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Healthy Foods for Fall

traditional chinese medicine foods for fall

The season of fall brings cooler weather and shorter days. As with any season, the world adjusts accordingly. Plants begin to go dormant, animals begin scrounging for food to store to get them through the upcoming winter months and humans start winterizing everything.

As fall descends on the land, it reminds us we need to start cutting back on the numerous cooling foods that are consumed during the summer months. Things like raw foods, salads, juices and fruits should be decreased because they can create too much cold in the body, according to traditional Chinese medicine. continue reading »

Five Reasons to Get Acupuncture for Low Back Pain

Statistics show eight out of 10 people will experience low back pain at some point during their life. Seeking medical treatment for back pain is very common. Typically back pain is fleeting and can be easily resolved with rest, heat and an occasional anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen. However, once the damage is done, the recurrence of back pain can be as high as 50 percent. Part of this is because as we age, things like muscles and tendons become less flexible and pliable. It is also very well known in the United States, people are too sedentary and this leads to excess weight gain that can create added pressure on the body, especially the low back. continue reading »

Acupuncture while Floating? Floatupuncture is Born.


By Matt Van Dyke, EAMP

Those of us who are Acupuncture junkies know the relaxing and transformative power of placing tiny needles at various points in the body. I mean, I should know, I’m an Acupuncturist. The whole reason I got into this profession is because the first time I had acupuncture done on me, I felt euphoric. I felt high. I felt blissed out. That from just a few needles? No drugs? No side effects? No hangovers? And it’s good for me? I was sold.

Fewer of us know the relaxing and transformative power of floating in a womb-like environment such as the Floatation Tank (aka Sensory Deprivation Tank, Isolation Tank – though calling it such things is out of vogue, you might scare off potential clients). I’d actually experienced Floating long before I had ever experienced Acupuncture. I was attracted to the ‘instant-samadhi’ that people were describing who floated in the tank. A rocket powered boost for your meditation practice. For those who don’t know, to Float, you are suspended on an extremely buoyant epsom salt solution in a darkened chamber, with the ambient sound still, and the ambient temperature exactly right so that instead of feeling the water, the water feels like part of your skin. Or rather, your skin disappears and the boundaries between yourself and your environment begin to fade. Relaxation squared, a return to the womb. Stress melts away, pain melts away, the mind clears and creativity is enhanced.  Sound intriguing? It is.

So for a long time I’ve been speculating on the potentially synergistic effects of Floatation + Acupuncture. I mean, they’re both amazing in their own right, but sometimes in Acupuncture sessions I have patients who can’t quite get comfortable on the table because of their chronic or acute pain. Or perhaps they are easily distracted by the construction noises outside. And with floating, sometimes it takes a while to get relaxed and turn off the mind when you’re in the tank. So, I thought, why not use them together and see what happens? And it works, it works well. But what about the logistics? Surely you can’t get two people into the tank to have an acupuncture session!? And what about the needles, won’t the salt make the stimulated points sting (just like having a cut or an abrasion would)? The Solution: …Enter the press tack. The press tack is a super nifty invention that takes an intradermal needle (ie a very small, fine needle) and a piece of tape, and ‘tacks’ the specified acupuncture point. The procedure is painless (even more so than regular acupuncture), the needle is still inserted though not very deep, allowing more freedom of movement while still stimulating the point. The tape also protects the skin from potential irritants, like epsom salt.

So the whole procedure (proceed-cake says winnie-the-pooh) is thus…

Arrive 30 minutes before your scheduled Float (at Afloat, Bellingham’s premier Floatation facility), I, the acupuncturist (and herbalist), will run you through a few Chinese Medicinal Diagnostic tests (including the Acu-Graph, which will measure the state of energy flow through your meridians), then proceed (cake) to place a certain number of press tacks in strategic places on your body, usually on your limbs. You will then, if this is your first time Floating, have a brief primer with Dan Martin (Float Guru), who will guide you through the ins and outs of Floating. Then, after a brief shower, which will not interfere with the press tacks, your session of bliss will begin! For most first time Floaters, an hour is sufficient, but for the veterans Dan has longer float sessions available. The press tacks may be removed by you at anytime following the Float session. You can even keep them on for up to 24 hours to extend the therapeutic effects. Are you sold? I am…

To book your combined Floatupuncture session, please contact Matt Van Dyke (that’s me) at 360.466.1800 or

Floatupuncture sessions are being offered right now for the ridiculously low introductory price of $75

Check out Dan’s webpage,, for more info on Floating

Yuan Zhi – Polygala tenuifolia

Polygala Tenuifloria

by Matt Van Dyke, EAMP

Just though I’d share with you my love for Polygala tenuifolia, or Yuan Zhi,(遠志), a truly incredible herb. 🙂

Here’s why I love it so:

Yuan Zhi, in Chinese Medicine, is in the category called ‘nourish the heart and calm the spirit’. No surprise then that this herb activates the heart and lung meridian, and helps treat insomnia, anxiety, and restlessness. What I love about this herb is that it also treats forgetfullness and inability to concentrate. Studies have shown that it produces memory-enhancing effects and cognitive improvement in healthy adults and elderly. An herbal nootropic! (Nootropic: a substance that enhances cognition and memory and facilitates learning) Although I haven’t seen any trials, this herb is often used for add or adhd in kids as well. Makes sense, as Chinese herbal formulas for add and adhd tend toward sedation rather than stimulation, which is the Western approach.

Another reason I like this herb so much is that it helps to clear phlegm. Who, in our damp corner of the Pacific Northwest, doesn’t need a little drying out? This phlegm could manifest in the lung, for example, with a productive cough; or it could manifest in the brain with such conditions as emotional disorientation or seizures.

Some cautions, however. Please seek the advice of a competent herbalist if you want to use this herb, or any herb, safely. If you take this herb for a long period of time, you might want to think about using the honey-fried version, or taking with licorice root, as this will protect your stomach from it’s drying effects. Also, if you have a history of gastritis, or peptic or duodenal ulcers, then this herb is not a good choice. This herb is a diuretic, so make sure you have good fluid and electrolyte intake. And finally! Yuan Zhi stimulates uterine contractions, so, if you’re pregnant and you’re ready to have a baby, then this herb could be helpful, but if you’re pregnant and you’re not ready to have a baby, then hold off.

If you would like to schedule an herbal consultation or acupuncture session with me, you can go to

Lee J.-Y., Kim K.Y., Shin K.Y., Won B.Y., Jung H.Y., Suh Y.H. (2009). “Effects of BT-11 on memory in healthy humans”. Neuroscience Letters 454 (2): 111–114. doi:10.1016/j.neulet.2009.03.024. PMID 19429065.

Shin K.Y., Lee J.-Y., Won B.Y., Jung H.Y., Chang K.-A., Koppula S., Suh Y.-H. (2009). “BT-11 is effective for enhancing cognitive functions in the elderly humans”. Neuroscience Letters 465 (2): 157–159. doi:10.1016/j.neulet.2009.08.033.


Chinese Herb to fight Breast Cancer

Black Cohosh to fight Breast Cancer
by Matt Van Dyke, EAMP

Recently a Chinese herb, Cimicifuga foetida, has been shown to possess novel anti-cancer  effects.  You probably don’t know this herb by it’s Chinese name: 升麻, Sheng Ma.  But  most likely you do know of it by its common name: Black Cohosh.
In Western herbalism, Black Cohosh is most popular in its use for the treatment of  menopausal symptoms, especially hot flashes.  Studies that have been conducted have  shown mixed results for this treatment, it seems to work great for some women, but for  others it does nothing.  Also, in some women it causes indigestion and stomach cramps.   The reasons for these inconsistencies can be reconciled if we look at the herb from an  energetic standpoint.  In Chinese Medicine Sheng Ma is Sweet, Spicy, and Cool by nature.   It enters the Large Intestine, Lung, Spleen, and Stomach channels.  It has 3 distinct  actions.  It disperses ‘wind-heat’ and vents measles.  It Clears heat and toxins, especially  from the upper part of the body.  And it raises yang qi.  Because of it’s ‘raising’ function, it  can act as a guiding herb, leading other herbs to the upper part of the body, a trick that  comprises some of the strategies of Chinese herbal formula therapeutics.
As you can see, this herb helps to guide the qi and heat up and out.  If someone has ‘cold’  in the stomach, or a tendency towards ‘rebellious stomach qi’ (i.e. nausea, vomiting), this  herb could exacerbate these effects.  Or if the woman has severe sweating or night sweats,  this herb could actually exacerbate the condition by opening the pores even further.
In a Chinese Medicinal herbal formula, the herbs are balanced in such a way that very  specific interactions between the herbs create an overall therapeutic action which  counteracts or balances a certain energetic state in the body.  Some formulas are comprised  of hot herbs to warm the body, some formulas are comprised of cold herbs to clear  inflammation and heat from the body.
What about the anti-cancer properties?  Well 2 things.  First of all it’s very interesting to  note that this herb goes to the Stomach channel.  The Stomach channel in Chinese  Medicine goes directly through the breast.  Also, this herb ‘clears heat and toxins’.  Cancer  is a pathological state of the body characterized by heat and toxins.  In fact, most of the  research that has been done on Cancer and Chinese herbs consists of finding all of the  herbs that ‘clear heat and toxins’ and testing them on cancer cells. With this method new  drugs and mechanisms of action are being found frequently.
This makes Sheng Ma or Black Cohosh and ideal herb to study for potential anti-cancer  effects.  And what did they find?  Novel triterpenoids that inhibit breast carcinoma cells.
Surprise surprise!
Here is a link to the original study:

For Herb consultation or Acupuncture treatment, please call 360.466.1800 or go online  at to schedule an appointment.