The Real Deer Antler


Deer antler has enjoyed notoriety as a sports performance enhancer and a male virility tonic (it treats impotence, spermatorrhea, and nocturnal emission), but it has been used for thousands of years in Chinese medicine for much more. Deer antler, or Lu Rong 鹿茸 (Cornu Cervi), is a powerful Jing tonic. This means it is a general anti-aging tonic, enhances fertility, and strengthens the structural integrity of the body (particularly the bones and ligaments).

  1. Anti-aging in both men and women.  As a Jing tonic, deer antler promotes healthy hormone levels, maintains elasticity of the skin and connective tissue, . Because it is also a Yang tonic, it is heating and must be taken in smaller doses and/or balanced with Yin tonics in women (and men who run warm).
  2. Male and female infertility. Deer antler enhances sexual functioning in men and women and rejuvenates the ovaries and testes.
  3. Anemia. Deer antler treats severe anemia as occurs due to blood loss or protracted illness.
  4. Athletes. Deer antler speeds healing of broken bones and joint injuries. It also increases muscle strength and decreases muscle fatigue. (Yang tonics are particularly important in cases of extreme strength or explosive power).
  5. Protection in later years. Deer antler treats and prevents Bi Syndrome (joint aches and pains) and osteoporosis.


Deer antler is an expensive medicinal and its products are divided into grades of potency:

  1. Tips – Lu Rong refers to the soft new antler growth or tips. This is the most hormonally active and thus highest in Jing.
  2. Gelatin – Lu Jiao Jiao is gelatin derived from deer antler. It is weaker than Lu Rong but still very potent. Additionally, it has Blood and Yin astringing properties similar to E Jiao (donkey gelatin) and is ideal for excessive uterine bleeding due to deficiency.
  3. Mature horn – Lu Jiao refers to the hardened established male horn. This is weaker in its action to tonify Jing than the above two, but stronger to move Blood. It is thus appropriate for joint or low back pain and gynecological issues.
  4. Dregs – Lu Jiao Shuang are the dregs left over from processing deer antler gelatin. This is the weakest form of deer antler and safest for long-term use. (Strong tonics tend to be cloying and their continuous use can generate stagnation and heat. For this reason it is usually recommended to cycle tonic use). It also has astringent properties.鹿角胶-lu-jiao-jiao

Tincture form is often the  most economical method of administration. It can also be powdered and taken as a tea or in capsule form. Deer antler is a product that can be humanely extracted from the animal without injuring it. It is important to research your source.

For more, see John Chen. Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology. (Art of Medicine Press, Inc: City of Industry, 2001).


Generating Yin and Maintaining Juiciness

quan-yinVaginal dryness is an unspoken occurrence that affects many women. It is one of the two most prevalent symptoms of menopause (the other being hot flashes). Vaginal dryness, and the attendant reduction in plumpness, occurs due to a drop in estrogen. It can also happen in much younger women who are experiencing hormonal imbalances.

In TCM vaginal dryness is a sign of Yin deficiency. Yin is the substance and lubrication of the body. It provides the luster, suppleness, flexibility, centerdness, and calm. Yin anchors our thinking and excitement and allows us to rest. Yin is the fuel for active Yang in the body.

Yin can become deficient due to overwork, mental and emotional stress, blood and fluid loss, poor nutrition, and lack of self care and rest. All women have a tendency to become Yin deficient with age. When Yin is deficient, Yang becomes relatively excessive which causes heat signs. Yin deficiency can manifest as dryness (skin, hair, eyes, mouth, stools, etc.), anxiety, insomnia, hot flashes, night sweats, headaches, emotional instability and sensitivity, excess libido, agitation, tinnitus, thinning skin, malar flush, and heat in hands and feet worse at night.

How do we protect our Yin and avoid or reverse vaginal dryness?

  1. Live a healthy lifestyle. This means getting at least 8 hours of sleep a night, eating regular nutritious meals, enjoying connection and laughter, reducing stress, and avoiding overworking. This is the foundation for everything.
  2. Practice proper menstrual and postpartum care. This keeps the hormones balanced and is essential for every woman’s long-term vitality.
  3. Drink sufficient fluids to avoid dehydration and limit alcohol and caffeine.
  4. Consume Yin tonics regularly like fish oil, black sesame seeds, avocado, bone broth, go ji berries, and American ginseng. The most effective and potent way to take Yin tonics is in the form of balanced Chinese herbal formulas that will include herbs to clear heat and astringe fluids.
  5. Take astringent herbs regularly such as Wu Wei Zi (schizandra) and Shan Zhu Yu (cornus). These are best taken in balanced formulas.
  6. Treat unresolved trauma, repression, or resentments in regards to sexuality, trust, and relationships. Vaginal dryness can be psychological or have a psychological component. The uterus and genitals are strongly connected to the heart. Most women need to feel an emotional and mental connection with their lover. If there are resentments, blockages due to past experiences, or you simply do not like the person anymore you cannot expect to feel excited. Your body may be trying to tell you something.
  7. Cultivate an empowered sexuality. Many women receive conflicting and negative messages that block sexual expression.
  8. Practice relaxation. This can mean daily meditation, spending time in nature, doing qigong or yoga.
  9. Get in touch with your creativity on a daily basis. Creativity and sexuality belong to the Water element and are strongly linked. Cultivating one will increase the other.

Maintaining juiciness is about more than just sexual functioning. Keeping your Yin strong means maintaining your womanliness: gentleness, grace, self-sufficiency, ease, peace, love…. all the things this world needs.

The ‘Three Golden Opportunities’: Key Times Women Can Improve or Damage their Health


There are three times during a woman’s life when she has the opportunity to either improve, or else risk damaging her health. These are menstruation, postpartum and menopause. This theory has historically been used by practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), and has more recently been popularised by Dr. Zhuang Shuqi, a Taiwanese doctor of TCM specialising in women’s health. This article expounds on this theory and explores its relevance to modern Western society, presenting a comprehensive description of the main pathologies, practices, prohibitions, dietary approaches and lifestyle choices that practitioners should be aware of in order to help women recover and optimise their health during these life transitions.

For full article please see the October 2013 issue of the Journal of Chinese Medicine

Could This Be Your Tongue? TCM Tongue Diagnosis

Tongue diagnosis is one of many tools acupuncturists use to access the health of patients. Many people have a combination of patterns occurring at the same time, making diagnosis more complicated. First we will look at the tongue body then the tongue coating.

tongue-normalNormal Tongue
A normal tongue is pink, not too big and not too small, with a very thin white coating.

Tongue Body

tongue-juttingJutting Tongue
This tongue to “v” shaped and juts out forcefully. The tension in the tongue is indicative of the tension held in the body. It is a sign of Liver excess (Liver Qi Stagnation or Fire). Possible symptoms include muscle tension, stress, irritability, depression, and PMS. If the tongue veers to one side this indicates Liver Wind and potentially stroke or convulsions.

tongue-puffyPuffy Tongue
Also known as a enlarged or fat tongue. This indicates Phlegm and is a sign of congestion of body fluids. Phlegm is implicated in many modern diseases including sinus or lung congestion, excess weight, irrational thinking, obsessive thoughts, fatigue, foggy thinking, chronic joint pain, high cholesterol, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and channel blockages.

tongue-smallSmall Tongue
A tongue that is smaller than normal indicates a deficiency of substance in the body, namely Blood Deficiency or Yin Deficiency. Common symptoms include anxiety, restlessness, tinnitis, insomnia, night sweats, and female hormone deficiency.

tongue-scallopedScalloped Tongue
Teeth marks on the sides of the tongue indicates Spleen Qi Deficiency. This can present as weak digestion, food allergies, fatigue, poor muscle tone, a tendency to bruise, low immunity, and organ prolapse.

Accessing Tongue Body Color
tongue-redRed indicates Heat.



tongue-palePallor indicates Cold or Deficiency (Qi, Blood, and/or Yang).



tongue-purplePurple or bluish indicates Blood Stagnation.



tongue-redtipRed Tip The very tip of the tongue corresponds to the Heart. A red tip indicates Heart Heat, or emotional unrest. This can manifest as stress, anxiety, or insomnia. If the tip has a cleft it indicates longstanding or constitutional tendency towards emotional issues.

Tongue Coating

tongue-white-coatThick White Coat
A thick tongue coating indicates Dampness. This is a pathological accumulation of fluids associated with digestive impairment. Common signs include weight gain, abdominal bloating, cloudy urination, mucous in the stools, edema, excessive vaginal discharge, poor digestion, and loose stools.

Thin Yellow Coat
The coating is thin, but distinctly yellow. This indicates Heat, either internal or Wind Heat (pathogenic invasion).

Thick Yetongue-yellow-coatllow Coat
The tongue appears heavily coated and yellow. This indicates Damp Heat, the combination of Dampness and Heat (fluid accumulation mixed with inflammation). Commons symptoms include excess weight, feeling hot, anger, Liver/Gallbladder issues, and red weepy skin conditions.

tongue-mirroredScanty or Mirrored Coat
The tongue looks shiny, like liver. This indicates Yin Deficiency and the patient may present with insomnia, anxiety, fatigue, thirst, low back pain, tinnitis, hot flashes, and night sweats.

Common Combination Patterns:

tongue-various bigger-words