Category: Herbology

12 acupuncture needles sticking out of one hypodermic needle, showing that there's nothing to be scared of. Acupuncture needles are tiny.

Scared of Needles but Curious About Acupuncture? No problem!!

Are you scared of needles?  Well, that makes sense.

Bare with me and we’ll make the discussion of sharp, pointy objects brief.

Whatcha Scared Of?

Western hypodermic needles are built to shoot substances into the body or extract substances from the body.  To do this, they must be hollow.  Hollow needles take up a lot of surface area on your body, and when they pierce the skin, they tend to hurt.  I have been needling myself and my patients for years, and I am still nervous when I see a big, honkin hypodermic needle coming towards my arm!

Acupuncture needles, on the other hand, are filiform, which means that they are not hollow.  They also have a much smaller circumference and take up a lot less surface area.  In fact, you can stick between 12-16 acupuncture needles inside one Western medicine needle, as seen in the picture above.  Acupuncture needles, often referred to as “pins,” feel nothing like a hypodermic needle.  I often needle a person for the first time and then hear them say, “That was it??”  Yep! That’s it.  It’s really not too bad.

It makes sense.  Of course you are scared of needles.  From a young age, we have become familiar with our doctors and nurses sticking us with very painful needles for shots and blood draws.  But acupuncture needles don’t feel like hypodermic (Western) needles at all.  They’re much less painful, so maybe you could give it a try!

Or maybe not.

Don’t worry.  I am not here to convert you.  Whatever the reason, needle phobia is real.  If you’re one of the 10% of people who suffer from trypanophobia, i.e. a fear of needles and injections, and you’re not going to be convinced to try acupuncture, fear not – there are other options for you!

Non-Needle Treatments

At Light & Dark Acupuncture, we offer Non-Needle treatments to any adult who requests a gentle, non-invasive treatment.  Non-Needle treatments still use the time-tested East Asian techniques taught in acupuncture school.  They simply use the ones that do not involve needles.  These techniques are built to help blood flow smoothly, to help boost the immune system’s response and relax the nervous system.  They help improve muscles, tissues and organ function, and they ease turbulent flow through the mind and spirit.

Here are a few of the techniques called upon in a Non-Needle Treatment:

  1. Herbal Formulas: Acupuncturists use herbal medicine to craft a formula that will treat both your current symptoms and the underlying cause of those symptoms.  Patients can drink these formulas in the form of a tea.  From old folk remedies to modern, researched synergistic herbal constituents, herbal formulas have been used for decades for healing a myriad of disorders, illnesses and injuries.  Patients are frequently astounded by the power of an herbal formula.
  2. Cupping: Chinese Medicine practitioners use cupping to release muscle stiffness, improve blood flow through areas of tension, and open the pores.  This can be useful for tight, sore muscles, the beginning stages of a cold and deep congestion in the lungs.  Are you wondering if this is the technique that left round marks all over the 2016 Olympians?  It sure is! Does it hurt? Nope – cupping feels more like a strong massage and is not meant to be painful.  Most people who try it fall immediately in love with it.  If you want to know a little more about it, you can read my blog on cupping and watch the video mentioned at the end of the blog.
  3. Shonishin: While Shonishin is typically used on children, I have found it to be effective on teenagers and adults as well.  This is a non-invasive, no-needle technique that uses tapping and brushing movements to stimulate acupuncture points.  Your body creates an immune response to the technique which sets off a cascade of events that lead to healing.  Shonishin is incredibly relaxing. It’s wonderful for adults who have been doing a little too much adulting, and it can be beneficial in several disorders such as common cold, migraines, joint aches, etc.  I’ve written some information about Shonishin on my Pediatrics webpage, if you’d like to learn more about it.
  4. “Acupressure” or Tuina & Shiatsu: These are two versions of therapeutic massage.  Tuina is a Chinese therapeutic massage that is often referred to as “acupressure”.  Specific points are chosen per TCM theory and pressure is applied to these points using various massage techniques.  Shiatsu is of Japanese origin and it uses a similar but slightly different approach to create a therapeutic response.  Both techniques can be used for muscle, tendon and bone aches, pains and tensions, as well as for internal issues such as gastrointestinal disorders, anxiety and fatigue.  Do you wonder if tuina and shiatsu may be effective for your health concerns? Here is the link to a video demonstrating tuina – at about 1 minute into it, you can begin to see several tuina techniques. You can also call me anytime and ask.    I’m happy to answer your questions!
  5. Moxabustion: Also known as “Moxa.” Moxa is an herb that we burn over the top of an acupuncture point.  This herb is a biological wonder.  It warms the acupuncture points to increase blood flow and nourishes the qi and blood to improve energy levels.  It has the perfect consistency to be rolled into a ball, and as it burns it consolidates into a little pile of ash that sticks to itself, so that it does not fall apart.  I often use moxa on individuals who experience significant fatigue because the treatments yield better results with the help of this medicinal friend.
  6. Gua Sha: Gua Sha is an Eastern technique that involves scraping a specific area.  While “scraping” does not sound like it would be a gentle therapy, it feels surprisingly comforting when you are using a “gua sha tool.”  This technique breaks up adhesions and helps the surface capillaries breathe so that fresh blood can move uninhibited through areas of stagnation. I use gua sha when a patient has an old injury that has never quite healed and it is causing secondary and tertiary issues in the body.  Like cupping, the technique leaves marks, which are not the same as bruises.  Gua Sha marks do no go through the same stages of coloration as a normal bruise.  They simply fade away sometime between 3 – 10 days after treatment.

So, if you’re interested in an alternative therapy from a rich tradition of Eastern healing techniques, but you’re scared of being poked (even if you’re told that it doesn’t hurt!), seek out a non-needle treatment!  If you’re not sure if this treatment can help your current condition, call me for a free phone consultation.  I am happy to answer your questions and discuss your health concerns.  If you are not located in Denver, I can help you find a practitioner who will provide a non-needle treatment in your area.

Book an appointment online today!

A group of things to hint about what 10 ways you can make watching tv a healthier habit - a candle, a ball, a water bottle, a cup of tea, a mortar and pestal and a box of recipes

10 Ways to Make Watching TV a Healthier Habit

Six Feet Under, This is Us, Parenthood, Mad Men, TransParent, Orange is the New Black, Breaking Bad… Is it just me or has TV just gotten skillfully entertaining lately?

If you’re like me, you love TV or movies, but you worry that you could be using that time in a more productive manner.  Your concern makes watching TV a guilty pleasure and not an enjoyable, relaxing event.  Look, I get you – there are MUCH MORE important things to be doing with your time.  It’s true.  But remember, the more rested, relaxed and rejuvenated you are, the more energy you have to advocate for your favorite cause and the more excitement you can devote to self-improvement.

TV isn’t only bad news.  Really good TV shows and movies can:

  • Educate us
  • Inspire us
  • Unite us for a specific cause
  • Improve us (My massive celebrity crush on Jillian Michaels does, on occasion, succeed in getting me to the gym when I’m feeling unmotivated.)
  • Challenge our current perspective
  • Console us
  • Relax us
  • And so much more…

In smaller doses, it can be a therapeutic activity.  Great.  So, why is it so bad to watch TV?

Well, it is a sedentary hobby.  There are also those times when you get sucked in and do not move from the couch for 3 days until the end of your Harry Potter binge…

Okay, look – if you’re watching TV all day and never socializing or moving, nothing will make this a healthy habit.  Sorry to disappoint.  If you’re not sleeping well, not eating well, never exercising and never visiting with friends or family, there is only so much that any professional can do to help.  At some point, you must take responsibility for your health.  No one can do that for you.  Even the health-oriented routines in my 10 suggestions below won’t make up for living a healthy lifestyle, but they may start you down that path.

In the meantime, if you’ve created a routine around relaxing to the news or a well-scripted TV show in the evening, let that time be your reminder of the healthy routines you would like to create.  It’s a simple hack – use your less healthy routines to develop structure around a new beneficial groove.

Rather than consider my sedentary evening routine an unhealthy endeavor, I’ve decided to make watching TV a part of my health regime.  This is how you can do it with me!  Choose 1 or 2 of these suggestions to adopt during the first 10 – 30 minutes of watching TV or create some of your own.

So, let’s dig into this together! Here are 10 Ways to Make Watching TV a Healthier Habit!

  1. Self-massage – Give yourself a foot massage or a neck massage. Regular self-massage relaxes the muscles and tissues.  Frequent foot massages can help your feet age gracefully and may prevent knee, hip and lower back issues, and they feel great!  Use a foam roller, tennis ball, thera-cane or tens unit if you like or if you have been encouraged to do so by a healthcare practitioner.  Oh, and try this – put two tennis balls in a sock and tie it shut.  Now place each tennis ball on either side of the spine.  Roll this device up and down your spine.  Use it in your hips and glutes, or any other place that aches.
  2. Herbal Tea – Herbal teas relax the nervous system after a long day. Depending on your choice of herbs, they boost the immune system, support the respiratory system, improve blood flow in the body, and so much more.  Choosing one herbal tea to drink each evening can be a fun and rewarding process.  If you’d like to drink a medicinal herbal tea, set up an herbal consultation with Light & Dark Acupuncture.
  3. Exercise – Many people feel that their exercise routine goes by more quickly and less painfully if they’re watching a movie on the treadmill. Some individuals avoid this, citing the need to be present with their workout so they can push harder and reap larger benefits.  If gym TV watching isn’t your style, perhaps you could knock out a few crunches during the first 15 minutes of your favorite TV show.  Or push ups.  Or burpees.  Never mind – scratch that – burpees are torture.
  4. Breathing Exercises – Any individual with asthma should consider this an important routine to develop. Breathing exercises assist a host of respiratory disorders, but whose got time to sit and breathe for 20 or 30 minutes?!  If you’re struggling to find the time to practice breathing exercises, commit to doing it for the first 10 minutes of your T.V. time each night.  Set a reminder in your phone if you need help remembering.  You can breathe and count while the scenes from the last episode play.  The drama won’t get good enough to cause gasping for several minutes, so you’re set.
  5. Stretch – My grandpa used to lay on the floor every night after dinner with his hand on his stomach. I remember joining him a couple times.  If you keep your floor clean, laying on it can feel quite relaxing.  You can twist into yoga poses or focus on extending through specific muscles that feel tight.  This is also that time to do the “10 stretches that will cure your psoas and piriformis pain!” or any other specific therapeutic stretches you’ve found.  If you suffer from any kind of pain, look up specific stretches for that type of pain, or get some suggestions from your acupuncturist, chiropractor, doctor, physical therapist or other professional.  Countless clients struggle to remember to do their therapeutic stretches daily.  Use TV time as a reminder to do them!  After a couple weeks, you’ll stop thinking, “I can’t wait to zone out and watch TV,” and starting thinking, “I can’t wait to lay down and stretch out while I watch my show!”
  6. Healthy Snack – Snacking is not the right suggestion for everyone. However, if you’re someone who lacks healthy vegetables and fruits in their diet, or doesn’t get enough protein or healthy fats, committing to a healthy snack as you enjoy your routine movie time is a great idea.  Healthy snacks can indeed be delicious– veggies and hummus, steamed purple cabbage with cinnamon and oregano (you won’t regret it), avocado with lime, salt and curry powder.  They take a little prep time, but if you need to create a habit of eating healthy, you can use this already-created “TV time” routine to remind you that it is “healthy snack time.”
  7. Drink Water – Yep. I said it. So did your mom.  And your friend.  And some random person who overheard you saying something at the grocery store.  It’s true, drinking water is good for you.  I don’t think we need to argue this.  But getting into a pattern of doing it regularly can be challenging.  Let’s make it easier! Get a large water bottle and fill it up before your show.  Put a rubber band around the outside of the water bottle.  Each time you drink, move the rubber band down to the level that the water is at.  This way you can see from the outside of your bottle exactly how much is left.  Finish the bottle.  Fill up another one if you have the bladder for it.  During each commercial break look at your bottle to see where your water line is and gauge if you’re meeting your goal!
  8. Laugh – Well, this one’s a no brainer. Laughter really is the best medicine for almost anything.  It masks physical pain, frustration, anxiety, heartache – whatever your ailment.  The benefit may be temporary, but it is potent medicine nonetheless.  “Laughter stretches and relaxes the linings of your arteries, allowing blood to flow freely.” (Harrar, Sari, Pearson & Victoria, 2013).  So, watch a funny show or movie.  Find one that specifically fits your sense of humor and stick with it til the end.
  9. Cuddle – Physical connection fosters empathy and bonding and it is also great for the heart.  Oxytocin is known as “the cuddle hormone” because it is released during skin-to-skin contact.  It reduces blood pressure and relaxes the nervous system’s response to stress (“Oxytocin Hormone Benefits and Side Effects,” n.d.).  Hold someone you love because it’s heart healthy! You know what might be even better than cuddling with a chosen human?  Cuddling with a furry, warm pet.  If you’ve got one of the cuddly pet types, now is your moment.
  10. Relax – You can do one or all the self-improvement-oriented suggestions above, but don’t forget to take some time to relax. Life is moving at a fast pace and we are doing our best to keep up with it.  Sometimes we need a break, and it’s okay to take one.  So, after you’ve worked out and stretched and given yourself a neck massage, just relax and get lost in the explorative world of arts and entertainment.

So, a quick disclaimer – be sure to use your brain and a little discretion if you’re going to take this advice.  There’s a diverse group of people reading this blog and not every one of these suggestions will work for each of them.  If you can’t reach your feet, don’t try to give yourself a foot massage.  If you can’t get up off the floor, you probably shouldn’t lay on it to stretch.  If you wake 13 times per night to urinate, don’t drink a jug of water before bed.  If you tend to have issues with overeating or emotional eating, maybe snacking is not your jam – I like puns.  Don’t hate on my puns.  If you’re six feet under, you can’t do breathing exercises, so that’s out.

Being “healthy” is not about being the best at every health goal.  It’s about doing the best you can with what you’ve got.  It’s about doing just one new thing each day to ensure your longevity.  It’s about figuring out what works for you, what motivates you, and using that to reach your goals. So, find the health and fitness goals that resonate with you. Use the routine that you have already created around television to build a routine around your goals for wellness.  Before you even close this article, set cell phone reminders or alarm clocks to hold yourself accountable, in case you forget everything you just read the second you close it.

Cheers to your process and best wishes in your health journey!


Harrar, Sarí, Pearson & Victoria (2013). “30 Days to a Healthier Heart.” Prevention. 00328006, Vol. 65, Issue 2. Retrieved from

Sahelian, Ray. (n.d.). “Oxytocin Hormone Benefits and Side Effects.” Retrieved from:

Blue light forming text on a black background that says, "Conscious Body Movement."

Herbal Medicine & the Common Cold, Hot Flashes, Vitamins & Supplements, and of course… Tap Dance!

In this interview, fitness trainer Greg Dyer (no relation – but he has a great last name!) interviews Light & Dark Acupuncturist & Herbalist, Molly Dyer about treatment of the common cold.  Dyer explains the reason why Chinese herbal formulas can powerfully kick out colds and flu at any stage.

The two discuss another topic as well – the over-consumption of vitamins and supplements.  We’re not talking about taking a few supplements on a daily basis, here.  We’re referring to those who take handfuls of vitamins and supplements and even herbs.  Healthy or hurtful? What do you think?

And let’s just be honest – any discussion would be incomplete without turning towards tap dance and its healthy effect on mental, physical and social well-being. What does this have to do with acupuncture and herbology?  Find out in the following episode of Conscious Body Movement, the podcast!

Hands in front of a pregnant belly, holding baby slippers, fertility blog photo

4 Steadfast Reasons to Use Traditional Chinese Medicine for Fertility

“Why do we always give ear needles to women who are trying to become pregnant?” asked my professor during a lecture on treating fertility.

The acupuncture students in my class shouted out various answers:

“To regulate the hormones.”

“To improve the likelihood of conception.”

“To enhance the strength of the treatment.”

“Yes… but what’s the biggest reason that we always give ear needles to women who are trying to become pregnant – every treatment, every single time?” she repeated.

“Stress,” offered another student.

“YES.  Because when the body is doing it’s biological count down, and a woman is receiving test after test, and monitoring her body temperature daily, and eating carefully to regulate her blood sugar levels, and taking medications and timed hormone injections to enhance her likelihood of conception… And when her husband is rushing off in the middle of a work day to a clinic where he has to ejaculate into a cup in a strange environment at the exact moment when his wife or girlfriend may be fertile – this may be the most stressful time in a couple’s life.  And to conceive under the condition of this type of stress is unlikely – your sympathetic nervous system is in overdrive and your stress hormones are out of whack.”

Duly noted.

Years later, I have not forgotten this emphatic point.

What my professor did not cover in this description is the deep heartache, self shaming and cultural humiliation that can happen to a couple when they cannot conceive.  If you were not aware that stating things like, “Are you two planning on having kids soon?” can seep a gut-wrenching heartache into an infertile couple, who keeps their struggles private from the public and may leave you completely unaware of this anguish inside of them, consider yourself informed and read this article.

This leads us right into the first of 4 Steadfast Reasons to Use Traditional Chinese Medicine for Infertility

1. It reduces stress.  Stress, anxiety and grief are key elements that must be eliminated during the fertile window in order to ensure successful implantation for pregnancy.  Acupuncture, and particularly ear acupuncture, can regulate stress and help the body relax.  Have you heard about couples that cannot get pregnant for years, as they go through tests and appointments galore, but they hit up a beach vacation and come back expecting a new family member in 9 months?  Reducing stress levels is essential to healthy conception.

2. Evidence-based Results.  Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which includes acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, does more than just regulate stress in infertile couples.  It relieves Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID).  It improves symptoms of  PCOS and assist in inducing ovulation.  For years, acupuncture has shown in Western studies that it can reduce blood flow impedance in the uterine artery, which helps increase the uterus lining’s receptivity during implantation.  There are Western studies galore that point to the positive effects of TCM on infertility.  As an acupuncturist, I refer to these articles to inform me on what I know has been proven to work.

3. Individualized Treatments for your Unique Constitution.  Western studies, impeccable and shatterproof as they are, miss the most important aspect of Traditional Chinese Medicine.  In TCM, we look at both the patient’s symptoms and their unique constitution to create an individualized treatment.  Our treatments address both the “root” of the disorder (i.e. the internal and external systems in the body that are creating the issue) and the “branch” (i.e. the symptoms that occur as a result of underlying imbalances, for instance, infertility.).  Our treatments are designed to specifically address the patient that is in front of us instead of offering a catch-all treatment for every person with infertility or any other disorder for that matter.

You know what is absolutely, positively awe-inspiring about these individualized treatments?  Infertility is such a rapidly expanding field as the growing acceptance of various sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions arrive on the scene.  Our world is now, more than ever, a color wheel of life experiences as opposed to our previous black and white view.  As healthcare begins to address those of non-conforming gender identities and tailor to same-sex couples, individuation in care is essential.  Traditional Chinese Medicine has trail-blazed in providing individualizing care for over 2000 years.  As this traditional field grows to become more inclusive, it can use these humble roots to lead healthcare into a new era.  This new era will provide comprehensive, high quality, informed healthcare where it has previously been denied.

4. Light & Dark Acupuncture. When I treat individuals for infertility, I craft a treatment that is founded in evidence-based research.  These treatments also address my client’s unique make up, and everything taking place in their body at this given moment in time.  I love being present with my patients and creating a space where they can grieve, heal and celebrate on this journey to parenthood.  If you are looking for a professional you can trust to walk through this journey with you, schedule an appointment today.  This is a long, but rewarding adventure that I’d be honored to jump into with you!

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