I want to begin this week’s newsletter by clarifying and/or elaborating on the previous. This is just part of the reason I appreciate and enjoy replies and feedback. The latter as it serves keep in touch with old friends—the former as it gives me the opportunity to improve my communication in educating people about Chinese Medicine.
Several people responded to my miraculous sprained ankle healing story with inquiries to whether they could or should use the same topical for their own chronic pain; which told me I fell a bit short in my explanation.
The external application I used for my acute injury, San Huang San, contains herbs that are very blood-invigorating, which can be good for most forms of pain, but also very COLD, which is only advisable in the very first stage of an acute injury. Past that interim, San Huang San would most likely do more harm than good (just like ice), as in contrast to allopathic medicine we offer no one-size-fits-all remedy for a particular symptom, i.e. Pain/Inflammation.
The same principle applies to internal medicine, as people have come into the clinic asking for “the herb for weight loss,” or “the herb for high blood pressure.” There is no such thing, and if an acupuncturist ever tells you or prescribes otherwise, run. From our perspective, either of these pathologies can be a result of different dysfunctions in different organ systems within each person. While in one case we may have to strengthen the lungs’ circulatory function and remove fluid retention from the urogenital microbiome, in another we might have to remove fluid from the gastrointestinal microbiome and sedate pulmonary function. Very different diagnoses and prescriptions.
For chronic pain the best things people can do, in my opinion, are yoga, qi gong, or pilates. Without a daily, or at minimum weekly routine, I can’t imagine how it is humanly possible to live without pain or discomfort. Topically, what I am presently using in the clinic and seeing best results with is a more warming analgesic liniment, nicknamed “Evil Bone Water”—bottles available upon request at my office.
As the weather in the northeast has suddenly shifted from very warm to cold and pouring rain it is common for people to be more vulnerable to viruses or exacerbations of musculoskeletal pain. The warm weather opens our pores and dilates our blood vessels, and we wake up the next morning and must go outside into the cold rain, which has greater opportunity to “enter” and exacerbate pre-exiting “dampness” at the neuromuscular or immunological layers.
This is why during this time of year it is especially important to dress relatively warm (I can’t tell you how many girls I’ve seen in cutoff belly shirts and guys I’ve seen outside jogging topless, both of which just begging for pathological dampness!), avoid raw foods, and eat ginger, garlic, and onions. This past weekend of torrential downpour we made a chicken soup cooked in chicken bone broth, with the typical accoutrement, chopped celery, carrots, potato, onion, garlic, and ginger, with quinoa cooked separately so as to add to the many leftover portions to come. Rice or noodles are a fine substitution here, but as we consume plenty of both in our home, I like to occasionally honor the western nutritional perspective as well.
I hope everyone is now a bit clearer on what San Huang San is, why it worked so well for me, but likely would not for you presently. However, there are other options for chronic pain, such as the now widely renowned in my world, “Evil Bone Water,” as well as the always advisable diet and exercise. Wishing everyone a pain and virus free week, in spite of this proverbial cold, wet rag that temporarily surrounds us.
But isn’t it just like Mercury Retrograde to bring with it a wave of coronavirus to add to its usual technology issues, transportation delays, and miscommunications? I am no astrology expert, though it is a science that I enjoy and observe accuracy in, and question when it is mindlessly dismissed, since the absence of belief obviously requires just as much blind faith as belief.
As we presently reside in what is arguably 2023’s first Covid wave, we’ve concurrently embarked upon the “pre-shadow” of Mercury’s retrograde. This means the planet has just begun to circulate in its reverse direction, which can impact Earth and its inhabitants in the aforementioned ways. This will last until mid-September, and recommendations are as follows:
- Plan for delays, not just logistically, but emotionally. Trains will be even worse and slower than usual, and you will be late for appointments. Life will go on. Try to breathe and/or text-vent to a loved one to keep your cool. It’s not fair, but it always happens—especially on the MTA or New Jersey Transit.
- Plan for technology problems: Lack of service on your phone, web sites not loading, calls dropping, documents getting accidentally erased, etc. This can be infuriating, but is generally not as bad if we expect and accept it as a matter-of-fact byproduct of the temporary cosmic energy we find ourselves in.
- Plan for communication problems. Someone you love will probably say something triggering in the next 6 weeks, and/or you will erroneously hear or misunderstand them. Clarify before you react, try to take a deep breath, remember when we are, and either respond calmly or pick up the dialogue in October (if you can wait that long).
- Be careful. This must be the new dad in me talking, but be sure to look both ways when crossing the street, drive a bit more carefully, and take care around glasses and hot surfaces. Personally, I find myself to be way clumsier during these times, once having knocked down an entire shelf of wine glasses in a restaurant I was working at in Beverly Hills. Not my finest moment.
- Finally, now more than ever, take care of yourself. I also find myself more prone to illness and injury during Mercury retrogrades, and as this one has bestowed upon us what is arguably the year’s first coronavirus, it is that much more important. Eat warm breakfasts, warm everything, steamed vegetables, hydrate, exercise in moderation, and go to sleep between 10-11pm. Stress management indicated as always.
The first stage of Covid is generally treated with an individualized version of the formula: “Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San,” which interestingly targets fluid retention in the gastrointestinal microbiome. This is generally advisable only on the very first day. Once the virus is in the throat or chest we’re almost invariably looking at one of the most famous formulas in all of Chinese Medicine, “Xiao Chai Hu Tang,” still modified to the unique patient, but with the intention of opening the chest and lungs, downbearing qi, and reducing heat and/or fever symptoms. Past this stage things become more interesting. Per usual, there is no one size fits all formula, but instead many ways we can prescribe based on constantly evolving symptoms and tongue appearance. Time is of the essence with this crafty, clever virus, so if you should contract it please contact me as soon as possible for a virtual consultation. Spare no expense. You don’t want long Covid.
I am not an “anti-vaxxer,” but based on my clinical observations in the past few years I can understand why some people would be wary of certain vaccines. I cannot, however, fathom why we cannot as a society adopt masks as a standard practice during waves in crowded spaces. While most people do fine with Covid, it is a gross over-simplification to say: “it’s just like the flu.” The flu almost never had summertime waves (Covid has had one every year), and almost never caused so many long-term neurological and cardiovascular diseases. I agree that we cannot live in fear—nor should we live in denial.
For the next month try to not snap at the pedestrians or cars that cut you off in public. Try and accept that that web site just won’t load when you want it to, that you’re going to be late, and things just will not get done according to schedule. Mercury’s retrograde might be viewed as Buddha’s messenger, to teach us unattachment, acceptance, and patience, in the face of a lifetime of the opposite conditionings. I’m speaking here to myself as much as anyone else.
Just a friendly heads up, fair warning, from your local subscriber to (almost) all paradigms off the beaten path and/or beyond the five human senses: Another Mercury retrograde is upon us, to officially begin this coming Friday, September 9th; but for those of us such as myself, born under a Mercurial sign, the effects of its “shadow” and prior “pre-shadow” phases have already reared their heads around many facets of life. This will continue for the rest of September.
When the planet Mercury is in retrograde the things most known to suffer are travel, communication, and technology—recall October, 2021, when all of Facebook and Instagram collapsed and blacked out for a day—though my personal experience is just an overriding theme of carelessness and misfortune that can lead to a whole litany of problems.
For example, while mercury is retrograde I am more likely to roll an ankle, drop and break a glass, lose my wallet, or tell someone to “F off!” The latter of which I’m confident has become less frequent with age and maturity (and the astrological awareness to, take a breath—it’s just mercury)…
This weekend my brother witnessed a road rage incident on the upper east side where two drivers got so angry at one another that they took turns ramming each other’s cars as if in a video game until finally jumping a curb resulting in a collision on 2nd Avenue. Fortunately, no one was hurt. And while confrontations obviously happen year-round, I couldn’t help but flag such an extraordinary instance as partially exacerbated by the stars’ misalignment, hypothesizing: “If only one of the two combatants was more astrologically aware, he might have taken a breath and turned the other cheek (or wheel as it were) and avoided the legal, financial, and medical issues caused. For the month to come, try your best to pause before reacting.
For my part thus far, we’ve had last minute babysitter cancellations, patients arriving later than ever (you’re all forgiven!), my bed frame broke for no reason other than wear and tear, our freight elevator was down all week, as is our cable at home (grateful it happened after Serena’s match). When mercury is retrograde we should do our best to just go with the flow of such conditions, and avoid making any major life decisions or signing contracts until our perception—that is our communication with the outside world is more lucid.
The nice thing about mercury retrogrades is they are generally times when people from our past—hopefully not detested ex’es—either randomly reach out to connect or run into us randomly in public. Such “coincidences” are common, which can be fun and offer somewhat of a silver lining to these otherwise frustrating, chaotic few months of each year.
Of course, astrology is only an interest of mine, not remotely my field of expertise. To dive deeper I recommend The Inner Sky by Steven Forrest, or at least this ASTROSTYLE ARTICLE on how to mentally prepare and approach this upcoming period. Alternatively, alternative medicine is another useful coping tool for the stress that comes with astrological storms. Even if just harmonizing treatments, down-regulating our nervous system, or releasing our back and shoulder muscles, outside support is always advisable, and available. Please just give yourself an extra five minutes to get to your appointment 😊