A therapeutic, spicy, pumpkin soup to help eat up your pumpkins!


October 31st is here again and I’ve collected all my pumpkins into the safety of my green house before the first frosts.

It’s been a terrible year for growing pumpkins and all other Winter squash here in the Lake District. They thrive on late Summer sunshine and, although we had a beautiful Spring, July onwards rained more than I like to admit. The one squash that did well was a tromboncino, a beautiful squash that left the remains of my climbing bean supports draped in little, twisting, lime green trombones.

But Halloween has its needs, and I sacrificed two of my small collection of round squash to light up my clinic window for tonight. These, in the photo, are a delicious Rouge Vif d’Etampes and a little, blue Crown Prince.

Now both of these are far too tasty to throw away, so I’ve put together the recipe for the therapeutic, spicy, pumpkin soup that I’ve made with my pumpkin innards.

Here you go. Remember, the key with pumpkins is to do everything you can to add flavour. These two types of squash are sweet and nutty without too much help, but if you’re carving a big round American pumpkin, then up the quantities of spices a bit and keep tasting

  • Cut the top off your pumpkin and scoop out the innards with your hand (very gruesomely appropriate for Halloween!
  • scoop out the flesh with a spoon and knife, cut up the big chunks a bit, place on a baking tray with olive oil and salt and pepper and roast until it begins to brown. This step really helps boost the flavour.
  • Meanwhile slowly fry up four chopped red onions until caramelising.
  • Add four chopped garlic cloves, a half thumb sized, chopped piece of ginger,  the same amount of washed and grated fresh turmeric (or three teaspoons of dried turmeric powder) and continue to fry for a couple of minutes.
  • Add 3 chopped sticks of celery, three chopped, large carrots, a chopped, red pepper and a small red, chopped, chilli pepper. Stir, add a slosh of water to stop it burning and cook with the lid on and occasional shaking or stirring for 10 mins.
  • Add three teaspoons of marigold bouillon, three heaped teaspoons of baharat spice mix, one and a half litres of water and all the baked pumpkin (I hope you started with your biggest saucepan!)
  • Add a mug of red lentils and simmer for twenty mins.
  • Add 2 cans of chopped tomatoes, a slosh of red wine vinegar and a few handfuls of spinach or chard leaves and cook for another ten mins.

Whizz it before eating and grate some cheese on top when you serve. I like a blob of rose harrisa too.

So from a therapeutic point of view the squash is a fantastic Yin tonic, which is just what we all need for going forwards into Winter with our batteries fully charged! It’s packed with minerals and vitamins;  lots of immune-supportive vitamin A, folate, B6 and potassium as well as loads of free radical- scavenging vitamin C. The spices in the Baharat (one of my favourite spice mixes) are warming and help fend off Winter colds. The turmeric is anti inflammatory and the chilli and ginger balance its coolness to keep the soup warming. So delicious and good for you too.

Now off to squeeze into my Witches costume (Oh I’m in it already!)


Acupuncture for stopping smoking.

A photograph of a woman leaping with joy.

It’s a new year! So I’m really pleased to see new clients coming to see me to help them finally stop smoking.

This is a real joy for me because if I can help stop someone smoking then they will be achieving something that will truly improve their quality (and very probably quantity!) of life.

It’s often a surprise to realise how Acupuncture is still a very current and developing field of medicine, with new acupuncture points still being discovered, and new uses found for established points. Acupuncture use to help with addiction is a good example of this.

It was a Dr Wen, a neurosurgeon working with post-operative pain in the 1970s, who first reported that an acupuncture point in the ear was reducing opiate cravings in his patients.
Lincoln Hospital in the States took his research up and developed it into a system of 5 acupuncture points in the ear and this protocol has been used world-wide ever since.

I learnt this protocol 20 years ago and have been using it ever since in my own practice.

I’m not an expert in the field of addiction, but I’ve worked for 12 years or so treating people in residential detox centres and training the true experts to use the 5 point protocol; and for the last 18 years I’ve had my own clients with addiction or compulsion problems of every type imaginable. So, with that caveat, these are my thoughts;

The key issue to stopping smoking is this:

Identify what it is that you feel smoking is doing to help you. Then realise that it isn’t doing that at all.

I know that that’s easier said than done, but that really is the key!

Some people I see stop smoking after their first acupuncture treatment as if by magic!
Other people need a bit more support to keep it up until they can manage on their own.

There are key acupuncture points which help with cravings and detox. There are points which help with relaxation, sleep, mood control and stress.

Talking to the right person or just having some time and space to really think things through, will let you start leaving old patterns of thinking and behaving behind and move forwards at last.

Good luck! And Happy New Year!

How long does it take? Acupuncture for fertility and IVF support.

A photograph of a man and woman holding her pregnant abdomen.

I thought I’d do a series of thoughts on ‘How long does it take?

This one is thinking about acupuncture and a Chinese medicine approach to fertility and IVFsupport;

As always there are two main things to bear in mind – the first ‘how severe is the problem?’, the second is ‘how long has it been a problem for?’

The answer to both of these questions can hugely influence how much acupuncture andChinese medicine a person might need, to expect to see a difference.

The average number of acupuncture treatments that are estimated to see a definite difference is usually given as five, but sometimes I see amazing results from the first treatment, and sometimes progress is slower.
So saying, I would certainly hope to be seeing some positive changes after five sessions of acupuncture, regardless of the condition.
Sometimes the change might be ‘less pain’, for example with period pain –  or fewer mood swings. Sometimes a woman’s cycle might start becoming more regular of moving towards 28 days. With Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome things depend again on the severity of the condition. It might be a case of trying to initiate a period, shorten a cycle, stabilise blood sugar and control weight gain or just optimise things on the run up to IVF.

If the fertility problem is more in terms of sperm motility or number, then again the aim would be to optimise things over a period of weeks or months. I’ve seen amazing changes in all aspects of  sperm quality after a course of acupuncture along with Chinese medicine lifestyle advice.

With IVF support there are two key points for acupuncture intervention and a lot of research has centred around these two treatments. These times are just before and just after embryo implantation.

If time and finance were real constraints then just these two treatments would be the ones to go for.

In an ideal world most practitioners would aim to see a woman three months before IVF was due. This would give time to give a course of weekly sessions through one complete cycle (if cycles are actually happening of course), and gain enough understanding of the issues involved to aim further treatments at optimal points in the run up to IVF.

Sometimes the acupuncture sessions are particularly helpful in helping a woman or a couple cope with the stress of IVF – particularly with repeat IVF cycles. There are also acupuncture points which are specific to key events, for example for promoting ovulation, increasing blood flow to a healthy, thick womb lining, and gently damping down an adverse immune response toimplantation. There are also acupuncture points specific to helping minimise the risk of miscarriage.

Fertility support and particularly IVF support is an area where conventional Western medicine and Chinese medicine work particularly well together, and acupuncture is often a form of support which is recommended by IVF clinics.

For anyone who might be thinking about really focussing on fertility I’d recommend these things;

Look at your diet –  increase the quality and quantity of fresh vegetables, fruit and fish, decrease the amount of processed food, sugar, alcohol and stimulants.

Finally make that last push to stop smoking.

Check your rubella immunity is up to date.

Start some gentle, regular exercise.

Take steps to reduce stress in your life.

And – of course – I’d recommend acupuncture and Chinese medicine!

Acupuncture for IVF in Cumbria

A photograph of a mother clutching her child; both smiling.

I’ve just come home after watching a fireworks display. It was a perfect night for it; clear skies, dry Autumn leaves underfoot and freshly bare branches of neighbouring trees back-lit by a huge bonfire.

I love fireworks and tonight they felt a real celebration for all the couples I’ve been lucky enough to have been helping, who haverecently had babies. Some have had long IVF run-ups to pregnancy, some just difficulty with natural conception. Some have had multiple miscarriages, some have had problems with sperm numbers, motility or morphology. Every type of difficulty that you could imagine with having a baby, in fact, crops up at some point in my clinic. You can imagine how wonderful it is for me to meet a baby at last, knowing how longed for that baby has been!

I mostly treat couples who are based in the South Lakes, Barrow-in-Furness, Ulverston, Kendal, Ambleside and Coniston; but people also travel from Whitehaven, Lancaster and further afield.

Particularly with IVF, I imagine that people are used to having to travel some distance for treatment. Our local IVF centres are Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle and Glasgow; so always a long drive or train journey away.

I’m happy to say that fertility support with acupuncture is well acknowledged these days in main stream medicine. I frequently see clients who have been recommended to use acupuncture to support their IVF treatment either by their GP, hospital or IVF centre.

Acupuncture has been shown to help in a whole range of ways; there are acupuncture points to reduce stress, to help implantation, to improve sperm count and quality, to improve the blood supply to the uterus, to thicken the womb lining, to prevent immune rejection, to reduce miscarriage, to stimulate ovulation; the list is endless!

I also work closely with Zita West’s clinic in London, using the advice from the clinics IVF team and nutritionalists to help advise my own clients. I’ve found this information base invaluable at times and can use to real, affordable advantage for my own clients, so thank you Zita!

And thank you to my recent cohort of mothers, fathers and babies! It’s been wonderful working with you!

Acupuncture for helping nausea during chemotherapy

I’d like to talk about acupuncture for the type of sickness and nausea that can sometimes be associated with chemotherapy.

In my experience nausea is one of the most difficult problems for people to deal with. I see this a lot when I am treating people who are undergoing chemotherapy.

Not everyone gets sick with chemotherapy, the symptoms vary according to the types of drug used and also depend on the individual.

Some people get terribly travel sick, or have severe morning sickness, while others barely experience any trouble at all. This tendency can sometimes be a predictor for the people who might have more of a problem with nausea and sickness during chemotherapy.

Nausea and sickness can be very complex to treat because the body reacts with these symptoms for so many reasons.

Anxiety can be a key culprit for worsening symptoms.

Tiredness can too, as can going without food or drink for too long.

Conventional medicine has a whole host of different drugs for helping reduce vomiting but can be less effective at treating nausea.

Unfortunately it is often the continual nausea which people find so debilitating, draining them of their ability to cope.

Acupuncture can be helpful here.

There are some key acupuncture points which help reduce the sensation of nausea, allowing space for people to feel themselves again and start to regain some sense of control.

Acupressure bands can be bought (or you can make your own with some elastic and a bead or button sewn in place).

If you do try these then take them along to an acupuncturist  who can show you the correct positioning as the instructions on the bands which are available to buy, don’t give the positioning in quite the right place.

Acupuncture for morning sickness

Whenever I treat someone for morning sickness I am reminded of a story that a patient told me years ago.

She had just found out that she was pregnant and had woken up the following morning feeling terribly nauseous.
Between bouts of being sick her partner had said to her in an attempt to be helpful “never mind, at least it’ll only be for three months.”
The following morning he too came down with what, after all, had been a bad stomach bug.
My client couldn’t resist reminding him that ‘he would only be feeling like that for three months’!

Nausea is one of the things that I treat, which I think people find hardest to cope with.

I mostly see people with nausea from chemotherapy or morning sickness, and although the symptoms can be very similar the conventional treatment approach could not be more different.

I’ll talk briefly here about morning sickness and acupuncture treatment.

In Chinese Medicine one of the key factors contributing to, or worsening the symptoms of morning sickness, is tiredness.

I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to rest during pregnancy if you’re tired. We’re used to over riding our tiredness, but when you’re pregnant it really will make matters worse sooner or later if you don’t listen to your body telling you that it needs to stop for a while.

Of course that’s not the whole story, but rest often helps with morning sickness. Try cold, fizzy drinks as well and, if you’re finding it hard to even keep water down try sucking ice cubes.

I like to use vaccaria seeds on an ear point called shenmen. These seeds stay in place between  treatment sessions and gently stimulate the point. They have a calming, relaxing effect and really do seem to help reduce the severity of the sickness.


I’m using a lot of moxa at the moment and going around at work often smelling of its lovely wood smoke scent.

It certainly generates a lot of questions! Here are a few answers;

Moxa is dried Chinese mugwort, or Ai Ye in Chinese. It burns at a very high temperature but continues to smoulder, very rarely flaming, as it burns.

This smouldering causes a lot of smoke which has a beautiful woody, rosemary and sage scent.

Moxa is used a lot to warm an acupuncture point on the little toe as a treatment to turn breech babies. The point isn’t needled at all, but a compressed cylinder of moxa called a moxa stick and looking like a fat cigar, is moved over the point to warm it.

The main action of moxa is to warm and cause movement. It is sometimes put on the ends of needles to transmit its warmth down the needle. This is particularly helpful in cases of arthritic pain which are worse in the cold. As such its a lovely treatment to use during the Winter months.

The weather is warming up now as we move through May and those stiff, painful joints will benefit from basking in some warm, still sunshine!

Inducing labour with acupuncture

There are certain acupuncture points which need to be used with care during pregnancy, or even avoided altogether. These points have more of a ‘moving’ function and are used frequently to help, for example, with pain relief.

The one time during pregnancy when they come into their own is to help induce labour.

Using acupuncture in this way I like to try to get at least a couple of acupuncture sessions in before the gynae. deadline.

Very occasionally I have seen contractions starting almost as soon as the needles are put in place, (one mum’s waters broke during the treatment session a few weeks ago!).

More usually contractions start within the following two or three days, and then progress smoothly into full labour without the discomfort of hospital induction.

It’s another one of my favourite treatments, particularly if I’ve followed the same person  all the way, from fertility or miscarriage problems through a full term pregnancy and finally labour!

Tennis elbow

One of the MSc dissertations that I supervised a few years ago reviewed the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating tennis elbow.

By looking at numerous well conducted clinical trials it showed that there is good evidence that acupuncture is, indeed, effective in treating  tennis elbow.

I was chatting to a friend about this, this week, and my friend wondered how many people I saw with tennis elbow where the problem was actually a result of playing tennis.

The answer is ‘not very many’ out of hundreds of tennis elbow referrals!

Here’s a list of a few causes that I have come across;

  1. Poor posture whilst typing and using a computer mouse,
  2. Riding quad bikes,
  3. Riding mountain bikes,
  4.  Playing the guitar,
  5. Carrying coal scuttles,
  6. Carrying pails of water (not a Jack or a Jill),
  7. Rock climbing,
  8. Playing tennis,
  9. Using secateurs all day,
  10. Using chain saws,
  11. Starting two stroke engines too often in a hire shop,
  12. Carrying a huge, lovely, new handbag all day shopping!

Almost always tennis elbow is associated with too much tension in the forearm muscles. Acupuncture is useful both to reduce this chronic over tightening and also to reduce inflammation and speed up healing time at the tendon insertion into the lateral epicondyle of the elbow joint.