Author: Eric Grey

WW Coronavirus Closure – UPDATED 5/19/20


To our Watershed Wellness community,

It is with profound regret that we have made the decision to temporary close all Watershed Wellness clinics to in-person appointments effective Tuesday, March 17, 2020 until JUNE 4th, 2020.

This decision was not made lightly, as it will have profound ramifications for everyone who has contact with WW. However, with the Coronavirus pandemic continuing to intensify, and without any way for us to verify who is infected and who is not, we have made this decision to help “flatten the curve.”

Note that yoga classes were previously cancelled temporarily, and continue to be. If you wonder whether classes are happening again, you can always head over to our schedule page to learn more.

This will help our country’s medical system keep up with the demand we will soon see for intensive care and limit severe complications and deaths from the virus. For more information on the concept of “flattening the curve” visit this free resource from the Washington Post (free to everyone, regardless of subscription).

If you have an appointment during the closure period, you will be receiving communication from us if you haven’t already.

We will not be rescheduling these immediately, given that we don’t know for certain when operations will begin again. Instead, we will be keeping track of everyone and calling you back the moment we know when the closure will end.

Each week, we are monitoring the situation and receiving information from legal and professional situations, we will determine whether the closure needs to be extended or not, and will call affected patients at that time.

If you are interested in support with Chinese herbs during this period, there is an online consult option available.

Eric Grey, MS, LAc is conducting video consultations for the community. Consults are 30 minutes, done using a privacy protected tool, and herbs will be delivered via USPS or delivered within Astoria city limits. We use the most stringent guidelines to eliminate the possibility of any viral contamination on our end of your package.

If you'd like to read more about the consultations and sign up, please click here.

There is no doubt, this situation is going to be very difficult on all of us.

We encourage you to reach out to members of your community that may need additional support, and to reach out yourself if you are in need. While we don’t know what will be happening in the future, or how our world will change as a result of the pandemic, we do know that our community is filled with kind, compassionate and skillful people. We can get through this together!

With sincere hopes for your ongoing health & joy,

Eric & Amanda


Watershed Wellness

Our new location in Astoria – at Pier 1

The rumors are true! We are adding a location to better serve the North Coast and Southwest Washington.

Within six months of our opening in January 2017, it was apparent that we were going to quickly outgrow the space on 14th & Commercial. The demand for services has been so high that many are dismayed to learn that our first available appointments can be months away. This is largely due to space considerations – with only two rooms we can only do so much. We’ve done our best juggling shifts to maximize the number of people we can accommodate, but the time has come to take a big step forward.

We are expanding in Astoria by keeping our location and adding a new one just down the Riverwalk!

Starting Monday, December 2, 2019, all acupuncture and massage therapy appointments with Watershed Wellness practitioners will be taking place at our new Pier 1 location.

Esthetics (facials) and yoga will be remaining at the Downtown location.

The address is : 10 Pier One, Suite 308, Astoria, OR 97103 (map link).

Some mapping systems do not render the address correctly. For a time, the location will show as the “Port of Astoria administrative offices” until that all gets switched over with Google.

Map & Further Location Instructions

The building, which until very recently hosted the Port of Astoria administrative offices, is three stories, red and blue, just to the West of the Megler bridge and the marina in the West Mooring Basin. The road leading to Pier 1 is Portway Street, which turns off 101 at the light next to the Portway Tavern. There are several counselors in the building, as well as forest product companies and several Port / marine traffic related businesses you may have visited in the past.

As you go down Portway street, you will cross the Riverwalk and trolley tracks (be careful!) and pass the Astoria Riverwalk Inn on the right. You will feel like you are driving into an industrial region. Depending on time of year and economic conditions, you may see stacks of logs, cruise ships, fishing boats and trucks. But, continue down Portway St and you will come to the entrance of the parking lot and see the red and blue building. You made it.

Park in the parking lot, paying attention to any signage or striping. There are multiple wheelchair accessible spaces and a spacious elevator at the Pier 1 space, so everyone should be able to access the space with no problem. Please contact us if you have any special needs that you want to be sure we can accommodate.

Contact information and scheduling

Our phone number, email addresses and website address are all staying the same. You can find this information, an online contact form and more information about both of our locations on the locations page.

All the same touches and all the same customer service support will be available to you at the new location. We are working very hard to make sure that all you experience are improvements and ongoing healing as we make this transition.

Our scheduling system will remain the same and if you have appointments scheduled for acupuncture or massage, they will be switched over to reflect the Pier 1 Location. You may receive rescheduling emails about this change. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to reach out to verify your appointments from your calendar.

More about what's great about the new Pier 1 location

We will be releasing more articles with information about what's to come for both the Downtown and the Pier 1 locations on the blog. To stay updated, be sure you're either a subscriber to the newsletter or that you follow us on Facebook or Instagram. 

For now, a little rundown of five things we're most excited about with the expansion…

  1. Increased space means existing practitioners can potentially take on more patients – meaning shorter wait time for appointments. Yes, expanding staff will be coming, and we have plenty of room to grow.
  2. Increased space also means the ability to provide a post-treatment relaxation area, expanded medicinary services and eventually classes and events in the space.
  3. The clinic location is quieter being far from the main roads. There are new sounds to experience, like battling seagulls and boat traffic. But overall, a more peaceful treatment experience.
  4. The views are fantastic, and we have new businesses and neighbors to connect with.
  5. Much better parking experience, while still maintaining the connection to the convenient and iconic Riverwalk!


A basic primer on the Chinese medicine view on living seasonally

From a Chinese medicine perspective, it is essential that we learn to live in harmony with the seasons. There is, of course, no monolithic “Chinese medicine perspective” but all lineages and even more modern interpretations of Chinese medicine theory discuss the health benefits of seasonal awareness.

The recent movement around local and seasonal foods is a nod to the importance of this timeless principle. People are recognizing that living in accordance with their immediate spatial and temporal environment is not just for hippies (although, for them too). Food tastes better, is more healthful, is less expensive and somehow just FEELS better when it is eaten at the right time for the place that one is in.

But the Chinese philosophy on living in balance with seasonal energy goes farther than food choices. In fact, most of what I have found in the Classical texts of Chinese medicine has nothing to do with food.

1. Physical/mental/spiritual activity levels and types

The guidelines regarding activity go into every realm of life, just as the seasonal energy touches us everywhere – all the time. In the Neijing one of the first practical recommendations concerning seasonal living involves activity.

“During this season [spring] it is advisable to retire early. Arise early also and go walking in order to absorb the fresh, invigorating energy” (From Maoshing Ni's translation)

2. Social activity levels

This is perhaps simply an outgrowth of #1 – but I think it is easy to overlook. We naturally gather together in the summer – although in the United States, some of our most “together” holidays are in the winter. Just as we should limit excessive physical activity in the winter, so should we ramp down our social activity.

3. The color, smell and feeling of the surrounding environment

Paying close attention to the seasonal changes is important in resonating with their energy. All of our senses should be engaged in the study of our environment. It makes sense to similarly alter our internal environment to some degree. Letting your decorations follow the ebb and flow of nature will help you to become closely in tune with seasonal energy. Of course, you will want to keep balance as well – so surrounding yourself with emblems of Metal during the Fall is not necessarily the best way to go, but there are simple, effective and gentle ways to remind yourself of the seasonal energy even when you must be inside.

All of this and much more is included in the kind of lifestyle counseling that naturally grows out of Chinese medicine theory on the energy of the seasons. We’ll be discussing more specifics about each season on the blog in articles to come.

Do you have a favorite season? Which one and why?

WW Podcast episode 13 – Eric & Amanda talk about non-judgment in holistic healthcare

Our podcast schedule got a bit gnarled with the holiday season and the bustle of the New Year – but we're back! In this episode, I sat down with Amanda to talk about judgment, and non-judgment, in the holistic healthcare environment.

In particular, we examine some of the things that commonly hold people back from getting care due to worries about judgment around:

  • Body image, such as body hair, body odor or weight gain
  • Social factors, such as identification as gay or trans, or having low income and so being unable to wear “fancy” clothes
  • Political and intellectual factors, such as having a very conservative viewpoint when you believe your practitioner to be quite liberal

It's just a quick 20 minutes, and we hope it will provoke questions – check out the form on the main podcast page to share your thoughts.

You can access the episode here.

Treating the common cold with Chinese herbal medicine, or on when not to reach for Yinqiao san

Zhang zhongjing, Han dynasty doctor & scholar who wrote the texts I am describing


My Chinese herbal lineage focuses on deep understanding of the most venerated text of Chinese herbal medicine, the Shanghan za bing lun.

The first, and most well known, part of this text (often referred to simply as the Shanghan lun) contains information about treating diseases that are caused by factors outside the body. In particular, the vast majority of the formulas in the text treat the common cold, other viral respiratory infections & the secondary infections and complications that come from them. So, you could say that I spend a lot of time thinking about the topic of colds & flus!

Oh, and by the way, in most cases – yes you should come in if you have a cold. 🙂

Different types of colds?

Chinese medicine (CM) discusses various types of colds – which we call “external invasions,” to differentiate them from diseases caused by food, drink & strongly disordered emotional states. The symptoms of the external invasion, and the method for treating those symptoms, varies based on the character of each type of cold. In the simplest way of looking at it in CM, there are colds that are more “hot type” (with higher fever, yellower phlegm) versus those that are more “cold type” (with lower fever, runnier nose).

But further differentiations exist, based on the origin of the pathogen, the health status of the person invaded, and so on. The Shanghan lun differentiates the varieties of symptoms of exterior invasion into six stages, called Conformations. The conformations are a complex theoretical construct, so we can only sketch the outlines here.  If you're interested in getting a bit more information, you might want to read about it on my website for students and practitioners of CM.

The conformations relate to the way a cold develops, and also helps us to see the difference between “regular colds” and more virulent & severe epidemic type invasions. The conformations themselves include physical structures, various bodily functions, acupuncture channels and other diverse parts of the human body. In other words, each conformation is not a single structure, but a mixture several structures and functions.

In a way, each conformation is like a landscape – and as a cold travels through each of the six landscapes, the way it manifests, and the way we treat it, changes.

I list and briefly describe the conformations below in order from the most superficial / exterior layer of the body all the way into the Jueyin which is the deepest level, the most interior to the body. As disease travels through the conformations, it changes character. The more exterior layers (yang layers) look more like typical cold & flu symptoms, and so it is from the chapters describing these disorders that most of my formulas come from when I treat this type of disorder.

  • Taiyang – Taiyang contains the Bladder and Small Intestine channels & organ networks, as well as aspects of our immunity, our water metabolism and more. This is the most surface layer, and when struck, the typical symptoms of a mild cold are the result. Runny nose, mild congestion, an often lower grade fever, body aches, frontal headaches and low energy can all be the result. We treat this stage of cold by forcing the pathogen out & strengthening the surface to prevent reinvasion.
  • Yangming – Yangming contains the Large Intestine and Stomach channels & organ networks, and thus has a lot to do with digestion, but dysfunction here can also impact mental state (anxiety, mania) and temperature regulation, among other things. We are proceeding more deeply into the body here, and if a cold or flu reaches here, the symptoms tend to be more severe. Very high fevers, even leading to bleeding, severe headaches, sinus trouble including congestion, and certain types of hot lung conditions can all be the result. We treat this stage by cooling down the body and allowing the body to release as much built up matter and energy as possible.
  • Shaoyang – Shaoyang contains of the Gallbladder and mysterious Triple Burner channels & organ networks. The impacts of this conformation can be VERY diverse as befits the layer of the body that is getting so much closer to the interior (yin). As cold or flu symptoms, Shaoyang symptoms tend to be back and forth (fever AND chills), less acute and can also hang on for much longer. People who are repeatedly getting sick within one season, but never really having a fever or serious acute symptoms are often trapped in the Shaoyang stage. This can be harder to treat, and we do so by helping to “harmonize” the yin and yang aspects of this stage.
  • Taiyin, Shaoyin & Jueyin – The Shanghan lun text I have been discussing goes into detail about the treatment of deeper layers of the body as they are impacted by the consequences of external invasions. However, because these look less like what we call “cold” or “flu,” I'll not discuss them here. The same goes for the next two layers..
    I hope to talk more about the conformations and how understanding them can help you respond better to cold-season illnesses. But, for now, with that general idea explained – a word on customization of cold treatment.

Different types of people, different treatments – right?

So, there are different types of colds to begin with, but there are also different types of people having those colds! One of the most important things about Chinese medicine as a distinct profession in healthcare is how we focus on the customization of treatment to the uniqueness of the individual patient. If a person is very weak, with a thin and deep pulse, not having much of a fever and the cold lingers for weeks, we will treat them much differently than a person who comes in with a big fever, big pulse and very rapidly moving illness. Doesn’t that just make sense?

You may have a different herbal formula than your partner with a similar cold!

That's the outcome of true customization of treatment. But, of course, sometimes I find myself prescribing very similar formulas to a large group of people. While customization is important, it’s also true that many people react similarly to particular colds traveling through their town. And there are some types of treatment or supplementation that help most people feel better. This is why we see standardized over-the-counter remedies on the shelves in the first place – they are a convenient way to help large groups of people. So, as a practitioner, or for you as a member of the public, we have to find the best way to balance customization and convenience.

Over-the-counter remedies and Chinese herbal medicine – the case of Yin Qiao (or Yin Chiao)

For many of my patients, the first Chinese herbal formula they ever took was in the form of several small tablets called Yin Qiao San – said to be great for the common cold. Many people swear by the remedy and keep it on hand just in case. In fact, there are some Chinese medicine practitioners who ask their patients to keep it on hand for just this reason. This formula was formally written down in a book published in 1798 devoted to exploring “Warm diseases,” so those types of illnesses that are either caused by warming factors, or expresses itself through heat type symptoms, or both.

It contains cooling, lightweight herbs like honeysuckle flower and forsythia seed pod.

This formula is appropriate for people who have hotter cold symptoms such as : fever, burning sore throat and a tendency to a more rapid pulse & yellowing tongue coat (especially as the cold progresses). In the basic CM way of looking at things, a warm or hot pathogen creates these symptoms. Warm and hot pathogens are traditionally more likely to be encountered in warm climates. If a cold came from a more cold type pathogen – such as those typical in my home in Oregon – then this formula would most likely NOT be appropriate. Further, when the cold goes into the interior, causing a phlegmy cough or profuse nasal discharge, this formula wouldn’t be appropriate regardless of the nature of the exterior invasion.

In other words, Yin Qiao San can indeed be effective – for certain types of colds and not others.

What are the potential consequences of using a formula that isn’t appropriate for the type of cold or other disorder you’re experiencing? Fortunately, Chinese herbal medicine is powerful – but also very gentle. Yin Qiao San is quite cooling, but it is also relatively easy on the body and the dose typically taken is too small to do much damage. So while there are Chinese herbs that can cause serious complications if you take them when they are not indicated for your condition, this particular example is not one of those.

That said, if you need warming treatment and take cooling herbs instead, there are undoubtedly consequences for the yang of the body.  Long term, a person who inappropriately takes Yin Qiao San may find lowered surface immunity or mild digestive problems. That the consequences may not be severe in this case, though, doesn't mean we shouldn't attend to always taking the right herbal formula for our situation.

How do you avoid taking the “wrong Chinese herbal formula?”

Does the highly customized nature of Chinese herbal medicine mean that there can be no on-hand remedies a patient could self prescribe? Of course not. There are general treatment strategies that assist nearly anyone who is experiencing the symptoms of a cold or flu. For instance: increasing fruits and vegetables, decreasing sugar and strenuous physical activity and staying warm and hydrated will help virtually anyone have a better time with a cold or the flu.

But, if you would like to take a more active role to treat future colds and flus, or you have developed complications from one – like a chronic painful cough – seeking out treatment from a licensed Chinese medicine practitioner may well be part of an answer. If you come in for a visit, I will use CM diagnostic techniques, including a wide ranging discussion with you, to help determine the best treatment for an existing cold – or the prevention of one in the future. While I would be unlikely to prescribe Yin Qiao San, it being outside of my lineage and climate, I could certainly recommend a group of herbal formulas to have on hand for potential situations that would be appropriate for your constitution.

This is just a brief overview of the issues involved in treating colds and flus with Chinese herbal medicine. Questions? Get in touch – maybe I’ll write a future article about your question!


5 principles that ensure an excellent acupuncture treatment at Watershed Wellness

Acupuncture treatment is one of the foundations of the clinical work we do at Watershed Wellness

This form of medicine treats a huge variety of conditions, is safe and effective, and also is great combined with massage and yoga. This makes it a natural choice to be one of our primary modalities. I am excited to share this medicine with you, including the special way we approach acupuncture treatment at Watershed Wellness.

Our acupuncture department is united by a set of principles that make our treatments safe, enjoyable and most importantly, profoundly effective for an astonishing variety of conditions

At Watershed Wellness, we’re not just an assembly of unrelated healthcare practitioners. We work hard to function as an interconnected whole as much as we can – particularly when it comes to the energy and intention we bring to the work we do. While each practitioner brings important and unique attributes to the table, where we are most united is in the vision and values behind how we practice.

Over the next months, we will discuss more about this vision and these values and how they improve your experience as a Watershed client

I think this will help you get a good feeling of what you can expect when you come in for an appointment – this one is a special bonus because it allows me to discuss one of my favorite Chinese medicine topics, the five phase elements. That's right – we're going to dive into a little bit of Chinese medicine theory – the intricate and fascinating body of information that guides every acupuncture treatment I do.

The five phase elements (also just called the five elements) are one of the more recognizable theories within Chinese medical science.

The ancient scholars who developed Chinese medicine initially had a habit of categorizing many things according to number. There are five phase elements, six conformations, twelve organ systems, and so on. This makes things easier to learn and understand and, according to the scholars of these theories, help our work as human beings to resonate with what they understood to be the fundamental laws of the universe.

The five phase elements we use so frequently in Chinese medicine are 水 water, 木wood, 土 earth, 火 fire and 金 metal (other traditions typically would add air or void instead of metal). These are connected through a generation or creation cycle (in the order written above, with metal feeding into the water) as well as cycles of control or regulation. Nearly anything can be categorized according to the five phase elements and their interrelationships, from acupuncture points to grains to stars to organ systems.

Side note : I'm going to be doing a lot more education on the basics of Chinese medicine and how this information can help you to get and maintain vibrant health – if you want to get all the latest information please do sign up for our newsletter if you haven't already.

I've articulated five basic principles that lie at the heart of Watershed Wellness acupuncture as resonating with each of the five phase elements

I think doing it this way makes it easier to understand. But, even if you don't fully grasp how the five phase elements fit into this thing, I believe you'll recognize the importance of the principles we use to guide our acupuncture practice.

Water – Deep knowledge

watershed wellness astoria acupuncture treatment waterWater is about the depths. It is about the storage of all that is valuable, keeping it still with winter’s cold. It is about connection to ancestors and others that have come before. When it comes to Watershed acupuncture treatment, water reminds us of our commitment to constantly refresh and expand our knowledge of the world and the human body so that we practitioners can be of maximum service to our patients.

The education that American acupuncturists receive is extensive. At NUNM, where I went to school there is a strong emphasis on scholarship, independent research and adherence to the ancient, basic principles of the medicine. We are taught, early on, that lifetime study is part of our commitment as practitioners. I take this very seriously and regularly engage in all kinds of continuing education, both formally and on my own.

I utilize this knowledge every day in work with my patients, and I believe it makes the work we will do together much more effective.

Wood – Responsiveness

watershed wellness astoria acupuncture treatment woodWood is the springtime element. It is all change and youth and movement, like new blackberry canes emerging from disturbed soil, or like a 8 week old puppy’s constant exploration, mouthing and noise making. Wood gives us the ability to start new things, but also to respond appropriately when a situation is in progress.

Above all, at Watershed, we want to be responsive to your needs – and wood reminds us to do this. Your acupuncture treatment will be 100% created just for you – we don’t use the same treatment for everybody, and we don’t impose our will on you as the patient when something about the treatment is clearly not working.

Every time you come into the treatment room, I will reevaluate your situation, discuss your experience during the last treatment, and do careful diagnostic work to ensure that your treatment is exactly what you need in that moment.

Fire – Connection

watershed wellness astoria acupuncture treatment fireFire, the phase element of the Heart, is the ruler of intimacy, of connection between people, and of building community. Fire is warmth, brightness, life giving. It’s also associated with the summer solstice – that high time of joy, experiencing and flourishing.

Watershed acupuncturists pay special attention to the fire element when we engage in our work. We believe that the swiftest and most long lasting healing comes when patient and practitioner work together to address whatever needs to be addressed.

We connect with you, get to know you as a person, and hope to become trusted advisors. We make sure that you understand the treatment, and are OK with what’s to come and respect your boundaries at every step. That connection and Heart is part of what makes treatment at Watershed special.

Earth – Comfort

watershed wellness astoria acupuncture earthEarth is about nurturance, solidity, safety and comfort. Earth is at the center of our digestion, and is injured whenever we have to worry about ourselves or other people. When we pay attention to Earth in our acupuncture treatment at Watershed Wellness, we are putting your comfort at the forefront of what we do. You can see this in our waiting room, in the softness and warmth of our treatment tables, and more. This comfort allows you to feel more relaxed and safe, which in turn seems to make treatment more effective.

A note about comfort, here. Sometimes, you will have sensations during needling that can be uncomfortable. While I always seek to make sure we don’t push you beyond a tolerable level, some discomfort is usually necessary in order to treat disease. The principle of Earth doesn’t guide me to avoid that. It simply means that we will always be checking in, always making sure that you’re still OK with what’s happening, and doing everything in our power to make your total experience comfortable and relaxing.

Metal – Safety

watershed wellness astoria acupuncture metalMetal, of course, has the most direct resonance with acupuncture given the material of acupuncture needles. Metal otherwise is about letting go, about autumn, about balance and justice. Metal calls us to be precise, to make clean breaks, to keep everything in its place – and as such becomes a primary arbiter of safety. At Watershed, we take acupuncture safety very seriously.

We abide by all state regulations and professional commitments, of course, but go above and beyond that to ensure that you never have to worry that acupuncture treatment will create problems that weren’t there in the first place.

Another way that metal comes into our clinical work is in the simplicity and precision that lies at the heart of classical acupuncture treatment. While some traditions use large numbers of needles, the acupuncture we practice uses only as many needles as absolutely necessary to ensure a positive outcome. This minimalism means that we have to diagnose very carefully and be extremely precise with our creation of the point prescription. This care increases the safety of your treatment while also making it far more powerful.

We look forward to discussing these principles with you more in person – you can get on the schedule any time.

Watershed Wellness has a new home for healthcare in Astoria Oregon

As we've discussed on our Portland website, on our Facebook account and via our new Watershed Astoria newsletter, we're opening a new clinic here in Astoria! We will be inviting the first appointments and classes in starting January 17 – assuming everything goes more or less according to plan.

But how did we end up opening a second clinic focused on health and wellness in Astoria?

Good question! We'll hope to tell more of the story of how the clinic opening has been here on the blog and on the newsletter in the coming months. But the shortest possible story is simple. In March of 2016, we (Eric and Amanda) manifested our vision of moving our home base to Astoria, OR from Portland. But, instead of closing up shop in Portland – a place we still dearly love – we decided to expand! Thus you have Watershed Astoria.

The two locations will have different modalities, different foci, and yet maintain the same commitment to customer service, quality work done by intentful experts and a spirit of joy and fun in everything we do.

One of the most notable differences between the two clinics is in what we're offering. In Portland, of course, we offer Chinese medicine, Naturopathic medicine, skin therapy and massage therapy. In Astoria, we will be focusing on Acupuncture, Chinese herbs and massage therapy as far as medical modalities are concerned. While we may expand from those initial healthcare offerings, we are hoping to first focus on providing the best possible acupuncture, Chinese herbs and massage as we can.

One of the most exciting things about the new location is that we will be offering Watershed Yoga to the Astoria community

Amanda Barp, co-founder and chief massage therapist at Watershed, completed yoga training at the Bhaktishop in Portand. While she started school at her favorite studio mostly to enhance her own practice, as she went, she discovered how what she was learning about yoga meshed with what she already knew about the human body through her 10+ year long massage career.

This sparked further study and a deep immersion in her studies which resulted in her being asked to teach a class at her alma mater studio! This honor has allowed her to learn so much about yoga in a short period of time – particularly how she can help new practitioners to do yoga safely, no matter their age or mobility impairments. This passion drives her today.

We will be writing a lot about Watershed Yoga on the blog and through expanding the main Yoga page on this site. To give us a chance to make sure the studio is perfect for you, we'll be delaying the start of classes until February 1. Those first classes are already available for you to register if you're excited to get started.

To help jumpstart a vibrant yoga community at Watershed, we're offering 50% single classes and 5 class packs through the entire month of February 2017.

To take advantage, just use the code ASTORIAOPEN if you pay for your class online, or mention the discount if you pay in person.

Sign up for your class by clicking this link

We'll be sharing more about what's new at Watershed over the next several days. Stay tuned – and if you would like to have the latest articles sent direct to your email – sign up here.

10 Things You Should Expect from your First Acupuncture Appointment

High Resolution -110Every Chinese medicine practitioner is different just as every patient is different. The interaction between doctor and patient has a lot to do with the way the appointment proceeds and whether it turns out to be a mutually agreeable experience or not. However, there are some basic elements that will be present in every appointment. In this article, I'd like to detail the most important of these. I hope that it will help set your mind at ease prior to your first appointment, or if this isn't your first appointment, help you to be an advocate for your own excellent care!

Prior to arrival

1. A pleasant experience in setting up your appointment and getting your questions answered.

It has been my experience that otherwise great Chinese medicine physicians don't have a lot of basic business skills. This can result in frustrating experiences for patients. This is not always the case, however. You should be able to expect an effortless appointment set-up process, possibly the mailing of pre-appointment paperwork and related informational materials and a kind reception with plenty of willingness to answer questions. You may even be referred to a website for more information and for downloading paperwork – that's a sign of someone who's been doing their business homework! 😉

After arrival

2. A lengthly interview process including questions that you may have never been asked before!

Although every doctor has a slightly different interviewing process based on their training and personality, there are standard questions that most every doctor will ask. She will begin with learning more about your chief complaint and possibly more detail about your health history. If you are on medication or under the supervision of other physicians, she will likely ask you questions about this. Then she may begin to ask you questions that may appear to be irrelevant to your chief complaint.

Questions about your sleeping patterns, digestive and urinary function, sexual function, emotional quality and basic level of stress are typical. Be prepared to disclose the frequency and quality of your urine, feces, and if you are a woman, your menstrual period. Rest assured that these questions are not meant to make you feel uncomfortable. Many conditions that manifest in a non-digestive/urinary/menstrual way (such as skin conditions) may have a basis in your basic digestive function or other apparently unrelated system. Answering these questions completely honestly will increase the accuracy of diagnosis and help your doctor to craft an excellent treatment. Believe me, it won't be anything your doctor hasn't heard. She is used to it.

3. Insightful questioning and the sense that the doctor is already hot on the trail of a spot-on diagnosis.

You will probably notice that the doctor will ask you questions that you had not anticipated. Often, however, when you answer them you will see that there was an unusual finding that you hadn't thought about. For example, the doctor may ask you about your sleep though you came in for shoulder pain. Though you weren't prepared to talk about your sleep and perhaps hadn't thought about it, upon considering the question you may find that your sleep has been restless and interrupted recently.

This, along with other cues, will probably give you the sense that the doctor has a real idea of what is going on with your body. This should set you at ease, although some people experience it as being a little disconcerting! We're not used to doctors with answers!

4. Taking of the pulse and observing the tongue.

The cornerstone of any Chinese medicine diagnosis is the pulse. While patients descriptions are certainly important, it is the more objective information available to the skilled practitioner that really cements the diagnosis. They will have you relax your arms and will feel your radial pulse for a minute or more on each side. Sometimes they will return to a pulse they have already felt. Every doctor has a slightly different technique, and some doctors are more skilled in pulse taking than others. This art has been practiced in some form in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. It gives the practitioner information about your entire body and everything in it.

Another very important diagnostic technique is the observation of the tongue. In CM, the tongue is thought to be a “microcosm” of the entire body. This means that the entire body is reflected onto the tongue in such a way that observing the quality of the tongue in particular areas tells the practitioner something about the corresponding area of the body. They will look at the color of the tongue body, the quality and color of the “fur” on the tongue as well as the general shape and any deviations in form. It can be a little embarrassing to show your tongue to someone you don't know – but it is important and the doctor will appreciate your cooperation.

As a quick note – it is important not to scrape or brush your tongue on the day of your treatment. Additionally, eating highly colored foods or drinking highly colored drinks (like orange soft drinks or coffee) may impede diagnosis.

5. Treatment

Treatment will consist of the use of needles or pressure (with hand or other implement) to access the Qi of the channels, usually at specific points along the body. It may also involve the use of moxibustion (the burning of a medicinal herb either directly on the body or indirectly from an inch or so away), cupping (glass cups placed on the skin with a negative pressure, producing suction) or other techniques specific to the doctor's training.

You may feel some discomfort during the insertion of the needles – this is normal. For a rundown of some of my thoughts about acupuncture, you might want to check out our page on acupuncture.

6. A variety of reactions during treatment

People have a variety of reactions to acupuncture treatment. Particularly in the first treatment, or after a particularly stressful or otherwise difficult time in your life – the emotional reaction can be very intense. You may feel like crying, laughing hysterically or expressing yourself in another way. So long as you stay as still as possible (so as not to bend the needles – this can be uncomfortable) please feel free to let your emotions flow out of you. This is part of the treatment. You may also have strange or uncomfortable thoughts, see shapes/colors as if in a semi-dreaming state, or go into a true dreaming state by falling asleep!

All of these reactions are just fine and you shouldn't stop them unless they cause you an unreasonable amount of discomfort. Your doctor may help you through these reactions, but most often they will simply leave you to process what is coming up. If you feel that you need help – just ask your doctor. He will be happy to help you.

7. Possible restimulation of the needles and eventual removal of the needles (if used).

Sometimes the doctor will come back to restimulate the needle, producing more sensation and more Qi movement. They may use specialized techniques during this time to further encourage your body's Qi to help in your healing process. The final removal of the needles is usually painless.

8. Discussion of the treatment, delivery of herbal formula or other recommended supplements.

After your treatment, the doctor will probably discuss your future treatment options with you as well as providing you with any recommended supplements or herbal formulas. It is very important that you understand what your doctor is explaining to you – if you have ANY questions at all, inform her immediately. This is particularly the case if you are being asked to use bulk/crude herbs, boiled at home and drunk over a period of time. There are many important things you should pay attention to, such as: how to boil the herbs (with how much water, in what kind of container), how to drink the herbs (when? what temperature? with food or without?) and how to store the herbs (at room temperature or in the refrigerator?).

Your supplements and herbal formula are an extremely important part of your treatment and they MUST NOT be neglected. If you find the herbs too distasteful, contact your doctor and ask him about other possibilities. But remember, though the herbs may not always taste the best they are very powerful and will help you immensely in your healing journey.

9. Scheduling of follow-up, possible contact mid-stream if the appointment is far away.

If your doctor does not talk to you about your treatment plan, solicit the information. Find out when you should come back and if there is anything you should do in the meantime. In some areas, “group acupuncture” may be available. This is a form of acupuncture where you will be treated – usually fully clothed – in a room with several others. It is typically very affordable and some doctors recommend it to their patients in between “regular” appointments. It will keep your Qi moving and continue the treatment you are receiving. Your doctor may also want to see you briefly if your next appointment is several weeks away in order to take your pulse and observe your tounge and possibly make modifications to your herbal formula.

10. After the treatment.

People sometimes report feeling a bit spacey after an acupuncture treatment, and for this reason you should give yourself time to relax before driving or jumping straight into work or other duties. The work of acupuncture and related treatment usually continues for several days after the treatment as your body realigns around this “new information.” If you are concerned about your reactions, feel absolutely free to contact your doctor. In the unlikely situation that the reaction is unanticipated by your doctor or causing you much distress your doctor may ask you to come back to the office so she can rectify the situation.


I hope this information is useful to you as you find the right treatment fit for you!

Chinese Medicine and the Treatment of “Weird Diseases”

IMG_6602Many patients who come through the Watershed clinic are plagued by complexes of symptoms that Conventional Western medicine cannot explain.

After many years in the conventional medical system, they are typically given a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome or chronic fatigue syndrome.  Unfortunately, this diagnosis rarely gives them viable treatment nor any hope for lasting improvement.  Depression, anxiety, endless Internet searches and similar behaviors are often the result.

At some point, people in this situation learn that alternative medicine, particularly Chinese medicine, may have treatments for the symptoms they are experiencing.  This dicovery is often why they are seeking Chinese medicine or Naturopathic medicine services, particularly around Portland.  Portland is a place where these services are more readily available, so patients know they have options.

When I sit down to work with a person with a diagnosis like this, the first thing I try to do is get them away from thinking too much about the diagnosis.  Instead, I ask them to focus on the symptoms they are currently experiencing and how their daily life is different from the one they would like to live.  This gets them back in touch with their bodies (good even if the body isn't feeling so good) as well as focused on a better future.

It can sometimes take two or three appointments before my patients begin to feel that real hope that comes from knowing an illness is time limited.  During those first three appointments, we're getting to know eachother, doing simple, clearing acupuncture treatments, and doing the work necessary to find the perfect Chinese herbal formula.

What's amazing is that once they get this – once they really start to understand that their bodies are capable of feeling differently – symptoms begin to shift.

They're not cured, of course, but they get their first “wins” and start to believe that winning is possible!  As a Chinese medicine practitioner, that's honestly one of the most gratifying moments in treatment – even more gratifying than the eventual cessation of symptoms.

We then start to work on the most vexing, life altering symptoms one by one.  We don't focus solely on symptoms, however.  As we work on the “branches” (the symptoms) we are striking deep at the “root” (cause) of the symptoms.  Fortunately, with Chinese medicine, this isn't too difficult to achieve in most cases.

We can readily incorporate the treatment of symptoms into the fundamental shifting of the pattern.  This brings relief without neglecting the long term picture.

There are always ups and downs in treatment of this kind.  Sometimes, a patient will not experience a symptom for a long while and suddenly it comes back.  About half of the time, this is a random, temporary occurrence and we don't have to work with it very much.  The other half of the time, there is some definable reason that the symptom has popped back up.  We address this reason, and move on.

Never do we get bogged down in the details – and always we stay focused on the hope of that life they want to live.

In my next few articles on the Watershed Community Wellness blog, I'd like to talk about some of these “weird diseases” in detail.  I will offer case studies, treatment ideas and home care tips for readers who may be struggling with one of these symptom complexes, but for whatever reason cannot come in for treatment at Watershed.  I hope this will be helpful!

Chinese Herbal Medicine & Endangered Animals

rhino_on_blackNote: Edited on 2015-01-06 for clarity.

You have probably heard various news stories about the discovery and confiscation of various types of endangered animal ingredients, presumably for use in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) preparations. From tiger penises to rhino horns to bear bile, these happenings never fail to make sensational news.

The use of endangered animal ingredients is rare in the US and not tolerated at Watershed

All of the herbal formulas compounded at Watershed Wellness are 100% verified to be endangered animal free. We do not use patent medicines or other remedies that are available over the counter at many healthfood stores – which are more difficult to verify.

That out of the way – it is important to understand that practically no licensed US practitioner of Chinese herbalism is taught how to use these endangered animal ingredients, they are flagged as unethical in our herbal texts, and they are not available through reputable distributors. So, this position isn't unique to Watershed.

There are other animal based herbs – from un-endangered species – used in limited Chinese herbal formulas

The vast majority of Chinese herbs are plant based. Less than 1% of regularly used Chinese herbs have an animal origin. Most of these are discarded materials (such as antler and dung) or materials left when an animal dies (as in oyster shell and fossilized bone). Some of these materials are available at Watershed, but are used on a very limited basis in our herbal formulas.

As a practitioner of Chinese medicine who is a lover of animals and was vegan for the better part of two decades, I am VERY sensitive to the varying beliefs and needs of my patients. That is why I always seek consent when I am going to use an herb of animal origin in a formula, and find an alternative when needed. You can always feel free to make a blanket statement about your desire to have animal ingredients in formulas at the outset of your treatment and I will abide by that absolutely.

But rest assured, regardless, no endangered animals are ever used in any herbal formula or other product available at Watershed Wellness!