Throughout human history, gemstones have served as symbols of health, wealth, and the sacred. In the ancient world the 12 tribes of Israel were represented by 12 corresponding precious stones placed in the breast plate of the corresponding tribal high priests. In Revelations, John’s visions of the 12 foundations of a New Jerusalem – or sacred city – rest on layers of jasper, sapphire, chalcedony, emerald, sardonyx, sardius, chrysolyte, beryl, topaz, chrysoprasus, jacinth, and amethyst; and the power of stones were attributed to the power of God. The Romans carried cut stones to ward off sickness and bad luck. The Egyptians polished and hammered stones into scarabs, symbols of creation and wore amulets made of amethyst, hematite, jasper, carnelian, and lapis lazuli.
My father is Italian, born and raised on a beautiful farm in the south of Italy. As a child we would travel there annually to visit with my extended family. As an American girl I was uncomfortable with the lifestyle in Italy and can recall it feeling dirty. I was especially afraid to eat some of the food. It was so different than what we ate in America. Our food looked perfect and came in sterile packages. In Italy it had bug bites and all parts of the animals were served as food or utilized in some aspect of life such as the fat of pigs being used as soap. As I grew older, I realized that it was the American lifestyle as I knew it that was dirty and the Italian agricultural lifestyle was pure. Eastern medicine shares many of the values that my Italian family practiced. Unfortunately, many of those values are being lost globally today and humanity is experiencing the affects. Below I have outlined some reasonable measures we can take to integrate practices and values that promote community, health, spirituality, a sense of peace, and, above all love.
My story is not unique. Divorced parents, some depression, acting out and abusing my body with unhealthy habits. Mindless adolescent behaviors led to an absence of monthly periods that lasted from teenage years well into my 30’s. Possibly I have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), possibly I have hypothalamic amenorrhea (a term used when the pituitary shuts down and stops producing key hormones), or possibly I have a hybrid of both. Regardless of the official diagnosis, I was told I could not have a baby without drugs or help from the western medical system. So I gave up on the idea of wanting a child because I was stubborn and wanted to do it my way, without any outside assistance – medications, technology, etc. And I didn’t want to deal with the reality that things may not go according to MY plan.
Born and raised in the Philippines, Clarita Tano Zinatbakhsh grew up in the country, living on farms and eating food from the earth. She learned early on the importance of what goes inside your body and where it comes from. This sentiment has traveled with her throughout her life. Today, she lives in Los Angeles, California and works at a local farmers market, selling locally grown products that use no pesticides or chemicals.
Experience has taught Clarita the connection between eating healthy and the benefits of seeking relief of illnesses through eastern medicine. Prior to discovering acupuncture, Clarita was one of many people who sought out western remedies for illnesses and ailments. Working at a beauty shop in Bagiou City when she was young, Clarita found her immune system compromised from exposure to chemicals used in the shop. She suffered from chronic coughs and colds, which were treated with antibiotics following an impersonal visit with the doctor. As her conditions continued to worsen, so did the prescribing of antibiotics, only at higher doses. This vicious and expensive cycle continued leading to her feeling even worse with new symptoms, which included stomach pains similar to symptoms of an ulcer.
Los Angeles is a pressure cooker. Each and every day we navigate professional and personal relationships, social, cultural, and financial pressures, time constraints, unhealthy boundaries (often in cars) and less than ideal environmental conditions. Internally, stressful environments become overwhelming as low grade everyday stresses build up and tax our body’s ability to respond to these pressures in a calm, ideal way.
Dr. Joseph Clarke discusses how our urban environment can greatly affect the way the body functions and therefore, acupuncture among other life care is essential to maintain balance.
As a clinician and a woman I often hear female clients and friends casually talking about symptoms leading up to “that time of the month.” We’ve come to accept Pre-Menstrual Syndrome- PMS for short – as a normal part of our cycle, but what isn’t commonly known is that many PMS symptoms may be a sign of imbalance which could lead to something greater. Swollen breasts, irritability, sadness, cramps, low back pain, fatigue, and cravings are so common that we are surprised when hear of a woman who doesn’t experience these symptoms leading up to their period.
According to the Mayo Clinic, one of the most common reasons for doctors visits or missed work is back pain. The key to treating back pain effectively it to determine the cause. Typically, we hear people say things like “I lifted something heavy”, “I stepped down a stair funny”, or maybe an unknown cause and just a constant dull achiness with no apparent source. As acupuncturists and functional medicine practitioners, we look deeper into lifestyle, medical history, nutritional habits and behaviors that all affect our ability to function in life. From this perspective, there are no accidents. A muscle is pulled because there is a weakness or blockage associated with the area, perhaps a systemic inflammatory condition, perhaps a conditioned response to stress or a holding pattern. Any of these factors can cause or contribute to an acute or chronic pattern.
In the West, maternity leave is a luxury. Tell someone you’re on maternity leave, and they say: “That must be so nice!”. Co-workers look at you and roll their eyes as if to imply that maternity is a vacation; but, every mother knows the truth – becoming a mother is tough. Even if you have an “easy baby” the beginning of their life is an adjustment period and the parenting learning curve is so steep that it’s anything but a vacation. A mother’s forty days of sitting is challenging, and precious, and it passes by so quickly. The forty days is not a time to hold your breath and pray until it’s over, it’s the foundational time in the relationship between parents and child. When dealing with such an important time the question isn’t “how can we get this done?”, the question is how can we create the space in our outward lives and within our private selves to honor this time?