Category Archives: Bones, Muscles and Joints

Why did I choose Manual Osteopathy as an adjunct profession?

Written by Katolen Yardley, DO (EU) MNIMH, RH (AHG) ~ Doctor of Osteopathy (EU) Manual Osteopathic Practitioner & Medical Herbalist

Classical Osteopathy, or Manual Osteopathy is a very gentle non invasive, hands-on form of manual therapy that focuses on supporting the bodies self healing mechanisms to restore optimal health – seeking to address physical structure and resolve underlying tissue imbalances, not only treat symptoms of dis-ease. Manual Osteopathy does not involve pharmaceutical medications or surgery but instead focuses on removing restrictions to physical structure to assist the bodies self regulation abilities within set homeostatic principles.

“To find health should be the object of the doctor. Anyone can find disease.” – Andrew Taylor Still MD, DO. Osteopathy Research and Practice

Reviewing the philosophy of Osteopathy, Dr Still, the founder of Osteopathy affirmed several osteopathic principles of which manual osteopathy therapy is based on:

Founder of Osteopathy, Dr Still
  1. The body is considered one whole functioning unit- it is impossible to have injury or restrictions in function of one area without involving and affecting other areas.
  2. Body structure influences the body’s functions – both are interrelated. If any structure is out of place, injured or otherwise not working properly, the body will not function at its best.
  3. The body has self regulating mechanisms which ensure it functions within set homeostatic range.
  4. The body contains self defence mechanisms and the capacity for self healing; when restrictions to function are alleviated, the body can proceed with maintaining the highest state of optimal health possible at any given time.

Dr Still recognised the essential importance of the circulation of fluids to keep tissues healthy, reinforcing the doctrine that the body’s fluids must be allowed to flow without restriction. Thus blood flow and its circulation from head to toe, lymphatic movement and neurological motor and sensory impulses must be without restrictions. The vascular system is involved in sending nutrients and needed oxygen to local cells and tissues as well as removing waste material from a cell for its elimination from the body. The nerves are involved in cell to cell and whole body communication through rapid electrical message relay.

  • Dr Still held the work of the nervous system in high esteem, viewing it as the messaging system or essentially the ‘internet highway’ of the body and spoke of the importance of safeguarding this communication pathway from inhibition.
  • Ligaments hold bones in position- regardless of whether the bones are set in perfect position for unhindered movement of fluids beneath.
  • One cannot work on the soma – the body- without facilitating a degree of change to tissues from head to toe; similarly, dis-ease also manifests as influencing the physical body and its function in some degree or another.

In my personal 20 year quest to comprehend practices (both ancient and modern) that enhance the highest possible expression of health and wellness; the discovery of the philosophy of Osteopathy and how its classical manual techniques can enhance wellbeing – is in alignment with my pursuit.

One of the ways Manual osteopathy can assist with homeostasis is to address the body’s structure, gently impacting the function of any underlying anatomical routes responsible for transporting nourishment to the body’s cells. Here is a possible analogy for better understanding of the Osteopathic process:

  • Full flow of circulation is essential as the flow of blood sends required oxygen full blood, nutrients, immune cells and other vital support to all tissues and cells throughout the body. 
  • The pumping action of the heart along with its electrical system plus the inspire/ exhalation of  lung tissue ensures that oxygenated blood is pumped unimpeded to all cells via the arteries and deoxygenated blood along with waste material is removed from the cells in veins.
  • The lymphatic system is responsible for removing waste from a localised area.
  • The nervous systems role is to activate electrical signalling pathways which modulate cardiovascular and pulmonary function, as well as relay motor and sensory information from the peripheries.
  • If any one of these pathways is not functioning as it should, or is impeded or blocked then overall performance would be less than optimal -possibly leading to a domino effect of long term health insufficiencies.  
  • So in the examples of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome or Brachial Plexus injury, perhaps there was an initial injury with a bone out of alignment and development of scar tissue; this could potentially lead to a narrowing in the brachial plexus area or shoulder girdle with pressure and impingement on underlying nerves and decreased blood flow. How dis-ease unfolds will be unique to each individual, however some examples of a possible progression: over time there could be possible muscle atrophy in a limb, loss of function and pinched nerves could lead to chronic pain radiating down the arm; numbness and tingling. There may be decreased sensation in the arm, or possibly development of raynauds syndrome with subsequent cold hands and fingers, perhaps even the development of carpal tunnel syndrome.  So the initial injury and changes in structure of the scapula could impact the function of the arm and even lead to symptoms in the fingers.
Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
  • A manual osteopathic practitioner would follow the path of the lesion, assessing the proper alignment of fascia, bones and connective tissue above the arteries and nerves, alleviating any restrictions and treat the area of the shoulder girdle and neck, decompressing nerve fibres, reducing pain and trigger points while maintaining range of motion to the shoulder and neck.

In my 20 years of studying health and wellness through my lengthy training as a Medical Herbalist, it is apparent that some causes of dis-ease can be due to restrictions or changes to physical structures.  Certain health states can be benefitted by Osteopathic Manual therapy including structure versus function examples- such as:

  • A client suffering from a concussion who has developed disabling migraines.
  • Lack of movement and immobility in seniors can lower flexibility, decrease range of movement and increase the risk of slip and falls.
  • Adhesions after surgery may affect underlying tissue health and function.
  • Poor posture can influence breathing capacity, enhanced vitality and overall wellbeing.
  • Addressing chronic inflammations and injury related to occupational hazards or repetitive movements in ones occupation (painters elbow, tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome).
  • Sports injuries (golfers elbow, swimmers knee) or contact sports injuries.
  • Tissue lymphodema (tissue swelling) related to surgery can be minimised through manual therapy and lymphatic drainage techniques.
  • Individuals with type 2 diabetes, for example, are at higher risk of peripheral neuropathy, have slower wound healing time and experience reduced circulation of oxygenated blood to the peripheries, and are in a higher risk category for development of opportunistic foot ulcers, neuropathies, poor healing sores, trauma and possibly more serious complications. Foot care along with osteopathic manual techniques can play a role in slowing dis-ease progression, improving quality of life and decreasing mortality.
  • A simply fall can change the structural alignment of the body, resulting in bone compression, jarring vertebrae or jamming ribs  –consequently pressing heavily on and possibly restricting blood flow; hindering the movement of clean pure blood in and out of a local region and diminishing motor or sensory nerve supply to areas of specific nerve innervations.
  • Even a simple strain or sprain may impede function of local related structures,
  • This is where the role of the osteopath comes in, a manual osteopathy can locate areas of restriction, treating those areas to free up tissues and underlying structures, enhancing the bodies self healing mechanisms and facilitate greater range of motion and assist in addressing underlying and alleviating possible long term compensations.

In my own journey in this hands-on paradigm, I have experienced alleviation of sinus congestion through the gentle treatment of cranial bones, an increased sense of wellbeing and deep relaxation. I have observed improvement in digestive health through visceral tissue work, as well as observed clients attaining greater range of motion, lessened pain sensations and greater mobility when dealing with chronic health issues.

Gentle repetitive movements are used to stimulate all tissue in a localised area including the fascia, ligaments, joints, tendons, bones as well as stimulate underlying tissues to remove congestion, stagnation, improve blood flow and ensure unimpeded flow of fluids and nerve impulses. While an Osteopathic wellness program is never a one program fits all scenario; manual osteopathic therapy seeks to treat the individual, thus treatment is also tailored to the individual.

Manual osteopathic therapy is the perfect adjunct to the internal use of Phytotherapy (aka herbal medicine) and vice versa, allowing options for client centered health care which offers support both internally and somatically (via gentle hands on treatment). I look forward to offering manual osteopathic care to my clients in the near future.

For more information about manual osteopathy visit our website: Alinear Osteopathy.

To find out is Osteopathic manual therapies are right for you, email our office at Alchemy & Elixir Health Group.

Read our previous blog postings on “What is Osteopathy” and “Manual Osteopathic Techniques”.

Topical Applications of Herbal Medicines: Medicine Making Workshop

Topical Applications of Herbal Medicines
  • Date: Thursday, September 28, 2017
  • Time: 7-9 pm, Cost $ 20 plus GST
  • Join us for a fun and interactive class on topical first aid.
  • Learn how to use herbs topically on the body for various health complaints.
  • Learn how to prepare a poultice, and understand the differences between a fomentation, compress, liniment and poultice and when to apply and what specific herbs to use for common first aid.
  • Explore the use of kitchen herbs and foods for topical application.
  • We will prepare topical applications of herbs in class and you will leave with tools for preparing your own herbal topical applications at home using fresh or dried plants.
  • Space is limited, prepayment guarantees your space in class.
    Pre register at:
    Location: Downtown Vancouver
    Additional details and location will be provided upon registration

Yarrow & Rose Hip Ginger Tea 

3 tablespoons dried Yarrow flowers (or 3 tablespoons fresh, chopped)
1 teaspoon dried Spearmint leaves
1 teaspoon Licorice root
2 teaspoons dried Rose hips
3 teaspoons fresh Ginger root
3 Clove fruits
½ teaspoon Cardamom seeds
2 Cinnamon sticks, broken
Juice of 1 fresh Lemon or Orange
6 cups Water
Cayenne powder-liberal shakes


This is one of my favorite spicy tea blends, delicious warm or cold. Combine ingredients in a large pot to consume throughout the day. Bring water up to a boil, then reduce to low heat and cover for 15 minutes. Strain. Drink a cupful every 1-2 hours. Sweeten if desired.

Use for children and adults alike at the onset of a cold or flu to minimize aches and pains and to encourage body sweating. Can assist with those under-the-weather symptoms such as head congestion, sore throat, coughing, headaches, fever, restlessness, watery eyes, stomachaches, and general aches and pains.

Recipe from page 107 of the  book  The Good Living Guide to Natural and Herbal Remedies written by Katolen Yardley, MNIMH, RH (AHG)

Available for purchase at:

Herbal Medicine Making for Athletes & Arthritis First Aid

Join Medical Herbalist, Katolen Yardley, MNIMH for a morning of herbal medicine making. Create your own first aid products for sprains, strains and bruises, athletic recovery and arthritis.
We will make:

  • A Topical Anti inflammatory Cooling Liniment
  • A Turmeric, Cayenne Pain Relief Salve and an
  • Arnica Comfrey Healing Lotion.
  • Learn how to prepare a poultice and fomentation while you
  • Sample an anti inflammatory herbal tea in class.

Date: Saturday, March 11, 2017
Time: 9am – 12pm
Cost: $ 70 plus GST
Pre registration and prepayment required to reserve your space
Location: South Granville, Vancouver BC
More information provided upon registration.
To register email:  or ph: 604 683 2298


The Calcium Controversy: Does milk really do a body good?

By Melissa Furneaux, B.Sc., HHC, RHN

Most of us have grown up with the firm belief that milk is an important part of a balanced diet, and absolutely necessary for strong bones and teeth. This idea is so ingrained in our culture that most of us do not so much as question it; it is common thought that if we want to avoid osteoporosis in our later years, we need to drink hefty amounts of dairy now. But is this really the case? Like so many nutritional controversies, it turns out that this situation is rather complicated. So let’s begin with the basics…what exactly is calcium, and what does it do in the body?

Calcium is a macro-mineral, and it is also the most abundant mineral in our bodies, accounting for about 1.5-2% of our body weight. Almost all of it, around 98%, is in our bones; another 1% is in our teeth, and the final percent is in and around our cells. While calcium is certainly best known for its role in bone health, it is actually involved in many functions throughout the body, including muscle contraction and heart regulation, nerve conduction, cell communication, blood clotting, and enzyme regulation, just to name a few. There’s no denying that we need adequate amounts of calcium to stay healthy. However, is the commonly recommended 2-4 servings of dairy each day an appropriate guideline?

Without going into detail, let’s just say that the influence of the dairy industry is far-reaching, its pockets vast, and their advertisements psychologically brilliant. The “Got Milk“ campaign, for example, is one of the most successful, long-running advertising campaigns of all time. If we step back from the politics, however, and take a look at the science, we can see that it is quite well-documented that greater dietary calcium intake does not correlate with stronger bones. On the contrary, if we look at global dietary consumption of dairy, we will find an inverse relationship between osteoporosis and dairy consumption. Yes, you read that correctly…as a general rule, the nations that drink the most milk also have the highest rates of osteoporosis. In addition, researchers have consistently found a direct correlation between animal protein intake and loss of bone mass. While we must be cautious to not make any conclusions based on this correlation alone, it does suggest that perhaps there is more to bone health than meets the eye.

As with all nutrients, it is not simply a matter of how much calcium you have in the body, but rather what your body is able to do with it. We know that our society isn’t lacking in calcium. So how can these counter-intuitive facts be explained? It seems that what we have is not a problem of calcium deficiency, but one of calcium absorption. The human body is complicated and dynamic, with systems and substances working synergistically…nothing occurs in isolation. Our bodies are constantly trying to maintain stable levels of calcium in the blood. If our bodies become too acidic, due to excess animal protein, stress, a high intake of carbonated soft drinks, or any variety of other reasons, calcium will be leached from our bones to help buffer acidity in the rest of the body. In effect our bones act as somewhat of a “mineral bank.”

There are many diet and lifestyle factors that either promote or inhibit calcium absorption, and unfortunately when it comes to the so-called “Standard American Diet, the scales are definitely tipped against us. A few common substances that interfere with absorption include: caffeine, soft drinks, diuretics, excessive meat/protein consumption, refined sugar and concentrated sweeteners, alcohol, cigarettes, other intoxicants, and excess salt. Many of these substances are high in phosphoric acid, or other acidic substances that create imbalance in the body. In addition to these substances that hinder absorption, there are other factors that must be present for absorption to take place at all. Most notably, these include vitamin D, magnesium, healthy parathyroid hormone functioning, and another hormone called calcitonin. The situation is even further complicated by the fact that vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient, meaning that the calcium in fat-free products is more difficult to absorb.

I am commonly asked “If I give up milk, where will I get my calcium from? As it turns out, there is a huge variety of non-dairy sources available, primarily our “beans and greens.” Many leafy greens are excellent sources, particularly kale, mustard greens, and bok choy. There are a few greens, such spinach and collards, that while being excellent sources of calcium, should be cooked to increase calcium bioavailability (due to the presence of oxalic acid). Many legumes are also excellent sources, including soy beans, tofu, adzuki beans, peas, and pinto beans. Sea vegetables, such as hijiki, nori, kombu, wakame, and kelp are also excellent sources. Other foods that contain calcium include brazil nuts, almonds, hazelnuts, bones (either eaten directly or used to make soup broths), and some dried fruits such as apricots. Many people choose to supplement their diet with calcium, although in my opinion this is somewhat missing the mark, again focusing on quantity over quality.

In the end, it is safe to say that this issue is complicated, and that the debate over milks purported health benefits and consequences will likely not be ending anytime soon. While milk is an excellent source of calcium, it is becoming increasing clear that their are a number of potential problems associated with milk and dairy intake as well…we have not even touched on the fact that approximately 70% of the world is lactose intolerant, that it is one of the most common dietary allergens in North America, and that it is not appropriate for many people due to ethical or religious reasons. Ultimately, however, it comes down to personal choice. If you choose to include milk in your diet, try to buy local and organic, if possible, as the quality of the product will be much better, and you will also be supporting more sustainable farming methods in your community.

Melissa Furneaux , Registered Holistic Nutritionist is available for workshops and private consultations at Alchemy & Elixir Health Group in Vancouver BC.

The History of Traditional Thai Massage

~ written by Sharon Brown Horton, Thai Yoga Massage Practitioner at Alchemy & Elixir Health Group in Vancouver, BC.

Originating over 2,500 years ago, Thai Massage is one of the worlds most ancient healing modalities which embraces the philosophy and practical expression of loving kindness. With its roots in Ayurvedic and Chinese Medicine, it made its way in the early years of development to Southeast Asia. For centuries, it was performed by monks in the temples, called Wats, as one of four elements of indigenous Thai Medicine.

The Benefits

Traditional Thai Massage incorporates elements of mindfulness, gentle rocking, deep stretching and rhythmic compression to create a singular healing experience. As a result, this form of holistic body work harmonizes the body, relaxes tense muscles, increases energy, helps to re-align the body, relieves stress and promotes a peaceful mind.

The Method

Different from Western Massage methods, Thai Massage uses assisted yoga Asanas to open the joints and relieve the tension in surrounding muscles, which allows prana, chi, or healing energy to move more freely throughout the body. Not surprisingly, it is often referred to as the lazy mans yoga! Thai Massage allows the receiver to experience a deepening of the Asana (yoga posture) through a deep and gentle assistance, opening the joints without the resistance created when using their own power. The use of gentle rocking, thumb pressure and rhythmic compression helps the body to be prepared for stretches, so that the recipient feels invited to receive the stretch and the defense reactions of muscles tightening up are not triggered.

What to expect from your Thai Massage

Thai Massage is performed on a mat on the floor and the client typically wears light, loose fitting clothing no oils are used. Not only are the hands used to free tension from the body, but Thai Massage Practitioners also use elbows, forearms and feet for interactive manipulation. Massage sessions can last from one hour, up to 2 hours or more. The treatment style is slow, deliberate, gentle, non-invasive and suitable for even the most fragile person. After a thorough health history review, the Thai Massage session is customized to suit the current needs of the body, mind and spirit.

Your Thai Massage Practitioner at the Alchemy & Elixir Health Group & Wellness Centre

Over several years, Sharon Brown-Horton trained in Chiang Mai as well as Phi Phi Island inThailand. She holds her Thai Massage Certificates in Advanced Therapies, Sen Lines, Reflexology, as well as Traditional Thai Massage Affiliate Instructor with ITM of Chiang Mai ~ a school that is recognized with the Canadian Massage Therapy Association of BC . Currently, she offers her Thai Yoga Massage and Thai Foot Reflexology services at the Alchemy & Elixir Health Group and Wellness Centre and teaches certification classes in Thai Yoga Massage (contact Sharon directly for her upcoming availability and certification class dates). With a background in Kinesiology and Health & Fitness, Sharon has been a nominee for the prestigious “YWCA Women of Distinction Award in the category of Health & Wellness. With a background in Dance, Kinesiology and Spa Therapies, she has been a trainer, teacher and yoga practitioner for over 25 years and has been guest speaker at numerous events throughout North America, as well as St. Lucia and Tokyo. Her practice of Thai Yoga Massage facilitates and promotes a harmonious state of being. This ancient healing work strives to remove obstacles on the path toward The Four Divine States of Mind: Loving Kindness, Vicarious Joy, Compassion and Equanimity.

~ “It is a privilege to touch a person and become a conduit for sacred healing energy and I am honoured to be able to offer this Yoga-based healing to my clients. I truly believe that the practice of Traditional Thai Massage has greatly enhanced my life and I look forward to sharing its benefits with my clients at the “Alchemy & Elixir Wellness Centre for many years to come. Sharon Brown-Horton

Understanding Vitamin D…

written by Katolen Yardley, MNIMH, Medical Herbalist

During the winter months of limited sunlight exposure or in the case of individuals who rarely are exposed to sunlight, vitamin D deficiencies may be prevalent.

Known as the sunshine vitamin and manufactured on the skin, Vitamin D is converted by the liver to an inactive storage form called calcidiol (25-hyrdoxy vitamin D) and then converted again by the kidneys into the biologically active form 1,25-dihydroxy Vitamin D (also known as 1,25 dihydroxycholecalciferal), which is stored in fat calls and also circulates through the bloodstream.

Vitamin D is involved in the production of numerous proteins and enzymes used to fight disease, repair muscles, strengthen bones and maintain overall health. Vitamin D works with Magnesium to stimulate the absorption of Calcium into the bones and works best taken together with these minerals.

When outdoors and before application of a sunscreen, exposure of the arms, legs and face to the suns ultraviolet rays for 15 minutes daily will likely ensure adequate levels of Vitamin D synthesis into the body.

Studies indicate that deficiencies of Vitamin D can be a contributing factor in the development of colon cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, infectious disease, and inflammatory bowel disease and auto immune dysfunction such as: rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and multiple sclerosis. Research is also indicating that daily Vitamin D supplementation offers protection against the development of rickets, osteoporosis, colorectal, prostate and breast cancer. Supplementation with Vitamin D cannot guarantee the development of these disorders; however it is certainly one of many nutrients known to protect the body from onset of chronic disorders.

Food sources of Vitamin D include salt water fish, egg yolks, dandelion greens, sweet potatoes, tuna, vegetable oils, salmon, halibut, sardines, herring, mackerel, parsley, nettle, horsetail and alfalfa.

Individuals suffering from malabsorption problems such as celiac disease or crohn’s may not be absorbing adequate amounts of Vitamin D; certain medications such as some cholesterol medications, antacids, mineral oil, steroids, cortisone and thiazide diuretics can also interfere with absorption of Vitamin D.

In supplement form, there are 2 types of Vitamin D: Naturally occurring and the most active form, D3 or cholecalciferol (from fish oil, eggs, organ meats, sheep’s wool, cod liver oil and plant sources)and the synthetic, irradiated D2 or ergocalciferol, (less biologically active) and found in fortified foods, fortified milkand some supplements.

Ensure you take only the naturally occurring pure Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), as the body assimilates this in the same way that it uses Vitamin D formed from sunlight. Avoid ingestion of the synthetic Vitamin D2, as similar to many synthetic products, the synthetic Vitamin D has been shown to be toxic in high dosages.

Determine your need for supplementation with Vitamin D before you take it. A lack of vitamin D will contribute to many chronic illnesses however like many fat soluble vitamins, Vitamin D is stored in the body thus taking too much is not desirable; request a calcidiol 25-hydroxyvitamin D (or a 25(OH)D) blood test from your doctor to determine if you are deficient. Ideal calcidiol [25-hydroxy vitamin D] levels are between 35-65 ng/ml [87-162 nm/L], year around.

Individuals with sarcoidosis, tuberculosis, or lymphoma should avoid the use of Vitamin D supplementation without first consulting a health care professional.

For more reading please click on the following Vitamin D links:

The Cholecalciferol Council