• Stressed out and exhausted?
  • Taking care of everyone except yourself?
  • Making the world a better place, but worried you might burn out?

You support so many others; I enjoy supporting you. Often caregivers and changemakers are so busy meeting the needs of family and community, our own health suffers. Let’s work together to help you manage stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, chronic pain, burnout, menstrual health, digestion, and trauma recovery. You’ll receive thorough, well-researched clinical care, with safe space, non-judgmental listening, and attention to your whole person.

Traditional Chinese medicine balances the whole person – your body, mind, emotions and spirit. I help you relax and sleep better, to feel calm and focused. When you nurture your own health, your work, relationships and creative projects will benefit. You’ll feel rejuvenated and have more than enough energy for the long haul.

‘Indigenous Approaches to Healing Trauma’

Photo of Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann

Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann, Ngangiwumirr Elder. Photo credit: http://upliftconnect.com/indigenous-approach-to-healing-trauma/

“When I experience dadirri, I am made whole again… I can sit on the riverbank or walk through the trees; even if someone close to me has passed away, I can find my peace in this silent awareness. There is no need of words. A big part of dadirri is listening.” – Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann, Ngangiwumirr Elder

Many other traditional healing approaches, besides traditional Chinese medicine, explore how our minds and bodies connect with the rhythms of nature, and how those connections can rupture with physical, emotional or even spiritual trauma. Read Indigenous Approaches to Healing Trauma and watch the video of Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann, for a glimpse into dadirri, a form of deep, contemplative listening that is an integral part of healing trauma in her culture and tradition.

The Lancet Oncology editorial pageThe September 2015 editorial of a medical journal The Lancet Oncology was titled “Cancer Risk in the Transgender Community.” Its writers describe how unique health requirements, lack of appropriate research, and systemic discrimination in health care (both in cancer screening, and in medical care settings as a whole), contribute to a lack of access, information, and supports for many trans people who may be at risk (sometimes perhaps an increased risk) for a variety of cancers.

In a wake-up call for all who are concerned about equity in health care, the editorial concludes “Cancer care for transgender people is a growing concern and health-care services that are both respectful of this population’s differences, and also relevant to and inclusive of them are needed. Moreover, research into how cancer affects the transgender community, as well as how to prevent, screen, and treat cancer in this population, will improve cancer control. Better integration of the needs of people with non-traditional genders and sexualities in health care will help combat enduring health inequalities.”

Read the editorial here.

‘Buying time’… Pre-fertility tips from Chinese medicine

cute-asian-babyAt my age, many of my friends and family are considering whether or not to start families. As more folks are waiting until later to have kids, fertility support has become an increasingly relevant topic. The Ontario government recently announced they would fund one IVF transfer. For those who are undecided, or still searching for a partner/ co-parent/ intentional community/ other support, I wrote an article (primarily for people who menstruate) about how Chinese medicine can help you manage (and perhaps prolong) your reproductive health.

Important Update: Sabbatical starting Sept 2014

Tzu Chi University in TaiwanI will be taking a sabbatical year away from Toronto from September 2014 to August 2015. I have recently received news that I will be receiving a scholarship from the Government of Taiwan. I am excited and honoured for the opportunity to live in Taiwan, deepening my understanding of the Mandarin Chinese language. I also plan to delve deeper into the cultivation and use of medicinal herbs, and the integration of Traditional Chinese Medicine with biomedical practice. For details on measures I have put in place to support my clients and patients during this time, please click here.

Chinese Medicine, Acupuncture and Heart Health

Chinese character for heart

Chinese character for heart

Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine herbs are used effectively in Chinese hospitals for stroke, hypertension, atherosclerosis, angina, coronary heart disease, and more. Around the world, acupuncturists can help you lower your blood pressure, improve blood circulation, reduce fluid retention, manage diabetes, improve digestive health, promote sleep, reduce stress (balance the nervous system), reduce chronic pain, headache and numbness, or support you to reduce unwanted consumption of alcohol, cigarettes or foods.

In TCM, the body, mind, spirit and emotions have always been seen as interconnected, and are treated simultaneously. In particular, the ‘Heart’ system in TCM is closely connected to mental and emotional balance. Stress, anxiety and sleep are among the many emotional health issues we treat. Sleep and other mental-emotional issues have been linked to increased hypertension, atherosclerosis, heart failure, heart attacks, stroke and diabetes. Check out this handout I just made about TCM and Heart Health, including Self-Acupressure points and Qi Gong exercises!

Free self-care workshop

On June 3 and June 18 in downtown Toronto, I’m offering a free self-care workshop for LGBTQ immigrants and refugees, in coordination with the Griffin Centre’s reachOUT Newcomer Network, and the Centre for Women and Trans People at U of T. Free dinner, ASL interpretation, and TTC tokens are provided, and the location is wheelchair accessible. Click here for details and to register.

“Free and Happy Wanderer”: Traditional herbs for depression and stagnation

2014-04-02 10.12.16Spring is Liver time, according to Chinese medicine. Time of the Wood element, which means sometimes we can get physically and mentally ‘stiffer’ at this time.

The Liver is often out of balance in modern times. If so, we can feel emotionally depressed, stuck, lacking in vision and creativity, or prone to anger, irritability and frustration. We may experience irregular digestion, moods, and menstrual cycles.

Click here for a very traditional way to make a very traditional formula from scratch, for exactly these problems.

Emotions and Your Body: A (mostly) Traditional Chinese Medicine view

Joyeuse1What, if anything, do our emotions have to do with our physical health?  In recent years, Western medical researchers have increasingly acknowledged the links between emotions and physical symptoms. Since I first studied cognitive neuroscience, the neurobiology of emotions has become a much hotter topic (thank goodness!)1

Western science is still in the early stages of understanding how our mind and body interact. Other healing traditions, such as traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), draw from millennia of experience and systematic observation of emotional­/physical links.2

This article on emotional health draws from my experiences with:

  • the clinical practice of acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine
  • meditation that trains the mind to notice extremely subtle energy throughout the body, and
  • various forms of therapy I’ve experienced myself

The topic of how emotions affect the physical body (and vice versa) is immense, so here are just a few ideas to start with:


In Chinese medicine, good health results from adequate and balanced energy (‘Qi’) flow. Illness results from imbalanced or inadequate energy, or blocked circulation. Much like physical blood, energy has to flow in the right directions and amounts throughout the body for it to function well.

Feeling an emotion = feeling a certain wave of energy in the body that has physical effects. Have you noticed this? With practice, you can sit quietly and watch the wave come and go. This emotion might feel like an intense buzz, another might pull your chest in tighter, and another might make you warm. So, emotions and a change of ‘physical’ Qi flow go hand-in-hand. Chinese medicine has observed this systematically since ancient times; the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, one of the earliest medical texts (~2500 years old), states that “anger makes Qi rise, joy slows down Qi, sadness dissolves Qi, fear makes Qi descend… shock scatters Qi… pensiveness knots Qi.”

The emotional wave doesn’t have to last long, but we generally hang on. According to Buddhist psychology, we aren’t in the habit of letting go of emotional experiences. If it was a pleasant wave of energy, we tend to hang on and enjoy it. If it was unpleasant, we tend to hang on and stew in anger, hurt, or sadness about it.  This happens by automatic habit, subconsciously replaying the situation in our mind, and reacting to our reactions. Without realizing it, we compound things – feeling angry that we’re hurt, sad that we’re angry, angry that we’re sad, etc. It’s even more difficult to let go when strong residual emotions are triggered.


Prolonged, repressed or extreme emotions can cause illness. In Chinese medicine, the major causes of imbalance and illness in adults are: environmental, food/lifestyle habits, trauma, and…emotions!

Let’s use an example:
Someone says “you’re totally selfish”, and I react with anger. Immediately my chest subtly tightens, shoulders tense up, breathing becomes shallow, and face feels warm. I may not realize this, but if I can’t face, process, and let go of this mental and physical reaction, if I keep replaying the event and re­generating the same anger, the built­-up tensions and imbalances may lead to health issues. For example, it may reduce energy flow within, say, my intestines (or other internal organs) and cause constipation and/or diarrhea (or other internal problems), eventually weakening my digestion and causing food sensitivities. We see these consequences every day in the clinic.

The above is just one example of many possible consequences of chronic emotional tension. Chronic pain, for example, could be another development. Some doctors believe that most chronic pain/ health problems are caused by held, repressed emotions in the unconscious.3 I believe the causes of chronic pain/illness are more complex – injuries, repetitive strain, environmental toxins, genetic issues, etc. all play a role… but agree that emotions can be a powerful factor, as Chinese medicine understands.

Emotional memories can be held in the body and ‘re­triggered’. The above example may seem exaggerated, but what can happen is that a simple incident (like being called “selfish”) can actually trigger old emotions “held” in our body. It’s like our Qi system (think of it as our nervous system, in this situation) ‘remembers’ strong reactions from earlier life. Any stimulus that touches a similar ‘memory circuit’ can result in hugely amplified emotional reactions. This is how I believe triggers work, for those of you interested in trauma recovery. (More on trauma and triggers in a future article.)


Affecting one’s emotions changes the Qi flow in the body.  By managing my emotions, I can also make changes in my physical Qi. So by thinking differently about the situation, letting go, confiding in a friend or counsellor, meditating, journalling, or talking things out respectfully, I can change my thoughts, emotions and the qualities of the energy flow I’m feeling.

For example, in the above situation, maybe I realize I misheard and she’d actually said “you’re totally selfless.” My anger fades, I let my breath out, my shoulders relax, my face cools down, and I might get a light feeling in my chest. Or maybe I talk things out with another friend, who reassures me that I’ve done the best I can and the offender just has their own misconceptions. I relax and feel calmer (as long as I can catch myself before going back into the ‘angry’ belief about being wronged).  If I can release my emotional tension often enough, I can avoid some of the longer­term health effects of a chronic Qi reaction pattern.


Changing Qi flow also affects emotions. In Chinese medicine, cause and effect often go back and forth. That means physically manipulating Qi flow can change your emotional state. You can change your Qi flow countless ways, e.g. by: deep or conscious breathing, relaxation, yoga, exercise, food and drink, hanging out with others, taking a hot bath, getting acupuncture or a massage, etc.

For example, have you felt really angry and then gone for an intense workout, or an acupuncture treatment?  Were you ever anxious and then had a delicious meal?  Were you ever feel frustrated and tense, and then soaked in an epsom salt bath?

Once I was feeling wired, hyperactive and rushed on a long­-distance cycling trip. We’d done half of the 100 km for the day, and I was raring to finish as fast as possible. After a 15 minute massage, though, I was a completely different cyclist. I glided along serenely, gazing at ducks and flowers, drinking in the fresh air like it was my favourite summer cocktail.

Releasing body tensions can help release old, stuck emotions – as many who have experienced or given bodywork can attest to. Emotional releases during acupuncture, massage, body­-based meditation, dance and yoga, are fairly common. I’ve even had a number of people recall specific memories when massaging or needling certain areas of their bodies.

But if we don’t change our thoughts and beliefs, those tensions may recur – it’s like the tensions and physical symptoms are ‘branches’ and the thought patterns that are hurting us inside are the roots. This is why I believe bodywork is especially powerful for emotional healing, when done along with working on one’s thinking (through meditation, talk therapy, etc.). For resources on meditation and talk therapy in the Greater Toronto Area, check my More on the topic of ‘Emotions and the Body’ in future articles. Your feedback is 110% welcome, as this is a huge topic to explore!

For a free personal 20 minute consultation on how emotions may be affecting your symptoms, contact me today!

Like this article? Click here to receive free articles, resources and workshop/event announcements. My emails won’t be more often than once a month – I don’t have time to bombard you.

1. Daniel J. Siegel, The Healing Power of Emotion: Affective Neuroscience, Development & Clinical Practice (W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2009).
2. TCM Doctors Take on Emotions, http://www.china.org.cn/english/Life/173064.htm
3. Sarno, John E., MD, The Mindbody Prescription: Healing the Body, Healing the Pain (Warner Books, Inc., 1998).

Spring Health Tips and Recipes

Spring is a time of re­birth, cleansing, and renewal. In Chinese medicine, Spring is the time of the Wood element, or ‘Liver’ energy system (TCM ‘Liver’ is not the same as your physical liver organ).

The ‘Liver’ circulates energy (Qi) and blood around your body and is responsible for clear vision and direction in life, creativity, assertion, calm, and regular menstruation. A balanced Liver is pivotal to the maintenance of good health, and one of the most susceptible to emotional stress.

Taking care of it preventatively can help avoid or reduce many chronic imbalances. In the face of life’s challenges and injustices, it is common to experience “Liver Qi Stagnation”, which feels like:

•       body pains, stiffness and tension (especially neck, back and hips)
•       digestive problems, e.g. bloating, heartburn, reflux, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, etc.
•       PMS (pre­menstrual syndrome), breast distention, painful/irregular periods
•       difficulty rising in the mornings
•       a “wiry” (tense-­feeling) pulse

•       feeling frustrated, irritable, angered, negative, or depressed (if we suppress our anger)
•       emotional ups and downs
•       difficulty expressing ourselves or addressing conflicts constructively
•       feeling stuck, uncreative, inflexible, or without a clear vision and purpose in life

A Quick Liver Stagnation Remedy

Liver Stagnation Recipe
If you experience many of the above signs, this recipe is great to quickly stimulate the Liver out of its stagnancy.

If you have heat signs (red face, red, dry eyes, splitting headaches, insomnia, high blood pressure, dry constipation, etc.), replace the vinegar below with lemon or lime juice. This recipe is helpful in the short term but shouldn’t replace making longer-term dietary or lifestyle changes you want to make (for your Liver’s sake)

• 1 tsp unrefined vinegar (e.g. apple cider, brown rice, rice wine vinegar)
• 1 tsp raw honey
• 1 cup warm water

Keep a Happy Liver
The Liver is one of the most involved organs in emotional processing. How emotions affect our physical health and vice versa is an exciting area of research and exploration these days. Check out this article I wrote about emotions and your body.

So, how can we keep our ‘Liver’ (not the anatomical liver, by the way) systems happy this season?

• Laugh! Prioritize fun, relaxation, and enjoying the moment (meditation helps with this!)
• Find friends & safe spaces where we can assert and express ourselves (creatively too)
• Practice being thankful for what we have now, focusing less on what we are dissatisfied with
• Seek support/ways to let go of, move through, or find peace with old emotions. Remember that spring is a time of new beginnings, and the Liver gets stuck with holding old grudges.
• Yoga, tai chi, expressive movement, acupuncture, herbs and massage all move stuck Qi

Nutritionally, many people gravitate toward cleansing during the Spring. Speak to your TCM practitioner about what kind of cleanse would work best for your body type. Also ask about personalized herbal formulas that can help.

Eat Your Greens
Green is the colour of the Liver and Spring (according to Chinese Five Element theory).

Enjoy plenty of young plants, greens, sprouts, mung beans, radishes, and lightly cooked foods. Use less fats, salts, processed foods, and strong spices in cooking. Honey­mint tea and herbs such as basil, rosemary, caraway, dill, bay leaf, fennel, chamomile, chrysanthemum, dandelion root, milk thistle seeds, peony root, lemon balm, peppermint, etc. are all helpful to balance the Liver.

AsparagusAsparagus is one of the first vegetables ready for harvest in the spring. See below for delicious seasonal recipes to help your Liver Qi flow:

1. Warm Asparagus Salad with Basil + Mint Pistou

2. No-Cream Pasta Primavera

 For a personalized Chinese medicine assessment, nutritional and other recommendations, contact me.

Like this article? Click here to receive free articles, resources and workshop/event announcements. My emails won’t be more often than once a month – I don’t have time to bombard you.