the weather to build our immune systems or slow down. We are trying to find tools, foods, herbs, and habits that support us to feel less pain and more energy.  We are human and life is fragile and fleeting. The ebbs and flows, the yin and yang aspects, are normal. It is helpful to remember that in a capitalist society, we are rewarded for being productive and able to work as much as possible.  That just isn’t realistic or compassionate. I heard on NPR this morning one of the main causes of food poisoning when eating out is caused by norovirus, brought in by a staff member, passing it onto the customer. Imagine a world where we were encouraged to stay home if we aren’t well, and even paid.  Less infections would be passed, less stress would be caused, and possibly workers would recover faster as well……also, try not to eat pre-packaged salads from fast-food chains……

Related to the idea of not being well all the time, or even most of the time, here is some food for thought by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, a brilliant disabled writer and cultural worker:

https://www.self.com/story/dont-call-it-clean-eating

And some lovely lyrics to top it off from Alanis Morrisette, a song called “That I Would be Good”:

That I would be good even if I did nothing
That I would be good even if I got the thumbs down
That I would be good if I got and stayed sick
That I would be good even if I gained ten pounds
That I would be fine even if I went bankrupt
That I would be good if I lost my hair and my youth
That I would be great if I was no longer queen

Let’s support one another in a more compassionate world.

Xoxo, Erin