acupuncture
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Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years around the world with more than 3 million Americans receiving it each year. While much of acupuncture's effectiveness remains a mystery to mainstream science, stimulating the bioenergetic pathways of the body has been proven to reduce inflammation, improve the flow of energy, relieve pain, reduce high blood pressure and alleviate the symptoms of chronic and serious disease.

Join us for this episode of the Health and Wellness Show where we were joined by Elizabeth Ross, a Registered Acupuncturist and a Nationally Certified Diplomate of Acupuncture. She received her Masters in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (MSOM) from the World Medicine Institute in Honolulu, Hawaii where she studied Taoist and Traditional Chinese styles of acupuncture, as well as Qi Gong and Chinese Herbal medicine. (https://www.facebook.com/pg/lizrosslac/).

Running Time: 01:37:31

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Here's the transcript of the show:


Jonathan: Welcome to the Health and Wellness Show everybody. My name is Jonathan. I'll be your host for today. Today is Friday August 11, 2017 and joining me in our virtual studio from all over the planet we have Tiffany, Erica and Doug. Hey guys.

All: Hellos.

Jonathan: So today we have a very special show. We are talking to a guest, Elizabeth Ross. Hi Liz.

Elizabeth: Hi.

Jonathan: Liz is an acupuncturist and practitioner of herbal medicine and so that's what we're going to talk about today, some of the details that surround that field and any questions that we might have. I know I have a few, but just a conversational format, just get to know each other and maybe shed some light on acupuncture which I think a lot of people are not really very familiar with. So I guess my first question is, to a lay person how would you describe acupuncture to convey that it's a practical, effective treatment?

Elizabeth: Oh, that's a good question. The question that I hear most often is why would I get an acupuncture treatment. I have lots of answers for that question but my most general answer is that when you wake up in the morning, what isn't perfect because whatever you're experiencing that isn't 100% ideal for how you're feeling, acupuncture can affect it in some way. Now not every practitioner can affect it but there is a framework within the spectrum of Oriental medicine that will be effective on everything. That's my feeling and I'm sure that there are some small examples of things where it isn't effective. I know I've found things that I'm not effective for but depending on the experience level and the training of your practitioner we can work on everything from head colds to emotional issues to reproductive issues. Pain is always the first thing that people talk about. I have books on almost everything.

Jonathan: So to back up a little bit, how did you get started in acupuncture? What brought you into it?

Elizabeth: That's a long story but to try to make it a little bit shorter, for me my story with it starts at a pretty young age because I was a sick kid and I think I just had a lot of problems that whenever I would go to the doctor, my parents would take me in and I would explain how I was feeling and the doctors would check me out and they would say there's nothing wrong. And I would say "Well maybe you don't know what you're doing."

Then I had an allergist starting when I was seven and I worked a lot with her and whenever I would have any of these weird problems we would go see her and she would say "Oh no, you're just allergic to this, that and the other thing". Usually it was foods and I'd stop eating those things or stop being exposed to those things and then all my problems would go away and that was consistent with not just me but my whole family, especially on my mom's side. We have a lot of weird problems.

Then my allergist got into this, she was probably in her 70s at this time, definitely an older woman, very controversial in the community because she was an MD and gastroenterologist but she did a lot of "weird" things at the time like muscle testing and developing her own treatments for things, but they were really effective. So she got into this allergy elimination treatments and she was offering it as a thing that would be good for me because I was having a lot of problems. Around 17 I got told I was going to be in a wheelchair before I was 30 because I probably had rheumatoid arthritis and it was just going to keep getting worse and worse and worse.

It was a bad time for me. Then she was like "Rheumatoid arthritis is all food allergies" and I was like "Well, okay". I stopped eating all of the foods I was allergic to and the pain that I had had since I was three went away within a week and then she was saying "Let's get rid of these allergies" and I was like "That doesn't happen! You can't get rid of allergies!" The treatment that she used was NAET and I don't know if any of you guys are familiar with that. Nambudripad's Allergy Elimination Techniques. It's all based on acupuncture and chiropractics because the woman who developed it is from India and she's an acupuncturist and a chiropractor. I can't remember if she's also an MD or if she's also a lawyer. She had three big degrees.

So that was my introduction to acupuncture as a thing, but I didn't know that that's what it was and then when I came up here for college I went to Michigan Tech for geological engineering. I was halfway through my engineering degree and my best friend got me an acupuncture session from our friend Marcie. I was really curious because I had always been interested in traditional medicine since I was really little because also on my dad's side of the family we have a tiny bit of Ojibwe if you go back to my dad's great-grandmother. I have felt really connected to that from a really young age and I was upset that I wasn't learning to be a medicine woman my whole childhood. So I was compromising that I couldn't find a time machine so I would study natural disasters instead because who's not interested in that.

Anyway, on the acupuncture table for my first treatment and we're talking about it and I'm like "Oh my god! This is my time machine!" Because this is traditional medicine that has survived thousands of years. They actually wrote it down and they brought it into modern times. We could have a long conversation about how modern acupuncture is not the same as it was pre-communist revolution but that's not why we're here.

So I finished my engineering degree because at that time I was like "This is my time machine but am I ready for that big of a change and jump off of that kind of a cliff?" I wasn't at that time so I finished engineering and that's actually how I moved to Hawaii for an engineering job and I worked as an engineer for three years and kept getting acupuncture. I was very unhappy working in engineering and my boyfriend at the time was a very good influence because he just didn't accept that I wasn't happy and he asked "What would you rather be doing? What would you rather be doing? What would you rather be doing?" I had a quarter life crisis and finally admitted that what I really wanted to do was acupuncture and quit engineering and went back to school and that's that.

Jonathan: Cool. Awesome.

Erica: How long is the program to go through to get acupuncture? Would it be like a medical school-type program?

Elizabeth: It's a four-year masters. So a lot of people do it in three years because they don't take the summers off. I think you have to do three years and a semester at least, so however you have to work out your credits in order to get the time. I did mine in four years. I took summers off because I could. I just wasn't in a rush. I love school because it's easy. You know exactly what you need to do to succeed whereas the real world is a different subject. I know that for me I need to let my mind have a break and then I can go back and start fresh and be excited about being back at school whereas I saw that people who went straight through were really, really stressed out.

Doug: I have a question about acupuncture in general because probably like me, a lot of people who are listening don't know a lot about it. You hear all these different things about energy channels and meridians and that the needles do this or that, but can you maybe give a bit of a breakdown, what it actually is?

Elizabeth: Yeah. What acupuncture is - and I'm going to distinguish between acupuncture and Oriental medicine and I'm going to say that acupuncture is a branch of Oriental medicine because what you're talking about with acupuncture specifically using needles and putting them into the body to do something, to accomplish something. What we're doing when we use those needles is using the meridian system of the body which are those energy pathways that you're talking about. Those energy pathways are named for 12 organs in the body plus two that are not named for organs. They mostly flow longitudinally on the body. There are yin channels and yang channels and the channels either start or end at the tips of the fingers or the tips of the toes and then they flow either from the core of the body out or they flow from the extremities in, depending on the channel.

The way we look at the body is that disease of any type, whether it's a physical disease or a mental disease or a pain situation is caused by the energy not flowing in a balanced way through those channels. So if you had perfect balance in your body you would have perfect health and the imbalances that we're talking about are not large imbalances. It's a very subtle system. So with western medicine we're used to crisis management and we're looking at large imbalances. When we're working with the meridian system we can be talking about large imbalances but we can also be talking about very minute imbalances. The way I think about, and I think this is because I'm coming from an engineering background and it's the easiest way for me to explain it, is to think about the energy flow as electrons. If you're thinking about it like electricity. That's not what it is, but it's a great analogy.

So if you think about the wiring that goes from your light switch to your light bulb and if you try to flip that switch and the light bulb doesn't come on because there's some break in the wiring somewhere, you have to reconnect that wire so that the energy can flow and get from the switch to the light bulb, right? So the way I look at it is you've got all these channels flowing but you've got an interruption in that flow somewhere and we put the needle in and it reconnects and allows that flow to continue happening throughout the body. And that's not precisely what's happening but that's how I think about it because it's an easy concept. But that's essentially what's happening. We're using the points to balance the energy of the body and you can do that by putting the needle into the body and you can either disperse energy or you can cultivate energy through that point. Does that answer your question?

Doug: Yeah, it does.

Erica: So is the energy considered chi?

Elizabeth: Yes.

Erica: In Oriental medicine?

Elizabeth: Yes. It's chi and there are many, many, many different types of chi both inside and outside the body. But the chi that circulates through the channels is called the real chi. In Chinese it's the gen chi.

Jonathan: Do the needles have to be made of a certain material? Are they conductive? Does it matter?

Elizabeth: It depends. Now most needles are surgical steel because of cleanliness issues but you can buy gold needles and you can buy silver needles and those are the traditional metals used to either disperse or to cultivate energy. If you want to cultivate energy, let's say you have a patient who's really deficient and they're just weak, you would use gold needles on that weak person. But if you had somebody who was in pain you would use silver needles because you want to disperse that pain because pain is caused by the energy not being able to move.

Jonathan: So I guess in lieu of that, if you're using surgical steel...

Elizabeth: They're neutral.

Jonathan: So does intent come into play?

Elizabeth: Yes, absolutely. Intent comes into play significantly and for me that's one of the most difficult parts of the medicine because I get too much in my head, I think also because of the engineering training. I'm constantly having to try and get out of my head and into my body and be thinking about exactly what it is I'm trying to accomplish when I'm needling people and really connecting to them through the needle. Practitioners who are true masters of acupuncture can do amazing things with just one needle whereas the rest of us have to use more needles to accomplish the same thing and it's because they really can cultivate their own chi in a way to connect and go through the needle into somebody's body and accomplish the change plus they're connecting to that person's chi with the needle and they can feel it and they get a lot more information from that connection than I do. But that's the goal.

Jonathan: It's fascinating. I guess if I play devil's advocate...

Elizabeth: Sure.

Jonathan: ...when I hear chi as kind of a John or Jane Doe, it's like "Yeah".

Elizabeth: I know. That's actually why I kind of avoid using the word chi with people before I know what side of the fence they're on because I don't like starting from a defensive place because I feel like I so often have to defend what I do as not quackery.

Jonathan: Yeah, I imagine it's difficult. So you would probably use anecdotal examples. My girlfriend has come and been treated by you and she had incredible results that she hadn't been able to get with any other types of treatment so it worked really well. But it was one of those things where you could see it working and then you have to wonder how does it work, and what else can you do.

Elizabeth: Yes.

Jonathan: As somebody who's not immersed in it.

Elizabeth: I was listening to a podcast actually on Tuesday and it was a really interesting episode. The name of the episode was "The Issues are in Your Tissues." And he was talking about cultivating - he had a great name for it and I can't remember what it was, but basically cultivating your own awareness within your body and learning how to feel things from an objective place. I feel that from all the work that I had to do with my allergies and then crossing over into acupuncture, I feel like that's one of the tools that you can develop through studying acupuncture but also from receiving the treatments because I got treatments for five years before I went to school and I felt like I had a huge advantage over somebody who was coming in and they hadn't really gotten a lot of acupuncture treatments because you start to feel things happening during the treatment; not everybody, but if you're open to it and I think if you're sensitive to your body, if you're willing to be in your body which some people aren't, you can start to have really interesting experiences because of the needles. I think that starts to create a really basic framework of what's happening without even studying it.

Jonathan: Sure. Like how to think about what you feel in your body.

Elizabeth: Yeah, and I think it allows you to connect to the fact that there is an energetic component to the body that science is not able to talk about because you can't take a picture of it and you can't measure it. There's a really wonderful book that I'm reading right now very slowly and it's called The Spark in the Machine. It's written by a guy who's an embryologist and an acupuncturist, fully trained, both sides and the book is about trying to connect how acupuncture works in terms of western medicine. I'm only 80 pages into it because every page blows my mind and I have to let it soak in for a little while. His whole thing so far, 80 pages in, is the fascia and the concept that it's not just these individual pieces but it's one giant structure and that it's used for organization in the body and that there's a communication system that goes along the fascia. I'm assuming that what he's going to say is that if you could map it out that would be the meridian system.

Jonathan: Actually it's interesting that you bring that up. Last week we were talking about light therapy and that collagen is actually a conductive tissue and maybe you guys can help refresh my memory on what Elliot referred to as, a liquid crystalline structure?

Tiffany: Yeah, it has a liquid crystalline structure. I was actually reading something similar last night where the author was talking about fascia and it was actually the book that Elliot recommended and it's called Energy Medicine: The Scientific Basis by James Oschman and he was talking about the fascia and how in acupuncture there's a lot of theories that the main meridians in acupuncture are just like the information superhighways for energy.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Tiffany: And it's all connected to the fascia and it branches all throughout so the body can have pretty much instantaneous communication between the cells without having to go through the nervous system or relying on hormones or things like that.

Elizabeth: Yeah, and the main channels in acupuncture are just the ones that we talk about most often but there's also luo channels and diversion channels and cutaneous channels and sinew channels; I forget how many layers but I shouldn't probably say that, but I don't remember how many layers of channels that there are in the body but we talk about the primary channels most often because that's where the points are located. But we might be treating you based on a luo channel or based on a sinew channel, depending on how you're presenting on the table at the time.

Jonathan: The one thing that Katy had - correct me if I'm wrong - but she said because her issue was in her shoulder but you had put needles in her foot and that it helped.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Jonathan: So I thought that was weird.

Elizabeth: I know. I think she was also really surprised because I think her issue was on her right shoulder and I didn't put any needles on the whole right side of her body. We only treated the left side of the body and it was cool. I like that because when you have an issue that you know feels a certain way when you move that body part, then if you're not needling that body part you can still move it. So what I was doing with her was I would needle a couple of points and say "Alright, try to move your arm". And she would say "Oh it's better but now I'm feeling the pain more specifically in this place" and then we would put in a needle for that place and then she'd move it again and we basically kept going through that process until she had no pain at all in that shoulder.

Jonathan: Yeah, it was crazy because that was existing for a while, like a couple of weeks.

Elizabeth: Yeah. That was so fun. It was like the ideal situation.

Doug: I find it very interesting that you brought up the western medicine approach to this stuff and how it's very difficult to reconcile these two approaches. I don't know if you have an opinion on this or not, but I've found that a lot of times what I read in more mainstream type websites, they are always trying to explain from a western mechanistic perspective, how acupuncture actually works. So it seems like a lot of them are willing to accept that it does, which is already a big step I think.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Doug: There was a Mercola article not too long ago that was talking about a mechanism for it and it had to do with nitric oxide and all these other kinds of things. I'm not necessarily dismissing that, but it just seems like there is a real reluctance to look at things from the actual perspective of the people who've been practicing it for thousands of years.

Elizabeth: Yes!!

Doug: So I wonder if you could comment on that at all.

Elizabeth: I agree completely and I think it's because we're raised in a culture where science is our religion, whether we want to admit it or not. You might identify as Christian or Muslim or whatever, but I feel if you've been raised in a western culture then your true religion is science because if it's not being proved, if science doesn't tell you that it exists, then it doesn't exist maybe unless it's something actually within your religion. But I feel like if we can't take a picture of it, we don't really think it exists and we're terrified that we're being sold snake oil.

I went through my own experience of having to reconcile that within myself while I was in school. Even though I had had amazing experiences receiving acupuncture and I was learning how it worked, I still had that "alright, I'm not a sucker for doing this", right? This really is a thing. I had dated an astrophysicist for five years and that was a huge thing. I'd just come out of that relationship halfway through acupuncture school so I had all this really intense science framework, not only from my own education but from interacting with him so closely because we would talk about this and I didn't have answers for him. He wasn't trying to tell me that what I was doing wasn't real. He just liked to play devil's advocate and he liked to get me thinking about it and I didn't like that I didn't know how to explain it.

So through talking with him about astronomy and cosmology and all of those things, there's that whole great unification theory. I'm not sure if that's the right name but a lot of the astronomers and astrophysicists are trying to figure out can they have one unifying theory that explains everything. String theory comes out of that. I started thinking about that one night and just trying to make that place in my body feel more calm and I started thinking about with string theory and all of these other things, they have to have 12 or I don't know how many dimensions they have to have in order to make all the math work out.

If we think about it, we experience life on average with our four dimensions. We have three dimensional space plus time. So if we were comfortable with those four dimensions and they have to have 12 or whatever to try to make the math work for their unified theory, what's happening on those other dimensions? What is that? Then I started to think "Well what are the other things we know exist but we can't see like thoughts and emotions?" We do know that there is a communication that can happen between people where you don't have to say anything but you just know and it can be across the world and you just know that something happened to somebody that you care about or you just feel it in the air.

Well that information has to be transmitted somehow and for me it was comforting to think about how science has this thing, that they don't necessarily want to acknowledge that they have these 12 dimensions that they can't show actually exist. Maybe that's where this stuff is happening, is how I decided for myself. And that's maybe not going to be a satisfying answer for anybody but me but it was comforting to me to look at it that way.

Jonathan: Sort of a digression, what is the weirdest thing that you've seen acupuncture be effective on? And I know "weird" is a really vague word but something where you would be like "No way! I can't believe that worked!" I know that you're not shooting in the dark when you're doing acupuncture.

Elizabeth: Right.

Jonathan: But I'm curious if it's given you surprises that...

Elizabeth: Yeah. A few things pop into my head. While I was in school, there was another student who was getting treatments from the woman who started our school and so I was working with her that day. Sorry, this patient wasn't a student. This was just a public patient and I hadn't seen this person before so I didn't know their backstory so it was all a surprise to me when they were talking about it. Apparently this person had big tumours and his doctor wanted to either go in and operate or wanted to do chemo, you know, traditional cancer treatment and this person had been instead seeing my teacher. On the day that I was working with them the person had said "Yeah, I just got my new scan and my tumours are gone and my doctors were really mad and they wanted to know what I was doing and why were my tumours gone."
And I was shocked. "What do you mean they were mad?!? What kind of doctors are these?!"

Jonathan: Yeah.

Elizabeth: Shouldn't they be really excited and "Oh my god! What did you do? How can I get all of my other patients to do that?" So that was really a shock because I was like "What? You made the tumours go away?! How did that happen?! How long do I have to do this before I learn to make tumours go away? Can I learn how to make tumours go away or is this just like magic 'oh' and that's never something that I'm going to be able to do." All those things are possible.
So that was pretty incredible.

Jonathan: How old was the practitioner? Had she been doing it for a long time?

Elizabeth: Oh yeah. She'd been doing it for sixty years. She started training when she was six. But that's how it used to work in China. There's a lot of misinformation also I feel like when you're talking about a lot of these things. I don't know if she became a Taoist monk at six or whatever. I don't know exactly how it works but I know she started training at six and her family was either connected to the Taoist temple that she lived at or they just gave her to them. I'm not sure how that works. But then partway through her training was when the whole communist takeover was happening and so her teacher was the 63rd generation Taoist celestial master who's basically the pope of Taoism. He told her that she had to leave China and become the bridge between the east and the west for Taoism or Taoist medicine, I'm not really sure. And so that's why she went to Hawaii because it was a physical bridge between the two.

Her story is incredible and I wish I knew how much of it was real and how much of it was...

Jonathan: Legend?

Elizabeth: Yeah, exactly, legend. She's a very, very interesting woman. I saw her do a lot of really cool things.

Jonathan: Well something like the communist revolution where everything got turned completely upside down and records were destroyed, I'm sure that there were some really fascinating things lost.

Elizabeth: A lot of people got killed.

Jonathan: Yes.

Elizabeth: I think that's what happened to her teachers. A lot of the religious leaders were murdered.

Jonathan: Sure. And then destroyed all that information.

Elizabeth: Yeah, because they had too much power. But going back to your question about what weird things have seen acupuncture help, I had a patient a couple of years ago. We were working on PMS. She had big mood swings so I was working on her mood swings and she came back and she was like "I don't know if what you were doing could possibly have done this, but I've been having really good orgasms." She was giving hints and "I just want to say if anything that you've been doing could have done that, keep it up!" I was like Wow! That's totally possible because it's all connected. It wasn't something that I was trying to work on but that made me feel really good.

Doug: I think you probably just got yourself a bunch more patients.

Tiffany: So Liz, can you walk us through a typical session that you have with your patients, from when they walk in the door? Do you take all their history? How do you place the needles? When I think of acupuncture - I've never had it - I picture people just putting the needles in and then just sitting there and watching them do their magic but then I've seen some videos where the practitioners will wiggle the needle around and I've read that some apply electrical stimulation or heat or something to the needles. What do you do from beginning to end with a typical patient?

Erica: I'll add a little to that too. Is there a difference between people who are open to it? So if you have a patient that believes in it already would you approach them differently than somebody who just got a recommendation and came in and was like you were saying, kind of devoted to the medical science aspect? I know that's a lot of questions.

Elizabeth: Oh but those are really, really good questions. My typical process is that I have intake forms. I try to keep the intake forms really short because people complain about having to answer too many questions and it taking too long. But any and all information that we can get prior to starting the treatment is really helpful. There's a lot of information that comes from those forms, whether people fill everything out or whether they refuse to fill anything out, that alone gives you some information which is interesting, what people will and won't fill out is always a source of interest to me.

But basically the intake forms are about do you have any kind of medical history that I need to know about and then the second page is all about bodily functions like do you feel internal hot or cold, how often do you go to the bathroom? Is going to the bathroom a problem for you, either urination or bowel movements? How well do you sleep? Do you sleep through the night? Do you have trouble falling asleep? Do you have trouble staying asleep? Do you have crazy dreams? If you wake up in the middle of the night when do you wake up? Is it always the same time? How long are you awake? Do you have trouble going back to sleep after you wake up? Then women's health and a little bit about men's health. They don't have as much to work on usually but sometimes if that's why somebody's coming in or it can be applicable to other issues like back pain or digestive issues sometimes.

There's a big section about pain, where and how often do you have it? Is it constant? Does anything help or make it worse? And then I added a part about how willing are you to make lifestyle changes on a 1 to 10 because so much of what we do is lifestyle based and you get a lot of people who come in who are like "What do you mean, I have to do stuff? I'm here! You're supposed to do it!" And wouldn't that be great if that is how it worked but it's not.

So once they give me that stuff this is where whether they've had acupuncture before, whether they haven't, really comes into place. After they give me their paperwork and before we go into the treatment room because if they have never had acupuncture I like to know number one, do they have issues with needles because a lot of people have needle phobias and people who are not open to acupuncture, a lot of it seems to be rooted in the fact that they are really uncomfortable with the needle aspect and they don't want to have needles in their body and they're scared it's going to hurt and I think all of that is totally valid because interestingly, a lot of acupuncturists are not comfortable with needles.

Doug: Really?

Elizabeth: Yeah and yet this is what we do for a living. I think it's hilarious but I think it's because so many of us are so sensitive and regular medical needles are not fun. It's always a problem. I actually need to go give blood for my doctor and I'm putting it off because I hate getting my blood drawn because I hate the needles and I don't like blood coming out of my body and I get it. So when people come in and are like "I'm really not okay with this" I have a whole spiel that I go through. First I ask "Are you somebody where more information is helpful or do you really not want to know and you just want me to tell you that it's not going to hurt?" For people who like information we talk a lot about how the needle gauge is really tiny. If you guys know anything about needle gauge, I generally use 40 gauge needles. They're 16/100ths of a millimeter in diameter and they're filiform needles which means that they are not meant to cut the skin. They are really, really sharp and pointy.

What I like to imagine if I'm needling someone who's really sensitive, I almost like to put my awareness at the tip of that needle and imagine that I can actually see the skin cells and I can see the cell membranes and instead of putting the needle directly on one of those skin cells I like to find the junction between the skin cells and try to go right between them. It's just a visual practice. It's not actually probably what's happening but it makes me feel like I'm really sending a message to their body that I'm not there to hurt it and I feel that they get that message, whether I say it or not.

Let's say we have the worst case scenario of somebody who's really not interested in acupuncture but somebody convinced them to come and they're really needle-phobic. The first thing I tell them, I really like to emphasize that they are in control of the experience and they are in control of whatever we do during their treatment because that's what I like to hear when I'm feeling uncomfortable. I like to hear that I have control over what happens to me because regardless of what kind of a practitioner you are, when somebody steps into your treatment room they are trusting you with their body and if you're not honouring that, then you're doing them a disservice. So I like to put that right up front first and say "If you are at any time uncomfortable all you have to do is say the word and we stop and if there are needles in and you want them out we will take them out."
We don't have to ever use needles because I have other tools available. I have little seeds on a sticker that I can use instead of a needle so they don't actually puncture the skin, it's like acupressure and the sticker just holds it on the point and it's just as effective. It's not as strong. The needle for example, gives the entire treatment with 100% effectiveness right away, the time you retain the needle whereas the acupressure with the seed or the magnet that I tape onto the body, that's almost like a time release so it's the entire effectiveness over 3-5 days instead of in half an hour.

For example that's all I ever use on little kids. So if I have a child coming in I don't use needles on them at all. Some people do and that's fine. When you're needling a child you never have them retain the needle, you just put it in and take it right out. But I think, of the kids that I've worked with anyway, they like the fact that you're doing something to them. It makes them feel really special so they like having a little sticker with a little ball in it and then they can show it to their friends and say "I'm really cool. I have stickers." The reason we do that with kids is they are so, so sensitive that they don't need a full treatment. They change so quickly, their energy is so sharp that with people who are really, really good at working with the energy, you can just do qi gong medicine on them and probably heal them in a much more effective way than even the seed will.
I put on the seeds and then you can just let them run around, so it doesn't have to be such a long treatment because they're impatient and they don't like to sit still for the most part and then it's cheaper for the parents. You bring them in, stick them with the stuff, ask them if they feel better and then they get to go.

So it's the same with adults who are uncomfortable. You just put those seeds on, but I still have them sit. So let's say I have somebody, the first time I've ever seen them, I will try to put a needle in them but I pick a spot that's not as sensitive, that almost everybody feels is a spot that feels good to get needled and that isn't scary. So it's a place that they have awareness but it's not a place that they can see for the most part unless they're somebody who wants to be able to see it. But generally anybody who wants to watch the needle go in is not somebody who's scared of needles.

Jonathan: Is it different for everybody? Some people are like "Yeah go ahead and stick my shoulder but not my knee".

Elizabeth: Oh yeah. Absolutely. And that's why I always really emphasize maybe needling your neck will feel okay and then maybe you've reached your limit and you're like "I can't do anymore". And that's fine. Then we just stop. I had somebody like that last month and she was real nervous. I said "We'll just do a little bit and you just tell me when you're done. And I might feel it and make that call first but if you make the call first that's fine. That's the ending point." She made the call. She was like "Yeah, I think I'm done" and I said "Cool". Then we just did seeds.

Jonathan: What are the seeds? Does it matter?

Elizabeth: Yeah. They're a species called vaccaria - that's the genus. I can't remember the species. I've been saying vaccaria sinensis for a long time because I just thought it was the Chinese vaccaria seed but I was actually reading somewhere recently that it's a different species name and I was like "Oh, I guess I made that up". But it's definitely the vaccaria seed. I could go next door and grab one, but it's about one-and-a-half or two millimeters in diameter.

Jonathan: I remember Katy had some of that in her treatment and she had also said that you're supposed to intermittently press on them yourself.

Elizabeth: Yes, especially if they're in the ear. I like people to really become friendly with the ear points. That's multi-purpose. One, it is to re-stimulate the point and reactivate the treatment and the second is when they're in your ear I want you to make sure that they're all there. I don't want you losing any into your ear canal. As far as I know I've never had that happen with anybody.

Jonathan: Do these vaccaria seeds have any special energetic property as well? It's not just the hardness of the seed?

Elizabeth: Right. So in the Chinese pharmacopoeia what the vaccaria seed does is it moves the blood and moving the blood moves the chi and from what I understand, when the people who make the seeds with the stickers on them, before they put them on the sticker they soak the seeds in wine and dry them. So there's a processing that's involved with the seed to make it even more effective because wine is also a blood mover. Alcohol does have a medicinal property in small doses so a lot of herbs in Chinese medicine are soaked in wine and dried and put into formulas for specific reasons.

That's the worst case scenario. The best case scenario, somebody comes in, they're already good, they've had plenty of acupuncture. The difference that I find with that person other than the fact that I can needle them freely, I'm still treating them as I feel their constitution, so it's important to assess the person's constitution. You're a big guy but if I'm taking your pulse and assessing you and you feel really weak to me regardless of how you look, I'm going to treat you as that weak person and be more gentle even though you look like a big, strong guy.

Jonathan: Sure.

Elizabeth: The same might happen with somebody who is tiny but they might be a tiny little powerhouse. So then you can treat them more aggressively than you would if you were just looking at them visually. The big difference with somebody who's had a lot of acupuncture is that they're open and you're not having to spend so much time building trust and I feel like with the person who's uncomfortable, everything that you're doing is just as much for the treatment as it is for the trust building and letting them know that they're in good hands. I feel like when I have people who get acupuncture elsewhere and, say they're on vacation here and find me or whatever, they're ready. They lie on the table, they're completely open and they're completely comfortable and it makes everything so much easier because you're not having to constantly reassure them and they just allow it to happen. They're not fighting it in their body either because a lot of what'll happen sometimes if somebody is convinced that acupuncture doesn't do anything they will actively fight it and not want to let it help their problems which is a weird thing to do. I don't think they know that they're doing it, it's just that they're so rigid. I don't know how that works because it's not something that I have personal experience with. I've seen it but I don't do it myself.

Jonathan: I've had a lot of chiropractic done. It reminds me of that because you really have to relax and trust the chiropractor. So it's important to find somebody you do trust anyway who's good at what they're doing.

Elizabeth: Yes.

Jonathan: Because if you're trusting somebody who's not good then you have a problem.

Elizabeth: Yes.

Jonathan: Especially if you're having anything done on your neck or your upper back you have to really relax into it.

Elizabeth: And let them do - exactly what you see in movies, breaking people's necks and killing them. That's how I felt the first time I got my neck cracked. I think I was eight and I cried because I was scared and it made a loud noise and "It hurts! It hurts!" It didn't hurt but I was just scared.

Jonathan: But you definitely stiffen up in that moment with the fear that you're not going to get an effective treatment.

Elizabeth: No. It was nice for me when I first started getting acupuncture because I was tense and I was anxious all the time and that's what I wanted the acupuncture to help me with and I thought about it as forced meditation because I was pinned to a table and if I tried to move it hurt and that was perfect for me because I had to just let go and it just seemed like I couldn't give myself permission to let go but the needles would give me permission to let go. Then it was like training myself that I could do it without the needles which was an interesting experience.

Jonathan: That brings up a question. Are there cases in which the needles do hurt?

Elizabeth: Oh yeah! Definitely. That's not what anybody ever wants to hear. Everybody wants to hear that the needles never feel like anything. That's just fundamentally not true. Some people don't feel anything and those are the people when you're in school with them, nobody wants treatments from them.

Jonathan: They don't know what you're going through.

Elizabeth: Yeah, because they're really aggressive needlers and since they can't feel it when they needle themselves they don't think anybody can feel it. So they have a more difficult learning curve than the person who feels everything. I actually tell a lot of my patients who say "I'm sorry, I'm sorry" because they'll jump a little bit and I'm constantly reassuring them "Oh, don't even worry about it. You should see me get a treatment! I'm the worst because I know exactly where they're going and I know exactly how it's going to feel and then I start to think "oh, oh, if you're going to needle that spot you're going to have to do it in exactly this way because I'm really super ticklish and I'm really sensitive and if you don't do it exactly how I tell you to do it I'm going to have to try to not kick you." And that makes everything more painful and that goes right back into the trust because when I'm on the table I have to acknowledge that I have to trust whoever is needling me and it's hard.

So the places that are painful are different on everybody but the thing that gets you around it is the experience of the practitioners. So there are some points that are just going to be painful but the more experienced and sensitive your practitioner is, that discomfort is extensively minimized because they're working with you and not against you. I would say probably guaranteed painful points are on the feet and the hands and the feet are highly innervated. We know that and any highly innervated place is going to be more sensitive to getting a needle put in it. But the most effective points are on the hands and the feet. So it's very rare to get through a treatment and not have to have one of those places needled.

Tiffany: So what's the point of wiggling the needle around or twisting it around when you first put it in?

Elizabeth: Oh! Yes! Thank you for bringing that up. You had asked that and I forgot. So when we're putting the needle in there are a few reasons why you wiggle it. Sometimes that's just the practitioner's needling style. I was taught to needle freehand meaning without a tube. So in a lot of western schools the needles come with what's called a guide tube and you put the needle inside a tube and it allows you to put pressure against the skin and then you just pop it in, hit the top of the needle and it just shoots it through the tube into the skin and it just gets it through the skin because the most painful part of needling anybody is going through the skin because that's where all the nerves are. Once you get through the skin then it's pretty easy.

So the way I was taught is you get it through the skin and then you wiggle the needle back and forth, almost like you're twisting it.

Jonathan: It's like turning a screw.

Elizabeth: Yeah, but you're not always going in the same direction. You're going back and forth, like when people are teasing you and they say they're playing the world's tiniest violin, it's that kind of physical motion of putting it into the skin. I think that's just to help it not adhere to anything on its way in so you're almost trying to make it frictionless. But some points you don't want to do that because they're in places where you want to make sure that you're not going to accidently bump a nerve because we absolutely don't want to ever needle nerves. It's not fun. It happens sometimes because there are a lot of points located along the median nerve on the arm and so when somebody says they feel that, you just take it out and go back again. But once you get the needle into the point there is a manipulation done sometimes and that goes back to when we were talking about either wanting to disperse the energy or cultivate the energy of that point.

There are many different types of manipulation to achieve that dispersion or cultivation including twisting it continuously in one direction or you can wiggle it back and forth, in and out, like a small movement. Because I went to a Taoist school we actually learned Taoist charms that we were supposed to write with the needle once we got it into the body, so you're just imagining that the needle is a paintbrush I guess.

Tiffany: Like a Reiki symbol?

Jonathan: It's like Reiki symbols, yeah.

Elizabeth: I don't know anything about Reiki.

Jonathan: It's a similar idea.

Elizabeth: And I really like that. We were learning those my first semester of acupuncture school when I was still ultra-engineering and it was one of those moments where we were doing a Taoist medicine weekend where we went camping and we were doing qigong all weekend and I was freaking out, not knowing if I was supposed to remember every single part of the qigong form because it was really long and I had no idea what was going on and I was like "I'm not taking notes!" Then my friends were in the back of the group because they were a few semesters ahead of me and this was old hand to them by now and they told me later that they were all laughing about how being in acupuncture school is kind of like being at Hogwarts. They said that right after they said that our teacher said "Okay, I want you guys to look at the ground". We're outside, we're on the north shore. We were at the boy scout camp, Erica if you remember, right across from Bellingham.

I remember this, she said "Look down. I want you guys to find a stick" and we're all thinking "What are we doing?" and then she has us pick up the stick and we started drawing the charms in the air with the sticks. They were our wands. It was this hilarious moment of "Oh my god, we just crossed over! We actually are at Hogwarts." We had potions class and everything.

Tiffany: What about applying electricity?

Elizabeth: Oh yes, thank you. Again, because I went to a Taoist school, we did not do a lot of E-Stim (electrical stimulation). My teacher was actually really against it. She thinks that...

Jonathan: Is E-Stim electronics?

Elizabeth: Yeah. Thank you. She thinks that there should be no external source of electricity going into the body because the heart is so important and you shouldn't be adding any new electricity because you're going to mess up the electricity that's inherent in the heart.

Tiffany: Yeah, that makes sense.

Elizabeth: Yeah, it makes sense to me but I've had E-Stim and there were students who decided that they were going to go rogue and study it on their own and they got really interesting results on a lot of things. There was a woman I was in school with and she got really into the E-Stim and she was specifically using it to rebuild bone tissue. She had a patient who had a broken arm and she would needle on either side of the break and she would needle to the bone and then send the E-Stim through it and I guess that woman's arm healed in record time. It was crazy. So she was also telling me about using E-Stim specifically for issues like arthritis and she actually took her E-Stim machine to the dentist and hooked herself up so that she didn't have to have anesthesia for dental procedures.

Jonathan: Whoa! Crazy! It was effective.

Elizabeth: Yeah. It was totally effective and that's how they do it in China. They'll do E-Stim and they've done open heart surgery.

Jonathan: Whoa!

Tiffany: Yeah, I saw that. The lady was awake!

Elizabeth: Yeah. I would not want to be awake. I have a really bad vasovagal response. That would be awful for me. So yeah, I think there is a time and a place for E-Stim. I think it's very effective. I don't personally know how to do it and it hasn't been something that I have felt motivated to learn. Right now there's so many things to learn and I'm so excited about all of them but E-Stim just hasn't been high on my list.

But the heat is very fun. Heat I do use. We use a herb called moxa. It's artemisia vulgaris is the species and it's a very common weed that grows everywhere. I've got it in my backyard here. I think it grows on all land surfaces. I'm pretty sure. I don't know if you could find it in the Arctic for example, but it grows here. It's definitely in Canada and it definitely grows in the tropics. It is a very widely spread common herb.

Jonathan: Do you make a poultice out of it?

Elizabeth: No. You make what they call a wool. You take the leaves and I'm not sure if it's the leaves and the flowers or just the leaves or just the flowers. There's a lot of different grades of moxa so probably depending on which grade; a lower, cheaper grade might have everything in there. I don't know if they use stems or not. But basically if you want to make your own you take the leaves and dry it and grind it up in a vitamix or something like that and it makes this wool and you sift the dirt out of it and you can keep grinding it up and sifting it and grinding it up and sifting it and it makes this fluff.

There are a lot of different ways to use that fluff. In Japanese acupuncture they get the ultra-fine grade moxa and it's called rice grain moxa because you can actually take a tiny little pinch of it and they roll it into a twist that maybe the height of a piece of tissue rice and they put it right on the skin and they light it and it burns right to your skin and they touch it with their finger and that's called direct moxa. Japanese people are very sensitive and they like very gentle sensations. Chinese people or their culture anyway, are not like that. They will take a moxa cone that's maybe the diameter of your thumbnail and put it right on the skin and give you a big old blister and that's a good treatment. That's a really good treatment.

Jonathan: It's pretty wild. When you mentioned heat I was thinking moisture, like a hot rag. I didn't think about actual fire.

Elizabeth: Yeah, actual fire. So there's direct moxa like the Japanese style and then there's the more Chinese style which is not for Americans unless you want to get sued. But you could also do indirect moxa where you can either put a slice of ginger between the skin and the moxa or you can use salt sometimes or a combination of things and some people have liniments and balms that they will put on the skin to keep people from being burned and scarred.

What I like to do is indirect moxa, either holding a moxa roll, which is taking that fluff and rolling it like a cigarette so you can have big fat cigarettes that are like cigars because they're close to an inch in diameter and maybe about a foot long. Then you have other ones that are smaller and look more like cigarettes. The cigarette sized ones are a finer grade of moxa and the cigars are usually a lower grade moxa and they each have use. So it's not like the lower grade is bad, it just has a different use. I tend to use the higher grade because it doesn't smell as much because I'm in an office environment and I'm in a new office. I have windows but I definitely stink up the whole floor. So I don't know if you could smell it when you got off the elevator.

Jonathan: I didn't notice, no.

Elizabeth: People will sometimes say "I thought there was a medical marijuana clinic here." It's totally a different smell but I get it. It smells like burning. So what I like to do is either hold that moxa cigarette above the skin and you move it in a specific way depending on what it is that you're trying to accomplish, but you're warming the skin where a point is to affect the energy of that point.

The other thing that I really like to do is called warm needle moxa. That means you put a needle into the body and you take a little bit of that moxa fluff and pinch it together and put it on the end of the needle and then you light that on fire and it warms the handle of the needle and it goes right into the body and that feels so good. I've never done that to anybody and have them say "I didn't like that". Everybody says "That feels great!"

Jonathan: Cool.

Elizabeth: Yeah. And it's really nice on people who have, for example, a tense back. You could have knots in your neck or a sore lower back or something, but it's something where if you put heat on it, it feels better, then moxa is fantastic for any of those issues. You can use moxa to cool people down too but it's a different technique. I feel like it's so effective up here when it's raining or snowing and you've got people who are just cold and you warm those needles up. Or you have people who are just deficient and they might not be a cold person but they just don't have enough energy to move what needs to be moved. Then the moxa helps move, that motive force and also warms them up and helps them relax and all kinds of stuff.

Erica: We did have a question in the chat that if moxa is wormwood?

Elizabeth: Wormwood, yes. It can be. Wormwood is a variety of the artemisia genus. Depending on how you make it, there's a lot of different recipes for moxa. You can have straight moxa which is only the artemisia vulgaris or you have some people who make formulas that are moxa and you can put things in it like sandalwood. You could put wormwood in it. You could put different herbs that are going to make it even warmer, like cinnamon. Or you can add herbs that have an action of getting rid of dampness or phlegm, which is a whole big subject in and of itself. But depending on what it is that you're trying to do with the moxa you can adjust the formula of the herbal mix that you're using in order to have a better effect. So yes, sometimes moxa can be wormwood. I would say it's not ever only wormwood.

Jonathan: If you don't mind, pulses, if it's not too long of a story? Can you talk about the different pulses, how you can read pulses.

Elizabeth: Oh yeah! That goes back to the general treatment. That's really important. So we feel the pulse and we look at the tongue before we put any needles into the body. The pulse is very different in Chinese medicine than it is in western medicine. So we feel the pulse on both arms. We're feeling the radial pulse at the wrist. So what we're feeling for is six different organs on each wrist and there are roughly 30 different pulse images that we can feel. To become a master of the pulse takes many years. I was in school for four years. I've been out of school for seven years and I feel like I'm only just starting to really understand the pulse. I'm looking forward to the day where I am a pulse master.

But the practitioners who are pulse masters won't even ask you what's going on with you. You come in, you pay them for treatment, they take your pulse and then they start telling you what's going on. They don't want to hear your story because you're not reliable. Because you have your own ideas of what's happening but they know what's happening from feeling your pulse. I used to see my teacher do that. She would feel someone's pulse and she'd say "You didn't take your herbs and you've been smoking." And they'd be like "What?!?" You'd just see these people turn into little kids in front of her because she'd start scolding them. "You've been a bad boy!" you know, and it was hysterical.

So when I feel the pulse I'm feeling on the right wrist, if you were to put your first three fingers on your right wrist, if the middle finger was right over the styloid process...

Jonathan: So you're curling your three fingers of your left hand over the back of your right wrist.

Elizabeth: Yeah. So with my fingers coming forward over the thumb side of the wrist and the index finger is just below the wrist crease where the palm meets the wrist and then the other two fingers are just comfortably next to each other. So the index finger is feeling the lung and large intestine pulse. So the lung pulse is deep and the large intestine pulse is superficial. The middle finger feels the stomach pulse superficially and the spleen pulse deep and spleen is more of a combination of the spleen and the pancreas. And then the ring finger is feeling the yang aspect of the kidney which is deep, as well as the pericardium. Some people read the pericardium and another organ that's called the San Jiao (triple burner) in that ring finger pulse. The San Jiao is not an organ that has a physical counterpart.

Jonathan: It's an energetic organ?

Elizabeth: Yes. An energetic organ.

Jonathan: Obviously this takes many years, so you're telling with these three fingers, each one feels a different pulse, to be careful not to block the blood flow that lie to the other fingers.

Elizabeth: Right. So the pulse reading is not something that I do quickly. That's probably one of the slowest things that I do. I will get a general read for it with all fingers at the same time so you start superficially. This is what I do, and everybody does it differently I'm sure. I start superficially with how much do I have to press into the wrist in order to feel the pulse. I figure that's the top of the pulse. Then I push all the way in and have a deep connection to the pulse. Then I come back up and where does the pulse come back in. And then I start feeling with each finger individually because you will feel different things with each finger and you'll maybe feel a very soft pulse and then maybe the next one will be very wiry. Maybe it'll be wiry on the surface but when you push in it'll be scattered and diffused and you'll lose that sensation of an actual blood vessel.

Sometimes you'll have a pulse that's just rock hard all the way through and bounding and full and then other times you'll have a pulse like "Where is it? How did you even get here today?"

Erica: I had an experience like that.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Erica: You're basically dead energetically.

Elizabeth: Yeah. And it's amazing to me because some of those people who have the super minute pulses that's so hard to find and feel, I'll ask them and they'll have high blood pressure and I'm like "What?!? How do you have high blood pressure?! There's hardly even anything getting here." I don't know how that works.

So you're feeling for the speed of the pulse, the depth of the pulse, the quality of the pulse. They can all combine. So you have those 30 images and they turn into a whole mess of things. One of the issues when you're going to school, because you only have four years, you might not feel all 30 while you're in school because you can only work with what comes through the door and that's a tricky thing. I definitely feel pulses here that I never felt in Hawaii and I don't know if there's anything that I felt in Hawaii that I haven't felt here. I just don't remember that well.

So then if we go to the left wrist and we do the same thing and have our right fingers curl over the back side of the left wrist then the index finger is feeling the small intestine superficially and the heart deep. The gallbladder and liver are on the middle finger. The gallbladder is superficial and the liver is deep. Then the ring finger is the yin aspect of the kidney deep and the urinary bladder superficially.

You can often have the right and the left be totally different. So I have a woman whose right pulse is barely perceptible and her left pulse used to be barely perceptible but we've been working on her constitution and it's slowly building and I can feel it. Now she comes in, I'm like "You have a pulse!!" and she's really excited.

Jonathan: I was going to ask that. Do you ever notice where you feel a pulse, do a treatment and then the same day it's changed?

Elizabeth: Oh yeah, yeah. That's what I'm about to get to. So the pulse changes instantly. The pulse changes really quickly. If you were getting a treatment for example, and we were taking your pulse and I made all my notes, and I'm checking it and I decide what I'm going to do, I'll put in the first couple of needles and I'll go back and check the pulse. Did those needles do what I wanted done? Because the pulse you can really use as a roadmap to effect what you're doing with the needles. Sometimes what happens is I feel the pulse and I get a picture of what's happening and I treat that pattern and I come back and there's a different pattern now expressing in the pulse and it's not balanced yet because what we're trying to do with the treatment is balance the pulse. We want to get all the energy balanced in the body and if something else comes up well then, depending on how many needles I used to treat the first pattern, I may still be able to treat the second pattern and not feel like I'm trying to do too much in the body. Sometimes I might just have to wait on that second pattern or maybe that's a time when I might do the seeds instead if I don't want to use anymore needles.

Then when we look at the tongue, the tongue changes really slowly compared to the pulse. The tongue will change over the course of a day or weeks or months even, depending on what pattern is showing on the tongue. So when we're looking at the tongue we're looking visually at something which, again for me coming from geology, you're trained constantly to look at things, so the visual aspect was so easy for me. I could see way more detail than I knew what to do with on the tongue.

You're looking at the tongue body colour initially. So when you stick your tongue out, what colour is it? Sometimes if you have a thick coating on the tongue you can't necessarily see the body colour of the tongue and you have to look to the sides or something like that. So that gets us into tongue coating. We're looking at the coating of the tongue. Do you have one? What colour is it? Where is it? Does it cover the whole tongue? Is it only in one little patch? Maybe your tongue looks like it's been scraped everywhere but one little patch.

What is the shape of the tongue? That seems like a funny question at first until you start looking at people's tongues and you realize there's a LOT of variety out there. How thick or thin is it? Is it pointy when they stick it out? Does it stick out to one side? Are there little scallops on the sides where you can see where their teeth have indented the tongue? All of those things are significant.

Then you can look at the underside of the tongue. You have people touch the roof of their mouth with the tongue and you look at the sublingual veins and that can tell you more information. If the sublingual veins are purple and distended, which mine usually are, it means that you have a lot of stagnation in your body. I tend to be a stagnant person. I need a lot of exercise to make sure that everything is moving around in my body but I don't always make time for that exercise.

Sometimes you'll see them be really, really red. That person has a lot of heat. Maybe they're white and distended or maybe they just look distended and kind of weird and gray. All those things are significant and play into more of the long-term pattern of the body, what's been going on for a long time, whereas the pulse might be "Oh, you just saw a car accident happen on your drive here and so your pulse is going to be freaking out and then your tongue might show something completely different."

Sometimes the tongue and the pulse line up but a lot of times they don't.

Jonathan: So should we remind our listeners don't go to try to diagnose yourself by looking at your tongue.

Elizabeth: Yeah! Don't diagnose yourself but I do like to tell people that it's a great thing to get to know on yourself. So if you want to look at your tongue, the best time to do it is first thing in the morning before you brush your teeth, before you have any water, before you eat anything, just stumble out of bed and go look in the mirror at your tongue. That tells you "this is what you're working with for the day". So if your tongue looks fresh and pink and there's a thin white coating on it and there's no weird shapes or anything, you're doing really good. That's a perfect tongue. But I never see that, not even when I look in the mirror. My tongue tends to be kind of pale. I usually have a lot of redness at the tip of my tongue and the very, very tip of the tongue is the heart. Just behind the heart is the lungs. On the sides of the tongue are the liver and gallbladder. The centre of the tongue is the stomach and spleen/pancreas and then the root of the tongue is showing you your intestines, your bladder and your kidneys.

So that redness for my tongue is because I like to stress myself out, whether it's physically or emotionally, or I like to over-commit or whatever. You get to kind of know your patterns. So when I stick out my tongue and I see some kind of redness of the tip I think, "Yeah, that's me." I don't need to worry about it but if I wanted to put in a couple of seeds for myself for the day, that's not a bad idea.

But I don't generally have a coating on my tongue because I don't sleep really well, so that shows me that my yin in constantly being depleted. That thin white coating tells you that your body fluids are healthy and that your digestion is working well and I don't have either of those things going for me on an average basis. But let's say I get up in the morning and I see a thick coating on my tongue, well then I know something's off because I know what my normal is and I can see the difference. That may or may not be something that you as a lay person could do anything about, but you could notice something's different and maybe just try to pay a little bit of attention; think about what you did last night. Did you eat a whole bucket of ice cream? That'll give you a big, thick coating on your tongue.

But it's really fun to watch your tongue over the course of the day and see what does happen. You have your morning cup of coffee and then you look at your tongue. Do you have a big brown coating on your tongue? Does it look more red? Does it look dry? It's just an interesting way to get information as long as you're not trying to self-medicate.

Jonathan: Or to think you have cancer because your tongue is red.

Elizabeth: Yeah, yeah. Cancer doesn't usually show up on the tongue.

Jonathan: I could see - especially with how a lot of people treat WedMD and that kind of thing, and I'm guilty of this - learning other methods like this, they would immediately start freaking out about every little sign that comes up.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Jonathan: Do you run into that with your patients?

Elizabeth: Not very often. I have a couple who do that. The couple is my best friend so he is a huge self-medicator and he knows just enough to be dangerous I would say. I might send him a link to this show - I'll get a little bit in trouble for calling him out like this - but he has been making himself an herbal tea for years and he puts all these things in it and I'm like "I just don't feel that's something you should be doing!!" It's great to make yourself your own herbal tea but maybe keep it simple and switch it up every once in awhile. But he puts all these kind of strong herbs in this tea and then he drinks it all the time. He actually turned his tongue black. It's kind of a big deal and it's hard to know why it turned black because he's in Hawaii and I'm here and I don't see what he's doing on a daily basis anymore so I talk to his wife. We were talking about "Hey! Maybe he should stop taking that tea and let his body re-regulate for a while." I think he has been starting to do that a little bit which I'm very glad for. Then we can talk about maybe what's actually happening in his body.

Jonathan: It's kind of like throwing a bunch of flammable stuff into the gas tank.

Elizabeth: Yeah, yeah.

Erica: So what about those tongue scrapers? Is that a legitimate practice?

Elizabeth: I don't know much about it. I actually got a treatment on Wednesday. My boyfriend's sister is also an acupuncturist and she's in town visiting and I tested her for a treatment and she was looking at my tongue and she said "Do you scrape your tongue?" And I said "Well I brush it with my toothbrush" and she said "Liz! That's not good for you!" I said "What do you mean?" She said "With the brush you're pushing it into your tongue and that's stuff that you don't want on your tongue and you're supposed to use one of the scrapers". I said "I feel weird about the scraper." I feel way more weird about the scraper than I feel about gently brushing my tongue with my toothbrush when I finish brushing my teeth.

I don't really know about the scraper or brushing the tongue or just letting it be. The way I was taught is that whatever you're doing, whether you're scraping it or you're brushing it or you leave it alone, it's going to come back. So let's say you have a big, nasty, thick, greasy coating on your tongue and you scrape it off in the morning with your tongue scraper. It's probably back by noon, so what's the point?

Jonathan: It's about the inner environment.

Elizabeth: Right. It's about what's happening in your stomach. It's not a thing in your mouth. It's not growing out of your tongue. It's coming from your stomach. So I don't know. That's one of those topics where I feel like you could probably find information that would support whatever it is that you want to believe is the right thing.

Erica: I have an off-topic question that I was just talking with Tiffany about here. I don't know how you feel about this, but when I was in Hawaii I had a few friends that had unwanted pregnancies and they got acupuncture and it actually stimulated the production of their menstrual cycle. Is that a legitimate thing? Is that an energy thing? Obviously it's not something I would recommend. I know now because I work in a massage setting that you have to be very careful with pregnant women, working on their feet and pressure points and whatnot and maybe your take on that or if that's not something you want to discuss, I understand. It was just piquing our interest.

Elizabeth: Yeah. Can I ask how far into those unwanted pregnancies were they?

Erica: First trimester.

Elizabeth: First trimester. Was it within the first six weeks.

Erica: Yes.

Elizabeth: Or was it beyond that?

Erica: It was the first six weeks.

Elizabeth: Okay. I personally am an extremely pro choice person and I feel like whatever you want to do is your business. What I've been taught, because we actually had a big discussion about this in acupuncture school and it was very divided which I was kind of surprised about but I shouldn't have been surprised about. I now feel like I'm not sure how I would feel if somebody came in asking for that. It would really depend on who the person was and what my relationship to them was. But what I've been taught is that it's extremely difficult to unseat a healthy pregnancy. I've done a fair amount of research into working on fertility issues and there's a lot of discussion about those contraindicated points for pregnancy because of the fact that you can potentially induce spontaneous abortion. The consensus in the classes that I've been in is that it's very hard to do that. I'm surprised and impressed that the women that you know had that actually work because with everybody that I've talked to, I've never heard of it working on a healthy pregnancy. And that is the operative set of words. If it is a healthy pregnancy, supposedly you can needle all of those points and it won't do anything because that pregnancy is so well-seated in the body that it is hard to unseat.

Now if you have somebody who is not in the middle of a healthy pregnancy and perhaps it's because those women had these treatments so early in their pregnancy that it didn't have time to become comfortable yet. That would be the only way I would know that you could do that. So it's almost like they weren't fully pregnant yet, perhaps because the fetus hadn't fully implanted yet. The timing of those things is not something that I feel real solid on when those things truly happen.

Erica: Well thank you. That answers my question.

Elizabeth: O good.

Erica: On the other side of that too, have you been able to work with women to help fertility with acupuncture?

Elizabeth: Yes I have. It's been difficult. I haven't gotten to do it a lot. I think part of the issue is being up here and part of the issue being my own personality. I have not specialized my practice and so I see a little bit of everything so I've only had a few fertility cases and in the ones that have been successful, I've been an adjunctive therapy to IVF treatments and not specifically trying to assist in a natural pregnancy. Although I have tried to do that, it just has not at this point in my practice been successful yet but I know there are a lot of practitioners who specialize in that and are extremely effective.

Erica: It would make sense if your body's energetically, physically out of whack so to speak.

Elizabeth: Yes. For me I think the biggest roadblocks for those cases has been the investment in lifestyle changes that needed to go along with whatever was impeding the natural pregnancy. Some people just weren't willing to take all of those recommendations and do all of them. Other people were but when you get into fertility cases there's a lot of herbal medicine involved and there's a lot of customization that has to go along with those formulas and whether you're working with only the female or if you're also working with the male side of the equation, it gets really expensive really quickly. I think because I practice up here I'm hesitant to recommend a lot of those things because I know that the economics of the place where I'm living are thin.

So I don't feel comfortable asking people to pay $200 a month or more for herbs for six months to a year before I'm going to guarantee that anything will happen with them getting pregnant, just because I'm not confident enough because I haven't had enough experience.

Jonathan: Did you guys have any other questions? We're coming up on an hour-and-a-half.

Tiffany: Yeah, I do have a final question. It sounds like you have a lot of personal goals regarding your acupuncture practice and places that you want to be. What would you say would be your ultimate goal as far as acupuncture? What would you be able to do? What would be your speciality?

Elizabeth: Oh man, I don't know. I think about that all the time. Everything is so exciting when I start looking into it and I just feel like a kid in a candy store and everywhere I look there's some new, exciting treatment I haven't gotten enough time with. I really like working with women's health issues. I really like pain. I kind of like everything. I guess my goal would be that whoever walks in the door, I could make them feel better regardless of what the issue is. I might not be able to cure them, but I would like to at least be able to improve their quality of life, for anybody who walked in the door. That would be my ultimate goal and then beyond that, it would be great to be able to effectively treat every single person in a reliable way but beyond that, I just can't pick. I'm a horrible generalist. I love variety and I get bored really quickly so it's a lovely thing to be able to see a little bit of everything and that's really been one of the benefits of moving up here. I get so much more variety than I did in Hawaii just because of the fact that I now have a referral network, I have work and I get to work at a medical clinic and see a lot of different things.

Tiffany: Making people feel better, that's a worthy goal.

Erica: Yes, definitely.

Jonathan: Yeah, that's good.

Erica: It sounds like you're doing a great job, that you're so interested in learning about it that it keeps you inspired.

Tiffany: Yeah, we can tell you're very excited about your craft.

Elizabeth: Thank you.

Erica: We all want to go get acupuncture. Let's go. We'll fly you out here.

Elizabeth: Yeah! Anytime.

Jonathan: I guess we should say thanks for joining us.

Elizabeth: Yeah, thank you!

Jonathan: We should do a follow up sometime, maybe come in and do healing on air.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Erica: I have one quick question. Do you have a book that you would recommend for lay people that are interested in it but obviously aren't going to go to acupuncture school but that could give some reference or background knowledge; like a book that inspired you along your path?

Elizabeth: Sure. There was a summer reading book that we had for the summer before we started acupuncture that was recommended by the school and it's called The Web That Has No Weaver by Ted Kaptchuk, some kind of odd to pronounce last name. I haven't read that book since that time so I don't remember anymore if it was something that I would still feel is fantastic but it was great at the time because it is written for the layperson. Then if any of you guys have read Paul Pitchford's Healing With Whole Foods, he has a lot of Chinese medicine in that book and it's the nutrition cookbook source. I don't know if The Spark in the Machine by Daniel Keown would be for the layperson. It's pretty fantastic. That was the book that I was talking about earlier.

Erica: Yeah, I found it. I'll put the link up.

Elizabeth: There's a lot of great books. I feel like in the 11 years it's been since I started school, I just feel like there's so much more information out there now than there was and it might just also be that I'm so much more aware of it. There's a lot of great sources out there.

Erica: That Healing with Whole Foods is a great guide too. I've read the book.

Elizabeth: Yeah, I like that one.

Jonathan: I guess we'll wrap it up. I'd like to say thanks to our chatters too for taking part in the chat today and everybody for tuning in. Check out the materials. Do your own research. Look into this. Maybe you have an acupuncturist in your area that you didn't know about. So with that said, everybody have a great weekend. Be sure to check out the SOTT Radio show on Sunday at noon eastern time at radio.sott.net.

All: Good-byes.