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Chinese New Year 2021 Year of the Ox

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By Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D. & Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D.

metal ox
2021 is the Year of the Metal Ox

The Chinese New Year celebration will begin on February 12, 2021 this upcoming year. Throughout Asia, the start of the new year according to the lunar calendar is the most exuberant holiday, the time when families gather together to give gifts, eat special foods, honor long-held traditions, and show their love for one another. All around the world, the 2021 New Year holidays will look different, and many families will have to share their New Year greetings from afar. However, the new energy of the Metal Ox, according to Chinese Astrology, offers a way to view our situation with hope and purpose.

In Western astrology, your sun sign derives from the time of the year and place where you were born; whereas in Chinese Astrology, people who share an entire birth year also share a birth sign. The Chinese Astrological calendar runs through a twelve-year cycle. 

The Ox is the second of the Chinese zodiac animals, following the Rat, who has been representative of 2020. (Looking back, we can see how the Rat’s frantic energy led to multiplying numbers, and tendencies to hoard.) Like this past year, ruled by the Metal Rat, the Ox is still influenced by the Metal element, which brings strength and steely resolve, but also rigidity, and a tendency to try to do things alone. The Ox, also known as the Cow, is all about hard work and persistence, so the Metal energy is complementary at a time when people, as individuals and as a global community, must work through intense difficulties with the ultimate diligence. 

In TCM, the Metal element is considered to be connected in particular to the lungs and respiratory system. It cannot be overemphasized; top priority for the upcoming year must be taking care of your health, protecting and strengthening your Wei Qi (the Qi that helps prevent colds and flus), and getting plenty of rest. If you do not already have a regular practice of deep breathing and meditation in place, now is the time to begin. 

Metal Ox, sometimes thought of as “Gold Ox,” or “Iron Ox,” is good at developing relationships, but does so with total, and sometimes brutal, honesty. She will demand truth and righteousness from others, too. In 2021, we have an opportunity to find new ways to build community even as we contemplate a world that feels more isolating than ever. 

The metal Ox cannot be manipulated, but will charge straight ahead to tackle obstacles. Ox is ready to be tested; in fact, she relishes the chance to prove herself. On the other hand, Ox can be stubborn and unwilling to listen to alternative ideas that might call for a change of plans. Metal Ox is ready to put in the hard work, not because she seeks reward or accolades, but because without consistent effort, she knows nothing will get done or change. The overall energy of the Metal Cow is Yin, and associated with the cold months of Winter, when seeds and bulbs are buried underground, waiting and developing in quiet darkness. 

Chinese Astrology, like Traditional Chinese Medicine, and Chinese philosophy in general, views the world through microcosm and macrocosm. That is, we see the entire universe represented in every living creature; and each individual, by creating harmony within, can help to create harmony in the universe as a whole. As we move into 2021, it feels especially necessary that we all take care of our bodies, our families, our communities, and by doing so, we extend that sense of taking care out to the whole world.

Top 3 Tips for Good Luck in the New Year

wearing red is good luck
In Chinese culture, wearing red is thought to bring good luck.

Are you an Ox? If so, this year is your “ben ming nian!” Literally translated as the “year of original destiny,” this is the term for when it is “your year;” in other words, the Zodiac sign matches that of the year you were born. It is generally believed that your ben ming nian can be a tumultuous year with a lot of ups and downs. People who want to ensure good luck during their Zodiac Year practice these habits for good fortune:

  1. Wearing Red – the color red is believed to chase away bad luck, so wearing even a little bit of red – red socks, red underwear – daily is advisable when it is your ben ming nian. However, there is one important point to remember; the red item must be given to you as a gift–not something you buy for yourself. So, now you know what to put on your holiday wish list if you’re an Ox: red accessories!
  2. Carry or Wear Jade – jade also has protective qualities, and is believed to help bring peace, harmony, and abundance to the wearer. It is common to see people always wearing a favorite pendant or bracelet made of jade. 
  3. Avoid Facing “Tai Sui” – In Chinese Astrology, Tai Sui is a star that opposes Jupiter in the sky, and represents the “God of Age.” Some signs, including the ben ming nian, are in conflict with Tai Sui each year. Feng Shui principles give instructions as to how people who need to avoid “offending” Tai Sui can arrange their furniture so as not to cause unfortunate clashes.

Whatever your sign, the New Year is always a time to clean the house thoroughly, settle all accounts, and get organized so that the beginning of the year truly represents a fresh start.

Find Your Sign in Chinese Astrology

Chinese New Year red lanterns and door sign
Red lanterns and door signs signify the Chinese New Year holiday.

Because your Chinese sign is determined by the Lunar calendar, be sure to check the exact dates of your birth year. People born in January or February may belong to the former or later year.

  • Ox 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009 
  • Tiger 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010 
  • Rabbit 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011 
  • Dragon 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012 
  • Snake 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013 
  • Horse 1942, 1954,1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014 
  • Goat 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015 
  • Monkey 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016 
  • Rooster 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017 
  • Dog 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018 
  • Pig 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019
  • Rat 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008 

Seeds for the New Year Grow Into Conversations

At New Year’s parties–indeed, at any sort of gathering–you are bound to see a big bowl of unshelled sunflower seeds on the table. In China, people have been preparing seeds to be eaten as a shared snack for centuries. During the Yuan Dynasty (13th-14th century), people would stir-fry and eat melon seeds. Even though nowadays people almost always eat sunflower seeds instead, the common phrase for doing so in Chinese, 吃瓜, is still translated literally as “eating melon seeds,” or even simply “eating watermelon.” This phrase can also mean “gossiping,” because people love to nibble on the seeds while they chat with their friends and relatives.  

sunflower seeds
Sunflower seeds are a traditional snack for get-togethers.

Traditionally, the seeds are cooked inside their shells, and the shells are left on, which helps them stay fresh longer (about six months), but it also means that they take longer to eat. This is why the habit naturally accompanies long, leisurely talks with friends and family. You can sit for hours, cracking the seed casings open with your teeth one by one, enjoying an activity that occupies your hands and mouth, without actually eating too many seeds.

According to TCM nutrition guidelines, sunflower seeds belong to the category of bitter foods, and are fairly neutral, in terms of yin and yang energies. Baking or frying seeds adds more heat energy, while boiling helps preserve the nutrients better. Sunflower seeds are high in fat, which is what makes them so tasty, so do be sure to enjoy them in moderation, with only a light sprinkling of salt, and lots of good, easy-going conversation!

Best Wishes From All of Us at Art of Wellness

There are many ways to wish friends and loved ones a Happy New Year in Chinese. This year, we want to say to all of our patients and friends: 祝财运亨通 Zhù cáiyùn hēngtōng! I want to wish you longevity and health! 

 

 

*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the United States.

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How to Treat Allergy With Acupuncture and TCM

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seasonal allergies
seasonal allergies are caused by pollens and other substances

By Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D., & Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D.

Sinus congestion, runny nose, watery eyes? Itchy skin problem or rashes? It may be seasonal allergies, or an allergic reaction to some specific food or chemical. Acupuncture and TCM herbs can not only help to relieve allergy symptoms, but help to strengthen the body’s immune defenses, so that it is less vulnerable to allergens in the environment.

An allergy is when your immune system produces an antibody response to some substance; it could be a reaction to a plant pollen, an insect venom, a chemical in the air, or some type of food. The body is perceiving the foreign substance as a threat and manufactures antibodies to fight against it. A runny nose (rhinitis), watery eyes, itches in different parts of the head and body, and sneezing are the body’s way of trying to throw off the triggering allergens. Allergies can also cause asthma, which is when the body reacts to triggers with inflammation in the lungs and bronchial tubes, leading to coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing.

At least 50 million Americans experience some form of allergy symptoms every year, and the number is growing. The ever-increasing amounts of food additives, chemical pollutants, and other triggers in the environment are causing more and more people of all ages to develop allergies.  TCM and Acupuncture have been recognized for a while by the WHO as helpful modalities to relieve respiratory illnesses, including seasonal allergies, rhinitis, sinusitis,  and allergy-related asthma.

Top 5 Types of Allergies

itchy eyes and runny nose
itchy, watery eyes and a runny nose are common symptoms of seasonal allergies

Different types of allergies create a variety of symptoms. Seasonal allergies only show up at certain times of the year, when a particular pollen or other natural trigger is abundant, while chronic allergies can flare up at any time.

  1. Pollen Allergies – these are often referred to as “seasonal allergies,” or “hay fever,” and are triggered by natural pollens given off by trees, weeds, grass, and flowers or mold spores, pet dander. These types of allergy cause sneezing and runny nose (rhinitis) and eye allergies, or itchy, watering eyes.
  2. Insect Allergies – these can refer to the types of acute allergic reactions people have to bug bites (mosquito bites or spider bites) or stings from bees or wasps. It can also refer to respiratory or skin reactions to exposure to dust mites or cockroaches in the home environment.
  3. Skin Allergies – these include acute skin allergies like the hives or rashes caused by poison ivy or poison oak. They also include skin reactions to latex. Eczema is a more chronic skin allergy condition, where inflammation causes itchy patches of skin that can become very dry and scaly. Eczema often starts in childhood. Flare-ups can happen due to external irritants, like certain soaps or detergents, fabrics, ingredients in topical ointments or lotions, or smoke in the air. Stress is also a contributing factor to eczema.
  4. Food Allergies – food allergies are especially common in children, with over 5% of children in the U.S. diagnosed in recent years. Certain types of nuts, dairy, soy, wheat, and shellfish are the most common food allergens. In some cases, food allergies are so severe that exposure can lead to a life-threatening reaction of anaphylaxis, an emergency situation in which blood pressure can slow down dramatically, and a person may have severe difficulty breathing. Every year, 200,000 people seek emergency medical care for a severe food allergy reaction.
  5. Drug Allergy – many people have allergic reactions to certain types of medication, including antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, ACE inhibitors, anti-seizure medications, and even aspirin. The most common symptoms of an allergic reaction to medication are: hives or rash, fever, stomach upset, or asthma-like wheezing. A severe drug allergy can also cause anaphylaxis.

Allergy treatment first involves finding out exactly what allergens will potentially cause a reaction. Allergy testing helps determine what, specifically, is triggering the symptoms. Then, a person is encouraged to avoid this trigger as best they can. Many people try over the counter antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal sprays to help manage their allergy symptoms. For more severe allergies, doctors may prescribe corticosteroids in spray, pill, or ointment formulations. Epinephrine injections are necessary to stop severe reactions and prevent anaphylactic shock.

Immunotherapy is an option for some people with a chronic allergic condition. A small amount of the allergen is introduced into the body either via injection (allergy shots) or in a sublingual (under the tongue) form. These can help people build us a better resistance to the allergy trigger over time.

How Can Acupuncture Help Seasonal Allergies?

Modern medical science has made many recent advances in understanding of the human body’s immune system. It is highly complex, and there is still much to learn. In TCM, we have for many centuries been aware of and observed what we call “Wei Qi,” which essentially means protective energy. 

herbs for allergies
Chinese herbs can help relieve and prevent allergic reactions

TCM always acknowledges dualities and the relationship between opposing and coordinating forces. In every case, we look for internal factors and external factors that are affecting the health of the person. In TCM, the immune system has both internal and external components. The external Wei Qi is a protective force that functions as a shield, blocking external pathogens like wind, dampness, and cold, from entering into the body. The lungs provide the energy to keep Wei Qi strong and especially to keep pathogens from entering through the nose and mouth. However, when Wei Qi is weak, it becomes easy for Wind to enter the head and bring with it other external pathogens, like cold, heat, dampness, or dryness. 

According to TCM, a person who suffers from allergies generally has a deficiency of Wei Qi, making them more susceptible to invasions of Wind. Acupuncture treatment might focus, for example, on strengthening the lungs and spleen, which helps to build the Wei Qi back up. Herbal remedies can both relieve hay fever symptoms and rhinitis, and help to tonify the Wei Qi, so that allergic reactions will lessen over time. 

One trial found that people were able to reduce their use of allergy medication after an eight-week course of acupuncture treatment for allergies. Another research study found that patients in a control group who received acupuncture reported better control of allergy symptoms during pollen season, with less reliance on antihistamines.

TCM and Acupuncture for Food Allergy

Recent research supports the efficacy of TCM herbs for helping to prevent severe reactions in people who suffer from food allergies. A specific formulation of eight Chinese herbs has been shown to be helpful for reducing the incidence of anaphylaxis in people with various types of food allergies, including milk, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, and fruits. Herbal creams and herb bath preparations can also help prevent severe reactions, when used consistently for a course of treatment. 

An acupuncture practitioner will also use their wide knowledge of nutrition to help patients with food sensitivities and food intolerance manage their diet. Often, when dealing with allergies and sensitivities, it can be challenging to find what needs to be eliminated, as it is not always immediately obvious to a person which foods or other environmental factors are involved in creating the uncomfortable symptoms. A TCM doctor will spend time looking carefully at all of the lifestyle behaviors involved and make appropriate recommendations to help remove hidden triggers.

Top 3 Tips to Help Allergies Naturally

Getting regular acupuncture “tune-ups” is one great, natural way to help relieve allergies. Here are some other ideas you can put into practice to help rid your home and work environment of potential allergens.

  1. Air Filter – a good-quality HEPA filter will remove particles of pollen, dust, and pet dander from the ambient air. This works best if you also make sure to keep the windows and doors closed when you suspect pollen is heavy in the air outside.
  2. Probiotics – a recent systematic review showed that taking probiotics can help reduce symptoms of allergic rhinitis. Probiotics help balance gut flora, which we now know is vital to proper immune functioning and prevention of inflammation.
  3. Wash Your Hands – Manage allergens that come home with you by washing your hands and putting your clothes in the laundry as soon as you get home.

Acupuncture Near Me for Allergy Relief

Seasonal allergies, food allergies, and allergies to chemicals and medication are all on the rise. While people are able to get some relief from conventional medications, TCM treatment offers a viable alternative without the possible side effects of these medicines. Acupuncture can help reduce the need for emergency treatment for severe allergic reactions, and also help prevent hay fever from recurring, year after year. Partner with an acupuncturist near me for allergy treatment now to ensure that when allergy season rolls around again, you are prepared with a strong defense. 

 

 

*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the United States.

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4 Lifestyle Tweaks to Thrive this Spring

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In traditional Chinese medical theory, one of the best ways to stay healthy is to live in balance with the seasons. Balance, in this context, means mindfully crafting your diet and certain aspects of your lifestyle based on what season it is.

An easy way to think about this is with fruits and vegetables: we are lucky these days to have grocery stores stocked year round with fruits and vegetables from every corner of the globe at all times of year. That makes it possible to enjoy asparagus into the winter months in northern climates where asparagus would never naturally grow at that time of year if at all. Chinese medical thought prescribes realigning our diets with what would be available to us in the region where we live and at each time of year. continue reading »

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Eating Well for Springtime

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Traditional Chinese medicine says aligning your diet with the seasons is one of the best ways to stay healthy. Mother Nature provides exactly what we need to be healthy. Paying attention to the fruits, vegetables and herbs that grow during different seasons in the region where you live is a great way to incorporate the philosophies of traditional Chinese medicine into your own life and access greater healing. continue reading »

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