2021 – Year of the Metal Ox

2021 – Year of the Metal Ox

Lunar New Year in 2021 brings the Year of the Metal Ox. After 2020, I’m sure we’re all glad to say goodbye to the pesky Rat! 

Lunar New Year this year is on February 12th. The energy actually changes on February 4th. There are different calendars – solar, lunar, etc., and the explanation is complicated, so just go with it. February 4th is actually the start of Spring and the new year. 

Let’s analyze what the Ox has in store.

According to Chinese philosophy, we have the concepts of Yin and Yang, and Heaven, Earth and Humanity. These are the building blocks of the universe. 

Heaven and Earth

Every year, the energy of the year is determined by the energy of Heaven and Earth. We the people, being “Humanity”, live in between Heaven and Earth and are affected by their energy and the energy of the year. 

The Heaven energy for 2021 is Metal. 2020 was also a Metal year, because we have a Yin year and a Yang year of each element. 2020 was Yang Metal. 2021 is Yin Metal. Thus we have the year of the Yin Metal Ox. 

You may see the year referred to as the White Ox, since the color of Metal is white, and some people refer to the Heavenly Qi/ energy by color. 

The Earth energy in 2021 is the Ox. In the five elements of Chinese philosophy, the Ox is associated with the element of Earth, so the Earth energy is Earth. That might seem a bit confusing. In the five elements of Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water, the Ox is an Earth animal. The Rat was a Water animal.

So the Earth energy this year is… Earth. The Earth (the big round ball we live on) gets along best with its own element, rather than an element that weakens or drains it. So the Earth energy of the Ox is in harmony with the big Earth energy, because they’re both Earth. That’s good. Any time there’s a conflict between the Heaven and Earth energies, it makes it harder for us, the little people who live between those two giant energetic forces. 

Parents and Children

We also need to consider the relationship between the Heaven and Earth energies of Metal and Earth. In the five Elements energetic cycle, Earth gives birth to Metal, or is the parent of Metal. Since our elements in 2021 are Metal and Earth, we have a parent-child relationship, so they should get along. The only issue is that Heaven in general is “above” earth, or considered to be in a superior or parental position to Earth, which is considered “below”, or subordinate to Heaven. If you think about it, it makes sense, since Heaven, or the Universe, is much, much bigger than one small planet of earth.

But the Heaven energy in 2021 is Metal, which is the child of Earth, and a backward relationship. Even though they are parent and child, the backward nature of this relationship may mean that the child tries to control the parent. 

It’s unlikely to succeed, though. Because the Earth energy is Earth, Earth is very strong in 2021. The parent Earth is strong enough to resist any attempts by the Metal, the child, to control it. This will drain the Earth a little, from having to exert a bit of effort to resist an over-controlling child. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, since the Earth energy is so strong, they should balance each other out somewhat. 

What Does This Mean?

Since Heaven is “above us” (the sky and heavens are up above us), it relates to things/ people “above” us, or that have power over us. This can mean parents, bosses or the government, that generally have some sort of power or control over us. 

The implication is that those in power “above” us may try to control us, but because the Earth energy is so strong, it won’t work. Because we live on Earth (the planet), we’re more affected by the double Earth energy. That makes the people “below”  stronger and able to resist any attempt by those “above” to control us. 

Earth is a harmonizing element and likes to get along with everybody. So any attempts by those “above” to control, will most likely be resisted, and told in no uncertain terms to find a way to work together. 

Nature of the Elements

First, let’s consider the nature of the Ox. Oxen are hard-working animals that work well with others and in teams. They get hard tasks done. They’re also basically cows. Cows are fairly relaxed animals. They hang out in the sun, graze on grass, and chew their cud. They can be a little stubborn at times, but when they work, they work, and when they relax, they relax. So overall, the Ox year should be a good year to work well with others to get hard tasks done, and in between, be able to chill out and relax. 

Nature of Metal 

Metal is hard and can be sharp and violent. It won’t be as bad as 2020, though. 2020 was a Yang Metal year. Yang Metal is like a big sword, or a steel girder that holds up buildings – very strong and inflexible. 

Yin Metal is softer and more flexible – more like a butter knife or metal jewelry. So even though there is the potential for some violence, if it happens, it will be mild. People should be less stern and more flexible this year. 

Metal is also in charge of justice, and defining right and wrong. Think of the scales of justice – they’re made of metal, which is exactly their nature. 

Nature of Earth

The Ox is an Earth animal. Earth’s character is harmony, trust and tranquility. The Earth Element is in charge of transformation and transportation. We see this in the body through the Earth’s transformation of food in digestion. 


When we combine the natures of Metal and Earth, we have an idea of the character of the year. Because we live on Earth, and are more affected by the Earth’s energy, it should be a much more calm and peaceful year. We can expect people to work together to promote harmony, transformation and justice. And we can expect people to be more flexible and trusting than the sharpness and rigidity we saw in 2020. Most likely, we will see a continuation of the movements to transform and right old wrongs and promote more justice, equality and harmony, because that’s the nature of the energy this year.

Since Earth is the center, and represents the cooking fire, it can also represent the home. Because of its transformation and transportation functions, we’ll probably see people continue to transform their homes, as well as people continuing to move to new homes. 


According to an ancient Chinese medical text, Metal’s nature is dry and cool. And even though its nature is dryness, it’s also in charge of fog and dew. In Metal years, we tend to have a weird dichotomy of dry weather and humidity. 

Earth creates dampness and is in charge of clouds and rain. When excessive, it can cause flooding. Because the earth energy is so strong this year, there is the potential for big rain storms and flooding. 

As for temperatures, Earth is neutral in temperature, and takes on the nature of its companion element of Metal. Since Metal is cool by nature, temperatures should be more on the cool side. Weather will most likely tend toward cool, damp and rainy.  

We can have earthquakes in Earth years. Because it’s a Yin year, they should be on the smaller, mild side. If they do happen with wet, rainy weather, there could be mudslides. 


Metal’s state of mind is anxiety. Grief and depression are also associated with the Lungs (which are the Metal Element organ). We certainly saw a lot of that in 2020, where the Yang Metal made those emotions worse. We’ll continue to see more of the same in 2021, although maybe not as severe. But the emotions of Earth are overthinking and worry, and the Earth energy is very strong in 2021. So even though there may be a bit less anxiety, there will be more overthinking and worry. 

Water is also strong this year, so we’ll still see fear, which is the emotion of Water. It’s not quite as strong as it was in 2020, so hopefully, the fear will subside some. 

Fire is the weakest organ in 2021, and its emotion is joy. With all of the other emotions just mentioned, it may be harder for some people to feel joy. Deliberately doing things that make you happy will make it easier this year.

One of the best things we can do is to relieve stress and do things that help you relax and be calm. Practicing Qigong, meditation, and anything that calms the emotions will continue to be very important. And play time, of course! Many  adults don’t make enough time for play and doing things simply because it makes them happy. 


Unfortunately, 2021 isn’t going to help us get out of the Covid situation. (It should be better in 2022.) Because of the strong Metal and Earth energies, we’re still looking at the potential for Lung excesses with dampness. Colds and flus will be on the damp side, rather than the dry side. 

Interestingly, the ancient texts also says Metal can cause aging and falling. So older people will still be more at risk this year.

There’s also potential for Spleen/digestive and Intestinal problems with dampness. Focusing on a proper diet will be important not only to keep the body and immune system strong, but to avoid digestive problems with dampness.

The weakest Element this year is Fire. Fire was also weak in 2020, so we’re still likely to see people with heart problems and obesity (Spleen dampness) continue be those most susceptible to more severe cases of Covid.

Since Fire is weak, patients with Heart deficiency conditions will need more support. And the Small Intestine will be susceptible to dampness and deficiencies. 

Wood is weak this year. People who have Liver and/or Gallbladder deficiencies will need more strengthening. 

Water is fairly neutral this year, so there shouldn’t be anything out of the ordinary with the Water organs. 


Because Earth is strong, industries related to earth should do well. That’s good for real estate, home improvement, decorating, and construction. Other industries like pottery that use earth should also fare well.

Metal is also strong, so industries that work with metal and justice (associated with metal) should do well. 

Businesses associated with water will be neutral.

Wood industries, and health care, which is associated with Wood, are weak. That doesn’t bode well for the current pandemic situation. I suspect it will just have to run its course. Make sure to eat well, get plenty of sleep and take care of your immune system. 

Fire industries, including tech and the stock market, are most likely not in for a good year, since Fire is the weakest element this year. 


Like most years, the Year of the Ox will be a mixed bag. We’ll still have to contend with Covid and the fear, anxiety, stress and depression that went along with it in 2020. 

On a more positive note, people should be able to get along better, have more trust (because that’s Earth’s nature), and work together better, to make positive changes and transformations in areas that need more justice and harmony. 

Despite the negative emotions and still having to deal with Covid, there is great potential for healing some of the hate and distrust of the past few years. 

Final Thoughts

I hope you find this helpful. I do this analysis every year to be forewarned of what to expect for the year. Then I know what sorts of illness that patients will present and be better able to treat them.

I’ve been doing this analysis for many years, because I find it fascinating, if stressful. There’s always stress when making public predictions.

Even though I stress about it every year, the predictions usually to turn out to be pretty accurate. Whew! (No, I didn’t predict the pandemic, but the rest of it was pretty accurate.) Why? Because ancient Chinese texts give us the tools to understand and make these predictions.

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The Healing Sound of the Lungs

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My Radio Interview

I was recently interviewed on on MindBodyRadio, on the Daily Show with Chris Sawyer. It’s about 10 minutes long. If you’d like to listen and hear some more about me, how I got into Chinese Medicine, and how it can help people, listen here:



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2020: Year of the Metal Rat

2020: Year of the Metal Rat

Welcome to the Year of the Rat! Not only is 2020 the start of a new decade, but in  Chinese astrology, the Rat is the start of a new twelve year cycle. There are twelve animals in the Chinese Zodiac, thus the twelve years in the cycle, beginning with the Rat.

Being that this is not just the start of a new year and new decade, but the start of a new 12 year cycle, it’s an excellent time to plan and set intentions for this next cycle of life.

60-Year Cycle

The cycle also incorporates the five elements. The natural flow of the elements is wood -> fire -> earth -> metal -> water. Then the cycle starts over again.

Each animal goes through a cycle of each of the five elements, so when we combine all of that, we have five 12-year cycles to make a complete 60-year cycle. Then a new 60-year cycle starts.

Since the natural flow of the five elements starts with wood, which represents the start of new growth, the start of a 60-year cycle starts with the Wood Rat. The second 12-year cycle starts with the Fire Rat, and the third cycle starts with the Earth Rat. Since this is the year of the Metal Rat, we’re starting the fourth 12-year cycle in the current 60-year cycle. (This means a new 60-year cycle starts in 24 years, after we complete the next cycle that starts with the Water Rat.)

Heavenly Stems and Earthly Branches

The Heavenly Stems are the five elements of wood, fire, earth, metal and water. They give us the energy coming from “Heaven” or the heavens or universe for the year.

The 12 animals correspond to the Earthly Branches, or the energy of the earth (the planet, not the element) each year.

Each year is either Yin or Yang, and they alternate. We’ve just finished a Yin year, so this year is Yang.

The Heavenly Stem this year is Yang Metal, which is why it’s a Metal Rat. Some people call it a White Rat, since white is the color of Metal.

According to the The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine, written about 2,000 years ago, the nature of Metal is cool, dry, hard and forceful. It can cause “sternness and killing”, as well as “aging and falling”. Metal also represents justice, or right versus wrong.

That gives us a good idea of the nature of a Metal year. Since it’s Yang Metal, we have to factor in the Yang nature. Yin Metal would be softer and flexible, like jewelry or metal wire. This year is Yang Metal, so it’s big, strong, powerful, sharp and inflexible, like a meat cleaver or a sword. The nature of the element tells us the nature of the year.

This adds up to the possibility of violence. We tend to have more violence in Metal years, and the fact that it’s a Yang year makes it potentially stronger, or worse. The justice nature of Metal gives the potential for violence where people think they’re right and others are wrong.

Since the Heaven energy also represents what’s “above” us, it can mean violence coming from governments, or people in positions of power over others (“above” others). But it’s more likely against other governments, if it happens, rather than governments against their people. Since Metal is the parent of Water, and the child (Water) refers to the people “below”, Metal and Water are in a natural parent-supporting-child relationship. Because their relationship is harmonious, it’s unlikely that governments will be violent against their people. It may be that there are cases where some countries think they’re right and others wrong, and then there could be the potential for violence. Because the Metal and Water elements are in harmony this year, we may see more “saber-rattling” rather than actual conflict.

Next, let’s consider the Rat. Rats are intelligent, prolific and resourceful. People don’t tend to like rats because we associate them with garbage and uncleanliness, but they’re smart little survivors. Think of why rats are so successful in mazes –  they’re Water nature, and water always finds a way to flow through. So perhaps we’ll see some smart new strategies emerge this year.

The Rat represents Yang Water. So we have the combination of Yang Metal and Yang Water. Metal gives birth to, or produces Water. Metal is the Heaven energy, and is in the position of being “above” its child, the earth energy of Water. The parent is “above” the child. Since this follows the natural flow of the five elements, this is a harmonious relationship.

2109 was Yin Earth and Yin water, which makes mud. And since Earth restrains Water, there wasn’t much flow or movement, and a lot of stagnation instead.

Metal gives birth to Water, so 2020 will have more movement and flow, and less stagnation overall. Things that were stuck should start moving again.

The Nature of Water is, of course water. It also represents cold, specifically “piercing cold”. It causes frost, ice and hail. It’s also considered “hard and stern”. This seems a bit counter-intuitive, because water feels soft, but water can do great damage. And it’s Yang Water. Yin Water is like clouds and rain. Yang Water is like the ocean. It’s big and powerful and impossible to stop once it gets moving.

Yang Metal is very inflexible, because it doesn’t bend easily. On the other hand, Water is very flexible, and always finds a way to go where it wants.

Metal is like a knife that cuts, and Water washes things clean.

Water is associated with wisdom, so hopefully the Water energy will bring some flexibility and wisdom this year. But the hardness and sternness of both elements may just steamroll over wisdom. There could be big movements this year, with lots of people caught up in the flow.

Water is very strong this year. So “children”, or those “below” or with less power are strong enough to stand up to their “parents”, or those “above”, especially when it’s an issue of justice or right and wrong. We’ll likely see continuation and strong growth in the movements of those who feel like they’ve been abused by those in power and want justice, like the #MeToo movement, women’s rights, and the youth movements around gun control and climate change. These are also movements spurred by wanting justice (Metal), and fear, which is the emotion associated with Water.

Because Water is the “child” and we’re at a new beginning in a new cycle, there is a lot of support for youth movements and new things. And the Yang nature of the Water could make those movements become unstoppable groundswells or tidal waves. It should be an interesting year, particularly with the U.S. presidential election this year.

Weather in 2020

I have to start this section with a caveat. Australia having massive fires in 2019, a Yin Earth/ Yin Water year, is not what should happen. If anything, it should have been problems with mud, water, and flooding, not fire. Fire energy was very weak in 2019. The planet is out of balance, and showing symptoms.

I’m not being political here, only diagnosing the problem. Global warming is interfering with the natural flow of energy. It’s like a body being out of balance that has symptoms that wouldn’t be there when it’s in balance. It’s like a person who eats too much ginger too often and feels hot when they shouldn’t. The planet is now out of balance, and showing heat symptoms.

Weather predictions based on the energetics of the year have been fairly accurate in the past, and overall, they should still dominate the weather. However, because of the planetary imbalance, there could be heat symptoms, when there shouldn’t be any this year.

With the coolness of Metal and the piercing cold of Water, it should be a colder than normal year. It should be a bad winter, with many problems due to freezing, hail, and ice. Metal’s nature is dryness, but it’s also in charge of fog and dew. And Water represents actual water. Even with the dryness of Metal, there will probably be more rain this year. We’ll probably get alternations between dry weather and humidity.

Because it’s a Yang Water year, rain and snow storms will probably be big and damaging, with lingering ice, cold and frost. Because of the fog and dew aspect, there may be more accidents in foggy weather, and more blizzards with white-outs.

There may also be problems with flooding, especially on the coasts of big rivers, lakes and oceans, since it’s a Yang Water year. Because there’s more movement this year, if bodies of water move, it will be a Yang movement, and big. There could also be tidal waves.

Health in the Year of the Metal Rat

There could be more accidents involving metal and water this year because both elements are so strong. Pay attention when using knives, driving, boating or water sports.

Metal also represents armored creatures, which are insects. There could be problems with insects and insect bites.

Water represents scaly creatures, so be careful around snakes and dangerous reptiles.

Metal’s state of mind is anxiety, and Water’s is fear. We usually think of anxiety associated with the Heart and sadness associated with the Lungs, the Metal organ. These emotions usually emerge when the associated organs are out of balance. But there could be more problems with these emotions this year, especially in people with preexisting conditions. If there is violence this year, it will cause more anxiety and fear.

When we consider the five elements and their associated organs, we can see how strong or weak each organ is this year.

Metal and Water are strong. So Lungs and Kidneys should be strong this year. Patients with Lung and/ or Kidney deficient conditions should feel better this year. Patients with Kidney deficiency-type asthma may feel better, although anyone worse with cold will have a harder time in winter. People with excesses in either of these organs will have more problems. There could be more problems with excess bone problems like spurs. And since the lungs rule the skin, the may be more issues with dry skin and skin excess conditions.

There could be more injuries caused by metal and water, like knife cuts and falls due to slippery surfaces. Because the Water/Kidney energy is strong, even though there may be more falls, bones should be strong and heal well because the Kidney energy is in charge of bones.

The Wood element is strong this year, since Water is the parent of Wood. Metal does weaken Wood, but overall, Wood is strong. So people with Liver/ Gallbladder excess may feel worse, while those with deficiencies may feel better.

Fire and Earth are both weak this year, since Water and Metal weaken their energies. People with Heart deficiencies may feel worse and have more problems. As mentioned above, there may be more anxiety, as well as worry and overthinking, since the Earth element is weak.

People with weak digestion will need to be more careful about their diets and eating correctly this year. It will be easier for Spleen/ Stomach and digestive problems to occur, especially in cold weather. It’s a good year for people to learn how to eat correctly according to Chinese medicine and protect the Spleen and Stomach. Eat more cooked, warm foods, like soups and stews this year, especially in cold weather.

Final Thoughts

Rats are intelligent animals so this is a good year for learning and study. More importantly, water represents wisdom, not just intelligence, so it’s a good year to cultivate wisdom. The water / Kidney energy in the body is a deep level of energy, so practicing to cultivate deep wisdom is very good this year. Meditate, practice Qigong or other spiritual practices to cultivate that deep wisdom.

Metal is very materialistic, and with the potential for violence and emotional upset this year, practicing to gain wisdom, and calm and balance the emotions can help with the harsher aspects this year.

Along with cultivating wisdom, remember that this is the beginning of a new cycle. New beginnings aren’t always easy. There’s the potential for the Yang Water to wash away the old and bring in change and new energy for the next 12-year cycle. Remember to plan what you want your next 12 years to look like and take advantage of the new energy and new cycle.

There are no straight lines in the Taiji (Yin/Yang) circle because the energy is always moving and changing. When we get to an extreme, i.e., the fattest part or the thinnest part, it flips into its opposite, which is not always a peaceful process. So even though it seems that this year may have its challenges, it’s only a phase and the energy will change. 


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2019: Year of the Pig

Predictions for The Year of the Pig

Happy New Year! February 5th was Lunar New Year, and the energetic start of Spring. Spring is the start of the new energetic cycle and new growth for the year.

The Western new year of January 1st was established by Julius Caesar to correct errors in the mathematical calculation of the year. A year is actually 365 days and some hours long. Before that, there were errors in the calendar, so it was arbitrarily decided to make January 1st the start of the year. It has nothing to do with the actual energetics of nature, which is what we follow in Chinese Medicine in order to stay in harmony with the seasons and in good health.

Every year is either Yin or Yang, and it alternates every year. Last year was a Yang year, so this year is a Yin year. Yin is the cooling, calming, moistening, restful, and more feminine energy.  (Yang is the opposite.)

Every year, we also have the energy of Heaven (as in “the heavens” or sky, not in any religious sense) and the energy of Earth (as in the planet Earth). Each has its own energy for the year, which is one of the five elemental forms of energy. This year, the Heaven energy is Yin Earth, and the Earth energy is the Pig, also sometimes called the Boar. The Pig represents Yin Water. So our elemental energies for the year are Yin Earth and Yin Water.

Here’s what we can expect this year based on the energetics of the Earth Pig:


When you think about mixing Earth and Water, you get a pretty good idea of what’s in store this year: wet, damp, mud. Yin Earth by nature is more damp than Yang Earth, which is more dry. Add water to that, and you get even more damp Earth. Think mud. Lots and lots of mud. Areas that have had fire damage in the last few years, and/or are prone to mudslides are at risk this year.

Flooding could be a big problem this year, because the the Water energy brings more actual water, and the earth is too soggy to dam it up and hold it in. If you live in an area at risk for mudslides and/or flooding, now is the time to take precautions and prepare in advance.

As for the weather this year, the overall Yin energy of the year makes it more cool and potentially damp. Add to that the Water energy, which represents actual water, but also more dampness. Yin water is more like “clouds and dew” as the ancient books say, rather than bodies of water like lakes, rivers, and oceans, which would be Yang Water. When water is in the form of clouds and dew, you get humidity.

The temperature nature of Water is cold, so expect cooler weather, with higher humidity, and more rain than usual, because, well, it’s water.

When we consider the Yin Earth energy, we’ve already seen that it will be wet, muddy earth. The nature of Earth itself is dampness. Earth years always bring more rain. So we’ve pretty much got lots of damp and wet from all sides this year, with a dose of cold thrown in from the Yin Water energy. The weather forecasters will most likely call it an El Nino year. The atmospheric conditions will probably show up to create that, as the Heaven and Earth energies are what set up those conditions.

Mold will likely be an issue this year, since the conditions will be perfect for mold to grow. Watch out for leaks in houses, because mold could show up very easily. If you have a mold problem already, it’s only going to get worse this year, so it’s wise to take care of it as soon as possible. Dehumidifiers may be a good idea.


The biggest issue this year will be with cold and dampness in the body. Colds and flus will have lots of mucus, as opposed to lingering dry coughs.

There will be more digestive issues, especially involving dampness, like gas, bloating, easy weight gain, and loose stools. Avoid eating too many damp foods this year. Damp foods are greasy, fried, oily, and dairy products (not eggs – eggs are not damp, so they’re fine to eat, but they always get lumped in with dairy). Eating damp foods will cause digestive issues easily this year because of all the dampness of the year.

As extra weight is considered dampness in Chinese Medicine, it will be easier for people with weak digestion or prone to weight gain to pack it on this year. For these people, this is a year to really watch the diet and avoid those damp foods.

Avoid too many cold, raw foods, because they can damage the digestion, especially in cold weather. Eat more cooked, warm foods, especially when it’s cold. It a good year to use a bit more ginger and garlic in cooking, since they help warm the digestive system and get rid of dampness. Don’t use too much ginger or garlic if you run too hot or have acid reflux. Everything is about finding the balance, so experiment and find the right amount for you.

Because Earth represents “flesh” it’s likely there will be more lumps, bumps, and tumors this year. If skin diseases arise, they’re more likely to be of the wet, weepy, oozy kind.

Because of the cold weather, people who run cold may have a harder time. Make sure to dress warm in cold weather and avoid getting chilled. Eating more ginger and/or garlic can help. On the other hand, people who tend to run hot will probably have an easier time this year.

Also watch out for mold. Mold can cause a lot of health problems. Because of the weather, there will be more mold and things like fungus and candida. If you think about what happens to a wet, soggy garden and what grows in those conditions, those are the sorts of things that can grow in the body this year with the right conditions.

Depression may be an issue this year for some people. Fire is weak this year, and its emotion is Joy. Combine that with lots of clouds, rain and cold, and people may be more prone to depression. It’s a good year to get out in the sun when you can, and pay attention to managing moods. It may help to do things that bring you joy, to help balance the weakness in the Fire energy this year.


Earth and Water industries should benefit this year, so it should be another good year for real estate, as long as there aren’t issues with flooding, landslides, mud, etc. Plumbers are probably going to have a very good year. Also, shipping, and anything having to do with water or earth.

Wisdom is associated with Water, so businesses associated with learning and wisdom should do well.

Earth businesses that work with earth, like excavating, pottery, ceramics should have a good year. Also farming, as long as crops don’t get too wet.

Fire represents computers, electricity, technology and the stock market. Because the Fire energy is weak this year, those industries will most likely be weaker.


It should be another interesting year. Remember all the mud we’re going to have? Expect mudslinging.

On the other hand, things should (hopefully) calm down a bit. It’s a Yin year, and Water and Earth are both Yin, so it should be a more mellow year. We’ve had several years of Fire and then Metal energy that were fiery and passionate, and then sharp and cutting due to the metal.

I don’t know if much progress will be made, because it’s such a Yin year and Earth, Water and mud have a tendency to just sit there in a mud puddle. And mud is cloudy, not clear, so things may seem muddy or cloudy and may not be their most clear this year.

Water brings wisdom and is flexible and always finds a way to to go where it wants. Earth energy brings harmony and trust. The energy will be there this year for things to settle down, become more harmonious and allow wisdom to prevail. Expect mudslinging, but overall, more calm.

The Pig is the last animal in the Chinese Zodiac of 12 animals. Being the last animal, it’s the end of a 12 year cycle. (The full cycle is 60 years. It’s not the end of the full 60 year cycle – that’s two more cycles, or 24 years, away.) The end of the cycle represents completion of things you’ve been working on during this cycle. It’s like the winter season during a year. It’s the time to rest and recharge. Remember that it’s a very Yin year, so follow the energy and be more Yin, mellow and rest more this year.

And just like winter during the year, which is Water time, it’s a good time to use the wisdom that Water brings and plan for the start of the next cycle. What do you want this next phase of your life to be like? This is the year to think, evaluate, and make plans for next year and the start of the next cycle.


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Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations for Winter

How to Eat in Winter

By following the energy of the season, we can learn the best diet and lifestyle recommendations for winter. It’s time to adapt our eating and lifestyle to the season, so we stay in harmony with nature and maintain good health.

The foods that ripen in winter tend to be dense, heavy and nourishing. We get root vegetables in season now, including potatoes, sweet potatoes and onions. Veggies like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage ripen in winter. They tend to be more dense and fibrous than their summer green leafy cousins.

And maybe most dense of all, we get the hard winter squashes, like acorn, butternut, kabocha, pumpkins, spaghetti squash, etc.

Is it sounding like stew yet? It should be. The dense winter foods take longer to cook, and that’s entirely appropriate for the colder winter weather. The best cooking methods for winter are the slower, longer types, like baking, roasting and slow cooking methods like soups and stews. It helps to break down the dense fibrous foods and helps warm our bodies in the cold season.

The fruits coming in season now are also dense, like apples, pears, persimmons, and citrus. Like the winter veggies, they also tend to be less sweet and more fibrous than the summer fruits.

We can see that the consistent message from Mother Nature is dense, fibrous, nourishing foods. And that’s our big clue for the season.

That doesn’t mean to eat more food. It means to eat the right kinds of foods, like the ones just mentioned.

It can also be dry in winter, and heating tends to dry out the air more. Pay attention to the humidity. If you’ve got a lot of static electricity, that’s usually a sign of dry air. Make sure you’re drinking enough water. Usually about 1-2 quarts/liters per day is about right. If you’re exercising and sweating, or it’s very dry, you may need to drink a bit more.

Soups and stews have more water in them, so they help when it’s dry and cold. It’s a great time to bust out the crock pot, roasting pan or soup pot and enjoy winter vegetables.

Lifestyle in Winter

Winter is the most Yin time of year. It’s the coldest and darkest, with the shortest days. The winter solstice is the most Yin day of the year. Its the least daylight and most darkness. Since Yin is the calm, restful and restorative energy, it’s best to follow nature and be more Yin in winter.

Like the trees that lose their leaves in winter, the energy goes deep into the earth to hibernate, rest and recharge for the more active times of spring and summer. For good health, we should also rest more, nourish ourselves (body, mind and spirit) and “recharge our batteries”.

Think like a bear and hibernate. I know many people run around and shop, go to parties, stay up late, and do way too much during the holidays. That’s exactly opposite of how to maintain good health in winter. Winter is the time to restore your energy. If you don’t get a “full recharge”, and instead get more burned out, it can affect your health for the coming year. 

These days everybody seems to be trying to do more stuff in less time. Use this as a reminder to take some time just for you, to rest and recharge.

Have a happy winter and happy holidays. 

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How to Stay Healthy in Late Summer and Early Fall

Energetically, August 7th was the start of fall. If you’ve been reading my musings for a while, you know that in Chinese medicine we follow the Chinese energetic calendar, which follows the movements of the energy and seasons in nature, rather than the “made up” calendar. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you can read more about the concept here. It’s an easy read and fascinating stuff.) Today we talk about how to stay healthy during late summer and early fall.


In fall, the weather tends to be more dry. That’s when we get the hot, dry Santa Ana winds in Southern California. But August tends to be more humid, and falls into what we call “late summer” in Chinese Medicine. Because the Earth energy this year brings extra humidity and dampness, we’re experiencing the effects now. A lot of patients, in fact almost everybody is complaining of being sluggish and lethargic these days. When the weather is hot and humid, everything slows down. You don’t want to move fast or get sweaty. It’s easier to just sit around, not do anything, and stay cool. Think about tropical areas that normally have this kind of weather, and they tend to have a relaxed, slow-moving pace of life. That’s the normal energy of hot and humid weather.

Healthy Lifestyle

If you’ve been feeling lethargic, and you’re eating and sleeping well, it’s just the weather. Go with the flow of energy and take the time to maintain a more relaxed pace of life right now. It’s good practice, anyway, because most of us do way too much, and get our lives out of balance. It’s a great time to slow down, which is what we should do in fall to prepare for the more restful energy of winter.

The hot humid weather can also lead to too much dampness and heat in the body. This often shows up this time of year as a stomach bug with nausea and diarrhea. Watch out for food poisoning, because it fits that pattern, and make sure you don’t eat food that’s been sitting out too long. If you do get sick, an acupuncture treatment and some herbs can usually knock it out fast.

Healthy Diet

Avoid eating too much damp food, like greasy, fried foods and dairy. (I don’t mean eggs. Eggs are great and fine to eat all year.) Avoid foods made from milk, like milk, cheese, yogurt and ice cream. If you’ve been eating ice cream during the summer, it’s time to reduce it. Too much dampness in humid weather can cause digestive problems and mucus. 

It’s also time to start shifting your diet from lots of salads and raw foods to more cooked foods. I know it’s still hot, and a lot of people don’t want to cook and heat up the house. You can use a crock pot or pressure cooker to make cooked meals easily without heating up the house like using the stove or oven. It may not sound good to eat more cooked food now, but it will make your body happy and feel good.

Because it’s the end of August, we’re getting close to the weather changes that we usually get by mid-September. Normally, in September, the weather gets dry and the nights get cooler (hallelujah!). Kids are back in school, and that’s when colds start going around. September is probably the best month of the year to get a tune-up acupuncture treatment. (January is the second best month.) Even if you feel good, getting a tune-up helps balance your energy and prepare it for the changing energy of fall.

If you get a cold every fall (like I used to), pay attention to how you feel, and take extra good care of yourself, especially when the weather changes.

By following the energy of the seasons, we can help our bodies stay in balance and stay healthy.

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Danger: Strawberries Ahead!

It's the time of year when strawberries are coming in season. That's good news and bad news... The good news is how fresh and yummy they are. The bad news is that...

Are Strawberries Dangerous?

Happy fruiting season! It’s the time of year when strawberries are coming in season. (Or, I should say in season naturally, since we can get fruit all year round, even when it’s not in season.) Strawberry season is good news and bad news… The good news is, of course, how fresh and yummy they are, and they signal the start of all the fruity goodness to come through the next several months. The bad news is that they’re heavily sprayed with some pretty nasty chemicals, and they’re one of the heaviest sprayed crops. Why should you care?

Strawberries and Chemicals

Research by the US government in the last several years showed that conventional strawberries may contain 45 different pesticide residues including:

– 6 known or suspected carcinogens (cause cancer)

– 16 suspected hormone disruptors

– 7 neurotoxins​ (toxic to the nervous system)

​​- 6 developmental or reproductive toxins

​- 12 chemicals that are toxic to honeybees

And if all that’s not bad enough, recent government research also showed “residues of 81 different pesticides in various combinations“, and “20 percent of samples had residues of 10 or more pesticides“.

What to Do

That’s some scary stuff right there. Those innocent-looking strawberries contain a toxic soup of chemicals. Before you freak out and tell me how much you love strawberries (I do too!), you can still eat them. Just eat only ORGANIC strawberries. Yes, they’ll cost more, but they’ll cost a lot less than getting cancer.

It’s pretty easy to find organic strawberries these days. Even better, grow your own. If you have a garden or even a large pot on a balcony, you can grow your own organic strawberries. They’re easy to grow and taste better fresh picked, anyway!​ And you know exactly what’s gone into their growing. 

For More Information

Eliminating toxic foods from our diet is an important part of eating right and staying healthy. If you want to learn more about the chemicals on food, and which foods are cleaner and dirtier, check out these resources: 



The second link is to the Environmental Working Group, which puts out a list of the “dirty dozen” and “clean 15” foods each season. The 2018 list just came out, and in case you’re wondering, strawberries landed at #1 again this year on the “dirtiest” list. I highly recommend you check out their lists and use them as a guide to know which fruits and veggies to buy organic, and which are ok to eat conventional (not organic).

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2018: The Year of the Earth Dog

2018: The Year of the Earth Dog

by Wendy S. Goldman, L.Ac.



2018 is the Year of the Earth Dog. As you may know, the energy of each year is different, and most people know the animal of their birth year in the Chinese Zodiac. Each animal represents different energetic implications for the year. With a basic understanding of how the energies of the year interact, we can get some insight into the implications for weather, health, emotions, business, the economy, politics, and more. We can use this information to plan and prepare for the year.

The Western Calendar vs. Lunar New Year

January 1st became the first day of the year in 45 BCE. Julius Caesar set it as an arbitrary date to correct previous errors in the calculation of the calendar, since there are actually 365 days plus a few hours in a year. It has nothing to do with the movements of energy in nature. And it has no relation to the actual start of the new year from an energetic perspective.

January 1st is in the middle of winter, and is only about a week after the winter solstice. The solstice has the shortest amount of daylight, and longest night, and is the most Yin day of the year. Everything is still frozen, and if it’s not actually frozen, in winter, the energy goes down into the ground to rest and recharge for the active growing season that starts at the beginning of spring. The start of spring is the start of new growth. So, when you think about January 1st as being the start of the new year from the energetic perspective, it makes no sense at all.

The Chinese lunar calendar, though, is based on the movements of energy in nature. The start of the year is the start of spring and the cycle of new growth. This year, Chinese New Year is February 16, 2018, and is the year of the Yang Earth Dog.

Each year is either Yin or Yang, and alternates each year. 2017 was a Yin year, so 2018 is a Yang year. Yang represents the heat, fire, function and activity. Yin represents calm, quiet, and rest. Daytime, spring and summer are more Yang in nature, being more light, bright, warmer and active. Nighttime, fall and winter are more Yin in nature, being darker, quieter, colder and naturally less active. Yin time is the time to rest and recharge.

Every year, we have both the energy from Heaven, and the energy from Earth. When we say “Heaven energy” it represents the energy coming from the sky, or the universe, not in any religious sense. The Earth energy is exactly as it sounds, the energy coming from the Earth. Because Heaven and Earth are so much bigger than humans and everything that lives on Earth, we’re all affected by these energies.

The Heaven and Earth energies are often different elements. For example, in 2017 the Heaven energy was Fire, and the Earth energy was Metal. It happens that in 2108, both the Heaven and Earth energy are the same element. The Heaven energy is Earth, and the Earth energy this year is the Earth Dog. Thus, we have 2018 as the Yang Earth Dog. It’s a double Earth year, so the energy of the Earth element is very strong and excess in 2018. All effects of Earth energy will be magnified, and since it’s a Yang year, they’ll be even stronger.

The good news is, that after finishing the last two years of sharp, cutting metal energy, we should get a bit more peace with the Earth energy.

Nature of the Year

Let’s first consider the nature of the animal this year, the Dog. Dogs are loyal, social, pack animals, that work together. They’re devoted to their pack, be it canine or human. This is a year that working together with others should bring good results. Dogs will also fight viciously to guard and protect their own when threatened, so this may be a year we see people band together for protection, and the good of their “pack” or tribe of people. Not necessarily violently, as Earth is more spiritual in nature than material. The violence and passion of the last two years was due to the Metal and Fire energies.

Now let’s think about the character of Earth, which is trust and harmony. We may see people band together to create more trust, care, welfare and harmony of the “pack”. We should also see more truth emerge, as truth and trust are the nature of Earth.

Next, we can get a sense of the weather for the year, by considering the nature of the Earth element. First, the Heaven and Earth energy are in harmony, since they’re the same element, and there’s no conflict between them. Weather temperatures should be a bit more normal, after coming off of two hot Fire years. The fire energy is depleted, so there should be a lot less fires, and any fires should be smaller than the last couple of years.

Ancient Chinese books tell us exactly what to expect: the nature of Earth is dampness, and the actual substance is the earth. Earth is in charge of clouds and rain, and causes movement. Earth transforms and transports. That tells everything. When I saw this one coming, I got a bit concerned, since I live in California. It’s a Yang, double-Earth year, which means the effects will be magnified, and strong, since it’s a Yang year. That’s our California Armageddon: earthquakes (big ones, since it’s a Yang year), lots of rain, and mudslides. I’ve been telling my patients for the last six months to repair their roofs and any leaks they have in their homes. I was a bit reluctant to write this, since Earth corresponds with the Spleen and Stomach, and the emotions of those organs are worry and overthinking. I don’t want to damage anyone’s Spleen! Having the information in advance, though, means that we can take steps to prepare. If you live in an area that tends to have earthquakes, landslides, and/or flooding, 2018 has the potential for all of these to be big problems, so you’re forewarned, and can take precautions and prepare.

Health Implications

Speaking of the corresponding organs, Earth corresponds with the Spleen and Stomach. Think dampness. Earth is in charge of clouds and rain, which are wet. Dampness is mucus, phlegm and fat. Expect lots of dampness this year. Anything that can get damp in 2018, will. It’s a great time to focus on eating right, and avoiding damp foods. Examples of damp foods are dairy products (milk, cheese, etc., but not eggs – eggs are not damp; wheat is also damp).

We’ll see digestive issues with dampness, for example nausea, bloating and stomach flu with lots of diarrhea. If you already have digestive issues, avoid eating the damp foods mentioned above.

Colds that occur in 2018 will be of the damp type, rather than the dry type. So, instead of lingering dry coughs, there will be a lot of mucus with nasal and chest congestion.

Because the Earth and the Spleen correspond with muscles and flesh, we may see more muscle injuries, as well as more lumps, bumps and tumors, as dampness likes to accumulate.

The emotions of the Spleen and Stomach are worry and overthinking, so people that have a tendency to fret are in for a more challenging year.

People with Heart and Small Intestine issues may worsen. Anyone with emotional issues like anxiety may be worse, and worry about it more.


Earth can put out, or weaken the energy of Fire. Think about it this way – you throw soil on a campfire to put it out. So anything corresponding with Fire should be weak this year.

Fire represents the stock market and electrical and computer industries, so they may not fare well in 2018. Interesting that the stock market and cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin (which are electronic/tech) took a dive at the beginning of February, hmm?

Don’t let your computer or electronics get damp. That will be very bad in 2018!

But the real estate market and earth industries, or anything having to do with earth and soil should be strong, as long as long as they’re not damaged by earthquakes, landslides and flooding.

Earth represents the Spleen and Stomach, which are the main part of the digestive system in Chinese medicine. Based on that, I expect that businesses related to food, eating and restaurants will have a good year.

When we analyze the energetics of the Year of the Earth Dog, and the interactions of the energies, we can get a good idea of what to expect clinically in any given year. This can help us live long lives in harmony with the Heaven and Earth energies.

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5 Tips to Stay Healthy through the Holidays

Happy Holidays!

The holidays can be a minefield of exposure to sick people, too much sugar, overdoing it, and crazy weather changes. Here are 5 tips to stay healthy through the holidays:

1. Cover your neck

The acupuncture points on the back of the neck are particularly susceptible to drafts of wind and cold.  This kind of draft can cause colds to start. By simply covering your neck, you can often stay healthy and avoid getting a cold. Wear shirts with collars, and wearing a scarf is an even better idea. I have lots of patients who’ve learned to wear scarves in winter, and get a lot less colds than they used to!

2. Stay healthy around sick people

5 Tips to Stay Healthy through the Holidays

This time of year, it’s easy to be exposed to plenty of sick people, at work, shopping,  parties, and at home, if a family member is sick. Here’s how to deal with it:

Stay out of coughing range. Germs can travel up to 3 feet, so if someone is coughing near you, back away and stay out of range. If you can’t, for example if you’re in an elevator, at least turn your head away to avoid the germs. And if you have a cough, cover your mouth, or cough into your arm. Nobody wants you to share. Really.

Wash your hands frequently. I’m sure you’ve heard this one before, and it’s true. It really does help prevent your exposure and spreading the germs around.

If you live with someone who’s sick, do not drink out of the same glass, take a bite of food from their fork, or kiss on the mouth. Now, I know a lot of people still want to kiss their significant other, even while they’re sick. Their saliva is carrying the germs of their cold or flu. Sharing that saliva is just like drinking a cup of germs. I know that sounds gross, but I can’t tell you how many sick patients I’ve treated over the years because they continued kissing their partner while they were sick. To stay healthy avoid kissing right now, or only kiss them on the cheek, instead of the mouth.

– And really, if they’re sick, it’s a good idea for one of you to sleep in a different room. If you’re asleep in bed at night and they roll over and cough right in your face, well, guess what’s going to happen…

3. Make good food choices

The holidays are notorious for too much sugar, alcohol, carbs and overeating. Think about how much food you put on your plate. If you want to taste a bunch of different dishes, take a small amount of each. Do you really need mashed potatoes, stuffing, bread and three desserts? It’s best to avoid overeating, so pick your favorites, and stick with those.

It’s really easy to just pile food on the plate and eat it while talking with friends and family, without thinking about what you’re doing. Take a few minutes and be mindful of your food choices and quantities. You can choose to have a bit more of the veggies and less of the carbs and desserts and still enjoy your meal.

4. Eat lots of soups & stews

Winter is the time to eat lots of soups, stews and cooked foods, rather than cold, raw foods.  It feels really good to eat soups and stews at this time of year, and it’s one of the best things you can do for your health. And if you’ve had too many sweets and foods you don’t normally eat and your gut’s not too happy with you, you can repair it with soups.

Avoid soups with milk or cream in them, as the dairy makes mucus. Go for soups with clear broth, or are pureed, rather than having the dairy. Chicken soup really is good medicine!

5. Get enough rest

This one’s really important. Winter is the time to rest, rejuvenate and “recharge our batteries”, to prepare for the more active times of the coming spring and summer. Winter is the time to do less, rest more, go to bed early and get more sleep. Unfortunately, during the holidays many people do exactly the opposite, and it can affect your health. You don’t necessarily have to go to every party. Pick a couple that you like best, and just go to those.

Getting run down at this time of year can really deplete your energy and make you more susceptible to getting sick. In order to stay healthy, or if you’re recovering from being sick or another health issue, it’s even more important to get rest in winter.

Share this with someone you care about, and leave a comment to let me know your biggest challenge staying healthy through the holidays. Happy holidays and stay healthy!

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