Sunday, February 27, 2011

What Your Tongue Says About You

Tongue diagnosis is an important part of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
(Photo © istockphoto/sdominick)

I started an Introduction to Oriental Medicine class at Acupuncture & Integrative Medicine College in Berkeley a couple months ago, and it has led to an ongoing obsession with tongues.

Tongue diagnosis is one of the primary methods of examination in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Your tongue tells all—what you’ve been eating, how you’ve been feeling emotionally, and how well your organs and other bodily functions are doing. If you’re in tip-top shape, your tongue will be smooth, moist, bright, pink, and firm.  It will fit comfortably in your mouth and will have a thin white coating on top that’s sheer enough to let the pink peek through. However, if you’re not doing so well, it will also show on your tongue.  For instance, if you have a cold or flu, your tongue may be red at the tip with a thicker yellow or white coat on top. Or if you’re really stressed, your tongue may start to tremble when you stick it out.

While I could go on and on about my fascination with tongues, instead, I urge you to take a look at yours. What color is it? Are there any cracks or spots? (Cracks and spots are not normal, by the way.) What does the coating look like? Does your tongue look different at different times of the day? Does it look different when you’re feeling overworked versus when you’re feeling relaxed? (This chart is a good cheat sheet.) 

Ultimately, the path to well-being involves being able to recognize when you're not doing so well. Your tongue is a great place to start.   

Friday, February 25, 2011

Salt That’s Good For You

A salt room at Halo/Air Salt Rooms in New York City.
(Photo © Maria Wakem)

Low sodium. Less salt. No salt. Check out food labels at your local supermarket, and you’ll realize that we’ve been conditioned to think that salt is bad. Of course, anything in excess can have harmful health effects. But if the salt room therapy trend is any indication, salt can be good for you, too.

What It Is: Salt room therapy, also known as halo therapy dates back to the 1800s when Polish doctor Felix Boczkowski noticed that people with pulmonary and respiratory ailments found relief by breathing in the air in Eastern European salt mines. Modern-day salt rooms typically recreate the atmosphere of the salt mines by using machines to pump dry salt aerosol into climate-controlled rooms.

How It Works: Salt has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have shown that when the salt particles are breathed in, they can help absorb bacteria and clear mucus, easing respiratory problems like asthma, allergies, and bronchitis. The salt mist in the room is also charged with the same negative ions you find by the ocean, resulting in a state of calm similar to the one you feel when you breathe in salty air at the beach.

What It’s Not: An instant cure-all. If you’re suffering from asthma or severe allergies and you're expecting to walk out entirely better, this is not the therapy for you. It takes a series of sessions for salt room therapy to actually work, and depending on how your body reacts to it, the effects can be as subtle as clearer sinuses or a feeling of relaxation.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

3 Beauty Products You Can Eat

Kimberly Parry and me at Montage Laguna Beach, where she created seasonal spa treatments.
(Photo © Maria Wakem)

Kimberly Parry is widely recognized in the spa and organic beauty world for her namesake line of natural, preservative-free, made-to-order face, bath, and body products. (I personally can’t live without her Learn to Love It Kit, which cleared my post-pubescent pimples for good.)

While Parry is oh-so-passionate about her products, perhaps what I love most about her is that she’s equally passionate about things you can use even if you don’t buy her products. Here are 3 great tips she shared with me on how to swap everyday beauty essentials with edible ingredients from your kitchen:

Beauty Essential: Makeup Remover  
Natural Substitute: Organic Olive Oil         
Beauty Bonus: Olive oil gets rid of makeup and doesn’t clog your pores.

Beauty Essential: Facial Serum
Natural Substitute: 1/2 Fresh Orange (Squeeze it into 1 cup of cool water.)
Beauty Bonus: Orange is a great exfoliant with the added benefit of Vitamin C.

Beauty Essential: Hydrating Masque
Natural Substitute: Organic Honey
Beauty Bonus: Just slather it on your face and leave on for 20 minutes. It’s a little messy, but it smells (and tastes) better than packaged masques.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Vegan Vacation in Mendocino

The vegetable and herb garden at Stanford Inn By the Sea.
(Photo © Maria Wakem)

Have you ever come home from a vacation feeling like you need to go on one? Too much food, too much wine, not enough sleep. It makes returning to reality—especially work—really hard to do. I swore off vacations like that after one left me bloated and eight pounds heavier a few years ago. So now I’m always on the lookout for getaways that will leave me feeling good. And I just found one.

My husband Matthew and I recently had the pleasure of being guinea pigs for Stanford Inn By the Sea’s  Vegan Getaway. During our two-night stay, we had a nutrition class with Sid Garza Hillman, helped plant fennel in the resort’s vegetable and herb garden, learned to cook our own gourmet vegan meal, and sat outside admiring the scenic Mendocino views.

To be clear, the getaway was less about becoming a vegan, and more about eating wholesome, locally sourced, organic food. There were no lectures about animal rights and no pamphlets to make you feel guilty about eating that steak the other night. Ultimately, it was about learning why you should care about the health effects of the food you're putting into your body and why you should care where your food comes from.

If you're searching for something different to do one weekend, save your "Where do you get your protein?" questions for Sid, and give it a shot.