Are You Yin or Yang?

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

The forces of yin and yang describe everything in the universe. Everything has its opposite, and yet, each is an intrinsic part of the other. Everything that exists has a yin as well as a yang aspect and health and the human being are no exception. In Chinese medicine, a person is seen to be made up of yin and yang forces. Each of the organ systems have yin and yang energies, and although this is a dynamic relationship and constantly changing, when these forces become unbalanced, illness can result. Below is a list of some of the basic things that are considered yin and yang, but remember, each of these individually also has a yin and yang aspect.

Yin

  • Darkness
  • Moon
  • Female
  • Night
  • Inwards
  • Contractive
  • Passive
  • Rest
  • Earth
  • Flat
  • Space
  • West
  • North
  • Right
  • Back
  • Below
  • Slow
  • Damp
  • Cold
  • Inside

Yang

  • Light
  • Sun
  • Male
  • Day
  • Outwards
  • Expansive
  • Active
  • Brightness
  • Activity
  • Heaven
  • Round
  • Time
  • East
  • South
  • Left
  • Front
  • Above
  • Fast
  • Dry
  • Hot
  • Outside

A human being also exhibits yin and yang energies. Each organ system is striving for a relative balance of its yin and yang forces, but the body as a whole often has a tendency to be more yin or yang. Are you the kind of person who can go out in the winter without a coat? Or do you need to wear socks and jammies to bed even on a hot sumer night? Are you drawn to frozen foods like ice cream, or do you crave hot drinks like tea and hot chocolate no matter what the season? Knowing the tendency of your body to be more yin or yang can help you determine how to bring it back into balance by using all the tools that Chinese medicine has in its impressive tool box.

The Yin and Yang of Foods

The Yin

Food therapy has been an integral part of Chinese medicine for thousands of years. The Chinese understood not only the medicinal properties of foods, but ascribed to each a thermal nature, contributing either a yang, or heating quality, a neutral energy or a yin or cooling energy to the body. This understanding, that all foods are either heating, cooling or neutral in nature helps to rebalance the body when the internal yin or yang energies are out of balance.

As part of my initial patient intake, I ask "are you a hot or cold person?" Most people know right away what the answer is. "Oh, I am always cold!" Or, "I am like a furnace running day and night." This is a clue to someone's relative level of yin or yang. Once you can determine if a person has an overabundance of yin or yang (cold or hot), I usually introduce a list of foods and their heating (yang), cooling (yin) or neutral nature. It is interesting how often a person with an overabundance of yang is actually eating mostly yang or heating foods, and a person with a constitution that is more yin may tend to eat more cooling foods. But this is the wonderful thing about Chinese medicine. Part of the job of the practitioner is to educate the patient and to empower them to participate in their healing. Once they become aware that they have a predominance of yin or yang, they can then take a list of foods and their yin or yang qualities and remove certain foods (that may be exacerbating the condition) and add in others to help the body to rebalance.

Here is a handy chart that lists some yin (cooling) and yang (warming) foods in Chinese medicine - but remember, there are neutral ones too.

Yin & Yang Foods in TCM : Chinese Medicine LivingThis lovely image thanks to rawayurveda.com

Yin & Yang Constitution

There are many clues that you can use to determine if you are constitutionally more yin or more yang. These are generalizations of course, an all of us have both yin as well as yang aspects, but below are some guidelines to help you recognize yin and yang traits in yourself and others.

Yang people tend to speak loudly, be excitable and move quickly (like fire). They tend to be robust, have thinner, stronger bodies, and can be red faced and passionate. Yang personalities are active, expansive and always on the move. They flare up and are changeable, like fire. They can also tend to frustration and anger.

Yin people tend to be quiet, move more slowly and are more grounded. They tend towards weight gain, or in Chinese medicine what is called dampness. They are generally soft spoken and introverted, enjoying to spend time by themselves. Yin personalities often have a rich inner life and live in their fertile imaginations. Yin people may also tend towards sadness and melancholy.

Yin & Yang Conditions

Diagnosis also depends on a deep understanding of yin and yang, and while there are many theories that are used in Chinese medicine to formulate a diagnosis, yin and yang are always a consideration. While each condition has a yin and a yang nature, there are some characteristics that point to weather a condition is more yin or yang.

Yang conditions tend to excess, exhibit heat and symptoms tend to change quickly. They are characterized by redness, swelling, red eyes, bitter taste, fevers, excess type headaches and pain with a sharp or intense nature.

Yin conditions tend to be deficient, exhibit cold or dampness and change slowly. They are characterized by discharges, lumps and bumps (dampness), a feeling of heaviness, slow movements and thinking, and a dull, achey type of pain.

The good news is, that once there has been a proper diagnosis, there are many ways to restore the relative balance of yin and yang in the body, from the foods you eat every day to acupuncture to Chinese herbs. Meditation and martial arts like Tai Chi and Qi Gong are also excellent to restoring health. Once you have an idea of your constitution, you can be aware of when you are swinging out of balance and will be armed with the tools to help yourself restore balance once again. Because the interplay between yin and yang is dynamic and constantly changing, it is helpful to be able to make small adjustments - which is why Chinese medicine works best as a medicine of prevention - rather than waiting until disease develops as the changes needed then are more drastic and generally things take longer to correct.

So... are you more yin, or more yang?? Once you begin to observe your behaviour and the ailments you tend towards, it might become obvious which you are predisposed to. But, hopefully, with the knowledge that there are foods, as well as other simple things that you can do to regain balance, it will help to keep you healthy in the present and long into the future. Yay Chinese medicine!!

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Spirituality and Traditional Chinese Medicine

By John Voigt

The key character in the Chinese word “spiritual” is shen ().

Shen Spirit in Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living

This image from West Learns East

From the Yellow Emperor’s Canon of Internal Medicine: If you have shen, you will progress towards health. If you lose your shen, you will lose your life. [1]

The modern standard reference book for Chinese characters, the Hanyu Da Zidian (2006) defines shen this way: Celestial gods/spirits of stories/legends, namely, the creator of the myriad things in heaven and earth and the supreme being. Spirit-mind-consciousness. Magical, supernatural, miraculous; mysterious, ability to divine the unknown, amazing foresight. And—(especially telling for our purposes)—a highly skilled doctor.

Shen can show itself as something good or something evil.  The word shen may be easily applied to such entities as ghosts, goblins, devils, monsters, and demons, all of whom (historically at least) have been said to bring about illnesses. [2]

The goal of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is that by effecting a healthy flow of qi-life energy in the meridians, and gaining a correct balance of yin and yang energies in the organs, the body and mind gain health and wellbeing.  A goal of the spiritual path is turning away from the myriad attractions and distractions around us and returning to a union with the Infinite, the Absolute, the Divine.

Both these health and spiritual goals are alluded to in the opening of chapter 42 of the Dao De Jing.

Dao De Jing/Tao Te Ching

Chapter 42 (excerpt) - Genesis

(Before the beginning was)

Dao from which is born One (unmanifested Qi).

One which gives birth to Two (the static polarities of yin and yang).
Three - a dynamic Qi appears opening Yin and Yang into a harmony of interaction.

And from Three, creation [in time and space] unfolds and all things are born.

All things carry yin on their backs and embrace yang in their arms.

When female-yin and male-yang mix and blend their Qi (breath/life energy), harmony is obtained. And from Three, creation [in time and space] unfolds and all things are born.

The author, Laozi (Lao Tzu) purposefully has used the seemingly vague open-ended words: Dao-One-Two-Three-All Things. But their lack of specificity enables the thoughtful reader to creatively interpret each word.

The Dao (the “Way”) as an archetypal Mother giving birth to the One, its alter-image, the Hidden Qi: the potential for time, space and consciousness to exist.  From the Hidden Qi there appears Two, the separate as yet non-interacting Yin and Yang [3] - therefore there is no movement and so there is nothing to be seen.

From the Two comes Three, a manifesting  Qi generating interaction and movement between the previously static yin and yang.  And so is born all the myriad things and thoughts possible throughout the entire universe. [4]

The key to spirituality in TCM, as well as in certain mystical religious practices, is to walk the walk of this cosmological emanation in reverse. That is to say from the All (“ten thousand things” of the original text) to Three (Heaven, Earth and Humans), then Two (yin-yang), then One (unmanifested Qi) as the traveler maintains her connections to the commonplace ordinary world of others,  thus safely returning into the harmony, purity, power and compassion of the Way.

The Five Elemental Energies in Nature and in Man

5 Elements : Chinese Medicine Living

This image from wikipedia

There is another Daoist concept of creation that places Five after Three - (perhaps four is missing because, like our thirteen, it is a bad luck number in Asia).

From a primordial infinite nothingness (wuji) comes the One Supreme Ultimate (taiji), a source of creation but without any human personality of a Judaic-Christian God. Then appears Two as the always connected interacting polarities of yin-yang. Then Three as the Heavens above, Man in between, Earth below. [5]

Yin Yang : Chinese Medicine Living

This image from wikipedia

From Three comes Five: the “Five Phases of Universal Energy” - or more commonly but not more accurately called, “The Five Elements.” [6] These are the energies of Wood [actually the energies of growing trees, even all the green leafed flora that grows up from the earth],  burning Fire, fertile Earth, cutting Metal, and washing Water. They represent the changing conditions of all phenomena. Each of the Five has a specific correspondence with a season, direction, color, taste, and internal organ; which helps to explain how the body functions and how qi-energy changes during disease and during healing. Each of the Five has been deified into a god, or could be thought of as a god.

Animal gods have also been assigned to each of the Five. [7]

5 Elements : Chinese Medicine Living

This image from wikipedia

Five Animal Frolics

The Chinese physician, Hua Tuo (circa 140-208 CE) was famous for his abilities in acupuncture, moxibustion, herbal medicine, and medical qigong exercises.

Hua Tuo : Chinese Medicine Living

This image from wikipedia

Similar to the earlier Shamans and WuYi, Hua Tuo developed his “Five Animal Gymnastics” (Wu qin xi) from studying the movements of animals and birds. What exactly were the creatures and movements is now unclear,  but what is obvious is that the Five Elemental Energies, and their ability to heal, are in play here.

The Body heals with play. The Mind heals with laughter. The Spirit heals with joy, [Chinese Proverb].

Often in my qigong classes we do a free form interpretation of some the five creatures. It may be done alone, but it is especially fun with others or in groups. Not surprisingly little kids get it right away; we should be more like them.

Tiger. Walk in a slinky way like a tiger. Growl, and make clawing gestures.

The Tiger represents the elementary energy of growing trees. It relates to the Liver, anger and its opposite,  peacefulness. The grasping motions may help open the acupuncture points at the tips of the fingers and in the palms.

Phoenix. The Phoenix is a mythological creature that reincarnates itself by rising up from the ashes of the fires of its past.  With this qigong there is an implied rebirthing of the self. The Elemental Energy is Fire, the organ is the Heart.

The Gymnastic: In a wide stance, turn to the right, inhale and lift the arms up by your sides.  The heel of the left foot should rise up as you do this. When the hands are level with the ears, open and unfold the hands and arms as if you were a beautiful Phoenix unfolding your wings.  Pause then slowly exhale and float your arms (as wings) back down and return to facing forward with arms hanging down by your sides. Then turn to the left and repeat the gesture, now with the right heel lifting off the ground. Do six times or for as long it feels good to do. It may be viewed on YouTube done by its originator, Lin Housheng. Go to 32:47 of  “…18 Motions of TaiJi Qigong, Disk 2.”

Cat and Cow. The Yoga Cat and Cow pose is normally done on the floor by first arching the back up like an angry cat, then letting the belly loosen and drop down like an old cow. As with most hatha yoga these are static  positions. It becomes more of a qigong gymnastic if you make smooth, gentle and continuous cat and cow movements. The Elemental Energy here is Earth, the organs are Spleen and Stomach.  But this gymnastic also massages the spine, shoulders and all the organs of the lower torso.

An advanced way is to stand and with the chin and hips gently make vertical circles; first forwards then backwards,  the shoulders are kept loose. Go easy with this one: even a hint of pain and you should immediately stop. [8]

Gorilla. Be like Tarzan and tap around your collarbone area. You might make his “King Gorilla of the Jungle” call. (His girlfriend Jane did it as well). It’s great for the important thymus gland. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thymus .This qigong gymnastic relates to Metal, and the Lung area.

Peacock. Peacock Spreads Tail To Show Beautiful Feathers.  Pretend you are a peacock and raise your hands straight up. As they go above your head spread your arms open.  From the sides of your eyes using peripheral vision imagine your beautiful feathers.  With your arms uplifted and palms facing out, slightly bend the elbows and slowly sway to the left and right like audiences at a rock concert. The Energy is Water, relating to the Kidney area.

Healing Prayers

The Ultimate Absolute within Buddhism, Hinduism, and Daoism is devoid of any human qualities. But in the way that the Abrahamic God gained anthropomorphic qualities, the Asians added many buddhas, bodhisattvas, avatars,  gods, and immortals as a gateway into experiencing the divine Absolute. In both the East and West prayer to the Divine or to divine human-like forms, personifications, icons, etc. has had many instances of miraculous healing take place. Even if no cures happen, prayer can lighten the pain and travail of the passage from life to death.

For Buddhists, the traditional god of healing is Bhaisajyaguru who is also called Yao Shih Fwo. He sometimes functions rather like an Asian “patron saint of healers.” The Medicine Buddha Mantra

Bhaisajyaguru The Medicine Buddha : Chinese Medicine Living

This lovely image from wikipedia

NAMO (I take refuge in) BHAGAVATE (the World-Honored One) BHAISAJYA-GURU (the Master of Medicine) VAIDURYA (the lapis-lazuli colored ) PRABHA (light) RAJA YA (the king) TATHAGATA YA ARHATE (the Thus-Come-One, the One-Worthy-of-Offering) SAMYAK-SAMBUDDHAYA (the equal and correctly enlightened), TADYATHA (and I speak thus): OM (Hail!) BHAISAJYE (Healer) BHAISAJYE (Healer) MAHA-BHAISAJYA (Great Healer) RAJA (king), SAMUDGATE (the path to enlightenment) SVAHA! (So be it!).

Guan Yin / Kwan Yin

Guanyin/Kwan Yin is the goddess of Compassion. Her name literally means “Hearing the Cries of the World.” Although originally a Buddhist god, she is now honored by Daoists, Confucians, Hindus—She has gained the love of the masses in the East, and many in the west. As with Mary or Jesus, angels or saints she is often prayed to for healing.

Quan Yin : Chinese Medicine Living

This beautiful image from wikipedia

Her mantra/prayer is Namo Guan shi yin Pusa, meaning

“Salutations to the most compassionate and merciful Bodhisattva Guanyin who hears the cries of those who suffer.”  Here is a link: Kuan Yin Mantra - Namo Guan Shi Yin Pusa.

The mantra "Namo Guan Shi Yin Pusa" with a variety of artwork depicting the Chinese goddess of mercy who relieves suffering.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6JhSegPjOM

There are many more mantra prayers in the religions of the world that may be used for healing. Perhaps search on YouTube for one that captures your heart.  I typed “healing prayers OR mantra” on my browser and came up with this URL.

Of course with a clean and pure heart, you could compose your own prayer or mantra.

A Few Simplified Spiritual Techniques

Disclaimer:

This article is for educational purposes only. It is not offered for the healing of any illnesses.  If  a person is sick they should see a proper professional in either (or both) western or traditional Chinese medicine. If doing anything in this article is physically or mentally uncomfortable, painful, or feels strange or weird immediately stop doing it.

1. Since the harmony of the Dao is reflected in nature - take a pleasant walk by the ocean or in the country. Or have fresh cut flowers in your home.

2. Daoist and Buddhist rituals include lighting incense and candles, singing prayers, and ceremonial dances.  If at home alone feeling glum, why not light incense and/or candles, sing and/or dance?

Qi Breathing Exercise

Qigong (chi kung) is a basic modality of TCM. It often is defined as “breath work.”

A person can sit comfortably with a straight back, and focus their mental attention on their breathing. Then calmly breathe more slowly and deeply. If the mind wanders simply count the breaths up to five (or any other number) and repeat the counting, or use a mantra like “peace,” or “relax,”  or “I am calm,” etc.  More Advanced: next be aware of the coolness on the nostrils. Then move that awareness to the qi-breath entering the lungs, from there be aware (or just imagine) the oxygen–qi in the blood entering all parts of your body, helping healing and refreshing you.  Having a simple smile seems to help this qi breathing exercise along. A really easy version of this exercise is to slowly, calmly and fully breathe into your lower lungs, only paying attention to how it feels.

Get a massage; I recommend Chinese Therapeutic Massage (Tuina). But massage can be done at home with a partner or by one’s self: rub and squeeze the body - especially the arms, legs, belly and kidney areas and feel energy blockages open up inside. Again keep your attention on how if feels, what the qi flow is doing. That may aid in making this a spiritual healing experience

Amulets are often used for healing.  An interesting way to do this is keeping on your person a mini-sized Daode Jing. Shambhala Publications has a 3 x 1/4  x 4.5 inch size copy.  

At night when the sky is clear and the moon is full, with open eyes look up to the moon and see it smiling down on you then smile back at it. The advanced Daoist qigong version of this is in the Endnotes, see [9].

One Last Thought

The belief systems of a non-spiritual TCM practitioner and a practicing Daoist healer may differ; nevertheless a raison d'être of each is similar: the goal is the gaining of wellbeing. One might say the absence of illness while the other says being in harmony with the Dao. However putting the best of both together offers the possibilities of a long, healthy, and happy life.

Endnotes

[1] Zhang Yu Huan & Ken Rose. Who Can Ride the Dragon? pg. 211. Paradigm, 1999.

[2] Illness are said to be produced by xie qi: bad, evil, pathogenic, demonic, devilish, evil life energy. See “Turbid Qi” http://qi-encyclopedia.com/index.asp?article=TurbidQi by Jerry Alan Johnson

[3] Yin originally meant dark and shaded. Yang originally meant sunny, full of light.

As mentioned above, these are not hard and fast static concepts.  As time (night and day) moves forward each continually folds into and becomes the other. So by extension we have light-positive-masculine qi and dark-negative-female qi (no sexual value judgment is implied). Everything in the universe has both aspects of interchanging yin and yang.

[4] When this emanating process is balanced and in harmony all is as it should be. When disharmony happens (as in much of our modern civilization) there can be a harmful damaging chaos; things are no longer with the Dao. Examples are global climate change, widespread mental and physical illness, and continual killing warfare.

[5] The Chinese have different terms to expound on the meaning of this Three. With San Cai (Three Powers) yang becomes the Heavens, yin becomes the Earth, and in between are we, Humanity. Or San Bao, (The Three Treasures) of Jing (Essence) Qi (Vital Energy), and Shen (Spirit). Those knowledgeable with TCM working principles will recognize fundamental terms here.

[6]  The Chinese name for Five Energetic Phases is Wuxing (wǔ xíng -五行) which is an abbreviation of wu zhong liu xing zhi qi — “five types of universal energy [qi or chi] dominating at different times.”

[7] The White Tiger rules Metal and the Lung. Black Tortoise rules Water and the Kidney. The Green Dragon rules Wood and the Liver. The Red Phoenix rules Fire and the Heart. The Gold Dragon rules Earth and the Spleen/Stomach.  http://realm-of-midgard.wikia.com/wiki/Five_Gods_of_Wu_Xing .

[8] Sorry, I have no video for this, but Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming’s “Simple Qigong for Back Pain Relief (YMAA)” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BObNy_LBFRU from 0:04 to 0:41 offers some clues; it’s all about those concave – convex movements of the spine.

[9] Taking in Moon Cream Tonifies yin-essence. Gathering Sun Essence replenishes yang-qi. As the sun begins to rise at daybreak, with mostly drooped closed eyelids, breathe in one mouthful of soft gentle reddish sunlight (imagine it); hold the breath, then swallow it; then exhale and send it down to the dantian. Do ten times. At night when the skies are clear and the moon is full do the same swallowing with moonlight, six times.  Adapted from Chinese Qigong, Zhang Enqin, (1990) p.108.

A Daoist source of this exercise may be found on pg. 54 of Early Daoist Dietary Practices, by Shawn Arthur. https://books.google.com/books?id=idBrd_dKCkYC&pg=PA54&lpg=PA54&dq=Early+Daoist+Dietary+Practices+%22solar+lord%22&source=bl&ots=9-fKlt71__&sig=UVFqKokBlpyKOz-1qk4wsF5L0Nc&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwip4qzt24nMAhUFPj4KHYjTAakQ6AEIHDAA#v=onepage&q=Early%20Daoist%20Dietary%20Practices%20%22solar%20lord%22&f=false

Bibliography/Sources

“Chapter 1, What is Shen (Spirit)?” http://www.itmonline.org/shen/chap1.htm

http://www.yellowbridge.com/onlinelit/daodejing42.php

“The Chinese Cosmos: Basic Concepts.” http://afe.easia.columbia.edu/cosmos/bgov/cosmos.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_mythology

“Daoist Magic - a conversation with Dr. Jerry Alan Johnson, Ph.D, D.T.C.M.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ckpN8TWPbhE&nohtml5=False

Guan Yin Goddess of Healing. http://www.quanyinhealing.net/quan_yin.html

Timothy Leary. Psychedelic Prayers after the Tao Te Ching. http://www.holybooks.com/wp-content/uploads/Timothy-Leary-Psychedelic-Prayers.pdf

Lin Shi and Chenguang Zhang. “Spirituality in Traditional Chinese Medicine,” [in] Pastoral Psychology, October/December, 2012.

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/257635748_Spirituality_in_Traditional_Chinese_Medicine

Elizabeth Reninger. TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) and Five Element Styles of Practice. http://taoism.about.com/od/qigongchinesemedicine/a/TCM.htm

Taoism and martial arts-Opening Dao. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1SP0vS4hTJs

Terebess Asia Online (Tao). The Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu, [125 translations]. http://terebess.hu/english/tao/_index.html

John Voigt. “Happy Fun Qigong.” Qi Journal, Vol. 25, No. 3: Autumn 2015

Ibid. “Qi in the Daodejing—The Way and its Power.” Qi-Encyclopedia. com http://qi-encyclopedia.com/index.asp?article=Qi-in-the-Daodejing

Ibid. “Six Healing Sounds: Chinese Mantras for Purifying Body. Mind, and Soul. Qi Journal, http://www.qi-journal.com/Qigong.asp?Name=Six%20Healing%20Sounds&-token.D=Article

Wu Xing. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wu_Xing

Featured image from wikipedia.
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Spirituality and Traditional Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living


Black Bean & Licorice – Best Detox Combination

By Vicky Chan of NourishU

Nowadays, detoxification is the centre of attention when it comes to sickness prevention, health promotion and treatment of all kinds of illnesses including cancer. It is not hard to understand why we all need to detoxify for better health because we are living in such a toxic world with the air, food and water being highly polluted. Together with the industrialization of food and the modern healthcare approach of overusing toxic pharmaceutical drugs, our body is constantly bombarded by toxins. It is only a matter of when our body succumbs to the toxic effects and fails to function properly. Cancer is a typical example and is happening far too often to too many people now. I agree with the doctor who said `` if you breathe, you need to detox``.

If we understand the importance of detoxification, we will also understand that detoxification is not just a spring time event or a once a year exercise. It is necessary to flush out toxins from our body on a continuous and regular basis. This means that rather than taking a drastic detox program in a short period of time, it is better to take a more regular and gentler approach. The effect will be far better and easier for the body to handle.

Chinese medicine is big on detoxification. Making detox teas regularly for the whole family is a common approach towards sickness prevention and cure. It is especially important for young children and teenagers throughout their various development stages. The results are they have better digestive function, much more balance internally and therefore become calm and less agitated. They have less skin related problems therefore feel more confident and with better self-esteem. Besides homemade detox tea, it is also very common to find tea houses, herbal shops and retail stores selling all kinds of detox teas rather than coffee or unhealthy drinks. The most popular ones are the five flowers tea and cooling herbal tea. The homemade detox teas have more variety, milder in taste and nature, and are using more food ingredients such as beans, sugar cane, water chestnut, carrot, winter melon, lotus leave, etc., therefore are more delicious and easier for children to take regularly.

Black bean and licorice tea is one detox formula that I recently found in TCM literature which has very high rating and with lots of documentation to back up its efficacy. It is praised as the best detox tea for taking out almost all toxins from our body from all sources including toxins from pharmaceutical drugs and herbs. The only toxin that it cannot remove is cortisone. That is why we have to be very weary when taking cortisone injection. My understanding is that our body can only tolerate up to two cortisone injections in one life time. Any more than that will cause a lot of havoc to our body.

Black Bean & Licorice Detox Tea : Chinese Medicine Living

Black bean is known to be the worlds healthiest food. It is high in protein and calcium and good for promoting bone health. It is low in calories and sugar and is good for managing diabetes. Black bean can lower blood pressure and blood lipid and can prevent heart disease. It can also soften blood vessels, lubricate skin and prevent aging. Black bean provides special support for digestive tract health and promotes a healthy colon. Black bean is also high in selenium which plays a role in liver enzyme function and helps detoxify some cancer-causing compounds in the body, reduces inflammation and decreases tumor growth.

Black Bean & Licorice Detox Tea : Chinese Medicine Living

Licorice has been used in food and as medicine for thousands of years. It is also known as "sweet root," and has been used in both Eastern and Western medicine to treat a variety of illnesses ranging from the common cold to liver disease. It acts as a demulcent, a soothing, coating agent, and as an expectorant, meaning it helps get rid of phlegm.

Black Bean & Licorice Detox Tea : Chinese Medicine Living

In TCM, licorice is neutral in nature, sweet in taste and attributes to all twelve organs. It is a general drug, one of the most ancient herbs and is highly praised and frequently used for enhancing the overall immune response throughout the body. It improves the taste of other herbs, harmonizes and prolongs their effects in formulas and benefits all of the vital organs and their meridians. It invigorates vital energy, clears heat and toxins for skin infection, sore throat and food poisoning. It eliminates phlegm, relieves cough, relieves spasm, alleviates pain and moderates the potency of drugs. That’s why licorice is often found in many herbal remedy formulas. However over consumption can also result in adverse effects.

The following is a simple formula putting black bean and licorice together to make a great detox tea for regular detoxification. It is slightly sweet in taste and is easy to take. It is highly recommended for people of all ages.

Black Bean and Licorice Detox Tea

Black Bean & Licorice Detox Tea : Chinese Medicine Living

Ingredients (for about 6 servings)

  • Licorice – 65gm
  • Black bean – 300 gm
  • Water – 2000 cc

Directions

1. Rinse beans and soak for over 4 hours or overnight (keep inside a fridge).

2. Bring water to a boil in a big soup pot (to prevent boiling over). Add beans and soaking water in and bring to a boil again. Lower heat to medium and let it cook for about 15 minutes.

3. Rinse licorice briefly and add to the cooking. Lower heat and cook until beans are soft (about another 30 minutes).

4. You can take the tea only or eat beans with tea or you can discard the licorice and put beans and tea in a blender to mix into a smoothie.

Black Bean & Licorice Detox Tea : Chinese Medicine Living

Usage

You can take one to two servings per day and keep the rest in the fridge.

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Chinese Silk Pulse Cushions : Chinese Medicine Living


Cloud-Ear Mushroom - For Spring Detox

By Vicky Chan of NourishU

Spring is in the air and it is time for many households to start their spring cleaning projects around their homes and gardens. Our body, after a whole winter of inactivity and over indulgence in greasy and highly dense food, should also be in great need for a good spring cleaning.

On the subject of cleansing and detoxifying our body, you may find yourself being overwhelmed by too many product advertisements in health magazines, newspapers, online newsletters and blogs and you may find it hard to decide where to start and what product to use. I think the best approach is to have a good assessment of your body condition first and then use it as a guideline to help determine your right course of action. This, together with your honest answers to how much time, money and effort that you would like to put into the exercise, are the determining factors on how successful you can be. I think it is only sensible to take a longer time and more moderate approach rather than going through some drastic regimens of extreme and punishing diets which can only kill your will power and good intension. May I suggest just changing your food choices to more healthful ones as a start which may take longer to see the effects but at least more doable and enjoyable?

Cloud Ear Mushroom Recipe : Chinese Medicine Living

Overall, if you can manage to feed yourself with more good clean and nutritional fluids such as good clean water, freshly squeezed fruits and vegetables juice and homemade broth, cut down on meat consumption, eat a little bit less and do sweat inducing exercises daily for about 45 minutes, you are on the right path to spring clean your body for better health.

On healthy food choices for detoxification, vegetables with high fiber content would be the best choice. Chive, garlic stem, daikon, bok-choy, watercress, yu-choy, collard green, kelp and seaweed are good in cleansing our stomach and digestive tract. Mushroom, beans and seeds are other good detox agents. Most mushrooms have anti-oxidant properties and are effective in fighting tumors and abnormal cell development. Beans and seeds are effective in helping the body to eliminate abnormal retention of water and waste products.

Mushrooms have a good reputation for delivering great health benefits. Most western people know about Asian shiitake mushroom and consume it regularly but they may not know about another black mushroom called cloud-ear mushroom.

Cloud-ear mushroom is smaller in size, thinner, more fragile and very different than shiitake. It is more a fungus than mushroom and the shape is like human ear. They are grown on wet tree trunks and cluster together like a stack of clouds. They are known to be very effective in cleaning the lungs, reducing plague and cholesterol. They are commonly used in Chinese home cooking because they are easily available and affordable. They are mostly sold dried therefore can be kept for a long time. They can be fully rehydrated after soaking for about 15 minutes and a little can turn into a lot so very easy and economical to use.

The mushroom itself is almost tasteless, just needs a few minutes to cook but its slippery and crunchy texture makes it a very unique culinary ingredient. Even with longer time cooking will not change its texture. Therefore, cloud-ear mushroom is best for putting in a stir-fry, quick soup recipes and vegetarian stew. You can also put it in salad or some appetizer dishes after quick cooking in hot water.

Last week, I was so pleasantly surprised when I found fresh cloud-ear mushroom for sale in Chinese supermarkets in the Greater Toronto area. They are now being farmed in some Ontario mushroom farms together with many other exotic species. I am so happy to be able to use them fresh in many recipes now.

Whenever I buy cloud-ear mushroom, my 95 year old mom (living with me) will tell her story again on how her father made them all eat a bowl first thing in the morning before breakfast when they were young and how much he loved and cared for them. They were using the dried ones then and have them soaked in an open pot overnight on the roof-top terrace to get some morning dews before cooking with a little sugar to make it tasty for children. This is the kind of breakfast that will make so much difference to our heath compared to eating a bowl of sweet cereal. However, I think this is a hard act to follow and I truly admire the grandfather whom I had never met.

The following is an easy stir-fry recipe which I have put together just for demonstration. I used ingredients I have on hand. Crunchy and easy to cook ingredients such as onion, zucchini, cucumber and sweet peppers go well together with this mushroom. You just vary them according to your liking.  Sometimes I put the mushroom in vegetable soups and finish the soup with egg wash to make it a little bit fancier. I have also come to notice some Chinese dim-sum restaurants are using cloud-ear mushroom in their appetizers other than just in their usual steamed chicken.

Cloud-Ear Mushroom with Chicken Stir-Fry

Cloud Ear Mushroom Recipe : Chinese Medicine Living

Ingredients

  • Cloud-ear mushroom
  • Asparagus
  • Red onion
  • King mushroom
  • Chicken breast
  • Minced ginger and garlic

Cloud Ear Mushroom Recipe : Chinese Medicine Living

Directions

  • Rinse and cut ingredients to desire thickness and length.
  • Rinse and slice chicken breast thinly. Season with salt, pepper, cooking oil, soy sauce, potato starch and sesame oil.
  • Heat wok, add mined ginger and garlic and stir briefly. Add onion and other vegetables to cook for a couple of minutes. Then add mushrooms and mix in seasoning to taste. When the cloud-ear mushrooms starting to make popping sound, sprinkle in a little cooking wine and a little water. Mix and cover with lid to cook for a few minutes.  Then put everything aside.
  • Heat wok with a little oil and add minced ginger and garlic to stir-fry chicken slices. When about 70 % cooked, sprinkle in cooking wine and return mushrooms & vegetable to the cooking to mix the ingredients. Put everything to plate when chicken is completely cooked.

Cloud-Ear Mushroom - For Spring Detox : Chinese Medicine Living

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If you would like a downloadable information sheet that will tell you all about how to live in harmony with the Spring Season in Chinese Medicine, you can find it here - The Spring Season in Chinese Medicine.

 


Alignment - Part 1

By Steven Lubka

I write this in the beginning of the year 2016. In the last several decades we have experienced increasingly rapid and dramatic changes in the ways in which most humans live on this beautiful planet. We have developed incredible technologies that have made the impossible , possible. Our environments are filled with invisible wavelengths of light (wireless internet technologies)  which transmit the sum of human knowledge instantaneously to most points on the planet. With nuclear energy we generate power from invisible particles on a scale previously unheard of. We have discovered ways to alter the genetic information of plants and animals, to travel through the skies at incredible speeds, to travel into outer space, and many other feats which were delegated to the realm of imagination 100 years ago.

From a certain perspective one can view all of these inventions as coming from a pure seed of potential, a dream in the collective mind of man. Of course it is our nature to attempt the impossible. Of course it is our nature to dream, and yet we now find ourselves dealing with the fallout of all of these technological breakthroughs. Our inventions have changed our lifestyles and the face of the earth and these changes have happened faster than the biologic systems of the Earth and the human body can handle.

Alignment : Chinese Medicine Living

Our bodies evolved over millions of years sheltered in the magnetic resonance of the planet. As we slept on the earth and walked barefoot on her landscape we were constantly attuned to her vibrations and frequencies. Our science is now discovering how essential our attunement to these magnetic fields are for the function of our cellular health. Magnetic frequencies and light cycles impact every aspect of our biology down to the cellular level, and yet in a hundred years we have completely disconnected from these nourishing vibrations in favor of artificial sources. We have migrated from a life lived in communion with the Earth and all her medicine to one that is lived in an artificially lit indoor environment that is becoming increasingly saturated by the electric fields and wireless radiations of our technological brilliance.

We once woke up with the sun and moved through complex natural environments to fulfill the tasks of our daily lives. As we moved, the very act of movement caused the vital fluids of our bodies to circulate to all the organs and muscles. The heart is not the only mover of blood. The contractions of muscles pull blood and circulate nutrients to all parts of our physical form. Yet now we sit and stare into screens endlessly, robbing ourselves of the replenishing aspects of movement and the joys of it.

At night darkness fell and our activities ceased with it. We learned the wisdom of having a time for darkness and inactivity, something which our industries which strive for growth at all times could serve to remember. The period of darkness experienced at night is a critical as the period of light experienced during the day. The morning sun triggers a massive shift in hormonal function as the bodies shifts into its daytime processes, and similarly the onset of darkness triggers the onset of our nocturnal processes.

The Chinese knew the importance of Yin and Yang, and what can occur when these forces are out of balance. In their language I would say our light environment has become Yin deficient because of our use of artificial lighting. I also find our constant illumination of our world to be symbolic of the masculine conquest of nature. We have created eternal daytime, we have conquered darkness, and we have lost touch with her feminine receptive nature. We have lost the ancient experience of stories told around a fire. and of quiet conversations with our loved ones under the night sky. In scientific terms we are impairing the product of melatonin and damaging our eyes via blue light toxicity during the dark portion of the photoperiod.

These are just some of the changes that have taken place in the last hundred years and I cite them now as an example of how our way of living has shifted so dramatically and so quickly. As a result of all these changes a general malaise has come to afflict the human population. We have become numb to the sound of it as most take this state of being as “normal” for it is all they have ever known. How does one know they are sick if they have never been well?  All you need to do is turn on a television ( but I do not recommend it) to hear the advertisements for medications for depression, anxiety, cancer, autoimmune disorders, diabetes, MS, and a variety of other diseases which were  unheard in ancient societies and among hunter gatherer populations.

However, the innate intelligence of life is stirring within us and many people are becoming increasingly disillusioned with this culture we have manufactured. A great awareness for physical healing and restoration is emerging and I feel it is one of the most important ways that we pay homage to the Earth, by healing the gift of the body we have been given. Through the miracle which is the Internet I have watched for years as people from all over the world have gathered in virtual space to find solutions and it is here in this virtual realm that I am sharing my contribution to the whole. We can’t say that the times we live in are boring!

The body is a complex system, a unified whole made of many parts. In this way it reflects a fundamental principle inherent to all levels of creation. All manners of form in this existence are simultaneously a singular whole and the many parts which it is composed of. This is an important reference point to hold when one attempts to bring their body back into a state of health. The state of health is the singular holistic manifestation of all parts working in harmony. So where does one begin in their journey? For each person different pieces will hold different magnitudes of importance. This is individual and must be discovered by the individual. What is most important for one person will not typically be what is most important for another and I don’t truly find there to be a hierarchy of the various systems. The heart is not intrinsically more important than the liver. The brain is not intrinsically more important than the gut. The alignment of the spine not intrinsically more important than the circadian biology. All of these things work together, much as rivers don’t exist without the land they flow through nor without the clouds which replenish the waters of this magnificent biosphere.

Alignment : Chinese Medicine Living

I say all of this and yet now I must create a starting point for one cannot address the whole without starting with one of it’s parts. The Chinese viewed a human life as something of great value. The human being was seen as a conduit between heaven and earth, between form and formlessness. In other words the human being was bridge between two worlds. In my eyes nothing manifests this role or relationship better than the spinal column. The spine is something of incredible function. It not only is the literal foundation of our physical form but it also is the ground through which an immense of amount information travels in the forms of nerve signaling and sensory input from all parts of the system. It is the central axis of the body. A properly aligned spine yields a properly aligned being who is a conduit of both heaven and earth. I find that the spine is also the antenna of the body and when the antenna is calibrated properly it allows one to become receptive to “information” from the greater systems we are a part of. It allows one to receive “information” on the level of frequency from the magnetic field of the earth, the frequencies of the stars and cosmic bodies, and from the interconnected biosphere of life on this planet. A hunched and collapsed spine is a sign that the organism is heading towards death, yet most live in this state from a young age now.

This concludes the first of this three part series. In the next part I will outline some basic habits one can cultivate to to easily improve one’ alignment. In the third I will show how to perform a basic cranial-spinal reset and delve into some further discussion of our motivation to heal ourselves, where this motivation is useful, and where it is limited.

 

Alignment Part 1 : Chinese Medicine Living

*Images
The beautiful featured image from picturesdotnews.com
Earth image from Mother Earth by Commander on Youtube.com
Tree image from veganfeministnetwork.com
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Peace Love & Acupuncture Button : Chinese Medicine Living


Qi Gong for Weight Loss - One

By John Voigt

Before commencing this or any other weight loss program consult with your appropriate healthcare providers. If any procedures in this article cause any mental or physical discomfort stop doing them and see a professional healer. If you have had or have any mental illness do not do the following visualizations.

THE CREATION OF THE SLENDER YOU

The Chinese alchemist begins from the point of energetics and used guided visualization and physical techniques to effectuate the fusion of the energies. The fused energies are then purified, transformed and projected to create an energy body or energy double.” George A. Katchmer. The Tao of Bioenergetics, pg. 92. YMAA, 1996.

The body is activated by the interplay of two psychic structures: first, hun, which because it belongs to the yang principle, I have translated as animus - p'o which belongs to the yin principle, as anima. Carl Gustav Jung. Secret of the Golden Flower, pg. 14.

Qi Gong for Weight Loss : John Voigt

Michelangelo’s David. Florence, Galleria dell'Accademia.

Yang is archetypal Masculine energy—as in father, sun, fire, phallic, aggressive, logical, left brain. Yin is archetypal Feminine energy—as in mother, moon, water, womb, receptive, intuitive, right brain. They are not separate entities: all yang contains yin, all yin contains yang. Every man has a hidden female alter-ego that Jung named “Anima.” Every woman has a hidden male alter-ego Jung called “Animus.”

Qi Gong for Weight Loss : John Voigt

Daphnis and Chloe (1827), Jean-Pierre Cortot. Louvre.
In a second century C.E. Greek story, as infants they are found by shepherds, and grow up secretly in love with each other. After adventures they are happily married. In the sculpture their bodies seem to represent an anima/animus perfection.

The interaction of yang and yin (as in father and mother) gives birth to the child. By imagining the anima or animus within you, then externalizing, and returning them into you, it becomes possible over to give birth to a new slender you.

Personal Transmutation: Projection and Assimilation for Physical Realization of the Imaged Slender Self

Go into your standard meditative posture. See (imagine) sitting facing you, a healthy slender, full of youthful energy, beautiful/handsome you. A truly perfect you: all you would ever want and wish to be--BUT OF THE OPPOSITE SEX. Feel their presence by fully imagining them with all your senses. Then though practicing visual imagining,  run life energy (qi, prana, or whatever you call such things) up their back and down their front. This is called the Microcosmic Orbit. As an advanced option in time you may add the bio-life cosmic energy coming into the fingers and toes up through the limbs and jointing with the flowing inner-river of qi. This is called the Macrocosmic Orbit. Imagine/see/perceive your vision of radiating qi from their entire body. Picture their energy pathways aglow. Then have this image move toward you and mentally hold and turn them so their back is to you and bring them, squeeze them, into your body. As they enter you their sex automatically transforms into your sex. [If you are gay then adapt this so it fits your personal sexual proclivities.] They were in so many ways the true you anyway—perhaps even possibly your hidden subliminal dream lover. All the glowing radiating energy pathways in their body have now become yours.

After you have drawn in your projected perfect-self, do another short imagined running of  life energy orbiting up your back and down your front, then if you are up for it into the tips of the fingers and toes to add more qi into this bio-electric streaming inside you. As always, finish by finally cycling the qi-energy into your navel into the dantian, the living energy storage cauldron in the center of your lower abdomen. This is an absolute necessary step: such inner and outer cosmic power must be stored in the dantian.

It is necessary to daily repeat this visualization/transformation. It is like gaining skills on a musical instrument, but now the instrument is your mind and body, as well as your mental habits of eating, and your body habits of movement and exercise. To gain qigong skills it is necessary to practice the exercises. Any qigong, especially such advanced Daoist exercises,  is always best done under the thoughtful observations of a master teacher. So when doing this qigong, as with any advanced spiritual health practices, if anything does not feel right, or gets too weird or spacey: STOP IMMEDIATELY!

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Qi Gong for weight Loss : John Voigt

Nüwa and Fuxi.
According to legend the earth was swept by a great flood (circa 3000 BCE). Only Fuxi and his sister Nüwa survived.  Like Adam and Eve, they began procreating the human race. That they seem to be hermaphroditic—therefore a manifestation of joined yin yang—and that the intertwined serpents or dragons appear to relate to primordial creative energy—what the Hindus called “Kundalini,” and the Chinese called “Jing Qi” —is pertinent to this article.

The slender anima (female soul in the male) or animus (male soul in the female) now exists inside you buried under your excess weight. Like a butterfly crawling out of a chrysalis spun by its former caterpillar self, she/he will—if allowed to—grant you the power to almost automatically do and not do the things necessary to become slender in time: he or she eats properly and is not a lazy couch potato but  moves; that is why they are slender. And that is why you (if you allow it) will do the same as they do: thereby becoming slender and more healthy.

Personal Comments by the Author: My anima alter-ego does things I like to describe with words my parents used:  Such a finicky eater.” “Just picks at  their food.” “Eats like a bird.” “Never finishes what’s on their plate.” And “Always running around. Never gives it a rest.”

So every time I am around food—shopping, at a restaurant, opening my refrigerator’s door, cooking, or eating—I feel her presence in me automatically guiding me to do the right thing.

She loves to do body movement qigong and exercise—and therefore so do I.  And we both love to walk—I try to do that at least a half hour a day.

She seems immune to hunger and being physically tired, no wonder I am glad I have found her and that she is me.

Present day media improperly—and potentially dangerously—offers too thin models or actors, or professional athletes as goal models. Trying to have the body of a model, movie star, or athlete is counter productive for most of us. Nevertheless, the healthiest, longest living, most energetic, most beautiful people are usually not overweight or obese. Here Daphnis and Chloe,  and David are offered as artistic examples of a perfect weight; something to strive for in theory and practice.

Achieving and maintaining the proper weight for wellbeing is a very honorable goal. Over time, through qigong visualizations, exercises, and Traditional Chinese Health dietary practices it may be accomplished. These themes will be expanded upon in my upcoming articles in  HYPERLINK "http://www.chinesemedicineliving.com/" http://www.chinesemedicineliving.com/.

John Voigt may be contacted at john.voigt@comcast.net

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Books to Learn More:

Mantak Chia . Awaken Healing Energy Through Tao. Aurora.

Lu K'uan Yü. Taoist Yoga. Weiser.

Wikipedia websites were consulted for the following subjects or images:  Body Mass Index. Daphnis and Chloe. Fuxi. Carl Jung. Michelangelo’s David.  Microcosmic orbit. Taoist alchemy.

As a possible aid in imagining how a resonating anima/animus might appear look at the art of Alex Grey. I suggest “Adi Da Samraj,” “Alex,” “Holy Fire,” “Namaste,” and “Psychic Energy System.”  All are on Alex Gray's website at www.alexgrey.com.

 

The lovely featured image by Core Spirit


Sang Ji Sheng – with Many Health Benefits

By Vicky Chan of NourishU

Sang Ji Sheng (桑寄生) or Taxilli twig is also known as mulberry mistletoe. It has long been characterized by increasing lifespan and preserving health in many medical classics. The health benefits include lowering blood pressure, treating an abnormal heart rhythm, increasing coronary blood flow, improving coronary circulation, enhancing cardiac contractility, reducing myocardial oxygen consumption, inhibiting platelet aggregation, preventing thrombosis, promoting microcirculation, suppressing tumor growth, curing hepatitis, and so on.

TCM classifies Sang Ji Sheng as bitter and sweet in taste and neutral in nature. Medicinally, only the dried aerial parts of the plant are used. They are usually collected in winter and spring with the big stems removed and the smaller parts cut into sections and dried. Sang Ji Sheng is used in TCM remedies for nourishing liver and kidney, building strong bones and muscles, expelling wind-dampness and preventing abortion. It is also used in resolving health problems such as aching lumbus and knees, weak physique, hemiplegia, rheumatic pain, light headedness, threatened abortion, uterine bleeding, and blood in stool.
Sang Ji Sheng with its neutral nature is commonly used with few restrictions. Since it is a parasitic plant and lives on other woody trees, there can be slight toxicity derived from the host plant. Therefore, the recommended dosage is from 20 to 25 grams in making a decoction. When slight symptoms of adverse effects are found such as dizziness, headache or upset stomach, the whole batch of herb should be discarded. However, adverse effects are not commonly known because Sheng Ji Sheng tea is a very common street food found in many corner stores in China. The Sang Ji Sheng tea with egg dessert is an all-time favourite snack for many.

Sang Ji Sheng Recipe : Chinese Medicine Livingthis lovely image by Vicky Chan

The easiest way to get the health benefits of Sang Ji Sheng is to cook it into a tea. It is a very inexpensive herb and you can buy it in most Chinese herbal shops. You can get 500 gm in a box for less than the price of a small box of tea bags. Make sure you rinse the herb thoroughly first (or even a quick blanching) before boiling it for 45 minutes to make tea. You can add milk and sugar to serve just like making English tea and it is very delicious. I will highly recommend you to try this and treat you guests with this new healthy tea for a change.

The following recipe, Sang Ji Sheng tea with egg dessert, is not only a healthy snack, it is also good for improving complexion and promoting better skin because Sang Ji Sheng is anti-inflammatory and promotes blood circulation. You will be healthier and prettier eating this on a regular basis.

Sang Ji Sheng Recipe : Chinese Medicine Livingthis lovely image by Vicky Chan

Sang Ji Sheng Tea and Egg Dessert

Ingredients (2 servings)

•    Sang Ji Sheng – 50 gm
•    Egg – two
•    Red dates – 10
•    Lotus seeds – (optional) a handful
•    Organic cane sugar – to taste

Directions

1.  Bring 5 cups of water in a pot to a boil and put herb (sang ji sheng) in to cook for half a minute. Remove from heat, discard the water and rinse the herb for a few times to get rid of dirt.

2.  Put herb back into the pot with 5 to 6 cups of fresh water. If lotus seed is used, the herb should be put in a soup bag so that it is easier to discard it at the end.

3.  Rinse eggs, red dates and add to the pot. Bring water to a medium boil for 10 minutes. Remove eggs, put in cold water bath to remove the shell and put eggs back into the cooking. Continue cooking for another 35 minutes to about 2 cups of tea left.

4.  Pick out dates and eggs and add to serving bowls.  Filter tea and add to the bowls. Add sugar to taste and serve.

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Sang Ji Sheng – with Many Health Benefits : Chinese Medicine Living


How to Get Healthy in 2016 with Chinese Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Eat Your Medicine

There is a huge emphasis in Chinese medicine that the food we eat is our best medicine. Food, after all, is the medicine we take into our bodies many times a day. This philosophy makes sense, especially when you are talking about Chinese medicine, which is a medicine of prevention. Why not eat to stay healthy so that you never get sick? So how, you might ask, can I eat in the healthiest way according to Chinese medicine? Well, eating with the seasons is one of the fundamentals. This used to be the way that not only the Chinese ate, but the way all of our ancestors ate as well. What was eaten was what was grown in that particular season - which is what our bodies, and especially our digestive systems were designed for. Part of the reason that we have so many digestive problems in our present culture is because we are able to eat foods that grow in all seasons (because of the miracle of mass transportation and refrigeration): strawberries in winter, root vegetables in summer, etc... Although it is wonderful to have this kind of variety all year around, it is not what our digestive systems were designed for, and they are still catching up as far as evolution is concerned. In Chinese medicine there are also many foods and recipes that are used when we come down with something like a cold or flu. Congee is a good example - and there are a few excellent recipes here - Winter Congee for Colds & Flu, Chicken & Corn Congee, Ginseng Congee for Health & Longevity.  Part of the job of the Chinese medicine practitioner is not only to administer acupuncture and herbs, but also to consult their patient about nutritional therapy to help the body to rebalance and heal, because, food is some of the most powerful medicine. :)

Reconnect With Nature

Healthy 2016 With Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living

This image from sheknows.com

There is nothing more healing that walking on the beach by the ocean, or strolling through an old growth forest. And nothing reconnects you better than lying in the grass, or taking your shoes off and walking directly on the earth. As a species, we are presently more connected to each other than at any other time in our history, which is amazing and makes out lives better in many ways. Access to information, sharing of knowledge and being connected to people who are far away has never been easier. Unfortunately, we seem to have lost our connection to nature. Children, instead of playing outside as they once did, often sit inside, in front of the TV instead of exploring the natural world, running and playing outdoors. As we grow into adults we spend years in schools sitting at desks, until we venture out into the working world where we sit indoors for many hours a day until we can go home to rest. Our bodies were designed to MOVE, and our lives used to be completely connected to the outdoors, where we were in constant contact with the incredible healing energy of nature. So make some time to go outside every day. Smell a flower. Hug a tree. Walk barefoot in some grass or gaze at the sky. Your body (as well as your mind) will love you for it.

Live With the Seasons

Chinese medicine tells us that to be in harmony with our bodies and in good health, we must also be in harmony with nature. This means living with the seasons. Every season has its own unique energy - winter contracts, spring is expansive, summer radiates and fall begins to withdraw. Each of the seasons has its own unique energy, and Chinese medicine teaches us the ways in which we can aspire to live in harmony with those energies. For example, in winter we go to bed earlier and sleep later, we pay close attention to the kidneys (the organ associated with winter) and eat foods that grow slowly and deep in the ground - like root vegetables - that are warming in nature. We look inward and nourish our inner selves in this season. Our lifestyles should reflect the season we are in, and Chinese medicine gives us many ways in which to do this. You can learn how in the following posts...

Winter

•   Living According to the Winter Season with Chinese Medicine

Spring

•   Loving Your Liver with Chinese Medicine
•   Loving Your Liver with Nutrition
•   The Liver & Anger

Summer

•   Living With the Seasons - Summer
•   Summer Foods & Preparation According to Chinese Medicine

Autumn / Fall

•   Living With the Seasons - Autumn / Fall

Be Grateful

Healthy 2016 With Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living

This pretty image from fastcompany.com

This is one that I have learned from experience both in my own life and from many years of treating patients. For me, I have noticed that when I am having a difficult time, down in the dumps and struggling, one of the best things that I can do to pull myself out of it is to take time on a regular basis to go through a mental list of all the things that I am grateful for. When it comes to my patients, I noticed after a few years that the patients that I had with the most problems, chronic imbalances, pain and recurring illnesses were generally the ones who were the most unhappy, the most negative and the least optimistic. I am a firm believer that we attract what we think about, and I have experienced the benefits of a positive attitude, especially when things in our lives are difficult. I know that I have worked this into my morning routine, taking time every day when I get up to go through all the things that I am grateful for. This is a really good way to remind yourself of what is awesome in your life and by doing this, you are more likely to attract positive things, people and experiences into your life as well.

Meditate

We are now starting to understand scientifically the benefits of meditation on the mind and body, but many cultures around the world have been aware of the enormous benefits of meditation for thousands of years. Places like India and much of Asia have a long history of meditation. A lot of people are intimidated at the thought of meditating, especially if they are doing it for the first time. Of course, there are many techniques when it comes to meditation, but I believe that even a few minutes a day of sitting quietly, allowing your mind to just "relax" is of huge benefit on many levels. If you want to get really hard core, there are many, many meditation techniques out there, you just need to find the one that feels right to you. I have done a couple of Vipassana meditation retreats which were amazing experiences (you can read about them here - My Ten Day Vipassana Meditation & Vipassana 2.0). Meditation helps us to decompress in a world that leaves us overstimulated and exhausted, without enough time to relax. Its benefits include alleviating stress, improving sleep and boosting the immune system. I know most people cannot dedicate an hour or more to meditation every day, but even just ten to twenty minutes will make a huge difference, just try it out and see.

Get Enough Sleep

Healthy 2016 With Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living

This image from psychologies.co.uk

When we sleep our body gets a chance to heal and repair. Problems with sleep, either problems falling or staying asleep, are common. As a culture, we tend to not get enough sleep and the quality of our sleep is compromised, which means more stress on our immune systems which can lead to illnesses. There is no magic number when it comes to optimum number of hours a person should sleep at night, but that feeling of exhaustion should not be present when we wake up (and it so often is). Think of sleep like you think about the food you eat, that it is medicine for the body. Another good thing to remember is that melatonin - the hormone produced by the pineal gland that regulates sleep - is released according to cycles of light and darkness. We were designed to be awake when it is light and to sleep when it is dark. This has largely changed with the invention of electric lights, so a good way to improve sleep is to keep your bedroom as dark as possible with as few electronic devices as possible in the room, especially close to your head. Being in complete darkness will ensure a better, deeper sleep which will allow your body the rest it needs as well as to repair and heal which will ensure that you stay healthy.

Breathe Deep

It seems simple, but the breath is a big part of health. Taking long, deep breaths increases the amount of oxygen that the body, all of its tissues and especially the brain, is getting. There is a theory out there that this is the function of yawning- to increase the amount of oxygen that is taken into the body. Because we spend so much time sitting, we tend to breathe more shallowly, getting less oxygen and making things like thinking, concentrating and remembering more difficult. Taking some time every day to sit up straight, or even better stand and walk around and breathe deep into your belly (like children do naturally) will help you stay awake and think more clearly. This is extra awesome because it is so easy, so breathe deep!

Express Yourself

Healthy 2016 With Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living

This lovely image from penmastersonline.wordpress.com

As you may know, Chinese medicine is a holistic medicine, meaning it is not just about the physical body, but about all aspects of a person. This includes the emotions, and Chinese medicine places special importance on the emotions and expressing them freely. Keeping things in, suppressing your feelings or expressing them in an inappropriate way can lead to imbalances in the body and its organ systems and lead to illness. Yes, that's right. Not expressing how you feel can make you sick, and I see this all the time. I am not telling you the next time someone cuts you off in traffic that you should follow them, wait until they get out of the car and scream at them, I mean to be aware of your feelings, and that they are appropriate to what is happening, and if not, think through where they might be coming from. If you are feeling particularly irritated by that person who cut you off, try to sort out where that frustration might be coming from (it is probably the liver). This is particularly important in our personal relationships. Holding on to things like anger, guilt, shame and other negative emotions can be detrimental to health. Journal, go for a walk to clear your head or sit and talk to a friend, or better yet, speak to the person who may have made you upset in the first place. If you get your feelings off your chest (in a kind, respectful way) you will be amazed at how much better you feel, and you will be keeping all the energy or qi flowing smoothly, which is the key to health and happiness.

Moderation

Moderation is both a concept important in Chinese medicine and I believe, in any happy, balanced person's life. In my practice I try not to tell my patients not to do this and not to do that, instead I try to communicate the importance of moderation. When I am asking about a person's diet, they inevitably will give me a sheepish look and tell me about the 2 pieces of chocolate cake they ate the night before, or the quart of ice cream or glasses of red wine they had at a party expecting looks of disapproval from me. Not at all. I try to express the importance of enjoying your life for one - if you are really desiring that piece of cake, or that glass of wine and it will give you extreme pleasure to give it to yourself, then by all means DO IT. The worst thing you can do is to have it and then feel horrible about it. That is negating any positive benefits that thing has given you. So if you do it, OWN IT. Enjoy that piece of cake or glass of wine. Allow yourself to have it if it makes you happy. Just don't do it every day perhaps, keep it balanced. Make sure that you are doing things, the good and the not so good, with moderation. Everyone needs chocolate cake sometimes. ;)

Laugh

Healthy 2016 With Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living

This image from livescience.com

Joy is the emotion of the heart in Chinese medicine. Makes sense, right? When we feel joy, happiness, laugh, all of these emotions we tend to feel in the heart. The heart is the benevolent ruler of all the other organs, and to feed it, we need an ample amount of joy in our lives. You can think of this also as medicine; something you must seek out to keep yourself healthy. Think about how you feel when you laugh. You feel amazing. When you hear a story about something good happening to someone, you feel happy. Notice how your body feels the next time you are feeling joy. It feels delicious. Conversely, the heart is injured if there is not enough joy in our lives, and there is certainly plenty of that. What is it like to be around someone who is deeply unhappy? Someone unable to feel joy? Their energy is dark and it is difficult to be around. Sometimes it is easy to get bogged down by all the stresses in our lives, and there are a lot of them, so this is a reminder to go out and find some joy. Seek it out. Laugh. Sing. Dance. Smile. It's good for you.

Get an Acupuncture Treatment

Acupuncture is one of the best ways I know to stay healthy and to heal if you are sick. Obviously I have a bit of a bias, but I also have a lot of experience both having acupuncture, and seeing its beneficial effects in my patients. Because Chinese medicine was designed as a preventative medicine, having regular "tune ups" with acupuncture is a great way to keep your immune system strong so that you never get sick. In our culture, we tend to wait until things become catastrophic (like getting a disease) before we seek out medical advice, but in many cultures, like Chinese culture, they understand that prevention is the best medicine. Acupuncture is a powerful tool to help rebalance the body, boost the immune system and keep you strong so that you never get sick. It is the thing I have used since I was a teenager, and the gift that I try to bring to my patients every day when I go to work. I am deeply in love with it, because I know it works.

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Featured image from huffingtonpost.com

 

How to Get Healthy in 2016 with Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living


Welcome to the Year of the Monkey 2016

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

On February 8th 2016 we will bring in the Chinese year of the red, fire monkey. The year of the monkey will last until January 27, 2017. There are twelve animals in the Chinese zodiac and the monkey is ninth in the order. There are twelve animals and five elements - fire, earth, metal, water and wood - and this year is the year of the fire monkey.

The Chinese new year falls on a different day every year because it is based on the lunar calendar. The lunar calendar is based on cycles of lunar phases unlike the solar calendar, the one used in the west which indicates the position of the earth in the suns orbit.

Below is the Chinese zodiac with the animals, their order and corresponding years...

 

Chinese Zodiac : Chinese Medicine Living

This adorable Chinese zodiac from mykidsadventures.com

Monkey Years

1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, 2028

Lucky Things for Monkeys

  • Lucky numbers: 4 and 9
  • Lucky days: the 14th and 28th of any Chinese lunar calendar month
  • Lucky colors: white, blue, gold
  • Lucky flowers: chrysanthemum, crape-myrtle
  • Lucky directions: north, northwest, west
  • Lucky months: Chinese lunar months 8 and 12

The Monkey Personality

The Chinese believe that the year that a person is born is significant because they are engendered with the qualities of the animal of that year. Monkey's are witty, inventive and intelligent. They are problem solvers and very independent, and often over achievers. Monkeys are playful and graceful with their movements and as a result, a pleasure to watch. Monkeys are natural tricksters and excellent at reading people and, if out of balance can be manipulative and opportunistic.

The monkey, holding the ninth position in the Chinese zodiac, it is associated with the 9th terrestrial branch (of the twelve  terrestrial branches) and is called the "Shen" branch, which symbolizes limitless curiosity and and creative energy. Monkey's are strong willed, and natural tricksters. Monkeys also represent freedom of the mind - a mind free of inhibitions and guilt, which are uniquely human qualities. Because they are unbound by these attributes, monkeys have the unique ability to think outside the box, experimenting and pushing boundaries in ways that most wouldn't. They are risk takers, and often come up with brilliant solutions to difficult problems. Monkeys are fearless, and willing to take risks. This is why monkeys can do the impossible, as they do not see the limitations that would discourage others.

Monkeys are lively, talkative and highly sociable. Because of monkeys intelligence and skills in conversation he attracts a wide circle of friends. Monkeys are inquisitive, extremely curious and because of this, have a hard time staying in one place, or doing anything for an extended period of time. This makes monkeys prone to boredom and in need of constant stimulation to stay engaged and happy. Monkeys will succeed in any profession as they are intelligent, highly adaptable, able to think creatively and love a challenge.

 

Chinese Year of the Monkey : Chinese Medicine Living

This sassy image from sunsigns.org

The Fire Monkey

Under the influence of the fire element, these monkeys are energetic, self assured, expressive and honest. They are natural born leaders and innovators who have a competitive drive and tend to be at the top of their chosen profession. They are however prone to jealousy and can become domineering, wanting to be in complete control. Fire monkeys tend to be very healthy, with great strength and vitality. Inventive and intelligent, those born in the year of the fire monkey have boundless enthusiasm that they use to broaden their minds and acquire new skills.

Famous People Born in the Year of the Monkey

  • Leonardo da Vinci
  • Amadeo Modigliani
  • Federico Fellini
  • Pope John Paul II
  • Harry S. Truman
  • Eleanor Roosevelt
  • Mick Jagger
  • Paul Gauguin
  • Queen Sirkit of Thailand
  • Bette Davis
  • Charles Dickens
  • John Milton
  • George Lucas
  • Lyndon B. Johnson
  • Diana Ross
  • Joe Cocker
  • Joan Crawford
  • Julio Iglesias
  • Danny De Vito
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Mel Gibson
  • Nelson Rockefeller
  • James Stewart
  • Annie Oakley
  • Jacques Tati
  • Simone de Beauvoir
  • Gustav Mahler
  • Salvador Allende
  • Ravi Sankar
  • Charlie Parker
  • Howard Cosell
  • Arthur Hailey
  • Isaac Stern
  • Aubrey Beardsley
  • Elizabeth Taylor
  • Sylvia Plath
  • François Truffaut
  • Omar Sharif
  • Anouk Aimee
  • Peter O’Toole
  • Louis Malle

 

Featured image from lacuadramagazine.com

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Buddha Bracelet : Chinese Medicine Living

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Welcome to the Year of the Monkey 2016 : Chinese Medicine Living


Living According to the Winter Season with Chinese Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

The ancient Chinese created a system of medicine that has evolved over thousands of years, and is still used today to effectively treat modern diseases. Chinese medicine is only a part of a greater concept the ancient Chinese used to live their everyday lives. It is a branch that springs from a larger tree that encompasses all aspects of life. This is why the doctor of Chinese medicine does not only deal with the body or physical aspects of one's health, they are teachers educating patients on how to live a healthy and balanced lifestyle, because this is how we attain health, and the Chinese knew it. It is deeply entrenched in their medicine.

Chinese medicine teaches to live in harmony with the seasons, and according to Chinese medicine theory, there are five seasons - winter, spring, summer, late summer, and fall. Each season has many associations which help us to change our habits as the season's change so that we may create more balance between our bodies and the external environment.

When Chinese medicine was being developed thousands of years ago, people were living in a state of complete harmony with nature. They rose with the sun, ate what grew in each season and were acutely aware of their natural environment as it had a direct effect on every aspect of their lives. The lives of the people had a flow that changed depending on the time of year. Things like what foods were eaten was dependent on what happened to be growing at that particular time and what was available. When to get up, how to dress and what kinds of activities were engaged in were dependent on the important connection that people had to their environment. Because these simple steps were taken people were able to stay healthy throughout the year and had the tools to keep their immune systems and their organs strong so that they could ward off disease.

This fancy chart was made by Chinese Medicine Living

Winter in Chinese Medicine

Winter represents the most Yin aspect in Chinese medicine. Yin is the dark, cold, slow, inward energy. This is compared to the Yang of summer whose energy represents light, hot, quick, expansive qualities. The summer weather is warm, the days are longer and people are out being active. In TCM we believe that the diet and activities in winter should be adapted to enriching yin and subduing yang.

Winter, in TCM, is associated with the Kidneys which hold our body's most basic and fundamental energy. It is believed that by harmonizing oneself with the seasons you can stay healthier and prevent disease, so winter is a good time to strengthen the kidneys. Rest is important for revitalizing the kidneys, which is why some animals hibernate in winter. It is also a good time to look inward, reflecting on ourselves with meditation, writing, or other inward practices such as Tai Chi and Qi Gong. These practices help us to connect to our inner selves and help to support kidney energy. They are very helpful to relax the mind, calm our emotions and raise the spirit.

The sense organ associated with the kidneys is the ears, and our ability to hear clearly is related to kidney health. The quiet and stillness of winter allows us to hear more of the world than the buzzing activities of summer. This forces us to slow down, rest and relax.

The body part associated with the kidneys are the bones, so it is important to pay close attention to the bones in the winter months making sure to tonify and heal any problems in this area. This is also why winter is a time when Chinese medicine prescribes bone broths as nutritional therapy, as they are warming, nourishing and especially good for the bones. Bone broths are also powerful Jing tonics, as Jing is produced by the bones. Jing is depleted by activities such as extreme and prolonged stress, lack of sufficient sleep, working long hours, and excessive behaviours like too much drinking and drugs. Winter is the best time to supplement the body's Jing supply and bone broths are just what the doctor ordered.

Activities in Winter

Activities should represent the season with a turn inwards, with more self-reflection, quiet time writing, meditating, reading and other soul-nourishing activities. Winter is a time to slow down and feed ourselves both physically and spiritually. Internal martial arts and meditative practices are particularly helpful at this time of year. One should go to bed earlier and sleep later to receive the full healing effects that sleep has to offer.

Many people love winter. They feel energized with the coming cold and love to be out snowboarding, skiing and going for walks in the snow. For others, winter causes them to retract, stay inside and can cause some to feel sad or even depressed because of the lack of light and reduced physical activity. The good news is that winter can be enjoyed by everyone if we live, eat and exercise according to the season and pay attention to our bodies preferences.

Winter Foods

Winter Foods in Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living

There are many foods that are beneficial for us to eat during the winter season. These foods are the ones that naturally grow in this season - squashes, potatoes, root vegetables, winter greens, carrots, cabbage, mushrooms, apples, and pears. In winter, our bodies need warming foods like soups made with hearty vegetables, and rich stocks cooked with animal bones are best. Foods that specifically nourish and warm the kidneys are:

  • black beans
  • kidney beans
  • broths cooked with bones
  • lamb
  • chicken
  • walnuts
  • chestnuts
  • black sesame seeds
  • dark leafy greens.

A small amount of unrefined sea salt is also helpful as the taste associated with the kidneys organ is salty, but remember, moderation in all things is important. For more on the subject, you can read this - Black Foods for Kidney Health.

Cooking should be for longer periods using low heat and less water. This infuses foods with heat that helps to keep the body warm in the cold winter months. Hearty soups, whole grains, and roasted nuts are good on cold days and offer nourishment to feed the body and tonify the kidneys in cold winter months.

The principle of harmony between what we eat and the season is based on hundreds of years of practical experience. Chinese nutritional therapy is an important component of Chinese medicine and truly believes that you are what you eat. The food that we consume has a profound effect on the body, affecting our health and wellbeing. Foods become part of the body after being consumed (internal) and the weather and environment have an effect on us externally. Chinese dietary philosophy suggests that you embrace native foods along with eating locally grown, organic and chemical free foods that grow in season. According to TCM the thing about the modern diet which is the most unhealthy is that we are able to eat foods all year round that may be grown unnaturally with the use of pesticides rather than ones grown naturally for only part of the year. This is the way nature intended us to eat. Eating natural foods that grow in the present season is what our bodies are designed for and prefer. This is one of the main ways that Chinese Medicine guides us on how to remain healthy all year long.

Winter Foods in Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living

This lovely image from TCM007

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If you would like a downloadable information sheet that will tell you all about how to live in harmony with the Winter Season in Chinese Medicine, you can find it here - The Winter Season in Chinese Medicine. If you are a practitioner and would like this sheet to be able to share with patients, find it here - Winter Season - Professional.

Living According to the Winter Season with Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living