New Year Special

Many of us start the New Year with resolutions that include better self-care and improving our physical, mental, and emotional health. We want to help you achieve that with a New Year special for new patients.

For January through March 2016, we are offering new patients 3 initial treatments for $75. When making an appointment, just include “New Year Special” in your answer to the Reason for Your Visit question. You can always make an appointment by emailing xiaojing@bittermelonacupuncture or calling 510-847-7501.

Here’s to an amazing 2016!


Season of Food Stagnation

My grandmother loved to eat. Even in 1980s Mainland China with strict household food rationing, she always had sweets and snacks to share with me. The last time I saw her in Beijing, just a few months before she passed away at age 85, she was bedridden and not able to speak clearly. However, she could still communicate to me that she wanted a plate of fried chicken from the corner market.

The snack I associate most closely with my grandmother is haw flakes (see image below), which she used to give me, one flake at a time. This tart and sweet candy is made from hawthorn fruit or Shan Zha, a staple of the Chinese Medicine pharmacopeia used to treat what we diagnose as “food stagnation”. In other words, when you eat too much and need some digestive help, Shan Zha is your friend. Along with other herbs that treat food stagnation, Shan Zha contains enzymes that help with the digestion of fats and proteins. It’s also a great herb for those with high cholesterol.

As many of us enjoy large, decadent meals during this holiday and winter season, it becomes even more helpful to make friends with our body and digestive system. Through regular acupuncture treatments, we can speed up food metabolism, decrease gastrointestinal discomforts like bloating and gas, and regulate bowel movements. Finding the right herbal formula for your digestive constitution can also work wonders on both acute and chronic health issues.

If you’re curious, book a phone consultation! For the rest of December, Bitter Melon Acupuncture is offering free initial phone consultations. Just email to schedule a time.

Happy eating!


Simple Bone Broth Recipe

(This blog post is not vegetarian friendly. Veggie/vegan recipes coming soon!)

Bone broth is all the rage now, with everyone from professional athletes to those on paleo diets raving about its health boosting abilities.

Did you know that bone broth is also a staple of Chinese Medicine? The minerals, collagen, and other nutrients in bone broth – derived from slowly breaking down bone, marrow, and cartilage – are fantastic for supporting our own bones and tendons. Especially as the weather gets colder, bone broth is also a nutritious way to support our immune system. In Chinese Medicine, we say that bone broth nourishes our “kidneys”. This is just another way to describe its bone and immune boosting properties.

Here is a simple recipe for bone broth that can be modified in many ways to support your own health.


  • 2 lb beef bones, preferably including some thighbones and knuckles from pasture-raised cows (in the Bay Area, farmers markets often have vendors who supply great quality beef and pork bones). You can substitute high quality chicken bones and fish as well.
  • vegetable scraps from the week
  • eggshells from the week
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar (can be apple cider vinegar)
  • herbs and spices: salt, pepper, Chinese herbs

Other than the bones, the rest of the broth ingredients are really to taste. I make stock with Chinese medicinal herbs based on the season and my constitution. To find out which Chinese herbs would be right for you, come in for a herbal consultation.

On Stove

  1. Place bones in the oven and roast for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees F.
  2. Fill large pot with water (about 4/5). Add all the ingredients and bring to boil.
  3. Reduce to a simmer for at least 8 hours. In the first few hours, skim the foam that floats to the top.
    • Beef bones, simmer for 12-24 hours
    • Chicken bones, simmer for 8-12 hours
    • Fish bones, simmer for 6-8 hours
  4. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Strain to remove bones, eggshells, vegetables, and herbs.
  5. Store in glass containers or even ice cube trays (this allows you to take a few cubes out at a time to cook with).

Crockpot Modifications

  1. Place bones in the oven and roast for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees F.
  2. Make sure the ingredients will all fit in the crockpot with plenty of room to spare.
  3. Add water until ingredients are completely covered.
  4. Cook on low for 12-24 hours.

You can drink bone broth by itself but my recommendation is to use it as an ingredient to cook with. Use it as a stock for soups. Add a little bit to your stir fry or even to your rice. It’s easy to digest and so very good for your health!

Bone Broth

Staying Healthy During "Flu Season"

Patients often ask me how they can avoid getting sick so often during “flu season”. Now that we’re officially into the fall, let’s tackle that question.

The theory of Chinese medicine is grounded in the belief that humans and our environments are interconnected, and to be healthy, we must live in harmony with nature. In the animal world, many species hibernate or experience some form of metabolic suppression in the winter. How do our human bodies change with the seasons?

Modern science is finding evidence that our bodies’ interdependence with changing environments occur at the genetic level. A study published this year in Nature found that about 25% of our DNA shifts significantly with the seasons, and the changes in gene expression varies depending on where we are from. For those interested in this type of research, studies have also found that the outer shell of viruses gets more resilient in colder temperatures.

With this understanding of our interconnectedness, it’s clear that as seasons change so should our lifestyles. Chinese medicine postulates that as we move in to fall and winter, it is a more yin time of the year. Yin is slow, cool, dark, and heavy. It’s a time to contract and go inward, to rest and nourish our organs.

Yet in our culture, fall and winter are often a time of new beginnings and emotional stress. It’s when the school year starts and major holidays land, and when many people have hectic end of the year deadlines. Then in January, a whole segment of the population begins New Year resolutions of hardcore exercise, cleanses, and diets. This disharmony can weaken our bodies and make us more susceptible to colds and flus.

You might be thinking, the Bay Area doesn’t really have seasons! Or, what about global warming? While the change in temperature here between seasons might be modest, it still has an effect on our physiology. Changes in moisture levels and wind patterns also have an impact. And most significantly, our bodies still need to adapt to the shorter days and longer nights.

Tips for Staying Healthy this Fall & Winter

Sleep. If there’s one thing I would recommend for staying healthy this season, it’s to get more sleep. Even if you’re not able to sleep a full 8-10 hours a night (and I can empathize, having a small child), try to get as much down time as possible in the evenings. If insomnia is a problem for you, come into the clinic and we will create a treatment plan.

Nutrition. I don’t recommend drinking chilled beverages or eating too much cold foods any time of the year, but especially during the fall and winter. This is a time to warm and nourish. Sip plenty of tea and try to have hot soup at least once a day.

Incorporate yin-nourishing foods into your diet, including yams, sweet potatoes, squash, kidney beans, eggs (if you’re not vegan), and pork and beef (for those that eat meat).

Although it may be rainy here in the Bay Area, fall is considered a “dry” time of the year according to Chinese medicine (have you noticed that your skin and scalp often become drier and itchy around this time?) Moistening foods are important in the fall, including apples, pears, apricots, oranges, avocados, and black sesame seeds. During the colder months, try to cook with more onions, garlic and chives to add heat to your diet.

If you have particular dietary needs or don’t know if these foods will work well with your constitution or current health conditions, schedule a consultation and we will go in-depth to create an herbal and dietary treatment plan for you.

Activity. While we don’t need to go into hibernation, I suggest that you try to decrease your activities by at least 15%. One day a week, take a leisurely walk outside if you usually go hard at the gym. One night a week, go to bed early or curl up with novel instead of spending a night out on the town.

Cold air outside and dry air indoors can cause the aerosol droplets from sneezes and coughs to spread more easily. So even when it gets cold and rainy, make sure you open your windows and allow air circulation at least a few times a day.

Enjoy this slow time of the year and rest as much as you can so we can bloom when springtime arrives.

winter foods