Meet Sarah Senter, acupuncturist and founder of Medicine Kitchen and an instant girl crush the second I met her. Sarah offered me an acupuncture and cupping session (my first!) and I left feeling incredibly centered and relaxed-this feeling lasted for hours. I highly recommend booking with her immediately! Aside from her practice, Sarah started Medicine Kitchen so her clients could have easy access to information about nutrition, herbs, & ways to stay healthy in between their sessions. It has become one of my go-to resources for easy recipes and wellness tips like this Earth Tonic. We chatted with Sarah about her inspiration for starting Medicine Kitchen, tips for encouraging your kids to eat more whole foods, and the one thing every pregnant lady should have on rotation in their diet. Cupping photo by Sarah. Additional photography by Heather Gallagher.

Can you share a bit about your background?

I am a native Austinite! I was born here, spent a short time in Boston for college, came back and went to grad school here for acupuncture and Chinese medicine, did some post-graduate studies in China at a teaching hospital there, and have been working here ever since. I always have had an interest in other cultures – I studied Anthropology and Spanish literature in college, have always been drawn to Eastern philosophy and religion, and when I found Chinese medicine it felt like I had found a way of looking at the world that I had long been searching for. It made perfect sense to me and I just dove in. My grandfather was a real old-school MD… he didn’t speak to me for almost a year after I started acupuncture school!

What are the benefits to incorporating acupuncture and cupping in your wellness routine?

Acupuncture is so beneficial for many reasons. It helps the body to move Qi and blood freely, it helps the body to self regulate, it engages your brain to be mindful and stay in the present sensation, it helps the nervous system to power down so you can recharge your batteries, in a way. People think acupuncture will hurt… and very occasionally one point may be strong or painful for a short moment, but mostly acupuncture is extremely, deeply relaxing and restorative. It’s very helpful for chronic pain, women’s health issues, allergies, sleep issues, stress management, digestive function. I personally love cupping and gua sha, which are both Chinese medicine therapies as well, and use both of those in my treatment sessions. They are excellent therapies for pain and detoxification.

What does your personal wellness routine look like?

Well, currently I have a total house renovation going on + 2 very young and energetic children, so my wellness routine is stripped down! I do 5 minutes of qi gong every day, which is a breathing/meditation exercise to help focus & cultivate my own Qi. I usually do this at work before my clients or in between them during the day. I make a healing beverage every day – either a cold smoothie version in the morning, or a warm tea version in the afternoon. This will have probiotics, herbs, supplements, anything I can throw into it, blend up (I blend up my warm tea versions just the same as my smoothie versions) and drink as a healing tonic. I take Epsom salt baths ideally 1x/ week, never have a sedentary day, and always make time to experience gratitude and see the beauty in my life at least once a day.

Any tips on encouraging kids to eat more whole foods?

I think some of this is plain luck, but I do adhere to one major tenant which is never stop trying to introduce new things. It can take up to 10 or 15 times for a child to get comfortable trying something new – but you never know, on that ninth or tenth time, they may just decide it’s time! I’ve seen it happen. My husband is actually brilliant with always asking and never just assuming they won’t eat something. Also, take them shopping with you, and eat new things in front of them. Don’t dumb down your own food because you think they may not eat any. Both my sons’ favorite foods are steamed artichokes with lemon butter and pickled okra. Who knew! Just never stop trying.

We get a lot of questions from our pregnant readers about the best foods to eat while pregnant. We would love a short list!

Pregnancy is so different for everyone! Everyone’s individual needs are different which is why this is such a hard question. Women shouldn’t change their diets drastically when we become pregnant. In my experience, taking measures to ensure you are not depleted in vitamins/minerals BEFORE you get pregnant will help you throughout your entire first trimester and beyond. Red raspberry leaf tea should be in the rotation – it will keep the uterus toned and help support good hormone patterns during pregnancy, and keep the dates handy for the end. 🙂

Tell us about Medicine Kitchen. What inspired both the title and website?

Medicine Kitchen is the name of my blog I started years ago. I began doing the blog as a way to help my clients have access to information about nutrition, herbs, & ways to stay healthy in between their sessions. So much of healing is done on your own, you know. I am just a guide and one cog in the wheel of someone’s journey, so it’s really important for me to help my clients learn how to take care of themselves outside of the treatment room. Helping people set a good foundation in their own kitchen seemed like the most important place to start. Food energetics, cooking methods, and nutrition are historically large parts of Chinese medicine and our education – it all blends together in the blog!

I love the hashtags you use, #foodtherapy and #healingfoods. Why these?

Instagram is fun! I should have started doing it years ago. Those hashtags just represent what I’m teaching, I guess. I want people to know that what you eat is much more than just calories… each meal can either be health-promoting, health-neutral, or health-sabotaging. I believe the food we eat has power to change our biochemistry from within. I mean, this is not just me, this is actually a proven thing, hah! Many people don’t think of all this when they are hungry and working. Maybe they will be browsing through on Instagram and come across Medicine Kitchen and it will be a little reminder for this… that would be a dream come true for me.

What are a few easy ways our readers can start their own medicine kitchen?

This is a great question! I actually did a post about this awhile back. It is not expensive or hard to start your own medicine kitchen. You can buy SO many starter items for under $10 even. Raw apple cider vinegar, Garlic, Ginger root, Turmeric root, Bee pollen, raw cacao powder, goji berries, coconut oil, mung beans, raw honey, herbs that you can buy in bulk easily like lavender, chamomile, lemon balm… all these things are relatively cheap and go a long way for your health! You can look at for so many wonderful herbs to use at home, and follow along with me for recipes, ideas, new products & useful information on how to use all these things at home.

Tell us about the 5 Element Theory. What are they and how do you identify your element?

One big theoretical system of Chinese medicine is the 5 Element Theory. This is the idea that there are 5 central elements, or phases, to our natural world and our bodies (which are just little microcosms of the natural world) which are Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, Wood. These elements house many attributes that pertain to the physical, mental, and spiritual parts of us and the world. For example, each element corresponds to a different emotion, to a different organ, a different color, taste, function, health issue, etc. We all have parts of every element within us, it is what makes us whole and also what carries us through every season of the year and every phase of life… but as far as our personalities go, most people identify most with 1 or 2 of the elements. Clinicians will diagnose according to the 5 elements often, but you can also just take surveys to see which element you identify with most – they are really fun and useful. There are also certain foods you can use to activate each element or balance it – which is something I do often with clients in my practice and in my own life. It’s very similar to Ayurveda, eating according to your body type and constitution.

What do you love most about your job?

I always love the 1-on-1 time with my patients. People are so complex and interesting, I’m always intrigued by them! I love seeing someone let go and relax on my table, I love helping people, I love connecting with people in a supportive/loving way. I’m inspired by the poetic nature of Chinese medicine too, it’s a very beautiful medicine.

What is next for Sarah and Medicine Kitchen?

Well, we will be moving into our new house within the next month – so I’m really looking forward to that. That’s an under-statement actually, I’m desperately looking forward to it! I will have a brand new kitchen to play in! Beyond that, I want Medicine Kitchen to grow and reach more people. Teachings classes is something I’m interested in doing soon. I have a (perhaps distant, but vibrant!) dream of writing a book that incorporates Chinese medicine, 5 Element food therapy, and wellness wisdom in a very accessible & beautiful way.  I have a new blog series called The Wellness Ritual that I’m very inspired by and want to continue to refine that.  And, I actually founded a business group this year called The Circle with two friends of mine. It is a woman-owned business networking group here in Austin, and I’m so energized by it. I would love to have that grow even more and see what amazing things can happen for us there. There is a lot going on. Life is full!