Bringing on the Baby

by Rachael Forrest

Image: LaTrobe University

Image: LaTrobe University

We see quite a large percentage of women for labour ‘induction’ here at the clinic, probably due to the fact that we treat a lot of couples with fertility issues. It’s always lovely to see people at the other end of their ‘journey’ and about to embark on a whole new way of life. Most of us have been in the same position and are happy to dispense wisdom and advice at the same time as giving practical help in terms of either acupuncture or pregnancy massage

Unlike medical intervention, acupuncture cannot force your body to do anything. It works by re-balancing hormones which in turn relaxes the muscles in your body allowing the baby to move further down towards the cervix. Generally this is not a quick process although it depends how far down the line you are. Some women are ready to go and the acupuncture is the trigger they need to really boost things forward. With other women there is further to go and often this is a result of not finishing work early enough.

With 20 years experience helping to bring on labours, I can honestly say that it’s the people who try to stay at work until the bitter end who, generally, have a harder time. This is because your body needs a good few weeks to come down from the stress/adrenaline levels it’s used to. It takes a week, at least, to realise you no longer have to get up to go to work and another week or more to stop ploughing through the to-do list. Learn to delegate and use this precious time to relax and do quiet things. You don’t need to stay in bed or do nothing but just minimise activities which raise your heart rate and treat yourself to some ‘me’ time (you wont get that chance again for another twenty years, believe me!!). Your body needs to feel that it’s safe to give birth and it’ll only do that given peace and relaxation. Once you’re past 40 weeks and discussions about induction start it makes it more difficult to combat the stress.

We recommend women come to see us weekly from 36 weeks in order to meet the delivery date (which is, in any case, pretty arbitrary so don’t stress too much about it) and then twice a week from 40 weeks to really try to get things moving.

It’s also useful to re-record your answering machine messages to say (along the lines of). “Thank you for calling. Everything is fine and we’re not yet in labour but we will get in touch when we have news” Which means that people are kept informed but you don’t have to have the added pressure of telling them you’re not in labour yet.

Labour is not called labour for no reason. It’s hard work and pregnancy is hard work so treat yourself to a few extra weeks off pre-birth and you and your baby will really reap the benefits.

Time Flies

by Rachael Forrest


So much has been going on over Winter and Spring that I realise the last blog was October! Not sure how that happened but time really is flying and I don’t think that’s just me getting older. Or, I hope not, anyway. It seems to be a universal feeling.

I’m certainly not the only one to notice how fast 2019 is passing. One month more and we’re already half way through the year but, at last, the weather has improved and we can make use of this incredible Edinburgh light in the evenings. I don’t mind the early morning (5am) waking due to the light blasting around the edges of black-out blinds because the scattering of bird song makes it bearable to lie there and wait for the alarm. There is tonnes of research out there about the effects of light/dark on our sleep patterns and hormones and getting the correct amounts of darkness is important to our health.

Here at the clinic we’re seeing the usual run of ‘summer colds’ and a lot of really long term coughs that people are finding hard to shift. I don’t think the long winter helped and also the lack of frost to kill off bugs. This seems to be the order of the day now and the climate emergency is big on the agenda. We try to do everything we can at Albany Street - using recycled products and biodegradable plastics, being careful with energy expenditure and consuming as little as we can get away with so we hope we are making a difference, albeit a small one.

On a positive note, maybe if we all do enough it can still see us through to a happier time for the earth and every creature (including humans) on it. It does feel like a period of uncertainty but humans are incredibly inventive and resourceful and I’m sure we can find our way through this. In the meantime we have the lovely blossom (The Meadows were looking incredible last week), the birds singing and blue skies to enjoy as well as the practitioners at the clinic having the reward through our experience and expertise, of taking away or reducing people’s pain and illnesses. What’s not to be grateful for?

Making Space for Yourself

by Rachael Forrest

At the clinic one of the most common things we see with patients is that there is no definite break between work and home life. Many of my patients leave the clinic at 6 where they have had a relaxing acupuncture session, only to go to back to work and/or take work home with them. Many people will go home and start working again until 10pm as well as working over the weekends.

relaxed woman.jpg

Many bosses don’t seem to see anything wrong with asking people to deliver work on a Monday morning meaning there is no choice but to work over the weekend. This means that everyone suffers mentally and physically, and relationships also suffer, but it doesn’t necessarily lead to better work.

This little video by Twitter Exec Bruce Daisley has some useful and practical tips for calming down your day. Turning off the notifications on your phone and computer is number one - such a simple thing to do but so effective. I’ve tried it for a day and it does make a difference. It doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten all the things I have to do but it means I don’t feel pressurised or the need to rush into them. Apparently half of all people who check their emails outside work show very elevated signs of stress so this sounds like a no-brainer.

Taking a lunch break is the second biggest change to make. It may seem counter intuitive to walk away from all those emails but taking a break can make you more effective and efficient at work. Stopping for a bit actually will save you time in the long run!

Going into ‘Monk Mode’ is the number 3 tip. This means going somewhere where there are no interruptions and where there’s quiet, if not silence, and spending 90 minutes focused on what you have to do, without distractions. It’s amazing how much you can get done when no one is trying to ask you questions or pinging you emails or texts. This could be very difficult to manage in open plan offices and there is more and more research now to say how damaging these environments are (by raising stress levels and not providing a break from noise) but find a meeting room or a broom cupboard and see if you can spend 90 minutes working in peace.

Apparently MIT has discovered that one way to increase creativity in the office is by allowing people to chat (seems obvious, I know). They found that by putting the coffee machine, kettle and water cooler in different parts of the office it encouraged more interaction between staff and, once all the chat about last night’s TV was over with, people talked about work and generated new ideas.

Researchers have also found that stress is the biggest barrier to being creative in our jobs and having a digital detox at the weekend is vital to stopping the endless flow of input. Give yourself permission to turn off your phone and do not go near your computer unless you really have to. At least, don’t use it for work but be aware that, once it’s on, it’s very difficult for any of us to control what we look at.

We seem to celebrate people who work long hours but actually 40 hours is by far long enough to put into work. Any bets you’re not getting paid for more than that anyway. Try setting your limit for 40 hours and stick to it. I know these things are usually easier said than done but in the long run, if you’re thinking about your health - emotional, physical and mental - then it is vital to create some sort of balance in your life.

Plant Power

by Rachael Forrest

All of you who come to our clinic will know we advocate a nutritionally rich diet for general health and longevity. 

A good mix of healthy fats, proteins and some carbs (depending on how active you are) is the way to go but we can consider carefully how we choose to boost our protein intake.  Animal products are seen as the quickest and easiest option because many people don't know enough about the available alternatives.

I recently came across this useful illustration for vegetable protein sources and thought it was worth sharing. Not only is cutting down on meat, especially red meat, better for our health but beef is the most significant contributor to environmental break down and the more we can do to  preserve our planet the better.  

Image from

Image from

Some people do need a little bit of meat to help with Iron levels and B vitamins and, apparently, even the Dalai Lama will eat a small amount when he feels his body requires it.  Chinese Medical theory also advises some red meat to maintain strength (ie iron levels) and people who suffer from insomnia, light periods and other symptoms of anaemia should think carefully before giving it up completely.  But we can make wise choices but boosting our plant-based protein intake and adding the occasional small quantity of well-sourced, ideally organic meat.

Words of wisdom

by Rachael Forrest


A few words of wisdom from our new massage therapist Mark Adamson.

Stress effects us all at some stage of our life’s, it can be anything from work to finding a day to day task difficult.

A good massage can leave you with a complete feeling of relaxation. It can ease anxiety and eliminate those creeping feelings of being unable to cope. Easing tight muscles will slow breathing which has positive effects on the whole body. When relaxed, breathing is slow and rhythmic and should come from the abdomen. This improves posture by relaxing on tight and tense muscles where we tend to hold a lot of our emotions. And of course there is the undeniable feel good factor. There is nothing like spending quality time on yourself.
A good massage leaves you ready to take on the day with more of a bounce in your step.

Learning how to breathe!

by Rachael Forrest


There has been a lot of really good research on the positive effects of deep, slow breathing.  It is the opposite of what we tend to do in our everyday lives, as we run around trying to do too many things in very little time. 

When we breathe fast, which tends towards shallow breathing (ie into just the top of your lungs), the sympathetic nervous system is activated.  This is the nervous system in charge of our 'fight or flight' reflexes, associated with stress.  In the short term this is fine - if we start to cross a road and don't see a car coming then we need a quick 'flight' response to get ourselves out of the way.  What is happening in modern life however, is that the stress response is activated for a lot of the time.  This leads to long term, chronic stress which effects health in terms of narrowed arteries, higher blood pressure, insomnia, IBS, migraines and a whole host of negative health conditions.

The opposite of this high anxiety state is when the parasympathetic nervous system is in control.  This is our 'chilled out' state which allows blood vessels to dilate, blood pressure to come down, good circulation, blood flow to the brain and improved digestion.   This is the state we, ideally, would be in most of the time.

In order to achieve this state we need to allow ourselves to breathe slowly and deeply - into the bottom of the lungs.  Setting aside a minute or two a few times a day for deeper breathing will help your body recognise this state as a good alternative to the high-stress one.  It will give your circulation and hormones a chance to return to balance for optimal health.  When your body is functioning at this de-stressed level it allows for healthy cell growth and organ repair meaning less illness and a better immune system.  And that's on top of just feeling great!

Five breaths per minute is the amount the research indicates is a good, slow breathing pattern.  In order to get it right, you could lie down and put one hand on your chest and one just above your navel.  Try to breath in and out from the lower abdomen.  This means only the lower hand should move with your body - the hand on your chest should remain still because the upper chest isn't moving at.  If it's too slow for you to start with, just try to use some slower breaths and practice making them long and slow as possible and try syncing with the video above.

With practice, you should be able to slow your breathing wherever you are - you don't have to lie down.  While you're waiting for the lift, at the photocopier, in a meeting or sitting on the bus.  Doing this as many times as you can during your day will have incredible long term health benefits.

Light up your life

by Rachael Forrest


I'm always hopelessly optimistic when it comes to this time of year.  I know it's dark and cold but I can't help remembering that it's only about three weeks until the shortest day and from then on it gets lighter all the way until mid-June!  Of course, conversely, when it gets to June and despite the warmth and light, I find myself thinking how it's all downhill from that point on.  The Chinese idea of Yin and Yang fits very well with that - in the middle of the lightest point you have the beginning of the dark and in the depths of darkness you have a spark of light.

Christmas began life as a pagan mid-winter festival where people would go out into the woods and bring back evergreen plants, like holly and ivy, in order to 'welcome the green' into their houses and also light candles to bring in the light during these darkest of days and longest of nights.  It helped people to remember that Spring was on it's way and that a new year would soon be beginning.  

We bring light into our lives at this time of year in so many ways - on our Christmas trees, in fairy lights and shiny baubles as well as sparkly jumpers.  Nothing makes me happier than to be hurrying home on a dark, cold night than to see all the lights in people's windows making me think of warmth, friends and mulled wine!

Unfortunately, Christmas also seems to be a time for stress and over-consumption, in terms of buying gifts as well as food & drink.  We have a set number of days to relax and those days are often filled with panicked shopping followed by enforced socialising (am thinking of office parties and difficult relatives).  Our patients tell us of the long journeys and endless meals they have to undertake at this time of year in order to keep everyone happy and it can mean that they end up exhausted and burnt out.  It seems like Christmas is both a holiday and not a holiday at the same time.

So, lessons I have learned from decades of Christmases are: keep warm; try and stay relaxed amongst the madness; don't think you need to buy more than one present per person; don't commit to anything you really don't want to do; take vitamin C & D during the dark months and enjoy the sparkle of the festive madness.  Remember everything changes and, before we know it, we'll be back to our beautiful long, light evenings.

Weather Warnings

by Rachael Forrest


The old Chinese Medical texts are always going on about the weather and how it can affect a person's health.  Modern medicine does not set much store by this but we can't dispute the effects of, say, the sun in cases of sun burn or sun stroke (we don't see much of those in Scotland) which would be called "invasion of Dry Heat" in Chinese Medicine.  

Other 'invasions' come in the form of Damp and Cold which we do know a lot about in this country.  Too much Damp causes runny noses and phlegm on the lungs, ie a cough and invasion of Cold brings chills as well as things like Reynauds Syndrome and Chillblains on fingers and toes.

It hasn't got that cold here yet, thank goodness.  We're still experiencing the warm but damp climate which seems to have been hanging over us all summer.  However, the evenings are definitely more chilly, along with getting darker very suddenly and my plan to keep the heating off until October may have been premature.  Chinese Medicine would advise us to keep wrapped up in the mornings and evenings, even though the middle of the day may still be warm.  Changes in temperature can confuse our bodies and it's difficult for our blood and skin to regulate our body temperature when the weather is so changeable. We can either have too many layers on or too few, it's so hard to keep up with the variations during the day and the torrential rain showers followed by hot sun.

Try and be aware of how your body is feeling and keep and extra cardie or even a scarf/wrap handy to keep off the chilly winds when they come.  Exercise always helps to boost circulation as well so instead of waiting for New Year to get going with an exercise regime, maybe now is a better time to start.  You might not want to go out running in the cold and rain but local gyms usually have good exercise classes to suit all levels of fitness and if you're really feeling the cold then they usually have a sauna or steam room as well!

We might not be ready for Winter yet, I'm certainly not, but we can be prepared for Autumn.

The Circus is coming to town!

by Rachael Forrest

All of us Edinburgh residents will know the feeling - the build up of the 'buzz', more people clogging up the pavements, strangers in hats asking for directions, whole hoards of students following a man with a flag held high ... yes, it's the imminent return of the Festival(s).  Fringe, International, Art and Book all converge on this city in August and give us a roller-coaster ride of entertainment and frustration.

I have to admit right now that I love it!  I love the build up almost more than the Festivals themselves.  I know that by the 3rd week in August I've had enough of trying to battle the crowds and buses going three times slower than usual but I also know it's one of the things that makes Edinburgh so special and so exciting. 

From a work point of view we get an influx of new patients over the Festival.  Dancers with ankle pain, performers with stage fright, actors with exhaustion from late nights, trapeze artists with nerves, visitors with leg pains from all the walking up and down unaccustomed hills.  We also get injuries from drunkenness and digestion issues from irregular eating and too much alcohol.  I once had a fire eater in with heartburn but we soon realised that his problem came from swallowing too much of the lighter fluid rather than anything systemic!!  He went away and changed his technique but acupuncture helped to calm him down and talking helped us work out what was going wrong.

It's definitely an interesting time of year.  Some of our massage therapists see the same performers each August because they're a familiar face and are trusted by the artists and actors to do what needs doing, often urgently because a performance looms that very evening.

I personally have seen actors who are working through their own emotional issues on stage - one actor had been raped and had written a play based on her experience.  Once she started performing she found it too much to re-live in public and acupuncture helped her cope with what she was attempting to do on a daily basis.  It was a learning experience for me too - to support someone in acute circumstances and help her negotiate if what she was trying to do was 'right' for her or 'wrong' and the ethics of having to cancel a show at the last minute.

At our clinic we see so many patients with all sorts of issues, injuries and illnesses as well as people coming in just to relax and feel better generally.  It is an amazing experience for us as practitioners to take everyone as they come, without judgement, and to use our our knowledge and skills to help you get better, or to direct you to other practitioners who can help you.  We welcome the circus!!

The Key to Ageing Gracefully

by Rachael Forrest

There have been a few books out recently about ageing and how humans are living so much longer than we used to.  The 100 Year Life and Atul Gawande's Being Mortal are two of them which are well worth the read.  

Having got through just over half of my predicted life span has made me think about how precious our health is.  After all, who wants to live to 100 if you can't enjoy it?  I'm assuming I won't still be running a business or exercising like I do now but I do want quality of life in my later years.

This article on LinkdIn discusses the role of Telomeres (no, me neither) in ageing.  I still don't exactly understand what they are but their length and stability seem to be the key things in keeping us young.  Telomeres' role is to stop cells from deteriorating - they protect the chromosomes in some way.  So if we can keep them long and stable we protect our health even with age. 

Telomere therapy might provide a way to keep us youthful for longer but, while it's still in development it is useful to look at other ways to stay healthy.  The impact of stress on ageing is well documented.  Stress is linked with indicators of cellular ageing and shortening telomere length.  Other factors are all the usual suspects - obesity, insulin resistance, smoking, exposure to pollution and lack of exercise.  

So by living a healthy lifestyle we really can change our future quality of life.  After all, age is just a number, it's how our bodies and minds behave which make us feel either old or young.

Yoga, acupuncture, regular massage, exercise, a session with the nutritionist to overhaul your eating habits - these will all help to give your body cells the ability to function at optimum levels.  Just start slowly and steadily to make changes and if you lack motivation at any point, get in touch - I'm sure there will be ways we can help and support you.  After all, we're all in this together.

How to prepare for a joyful birth!

by Rachael Forrest

Guest Blog by our practitioner Tricia Murray

How are you planning for your birth?

Even though it's the most natural process in the world, planning for birth needs preparation – mental, physical and emotional as well as building knowledge about the physical act of birth.  Consider marathon runners – what would they do to prepare for a marathon? Especially if they were keen to do it in a specific time! If you’re a marathon runner – what do you do?

You might build up your strength and stamina, work on your mindset, get a support team in place, spend time preparing for all the eventualities, surround yourself in positivity, eat and drink well, look after yourself emotionally, and there would be a fair few trips to see a physio or get a massage etc.

People who run marathons work hard to complete them and prepare in every single way through researching of information, physical, mental and emotional preparation.  EVEN if they don’t complete it in the way they’d expected – they might reflect – I know I did all I could.

It’s the same with birth – except many people don’t prepare for it in that way.  Many just hope that it works out ok.  Others might choose some elements of preparation : read some books, sign up to an antenatal, yoga or hypnobirthing class;  ask their friend/mum/sister to support them;  sign up to Babycentre alerts or enlist the help of a friend or doula.  .

All these things are GREAT – but they don’t complete the preparation that many women need. Learning about birth physiology in a class will NOT on its own help you to have a better birth.  How can telling you that your baby is now the size of a cabbage helping you to prepare for your birth and your baby arriving? What about if your mum's experience of birth was awful? How will that help you?

We live in a time where we are so far removed from the primal/mammalian birth process and so geared towards medically managed birth that many women are set up to fail at physiologically normal birth.  There is a need for holistic birth preparation to get your really informed about how to have a much better birth experience – a birth that you can actually enjoy (yes we did say ENJOY).

Tricia Murray can provide you with a Joyful Birth coaching programme which may help to guide and coordinate your preparation.  The programme aims to get you in the right positive mindset to address any fears, worries and anxieties you may have and look holistically at alternative ways for you to prepare as an individual for birth.  

Tricia Murray
EFT Practitioner | REWIND Trauma Therapy | Birth Doula | Birth and Parenting Coaching

Tel: 07811200762

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USA now stands for Unsettled, Stressed and Anxious!

by Rachael Forrest

On the eve of the US elections I find the number of patients coming in to the clinic who are talking about a feeling of panic and unease, has increased exponentially.  This may be reflecting my own mental and emotional state but I'm pretty sure it's not just me. Elections, referendums and the Trump/Clinton stand off is causing wide-spread anxiety and dis-ease at our current world wide political situation.

This unsettled feeling expresses itself in many way - insomnia or just disturbed sleep, a closeness to panic, palpitations, muscle tension which can lead to headaches and stress disorders including digestive problems.

There are quite a lot of things we can do to help ourselves out of this.  Not continuously listening to the news or plugging in to social media for example.  Limiting the time spent engaged in news reports means that we can think about the small and cosy things of day to day life and keep ourselves from catastrophising.  Giving ourselves rewards and treats - cups of tea, 5 minutes rest, 2 minutes being mindful - all help bring us down to earth.  If you need professional help then hypnotherapy or some CBT(Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) or NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) can offer support.

A deep tissue, hot stones or even a gentle massage brings us into our bodies and out of our heads and acupuncture can work wonders with calming anxiety and lowering the levels of adrenaline and cortisol (stress hormones) circulating in our systems.  Our TRE (Tension Release Therapy) "shake it off" workshops help to process stress and trauma very effectively and some wonderful cranio sacral therapy can relieve tension headaches.

Last but certainly not least, nutritional therapy can help our bodies deal with the increase in stress hormones and also boost minerals and vitamins, which get used up more quickly by the body during stressful times.

Look after yourselves out there - or let us look after you.  Sometimes we can feel very alone in this big (and sometimes bad) world and a reminder that there are many good and kind people out there can warm the cockles of our hearts during this unsettled time.

'Summer' is here

by Rachael Forrest

Suddenly it's July and we're over half way through the year!  We've had the usual influx of people with hayfever this year but those in the know have been coming since March or April to keep symptoms at bay and this has proved very effective - even for those frequent travellers to London who find their symptoms worsen when they're down south.

Our clinic is busy with many practitioners taking on more time to accommodate their lovely patients.  Sometimes reception can be a little bit squished so we're asking people politely to try and come just before your appointment time so we can avoid disturbing treatments by answering the door.  We know this might make things slightly more difficult, especially if it's pouring down, but there's a great Deli (Broughton Delicatessen) just around the corner where you could wait out the rain with a lovely warm cup of something.  Plus they do great salads.

We hope you've all enjoyed watching the football (how boring was that final game??) and Andy Murray winning Wimbledon.  We see many patients with sports tears, strains, sprains and injuries and these people really benefit from and excellent sports massage, deep tissue work or acupuncture.  We've also had a new Fitness Studio open up just opposite us Phoenix Fitness and we're hoping to work with the guys from there on keeping people fit, healthy and injury free.

On the fertility front, our DNA Fragmentation Testing is proving useful for couples where there is a diagnosis of 'unexplained infertility' or Male Factor Infertility.   We have been working with our nutritionist to increase sperm quality and have had some great results.  Do get in touch with us if you're interested in finding out more.

Dry Needling vs Acupuncture - how to tell the difference

by Rachael Forrest

Many patients tell us they have had acupuncture from their GP, physiotherapist or osteopath and each time we try to explain the difference between what they offer and what we offer.  Then, in an internet trawl I found this useful description from a journal called News Transcript in the US, of both practices which I thought I should pass on.

"In 2015, the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy developed this definition of dry needling performed by physical therapists:“Dry needling is a skilled technique performed by a physical therapist using filiform needles to penetrate the skin and/or underlying tissues to affect change in a body structures and function for the evaluation and management of neuromuscular conditions, pain, movement impairments and disability.” It is important to clarify that dry needling is not acupuncture. Acupuncture is a treatment based on eastern medical diagnosis that requires training in traditional Chinese medicine and licensure to practice acupuncture. “While dry needling performed by physical therapists and acupuncture use a similar tool, the filiform needle, the differences are evident in the evaluative tools used by the practitioner, the assessment, the application and the overall intended goal.” (Kinetacore, 2015)"

This sums up neatly the most important difference between the two.  We acupuncturists are trained to use the complex and intricate Chinese Medical theory to diagnose and then treat whatever a patient presents to us.  Even though the terminology of Chinese Medicine might sound archaic, it describes exactly what is presented just using different words. Where a doctor might say "migraine" we say "liver yang rising" and where an osteopath might say "arthritis" someone trained in Chinese Medicine would say "Bi syndrome" but we are all describing the same thing.

Simply sticking a needle into a place where there's pain might well do the trick but Acupuncture is carried out after a much more detailed diagnosis.  We look at the whole person - the body, the emotions and the mind - as well as the environment that the person is in - their work, home life, eating and exercise habits - to find out why the symptoms have appeared and what the cause is.  This is what makes Acupuncture so much more effective than dry needling and why we can look at treating more complex situations like depression, insomnia, digestive issues and fertility.

image: biomechanicshealthcare

image: biomechanicshealthcare

Another important difference is that a dry needling course is usually carried out over a weekend whereas a full trained (British Acupuncture Council member) acupuncturist will have completed a 3-4 year, Masters level, course which covers anatomy, physiology, pathology, medical ethics and patient management as well as Chinese Medicine.  The depth of knowledge the Acupuncture course is phenomenal and there is no way that a weekend course could compare.

In summary, we would recommend trying dry needling from your GP or physio if they offer it for pain relief, but don't be put off if it doesn't work and do seek out a properly qualified acupuncturist if you have anything more complex going on.    

Tasty Christmas Food Ideas from our Nutritionist

by Rachael Forrest

Christmas is a time of good cheer, feeling good and happy times. It can also be a time of gluttony, destroying the hard work we have done on our diets and self-care and can also sabotage our New Year resolutions.

How about trying some tasty recipes which won’t sabotage your progress too much. These recipes contain apple which is fabulous for feeding your good bacteria and cranberries which are excellent for guarding against bacterial infections especially in the mucus membranes. They are famed for stopping UTI’s and are a good source of vitamin C. Neither of these recipes require much cooking , so if your fruit is fresh, they should contain good quantities of vitamin C.

Merry Mince Pies

Ingredients for the filling:



 500 g raw apples chopped finely
450 g fresh cranberries
8 oz (225 g) coconut oil
12 oz (350 g) raisins
8 oz (225 g) sultanas
8 oz (225 g) currants
8 oz (225 g) whole mixed candied peel, finely chopped
275 g gur, jaggery or xylitol
100 g molasses
grated zest 4 lemons
2 oz (50 g) whole almonds, cut into slivers
4 level teaspoons mixed ground mixed spice
½ level teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ level teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
6 tablespoons of brandy or rum


Combine all the ingredients, except for the brandy or rum, in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly. Cover the bowl with a clean cloth and leave the mixture in a cool place overnight or for 12 hours, so the flavours have a chance to mingle and develop.
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark ¼, 225°F (110°C). Cover the bowl loosely with foil and place it in the oven for 3 hours, then remove the bowl from the oven. Don't worry about the appearance of the mincemeat, which will look positively swimming in fat. This is how it should look. 
As it cools, stir it from time to time; the fat will coagulate and, instead of it being in tiny shreds, it will encase all the other ingredients. When the mincemeat is quite cold, stir well again, adding the brandy or rum. Pack in jars that have been sterilised (see below). 
When filled, cover with waxed discs and seal. The mincemeat will keep for ages in a cool, dark cupboard - I have kept it for up to 3 years. 

Christmas Cranberry Sauce




500g cranberries, fresh is best but thawed frozen ones will do too (they don’t need as much cooking)
3 bramley apples and 50g of sugar or 800g of eating apples
100ml fresh orange juice or orange juice from a carton
1 stick of cinnamon or ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
10 tablespoons of port, whiskey, rum or cranberry juice
Orange zest, raisins, nutmeg and allspice can be added to give more sweetness and spice if desired.


Pick out any rotten cranberries, and add all the ingredients to a pan, but only half the alcohol, bring to the boil and simmer until the cranberries have burst and the apples have softened. It will take 5-10 minutes. If it the right consistency don’t any more alcohol, if you would like it sloppier add more alcohol.
Put into to sterilized jars and let it cool. Makes a good Christmas present. If you want to keep for a long time, put into baby food pots and store in the freezer and just bring it out when you want it. It will keep in the fridge once opened.

Note: To sterilise jars, wash the jars and lids in warm soapy water, rinse well, then dry thoroughly with a clean tea cloth, place them on a baking tray and pop into a medium oven, gas mark 4, 350°F, 180°C, for 5 minutes.

Understanding Raynaud's

by Rachael Forrest



We commonly hear patients complaining of 'Raynaud's' when they are in for a treatment, especially at this time of year.  Raynaud's disease/sydrome or phenomenon is a common occurrence in (mainly) young women and men where the ends of fingers and/or toes lose blood flow and turn white.  Sometimes it is accompanied by numbness and tingling.  Generally, but not exclusively, the symptoms appear with colder weather.

I remember going to my GP many years ago with exactly these symptoms and was told "it's ok, my wife has it too" which was the extent of the information or treatment at that time.  I lived with it by always making sure I had gloves with me and bathing my hands in warm water when the symptoms occurred but it was still worrying as well as annoying.

The symptoms of Raynauds happen when the blood flow is excessively reduced (due to the constriction of or spasm in the blood vessels) as a result of cold or emotional stress.  The condition can also cause nails to become brittle with longitudinal ridges as a result of decreased blood supply.

Raynauds has two subdivisions - you have Primary Raynauds (Raynauds Disease) if the symptoms occur on and off due to the cold weather or stress.  Secondary Raynauds (Raynauds Syndrome) can be a side effect of, for example, carpal tunnel syndrome or wrist injury as well as  more serious illness such as anorexia and lupus.  It can be a predictor of disease in that it can occur up to 20 year before a more serious associated illness is diagnosed.

I found that acupuncture had a marked effect on my Raynauds.  I was being treated for something else (this was before I became an acupuncturist myself) and the practitioner used some needles in my hand, after which the symptoms of Raynauds have never returned.  I have since used it on patients with great effect.

Given that Primary Raynauds can be a symptom of decreased blood flow as well as stress it is wise to address these issues and this can be done in many different ways here at Albany Street.  Regular de-stressing and circulatory-boosting massage to the upper back, shoulders, neck and arms will be of great benefit as will Chinese Herbal Medicine.  Cranio Sacral Therapy can also help to unblock and release muscle pathways and knotted tissue whereas nutritional therapy works internally (as do the herbs) to boost circulation. 

Take care of your hands (and feet) as we use them constantly and it's only when something goes wrong that we pay any attention to them.  Maybe it's time to give them some love, before they disappear behind gloves and thick socks from now until next May!

Understanding Deep Tissue Massage

by Rachael Forrest

There are so many different types of massage about that we thought it would be useful to clarify some of the terminology around it - starting with Deep Tissue Massage.

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I once went for a voucher spa session which included a 'massage of your choice'. Because my back was tight, I asked for Deep Tissue which resulted in 30 minutes of excruciating pain and increased tension in my back.  Having had this type of massage before, I knew it was no walk in the park but the mistake the therapist made was to go directly to a deep level of massage, using her elbows, without warming and relaxing the surface layers of muscle first.  All in all, I needed quite a few glasses of wine afterwards to come down from the stress of the treatment! 

A properly qualified and experienced massage therapist knows exactly how to work gradually through the muscle layers to target the deeper areas of muscle and fascia concerned.  By using deep finger pressure and slow, firm strokes, deep tissue massage is used to treat a variety of physical ailments.  Many will argue that true Deep Tissue techniques aren't really "massage" in the sense that most people think of it - soothing music, aromatherapy oils and gentle swirling massage strokes.  In many cases, the treatment more resembles Physical Therapy than Massage Therapy, however, the benefits definitely outweigh any negatives and if you're looking for results and relief from chronic pain and other conditions, then deep tissue massage is for you. Below are some of the ways it can help.

Reduces Chronic Pain
The University of Maryland Medical Center reports that deep-tissue massage is more effective and affordable for relieving chronic pain than conventional medical remedies. Because deep-tissue massage increases the flow of blood through through the body, it helps reduce the inflammation that causes pain. Deep-tissue massage can also help alleviate muscle tension that is often a side effect of chronic pain by loosening the tight tissue clusters.

Improves Blood Pressure
Deep-tissue massage helps ease stress and tension, which can have a beneficial effect on blood pressure. People who had a deep-tissue massage saw their systolic pressure drop by an average of 10.4 mm Hg and their diastolic pressure drop an average 5.3 mm Hg, according to a study cited by the University of Maryland Medical Center. Deep-tissue massage can help increase the body's production of serotonin, the hormone that promotes happiness and good feelings.

Rehabilitates Injured Muscles
Deep-tissue massage can be an effective treatment for injured muscles. Because it facilitates the movement of toxins from the muscles and helps stretch tight or twisted muscle mass, deep-tissue massage can help promote healing. Because massage also helps relax muscles, it can reduce the pain caused by injuries, too. Deep-tissue massage is frequently used to rehabilitate sports injuries.

Breaks Up Scar Tissue 

Over time, deep-tissue massage therapy can help break up and eventually erase scar tissue in the body. It does this by improving lymphatic circulation and drainage to improve flexibility and range of motion in the affected area. Scar tissue is often associated with ongoing pain and stiffness, so deep-tissue massage can improve these symptoms. Massage therapy is often recommended for people who are recovering from surgery

Stress Relief
For those people who suffer from chronic stress, and all of its various, possible side-effects like tension headaches, rigid shoulders and tight muscles; deep tissue massage can be a relief. During a session you can let it all go and give in to the healing. Once renewed and revitalized you'll be able to face your challenges more equitably.



Feeling good about yourself is not a crime

by Rachael Forrest

We have a very busy practice here at Albany Street and a growing number of our patients are asking about facial acupuncture (or 'facial rejuvenation acupuncture').

What we've noticed though is that clients, mainly women, tend to feel they have to keep treatments secret from others or that it's their 'guilty secret'.

Facial massage is carried out before the acupuncture

Facial massage is carried out before the acupuncture

As a woman nearing her 50's I definitely feel the pull of age and the corresponding dip in mood when I notice lines that no longer disappear a few hours after waking, laughter creases that don't uncrease and a horrible vertical line on my forehead in exactly the same place that my 80 year old dad has one.  It's enough to make you cry.  And ok, it might be a first world issue but it is still an issue no matter how 'superficial' we may think it is. 

We never down-play a patient's concerns about their health and their looks.  If you think you have sagging jowls (even though we don't see it that way) then it's a real concern for you and we'll treat it as such.  No one should feel bad about finding ways to boost their confidence. As women, we're so used to being down on ourselves that we are our own worst enemies.

None of us should feel bad about wanting to look our best.  No patient yet has said they want to look 10 years younger, they just want to look good for their age.  If looking good boosts confidence then I think it's worth the time and effort to spend time achieving that - as long as our goals stay realistic.

I'm currently embracing my grey/silver hairs as part of an effort to come to terms with having lived (almost) half a century.  I know that, if I can stay healthy, happy with good skin then that makes accepting age gracefully so much easier. It's never going to be easy, but if we can help to smooth out the wrinkles along the way then all the better.

If you are looking at ways to help yourself, we heartily endorse this site by Eva Fraser, which outlines simple but effective facial exercises.  If you go to the gym you are working the muscles in your body and it helps to exercise the facial muscles too.  It's all summarised in her excellent book.  

Working as a team

by Rachael Forrest

We've had a busy 6 months at Albany Street.  All our practitioners are happily seeing their regular patients but we still have plenty of room for new people who need help whether that's in terms in shoulder pain, chronic pain of any kind, injuries, relaxation, skin care, nutritional advice or emotional support. 

Just to give you an idea of the kind of cases we see I thought it would be useful to summarise a few - you may identify with one or two of them, or know friends who are suffering from similar issues.  All of these are fairly common and are a good illustration of a regular day at the clinic.

Nutrition: Matthew is slim, has diabetes and has severe acne which hasn't got better with medication.  His wife is seeing us for IVF support and it was recommended that Matthew come to get nutritional advice.  He loved his session with Jane and gained a lot from it.  He has been given very particular advice on cutting out sugars for a set period of time and then will be adding in nutritional supplements.  Not everyone needs such severe measures but his is a slightly more acute case due to his diabetes.  He will see Jane again in a month to catch up and see how he's getting on.

Massage: Maria came in with a trapped nerve in her neck which causes pins and needles in her arm and hand. She has had acupuncture and physio but has also booked in to see Jill Wright, our neck and shoulder expert.  Jill is working on loosening the tight, deep, muscles in Maria's neck with very specific techniques.  The acupuncture helps to loosen off the muscles first so that Jill can get as deep as she needs to without causing too much pain.  Maria will be having regular treatments (weekly) while her symptoms are bothering her so much and will then come less often until the case is resolved.

Acupuncture: Lorie come to acupuncture for anxiety.  She has trouble staying asleep and often wakes with her heart racing.  She gets very shaky when she drinks coffee or has dark chocolate (which also contains caffeine).  From a Chinese Medicine point of view, this is a case of an imbalance in the Heart so, amongst the acupuncturists, we have worked on strengthening her 'Heart energy' - in western terms this reduces adrenaline levels and has helped her feel much calmer.  She is greatly improved for a few days following the acupuncture session then her sleep starts to be effected again but we will review in two months and hopefully the symptoms should be completely gone.  If not, we will recommend she sees our hypnotherapist Gabriella and also see Jane for nutrition which can help balance out the body's complex chemistry.

There are many more examples of what we do here - I haven't covered cranio-sacral therapy, facial acpuncture, beauty therapy or other massage techniques - but I hope it gives you an idea of what we have to offer and how we work together as a team.  

Happy Summer!!

Eat Green on St Patrick's Day

by Rachael Forrest

I know, I know, it's time to drink Guinness but you can balance out the black stuff with a good load of green so here are some ideas...

Make a naturally green beer by adding a teaspoon of wheatgrass or spirulina into a light ale and stir carefully.  Am not sure what that'll taste like but it's worth a try!

Wholemeal pasta with some home made pesto, or a good brand of ready-made, makes a brilliant and filling meal.  Add peas to make it even more green or scatter a few sprigs of basil on top just to finish it off.

Try some avocado fries - dip strips of avocado in egg and breadcrumbs and fry gently in olive oil.  Sprinkle  on some capers for added 'zing'.  If you want something less fatty, just make a guacomole by mushing up the avocado and adding lime, coriander leaves, tomato, chilli and onion (all finely chopped).

Green pancakes - Whisk together an egg, some melted butter, 1/3 cup milk, 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla. Then add 1/2 cup of flour, 1 tablespoon of matcha powder and 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder plus a pinch of salt. Cook in a flat pan brushed with some melted butter over medium-low heat and serve with maple syrup.