by marikare | Oct 19, 2021 | Acupuncture, body wisdom, chinese medicine, Five elements, research |
” The best and Most efficient pharmacy is in your own system.”
– Dr Robert C Peale
How the Immune System works
The immune system is a truly amazing system within the body, an orchestrated dance of players that continually explore, survey and identify what is us and what is not us and help to keep the sacred vessel of our body free of disease. In this article, I will be offering you a Chinese Medicine perspective on how the immune system works, why we get sick and how we can prevent this and support our immune systems if we do. To achieve this I will be pulling from Chinese Medicine with dapples of Western thought to keep it in line with what most of our Western trained minds can understand. If you need a refresher on the basic understanding of the immune system from a Western Persepctive I highly suggest checking out one or all of these links; Cartoon, podcast, written.
Wei Qi aka your immune system
In Chinese Medicine, your immune system is called Wei Qi and is governed by the lungs. It circulates in a special layer between your skin and muscle called the Cou Li and is always on alert for what is beneficial to you and what is not. Wei Qi is created in the body from the processing of air, water and food and mixed with our Jing Qi (Ancestral or pre-natal Qi, what you get from your parents). In order to make the strongest Wei Qi it is most important to consume clean air and water and nutrient dense foods, along with hopefully having inherited good jing qi from your parents. Wei Qi is a yang qi, which means it circulates strongest during the day and weaker at night, this is why when we are sick we often feel our best mid day but as evening comes or when we awake in the morning we feel more unwell. Yang qi is hot, fast, and vigorous hence the heat, swelling and pain associated with an infection. The stronger your wei qi is the higher your fever will be and the more intense the aches and pains in your body will be. You will also clear the infection faster so long as the infection is not stronger than your wei qi.
Autumn is the season of the lungs which govern and regulate our wei qi. It is at this time why it is so fundamental to support your immune system through strengthening your lungs and their ability to circulate your wei qi through opening and closing the pores, sweating and breathing. The lungs are known as a delicate organ and like the canopy of trees, their inhale and exhale orchestrates the rhythms of our bodies and the circulation of our wei qi, which acts as not only a physical boundary to foreign objects but also an interface between us and the world.
Why we get sick
In Chinese Medicine there are several reasons why we get sick, some come from the outside, some inside and some are neither internal or external. Ultimately each of these factors can either bring “disease” into our bodies or can cause damage to our internal systems that allows for already present issues in our body to become illness inducing.
External factors come from the six external pathogens: wind, heat, cold, camp, dry, fire, damp. These factors can come from our environment such as seasonal weather changes, the conditions in our home and work space and from the food, drink and other things we consume that may contain harmful viruses, bacteria, fungi, parasites, etc.
The internal factors causing us to become sick are the emotions; joy, fear, grief, anger, and worry. Each of these is connected to an organ and when they are out of balance they cause our qi to move in the wrong way. This creates an imbalance in the system and leads to disease states.
The factors that are neither internal or external are mostly life style factors that again cause an imbalance to our qi, yin and yang and create disharmony in our systems. They are
- irregular diet (eating too little or too much, at the wrong time or when stressed, eating the wrong foods),
- overwork and overstrain; one of the most dire situations in our culture and one of the big lessons asociated with covid
- sitting or standing for too long; “Extended lying down damages the qi, extended sitting damages the flesh, extended standing damages the bones” – Sun Simiao 7th century
- insufficient rest; we have a tendency to not take the proper time to rest and heal ourselves, leading to secondary infections and lingerig pathogenic factors.
- night work
- Lack of exercise; though too much exercise can damage the body, not moving the body can damage the qi
- Traumatic injury
- excessive sex
- parasites and poisons
- wrong medical treatment
- ignorance; not having been taught preventative health measures or how to utilize common sense judgement when making choices
Ways to support your immune system
Listening to the Seasons
Part of supporting our lungs and strengthen our immune system/Wei qi is living in harmony with the seasons. In recent research it was actually found that approximately a quarter of our DNA changes with the seasons, with inflammatory gene expression increasing in the winter time when we have more colds and flus in the Northern hempisphere (1). Preparing for and living in harmony with the seasons allows our bodies to adapt and find balance. These are simple practices like making sure you dress properly for the seaons, eating seasonal foods that balance the nature of the climate, honouring the tides of yin and yang and choosing our activities based on their ebb and flow.
In Fall this means;
- covering out necks
- eating warm foods that nourish the lung (cauliflower, almonds, daikon radish, potatoes, turnip, parsnip, rutabaga, apple, pear, rice, oats, sesame seeds, onion, garlic, and white peppercorns)
- allowing our bodies to adjust to the coming chill by not over heating out homes or vehicles
- slowing down our activities and contemplating what we need to let go of
- working through our grief and sadness
In Winter this means:
- covering our low back and kidney area
- eating warm foods that nourish the kidneys (eggplant, black sesame seeds, black beans, kidney beans, wood ear mushrooms, plums, figs, dates, seaweed, miso, seafood, bone broths and bone marrow)
- going to bed early and rising late
- spending time in the quiet stillness
- working with our fears
In Spring this means:
- not undressing to quickly and keeping our bodies warm
- eating seasonal fresh foods that nourish the liver (leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, beets, carrots, chives
blueberries, goji berries, grapefruit, strawberries, eggs, liver, pork, venison, crab, crayfish, lobster, mussels, oysters, shrimp, squid, trout, whitefish, flax, pine nuts, sesame, cayenne, garlic, onion, vinegar, turmeric, olive oil)
- getting outside and moving our bodies more
- rising earlier
- working with our anger and being creative
In Summer this means:
- avoiding too much heat and direct sun
- protecting the skin while staying cool
- eating fresh foods that nourish the heart (celery, cucumber, lettuce, mushrooms, lemons, mulberries, schisandra berries, chia seeds, jujube seeds, brown rice, oats, whole wheat, cow and goat milk, ghee, basil, chamomile, dill)
- rising early and staying up later
- being active and spending time in community
- expressing our joy
In Late Summer this means:
- dressing for the weather in layers
- eating more warming foods that nourish the spleen (cooked and fermented vegetables, brothy soups, cabbage, carrots, corn, onions, peas, string beans, sweet potato, yams, apricots, apples, cantaloupe, dates, figs, grapes, papaya, beef, chicken, duck, eggs, fish (bass, carp, herring, mackerel, sardine), goat, goose, lamb, spleen, veal, venison, amaranth, brown rice, sweet rice
coriander, cumin, garlic, ginger, vinegar)
- finding and expressing our gratitude
Supporting your Wei Qi
There are several things along with living in harmony with the seasons and following a lifestyle of moderation and emotional regulation that specifically support our wei qi, these include herbs and supplements, qi gong, acupressure and acupuncture and calming our shen (spirit/nervous system). Below I will offer you some of my favourite ways to support you immune system and prevent yourself from getting sick.
- Qi gong is a form of meditative movement that helps us to connect with our bodies and move our qi. It is a simple and powerful and encourages movement in the body without overdoing it. You can even learn to bring qi in from your environment to supplement qi lost. I especially like to do my qi gong in the morning outside but any time that you can make your own is perfect. There are three specific practices that help support the immune system and build your wei qi. You will find them here in these videos: qi gong for the metal element, qigong for autumn, qigong to strengthen the lung.
- Acupressure to support wei qi: acupressure is a simple technique that involves pressing and massaging specific acupuncture points to bring balance to the meridians and organ. As the wei qi is dispersed by the lungs, but built from our digestive and air qi along with our jing qi from our kidneys we will work with lung, stomach and kidney points. I recommend taking some quiet time and if you like light a candle and set an intention to balance your body and build your wei qi and then go through teach pair of points rubbing them at the pressure that feels best for as long as you feel neccesary. If you are unsure 1 minute is always a good bet.
- Lu9-Taiyuan- Supremem Abyss- source point of th lung channel, tonifies the lung and the wei qi
- Ki7- Fu liu- returning current- metal point on the kidney channel, replenishes energy esp kidney yang that helps produce wei qi
- Rn12- Zhongwan- supreme granary- command pt for the stomach- gathers energy of all the yang channels and harmonizes the centre, promoting digestion and ying qi that helps build wei qi
- Moxabustion- moxa is dried mugwort that gets burned over points in order to increase heat and tonify qi. When placed over specific points it can strengthen different kinds of qi including wei qi. You will need a moxa stick (which you can get this from me or your local acupuncturist) and you will light it until it glows and then hold it over the point below until it gets hot, switching to the other side continuing for about 10- 20 mins.
- St36- Zusanli- Leg three mile- earth point on the stomach channel- tonifies the digestion, wei qi and overall strength of the body
- Herbs – In Chinese medicine there are many herbs and formulas that work with the lung qi, wei qi and supporting us in creating harmony in the system based on your individual pattern, so here i will offer you two herbs that have been studied quite extensively and are often used to support the immune system. It is always advised to see a practitioner when you are unsure of what herbs you can and should take.
- Astragalus- Huang Qi- is adaptogenic, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. It has been used in Chinese Medicine for thousands of years and is well tolerated by most but those who are pregnant, breastfeeding, on immunosuppressant drugs or have an auto-immune disorder shoulde consult their practitioner. It has been shown to increase white blood cell production(2) and help fight bacterial and viral infections (3, 4)
- Cordyceps- Dong chong Xia cao- a caterpillar and fungus used for thousands of years in Chinese Medicine has been shown to increase natural killer T cells (5) and increase macrophage phagocytosis, along with may other immune factors (6)
- Supplements- A healthy and balanced diet and good digestive system to breakdown and absorb these nutrients is always the best way to get key immune building vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, B6, D, E, zinc, selenium. Here is an helpful list of what these nutrients so and where you can get them in your food and a podcast talking about common immune supplements.
- Probiotics- There is amazing new research coming out on the microbiome and how crucial it is to the functining of all of our systems but especially the immune system. I highly recommend checking out this podcast, this article, and this book for more of the incredible way that microorganisms support our health.
- Staying as relaxed and stress free as you can. Many of the above measures can help with this especially the qi gong and acupressure. Other things you can do are: spend time in nature, with those you love or doing something you love, getting lots of rest and moving your body.
- And of course getting acupuncture will help support your wei qi, balance your emotions, reduce stress, anxiety and fears.
I hope this supports you in being proactive in caring for yourself and keeping your family and community healthy. Please feel free to reach out with any questions and I am always available for in-person acupuncture, shamanic healing and online consultations.
by marikare | May 11, 2020 | body wisdom, chinese medicine, death, mental wellbeing, nervous system, resilience, Ritual, Soul wisdom, traditions |
How are you doing?
It has been over six weeks since we started self-isolation here on the island and as with most things it feels like forever and just a few days ago at the same time. There are days when I love it, the ease and gentleness that a day can take puttering around the house, playing with ayana, getting my hands in the dirt and then there are others where I wake up with this intense agitation like a bird trapped in a cage and I want to rage at the powers that be for telling me I can’t be free and do what I want to do. If you know me you know I love my freedom and in a year with a collective need for freedom this feeling of being locked up can seem extra intense.
So I wanted to share with you some of the tools I use on a daily basis to help clear and release these energies, stay centered and grounded, protect my energy from the collective fear and grief and recharge myself when I am drained. I have actually started a youtube channel and will be posting these exercises in more detail so check it out for more info and let me know what you think.
As a mother of a tiny human and a solopreneur, on top of everything else I find it essential to go to bed early and rise at least an hour before my daughter. I do this for myself first of all and for my family, work and community secondly. Rising early allows me to start my day with intention and get in all the little things that make me a better, calmer, happier person. The first thing I do when I wake in the morning is set up my mat and after drinking some lemon water with chia seeds to get my liver moving and give a little flush to my intestines and kidneys, I do 20-30 mins of movement. I usually go with what I feel at the moment whether it is Yoga with Adrienne, some self lead or youtube inspired qi gong or some serious movement with The Class or Betty Rocker. This gets my qi and blood moving and brings my awareness into my body and clears my mind.
Next I Clear
No matter what movement I do I love to finish it off with shaking. Shaking helps to release pent up energy, loosen and lubricate the joints, relax the muscles and just feels awesome. I begin by bouncing on my heels and letting my bones rattle and vibrate from my feet up to the top of my head, then I bring my arms and head into the mix, shaking them as gently or vigorously as I need, then I lift each leg and shake it out. Lastly I jump around letting my whole body loose with deep exhales, howls and groans. There really is nothing like shaking to activate, stir and release. (Check out my video on more ways to clear your energy.)
Then I Center
After Shaking it is time to center, centering helps me to bring my energy into myself and set my mind to neutral in service to my heart. The third eye located in the middle of your head where your pineal gland is located is also known as the Seat of the Soul. It is a place where we can place our consciousness to witness and direct our lives. You can simply put your awareness on this spot and look out from this place. I like to visualize a room where I am seated on a cushion with candles and incense burning and a small looking pool in front of me. From this centered place I can go about my day and observe my thoughts and reactions more clearly. (For more ways to center check out my video)
After I Ground and Connect
Once I am centered I like to ground my energy down into the earth, this gives me stability and a sense of connection and wellbeing that my animal body loves. I bring my attention down to the base of my spine and visualize a root growing down into the center of Mother Earth where it divides growing out into the four directions to anchor me fully. From here I take some deep breaths feeling that connection and the calm, supportive energies of the earth wash over my body while I send my gratitude to the earth from her love. When I feel complete with Mother earth I draw that energy up through my body to the top of my head where a great trunk grows up into the heavens and branches sprout in each of the four directions and I begin to breath and connect with Father Sky, the sun, moon, stars, planets and spirit. I draw down the energy of spirit and the light of these celestial beings to fill my body. Also sending thanks to them all for what they give me. (For a full guided meditation on this and connecting to the Father Sky, sign up for my newsletter at the bottom of the page)
Finally I Protect
After grounding and connecting I bring my attention to my Dan tian (energy center in my abdomen) and visualize an electric blue octahedron ( two four sided pyramids with their bases together) around my body and energy field. The tips of the pyramids are above and below me and the four points are located in front, behind, and to the left and right of my body. It is electric blue as this is the colour of truth like Archangel Michael’s sword. I then invite in and thank my guides and instruct them to keep away all low vibrational, fear based, negative energies that are not in my highest good. I also place this octahedron around my home, car, bike and clinic.
These five steps that I do first thing in the morning help set me up for a good day ahead and only take a few mins. Throughout the day if I’m starting to feel agitated or heavy or in a situation that feels tense I will shake off what doesn’t serve me or send the energy down into mother earth to be composted and then quickly visualize my octahedron and I’m good to go again.
I hope you take the time to give these a try and keep your energy clean and clear. Living on purpose with intention and taking responsibility for our energies is once of the greatest things we can do. Please let me know what you think of these exercises and pass this on to anyone you know who might be served by it.
by marikare | Mar 19, 2020 | Acupuncture, body wisdom, chinese medicine, death, family, Friends, grief, research, traditions, wild food |
Wow, what a time we are living in!! I have to remind myself daily that this is the world we have dreamed and it is truly amazing to see how people are coming together, how the pollution of the world is down, how we are being asked to move more slowly in such a fast paced world. I really and truly see it as a gift we are being offered and not one to take lightly. Below you will find some information on covid-19 that perhaps you have not come across and some resources to help you through this and all the other challenges life has in store for us.
All life is connected, in fact our bodies are literally made up of bacteria and viruses. They help us break down our food and bolster our immune systems and challenge us to evolve physically, mentally and spiritually. Viruses are especially fascinating as they require a host cell to replicate and so parts of our DNA are actually virus DNA.
We can not escape this truth nor can we escape interacting with these microorganisms. It is a part of being human. But many of us view these tiny beings we share the planet with as something to be eradicated. I think however it is more about harmony than war. Our bodies are innately clever and built to decide which organisms are friend and which are foe. Our greatest defence against organisms that threaten our lives is in our immune systems and part of the immune system is built up of good microorganisms.
In traditional Chinese medicine pathogens are broken down into wind, cold, hot or toxins often with accompanying dampness. In order to expel the pathogens we need strong wei Qi and Zheng Qi (immunity) which are built out of kidney and and stomach fluids. If we are stressed, depleted, or weak than we won’t have enough Qi to defend our bodies and the sicker we will become.
So how can you boost your immune system firstly through diet, eating warm wet foods- porridge, soup, broth, stew, avoiding cold, damp building foods like candy, ice cream, dairy, processed foods. We can also take supplements, herbs and at home practices that have been shown to improve our immune systems.
Chaga and reishi mushrooms
Finally we need to release the fear, anxiety and stress as it is one of the primary things that weakens our immune system. Here are a few suggestions
time in nature.
talking with loved ones,
Meditation ( sign up for my newsletter to download my tree of life meditation)
All of this goes far beyond just the virus, the incredible amounts of change that are being asked of us are unsettling to our instinctive centre. Residing just below our root chakra, our instinctive centre remembers all of our early childhood, ancestoral and past life traumas. Whenever anything is unsettling to it, whether it be childhood trauma, an ancestor who died of the spanish influenza or our own death many life times ago from another epidemic, our body remembers and the fear rises up, even if we rationally know the fear is not justified by the circumstances our bodies don’t know that and we are sent into a fight, flight or freeze response. The best ways to manage this are with breath, bringing awareness into your body and your environment to remember you aren’t in immediate threat, smudging yourself with tobacco, palo santo or sage and getting shamanic healing to clear the fear and realign the body, mind and spirit.
Remember all challenges are opportunities, For the first time in years you can hear the birds singing in Wuhan, there is no smog in the skies of major cities like LA, people are coming together online to support those less fortunate in need. We are truly at a time of writing a new dream for humanity. I personally am incredibly excited about this opportunity! In Shamanism, there is a practice of dreaming our worlds into being, most shamanic cultures believe that everything we believe comes true and so each moment we have a chance to dream a new and better world into being. Through practices like mindfulness this is what we are doing, we are becoming aware of our surroundings, our actions and our reactions and learning to change them, creating a new reality for ourselves. What better time to try and do this then when we are asked to change our lives and are given the time and space to rest, reflect and dream.
I hope you take this time to dive deep, walk in nature, move slowly, enjoy time with your loved ones and really imagine what a better world would be like.
To help you I have recorded a tree of life mediation which is part of my morning routine and is excellent at releasing fear, worry, anxiety and stress, grounding oneself and realigning body, mind and spirit with all that is. You can get your free copy when you sign up for my email newsletter.
I am also offering sliding scale distance shamanic healings. A powerful way to reset our systems, clear our fears and begin to dream again. $30-60/session
I will be available for a limited number of acupuncture and shamanic acupuncture sessions for those in need.
I am also available by email if you have any questions or concerns.
Marika Reid Hall RAc HDP BA
by marikare | Sep 25, 2016 | astrology, chinese medicine, Five elements, traditions, wild food |
Autumn is my favourite season. As the daylight comes later and the rains return here on the NorthWest coast, I can feel autumn laying it’s cloak upon me, it is thick and cool made of fog, wind, dimming light and vibrant decomposing leaves. It reminds me that nature is preparing for its winter slumber and urges me to do the same. Everything needs time to rest and rejuvenate, to return to source and realign with who it is and how it serves. With modern technologies and our seemingly never-ending drive to do more, be more, have more, we no longer allow ourselves to enjoy this movement inward, as our ancestors, not so long ago, did. I, for one, wish to reclaim the powers of the seasons and not become another burned out, frustrated, hormonally imbalanced, directionless human. I want to live a life in alignment with my natural cycles and spirit and working with the seasons aids me in doing that.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, Autumn is the transition time moving from the hot fiery yang energies of summer to the cold watery yin energies of winter. It is governed by the element of metal that allows us to cut away what no longer serves, just as the trees drop their leaves and these will decompose and become the fertilizer for the new growth of spring. The Metal element helps us discriminate what is precious and what needs to go. It shows us, if we are listening, where the golden nuggets lie and which are the real gold, nourishing our self worth and connection to spirit and which are fools gold, hiding our dragons of self-deprecation, arrogance, self-destruction, martyrdom,…… Shamanism also sees the fall as a time of letting go and of great dreaming and if we can let go of feeding our dragons, we can dream a new dream that serves our highest purpose and all that live on this planet with us.
In our bodies, Metal is reflected in the paired organs of the lung and large intestine. They are the organs that filter the precious from the waste. Our lungs inhale clear qi from the heavens and exhale old turbid qi. They are connected to the skin, body hair and nose and protect us from external pathogens. They are also responsible for grief. The lungs capacity for grief allows us to honour and have gratitude for what we are letting go of and recognize that our lives will be transformed by this process. This is the gift of grief and how the decomposing of the old becomes the new life of the spring. If we do not allow our lungs to inspire and expire and move through grief naturally, our lung qi becomes stagnated and we may produce excess phlegm, become short of breath, get sick frequently, have chronic nasal issues, asthma or a chronic cough. On the other side if we get rid of too much and see nothing as precious our lungs may become deficient and we can have similar problems marked with more dryness and weakness.
The large Intestine also acts as a discriminator for us, when our colon is healthy we are able to reabsorb the precious minerals and water we need and expel the waste. When we can’t let go we become stagnated with toxins, emotions, and old habits and these can show up as pain in the lower abdomen, constipation or weight gain and just like with the lung when we let go of too much we become depleted of our own nourishment.
In the five element cycle, healthy metal nourishes our water, which is reflected in our kidneys and bladder and controls our deepest resources, our ancestoral essence/genetics, as well as our fear. Metal also helps control the wood element, preventing our livers from overacting on our other organs with anger, aggression and fire. When we work with our metal it assists us to make the long stretch of winter with ease and strength, which encourages a fertile and vibrant spring guided by spirit.
There are several things we can do to nourish our metal during this season:
- Slow down and take stock of our lives, reflecting on what no longer serves and what is most precious in our lives and begin to release through gently cleansing our bodies and minds, saying goodbye to relationships and old stuff, creating a simple releasing ritual to honour this process and your grief.
- Allow grief and sadness a place in your life. When it comes up recognize it and let it flow through you, letting it go through breath, crying, movement
- Eating warm, seasonal, easily digestible Pungent foods. These help promote circulation and digestion and release excess phlegm, Such as: ginger, onion, leeks, green onion, black peppercorn, garlic, celery, cilantro, fennel, spearmint, radish, chile pepper, sweet pepper, turnip, taro, cinnamon, cabbage, cardamom, cloves, oregano, mustard seeds, wine. Also eating yin nourishing foods to help protect against the dryness and winds of the fall, such as: pears, apples, mushrooms, tofu, seaweed, almonds, pine nuts, oils (olive, grapeseed, coconut, sesame), pork. As with any eating make sure you don’t over do it on any one kind of food.
- Wear a scarf to protect yourself from external pathogens, especially wind
- Take herbs that clear, moisten and nourish the lungs and intestines: A simple tea made of some of the pungent herbs above to clear phlegm and warm the body like the always classic lemon, ginger and honey or a nice moistening blend with slippery elm, marshmallow and licorice root.
- Practice gentle movement practices to keep your qi moving but also build your qi and strength for the winter like qi gong, yin yoga, tai chi, walking,
- Spend time outside breathing in clear qi from the heavens
- And of course get some acupuncture! For low cost acupuncture, check out the local acupuncture schools or community acupuncture clinics in your area. For more psycho-spiritual assistance look for a five element or alchemical acupuncturist.
If you wish to go even deeper into your process and the process of the cosmos, the autumn/metal time of year is supported by three primary astrological signs:
- Libra- Sept. 23 to Oct. 22- the sign of balance, justice, beauty, truth, perfection and relationships. A wonderful time to delve into your relationships with self, other, spirit, work, body and the planet.
- Scorpio- Oct. 23 to Nov. 21- the sign of self-will, taboo, secrets, transition. A time to go deep within and look at our shadowy places around emotions, love, sex, secrets and taboos. What needs to be brought up to the light and what needs to be let go.
- Sagittarius- Nov. 22 to Dec. 21- The sign of higher knowledge, learning, wisdom, spirituality, philosophy. This sign helps us to start to dream a new dream and find the wisdom in all of our letting go, helping us to make the transition to winter.
Wishing you all a gentle, nourishing and deep Autumn,
Marika Reid Hall
References and Resources to go deeper: