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Do you know these herbs and spices?

18/06/2017
Sri Lanka AHG cardamom tea

Cardamom black tea

So a lot of us use a range of herbs and spices in our cooking and medicines and yet we may not have a clue what they actually look like when they’re growing on the bush or vine or tree. (I also know some of you grow an extensive range of herbs in your gardens and very much know what they look like and how to use them.)

By definition herbs are plants of a particular type (soft, succulent and mostly grown from seed) but this doesn’t truly capture all of the plants we use as herbs. Broadly speaking, herbs can be any plant we use in medicine, food, flavouring, for fragrance or even as a dye.

While I was in Sri Lanka late last year I wanted to visit as many Ayurvedic herbal gardens as I could to learn more about these medicinal plants. Here are some photos I took at the Ananda Spice Garden (near Koggala Lake) of some herbs you may use on regular rotation in your kitchen or even in a medicinal brew:

Sri Lanka AHG aloe vera

Aloe Vera

Sri Lanka AHG cinnamon

Cinnamon

Sri Lanka AHG ginger

Ginger

Sri Lanka AHG red ginger

Red ginger

Sri Lanka AHG vanilla

Vanilla

Aren’t they gorgeous?

And if you are interested, here is a east-west fusion (read: not Classical Chinese Medicine but still really interesting) of the Five Elements of herbs I found in one of my favourite, old herb books – Isobell Shiphard’s How can I use herbs in my daily life?

Isabell Shipard 5 element herbs

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

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What is acupuncture college like in Sri Lanka?

11/06/2017

Sri Lanka Acu college noticeboardOne major reason for my trip to Sri Lanka was to visit the Sir Anton Jayasuriya International Centre of Acupuncture. I have good friends who have studied there, under the direction of the late Sir Anton Jayasuriya, and there are students from my college who would like to do a study trip here.

I was lucky to be put in touch with Dr Amila, a lecturer at the college. She showed me around the college so I could see their classrooms and the students treating their patients.

The college clinic has a lovely, breezy feel to it (which is rare in steamy Colombo). The patients are people in need so treatment is paid for by donation. Patients are treated for a range of chronic illnesses and pain-related conditions however the college also offers cosmetic acupuncture treatments. Interestingly, while acupuncture is the primary treatment method here, Chinese herbs are replaced with Ayurvedic herbs. Herbal medicines may be prescribed but prescriptions are filled by independent herbal dispensaries. The college accepts students from overseas to do study programs and train in their clinics. It’s always interesting to see how other acupuncture colleges operate and meet my international colleagues. (Here’s a college I visited in Japan).

I’m really grateful to Dr Amila, the staff and students for taking the time to introduce me to their college. I’d love to visit again. It is obvious that this college and its clinic helps a lot of people through acupuncture treatment.

Here are some photos from my visit to the college:

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

How do you make tea?

05/06/2017

Sri Lanka Tea Pedro BOPHow do you make tea? Well not how do YOU make tea, but how is tea actually made?

Firstly I have an image warning! You are in for some damn fine images of tea porn here – hot, steamy, bushy and breathtakingly gorgeous. 😉

I love tea in pretty much in all its forms (well maybe except for the black tea bag variety with cow’s milk poured in – but that’s mainly because I don’t tolerate dairy and didn’t ever develop a liking for it).  In fact it’s probably the beverage we love most in Chinese Medicine. I’ve been to China and learnt a lot about the various forms of green teas, I’ve even done a tea appreciate course but I’d never seen how this delicious, medicinal and incredibly popular drink was actually made to give us those medicinal qualities (from bush to cup that is). Just so you know whatever research says I don’t believe a microwave forms part of the tea making process. So I trotted off to Sri Lanka, where some would say is the source of the best black tea in the world (Ceylon tea anyone?), to find out. I visited no less than four tea plantations and their factories to try to get an understanding of how the cammelia sinensis leaf is transformed to make a delightful cup of tea. (For those not in the know, all true tea comes from the leaves of just one plant – cammelia sinensis – be it black, green or white. (Herbal and rooibos teas are made from different plants altogether.)

So here is a photographic journey of the tea making process from the Handunugoda Tea Estate, at Ahangama in the south, where they produce their tea with beautiful, old machinery. They are also famous for their virgin white tea and a range of flavoured teas.

Sri Lanka Tea factory 1 picking

Tea leaf picking

Sri Lanka Tea factory 1 drying

The moisture is dried from the fresh leaves – smells good

Rolling the leaves in the heavy rolling machine.

The rolled leaves further ferment and then are heated as part of the firing process (the leaves turn black at this stage).

Ungraded leaves are put through the grading machine. Four grades are produced – from small pieces to large pieces. Small pieces are used for tea bags and large for the loose leaf tea. The small pieces produce a stronger black tea and the larger pieces a lighter black tea. The size does not indicate quality. This tea making process is followed to maximise the medicinal benefits and flavour of the tea.

The finished product – black tea ready to be sold at the Colombo tea markets to the big brand names.

I mentioned earlier that I visited four tea factories. Handunugoda Tea Estate was the first. Later, I visited the towns of Ella and Nuwara Eliya which are in the high country. The area is famous for tea and the scenic railway that shows off the tea plantations.

Enjoy these images from the  Newburgh Estate Green Tea Factory (Finlays) (Ella), Uva Halpewatte Tea Factory (Ella) and Pedro Tea Estate (they pride themselves as an ethical tea producer) (Nuwara Eliya) and the railway trip between.

Newburgh Green Tea Factory (Ella) – the process is similar without the ‘firing’ part of the process that black tea goes through. This factory was small and cute; it smelled fantastic!

Halpe Tea Factory (Ella) – these images do not do this factory justice. It is the largest tea factory (or so I was told) and has sweeping views of the local tea plantations. They have a lovely variety of flavoured teas also.

Pedro Tea Estate (Nuwara Eliya) – This factory produced my favourite cup of broken orange pekoe of the trip (the gorgeous orange cuppa pictured above as the very first image of this blog). The factory tour was interesting and the plantation is incredibly beautiful.

And here is one of the most beautiful railway journeys you might take (from Ella to Nuwara Eliya and just beyond) and those magical leaves:

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

Learning about Ayurveda in the healing heart of Sri Lanka

02/06/2017

sri-lanka-dg-spices.jpgLate last year I visited Sri Lanka to learn about an ancient healing system with some similarities to Chinese Medicine – ‘Ayurveda’. Interestingly, Sri Lanka is home to what is believed to be the world’s oldest hospital (3rd Century BCE), so it seemed like a pretty good place to discover an ancient medicine system.

‘Ayuervda’ is roughly translated as the science of life. It is the predominant traditional healing system of the Indian subcontinent. Sri Lankan Ayurvedic medicine differs somewhat from Indian Ayurveda particularly in relation to herbal medicine which takes on a local variation. Ayurveda, like Chinese Medicine, involves supporting the body to attain balance. There are also Five Elements that are fundamental to this system however they are not exactly the same as those in Chinese Medicine. According to Ayurveda, there are three basic diagnostic types (dosha) based on their Five Elements: pitta, kapha and vata. Find out your dosha by doing this quiz.

My trip took me to the Dalmanuta Gardens Ayurveda Resort and Restaurant, a peaceful oasis on the Bentota River. Most people attend Dalmanuta Gardens to learn about Ayurvedic principles to improve their health and/or to correct imbalances in the body; some patients are long term guests with serious health concerns. Patients are treated through a regime of yoga, specific dietary considerations (food cooked to balance out your ‘type’) and a range of herbal and bodywork treatments. Each patient has their treatment plan guided by an Ayurvedic doctor; in my case, Dr Vimukthi. Body palpation and pulse diagnosis form a major part of forming a diagnosis, in addition to questioning. I cannot speak more highly of my two Ayuredic therapists who carried out the prescribed treatments: Gayan Sameera Samaranayaka and Jeewani Champika. Sameera was a master of deep tissue massage and Jeewani gave the most soothing shirodhara treatment. Both were extremely professional and happy to teach me about their medicine.

Each day at Dalmanuta Gardens goes something like this:

  • Morning yoga
  • Breakfast (cooked for your type) served in a little hut on the Bentota River. It included a green herbal soup which looked ‘interesting’ but was actually quite tasty.
  • Treatment time: for me this lasted two and a half hours and involved a range of massage including deep tissue, herbal compresses, herbal facial steam and shirodhara (that wonderfully calming technique of having warm oil poured over your forehead. It involves the acupuncture point, Yintang, in Chinese Medicine known for it’s calming function.)
  • Lunch (cooked for your type, again served in the river hut while you are still in your treatment robe soaking in the good oils and herbs. Sri Lanka DG curries
  • Relaxation after lunch (it’s a nice opportunity to explore the magnificent ayurvedic herbal garden or sit in the meditation garden.
  • Dinner – here you have the opportunity to join the chef to learn how he cooks the foods that have been prescribed for your dinner. I had a one-on-one session and learnt to make several Sri Lankan curries from scratch (including with milk straight out of the coconut) and coconut sambool. The fresh ingredients are mostly grown organically on the property. Once again dinner is served in the river hut where you can hear the aquatic life swimming below, nocturnal animals moving around on the opposite river bank and prayers from the nearby mosque. Sri Lanka DG cooking class
  • Bedtime. I probably don’t need to point out that I slept very, very well here.

I left Dalmanuta Gardens far the wiser (although certainly no expert) about Ayurvedic medicine, treatments and dietary medicine as well as having glowing skin and a hard, old, hip injury that was feeling a lot more supple.

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

Discovering the traditional medicine of Sri Lanka

20/02/2017
rooster-year-of-qing

Year of the Rooster: this cocky fellow is a Chinese incense burner crafted in the Qing Dynasty.

Hello! Happy new year! And happy Chinese new year too! May the Rooster be good to you all.

It seems like it has been such a long time since I have written a blog. The good news is that I’m excited to get back into it and share so many interesting regarding acupuncture, Chinese medicine, traditional medicines, good food (and recipes) and all things wellness related.

Some of my patients will know that in December I closed the clinic for a month and headed to Sri Lanka for a study tour of traditional medicine, yoga and learning about that fabulous medicinal drink, tea.

I’m going to walk you through what I’ve learnt about traditional Sri Lankan medicines and what one might have to gain by visiting an ayurvedic retreat. We’ll visit herb gardens and farms, discover some delicious traditional Sri Lankan recipes, several different types of tea plantations and factories (so that we can understand the process of making tea and how that process changes the flavour and qualities of the tea), visit some stunning natural scenery to remind us of the power of green spaces and finally visit an acupuncture college where students treat patients in desperate need of good care.

I’m looking forward to sharing this with you all over the next few weeks and months. But until then you can find me at my Broadbeach clinic every Friday.

Also if there is a topic you think I should write about this year feel free to leave it in the comments.

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

 

My clinic turned 1 this week!

14/07/2016

Yin yang cupcake iced solo webCan you believe it? My little Broadbeach clinic, Sarah George Acupuncture & Natural Health, has celebrated her first birthday this week.

A birthday is not complete without cake – so here’s one of my recipes: Yin Yang cupcakes (gluten free)

It’s been a lovely year in the clinic, growing from helping just a few patients to now seeing a lovely group of people in need of holistic acupuncture and natural health care treatment for a range of women’s health, pregnancy and fertility conditions, chronic pain and illness and neurological disorders. Thank you to my patients and anyone who has referred someone to me.

After working in busy, multi-room clinics for most of my career it’s nice to slow things down and provide other Chinese Medicine therapies as needed, like tuina (Chinese massage), gua sha (scraping – not as scary as it sounds), moxa and cupping (there are so many different ways of having cupping done).

Next week I’ll be announcing an exciting new therapy in the clinic – stay tuned!

So thank you for being a part of my clinic’s first year whether you’ve been a patient or just followed along on this blog, facebook, twitter or instagram with the idea of one day coming in for a treatment.

Here’s to another great year! See you in the clinic. Call 07 5526 8632 to make an appointment.

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

Banana coconut fritters – pikelet style

07/06/2016

I’ve recently signed up to get an organic vegetable box delivered each week from the fabulous Farmer Foster. Together with a bounty of great vegetables is an array of beautiful fruit.

vegetable box farmer foster

One such fruit I have in abundance is bananas. I’m a sucker for a banana fritter so I decided to experiment with a dairy and gluten free version with no added sugar; let’s face it, bananas are just about sweet enough anyway!

According to Chinese dietetic theory bananas are considered to be sweet in flavour and cold in thermal nature. They have an affinity with the Stomach and Large Intestine so together with their flavour and thermal nature they moisten the fluids (Yin) of these digestive organs. Bananas are traditionally used for dry throats and constipation. Autumn and winter bring dryness so a lot of us need some extra Yin nourishing at this time. Frying the fritters and adding a touch of cinnamon helps to warm up the bananas a little too.

banana coconut fritter served

Banana coconut fritter recipe

Ingredients

  • 300g bananas, mashed
  • 3 tbsp brown rice flour
  • 2 tbsp desiccated coconut
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder (gluten free)
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • pinch of stevia to taste
  • cinnamon to taste
  • coconut oil for frying

Method

  1. Mix all dry ingredients together.
  2. Add mashed banana and mix until combined.
  3. In a frying pain, heat coconut oil to medium heat and shallow fry heaped dessertspoons of banana mixture until golden on each side.
  4. When cooked, remove fritters from pan and place on a plate covered with a sheet of paper towel.
  5. Serve warm, sprinkled with toasted coconut and if desired a scoop of coconut milk icecream.

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

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