Year of the Water Dragon


Happy New Year! No, I’m not on a time lapse, or having some kind of deja vu, it is the start of the Chinese New Year today! As you may already know, the Chinese calendar attributes different animals to different years, and depending on the year you were born, you are a different animal – I am a Dog! If you don’t know what animal you are, you can check it out here!

This year (2012) is the year of the Dragon in China, or more specifically, the Water Dragon. So, as we say goodbye to the year of the Rabbit, and enter into one of the most revered years in the Chinese Zodiac, let’s see what goodies it has in store for us, and how we can make the most of it…

The Dragon has supernatural powers and is a deliverer of good fortune and intense power; according to the Sung dynasty, he has a head of an ox, body of a serpent covered with fish scales, and feet of a phoenix. He gives happiness and success, watches over good, honest people and the family, cultivating smart and healthy children. Which I guess makes it a very good year for me to be doing a paediatric acupuncture diploma! If you have children, ensure holistic health (body, mind and emotions) features big this year; and if you don’t  have children, but are intending to start a family, this year is the one for you!

It is a time for boldness, big ideas and new projects on a work and social level, as the Yang part of Water of this “Water Dragon” year, is more like an ocean or a rushing stream, opposed to a stagnant pond. It is powerful, dynamic and has strong energy. So think outside the box, push the boundaries of your comfort zone, and try something new – this year, nothing is off the table, you can achieve whatever you put your mind to – after all, you have the power of Water behind you, pushing you forward!

It brings all the qualities we know and love about the Water Element in Chinese medicine – bringing wisdom and perception, re-evaluting situations, researching when necessary, assessing levels of risk – making plans even more successful, as the pitfalls have already been thought of and accommodated for. So if you’re embarking on a new project this year, ensure you do all the research, and it’s likely to be a success. Or why not use your wisdom and passion inspire others – organise a talk or seminar, invite the girls round to talk about your favourite books, make a video on what you know about and post it on you tube! Spread the word and lead the way, as the Dragon would!

The parts of the body Water relates to include the kidney, immune system, sexual organs and the urinary system; so ensure you keep an eye out for kidney problems, kidney stones, inflammation of urinary tract, and general virus or bacterial infection. Drink enough water to keep your body hydrated, to reduce vulnerability to these issues; and acupuncture can help keep your immune system topped up.

The Dragon is said to be a karmic animal, bringing the positive, loving energies we have given to others, back to us! (You have been giving out positive, loving energies, right?! If not, make this something you do this year – give big and you’ll get tons back). This year is set to have love and success at the top of its agenda, and who wouldn’t want that?! New love can blossom, and as the Dragon is associated with festivals and celebrations, 2012 is THE year for engagements and weddings! And its not just small successes, Dragons bring those BIG dreams to life!

So take the opportunity to start with your new year’s resolutions all over again, grab hold of the Dragon’s optimism and positivity, get rid of those January blues, and embrace a new start, for a second time!


© Rhiannon Griffiths 2011

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Chinese Food Energetics


Chinese Food Energetics is another way of looking at food and nutrition, and formulating an eating plan or diet that is most suited to us. Just as acupuncture itself is tailored specifically for that one individual patient – and no two patients are exactly the same, no matter how similar they appear to be – Chinese Food Energetics creates guidelines or dietary advice to suit that one specific individial patient too.

For example, some patients can eat dairy literally until the cows come home (pun absolutely, utterly intended!), and another person (like me!) only has to look at a piece of cheese and the nose, sinuses and throat start to fill with mucus or phlegm. This is because dairy is a “damp-forming” food, and some patients are more susceptible to the formation of damp, due to the deficiencies or imbalances that are present in their system.

The “energetics” of food is different to the energetic calories present in food, it is not about the amount of energy available in a nutritional or chemical sense – it is about the affect the food has on the energy or Qi in our bodies. Food is described in Chinese Medicine as having certain qualities – temperatures (hot, warm, neutral, cool or cold), flavours that link in with the Five Elements (salty, sour, bitter, sweet or pungent), routes into the body (the organs it affects most), and actions (moves Qi, resolves phlegm, nourishes blood etc).

When we speak about the temperature of a food, it is not the temperature of it in the mouth i.e boiling hot soup vs freezing cold ice cream, it is the “energetic temperature”, the affect it will have on the body once it has been digested. For example, apples are energetically cool, and pears are energetically cold – so pears are energetically colder than apples, despite them feeling the same temperature to touch on the skin when you hold them in your hands. Furthermore, a red apple is energetically warmer than a green apple! Again they both feel exactly the same to touch on the outside skin, but energetically the temperature is slightly different… but as they are both apples, they are still both warmer than the cold pear – you still with me?! Let’s do a little more explaining…

Energetically hot foods warm us up internally, so a slice of ginger root even if eaten raw, cooked or not cooked, at room temperature or straight from the fridge, will always bring heat into the body when digested. Another example is courgette, which is cool in temperature (foods that contain a lot of water content are often cooler in energetic makeup), will always cool the body internally whether you eat it raw and shredded in a salad during Summer, or cooked in the Winter as part of a stew or ratatouille. We can go further in that the raw one would be more cooling than the one that is cooked, as there is some influence on the energetic temperature of food by the method of cooking, but the cooked one would still be cooling energetics wise. So as to not confuse things too much, more exploration of that can be saved for another post!

And on the actual physical temperature of food, please never eat things straight out of the fridge! Energetically cold food, eaten physically cold, is a double whammy of cold – the digestive system struggles with this. The Stomach is like a cauldron that is warm, bubbling away, digesting everything that goes in. Its job is to get the best goodness out of the food, and it is that job it should be expending its energy on.

However, when physically cold food (actual temperature wise) hits the warm juices in the Stomach, it brings down the temperature of the bubbling cauldron. So the Stomach therefore has to invest all of its energy into bringing the cauldron back up to optimum temperature for digestion, which means it overworks, doesn’t digest effectively, and in the longterm can become very depleted – leading to symptoms like tiredness in the morning, loose stools, undigested food in the stools, discomfort in the epigastrium (just below the rib cage, in the middle). Always bring food up to room temperature so the Stomach and Spleen don’t have to work as hard to digest it, plus you get more nutrients and more energy as a result!

Food as medicine can be incorporated into your treatment plan, to compliment the acupuncture prescribed. Each food has a particular flavour which pertains to one of the Five Elements. For example, the salty flavour belongs to the Water Element and enters its organ – the Kidney; so a little salt will benefit that organ, but too much will inhibit its action. And as mentioned earlier, eating dairy (and/or sugar, wheat, bananas, peanuts and fried foods) will make a phlegmy condition, such as sinusitis or cough, worse; consuming bitter (Fire Element) or pungent (Metal Element) flavours – onions, mustard, olives or green tea – will help clear the mucus. Chinese Food Energetics dietary advice can contribute towards a more effective overall treatment plan.

If you feel you could benefit from some dietary advice based in Chinese Medicine, email me on info@rhiannongriffiths.com or visit the “Acupuncture Plus” page on the website for more details.

© Rhiannon Griffiths 2011