TCM or Five Elements?

Three weeks ago, I flew to Baltimore and attended another acupuncture seminar. The training was focused on facial rejuvenation and cosmetic acupuncture. It wasn't my first cosmetic acupuncture seminar so I was more excited about the facial cupping and guasha trainings. We've all seen, learned, or even done it on our patients, but most of us are scared when we hear about facial cupping.

Most of us think about fire cupping, about bruises, and then we get scared to try it on our faces. I was quite impressed with the natural glow that only a couple of minutes of facial cupping can give you.

Besides the facial rejuvenation, I also enjoyed the half-day presentation about Five Elements acupuncture. When the instructor asked about our background and realized that half of us were trained in TCM and half of us were trained in Five Elements, she decided it would be easier for all of us to speak the same language and she explained the basics of Five Elements acupuncture.


I can't say I know enough about Five Elements style so I will not start explaining their theories. What I understood and liked, is that similar to the Japanese style, they look for a root cause and don't just jump into a standard protocol. Even if you look at the patient and you see it looks like SP QI XU, you first do a clearing treatment and then move forward with the actual treatment.

Before addressing any chief complaint, most patients get the Aggressive Energies clearing treatment.

What does Aggressive Energies mean?

"The aggressive energy block is another foundational block in the sense that, if present, it is likely that other treatments will be unsuccessful until it is cleared. This treatment is usually performed after the Internal or External dragons are cleared, if they were present or suspected in the patient.

Symptoms: Aggressive energy is considered when a patient has experienced strong psychological and/or emotional stressors. If suspected, it will be confirmed by the appearance of an erythema or redness around the needle insertions."

We've all had a patient that no matter what we do, they don't get better. This is where I think these clearing sequences would come in very handy.

If you'd like to learn more about Five Elements acupuncture, you can check this link and maybe you'll decide it's worth trying.

Farmers Market Season

2017-05-18_farmersmarket1Summer trimesters always seem to be easier for me. The sun, the warm weather, the beach, and farmers markets are just some of the things helping me stay grounded and not feel so drained.

After spending all my spring break in the clinic, I definitely needed some vitamin D and time to relax.

This past weekend was a busy one with the Healthy Kids Open House at the Lombard Whole Health Center on Saturday, but that didn't stop me from waking up very early on Sunday morning to drive to Chicago, have breakfast on a patio, and then go shopping at the Logan Square Farmers Market.

2017-05-18_farmersmarket2Being raised in Romania, I'm used to having a farmers market near my house. There is nothing special or fancy about a farmers market in Romania. It is just a natural thing and you can always find fresh local produce all around the year. I specially miss springtime when all the green leaves flood the markets: stinging nettle, wild spinach, pigweed, ramps, sorrel, lovage, and green garlic.

You can imagine my joy when last year, at Logan Square Farmers Market, I found fresh stinging nettles, sorrel and lovage. I know it's a cultural thing and each country uses different herbs and plants, but I still dream about the tastes of my childhood. If you are curious to try fresh stinging nettles, you can add them into a green smoothie or you can go for this traditional Romanian recipe.

Why do I love nettles so much?

Nettle is rich in vitamin A, B2, C, K, and trace minerals. Being a diuretic, it transfers uric acid from tissues into the blood and increases uric acid elimination through urine. It helps in cases of gout, kidney stones, rheumatism, and rhinitis. Traditionally, nettle has been used in wounds, varicose ulcers, or hemorrhoids. The tincture is also used for anemia and detoxing the body.


In European countries, every spring, people try to incorporate nettles in their diet as much as possible to help the body detox after a heavier diet during winter.

If you don't have the chance to try fresh nettles, just go for the tea that you can find in any health food store. I like the one from Traditional Medicinals but you can do your own research and choose the one you like.

Have a great summer and good luck with all the exams coming up soon!

Another Ending

Another tri is ending and all of us are looking forward to taking a break from classes and just having some fun. 

My break will be full with clinic shifts to make-up for the time I was in Japan, but as long as I don't have exams, I still feel it's a break.  

IulianaI am back on working on my business plan and I finally decided on my business name and also purchased the domain. It might be the spring in the air, but this tri is definitely feeling like a beginning and not an ending. Even with all the traveling, I don't feel so tired like other times, my house is not the usual mess, and I'm actually looking forward to another tri. Summer tri will be full with biomed classes and that means starting in the fall I'll be able to take my first board exam!

If you are in need of some care, come and see me in the clinic between April 24 and May 3. I'll be there every day either morning or afternoon, depending on what shift is open.

Right after finishing my clinic shifts I'll be flying to Baltimore to attend another acupuncture training and I'll be back in Chicago on May 9. I'm starting the tri missing a clinic shift but I won't give up on getting all the knowledge that I can.

My schedule is going to be busier in the summer with 9 classes, 3 clinic shifts, some other trainings I'm trying to fit in, and work, but that's OK - only one year and four months till graduation. 

I hope you'll all have a wonderful spring, enjoy the weather, smell the flowers, listen to the birds in the morning, have some good food and maybe some drinks, and I'll see you soon!


What makes you a better practitioner?

Most of us are always looking for ways to improve ourselves, to become more confident, to have more knowledge, but what is really the answer or the solution that will make us a better practitioner? Is it like a magic pill or something happening over night?

I've never been one of the people that think getting only A's is enough, or that my knowledge depends on my grades. Grades are so subjective and each instructor is different. In fact, we're all different. There's no two brains wired the same way. Some of us are visual learners, some of us love the practical portion, and each of us has a different experience and learning curve.

If grades are not going to make you the best, what else is there? Dissecting bodies in the anatomy lab? I know, I'm a bit sarcastic now and I'm sure Dr. Kwon would argue with me and explain again how all that dissecting will help us stick a needle in a much better way…

I believe that it's all about listening to your calling. If you really have a calling and passion for Oriental Medicine and Acupuncture you'll be a good practitioner no matter your grades, boards, etc. We've all been to the clinic as patients and we all have a favorite intern. Why is he/she a favorite? Because he/she makes you feel comfortable, safe, doesn't treat you like a file number, and you've seen results.

Does practice helps? I think practice is so much more important than all the theoretical knowledge. It doesn't really matter how much you've been reading about, let's say, a hidden pulse until you have the chance to feel it on a real person. It doesn't matter how much you practiced in CNT class. It's still not enough. 

In the old times, acupuncturists were blind people and their hands and touch were so important. Even later on, in Asia, students were supposed to practice needling on different types of surfaces so they could be able to feel the differences between tissues. 

While in Japan, I loved that they recorded us needling before the training started and after, so we could see with our own eyes the difference. Let me tell, you there was such a big difference! Everybody improved, but I loved seeing the calmness and the way each of us was really in touch with the patient and not the needle. We also needled our instructors so they could feel and tell us what we should focus on more and what needed to be improved.

I'm still watching all those videos with me practicing and I'm still practicing whenever I have the time. Will it make me a better practitioner? Only needling will not have a big impact. I still have to practice palpation, taking the pulse. I still have to know my meridians and to learn the herbs.

I take it as a daily practice. The way you go to the gym, yoga or meditate, that's the way you should practice. I strongly believe that practice will take me to the point where working on a patient will bring the same peace and calm that meditation brings.

What do you think?


10 Days in Japan

I just came back from my Japan trip and while still a bit tired, I'm very happy and grateful that I had the opportunity to go and study there.


The program was 6 intensive days with each day focused on a different subject. I loved the fact that each instructor had a different approach for needling and diagnosing, which allowed us as students to practice all styles and see which one resonates more with us.

Their diagnoses seemed easier for me because they mostly look at the patient, and palpation has the biggest role indeciding the treatment. I'm also thinking that the two Japanese acupuncture seminars I took in January and February helped a lot. I didn't feel overwhelmed with information and I already knew the basics, which allowed me to deepen my knowledge. 

A couple of things that stayed with me and might interest you:

  • most of the practitioners don't look at the tongue (just one of the five instructors checked the tongue);
  • they love moxibustion and use it a lot;
  • they underline that it's not about the needles, but about your energy and intention as a practitioner, and you should be able to obtain the same results even without needling;
  • they seem to be more inventive and always look for an answer, and when a treatment doesn't bring the expected results, they look for something else and usually end up inventing a different approach; and
  • as I saw in my other seminars - always tonify first, and then sedate.


They are disciplined and work on themselves as practitioners on all levels: mental, emotional, and physical. They have a sort of compassion and respect that I never saw in any other country, and I really think that their acupuncture style is born from all that.

Even if the program was intensive, each afternoon we tried to go out and wander around the city, trying to see as much as we could. Kyoto is the old capital and you can always find a temple or a shrine just about anywhere. The whole city is spotless; no cigarettes on the street, but everybody smokes. Residential areas go dark and empty after 6 pm, but downtown is packed with young people even at midnight.

From all the temples and shrines I saw, I loved the most Sanjusangendo Temple. Unfortunately, they don't allow pictures inside the temple but if you would like to see some you can check this link:


Would I recommend the program? 

I loved the program, but it all depends on what you plan to do in your practice. If you are satisfied with just looking at the tongue, taking the pulse and coming up with a standard TCM diagnosis and treatment, maybe this program is not for you. If you want to go beyond tongue colors and look more carefully into the patient, try Japanese acupuncture, and I guarantee you won't regret it.

I'll let you enjoy some pictures and if you have any questions about the program or Japanese acupuncture, email me at and I'll be happy to answer them.