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  • Begin your path to optimum wellness.

    Traditional Chinese Medicine is a fully integrated system of theory, diagnostics and treatment that can address virtually any health condition.

  • Health

    A state of complete physical, mental and social well-being beyond merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

  • One of the side benefits of my treatment at Oregon City Acupuncture is the holistic view they have of care. I am not just treated for pain or inflammation. I am treated as a whole person and when I leave, I feel more centered and in tune with who I really am. — CC

  • For the first time in many, many years, I am able to really be comfortable in my body throughout my day and find joy in life.  I have an extensive history with western medicine, having had many surgeries and been treated by many doctors.  However, nothing has given me the benefits I receive from acupuncture and Chinese herbs. — CC

  • From the first visit, we noticed improvement. Each session for each of us was fashioned for our individual needs at that time, in a relaxing atmosphere. The results were encouraging, often giving us flexibility and release from pain. — J & G

Defend Your Vital Energy This Winter

The concept of QI or vital energy is central to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).  Qi changes its form according to its location and function. The lungs are associated with Wei Qi.     Fall is the time to nourish and strengthen the lungs.   Wei Qi translates as “defensive vital energy”.   In other words, your immune system.  According to TCM theory, your Wei Qi is derived from food and water.  The lungs regulate the circulation of Wei Qi beneath the skin, and control the opening and closing for the pores.  This explains the holistic tradition of promoting sweating when one has a cold or flu.   The invading pathogen obstructs the flow of Wei Qi, blocks the pores, and impairs the controlling function of the lungs.  By promoting sweating with herbs, for example, the pores are unblocked; sweat comes out and with it the pathogenic factors causing your cold.  Then the Wei Qi is free again to circulate and defend.

When Wei Qi is weak, you can become prone to frequent colds.  It is important to nourish and strengthen the lungs and therefor the Wei Qi in the fall.  There are several herbs and formulas one may use in the fall to nourish the Wei Qi.  Depending upon your personal constitution, herbs such as Ginseng, Astragulus or Reishi mushroom or formulas including them might be recommended to strengthen your Wei Qi for the cold and flu season.  Consult your acupuncturist at Oregon City Acupuncture to find out what is best for you and avoid those winter colds and stay healthy.

                      Bean Sprout and Wood Ear Salad

 If you have one nearby, visit an Asian market and get the ingredients below.  Things will be less expensive there.wood ear fungus

The sprouts and wood ear helps those with atherosclerosis, high cholesterol, anemia, poor memory, or who want to build immunity or lose weight.  It is likely you have already tasted bean sprouts and wood ear in other dishes if you have ever eaten at a Chinese restaruant.

  •  Bean sprouts 2-3 cups. I use mung bean sprouts –those creamy white-yellow ones in bulk.
  • 1 Package wood ear.
  • Also pick up a bottle or can of sesame oil. It is a great all around seasoning for many foods.
  • Rice vinegar 2 Tbls
  • 2-3 cloves garlic – the more you use the spicier it gets
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce – try Bragg’s Liquid Aminos as an alternative to soy sauce.
  • 1 Bunch of green onions.

Soak the wood ear for 30 min in warm water. Should expand 2-5 times original size. Rinse. Cut off the fibrous base.

Cut into small pieces, ¼ inch strip

Put in 2 cups water. Bring to boil and simmer 3 min.

Remove from pot and drain.

Place bean sprouts in pot of water and cook like you did the wood ear. Sprouts should be soft but not soggy.

Remove from pot & drain.  Mix with wood ear.

In a separate bowl mix well the rice vinegar, sesame oil. Add minced garlic & green onions.  Toss with the sprouts and wood ear.

It gets stronger with marinating for a day or two. Pressing garlic makes it hotter. Adding red pepper flakes adds more heat.

Can use honey ¼ t or add 1 t. mirin sweet rice vinegar to balance the flavors.

Keep in refrigerator.  Serve at room temp.

Caution with wood ear and pregnancy or blood disorders.   Eat it in limited amounts.


How Do You Mend a Broken Heart?

There are many reasons a heart can break. It could be a literal break, as in a heart attack or a cardiovascular illness.  Or, it could be a metaphorical break—at the end of a relationship, or after the death of a loved one or pet. No matter if these partings are amicable, tragic, distressing, or unpleasant, they all leave the heart in a vulnerable position.

When you experience a loss, physical pain in the chest can follow. This pain, though perhaps not as dangerous, is just as real as the pain experienced during a physical crisis of the heart and needs just as much time, energy, and healing.

Depression, anger, loss, and loneliness can result from emotional or physical heartbreak.  Herbs can help heal the heart and lift the spirit.    Try the following herbs and take some time to be good to yourself—relax, breathe, and give your heart a much-needed break.

Note: if you take any medications for cardiovascular health, please consult your physician before taking any alternative remedies.

hawthorn berrys on white1. Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.):

Hawthorn is an all-around heart tonic, serving to strengthen and tone the cardiovascular system, lower cholesterol levels, and manage blood pressure. On an emotional level, the idea of a stronger, more resilient heart may allow us to spring back from heartbreak and venture forward on a new path without so much fear and heartsickness.

Typically with hawthorn preparations, we use the berries of the tree, but the flowers and leaves can be included, too. When I create blends for emotional upset, I prefer to use the flowers (something about the metaphor of the flower opening and turning to the sun) and save the berries for physical disruptions. But really, any part of the herb can work.

Try a hawthorn tincture and drop a dose into warm water or tea. Warm beverages are especially soothing for nervous complaints. Or, if you can find dried berries, steep a half teaspoon of crushed berries in a cup of hot water. Wait 10 minutes, sweeten, and sip quietly.


Rose petal heart2. Rose Petals (Rosa rugosa):

The rose has long been identified with love and matters of the heart. Just as the red rose can be the symbol of love’s beginning, the white rose can signify the end of a life. Any flower with such range over the emotional spectrum is a necessary addition to a home heart-repair kit.

Rose petals can calm the nerves, relieve insomnia and mild depression, drive away mental and physical fatigue, and soothe feelings of anger or resentment. Roses can open the heart and lift the spirit; they can be used to overcome grief, or to ready the heart for a new beginning.


Try rose petal tea. Steep a tablespoon of rose petals in a cup of water for five minutes. Add a light-flavored honey, so as not to mask the delicate flavor of the rose.


melissa and bug3. Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis):

Lemon balm is a wonderful herb for treating insomnia that stems from worry and heartbreak, nervous tension, stomach upset due to stress, and even skin outbreaks (including rashes) resulting from stress and tension.

Try lemon balm tea. Steep two teaspoons of dried lemon balm per cup of water. Add sweetener and a splash of lemon juice for flavor. You can also try combining lemon balm and rose petals for a warm and sweet tea with a bit of lemony zing.


motherwort herb4. Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca):

This is an excellent remedy for a racing heart caused by stress, tension, and general emotional upset. A soothing herb for the nerves as well, motherwort can settle a racing mind and bring back the restorative balm of untroubled sleep.

Try a motherwort tincture and squeeze a half teaspoon or so into a cup of hot water or tea.



Important note: Avoid motherwort while pregnant.


Rosemary5. Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis):

One of Ophelia’s most famous lines from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, is, “There’s Rosemary. That’s for remembrance.”

Traditionally, rosemary was believed (and still is!) to strengthen the memory. As such, it became a symbol of fidelity for lovers.

Even if fidelity is a painful subject at the moment, and even if your heartbreak was so painful that you welcome the idea of forgetting, it might behoove you to lean a little on this herb.

Keep the memories that serve you and learn from those that don’t. Memories are long and potent and can poison over time. Allow rosemary to sweeten your memories and guide you gently to a place of forgiveness.

Physically, rosemary strengthens the circulatory system, inviting us to warm up and get up. Its woodsy scent reminds us that there is life beyond our pajamas. Rosemary inspires action and motion—perfect therapies for a broken heart.

Try a mild rosemary tea. Steep a few teaspoons in a cup of water for about five minutes. Add sweetener and a bit of non-dairy milk, if you like. Also try combining with rose petals for a light and complex flavor.

No matter what makes your heartache, just taking time for yourself, holding onto a warm cup of tea, and either sitting quietly or feeding your soul with nurturing company—be it in the form of books, friends, or films, are the first steps toward healing your heart center.

For addressing the emotional pain of heartbreak, these herbs are usually used in small doses of the tincture form, three to nine drops three times a day.  If you are not trained in medical herbalism, consult your Acupuncturist or Naturopathic doctor.


Beat the Summer Heat

So the sun is finally shining after months of Northwest gloom and drizzle and you’re more than ready to get out there and do some gardening, play some volleyball or tennis, hike in the Gorge, ride the Portland bike paths.  After months of sitting around, you want to get moving again!

While you’re outside catching up on fun, remember:  Summer heat can sneak up on you.  It can zap your energy, cause dehydration, sunburn and exhaustion! Kids under four, folks over 65, and those who are obese, already ill, or taking medications can be affected very easily. Prolonged exposure to heat and insufficient body fluids can result in heat exhaustion.  Symptoms can include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache and nausea or vomiting. Here are the best ways to avoid or remedy heat exhaustion:

In ancient Egypt, China and other parts of the Far East, watermelon juice and its seeds were traditionally offered to thirsty travelers. This flavorful fruit is one of the best remedies for dehydration and summer heat.watermelon

  • Pace yourself. Carry water with you and sip it throughout the day.
  • Replace salts and minerals with sports drinks that have potassium and other electrolytes. Avoid drinks with large amounts of sugar.
  • Wear lightweight and light colored clothing.
  • Seek air conditioning or cool breezes in the shade. Sunburn can happen very easily if you are not careful.  Don’t forget the sunscreen.
  • Avoid strenuous outdoor activities during the hottest parts of the day.  Use a buddy system if necessary and keep watch on those at high risk.
  • If you feel dizzy and/or stop sweating, stop your activity and get out of the sun fast. Drink cool, not cold water with a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in it. The vinegar helps to replace electrolytes and minerals like sports drinks do. Take a cool bath (or shower) for 15-20 minutes. Try to submerge as much of your body as possible.

With a little knowledge and common sense, you will safely ease into a summer of fun!



Vitamin B12 Injections: A Little Goodness for Everyone

By Guest blogger, Dr. Marsha Hamilton, ND   Flow Natural Health Care

Methylcobalamin (MB12) is a water-soluble B12 vitamin that plays a critical role in the body’s neurologic and metabolic functioning. MB12 is a form of vitamin B12 that has enhanced bioavailability and works closely with folic acid in energy production, DNA and fatty acid synthesis and detoxification.

Methylcobalamin is the only form of B12 that can cross the blood brain barrier. All other forms of B12 must have a methyl group added, a process known as methylation, before being able to participate in the various neurological and metabolic functions in the body. The brain’s detoxification system relies solely on MB12. As toxic substances build up in the brain, neurological dysfunction develops which leads to memory impairment, depression, ADD/ADHD and even developmental disorders in children. MB12 can ameliorate this toxic build up and reduce and/or prevent such disorders

Methylcobalamin injections are superior to oral supplementation due to limited availability and poor absorption. Absorption of MB12 relies on adequate levels of hydrochloric acid in the stomach that is often suppressed in those taking proton pump inhibitors, who have an inflammatory bowel condition, celiac disease or poor overall digestive function. Bypassing the gastrointestinal tract delivers a higher dose of MB12 that is readily available producing a more immediate effect. Vegetarians are generally at risk for deficiencies in B vitamins as these vitamins are predominately found in animal products.

Below are some ailments and conditions that can benefit from B12 injections.

  •  Fatigue
  • Mood disorders
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Insomnia Detoxification
  • Autism
  • Weight loss
  • Athletic performance & recovery Inflammation
  • Immune system dysfunction
  • Neurological dysfunction
  • Anemia

B12Methylcobalamin injections have little to no side effects and are very well tolerated. If you have any questions or are curious if vitamin B12 injections would be a good choice for you, please call Dr. Marsha Hamilton at 503-974-9283.



About one mouthful in three of the food you eat directly or indirectly benefits from honey bee pollination.  Honeybees pollinate over $20 Billion in crops every year.  Commercial production of many specialty crops like almonds and other tree nuts, berries, fruits and vegetables are dependent on pollinated by honey bees. These are the foods that give our diet diversity, flavor, and nutrition.

Honey bees have been around for millions of years, yet are not native to the New World.  They came from Europe with the first settlers.  A hive can have from 20,000 to 60,000 bees, and only one queen.  A queen can live up to 5 years and is the only bee that lays eggs.

Beekeepers first began reporting losses of 30-90 percent of their hives in October 2006.  While colony losses are not unexpected, especially over the winter, this level of loss was unusually high.  By 2010, the USDA reported over all colony losses of 34%, similar to the four previous years.  Bee colony collapse continues to be a threat to these pollinators essential to the food we eat.

The main symptom of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is very low or no adult honey bees present in the hive but with a live queen and no dead honey bee bodies present. Often there is still honey in the hive, and immature bees (brood) are present. Varroa mites, a virus-transmitting parasite of honey bees, have frequently been found in hives hit by CCD.

CCD is a serious problem threatening the health of honey bees and the economic stability of commercial beekeeping and crop pollination in the United States. So far, a specific cause or causes of CCD have not been identified by researchers.

  • Pathogens:  No single pathogen directly relates to the majority of colony collapse.  A higher total number of viruses and bacteria relate more to CCD than any single pathogen.
  • Parasites: Varroa mites are often found in honey bee colonies that have collapsed.   Varroa mites may be directly involved or viruses that Varroa mites transmit to bee hives could be a factor in CCD.
  • Management stressors: Among the management stressors that are possible contributors to CCD are poor nutrition due to hive overcrowding and increased migratory stress brought on by honey bees being moved by truck to multiple locations across the country.
  • Environmental stressors:  Stressors include the impact of both scarcity and diversity of pollen & nectar, and availability of only pollen & nectar with low nutritional value.  Limited access to water or access only to contaminated water is also a factor.   Stressors also include accidental or intentional exposure to pesticides such as neonicotinoids at lethal or sub-lethal levels.

In 2013, Representatives John Conyers (D, MI) and Earl Blumenauer (D, OR), and co-sponsors Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D, CA) and Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D, NH), introduced the Save America’s Pollinators Act of 2013 in Congress.  The Act asks that neonicotinoids be suspended until a full review of their impacts is done. It was drafted immediately after the largest documented die off of bees in the United States which took place in the parking lot of a department store in June 2013. The neonicotinoid pesticide Safari sprayed on linden trees was suspected of killing the bees.

In March 2014, Minneapolis-based Bachman’s gardening centers announced that they plan to no longer sell neonicotinoids or use them at their nurseries and outdoor growing areas. Bachman’s vice president of production and wholesale said it was not an easy decision, but after receiving numerous calls from concerned gardeners they “decided to take precautionary action.”

Neonicotinoid pesticides are banned in the European Union.

Researchers have concluded that no one factor is the cause of CCD. Most likely, CCD is caused by multiple factors. It is not possible to know at this time if all CCD incidents are due to the same set of factors or if the factors follow the same sequence in every case.


  • Don’t use pesticides.   Most pesticides are not selective. You kill off the beneficial bugs along with the pests
  • Use local native plants.  Native plants are much more attractive to native bees than exotic flowers.  Heirloom varieties of herbs and perennials can also provide good foraging.
  • Plant several colors of flowers.  Bees have good color vision. Flower colors that particularly attract bees are blue, purple, violet, white, and yellow.
  • Plant flowers in clumps.  Flowers grown in clumps of one species will attract more pollinators than individual plants scattered throughout a garden. Where space allows, make the clumps four feet or more in diameter.
  • Include flowers of different shapes.  There are four thousand different species of bees in North America. They are all different sizes with different tongue lengths, and will feed on different shaped flowers.  Growing a range of flower shapes means more bees will benefit.  
  • Have a diversity of plants flowering all season. Most bee species feed on a wide range of plants through their life cycle. By having plants flowering through spring, summer, and fall, you can attract bees that fly at different times of the season.
  • Plant where bees will visit. Bees favor sunny spots over shade and need some shelter from strong winds.

A Few Good Bee Flowers

Aster, Oregon grape, echinacea, sage, borage, lavender, elder, rosemary, oregano, sunflowers, hyssop, thyme, bee balm, lemon balm, clover.  If you let artichokes blossom, bumble bees seem to really like them.

Although CCD is not as yet well understood, and may be the result of a combination of many factors, there are simple things you can do such as not using pesticides in your yard, and planting many different bee friendly flowers that will keep the pollinators in your area happy and healthy.

echinacea w beeartichoke + beeHoney beeSunflower & Bee

Beet Borscht for a Spring Liver Cleanse

Borscht 3Spring is Liver time, and a good time to give your liver a little extra attention after a long winter.  Beets are a good food to assist your liver and continue to nourish your kidneys as winter ends and spring begins. This dense root vegetable is an excellent cross-over vegetable as the seasons change.

Beets are a source of boron which is important for sex hormones.  They have been historically used as an aphrodisiac!

They contains many vitamins and minerals – potassium, magnesium, fiber, phosphorus, iron, Vitamins A, B, C, beta-carotene, beta-cyanine, folic acid.  Beets are also good for iron replenishment in women.

Beets can be good for mental health due to the betaine and tryptophan, similar to chocolate. They can also help lower your blood pressure.

If you eat a lot of beets or beet juice and your urine is pink you have low stomach acid.

Beets are low in calories & high in sugar – but this sugar is released slowly into your system –unlike chocolate.

They have a unique combination of phytonutrients and antioxidants which can be especially helpful in reducing chronic inflammation.

Beet Borscht:  A Delicious Way to Get Your Beets

You can make borscht any way you want. You can warm it up or serve it chilled.

Here is a veggie-packed recipe to start with. Add or delete items as you choose. Make it your own.

What you’ll need….

  • 1 1/2 cups cubed potatoes
  • 2 cups cubed beets                                                                                                                                                                          Beets
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onions
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 cup chopped beet greens
  • 2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, sliced
  • 3 cups coarsely chopped purple cabbage – it can be green but will probably look red when done cooking
  • 2 bay leaves
  • a couple handfuls of shitake mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 cup tomato puree
  • sour cream (optional)
  • green onions for garnish

Let’s Make Some Borscht!

  •  Heat the butter in a large pot. Sauté the onions until they are translucent.
  • Add the garlic, salt, bay leaves. Sauté for 1 minute.
  • Add the celery, carrots, cabbage, beets, potatoes, mushrooms and stock. Simmer until all the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.
  • Stir in the balsamic vinegar, beet greens, honey and tomato puree. Cover and simmer for 5 more minutes.
  •  Serve with a dollop of sour cream (optional) and green onions for garnish.

Borscht, any way you make it, is a delicious way to help your liver in the spring.  Enjoy a bowlful tonight.

Optimal Health: A Journey, Not Destination

Healthy ChoiceBy Guest Blogger,

Chantell Bunker

If you could create optimal health for yourself, would you?  Most people would say, “Yes!”  Unfortunately, many of us still struggle with health issues.  It may be excess weight, fatigue/low energy, blood pressure or cholesterol issues, chronic pain, and the list goes on.  Why is that?  What does optimal health even mean?

I look at optimal health as the best a person can possibly feel and function in their body and mind.  This will be different for each person – a 20 year-old will have a different level of optimal health than a 70 year-old, but a 70 year-old can still certainly have optimal health.

So, why is it that we still struggle with our health even when we really want to be optimally healthy?  There are a myriad of answers to this question, but right now let’s just focus on one idea.  Perhaps it’s because we’ve settled for a thought that sounds a bit like “this is just how it’s going to be for me.”

Many of us have become so beaten down by the stresses, disappointments and seemingly endless responsibilities in our lives that we’ve given up our own power.  We’ve given up on ourselves.  We’ve given up on our possibilities.  If any of this resonates with you, I’d like to give you some thoughts to help you on the journey to creating your optimal health.

Let’s start with the word ‘create.’  The definition of this word is “to bring into existence.”  That alone gives you power.  You have the power to bring into existence better health for yourself.  How do you do this?  The first thing I recommend is a visualization exercise.  Ask yourself the following questions, then close your eyes and paint a picture in your mind.  The more detail you give it, the greater impact it will have on you.  Hold that image in your mind, then open your eyes and write it down if you’d like.  Really use all 5 senses in creating this image in your mind.  Ask yourself:

  • When was the last time I felt optimally healthy (if ever)?
  • What would optimal health look like for me?
  • How would being optimally healthy affect my daily life?  What would/could I do that I can’t do now?
  • How would being optimally healthy affect how I feel about myself?  How would it affect those I care about?

A very helpful tool in the process of creating a desired outcome is the use of structural tension.  All tension seeks resolution, so I suggest using this simple but powerful tool.  Get a sheet of paper, and at the top write down exactly what you want to create, your goal.  Then get REALLY real with yourself and at the bottom of the paper write down your current reality – where you’re at right now in comparison with what you want to create.  The space between the bottom of your paper and the top is your tension.  This is where you write the actions you need to take and choices you need to make to get you to your desired outcome.  Read your structural tension chart daily to keep yourself on track and moving toward what you want to create.

The most important thing for every person to remember is this: Your health is a journey, not a destination.  Your health is like the laundry – it’s never done.  There will be potholes in the road; there may also be a few wrong turns.  You are human, and no human is perfect.  Give yourself grace and focus on what you are creating.  The most brilliant minds in history had to make many attempts before achieving their desired outcome.  Now it’s your turn…go be brilliant and create your own optimal health.

Chantell Bunker

COPE Certified Health Coach







Love Without Chocolate?

“I have this theory that chocolate slows down the aging process…. It may not be true, but do I dare take the chance?”   – Katherine Hepburn

Chocolove Can you show love without using chocolate?

Chocolate, cacao. It was considered the food of the gods and for use in some way by everyone when the Spanish first discovered it in Mesomerica. Its use began much earlier in the pre-Columbian era. Their term was xocoatl – “sho-co-a-tel”. Originally it was a drink and much more bitter than we commonly taste today. It has been found to have been mixed with corn meal, chili peppers and water with no sugar added. (Sugar was unknown to this part of the world back then.) Then it was wiped into a spicy frothy beverage and used in royal and religious ceremonies and celebrations. Ancient excavations are finding plots of cacao trees in people’s backyards as the cacao seeds were used as money by the common people. It was also used as offerings to the gods and payment to rulers (taxes and tributes). Actually because the regions that the Aztecs ruled did not have optimal growing conditions for cacao and they obtained it by trading with the Maya for this rare and valuable substance. Such was their appreciation for xocoatl!

After the Spanish brought this treasure back to Europe it was still considered a symbol of wealth and power and usually limited in use to the royal courts for about 100 years. Here experiments with adding other spices to the mix began happening, cinnamon, for instance, and sugar.

So from the beginning it has held a special place in our lives, a place of ceremony and value. Looking at it as an herb, dark chocolate has healthy ingredients that are powerful antioxidants. Antioxidants remove free radicals from our system. These destructive molecules are implicated in heart and other diseases. Good chocolate has a higher level of cocoa butter and vegetable fat. This is where the healthy phenols reside. European chocolate is known to require a minimum of 35% cocoa solids in its plain chocolate whereas in the US we require 15% so you  want to consider the source.

“I do recommend a piece of good-quality dark chocolate as a healthy snack . . . It is a source of polyphenols, the same type of antioxidants found in red wine, and the fat it contains is stearic acid, which doesn’t affect cholesterol levels. The latest good news for chocolate lovers comes from a study indicating that flavonoids in chocolate are good for your heart. These compounds reduce the stickiness of platelets, cells that play an important role in blood clotting. By eating a 1.5-ounce milk chocolate bar, you get the same amount of these protective compounds as in a 5-ounce glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.” – Andrew Weil, M.D.

Chocolate contains large amounts of the same beneficial plant chemicals that now have burnished the reputation of tea. In fact, just one ounce of chocolate has about as much of these plant chemicals as a cup of brewed black tea. One large, ongoing study of the benefits of exercise found that men who eat chocolate in moderation live longer than those who eat none. – University of California-Berkeley Wellness Letter

Now back to the original question “Can you show love without using chocolate?” Answer “Why should you avoid it?” Show someone you love that you care. The bitter flavor goes to the Heart in Oriental medicine and the phenols actually protect it in Western medicine. Of course, following the Buddha way, all things in moderation. Have a sweet, healthy and lovely Valentine’s Day.

Making Lacto-Fermented Vegetables

Ferment StuffFermentation may be the oldest method for preserving food.  It adds intense and complex flavors to whatever is fermented.  Fermentation is used in creating many modern foods such as yogurt, bread, sauerkraut, kimchee, pickles, salami, beer, wine, cider–even chocolate and coffee.  It is called lacto-fermentation because it is species of lactobacillus bacteria that created the ferment.  Lactobacillus is what makes sauerkraut, kimchee, pickles, sour beers and yogurt.

Making lacto-fermented is fun and easy. Beginners may want to use 1 quart jars to make small batches for experimentation.  Wide mouth Mason jars are best as it is easier to pack the vegetables down in them.

Wash jars in hot, soapy water before getting started.  They don’t need to be sterile.  After all, you want to take advantage of some good bacteria.  Don’t worry, the fermentation process is safe.  Lacto-fermentation bacteria keep bad bacteria from growing.  In addition to jars, creating fermentation locks make the process more efficient.  I created my own fermentation lids to top my fermentation jars.  I ordered some reCAPS on line at and purchased #6 one hole stoppers and fermentation locks at my local home brewer supply where they are cheaper than ordering on-line.

Choose your vegetables. You can ferment pretty much anything and everything: shredded beets, carrots, cabbage, cucumbers, onions, green beans, shredded kale, zucchini, and so on.   In this example, I use one head of Napa cabbage, a yellow carrot, half a head of cauliflower, a medium size daikon radish, two or three cloves of crushed garlic, two or three slices of minced ginger root, and a teaspoon of ground chipotle and pasilla peppers.  The final ingredient is salt.  I used about 1 to 1 ½ tablespoons of sea salt.

The next step is pretty basic.

Chop the vegetables into chunks (leaving out the core of the cabbage), put them all in a large mixing bowl and toss with the salt, garlic, ginger and peppers.Ferment Process

Next, you can gently pound the veggies to release liquid.  Some people squeeze the vegetables with their hands.  I used a large wooden spoon.  The salt will help draw liquid out of the vegetables.  When you see lots of liquid forming, you are done with this step.

Now add the veggies and liquid to the jar by pressing them firmly down until liquid covers them.  You want to keep the veggies packed down so the liquid keeps them covered.  Although I used two jars, I probably could have filled just one.

Seal the jar with your fermentation lock.  Although it is possible to ferment your veggies in a jar with just the standard Mason jar lids & rings, it is possible the pressure from the gases can cause the jar to explode!  Fermentation locks let the gases from the fermentation process escape, and keep out unwanted bacteria and fungus.  You need to add just a little water to create the “lock”.  You should notice some gas bubble up through the lock after a few days.

Set the jars in a warm part of the kitchen or other room.  I set my jars at the back of the dining room table near the heat register.  It takes about three days for fermentation to begin to work, so after three days, give it a taste.  It should be pleasantly tart and not smell too funky.  It can take another day or two to be just right.

Refrigerate when it tastes right to you.  You can remove the stoppers and locks and use the reCAPS as lids.  Experiment with different vegetables and fermentation times to see what works best for you.  Enjoy as a side dish or ingredient in salads or rice dishes.  You have created your own home made probiotics!  Enjoy as a side dish, or add to rice or salads.   For more on fermentation, visit: