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AYURVEDA: A Fall Guide to Achieving Optimal Health

By: Lisa Lopes, Ayurvedic Consultant

Fall is in full swing and the cooler weather is upon us. We will soon start to feel the effects of the colder air on our bodies. As with all living things, we are closely intertwined with nature. According to Ayurveda, an ancient holistic medical practice, all living things are made up of 5 elements: Ether, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. Each of these elements is associated with different qualities or attributes. Our bodies are made up of these elements to varying degrees, but we are also externally influenced by these elements depending upon the time of day, our time of life (age), and the time of year, or season. Fall is considered VATA season, which is influenced by the ether (space) and air elements.

The ether and air elements promote dry, light, cold, rough, subtle, mobile, clear, and astringent qualities in individuals. These qualities influence our bodies, minds, and emotions. Some people may experience the following imbalances due to the influence of the ether and air elements that predominate in the fall season:

  • Dry skin (flakey skin), dry hair (dandruff, itchy scalp, split ends etc.), dry nails (ridges, brittle, cracked, bend or break easily).
  • Slow digestion
  • Bloating/gas
  • Constipation
  • Anxiety, stress, withdrawn, easily distracted, fear, worry, feelings of inadequacy
  • Sleep problems
  • Low energy
  • Minute muscle twitching, fine tremors

The best way to combat these imbalances is to take in opposite attributes such as moist, heavy, hot/warm, smooth, oily, dense, and liquid qualities. In other words, to treat the drying effects of the air element, we want to take in opposite qualities to stay balanced. Remedies include:


  • Switch from raw foods (like salads) to warm, cooked foods (like soups and stews). Focus on warm, moist, nutritious foods.
  • Consume seasonal produce like root vegetables and leafy greens.
  • Avoid light, cool foods and all raw foods. Avoid dry foods like crackers, dry cereal, dried fruit, beans and chick peas. Avoid cruciferous veggies (cabbage, Brussel sprouts etc.) if you have excess gas or bloating.
  • Drink fresh ginger tea or 3-seed tea (cumin, coriander, fennel seed) to combat constipation.
  • Drink warm milk with a pinch of nutmeg (and/or saffron) before bed to help induce sleep.


  • Follow a daily routine as closely as possible.
  • Daily oil massage. You may use coconut or sesame oil. Massage into skin and leave on for 15-20 minutes then rinse off in shower. Pat dry.
  • Oil head and feet to reduce anxiety and improve sleep.


  • Meditate, or sit in quiet awareness for at least 10 minutes each day.
  • Eat 3 meals a day. Try to make lunch your biggest meal of the day. Do not snack between meals.
  • Cut down on screen time, especially an hour before bed.


  • Do gentle exercises, like pilates, swimming, walking, yoga etc. as regularly as possible.
  • Stretching and yoga twists can help improve digestion.
  • Do joint warm-ups daily.

If you would like to find out more about the beautiful science of Ayurveda and how to treat your particular imbalances, please consider making an appointment for an Ayurveda Consultation with Lisa. She can determine your individual constitution (psycho-physiological makeup) and help treat any imbalances you may have. All treatments/remedies are 100% natural. Happy fall!


Essential Oils Blends to Support the Lungs

Essential Oils have been used for centuries to support the immune system and to treat a variety of health related conditions.  Documented use goes back to the bible, and there are practitioners who only use the biblical oils in their practices.

There are a number of individual oils and blends that are wonderful for the lungs.  Some are able to loosen phlegm and open the airways when we have colds with congestion, bronchitis, and even pneumonia (though we don’t mean to suggest that you would forgo medical treatment with pneumonia!).  There are a number of ways that oils can be used in these situations, and I will discuss 2.

The first is called Cupping, where you put 2-3 drops of the oil or blend into the palm of the hand, rub your hands together and hold them over the mouth and nose in a cupped fashion while breathing deeply in and out for 1-2 minutes.  This can actually cause some coughing which is a good sign as it means it is opening up the bronchioles and allowing for the phlegm to be moved out.

The second is Steaming.  First you will bring a small pot of water to a boil, remove it from the heat and add 3-5 drops of either peppermint or eucalyptus essential oil (please be sure they are therapeutic grade and not perfume grade).  Place a kitchen towel over your head and breathe in the steam for a few minutes.  This is a preferable method when there is a lot of sinus congestion as the steam helps to break it up and the oils allow for drainage.

These are just a couple of ways to help yourself in the thick of a cold or flu, and there are many others.  Essential oils can be a terrific way to support kids as well.  There is nothing bad to taste, you can use a diffuser in their rooms or put some oils into a hot tub while they soak to help break up congestion and allow for drainage.  When done before bed this will help them to get a better night sleep, which is very important for recovery from any illness!

It is also important to mention that essential oils do not provide relief on their own. However, when coupled with a healthy lifestyle, including changes to your diet — which involve nixing processed foods, and sticking to a whole foods diet with a focus on anti-inflammatory foods — getting regular exercise appropriate for your condition, and getting plenty of sleep, they may just help a lot.

Cup Your Coughs Away: Feel Good, Breathe Easy.

Cup Your Coughs Away: Feel Good, Breathe Easy.

By Rachel Gorman, LAc



With Michael Phelps and many other athletes proudly sporting cupping marks at this summer’s Olympic Games, cupping is more popular than ever. We have more and more patients asking about cupping for this or that injury or to improve athletic performance. Which is great! We love cupping. It feels great, it’s fantastic for musculoskeletal issues, and it’s fun (for us and for you!). But, most of our patients, as well as the general public, are completely unaware of cupping’s most traditional use—respiratory health.

That’s right, cupping’s most traditional use is promoting respiratory health, fending off colds and upper respiratory infections, and treating chronic lung issues like asthma and chronic bronchitis. Here’s how cupping works: we place special small glass cups on your upper back, and use a hand-held air pump to pull air out of the cups. This creates a suction effect, and the skin, muscle, fascia, etc. lying below the cup is lifted up. I tell people it’s like an inverse massage; instead of pressing deep into your muscles, we are lifting them up, allowing a fresh supply of new blood and lymph to flow into the area. This is why it’s so awesome at treating musculoskeletal issues, too.

Sometimes we leave the cups in one particular place, usually over a specific acu-point, and sometimes we apply a salve before placing the cups down which allows us to slide the cups up and down your back. Sliding cupping on the upper back is especially good for treating lung issues…and it feels amazing. (Side note: you may have heard of this if you have an Eastern European grandmother; I have several friends of Eastern European descent, and they all had the same reaction when I explained cupping to them: “Ohhhh, that’s what she was doing with the cups and the fire”. Side note to the side note: We don’t use fire cups at R&B, so don’t worry).

From a TCM perspective, cupping “releases the exterior” (basically meaning alerts the immune system to kick out “evil invaders” like viruses and bacteria) and is indicated at the first sign of colds/flus with a feeling of heat or congestion in the lungs, difficulty or obstructed breathing, sore throat, lost voice, and coughing (especially phlegmy coughing). Cupping also loosens the phlegm, allowing it to be expelled and helping your lungs recover faster. So whether you have an acute upper respiratory sickness, or a more chronic case of asthma/bronchitis, or even phenmonia, consider adding cupping therapy to your regimen. Michael Phelps says so.

*A note on cup marks:  While they look like bruises, they are not painful and usually fade within a few days to a week, depending upon the severity of the condition.  We can control to some extent the “bruising” with the amount of suction and the length of time they are applied.  Generally, the darker the color, the more tightness and stagnation there is in the area.  Over time, there is less and less marking that arises from the cups which is an indication of healing.

Tips for Staying Healthy In The Fall!

by Rachel Gorman, Lic.Ac.

Traditionally the time to start boosting the immune system is ~3 months before winter (i.e. BEFORE you get sick!), so right now in early fall is a great time to start prepping your body.

In Chinese medicine, each season is associated with 1 of the 5 elements, as well as with a yin/yang pair of the 12 organ systems. The element for Fall is Metal, associated with order, organization, setting limits and protecting boundaries, both emotionally and physiologically. The organ system pairing assigned to fall is the (yin) LUNG and (yang) LARGE INTESTINE. It is common for people to have imbalances in these particular areas during this season.- think colds, sinus congestion, coughs, flus, allergies, asthma, etc.

The Lung encompasses the entire upper respiratory tract including the nose and sinuses, as well as the general immune system as we understand it today. Interestingly, more and more modern research is pointing to the health of our guts as paramount to a healthy immune system- it’s often estimated that “70% of the immune system is in the gut”. Chinese medicine realized the importance of this connection thousands of years ago, well before the concept of germs and immunity came around. This means it’s equally important to have a healthy Lung and Large Intestine this time of year.

So, how do we maximize our immunity in the fall?

  • Transition from Warm Weather to Cold Weather Diet
    • Eat Less or Avoid: raw foods and cold salads, tropical/summer fruits (pineapple, watermelon, mango, strawberry), iced/cold drinks and smoothies, cold breakfasts (i.e. cereal, fruit/smoothie etc.)
    • Eat More/Add: lightly cooked/steamed veggies, root vegetables (sweet potato, squashes, carrots, parsnips), cooked whole grains, fall fruits (apples, pears, plums and grapes, bonus points for cooked apples/pears), warm breakfasts (oatmeal, eggs, etc.), soups, stews, chilis, bone broths, warm teas, garlic, ginger, onion, walnuts and almonds, fermented foods (pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi), cinnamon,
    • Additionally, avoid generally inflammatory foods (sugar, dairy, wheat) as the inflammatory response weakens the immune system
  • Protect your Neck (& Feet!): You will never see an acupuncturist without a scarf once fall rolls around. In TCM theory the back of the neck is the most vulnerable area on the body and where pathogens attack first, so it is important to keep your neck covered, especially in windy and/or cold weather. It’s important to dress appropriately and warmly—no flip-flops in November! When you get cold, your muscles tighten up (and you may shiver) in an attempt to warm the body back up. The body reads this as an external stressor, which taxes the immune system. Plus, we know heat escapes the body easily from the head and feet, so put those socks on and stay cozy.
  • Weekly acupuncture treatment, and, if needed, herbal medicine, is recommended throughout allergy/cold & flu season to keep you healthy, strengthen any underlying weaknesses and imbalances, and ward off illness before it can sink in
  • Supplements:  Consider taking a good probiotic, get tested for Vit. D status* (and supplement if necessary), add local honey to your diet. Root & Branch also offers a homeopathic cold & flu prevention kit, antiviral topical cream, as well as a prepackaged Traditional Chinese Herbal immune-boosting formula called Jade Windspring.  (*Vitamin D is actually a hormone.  In order for it to fully express its potential, the best blood range is 50-80.)