Ask a Traditional Chinese Medicine Doctor: What Can I Do For Eczema?

In Second Spring, Dr. Maoshing Ni (or Dr. Mao) reveals hundreds of natural secrets to revitalize and regenerate at any age. He also discusses some natural treatments for those pesky skin ailments like eczema.

Find out what he suggests

Q: In your book, you prescribe sun therapy to treat skin conditions like eczema. Can you explain why?

A: Eczema is a condition where the immune system is actually attacking the skin because it thinks that there are bacteria, allergens or foreign particles in the skin.

Most often it’s in reaction to some sort of skin bacteria which is pretty common. Eczema is basically an inflammation of the skin.

The sun’s UV rays actually kill those bacteria and then it can calm the immune system down so it’s not so hyper to continue attacking the skin.

However, you must take care not to over-expose yourself to the sun because then you can cause UV damage to the skin.

My guideline would be before 10 a.m. and after 3 p.m., 25-30 minutes without sun protection.

Anything more than that or during the mid-day, people should put on sunscreen protection on or possibly even cover their skin with UV-protective clothing.

Q: Are there any natural creams that you suggest for eczema?

A: I find that Aloe Vera & Vitamin E combinations are really good for keeping the area lubricated because often times it’s dry and flaky.

For itching, Calendula seems to do a really good job. (Calendula, or marigold extracts, are known for their anti-inflammatory properties.)

Within our medical practice, we also use specific herbal combinations for different patients depending on the type of eczema condition they have.



Are Fad Diets Making Us Fat?

Most people would do almost anything to get slim — including major cleanses such as the “lemonade diet” or bizarre and unhealthy weight-loss plans like the cookie diet — but British health experts are warning that these fad diets won’t help us reach our weight-loss goals, and in fact, are probably making us fatter.

Researchers with the British Society of Gastroenterology have found that many dieters are willing to try weight-loss plans that they believe might not be good for their health, yet few are willing to do the only thing that’s proven to lead to long-term weight loss — adopting a balanced, healthy diet and sticking to it for life.

“Foods fads are often based on a well-elaborated scientific or, more often, pseudo-scientific theory, but such is the complexity of diet that the specific value of the nutritional content is seldom tested,” says Professor Chris Hawkey. “We need to do away with quirky diets and get people to realise what will keep them healthy.”

He’s not the first person to point this out — it’s pretty common knowledge that fad diets don’t work. Don’t let yourself fall for fads! Avoid diets that promise alarmingly quick results, require you to cut out an entire food group, make claims that seem “to good to be true,” and cost an arm and a leg. Instead, focus on eating a balanced diet of fresh, good-for-you foods, and talk to your doctor for advice on shedding any extra pounds.


A Healthy Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookie Recipe

Who doesn’t love the comfort and warmth of home-baked cookies? This was probably one of the very first recipes I ever made many years ago — chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. However, I’ve changed it up a bit and made it kinder to the waistline, as well as your blood sugar.

I have this old cook book that is weathered and totally falling apart at the seams, but I love it and still to this day use it almost every time I bake. I must admit that every recipe in probably has at least 500 calories per bite (OK, maybe I exaggerate a little) and more sugar than cotton candy, but you get the point — it’s all about decadence and taste, not health! I’m proud to say that given my many baking experiments over the years (yes, some were flops and some were fluffy, delicious and fabulous), I have managed to convert almost all the recipes into healthier versions.

Almost any recipe can be converted to a healthier, lighter version. It just takes a little experimenting and patience. If you are new to the idea of changing recipes, then you may find these tips for healthy baking quite helpful:

  • Substitute healthier flours instead of white or whole wheat, such as: brown rice, spelt, kamut, coconut, buckwheat, quinoa, almond (and many more). Keep in mind some of these flours have a strong taste and do not rise well, so you need to do your research and experiment. Brown rice and spelt flour are the easiest substitutions to make when baking and lower in the glycemic index. Coconut flour is VERY dense and quinoa and buckwheat have a distinct flavour — all three are gluten-free.

More tips and chewy, delicious cookie recipe

  • Substitute white sugar with healthier alternatives such as sucanat, agave nectar, stevia, maple syrup. Keep in mind that these sugars are still broken down into glucose in the blood stream. The main difference is that they are generally lower on the glycemic index than white sugar and contain minerals to aid in breakdown, so they don’t leave you bankrupt like white sugar does. Sucanat is my personal fave because it has a nice molasses flavour that naturally occurs. (Remember: brown sugar is only white sugar with molasses added to make it brown. It’s NOT healthier.)
  • Choose your fats/oils wisely. Did you know that it’s actually healthier to use organic coconut oil and butter than sunflower, safflower and other unstable omega-6 fatty acid oils? This may come as a complete shock to many, but yes, it’s true. In fact, many restaurants are now going back to using coconut oil and butter because they have come to the realization that the omega-6 fats can lead to many health concerns. Coconut and butter (or ghee) fats are better for high-temperature baking because the chemical structure of the fat is stable, so even at a high temp it does not change. This means that its structure remains intact and does not pose any danger to your health, unlike many omega-6 fats that can change and become rancid at high temps (trans fat).


3/4 cup of organic butter (softened) or coconut oil/butter
1/2 cup of sucanat sugar*
3/4 cup maple syrup*
1 tsp aluminum-free baking powder**
1/4 tsp aluminum-free baking soda**
1/2 tsp ea. ground cinnamon & cloves
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla (get the real stuff, not the artificial kind)
1 and 3/4 cup spelt flour
2 cups of rolled oats (Bob’s Red Mill is a great brand)
1/2 cup organic semi-sweet chocolate chips


1. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter, sugar, maple syrup, baking soda/powder, cinnamon and cloves. Once combined, beat in eggs and vanilla. Beat in the flour slowly. Once combined, stir in the oats and chocolate chips.

2. Drop a small spoonful of dough onto greased cookie sheets and flatten with a fork. Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes max. Watch the first batch very closely to make sure they don’t burn. Cook just until the edges are golden. Cool on a cookie sheet. Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

These cookies freeze really well, are perfect for a mid-afternoon snack and are a hit at holiday parties.


*The original recipe in my weathered old cookbook calls for 1.5 cups of white sugar. Crazy, I know! So keep this in mind when prepping your ingredients. You may want to add more sugar than I suggest if you like it sweeter, but I think the chocolate chips do a great job of adding to the sweetness to satisfy. Another alternative is to substitute chocolate chips with dried cranberries.

**You don’t have to use both of these ingredients. If you don’t, the cookie won’t rise as much or be as fluffy, but personally, I don’t think it really matters. It still tastes delish!


5 Reasons Strength Training is Good For You

People of all ages and fitness levels can benefit from resistance training. Strength training is placing a demand on our muscles to perform physical work that is greater than our everyday tasks. Here are my top 5 reasons to add strength training to your exercise regime.

1. Improved metabolism: Metabolism is the rate at which you burn calories, and the more more lean muscle mass you have (developed by strength training) the more calories you will burn at rest to sustain muscle increase.

2. It makes everyday activities easier: Increased strength will help you complete everyday tasks more easily. This includes things like bringing in your groceries, scooping your children up out of their cribs, and picking up toys off the floor.

3. Improved posture: The way you sit, and stand is affected by the muscles in your neck, shoulders, abs, back and hips. The stronger these muscles are the straighter you will stand and sit (and it’s more comfortable).

4. Strengthens bones: When your muscles move, they pull on your bones, thereby strengthening them. Strong bones will help reduce the chance of injury and also prevent osteoporosis

5.Graceful aging: Strength training reduces loss of muscle mass due to inactivity and aging. Great news if you’re looking for a natural way to look younger, longer.

Getting started
You can work out in just about any area of your house that suits you, but I suggest that you have access to a stereo, as working out to music is a fun and stimulating way to get through an exercise routine. Dress in loose, comfortable clothes, sturdy runner-type shoes and have your water bottle nearby.

Start with two to three strength sessions a week, allowing for at least one day of rest in between. This is important because the resting period allows muscles to recover and repair themselves, which is what they need to become stronger.

This workout uses your body weight (without equipment, i.e. dumbbells etc.) in 5 simple and effective moves.

Start with a light warm-up for about 5 minutes with moves like marching in place, stepping side to side, reaching your arms side to side and up and down. The goal of a warm-up is to get your blood circulating, increase your body temperature and get you mentally focused for your workout.

1. Squats (12-15 repetitions, 2-3 sets)
Muscles targeted: glutes, hamstrings

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart, toes pointed to 11 and 1.
  • Chest lifted, brace abdominals, and lower back for support.
  • Initiate movement from the hips; simultaneous movement is through the knees and ankles. (Imagine that you are sitting back into a chair.)
  • Squat position is 90 degree knee flexion, and knees are directed out over 2nd and 3rd toes.
  • Press into your heels and shins, squeeze your glutes and come back up.

Stretch: Knee to buttocks and hold for 30 seconds each leg.

2. Knee push-ups (12-15 repetitions, 2-3 sets)
Muscles targeted: shoulders, chest, back, triceps, and biceps.

  • Place your hands just outside the shoulders with your feet hip-width apart for greater stability, knees on the floor.
  • The torso should be perfectly in line from the neck to the heels throughout the push-up. Think of your body moving in one piece like a plank of wood.
  • The head should to be in line with the body also. Tuck in your chin and keep your eyes slightly forward and focused.
  • To do the push-up, lower your body down to just above the floor by bending your elbows and then push the floor away.

Stretch: Arms clasped in front of chest and hold for 30 seconds, arms clasped behind your back and hold for 30 seconds.

3. Lunges (8-10 lunges on each leg, repeat)
Muscles targeted: quads, glutes, side lunges, hamstrings, hip flexors

  • Start kneeling on the ground with one leg forward. Position knees at 90 degrees and then stand up.
  • Keeping the pelvis square, lower the back knee towards the floor.
  • Press into your front heel, and come back up.

Stretch: Bend knees, place right ankle on left knee hold for 30 seconds, repeat left (hold wall for balance).

4. Plank (hold for 30-60 seconds, repeat)
Muscles worked: core, shoulders, spine

  • Lie face down flat, place your hands underneath your shoulders.
  • Lift your body off the ground with your knees or toes on the ground.

Stretch: Lie face down, hands underneath shoulders, keep your hips on the floor, lift chest away from floor (cobra) and hold for 30 seconds.

5. The Bicycle (8-10 repeat 2-3 times)
Muscle worked: core, obliques

  • Lie face up, flat on a mat with your lower back pressed into the ground.
  • Place your hands behind your ears.
  • Feet off the floor, knees above your hips.
  • Touch your left elbow to your right knee, then your right elbow to your left knee.
  • Work at a steady pace; inhale as your elbow touches the knee; exhale to extend.

Stretch: Stand with feet together, arms extended overhead, bend toward the right and hold for 30 seconds, repeat left.