What is “Dampness” in the Body?

The term “Dampness” is used in Chinese medicine and can be the underlying cause of many conditions such as achy joints and limbs, headaches, many digestive issues, sluggishness and depression, and skin conditions such as acne. The Chinese believe that both the external environment and your body‘s internal environment can combine to cause too much “dampness.” If you are experiencing all the rain that the Midwest has been getting, you may feel the dampness in your body when you wake up. You are slower to move, your hands and other areas are achy and you may have foggy thinking.


What to do? Here are some suggestions.


Diet. Avoid iced food and beverages, and also heavy, greasy food, especially during damp weather or if you live in a damp climate. (Hint: You can tell that the food is Damp by its texture; soft and sticky for instance cheese, bananas, pastries, fried food after it cools.) Foods to improve the condition include cooked :  asparagus, barley, red beans, oat, brown rice, roasted meats, carrot and green tea. Eat more onions, ginger, garlic and other aromatic spices to promote the movement of digestive Qi.


Sauna. Visit a low heat sauna to gently promote a light sweat. High temperature saunas, which encourage heavy sweating, can be damaging to the body’s yin. Use caution.


Chinese Medicine and Cupping. Chinese Medicine to clear dampness; Cupping therapy can be used to: remove cold and dampness, open the meridians, eliminate stasis, help promote qi and blood circulation, reduce swelling and pain, promote detoxification, bring balance to yin and yang, relieve fatigue, and enhance the body’s function.


Acupuncture. Acupuncture can help us eliminate the dampness in the body by helping promote circulation as well as supporting the body’s digestion center (spleen and stomach in Chinese medicine). The heat from moxibustion can also help to dry dampness.


Lifestyle. Many people who suffer from heavy dampness in the body lack exercise. Some may feel heavy and weak most of the time with low energy and find it difficult to exercise and move the body. Exercising moderately will help.


Enjoy the weather while supporting your body. And if you’re going to puddle jump, don’t wear wet clothing or keep hair wet for very long. 🙂 I’m confident these suggestions from Chinese Medicine on managing Dampness will improve you and your families health.


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Allergy Recommendations from TOTEM



It’s that time of year again and many are noticing more seasonal symptoms each year as they age. Here I am going to discuss strategies for dealing with symptoms. First of all, I want to address the term ‘allergies.’ When we use the word, ‘allergies’ it is assumed we either have allergies or we don’t have allergies, which is misleading. I take issue with using the word “allergies,” a noun or a thing, when what we are really talking about is a histamine reaction, a verb over which we have control. When we gain control of the histamine response, the symptoms are reduced or eliminated.

When I treat someone’s seasonal allergy symptoms I’m doing three things. I’m regulating the histamine response, strengthening the whole system (the way we would say this in Chinese medicine is strengthening Chi and blood) and since everyone is different, managing and treating your specific symptoms.


I wanted to give some suggestions of Chinese herbs, nutritional supplements, and homeopathic remedies, as well as suggestions of treatment plans for your acupuncture visits.

I’m going to divide these recommendations into three categories. One  is preventative and this is ideally how we can treat allergies before they even start. But this is not always possible, so I will give you another recommendation.  Number two is for symptom management. And number three, deep immune system repair, is for people who have had lifelong issues with allergies, year long allergies, or known conditions of respiratory dysfunction such as asthma or a more severe diagnosis.


  1. Preventative – Sometimes it’s hard to predict when allergy season starts since it is weather-based. Ideally, for mild allergies I would recommend coming in 2 weeks prior to the seasonal start for weekly acupuncture, moderate allergies 3 weeks, and severe allergies 4 weeks before allergy season
  • Nettle tea- this is a very effective way to treat mild allergies, however I realize not everyone likes to drink tea. If that is the case this may not be the right solution for you.The recipe is as follows: 3 cups of cut and sifted nettles, Starwest is a good brand, placed in 6-8 quarts of water. Bring to a boil and let it steep for 2 to 4 hours. Strain and refrigerate. Drink 2 to 4 cups a day.
  • Acupressure on Ren 17, Lung 1 and Lung 9 (20 seconds of moderate pressure on each point twice a day.)


2) Symptom management

  • ‘Sabadil’ homeopathic dissolving tablets by Boiron.These are great convenient tablets for allergies especially helpful for children who don’t swallow pills. You are not healing your allergy reaction to hear that you are treating the symptoms effectively. You must take as directed and not just when you feel like it for it to work.
  • Acupuncture weekly or biweekly depending on how debilitating the symptoms are. I am confident that acupuncture alone can reduce the intensity and frequency and many times eliminate your symptoms all together. However, if you were a person who has relied on antihistamines and decongestants in the past, taking herbal supplements in addition to acupuncture might be wise.
  • Bi yan pian nasal clearing pills herbs plus weekly acupuncture. This is a great way to reign in an allergic reaction to seasonal pollen or mold. I keep this herbal supplement on hand in the office  especially during ‘allergy’ season.


3) Deep immune system repair

Addressing the inflammation is at the root of treating immune system disorders.There are many natural substances that are potent anti-inflammatories. I carry a product by health concerns called,

  • ‘Cucurma’ for inflammation cucurmin is the scientific name for the spice Tumeric. But just sprinkling Turmeric on your food is not helpful enough to shift inflammatory patterns. So, this is a therapeutic dose: 500-100 MG.
  • Weekly acupuncture and Chinese massage cupping on the back.The acupuncture will strengthen your immune system and improve the function of your respiratory system.
  • If you feel you were headed for a sinus infection or already have one  I recommend 400 mg capsules of oregano oil twice a day I like the Gaia brand plus 2000 mg of ester c in powder form split into two doses.This is also where a Netti pot can be effective. You’re wanting to rinse the affected material out of the sinus cavity. I’m actually not a huge fan of using the Netti pot every day unless you have a sinus infection as it can irritate the inside of the nasal passages. Always use saline solution and not just water. I’ve seen people be able to do this protocol and avoid antibiotics.
  • Nebulized Glutathione used as a breathing treatment three times a week.
  • Investigating other causes of inflammation in the body. Many people find making dietary changes by eliminating inflammatory foods can be extremely healthy.Think whole 30. This type of diet can clear up many root causes of common conditions such as an overactive histamine response causing allergy symptoms

I hope this is helpful to you and your family and friends. I finally decided to put this information all in one place since I am repeating this list several times a day in my office during allergy season! Best of luck and let me know if you have any additional questions. As always, thank you for continuing to support me and my practice and allowing me to do what it is that I love to do.

               Stephanie McGuirk, owner of TOTEM Acupuncture Health and Healing

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Somatic Acupuncture

THE BODY TELLS A STORY Somatic Acupuncture

Most people that come to see me that I’ve had acupuncture in the past say that they’ve never experienced anything like my treatments. I am fully trained as a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner but the training and experience I had prior to doing graduate school is what makes my work different. What I do is called Somatic acupuncture. In order to explain what it is I must go into the question, ‘What is the history of mind-body medicine?’ There is an ancient history of mind body medicine that comes from ancient indigenous cultures worldwide. The most familiar examples, are traditional practices such as Indian yoga, and Chinese medicine. However, every ancient culture on earth has a valid healing tradition. This is a huge topic and members of these diverse and varied cultures would be the best historians of their own rich traditions .
I’d like to focus on the  history of mind-body medicine in the US which is part of my 25 year education as a holistic practitioner. With the explosion of interest in all things holistic and alternative medicine being integrated into more Western medical trainings, I believe it’s important to acknowledge the true roots of mind-body medicine in this country.

When I was 20, I enrolled in a massage school in a Northern California founded by a graduate of the Esalen Institute, also in N. California. The school was located next to an herbal college founded by Rosemary Gladstar, a renowned American herbalist. I was lucky enough to be exposed to older and wiser practitioners. They gave me a glimpse into the century old unique American tradition of holistic health .The style of massage that I learned is best described as somatic. This early exposure continues to inform the work that I do as an acupuncturist and as an intuitive advisor.

What is somatics? Soma is the Greek word for body. For more than 100 years, a number of independent groups from around the world have been exploring the integrity of movement, anatomical dimensions, intelligence, and spiritual consciousness of the body. ( continued in next post)

Part 2 Somatic Acupuncture/These schools of thought, developed roughly around the First World War, have a wide scope of therapeutic applications. Based on a mainly nonverbal system communicated by touch many of these techniques are sometimes confused with psychotherapeutic approaches such as hypnosis and guided imagery. The difference with Somatic’s, is the body, not the mind is acknowledged as the guide. However, as with psychotherapy, in Somatic’s, the client and the practitioner are always learning side-by-side. How? By gleaning information from the clients’ body’s reaction and sensations.

Because of the silent world of nonverbal practices, few writings were done during the early history of this field. Unfortunately, many of the pioneer practitioners were European and were scattered around the globe as refugees due to both world wars.
In 1960, the Esalen Institute was founded as a healing and educational center in Northern California. Esalen attracted many of the old Somatics teachers and students who revived their practices and studies.


“Find your true weakness and surrender to it. Therein lies the path to genius. Most people spend their lives using their strengths to overcome or cover up their weaknesses. Those of you who use your strengths and incorporate your weaknesses, who don’t divide themselves, those people are very rare. And in any generation there are a few and they lead their generation.- Moshe Feldenkrais”

Moshe Feldenkrais, a Israeli physicist developed trainings called “awareness through movement” at Esalen which are still used worldwide. His interest was applying the principles of physics to physical disabilities and body restrictions, enabling clients to move more easily. I’m just using Feldenkrais as an example, although there are several other schools of thought in the field of Somatic’s, as well as, many wonderful practitioners. His work expressed, “the embodied psyche.” This is one way to describe movement with mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a term that is quite common in 2018. However, it’s taken 35 years for the term “Mindfulness” to become secular. In the US, we attribute the term to Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn Who is doing work on the other coast at the University of Massachusetts.. However, it’s roots reach 2500 years into the past. There is some traditional form of prayer or meditation in all of the world’s major religions.

Mind-body healing techniques and mindfulness practices will continue to become more integrated into our lives. Let’s continue to pay respect to those great minds, brave explorers  and outspoken individuals that laid the groundwork for the practitioners, clients and patients that reep the benefits in our mind, body and spirits.

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Traditional Chinese Diagnostics



Pulse diagnosis is one of the original set of four diagnostic methods that are described as an essential part of traditional Chinese medical practice (1). The four diagnostic methods are:pulse reading, inspection, listening, and inquiry.

Pulse Qualities
These are some example of the major pulse qualities. In Chinese medicine, each type of pulse quality relates to a Chinese diagnosis, as well as particular physical and mental/emotional symptoms:

A fast pulse indicates excessive “heat” in the body. This pulse is often present when there is a fever, an inflammatory condition, or increased stress on the nervous system.
A slow pulse indicates a “cold” condition or could point to a particular body system that functioning in an inefficient or sluggish way. This pulse is often present when there are problems with blood circulation, cold hands and feet, etc.

A strong pulse indicates “excess” of some kind in the body. This pulse is often present with stress, anger, high blood pressure, and headaches.
A weak pulse indicates a “deficiency” of some kind in the body. This pulse is often present with fatigue, weakness, insomnia, low blood pressure, and depression.

A thin or thready pulse indicates “Blood deficiency” or “Fluid deficiency”. This pulse is often fatigue, weakness, insomnia, nutrient deficiencies, and sub-optimal digestive absorption.
One of the most typical wide pulses is called a rolling or slippery pulse. This pulse indicates food stagnation in the intestines, or a build-up of phlegm somewhere in the body. This pulse is often present with a variety of digestive problems and sinus/allergy congestion issues. These and other pulse qualities help us determine what is happening in the body on a macro level. The positions of the pulse show us more specifically where these things are happening.

Pulse Positions
Over the past 2000 years, Chinese physicians have mapped out the which pulse positions correlate to which parts of the body.


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Guidelines for Fertility

Chinese Medicine Guidelines to Increase Fertility

Many women find acupuncture after a long stressful journey struggling with an Infertility diagnosis (and label). By the time you reach an acupuncturist you may be emotionally and financially burnt out. I find that after a few weeks of treatments that stress dissipates and you recover. The process of coming back into balance and connecting to our natural fertility requires the conscious use of the body, mind and spirit .In my experience, on the average, after six months of treatments couples are able to naturally conceive. I’ve outlined a guide to your “homework” while receiving acupuncture to enhance fertility. Journaling-while charting your cycle note emotional triggers, try to name your emotions while also tracking physical symptoms such as breast tenderness or constipation. Journaling is helpful in sorting your feelings about what is happening in your body and can expand the “clinical” mindset of charting exact temperatures and hormone levels. In this journal, also note cravings for alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, sugar, or dairy. Don’t worry about being judged. This info is helpful to your practitioner.

Food Guidelines- The Chinese have a special way of eating for health and specifically fertility. I have listed the “dos and don’ts” below;

  • Cut out iced beverages and foods-this practice done in China helps woman avoid a cold uterus
  • Decrease raw foods, as much as possible, cook vegetables. Eat more soups than salad. This is especially important in winter.
  • Decrease dairy, and soy and cut down on refined sugar, avoid artificial sweeteners completely. If you are doing dairy Whole milk, or whole milk yogurt without artificial sweeteners is ideal. Raw milk is superior if you can get it. Warm milk to a boil then quickly turn down heat and add spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, ginger to decrease the Dampening affect on your body. Dampness is said to block the Qi to the uterus.
  • Eat only hormone free meat and dairy.
  • Drink a minimal amount of alcohol. Talk to your practitioner about what you consider minimal.
  • Eat protein at every meal in one of its many forms. Those who don’t eat red meat are advised to eat a moderate portion of hormone-free red meat three times a week, only if this is not an ethical challenge. Doctors from China think it is unhealthy for our fertility that many women avoid eating red meat even in small amounts .Its ironic that we generally do this for health reasons.
  • Eat Whole grains daily and try to maintain a healthy weight .Too much excess fat in the body tends to hold on to estrogens and may impair fertility.

Exercise-Daily gentle exercise is best. Learn to be gentle on your body and learn what nurturance feels like in your body. Nurturance is the essence of fertility and conception. Heavy weight lifting is thought to be counter- productive to conception in Chinese medicine and must be closely watched. Vigorous exercise should be kept under 7 hours a week. During the menstrual flow running should be avoided. Incorporate Qi Gong, Tai Chi or yoga into your exercise routine. Please consult your practitioner about participating in Bikram or “hot” yoga and Ashtanga or advanced power yoga during certain times of your menstrual cycle.

Meditation- start by carving out at least 30 minutes minimum a week outside of your journaling time of simple meditation. This time may be spent in a bath without reading material or in the location of your choice. Practice using your breath to bring your awareness to your body-mind connection. This time may be used to just relax or to delve deeper into issues surrounding your femininity and fertility. Consult practitioner if you need info on breathing techniques or visualizations.

Relating to your partner- Learning to do some simple acupressure as a couple at home will double the effectiveness of your acupuncture treatments. Your spouse obviously needs to be involved in this process and bringing balance to their system will help the process of increasing fertility .These acupressure treatments require you both to give and receive acupressure massage and will be outlined by your practitioner.

Self-care- In order to keep the Qi flowing and unblock blood flow to the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries abdominal massage should be performed by the patient on the patient every day. This simple relaxing procedure will be outlined by your practitioner.

Supplements- These suggestions should always be run by your doctor before any changes are made in your current medical care.  A whole food supplement of magnesium can be wonderful for easing PMS symptoms. Many natural doctors use wild yam, and a combination of chaste berry and black cohosh especially during the luteal phase. Other Chinese herbal formulas will be discussed using combinations of 5-12 herbs depending on your Chinese diagnosis. Your practitioner will discuss with you your specific organ, meridian, blood, chi, yin, and yang profile and suggest herbal formulas best suited for you. It is common to take different formulas at different times in your cycle. Good luck on your Fertility journey and please contact me if I may be of assistance.                                                                                               Stephanie McGuirk Licensed Acupuncturist ; 913-522-1198



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Breach Presentation During Pregnancy

Evidence shows us that moxibustion in combination with Acupuncture and other postural techniques such as inversion can safely turn a baby in the breach presentation. Consulting an acupuncturist trained in Chinese medicine with experience and a high rate of successful outcomes in these cases is a smart choice.

Doctors refer their pregnant moms to me between 32 and 35 weeks. I prefer to see them sooner rather than later. Only 3 to 4% of pregnancies will be delivered with the breach presentation. Most babies in the breach, position will turn on their own by 36 weeks. However, undue stress on the mother worrying about possibly having to deliver by cesarean section can be upsetting to her and the whole family.

Acupuncture for these moms is wonderful because it relaxes the mother, and helps baby get into to the right position for birth. While she is there I will often treat other symptoms of the last trimester of pregnancy such as back pain, heartburn, and sleep problems.

Let us know at Acupuncture health and healing if you or anyone you know needs help during their pregnancy.

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Springtime Wellness Suggestions

It is springtime in the US, and in most regions of the country that brings lots of wind. The seasonal change is positive because it brings the renewal of spring, which helps propel us into positive action. In Chinese medicine, wind has special significance. There are whole categories of illnesses and disorders that the Chinese referred to as “wind” conditions.

Traditionally, in the Chinese culture at large, it is recognized that environmental factors such as heat, wind, or severe cold can affect the human body and the Meridian systems. As an acupuncturist, I help prepare the body for seasonal changes and strength to cope with these environmental factors. Some practical advice for dealing with wind: wear a scarf over the wind gates which are located on the back of the neck and on the head. Hoodies are great this time of year! Also pay very close attention to your diet, avoiding sugar, sugar substitutes, artificial flavors, MSG, alcohol and marijuana which are all considered wind aggravators. Air travel, bike riding or motorcycle rides, moving and life transitions are all considered wind aggravators as well. Being extra gentle with yourself during these times can be helpful.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, in the Spring, the Liver (gan) and Gallbladder (dan) channels are of primary importance. The color green (a yellow green like new grass and leaves) is said to soothe and nourish the spirit as the liver meridian is said to “open to” the eyes. In other words, Vision is the sense associated with the Liver. The five element association is wood.

In the spring, the direction that the Chi moves in the body, is up and out. This is the direction of the force that moves sap up a tree trunk through the branches into the buds of a spring blooming tree.

As this energy moves in our body, it can sometimes push or release slower moving energy that may have been settling into the system over a more sedentary winter

In Chinese medicine we invite the movement of the body’s natural seasonal detoxification.

I encourage my patients to:

  • Eat more sour foods: lemon, lime, sorrel, plum, etc.
  • Find a healthy outlet for frustration like exercise, manual labor like gardening, crying, letting it out,
  • Stimulate Acupressure Liver 3 point
  • Try dried dandelion root and Nettle tea (dried nettle leaves) to your diet. Nettles are a natural antihistamine and have a high mineral content. Dandelion is also high in minerals and traditionally associated with the liver. As soon as fresh dandelion greens, safely and abundantly harvested from unsprayed areas, and fresh nettle leaves become available consuming those are very helpful as well.
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What are ear seeds?

Ear seeds will be used as part of the protocol for the Holistic Weight loss and Winter Cleanse that is starting January 8 and running for five weeks here at Totem Acupuncture. So, I thought I would explain a bit about them.

They are small black seeds from the vaccaria plant or small metal beads that are secured with a piece of adhesive tape on acupressure points of the ear. The continuous mild pressure they exert is amplified by pressing the bead for a few seconds at least 3 times per day. This treatment is based on a Auriculotherapy which is a microsystem of Acupuncture located on the ear. The acupoints on the ear work a bit differently than those on the body.

What makes the ear acupoints different?

Stimulation of these points can reduce pain by normalizing the pathological reflex pathways that connect them to the somatotopic brain.

How do Acupuncturists use ear seeds?

They are used in two ways. Firstly, in my clinic I use ear seeds as the patient is leaving my office to extend the treatment results. I often use a very famous point called Shenmen for anxiety. The directions that I give and the points I choose are based on the severity and the type of condition we are treating. Another way that ear seeds can be used as as a stand alone treatment. For instance, for children who tend to respond very quickly and easily to a treatment.

What conditions can be improved by ear seeds?

There are many conditions that are treated by auriculotherapy. Those that I commonly treat in my clinic are stress, high blood pressure, nausea, detoxification, pain, sleep, and addictions. My patients love ear seeds and will always remind me to replace theirs at the end of a treatment.

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Now is the time to prepare for Hay Fever/Ragweed season in Kansas City.

In the Midwest, this season lasts 10-12 weeks from August through October. A single ragweed plant releases one billion grains of pollen over the season. This is also known as “burr-weed” because of the tiny burrs which hook themselves into our respiratory tissues. Lovely, eh? Luckily, we have acupuncture endorsed by the NIH for controlling allergic rhinitis and asthma symptoms due to allergies. Just a few treatments, with adjustments made for the strength of your general health and the severity of symptoms, will decrease or eliminate symptoms all together.

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The Brain During Acupuncture

“ I wasn’t asleep, but I wasn’t awake. I always feel better after Acupuncture.”

I hear a version of this many times a day from my patients. So what is happening to your brain during Acupuncture?

Lets start by reviewing the 4 brainwave patterns:

– Delta Waves: associated with deep sleep and the release of human growth hormone

– Theta Waves: associated with REM sleep(dreaming), the production of catecholamines hormones release during stress, and increased creativity.

– Beta Waves: associated with concentration, arousal, mental sharpness and anxiety

– Alpha Waves: related to relaxation, wakefulness, the production of Serotonin.

Today’s brain is highly stimulated and many times stressed. This causes an unhealthy pattern of fluctuation between Beta (high stim.) and Delta (exhausted sleep), sound familiar?

During Acupuncture the brain starts oscillating between Alpha and Theta (relaxation and meditation). The best part is these benefits remain long after the treatment.

Try Acupuncture once a week for 3-4 weeks. You should feel more relaxed and calm during the day AND sleep better at night.

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