Heart- The Fire Element

February 13, 2017


The organs in Chinese medicine are more than just a physical representation. The organs include not only their physiological function, but also their mental, emotional, spiritual and elemental qualities that align with nature and the seasons. Let’s explore the heart.

The heart season is summer, and heart is considered the most yang: hot, bountiful and abundant. Yang is what is bright, moving, outward, hot and loud. Yin is what is more inward, still, dark and cooler. The colour of the heart is associated with red, the climate is heat, the flavour is bitter and it’s paired organ is the small intestine (many urinary issues are due to “heart fire” heat descending). The sense aligned with heart is the tongue, and the vessels associated with heart are the tissues. The heart sound is laughing, and the emotion is joy. The heart houses what is known as the shen, which is the mind and spirit. You can see a person’s shen in a healthy complexion and radiant eyes that are clear and bright. The heart is in charge of circulation and keeps the tissues well nourished. It is also associated with mental clarity, memory and strength. The motion of this fire element is upward, like a flame. Many who have this element dominant in their personality have red hair that is curly or spikes upward. The heart is also connected to speech. An imbalance in heart energy can result in stuttering, speaking excitedly or talking excessively.

A healthy heart energy exudes a sense of joy, fun, enthusiasm, action, warmth, charisma and fun. These people are the “life of the party,” and love to have a good time with friends and to be the centre of attention. When the heart is balanced, sleep is sound and one is well rested.

On the other hand, when there is an overabundance of fire this can result in restlessness, anxiety, sweating, excitability and symptoms such as palpitations, irregular heartbeat, insomnia, disturbing dreams, mouth sores, thirst, red face, constipation and dryness. This person might shrink if not in the limelight and would constantly seek attention and need activities that produce a lot of excitement. He or she might have trouble being introspective and could not be alone. “Overjoy” is an imbalance of heart energy and is likened to manic behaviour. A dominant fire may also be extremely sensitive to heat. A lack of the fire element, on the other hand, can result in a lustreless complexion, low energy, inertia, depression, feeling cold, low libido and the personality may lack warmth. This type may seem cold, frigid, lack drive and may be prone to addictions.

How to help your heart stay in balance? Red foods have been shown to help the heart biochemically; foods such as hawthorn berries, strawberries, cherries, raspberries, tomatoes, watermelon, peppers and goji berries keep your heart happy with lycopene and anthocyanin, antioxidants and beneficial vitamins. Other helpful foods include garlic, cayenne, coriander, basil, magnesium (found in leafy greens, nuts and soy) and green tea. Also try ginseng, jujube dates, reishi mushrooms, dong quai, seaweed and schizandra berries. Calming activities such as walking, tai qi, or qi gong help calm the shen.

If you feel that your heart energy could be out of balance call one of our practitioners for a consultation.

Happy Valentine’s Day

Do you ever feel your life’s a ride that won’t ever stop? How many nights do you wait for Mr. Sandman to magically appear? How often do you truly take time for yourself? Do you have aches and pains almost daily? Are over-the-counter or prescription medications controlling your life? When was the last time you actually felt at peace? If any of these questions resonate with you, then it might be time to look at Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture for an answer. People in Asian countries have known the magnificence of acupuncture for thousands of years. Traditional Chinese Medicine is growing in popularity in Ireland and across the world, and here are some reasons why you might want to consider utilizing it also.


1. Insomnia / Restless Sleep
Acupuncture can address imbalances in your body that may contribute to your  inability to get a good nights sleep. The needles can actually encourage the brain to produce the chemicals that help you relax and sleep better. If you have difficulty falling asleep, you wake up frequently or you toss and turn a lot, acupuncture might just be the missing link.

2. Anxiety / Depression
Thousands of people in Ireland suffer from depression and anxiety. And while there are many amazing therapists available to talk to, psychotherapy may not be enough. Also, many of the prescription medications available have terrible side effects. This is where acupuncture and Chinese herbal formulas can help. Acupuncture can actually start to relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety in as few as two treatments without any harsh side effects.

3. Allergies
Runny nose? Sneezing? Watery, itchy eyes? Does this sound familiar?
Seasonal or otherwise, allergies can be debilitating. But multiple studies have shown that allergy symptoms can be decreased and sometimes even eliminated with the use of regular acupuncture treatments. Immunity begins in the gut and acupuncture treatments for allergies will focus on the energetic meridians that support your immune system.

4. Migraines
For those who suffer from these monsters, life can be a toss of the dice. Migraines can come on without warning and can be completely devastating. And yet again, the pharmaceuticals that most migraine sufferers are prescribed can lead to harsh side effects. Acupuncture can reduce the frequency and intensity of migraines over time.

5. Menstruation Issues
Many women suffer monthly from menstruation problems. It can be that the period is irregular, painful or so heavy that it leads to anemia and fatigue. There can also be mental-health effects associated with periods such as depression and anger. Over-the-counter medications only mask the symptoms. To treat the root of the problem, give acupuncture a try. Once again, it’s all about balancing your body. That’s how acupuncture works to regulate menstrual problems.

6. Chronic Pain
Pain is the number one reason why people turn to acupuncture, and for good reason. If you’ve tried everything else and got little to no relief, acupuncture may be right for you. But remember, chronic pain took time to develop and it will also take time for acupuncture treatments to work. Many people get some relief immediately, but acupuncture works on a cumulative basis, so commitment to the process is a must.

7. Preventive Medicine
Did you know that acupuncture’s main function is to help keep you healthy? If not, then you’re not alone. While acupuncture may not be known for preventive care, it should be. Waiting until there is an injury or illness will only cause the treatments to take longer. Using acupuncture preemptively will help you fight off illness and let you recover more quickly. That’s reason enough to give it a try.

Now that you know how acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine can help you, what are you waiting for?

Now go get healthy. Contact us today to see how we can help you

When the seasons change you have to be ready for a change in mood, especially as we move from Autumn into winter. Although it may not seem as drastic of a shift as you think, it matters more to our mental and physical states than you may know. Seasonal affective disorder affects millions of people each year.

As we begin to lose sunlight and transition into the darker months of the year, depression and fatigue seem to make that transition with us. But, there are ways to shake off the impending gloom and brighten your day, if you follow some of these steps you can combat seasonal affective disorder and find yourself being just as happy as you are in the warm, bright summer months.

Try light therapy:

Doctors have called this idea phase shifting. Because we lose sunlight
so quickly as we head into the winter, you could start your day with bright lights turned on. By eating breakfast and starting your daily routine under bright indoor lights, you get used to not having sunlight and can better adjust to your new surroundings.

Exercise. Exercise. Exercise:

Regular exercise works wonders for depression in general,
so why would it not work for SAD-induced depression? By maintaining regular exercise habits you can work to get rid of the fatigue, depression and tiredness by adding at least 60 minutes a day of activity into your life.

These next two ideas go hand in hand, as both work together to not only combat SAD,
but promote a healthy lifestyle.

Maintain a heart-healthy diet and get plenty of sleep:

No brainers? Maybe. But, you would be surprised at the amount of people who do not follow both or one of these guidelines, I’m sure you know someone who fits into those categories. Make sure to maintain a regular sleep schedule while keeping up with a heart-healthy diet in order to fight seasonal affective disorder.

Last, but not least, try acupuncture! 

Acupuncture is a great solution to combating SAD.
There are various points on the body that have been known to alleviate symptoms of
SAD. A primary point that should be addressed when treating SAD is Yintang, and when being treated for SAD by an acupuncturist you should be seen between one to two times a week.

Try some of these techniques and you should have no problem battling and conquering the seasonal affective disorder that may be bothering you this winter.

As the air starts to cool and the sun begins to fade, many people begin to experience a flare up in back pain symptoms.

Back pain is a very common problem, in fact, it’s one of the top reasons people seek medical care.

Unfortunately, back pain isn’t always easy to diagnose or relieve. Low back pain in particular can become a chronic, or ongoing, problem.


Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) are very effective in treating back pain and helping keep your body in tune  with the seasonal shift. They can also be used together with traditional Western treatments to maximise your healing and recovery.

There are many possible causes for back pain, including strained muscles or ligaments, often caused by improper lifting, sudden movements or traumatic injury. Other culprits include arthritis (whose symptoms can be exacerbated with the onset of cold damp weather), structural abnormalities of the spine, or when the discs between the vertebrae bulge or rupture and press on a nerve.

Practitioners of acupuncture and TCM view back pain another way and understand that it can arise from disharmonies such as:

  • Stagnation type pain
  • Cold, damp obstruction type pain
  • Deficiency type pain

Once the cause of your back pain has been determined, a specific treatment plan will be designed to address your concerns and boost your overall health and vitality.

An acupuncturist will not only work to relieve your symptoms, but will also work to find and treat the underlying cause of your pain.

Ref: Acupuncture Media Works/ Shen

Your body as a garden

June 18, 2016

The concept of gardening gives us an excellent illustration of the theories behind Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and  acupuncture. Imagine you are a gardener whose job it is to help a garden thrive. To  help nature along, you must provide necessities such as water and fertiliser.

You must make sure plants receive the right amount of sun, and you must weed out any undesirable elements. Gardening takes time and effort, but the reward is a beautiful,  healthy garden, abundant  with flowers and vegetables.

One of the philosophies underlying Chinese medicine is that we are not separate from nature. Nature’s constant motion – its flowing seasons and cycles – coincide with our body’s natural rhythms. When we engage in gardening, we strive to be in harmony with nature’s rhythms. This allows us to reap a bountiful harvest. Life flourishes when the elements of air, water, light and earth are balanced. There are basic principles of gardening that you can apply to facilitating the health of your body:

Fertilise: Just like plants need fertilisers, we need food in order to re-energize our bodies. In general, a healthy, balanced diet is made up of unprocessed, organic foods such as grains, fruits and vegetables.

Water: Our bodies are made up of 70% water. We need its life-giving force to cleans our bodies of toxins, to regulate body temperature and to aid digestion and circulation.
Sunshine: Just like plants, we also need the sun’s energy to grow and thrive. Sunlight provides our bodies with Vitamin D, which promotes strong bones, supple muscles and a healthy immune system.

Weeding: Weeding your garden is vital to keeping the soil clean and properly oxygenated. Our body also needs cleansing. One of the easiest ways to cleanse our body is by sweating through exercise. Your goal is to learn how to cultivate and support your inner garden. Your acupuncturist’s goal is to help balance your inner ecosystem so that it can flourish—and you can  enjoy health and harmony.

Your body is just like a garden, and you and your acupuncturist are the  gardeners. He or she will work closely with you to strengthen and balance your internal garden. By taking your entire self into account, your practitioner can help identify—and weed out—any imbalances that could cause  problems.

Acupuncture isn’t a “quick fix.” It does provide you with the tools and knowledge needed to nourish the garden from within. Your participation in the process is essential.
After all, you wouldn’t simply plant seeds in the ground and expect them to bloom  unattended. It’s the same with your health.Working with your acupuncturist and  committing to long-term care can create  positive changes for your overall health.

Autumn Nourishment

September 23, 2015

imageNature has a way of providing us with what we need, when we need it. That’s especially true when it comes to the foods that become available with each season. Autumn brings with it a bounty of fruits, vegetables, and herbs that nourish the body and support health and well-being. Being aware of seasonal foods and attuning your diet to your body’s needs is a great way to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

The harvest season is a time to prepare your body for the cold winter ahead. Your diet should shift toward richer, denser foods that will provide you with extra energy and warmth.  Consider increasing your intake of protein, fats, and whole grains but be sure to keep up your exercise program, to control weight gain.

Nourishing your immune system is also very important at this time. Take advantage of dark green and golden-orange vegetables that are rich in beta-carotene to strengthen the body’s Wei Qi (immune system). These include carrots, pumpkin, squash, broccoli, kale, mustard greens, and many more.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it’s important to maintain the body’s balance during this season by adding sour foods such as sauerkraut, leeks, yogurt, and sour apples to your diet. Pungent foods such as garlic, turnips, and horseradish should also be added to your autumn diet, since they cleanse and protect the lungs.

It’s also important to moderate your caffeine use this season. As autumn settles in, you may notice yourself feeling a little more tired than usual and increasing your coffee intake to boost your energy. Before you lift that next cup, consider making a healthy change and switching from coffee
to tea.

Tea has been found to have a variety of health benefits, including protecting against heart disease and some types of cancer, reducing inflammation and blood pressure, and even increasing bone density. Green and white teas contain especially high amounts of antioxidants, which protect against cellular damage.

These are just simple suggestions. Consult with your acupuncturist, naturopath or healthcare provider to discuss any dietary changes you are considering this autumn.

‘Depression is treatable but most people do not receive the care and support they need’.[ref: WHO. Depression, a Hidden Burden, Flyer]

Depression is a mood disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. It is characterised by psychological and physical symptoms. It affects young and old and twice as many women as men. Symptoms can last for weeks, months or even years. The onset of depression can increase towards middle age, with a maximum onset in the 55-60 age group.


It can be very debilitating as it affects the whole body and symptoms can include:

• negative feelings

• sleep disturbances

• difficulty in functioning normally

• painful thoughts

• anxiety and agitation

• changes in appetite

• persistent sadness

• hopelessness

• chronic fatigue

• irritability

• loss of self-esteem

• feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy

The cause of depression

This is not fully understood. It may be triggered by a traumatic event, prolonged stress, chemical imbalance in the brain, thyroid disorders, poor diet, nutritional deficiencies, low blood sugar and food allergies.

Most of us have experienced some form of depression at one time or another. It is a normal response to events in our lives that overwhelm us. When we are balanced physically and emotionally we can easily bounce back from a depressed state but when negative feelings or emotions become persistent, depression may set in.

How can acupuncture and naturopathic medicine help me?

Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years and is part of the system of healthcare known as Traditional Chinese Medicine. By inserting fine, sterile needles into certain points on the body your acupuncturist will aim to restore a balanced and continuous flow of vital energy or ‘Qi’ throughout the body. Although TCM does not recognise depression as a particular illness, it still aims to alleviate the symptoms being experienced while also addressing the underlying root cause of the problem.

When we experience physical problems, our emotions are affected and likewise when we experience emotional upset, our physiological state may change. As acupuncturists and naturopaths we are aware of the powerful link between our body and our emotions, so during a consultation, we will ask specific questions in order to find out where your particular imbalances lie.

We will also look at various areas of your life which can have an effect on your mental health such as diet, exercise, work and home stressors and any underlying health issues. Based on this information, along with a tongue and pulse diagnosis, we will then formulate a personalised treatment plan. This will include acupuncture treatments and possibly supplements, herbs, flower essences, exercise and diet and lifestyle changes where necessary.

Acupuncture and Naturopathic medicine are safe, natural and effective ways of treating depression. It is not a ‘quick fix’ treatment and you may need weeks or even months of treatment in order to see positive, long lasting results.

Research into Acupuncture for Depression

  1. The World Health Organisation published a review in 2002 and stated that,

‘Acupuncture is being increasingly used in psychiatric disorders.The effect of acupuncture on depression (including depressive neurosis and depression following stroke) has been documented repeatedly in controlled studies” References: [189-194]

‘Acupuncture is comparable with amitriptyline in the treatment of depression but has fewer side-effects. In addition, acupuncture has been found to be more effective in depressive patients with decreased excretion of 3-methyl-4-hydroxy-phenylglycol (the principal metabolite of the central neurotransmitter norepinephrine), while amitriptyline is more effective for those with inhibition in the dexamethasone suppression test’. References: (192)

Source: ‘Depression’. World Health Organization. 2011 • ‘Review and Analysis of Reports on Controlled Clinical Trials’. WHO 2002

2.  Research has been conducted since the 1990’s into the effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of depression. Studies suggest that it has a positive and holistic effect on patients suffering with depression, particularly when used in combination with herbal treatments and psychotherapy. The first pilot controlled study of treating depression with acupuncture was conducted by psychologist John Allen, from the University of Arizona, and Acupuncturist Rosa Schnyer. In a double blind randomised study, 34 depressed female patients were assigned to one of three treatment groups for eight weeks. The first group received acupuncture treatment that was tailored to their particular depression symptoms. The second group received a general acupuncture treatment, but not specific to depression. The third group was placed on a waiting list for acupuncture treatment, but did not receive any treatment.

The study found that those in the tailored acupuncture treatment experienced a significant reduction in symptoms, compared to those in the non-specific treatment. The study also found that over 50% of the participants no longer met the diagnostic criteria for depression following their treatment. The study findings suggest that using acupuncture alone could be as effective as other types of treatments for relieving depression symptoms typically used in Western medicine, such as psychotherapy and drugs.

References: • This study was published in September 1998 issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the American Psychological Society, as ‘The Efficacy of Acupuncture in the Treatment of Major Depression in Women’. • Allen, J. J. B. (2000). Depression and acupuncture: a controlled clinical trial. Psychiatric Times Online, 22, 3.

Hay Fever Misery

June 29, 2015

Hay fever is a type of reaction in the body to the pollen from trees, grasses, moulds or spores. It affects the mucous membranes of the nose, eyes, and air passages.

Spring and summer can be a tough time for hay fever sufferers. Many people resort to over the counter anti-histamine products and/or decide to stay indoors as much as possible, neither of which are satisfactory as long term solutions.


Signs and symptoms

Itchy red eyes
Watery discharge from eyes
Clear thin nasal discharge

Symptoms can be similar to the common cold but nasal secretions associated with a cold usually become thicker and more yellow/green as the cold progresses.
Those who suffer throughout the year from hay fever like symptoms are said to have perennial rhinitis. Animal hair, dust, feathers, fungus spores, moulds, and/or some other environmental agent may trigger the symptoms.

What can I do to help myself?

The best and safest way to control allergies is to avoid the known allergen and take steps to normalise the immune system so as to prevent reoccurence or lessen the symptoms.
Allergies can usually be controlled if you are willing to make changes in your lifestyle and diet.

Can acupuncture help me?

Respiratory conditions [including sinusitis and asthma] can be relieved with acupuncture. Acupuncture can strengthen your natural defences and make you less likely to be affected by seasonal allergies.
Treatment can begin
• during peak season to reduce the severity of an attack
• during winter in order to boost the immune system, making it less susceptible to the usual reactions when the hay fever season begins again


What about Naturopathy?

Naturopathy is all about the healing power of nature and, that given the right conditions, the body will seek to correct itself and restore balance and good health. It’s also about preventing disease and treating the ‘Whole’ person during any health issue.
As Naturopathic Acupuncturists, we have a clear understanding of these principles and the best way to apply them. We treat the person not the disease and tailor a programme that will encourage their own innate ability to heal.
Your Naturopath may use some of the following to enhance your treatment outcome
• Laboratory Testing
• Acupuncture
• Herbal Medicine
• Flower Remedies
• Hydrotherapy
• Diet and Lifestyle advice
• Supplement advice
• Fasting
The combination of acupuncture and naturopathy provides a unique way to tackle this perennial problem.

Why not contact bernie@shen.ie for more information or to book an appointment.

You can beat this, you don’t have to suffer year after year. Take control and decide that you are going to do what it takes to improve your health and be able to look forward to spring and summer in the future.

Now is the time of year when we want to relax in the sun, but there is much concern about sunbathing leading to an increase in skin damage and skin cancer. Excessive exposure to ultraviolet rays can increase the production of free radicals that can adversely affect the integrity of collagen in the skin. Over time our skin becomes cracked, wrinkled, aged, and brittle. Research suggests that skin cancer is cumulative over a lifetime. It begins with over exposure and serious sunburns during childhood.


We can’t live without the sun. Our bodies require sunlight in order to manufacture Vitamin D which is needed for calcium absorption, amongst other things. So, we shouldn’t hide from our shining star, but here are a few helpful tips and precautions to take when you’re soaking in the summertime sun:

  • Use sunscreen – choose one with a high SPF that protects against UVA and UVB rays for greater protection. Apply 15 minutes before going outside and don’t forget your nose, ears and neck.
  • Timing is key – avoid sun exposure when the sun is at its highest peak in the sky, typically from 11am – 4pm.
  • Gear up – wear a wide brimmed hat, sunglasses and a T-shirt that filter ultraviolet rays.
  • Drink more water – you can avoid dehydration and provide moisture for the skin to prevent dryness, cracking and ageing.
  • Vitamins – help prevent skin damage, especially Vitamin A, E and other antioxidants. Flax seed oil can also support skin health. Check with your Naturopath to see what would be best for you.
  • Brush it off – before you take a shower, use a dry skin brush. This can open the pores and slough off dead skin, allowing your skin to breathe easily and work more efficiently.
  • Keep healthy – some medications may cause adverse reactions and side effects when we are exposed to sunlight. Acupuncture may be able to provide an alternative to these medications, keeping you healthy, safely and naturally.

If you want to have fun now, and not worry later, practice good sun sense. You and your skin deserve it.

PCOS and Fertility

May 4, 2015

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS is a very common endocrine disorder in which a woman’s sex hormones, oestrogen and progesterone, are out of balance. This leads to the growth of multiple cysts on a larger than average size ovary. The cysts are not harmful and the exact cause is unknown but there is a strong genetic component meaning that women are more likely to develop PCOS if there is a family history of the disorder.


Polycystic Ovaries OR Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

Some women are only mildly polycystic and the only symptom they may experience is a slightly irregular or longer menstrual cycle. These women generally don’t have a problem getting pregnant but it may take them a little longer than usual. Other women may be experiencing a range of symptoms including; obesity, insulin resistance, irregular periods, acne, excess body hair, mood swings, depression and of course problems getting pregnant. This is the difference between a woman with polycystic ovaries, and a woman experiencing a whole host of symptoms with polycystic ovarian syndrome.


PCOS is the most common cause of infertility as some women can go for months without having a period. Long cycles are often followed by very heavy bleeding or for some women there may be scanty bleeding and anovulation, or amenorrhea. The hormonal imbalance means that less oestrogen is produced but there is an increase in other hormones like LH [luteinizing hormone] and testosterone. This has a knock on effect on the quality of the developing follicles and on the quality of the endometrium also.

Western medical treatment

This usually involves the oral contraceptive pill if the woman is not trying to get pregnant. Women who do wish to get pregnant are often given metformin, which increases ovulation frequency. Other drugs prescribed for fertility are clomiphene, hCG, and gonadotropin. IVF or other ART are recommended if these drugs fail. The problem with drug treatment, apart from the side effects, is that it does not address the root cause of the condition, which is the ovary’s endocrine imbalance and the quality of the eggs being produced.

Traditional Chinese Medicine [TCM]

TCM and Naturopathic medicine have a different approach to treating PCOS. It is a disorder that responds best to an individualised treatment plan. After a detailed consultation, your TCM practitioner will differentiate your pattern of imbalance and the root cause of your PCOS will be treated with acupuncture and dietary advice. If periods have been absent or irregular the practitioner will focus on restoring regular periods and regulating ovulation. Acupuncture can stimulate the organs, improve blood flow, normalize hormone levels and promote the proper functioning of the reproductive system.


What you eat is also very important for the PCOS client and especially if you are overweight. Fat cells store oestrogen so your practitioner may advise dietary changes in order to increase liver function as it is responsible for metabolizing excess circulating hormones.


Many women understandably feel a sense of frustration and hopelessness about getting pregnant and wonder whether it will ever happen for them. But don’t despair, the body can heal and rebalance, and you can get pregnant. Most women are hugely encouraged after a couple of months of acupuncture when they see their cycle length shorten and their ovulation come earlier and earlier until they ovulate nomally on day 14. As one client said to me recently that she now had 12 chances of getting pregnant per year instead of her previous 5-6.


A study conducted by Swedish researchers at the University of Gothenburg, found that exercise and electro-acupuncture treatments could reduce some symptoms of PCOS. They were looking for a long-lasting treatment for the condition without adverse side effects. During the 16-week study, nine women with an average age of 30 years underwent 14 acupuncture treatments. The study found that the electro-acupuncture treatments led to more regular menstrual cycles, reduced testosterone levels and reduced waist circumference (there was no drop in BMI or weight). The authors noted that their study had some limitations, including a small sample size.

Swedish study by the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg.