Why Acupuncturists Look at Your Tongue

Picture of a normal tongue from acupuncturist's chart : pink red tongue with thin white coatWhy do acupuncturists look at your tongue?

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine began thousands of years ago. The early practitioners had no x-rays, no blood tests, no easy way to find out what was going on inside the body. But they did have the tongue.

Your tongue is in your mouth – inside your body – but it’s visible from outside. It’s the only muscle you have which isn’t hidden by skin. What’s more, it doesn’t hurt or harm you in any way to show someone your tongue. That’s an important factor for holistic healers like me who want to make things better, not worse.

If you look at them, tongues are actually very varied. Here’s a chart I still have from when I studied acupuncture. Everyone’s tongue is different! And if you look at your tongue once a day for a week or so, you’ll find your tongue changes over time too. That’s what makes it such a good way to look at your overall health.

Here’s a chart I got as an acupuncture student which shows a wide range of tongues – none of them healthy except the one at top left!

Tongue chart with photos showing how the tongue looks for various conditions.

Main elements of tongue diagnosis

There are three main elements acupuncturists consider when they look at your tongue – its shape, its colour and the coating on it.

Tongue Shape

Is your tongue long and thin, Diagram of tongue showing which parts relate to which part of the bodyor shorter? Is it stiff, or does it move easily? Can you touch the tip of  your nose? (Only some of us can, but it’s always fun to watch kids trying!)

If your tongue is swollen, it might be because your fluid metabolism is off-balance, which can affect your emotions.

Or maybe the coating of your tongue is cracked, meaning heat or dryness. What that means depends on the size, quality and location of the cracks. Just like the foot, different parts of the tongue relate to different parts of your body. So when an acupuncturist or Chinese medicine practitioner examines your tongue, they can tell which part of your body is out of balance.

Tongue Colour

A deeper colour in the tongue means more heat. That might mean inflammation, infection or hyperactivity in one organ.

If your tongue is very light in colour, you may have the opposite problem. Often it means your immune system is low. That’s often a result of overstress and overwork. It often happens if you’re having chemotherapy too – the chemicals take a lot out of your body and it shows!

Tongue Coating

There’s a number of things to look at here:

  • How thick is the coating?
  • What colour is it?
  • Is it consistent across the whole tongue or does it have spots?

When an acupuncturist looks at your tongue, they assess all these things. As for me, I work holistically so I often find out many things simply by asking you. But sometimes your body knows better than you do what the problem is, so checking your tongue can be really useful.

Also just for fun, check out this article about Miley Cyrus’ tongue. It certainly shows how one person’s tongue can change when their health does!

So if your tongue feels or looks different, get in touch. It might mean you need to tackle a serious health issue.

Picture of a bright red crimson tongue without coat (mirror tongue), symptom of severe internal heat damaging the Yin, Yin deficiency
Symptoms may include strong emotion, fatigue, insomnia
Picture of a red tongue with red spots on the tip, yellow thick coat symptom of heat, fire or toxicity accumulation
Symptoms may include insomnia, burning pain, strong emotions
Picture of a pale tongue with thin white coat, symptom of spleen Qi deficiency or Yang deficiency with cold retention
Possible symptoms: lack of energy, fatigue, bruising and sweating

Fragrance Oils vs Essential Oils

2 Essential Oils used in Aromatherapy : bergamot and tea treeEvery so often clients ask me about fragrance oils vs essential oils. A lot of clients don’t know much about aromatherapy or the oils used, so I guess it’s natural, but for me the difference is quite clear.

Essential oils are naturally extracted and ‘whole’. They are are naturally occurring substances found in different parts of plants – the blossom, fruit, leaf, stem, bark, wood or resin. They’re what I use for holistic healing.

Fragrance oils are manufactured scents. They are artificial, and they contain artificial substances. Some are designed to smell like a natural product – others might smell like bubble gum or ‘summer breeze’ or so on.Fragrance oils are mostly used in perfumes, cosmetics and flavorings. They are also used by soap and candle makers. But I would never use them for aromatherapy.

It’s like the difference between natural fibres like silk, linen and wool, versus polyester and nylon. I know what I prefer next to my skin!

How are essential oils made?

Most essential oils are pure distillations of flowers, herbs, roots, or resins. A small number are made using solvent extraction methods. They can contain anything from 50 to 500 different naturally occurring chemicals. Many components in essential oils are complex and difficult to make synthetically. Some of them have not even been properly identified yet.

Because they are made from completely natural ingredients, it’s important to pay careful attention to quality. Even if you use the same part of the same plant, you may get a slightly different oil composition depending on the location it grows in, the season or the weather. I only use essential oils from companies with high quality standards, like Black Sheep Farm Oils.

Some plants produce a  lot of oil naturally, so extraction is relatively easy. Citrus is an obvious example. It’s easy to grow and has a lot of oil.

Other oils are much harder to produce. Rose, for example. They say it takes a thousand petals to create one drop of oil. For this reason, rose is pretty much the most expensive essential oil there is.

Why use essential oils?

The huge range of naturally produced ingredients in essential oils affect the body in all sorts of ways. In my holistic healing and aromatherapy practice, I use a wide variety of oils (there’s a list of my favourite aromatherapy oils here) to get benefits including:

  • stress relief
  • relaxation and reduced anxiety
  • pain relief
  • improve emotional balance
  • re-energising
  • relief from rashes, psoriasis and eczema
  • lessening of menstrual and menopausal symptoms
  • overall well-being

Many essential oils also help soften and moisturise skin, and feed the hair. So they may make you look younger as well as feel younger!

Some essential oils are very strong – sometimes too strong for direct contact. So you have to be careful in using them. For example, cinnamon can irritate the skin, but it’s also a great antiseptic. You need to get the balance right and that’s why training and experience are important.

fragrance oil in a diffuser, used for scent purposes onlyWhy use fragrance oils?

Fragrance oils generally smell the same as the equivalent essential oil – unless you have the nose of a master perfumier! – but they don’t have so many ingredients. They’re fine if you want a scent or a flavour, since that’s what they’re made for, but the manufacturers don’t put all those trace components in. It’s how they keep the cost down.

So if you buy lavender fragrance oil, for example, it will smell like lavender. And that may help you relax because you like the smell and you already associate it with relaxation. But you’ll never get the other benefits you could with lavender essential oil. Benefits for treating coughs, insomnia, arthritis, muscle aches, wounds, insect bites, burns and so on.

It’s simple really – only use fragrance oils for fragrance!

For real healing, get help from an experienced, expert practitioner who not only knows about the oils, but develops a plan tailored to you as well!




Remedial Massage Therapy – Questions you may have

Image of a Practitiioner giving remedial massage therapyEveryone’s heard of massage, but not everyone knows about the different kinds of massage. So today I’d like to explain what remedial massage therapy is, and answer the commonest questions people have.

What is Remedial Massage Therapy?

Remedial massage is based on the Swedish massage tradition, but with a particular focus on treating issues rather than simply general relaxation. (That’s what ‘remedial’ means, after all!)

Remedial massage often treats a particular condition such as frozen shoulder, arthritis, a painful knee, a sports injury or so on.  But it’s also helpful when you don’t have a specific diagnosed condition. You get a very thorough, precise all over massage, which irons out any areas of tension or knots. And most of us can benefit from that to help with our busy lifestyles!

Before treating anyone, I interview them to learn about conditions and circumstances. As a trained and qualified masseuse, I also identify knots and tight spots during massage, so work on them appropriately. Remedial massage at A Holistic Healing Centre is always tailored to your specific needs.

Does remedial massage therapy hurt?

The short answer is, it depends who’s doing it!

Some people believe “no pain, no gain’. Not me. I believe in minimum pain, maximum gain.

So if I’m giving a massage, and you say it’s too hard, I reduce the pressure. Everybody’s sensitivity is different. Also, sometimes you don’t know a spot is tender until you apply a bit of pressure.

How long is a remedial massage therapy session?

The commonest session duration is probably an hour.

Some people, if they’ve been before, might only need a half an hour top-up. But in this case, I need to just concentrate on one part of the body.

So if you’re looking for overall well-being, you’ll need the full hour. If I’m treating a specific injury, a half hour may be enough on follow-up visits.

Do you have to undress?

Clients do have to undress, but I respect people’s modesty.

I usually just tell people to get undressed down to their undies – and I give them privacy to do it. Then whatever areas of the body I’m not working on are covered. Usually I use towels to cover you. Sometimes, if it’s very hot in the summer, just a sarong.

What kind of oils do you use in remedial massage treatments?

I use a water disposable almond oil for massage. That means that it washes easily out of the clothes.
Photo of aromatherapy oils and flowersAdditionally, I use a combination of essential oils, depending on where the person’s at physically, mentally & emotionally. That’s because I’m giving a holistic treatment. It includes remedial massage as a core element, but it’s much more than that.

Some people worry about acne or skin problems from the massage oil, but it’s quite rare. In over thirty years, only one or two people have developed a little redness. And in that case, I use an alternative oil. Also some people already know they have sensitivities to certain oils, so if they tell me, then I don’t use that particular oil.

How many remedial massage sessions does it take to feel results?

You usually get some results after the very first session.

It just depends on the problem – how long it’s been an issue, whether it’s ongoing, whether you’re putting strain on your body still. Those all affect how much treatment is needed. Some people just come once. Some people might have a series of treatments weekly – others choose to have a regular monthly treatment as a way of keeping healthy & nipping any problems in the bud.

Take a frozen shoulder, for example. That’s usually between 2 and 8 treatments. But 8 is very rare.

Back pain is another common complaint. Sometimes it only takes one treatment to resolve. But usually if people are in pain, I like to recommend acupuncture as well as remedial massage.

Combining acupuncture, massage and aromatherapy gives a much more powerful and potent treatment than just remedial massage on its own. If you’re in pain, it can be very difficult to handle any deep work because it’s too painful. Whereas, once acupuncture has released many things on different levels, including an endorphin release, then I can work a bit more deeply without it being painful. So the combined treatment tends to reduce the number of sessions because I can work more effectively in each session.

Are there times when you shouldn’t have remedial massage?

Sometimes, if  you are really sick, you might not feel like anything except to be in bed. But if you’re well enough to come and have the treatment, then usually it’s beneficial.

If you’re pregnant, you can still have massage all the way through. There are special techniques I use. Also, I have supports for women who can’t lie on their front so easily later in a pregnancy.

So there you have it.

There are lots of different remedial massage therapists, and each one will treat slightly differently. But if you decide to try A Holistic Healing Centre, you can rest assured that:

  • your massage won’t hurt
  • your modesty will be respected
  • only pure, water-disposable oils are used
  • holistic treatment will keep the number of sessions to a minimum

Start feeling better. Book a remedial massage treatment today.


Acupuncture Side Effects – What You Need to Know

Model head showing acupuncture pointsA lot of people who haven’t had acupuncture are scared about the side effects.

If that’s you, there’s no need to worry. Acupuncture side effects exist, but they are very minor. Read the list and you’ll see what I mean.


People often associate acupuncture and needles with the doctor’s hypodermic. So they think of them as being very painful. In truth, acupuncture needles are extremely fine. If they’re inserted properly, mostly they’re totally painless. Occasionally you feel something, but it’s just like a little mosquito bite at the worst.

Lots of people are scared of needles – me included! When I first studied acupuncture, my main fear was because I hated needles myself. How was I going to stick needles into other people?

I remember the very first person who actually asked me for acupuncture.

As far as I’m aware, he’d never had acupuncture anywhere else. I was still studying. I had my 2-year old son running around the place, and this man was lying on my  couch ready to go.  He was my very first acupuncture client, so I was a little bit nervous.

Then he said, ‘You’ve done practicals at college, haven’t you?

And I said, ‘No. No I haven’t.

But he still let me treat him, which was very brave of him. And it turned out great.

I gave him four or five treatments in all. He’d been having knee problems – and he was a painter who had to be up and down ladders all the time. Sometime later he dropped in and told me that he didn’t have knee problems any more. So even for two complete newbies, it worked!

Other Feelings When the Needles Go In

When the needle goes in, usually you don’t feel it. Sometimes you might get like a little mosquito bite or a twitch. There are some other things which can happen too.

Numbness, cold or heaviness

Sometimes you get a numb feeling. A heaviness, heat or cold.

That numbness and heaviness can feel like you’ve been anaesthetised. In China they actually do operations on people when they are fully  conscious. Just using acupuncture rather than an anaesthetic drug. This is particularly good for older people who would not tolerate an anaesthetic or if say the surgeon is working on the brain & needs the patient to be conscious & give them feedback. Obviously, acupuncture doesn’t have the same risks of anaesthesia. Or the after effects when an anaesthetic drug is wearing off.

Shocks and tingling

Sometimes you get a feeling a bit like an electric shock.

This can happen if the energy’s blocked in a meridian and you put a needle in a specific acupuncture point that gets the energy moving again. You can get a shoot of energy in that meridian which feels like a little electric tingle.

If you do get that little shock, it usually goes away. Sometimes after a treatment, people feel those little tingles of energy. It’s because things are very different in the meridians. The energy is starting to flow again, so you might be more consciously aware of that.

But all things that you might feel, none of them are actually harmful.

Just by the way, all the needles I use are sterile and individually packaged. I only use each needle once. So you don’t need to worry about cross-contamination either!

Acupuncture Side Effects After Treatment

Bleeding or Bruising

On occasion an acupuncturist can hit a vein or a blood vessel. Sometimes it bleeds. You might end up with a haematoma or a small bruise where you’ve hit a vein, but that should usually clear within a short period of time.

So just be careful if you’re having needles in the face and they might show! Or you might not be worried. On the rare occasions I’ve seen this, the mark has been tiny.

You’re more likely to get bruise marks if your acupuncture treatment includes cupping. Cups are rarely used where the marks will show. I do have cups but I very rarely use them, so there’s little risk of that in my practice. You can always discuss this with your acupuncturist.


You can end up tired as a side effect of acupuncture. Ideally it’s good if you can go home and have a bit of a rest and relax. If you can just go with the flow, it lets the energy systems readjust.

Of course, the tiredness may just be because you were tired already but you haven’t admitted it to yourself.

So many people these days are pushing themselves to do more and more and trying to keep up with more and more. The adrenals are pushed to the utmost. The energy systems are pushed to the utmost. Sometimes what they really need is just to rest and relax, but they are unable to or don’t give themselves the time to do so. If a treatment helps you allow yourself that time, it’s another good acupuncture side effect!



That’s it for acupuncture side effects. There’s nothing dangerous, there’s really very little chance of discomfort. In my experience, pretty much everyone feels wonderfully relaxed afterwards.

So my suggestion is, come along and give it a go. For first timers, just make sure you haven’t got anything too serious or demanding set up for afterwards, so you can see what it does for you.

What is the Difference Between Aromatherapy and Flower Essences? Answer to Frequently Asked Alternative Healing Therapies Question

Picture of essential oils in use at A Holistic Healing Centre North RydeFlower Essences

Flower essences are not about smell. Nor do they contain any physical part of a flower. They are infusions which capture the energy imprint of each flower. They treat the emotional part of you.

Edward Bach is often seen as the father of flower essences. In the 1930s he developed 38 flower remedies, based on English wildflowers. But many cultures have used flower essences for much longer, including North American Indians and Chinese.

It’s rare to apply flower essences externally. Instead, you take them orally. You can take on their own or add to water. They create a vibrational resonance reaction in the body. Flower essences help people release & transform negative patterns or areas where they may be stuck in their life.

Aromatherapy oils

Aromatherapy oils are for external use only. You can use them as scents, in a bath, or with a massage treatment.

These oils are 70 times stronger than the actual plant, flower, herb, or tree bark they are made from. The oil is strong enough to have a therapeutic effect on the mind, body and emotions.

In general, people are attracted to smells that will have a positive effect on them. For instance, you might have positive memories of love and nurturing associated with the lavender smell of your grandmother’s home. Then the smell of lavender will make you feel loved and nurtured even in adulthood.

Sometimes, smells trigger negative emotions. Alternative Natural Healing expert Janene Stevens recalls one dentist who told her that while at University, he had to dissect rats for one of his classes. The professor burned eucalyptus in the room while the rat dissection was going on. Years later, whenever that dentist smelled eucalyptus, it triggered the unpleasant feeling of dissecting rats.

You can find out more at the following pages:

If you have a health condition which you would like to treat naturally using the power of flowers or oils, why not contact Janene? She treats a wide variety of conditions using many different therapies. She will be able to give you advice and develop a treatment plan just for you.

What is Aromatherapy and Why Does It Work?

Products used for Aromatherapy at holistic healing centerAromatherapy is the use of essential oils from flowers, trees, and herbs. One drop of essential oil is 70 times more powerful than the original plant because it’s the concentrated oil of the plant. It’s the opposite of homeopathy, which works on the theory of like cures like.

It is believed that the Egyptians were using aromatics in 3000 BC. It was reintroduced in modern times when Dr. Rene Gattefosse became interested in oils because of his family’s perfume company. An explosion in the factory caused him to burn his hand, which he plunged into a vat of lavender oil which he was intuitively guided to do (I believe). The Lavender Oil helped with the pain & his hand healed without infection or scarring. Dr. Gattefosse became fascinated with the healing properties of the Essential Oils.

Aromatherapy works on the theory that certain chemicals in the oil have certain benefits to certain conditions. The synergy of a number of essential oils is more powerful than just one essential oil on its own.The Aromatherapy Essential Oils have powerful healing effect on the mind, body, and emotions.

Click These Links for More Answers About These Alternative Natural Healing Therapies:

How Many Treatments Will I Need ?

It’s difficult to give a clear answer about how many treatments you will need to feel better. Health is a highly individual matter. Everyone has a different healing time.

Janene aims to deliver results from the very first treatment. But feeling ‘a bit better’ and feeling ‘completely better’ are different things.

There are a number of factors to consider.

Holistic healing tends to reduce the number of treatments required

Janene deals with people holistically, combining a number of different therapies. For most people, this means they heal more quickly than if they just had one kind of treatment. Sometimes it might only require one treatment to become pain free. Others may need more treatments.

It also depends on your condition

It also depends on how long you’ve had your condition.

More chronic conditions often take longer to heal. Your body has become used to a specific way of being and behaving. Treatment can reset it, but habits take a time to break.

For example, maybe you have adjusted your walk to minimise pain in your knee or back. You may feel better after treatment, but if you continue walking the way you are used to, you are not using your muscles in the best way and you may find pain returns.

The same effect happens with spiritual and emotional conditions too.

In some

Your own lifestyle affects how many treatments you will need too

You life outside the treatment session has a huge effect. What you do every day may be making your condition worse. Maybe you’re not getting enough sleep – that will tend to make you more stressed, or more anxious, or more depressed. Your diet can have a huge impact too. Janene tries to integrate treatment into your life. So she may give advice about what to eat, or how to get to sleep, or other lifestyle changes you can make.

Do Acupuncture Treatments Hurt?

Acupuncture TreatmentsOne of the most frequently asked questions from those who are new to acupuncture treatments is about pain. Since an acupuncture treatment involves the use of acupuncture needles, people frequently ask the question, “Do Acupuncture reatments hurt?

The answer to the question about whether acupuncture treatments hurt is… Acupuncture treatments should be painless if the acupuncture practitioner knows what he/she is doing!

Mostly acupuncture doesn’t hurt because the needles used for acupuncture treatments are very fine. Quite often people say they don’t feel the acupuncture needle going in at all, even if they usually have a low threshold of pain.

Sometimes people say that when the acupuncture needle is inserted it feels like a mosquito bite. Sometimes when the needle is inserted into a blocked meridian, you might feel something that feels like a little electric shock. That’s a good sign because it means the energy that was blocked has started to move.

As a comparison, the external practice of acupressure is often more physically painful than an acupuncture treatment using needles.

More About Acupuncture Treatments:

How Does Acupuncture Work?

It’s a common question from those new to alternative healing. ‘How does acupuncture work?’

Great question! Let’s answer it.

What is acupuncture treatment like?

Acupuncture means needles. Most of us don’t like them! But don’t worry. Acupuncture needles are extremely fine. So they don’t hurt.

A few people get tiny twinges. That’s good! It means the needle released a blockage.

Needles must go into the correct acupuncture points. There are hundreds of points. Acupuncturists study for years to learn them. (The UTS course takes 4 years.)

Acupuncture is drug-free. You lie on a massage couch and rest. Most people find it relaxing. We usually combine acupuncture with massage and aromatherapy. Even more relaxing!

The traditional Chinese view of how acupuncture works

Chinese medicine uses the concept of qi, or energy. Qi flows round the body on pathways called meridians. Acupuncture points lie on these meridians.

Qi helps balance yin and yang forces. If qi is blocked, they are unbalanced. The body is unbalanced. So you get sickness or pain.

Acupuncture clears the blocks. Qi flows through the body and restores health.

‘Western’ explanations of acupuncture

Many studies show acupuncture works. But Western science is still not sure how. Most theories say it stimulates signalling systems in the body. For example:

  • It stimulates the central nervous system. This theory makes sense. Many acupuncture points are near neural transmitters. So the needles trigger neural messages to the brain.
  • It produces endorphins, which reduce pain.
  • It releases opioids. These also relieve pain.
  • It increases blood flow. More red blood cells means more nutrients. Better healing.

Conditions acupuncture works for

So much for ‘How does acupuncture work?‘.

There’s a more important question though.

‘What conditions can acupuncture treat?’

If you ask Western science, acupuncture is effective for:

Also, John Hopkins Medicine says National Institute of Health studies support the use of acupuncture for:

  • Nausea after surgery or chemo
  • Dental pain
  • Addiction
  • Headaches
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Tennis elbow
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Low back pain
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Asthma

When you use acupuncture, it may be used alone or in conjunction with conventional medicine. So it’s worth discussing with your doctor.

Do you suffer from one of these conditions? If so, why not try acupuncture? Or a combined treatment? Contact Janene to discuss what’s right for you.