“Hey girl, would you say that Chinese Medicine meshes well with environmentalism? Or incorporates elements like going outside/nature?”
This was the start of my text conversation for this blog post with my dear friend Sharon Jeong, L. AC., of Restore Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine. While thinking of a possible blog post interview, which have been SO successful so far, for this month’s The Happiest Year theme, Earth and Nature, I had trouble thinking of who might be an expert in human well-being as it’s connected with the rest of our good green planet. Who on earth (pun intended!) could tell me more about WHY we need to harmonize with our environment more?
Well, it just so happened that while I was wondering I scrolled across one of Sharon’s very zen business Instagram photos of her spending time in her personal garden, and a lightbulb went off. I knew enough about Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to have an inkling that it might be a perfect fit for this month’s theme, so I contacted Sharon to ask if she’d let me interview her. Lucky for me (and all of you!), she said YES!
Let me begin with a little background:
I met Sharon through my college roommate Mary, who I also happened to interview about following her passion this past February. Sharon and Mary were high school friends, and Sharon often visited us in San Diego, where we attended school. While Mary moved away from San Diego after college, Sharon ended up moving to the area, so we spent our early 20s hanging out and making the most of San Diego nightlife. Oh, and Sharon was also making her way through a local acupuncture program!
Now, Sharon has a successful local acupuncture and herbal medicine practice, and I’ve been lucky enough to be treated by her for a few ailments (you can even find my arm on her website). She’s VERY good at what she does, and I’m so grateful she agreed to chat with me about TCM and it’s integration of the gifts of our planet.
Sharon and I FaceTimed recently and I also asked her how she came to choose to study TCM. In Sharon’s words:
I always knew I wanted to go into the health field from a young age because I just wanted people to be healthy and happy. It wasn’t until college that I realized I didn’t want to be a western medicine practitioner. I realized there was something missing with the system most of us rely on (don’t get me wrong, we need it!) I just felt that there had to be another way to help people in a more natural and intentional way.
It’s funny how sometimes you don’t see what’s been right in front of you the whole time. You see, my aunt who I have a very special connection with, is an acupuncturist in South Korea. She always taught our family about what to drink, eat, fundamental changes we should make in our lives etc in addition to poking us! Growing up, my parents would see Henry, our Chinese herbal doctor in Oakland, and get bundles of ‘backyard twigs and leaves’ (as I liked to call it) to make into teas for specific issues or just general health. When it all clicked, I felt like I had won a prize. This is it! It’s tried and true, coincides with nature, and focuses on how we can balance ourselves at all times in order to live our healthiest lives. This is where my intentional journey began and I am so honored to be able to share this medicine with all who are curious!
Via FaceTime, Sharon explained very simply how intertwined TCM and nature are:
“Nature IS TCM.”
I guess you can’t get more connected than that! Sharon further explained by introducing me to the Five Elements in TCM: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. She explained that each element is linked to an organ, foods, behaviors, colors, and more and that they coincide with the seasons. Everything is interconnected and governed by natural law.
Here’s a summary, traveling through the seasons:
•Spring: Spring is about awakening and coming to life. The element is wood, taste is sour, the organ is liver. It has an upward energy, increasing your Yang. Recommended foods are “sprouted” and fermented foods.
•Summer: Summer is about full energy. The element is fire, the organ is heart. It has an outward energy and is peak Yang. Recommended foods are fresh, cooling, like cucumber and watermelon.
•Late Summer: A season unique to TCM, this is the last burst of summer energy and a time to nurture ourselves. The element is earth, the organs are the spleen and stomach. It’s a time to eat foods that protect the spleen, including roots and warm foods such as soups, and to avoid hindering the digestive system.
•Autumn: Autumn is about boosting your immune system to prepare for Winter. Its about letting go. The element is metal, organ is lungs. Foods should be pungent and immune-boosting, like sweet potatoes, garlic, onions, etc.
•Winter: Winter is about rest. It is full Yin. The element is water, organs kidney, adrenal glands, bladder, ears, and hair. Foods should be blood-building, like meats, barley, and spinach.
There’s so much more, but Sharon’s description of the 5 elements and how they guide us to live in harmony with nature and the way of our world made so much sense to me. I thought about the energy I had been feeling lately, in Spring, like the world is coming alive all around me. I also thought about how I was craving the things we had just planted in our own little garden and how I often naturally crave stews and warmth in the winter and fresh and cool in summer.
Sharon repeated a few times that it’s important to eat what you feel during each season and eat what’s in season. As part of nature, we were meant to intuit this way of living. We talked about how humans lived this way for thousands of years and how it’s only recently that our manufactured lifestyles have interrupted our internal ability to navigate through our seasons so well. Sharon also recommended eating local to your own home, as that’s the ecology that you’re a part of right now, and for your own constitution, which you can learn about by visiting a TCM practitioner (I know a good one, wink wink!).
The way acupuncture fits into the schemata laid out above is by helping to free up blockages of Qi, or the energy that circulates through our bodies, which supports organ function. If your Qi is blocked in any part of your body, it can cause ailments of all sorts. Since it’s the middle of a pandemic and I’m sure many of us feeling the mental health effects, I asked Sharon if she had a simple acupressure exercise she could recommend to those of us sequestered at home for some quick stress relief:
• Tai Chong Acupressure: in between your big and second toes, run your finger down toward your ankle until you feel a slight catch, about 2 finger widths. Press firmly and/or massage for a few minutes. Repeat on other foot.
Ah, there. I can just feel that calm flowing right in!
As for Sharon, she’s a born outdoorswoman, citing a childhood love for nature and things like camping and her parents’ gardens as the stepping stone for her current outdoor adventures, which often include hikes in some beautiful places. You can check out photos of Sharon’s wanderings on her travel IG account!
I’m so grateful to Sharon for sharing more about Traditional Chinese Medicine and I hope to learn even more and continue to incorporate TCM principles into my own life, including more regular acupuncture consultation. It seems so intuitive that we go with the flow of our beautiful Mother Earth’s divine rhythms for optimal health and happiness. I really hope we as humans can make the strides that it takes to get back there, to our essence.
You can learn more about Sharon’s acupuncture practice on her website , and follow her business Instagram account for a lot of valuable information about health and diet! As always, thanks for stopping by… I hope you found value in this post!
Have you tried acupuncture or learned about Traditional Chinese Medicine before?