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Updated six times a week with themed days: Meditation Monday, Treatment Tuesday, Wellness Wednesday, Thankful Thursday, Free-form Friday and Simplify Sunday. Stop by for information, tips and inspiration.

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Birch Center Newsletter, June 2008

mulberries Welcome to our June newsletter - the Summer Solstice edition! We have packed this issue full of fun and helpful information that I hope you will enjoy.
Summer corresponds to fire in Traditional Chinese Medicine. I discuss ways of bringing the fire element into balance in your life and health, and an interesting way of thinking about the rays of the sun.
The hot topic of wild edibles is now a regular feature now on our blog (Foraging Friday). It's mulberry season (pictured above)! Nothing is more exciting to forage than these sweet juicy fruits, which are ripe everywhere in Pittsburgh right now, and should continue throughout the month.
Finally: Goji Berries, or Gou Qi Zi. This fundamental Chinese Herb is making its way into the mainstream, touted as a "superfood" for it's strengthening properties and nutritional profile. There's a link to a blog entry where I discuss Goji Berries in detail, and have a list of suggested ways of working them into your every day diet. We also have some exciting news about our own new line of products containing goji berries which are now available at The Birch Center.
On a personal note: we are looking for land. About 10 (more or less) rural acres on which to build a cob house, have organic gardens, fruit and nut trees, raise chickens, keep bees, and tap maple trees for syrup. We're looking to be within a couple hours (or less) from Pittsburgh (so as to maintain The Birch Center, of course!) and are looking at counties which recently passed the new EPA clean air standards: Butler, Indiana, Fayette, Somerset, Mercer, Vendango, etc. If you have a suggestion or know of some land available or someone with some to sell, please contact us. Thank you so much!
We'd love to hear from you. Feel free to send an email with comments or questions, and I'll get back to you: If you'd like to schedule an appointment or discuss a condition, we would love to see you. Our number is (412) 381-0116.
Enjoy the newsletter!

Summer and Traditional Chinese Medicine

daylilies June 20 was the summer solstice this year: first day of summer! In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the summer corresponds to the fire element, and the Heart and Small Intestine meridians. (A meridian is an energy pathway that flows along the body.) It also corresponds to the color red and the emotion of joy.
The Small Intestine meridian is responsible for separating the "pure" from the "impure" -- as in, taking the food we eat and absorbing that which is useful for our bodies, and passing that which isn't along to the Large Intestine for excretiion.
However, we can also think of this function on an energetic level: what in our lives do we derive joy from, and what is just clutter, causing us to feel overwhelmed? If we notice we have a lot of chaos or clutter around us (emotionally or physically), now is a good time to tap into the energy of the small inestine and begin separating: keeping what brings us joy (this can include relationships and well as things) and getting rid of what gets in the way of our joy. Once we do this, we have space to nurture that which brings us joy - much like weeding a garden makes space for the plants we wish to cultivate (though I tend to eat the weeds as well! Many are edible - see below for more on wild edibles.)
When the fire element is in balance, our heart feels good and we are full of energy, joy and love. We are able to communicate well (the heart element controls communication), and in general we feel healthy, happy and able to nourish others. When this element is out of balance, we may experience a lack of joy, shortness of breath, high blood pressure and even symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, which often can be traced back to the small intestine.
To bring this element back to balance, remember to get outside and enjoy the sun. At least 20 minutes a day before you put on sunblock is necessary to make sure we absorb enough vitamin D, which helps us in turn absorb/use calcium and keeps our bones strong and healthy. Another interesting perspective on the sun comes from the book Anastasia by Vladimir Megre. Anastasia feels that all the good energy and love of people rises up and is reflected to us by the sun. When I sit in the sun and absorb the rays, I think of all the joy and goodwill of the people on this planet: caring for children, tending their garden, helping each other in need, shining down on me. I am really loving the sun this summer!
Acupuncture is a gentle yet powerful way to get us in touch with our fire element and bring it back to balance. To our friends and clients who have no major symptoms but like to come in for a "tune-up" four times a year: this is the time. (Summer solstice, fall equinox, winter solstice, and spring equinox are the best times for a tune-up; the changing of the seasons.)
If you'd like to schedule an appointment, please call (412) 381-0116, or send us an email, (
Enjoy the summer, and we hope to see you soon!

Wild Edibles: Mulberry Season!

mulberry tree Summer is an excellent time for foraging wild edible food.
Mulberries are in full ripeness this month, and all over the Pittsburgh area! When you are walking along and come to a ground stained with purple berries, look up because it's likely you've found a mulberry tree. (There are pink and white varieties, as well as the dark purple. The white mulberries are prized in Chinese Medicine.)
These sweet berries look like blackberries on a tree. You'll notice that the seeds are much smaller, though, and the taste is even sweeter - they are just delicious. If you are unsure about identifying a mulberry tree, please bring along an identification guide, or ask someone who knows to show you...though right now there is nothing poisonous that could be easily mistaken for mulberries.
In Chinese medicine, the berry, sang shen, is considered a blood and yin tonic - very nourishing and strengthening overall. It is used to treat dizziness, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), insomnia...and premature graying of the hair. Other parts of the plant are also used medicinally: The leaf - known in Chinese as sang ye - is used to treat cough with sore throat and fever, while the mulberry twig - sang zhi, is used to treat painful joints/arthritis, especially in the upper extremities. The bark, sang bai pi, is used to stop coughing and wheezing while also promoting urination to treat edema. Finally, the silkworm, whose only food is the mulberry tree, is also used as an herb in Chinese Medicine. Silk Worm, or jiang can, is used to treat seizures and facial paralysis, especially in children. In Chinese Medicine, most herbs are used dried (versus fresh from the tree - mainly for the convenience of having herbs at your disposal year round) and in formulas, which are prescribed by an acupuncturist or herbalist and filled at an herbal pharmacy. You then cook the herbs into a strong tea called a decoction, and drink a cup twice a day (unless other specific instructions are called for.) When you have fresh mulberries on hand, there is nothing better than eating them right from the tree!
If you are interested in local wild edibles, visit our blog- Fridays are now "Foraging Friday," and Melissa will cover a local wild edible in season. If you are interested in having Melissa come visit you and lead you and your family and friends on a wild edible walk, please visit our services page for details.

Goji Berries: Chinese Herb and Superfood

Goji Berries Goji Berries are getting a lot of great press lately in nutrition circles. Known as a "superfood" because of its high vitamin content (especially vitamin C and beta carotene) and strengthening qualities, this berry has been a vital part of Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years.
Known in Chinese as Gou Qi Zi (lycium, wolfberry, or gojiberry), this herb is strengthening to the Kidneys (Yin) and Liver (Blood). It is also especially beneficial to the eyes.
Gentle enough to eat daily (raw or cooked) yet powerful enough to be used in formulas to treat anemia, dizziness, poor eyesight and other conditions of the eye, back pain, knee and leg weakness, even impotence and other weakness of the reproductive organs in men and women. Used this way, it is often prescribed in formulas and cooked into powerful herbal decoctions (strong teas.)
Rather than ordering from an herbal pharmacy where the products are often sprayed with sulphurs and other chemicals, we order organic raw goji berries (shown above) from (If you decide to order anything from iherb, you can use code MEL526 for $5-off your first order.) Locally (Pittsburgh) they are also available organically from the East End Food Coop and Whole Foods. We also now have them available at The Birch Center - see below for information about our own exciting new line of goji berry products.
Read on by clicking here to find out other ways and recipes of working goji berries in your diet.
Finally, we are pleased to announce that we now carry four of our very own Goji Berry products, and have them available exclusively at The Birch Center for Health, in Pittsburgh, PA. They all contain fresh raw organic ingredients, to support you in your journey to best health and vitality.
~ 2 oz bag of Raw Organic Goji Berries
~ 2 oz bag of Raw Organic Goji Berry Trail Mix, containing sunflower seeds, raisins, cashews, dates and goji berries (with or without raw cacao nibs)
Birch Center Goji-Date-Nut Balls! Also using fresh, organic, raw ingredients.
~ Plain: Dates, Cashews, Pecans, Raisins and Goji Berries
~ Cacao: Dates, Cashews, Pecans, Raisins, Goji Berries and Raw Cacao (Chocolate)
And hopefully by the next newsletter: Melissa will have ready a book: Goji Berries, Chinese Medicinal Herb and Superfood, full of great information about this amazing berry, and recipes and ways to use this Goji Berry daily to nourish and heal yourself. Stay tuned!

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