The New Organ

If you’ve been watching the news lately and managed not to be sucked into the vacuum of political news and commentary, you may have caught an interesting article several weeks ago about a “new organ” dubbed the “Interstitium”.

We’ll link the article at the end of this post, but it was on national media and I caught it for several weeks prominently on

Basically, this new organ is considered to be a collection of spaces… the fluid filled spaces that populate the body.  Normally, microscope-studied tissue samples are dehydrated tissues… so the fluidity of the samples weren’t really observed.  However, the scientists used a new microscope technique detailed in the article and they applied it to living, non-dehydrated tissues.  It was there they were able to see these fluid filled spaces in great detail.

My first notion was a quote I frequently think of…. “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy”  This is from Shakespeare, but that story really isn’t that important.  The gist of the quote, which resonates so very well with me as an acupuncturist, is that life itself is an adventure, and that it should be approached always with the most open of minds.  Here we go again with a paradigm-shifting discovery, yet one that has been discussed for thousands of years in Asia as the San Jiao or “triple burner”.

The San Jiao is perhaps the most unusual “organ” in Chinese Medicine.  We have the more obvious sounding organs, like heart, liver, lungs… but then there is the San Jiao.  What is it? It appears from the ancient literature that it has always been a most complex and debated idea of body physiology.

From the Nan Jing, Chapter 31… “How is the triple burner supplied and what does it generate?  Where does it began and end?  At which places in the body might one treat the triple burner?  Is it even possible to know these things?

It is said that the triple burner “holds the office of irrigation design; the water passages issue from it“.  (Su Wen, Ch 8).   It is also said that the triple burner “has a name but no form.” (Nan Jing, Ch 38).  All these quotes give us the idea that it is widespread, a combination of space and fluids that wrap and network throughout the body, behaving in a consistent manner (like an organ) but lacking what we typically have defined as the look and feel of an organ.

Generally, it is believed that the triple burner is fluid filled cavities throughout the body.  This system is critical to the transformative power of qi and contains a particular kind of “Source” Qi in it.  It is important to the movement of qi throughout the body, and is described as controlling it’s flow and movement, descent and entering into the organs of the body.  It also manages to control water and fluid passage through the body.

Is the Interstitium the Triple Burner?  Perhaps.  We will no doubt “learn” more and more about the Interstitium as months go by… I certainly hope so.  Science is especially excited that it may help us understand how cancer can spread throughout the body.  But like Horatio, it would be best to approach this also with a sense of wonder and delight.  Traditional Chinese Medicine has spoken eloquently of the San Jiao or triple burner for thousands of years.  For those that had the eyes to see, this has long been established, respected and understood.  This is good to remember in these coming days as old ideas fade away and new approaches are found.  Knowledge and wisdom are quite different.  What is the most important to you?


Weight Loss, Food Dynamics, and the New Year

A great many people contact us interested in weight loss.  The solutions to this matter are complex and we wanted to write briefly on this topic.

In Chinese Medicine, each individual is truly viewed uniquely.  This is why there is no true magic "weight loss" formula of herbs.  But this is true for all conditions - everyone is viewed uniquely.  One approach using acupuncture or herbs for a case (say, of migraines) might be quite differently approached with a different person.  This may be true even if the people seem at a glance to be similar (for example in age, gender, etc).  Some of the expertise of Chinese Medicine is an ability to discern beyond what may seem obvious to others.  Palpation (careful touch) of the pulse, feeling along the meridians which flow on the arms and legs, and inspecting the tongue are all important steps in coming up with the true picture of a person's health.

However,  for weight loss (and other conditions) there are a series of "typical" kinds of cases.  But as anyone can tell you, life isn't like a textbook.  This is why while we can offer a few universal type bits of advice, to be more confident in making meaningful traction on a weight loss (or other) kind of case, people should plan to stick with a program for awhile.  This is another common problem people seem to have - impatience with what can be a lengthy process.  There are certainly fast, quick ways people resort to in order to lose weight (say, the "Lemonade Diet" - a book that can even be found in Wegmans), but without laying a firm foundation (of understanding and habit) the chances are great the weight will come right back, and with it depression and lack of traction.   More profound and personal and energetic changes need to occur, and acupuncture, herbal medicine, and our food therapy advice can help you make tremendous strides.  We are so fortunate to be here in this space, right next to the Kula Yoga studio.  A daily practice, such as yoga, can be so important to the process.  We are also next to InJoy personal training where the trainer works one on one with clients in a very private and safe environment.  If possible, please do try to begin a personal daily practice of yoga, meditation, walking, or exercise.  

In our clinic, we try to understand the root cause of your current health situation.  (Not just eating too much, but palpating and really deeply understanding your body's presentation, and understanding the types and quality of foods you eat and when you eat them).  For different people, we may recommend different foods.  Foods carry with them different qualities, such as yin and yang.  Dependent on the time of year, the time of day, and the person themselves, different kinds of foods may be recommended to be the most sensible to maintain a healthy weight.

We frequently make this example.  In Chinese Medicine, the spleen is the organ most responsible for processing the foods we eat into vital, usable energy.  Some manifestations of a poorly working spleen include weight gain, low energy, and loose stools.  The spleen has certain preferences.  For example, there is a tendency for it to work best on a very regular eating schedule.  So, if you are able, please try to arrange meals to be at the same time daily.

The spleen is also easily damaged by the cold.  This is why there is a tendency for us to frown on icy drinks.  The Chinese culture has a longstanding love of tea.  Tea is supportive of the yang (warming energy) of the body, and is usually served warm.  There is actually a good bit of research about the consumption of tea as a benefit to losing weight, easily found online.  Please try to consume warming drinks and foods in the morning, especially in the cold months.

The morning is the yin time of day.  The winter is the yin time of the year.   In the morning, it is best to think of the spleen as a digestive fire.  If we consume something cold right away when we rise, this is not energetically ideal for the proper functioning of the spleen.  Everyone is an individual, but this is more or less universally true.  We recommend people refrain from cold drinks, cold yogurts, kefir, etc., in the morning.  Start your day out with something warming - warm grain cereal for example, and your spleen will be better off.  Ginger tea is an excellent choice, or if not that any other tea drunk warm.

As you can see, food therapy can be quite detailed.  If you are curious about this, and think you could be committed to trying out changes for at least a couple of months, then please contact us and we can schedule you.  Whatever changes you decide to make, you should stick with them for awhile.  There is a longstanding cultural tendency in China to begin a new practice for 100 days.  Whatever changes you make, therefore, try to maintain them for at least 3-4 months for them to "stick" best.  They will soon become second nature for you.

Remember it is the new year, 2018.  Already, people may feel that they have missed an opportunity to start a better habit.  But remember that it is also nearly the Chinese New Year, which starts in February.  Millions of people across the world celebrate this extraordinary festival of renewal.  It remains an amazing time to try new things and cultivate new habits.  Happy New Year!


Word to the Wise on Wind

Wind!  Such a topic for us in the Southern Tier.  All we have to do is drive around the region and we see signs of high winds all around in the form of wind farms like around Bath and Cohocton.  

In Chinese Medicine, wind is a nefarious influence.  It is the element in which insects are born.  It is the thing that makes sages run "as if avoiding arrows and stones" (Ling Shu).  There is an idea that wind dwells in caves and gusts out suddenly.  

The human body is designed to withstand wind, naturally.  We have a kind of "defense barrier" called the Wei Qi.  But if we are weak, the defenses are low.  We can get weak from aging, and chronically poor health and stress.  We also have low defenses due to lifestyle choices, like staying up too late, harboring stress and denied emotions, and the like.  Finding time to meditate or pray, finding time for gentle exercise like stretching or yoga, and keeping sensible hours will all help.

Wind is a sneaky element.  Literally, it likes to sneak through our defenses and make us sick.  Wind is the carrier not only of insects, but also other pernicious influences like cold.  So, on these wintry, windy, cold days, we really need to act smart.  We should absolutely cover up our necks with warm winter scarves.  Why this area?  Because this is where the wind likes to penetrate first - the neck, and the back.  So wear a warm scarf and wear a warm winter jacket.  

Many of the ancient acupuncture point names relate to the wind on the neck.  There is the Wind Pool, Wind Palace, and Wind Gate, all there on the neck and upper back.  

If you do get sick... Our natural immunity will purge wind out on it's own eventually, but we can speed up the process with plenty of rest and some wind-purging teas, such as a simple broth of scallions, ginger, or cinammon.  These food remedies are longstanding Chinese herbs designed to release the exterior and release external (pathogenic) wind.  Acupuncture too, can help us recover quicker from a cold.  An entire herbal treatise, the Shang Han Lun, was written on just this topic over 2000 years ago.  


Acupuncture in Alfred - 25 Years Strong

Acupuncture has had a presence in the Southern Tier for 25 years, which is truly a remarkable run for a place as rural as this.  For 20 years, Graham Marks operated the clinic out of his office on 29 West University, for people with long memories, this was once Dr Eisenhart's medical office, located right in the Village.  In 2013, Sarah Nelson and Kevin Ferst moved from Seattle to take over and expand the clinic.   Though we have moved around a bit, this clinic will be here so long as there are patients interested in coming to see how bonafide Traditional Chinese Medicine can transform their lives for the better.  Now, we are newly located back in the Village of Alfred in Hair Care.  We have a private room in the back of this space.  All services are available, including acupuncture, tuina Chinese medical massage, customized Chinese herbal formulas, cupping, and food therapy.    

Sarah and Kevin are Board Certified with the National Commission on Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, the NCCAOM.  Acupuncture is licensed by the State of New York.  In coming to us, you are coming to professionals with the credentials and knowledge to approach your health concerns with care, commitment, and the experience to help you.  If you are new to our clinic, you will find that 1) the needles don't hurt and 2) we take our time to understand your particular case so we can be of most help.  Our patients are what has kept an acupuncture clinic in Alfred for 25 years.  People come from all over the Southern Tier to experience the life-changing potential of Chinese Medicine.  We have people visit from Bath, Avoca, Dansville, Hornell, Canisteo, Wellsville, Almond, Belmont, Bolivar, Cuba, Swain, Whitesville, Scio, Friendship, Andover, and all over Northern PA and the rest of the Southern Tier.  For those nearer Cattaraugus County, we have an office in Allegany serving such areas as Ellicotville, Olean, Great Valley, Portville, and Bradford.   

We have practiced in the Southern Tier for five years and are experienced working with difficult cases, chronic pains, autoimmune diseases, migraines, back pain, any joint pain, neck pain, degenerative disk disease, neuropathies, shingles pain, TMJ, stress, depression, anxiety, IBS, constipation, weight loss, smoking and addiction issues, Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, low energy, gynecological conditions like hot flashes, PMS, painful periods, and infertility.  

We will gladly give you a 5-10 minute phone consultation at no charge to see if we can be of help to you.  We take cash, check, charge, and are credentialed with a variety of insurance companies.