The Power of a Smile

When we think of the holiday season, we know that we’re supposed to conjure up thoughts that will put a smile on our face.  Unfortunately, the holidays often also bring about stress.  Stress about finding the perfect gift, spending extended time with family or possibly even the feeling of loneliness.  One excellent gift we can give others and ourselves is a simple smile. 

When we feel joy and smile, a signal in our brain tells us it’s happy time. Release the stress-reducing hormone dopamine!  The dopamine allows us to physically feel good giving us another reason to smile.  And continues the upward spiral. 

But what if we’re just faking it.  You know the smile, the one that uses only the muscles at the corner of our mouth, and ignores the muscles around our eye that lend to the sparkle? Good news, that action also releases dopamine!  Also, when someone sees your beautiful smiling face, whether its real or fake, it releases dopamine in their brain too. 

The decrease in stress hormones from smiling can be equivalent to getting more sleep, the endorphin rush from exercising or eating chocolate.  And yet, it doesn’t cost money or time to smile. So this holiday season, put on your best accessory and smile.  

If you want a little extra help de-stressing this season, consider coming in for an acupuncture treatment.  Give yourself a gift of health and happiness. 

Happy Holidays!

Simple Remedies for the Common Cold

As we head into the winter months, is your immune system ready to take on the “common cold”? With over 200 types of viruses and some bacteria that are responsible for upper respiratory tract infections, the average adult gets hit with a cold two to four times a year. Kids have twice as much chance of getting sick.  And yet, most over the counter meds are not recommended for kids under 6 years old. So, what can you do to arm you and your kids’ immune systems to fight back? Acupuncture and herbs can help the body recover from illness in a timely manner and often help avoid antibiotics.  Here are a few tips and tools to have on hand this cold season that you can do at home bringing relief to you and your whole family.


1. Acupressure Massage – Chinese medical massage can be quite effective in pediatrics.  Symptoms change rapidly in kids, which means they don’t require strong treatment.  The following massage techniques can be done 3 times a day. 

2. Honey* with sage or thyme – 

A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down – well in this case, a spoonful of honey is the medicine. Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and FDA do not recommend children under the age of 6 take over the counter cough and cold medicines because they pose a risk and don’t work. Instead 2012 study showed that taking 2 teaspoons of honey 30 minutes before bed can soothe sore throat and cough and allow the whole household to sleep better.


½ cup fresh or ¼ cup dried thyme or sage
8 ounces honey

Gently heat honey in a saucepan.  Add either the thyme or sage and stir for about 10 minutes. Transfer the honey to a canning jar, seal and put in a warm place for 2-3 weeks.  Then reheat the honey in a saucepan until it is liquid. Pour the honey through a fine mesh strainer into a clean jar.  If you store the honey in a cool, dark cabinet it will be good for at least a year.

* Children under the age of 1 should not have honey due to the risk of botulism.  Consider substituting maple syrup for the honey.


3. Ginger tea – If you’ve taken a chill, ginger is a great herb that will do more than just warm you from the inside out.  Ginger’s antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties will help combat viruses, shrink nasal swelling and will soothe a sore throat. In Chinese medicine, the heat of ginger will push the pathogen out.


1 inch of fresh ginger root or ½ teaspoon of dried ginger
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 ½ cup of water

Gently boil water and ginger in a covered saucepan for 15-20 minutes. Strain, add honey and lemon juice. Sip and start to feel some relief for a sore throat or cough!


4. Humidifier / essential oils –Colds and flus tend to thrive in the low humidity of fall and winter months.  This is a time when the air is naturally drier compounded by central heat drying out the air even more. Since our nasal passages are the first line of defense against viruses, it is important to keep a good level of moisture in our mucous membranes. Using a humidifier is an easy way to ensure moisture level in the air at home.  Remember it is important to clean your humidifier with hydrogen peroxide every few days to prevent the growth of mold and bacteria and then adding that to the air you breathe!  Add a little aromatherapy with lavender, peppermint, or eucalyptus.


5. Diet – What you eat is the foundation of your immune system. A diet with probiotics and fermented foods help your gut bacteria to have healthy balance of good bacteria which will support strong immune function. If you or your kids start to feel sick, decrease the amount of sugar and white flour foods that you consume.  These foods can slow down the immune system and make it harder for the body to deal with congestion. Often the number of respiratory track infections increase after Halloween as we head into the holidays also known as "candy season".  Sugar can be hard to avoid during this time of the year, but in my experience it is essential to set limits. 

Avoiding germs is not possible and will strengthen children's immune system.  By using the above tricks, you can help to relieve symptoms and help to kick the pathogen out faster.   If you have any questions please feel free to email me at, call 608-205-8596 

Resources: Healthy at Home by Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, Kids Love Acupuncture, Chinese Pediatric Massage Therapy by Fan Ya-Li

Personalized Medicine

There has been a lot of talk about where the future of medicine is going. Someday soon, medical doctors will be able to test your genes to determine what drug could provide you relief. While genes can help predict your risk of certain conditions, many other factors play a role. Epigenetics is a field of research that has found that your genes do not lock in the type of health you will experience, but that the type of life and environment in which you live will dictate which genes are turned on or off. Herbal formulas account for our genetic makeup, lifestyle, environment and emotional well-being to provide truly individualized medication.

Health care and herbal medications being tailored specifically to you, the patient, has been around for a long time. Think about when you take honey to help deal with local allergens or use evening primrose to find relief from night sweats. Holistic medicine does the same thing, just on a larger scale.

Herbal Medicine

Trained herbalists are taught to look holistically to understand that everything going on with a person’s health and life is a piece of the puzzle that makes them a beautiful individual. We can and should honor that uniqueness through our health care.

Traditional herbal formulas can be constructed anywhere from two to 20 herbs. Depending on an individual’s constitutional makeup and current condition, herbs can be added, subtracted, increased or decreased in order to find the best combination. If only a portion of your symptoms are relieved, or there are some side effects, again the formulation can be tweaked or modified so that it is the best fit for you.

The beauty of herbal formulas is the fact that each combination of herbs can be tweaked to exactly how a condition is manifesting for you. Ted Kaptchuk, professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, provides a great example of how a standardized application of Western medicine doesn’t always fix the problem. For example, there are two patients diagnosed with peptic ulcers. The first patient has pain when pressure is applied, as well as after eating. He has a robust constitution, reddish complexion, is constipated and has dark yellow urine. His symptoms are relieved with cold compresses. The second patient is frail and reports that pressure, massage, heat and eating can alleviate some of his pain. He wants to sleep a lot and has frequent clear urination. Peptic ulcers are often treated with the same medication, but this is a great example of when the same drug might not be best suited for both parties.

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article highlighting one of America’s top hospitals, Cleveland Clinic, which now offers herbal treatment for patients where Western medications haven’t provided relief. Leslie Mendoza Temple, medical director at NorthShore’s Integrative Medicine Program, said they are receiving more and more physician referrals for herbal formulas. When the general go-to drug doesn’t work for everyone, it is a perfect opportunity to see the power of tailored herbal formulas.

Individualized medication has been around for a long time. The good news is that it is slowly being incorporated into our current medical system. If you are interested in learning more about how an herbal formula can be tailored to help you lead a healthier, happier life, please consult a trained herbalist. Herbalists can be trained in Western herbs, traditional Chinese herbal medicine and/or Ayurvedic.

Chinese Herbal Medicine

As an acupuncturist, I have seen firsthand the benefits in my patients who have incorporated herbal formulas into their health plan. While I believe that a holistic approach is a key for a healthy life, I am not advocating that you stop taking prescription drugs without consulting your doctor. I believe Western pharmaceuticals are crucial in many instances and have been life-saving for thousands. 

Written by Kathryn Coppola
Originally published in Nature's Pathways. 

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