Digestive Health and Nutrition in Chinese Medicine - with Recipe

By NourishU

Digestive Health in Chinese Medicine

The importance of eating a gut-healthy diet cannot be underestimated. Your gut plays a major role in your physical and even mental health, and having a healthy gut entails maintaining a balance of "good" and "bad" bacteria – something you simply will not accomplish by eating highly processed "dead" foods as found in the western diet. When a diet is devoid of "live" nutrients such as healthy bacteria, it contributes to a rise in allergic and inflammatory diseases and set the stage for asthma, eczema, and autoimmune diseases.

Until recently, most doctors dismissed the notion that your digestive system did much of anything outside of breaking down food. But in recent years, scientists have revealed just how inaccurate this thinking was. An estimated 80 percent of our immune system is actually located in our gut, so supporting our digestive health is essential to also support our immune system, which is the number one defense against ALL diseases. Our gut is also like our second brain, greatly affecting and affected by our mind and emotion. That's is why we have this common expression of 'gut feeling'. When our emotion is upsetting our gut or vice versa, calming the gut is the first step to find a resolution.

To take care of gut problems, you must first avoid soda, doughnuts, pastries and breakfast cereals because they are loaded with sugar and corn syrup which are bad for gut health. You should cut out French fries or deep-fried foods because they are drowning in highly refined and genetically modified omega 6 oils which our body cannot digest. Also, avoid most snack foods because they are highly processed and loaded with artificial seasoning and additives with no nutritional value. When you eat a healthy diet low in sugar and processed foods, it naturally causes the good bacteria in your gut to flourish.


Donuts are delicious, but, unfortunately, bad for your health.
Photo by Anna Sullivan on Unsplash

Avoid colon detoxification drugs and prolonged use of antibiotics which can kill the good bacteria. Eat fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, fermented milk, pickled vegetables to support your digestive health, as these foods are rich in naturally beneficial bacteria.

The health of our gut has substantial impacts on the health of our liver because everything absorbed by our intestines passes through to the liver so that harmful substances can be detoxified before they reach the rest of our body. In one study by doctors at Biolab UK, 61% of sufferers of undiagnosed chronic illnesses with predominant fatigue were found to have an overgrowth of both bacteria and yeast in the gut. As a result of their normal metabolism, these micro-organisms produce waste products in increased amounts that are harmful to the liver and overall health. Yeast, in particular, produces a large amount of ethanol which is highly toxic to the liver and damage to the intestinal lining causing 'leaky gut'.

Improving digestive health naturally is an essential part of well-being. When foods are not properly digested, it will cause low-grade food sensitivity.  Landmark studies have linked grain sensitivity to joint pain, cancer, depression, brain disorders, autoimmune diseases, and osteoporosis. Some doctors discovered that treating food intolerance found the other problems fade away without any need for immune-system-destroying medicines.

In Chinese Medicine, out of the “six evils” (the causes of sickness) – wind, cold, hot, wet, dry and fire, wetness is considered as the worst evil for health. It can turn everything sluggish and promote the development of disease. A diet high in meat over time will damage and weaken the digestive system and make the stomach wet and sluggish. When wetness mixes with heat, it is similar to the conditions of a sauna bath which can suffocate our cells. When wetness mixes with cold, it can chill our body and slow down normal body functions. Chinese doctors usually can find clues about the conditions of our gut by just looking at our mouth, tongue, and teeth.

As with everything in life, moderation is the key to balance and health.
Photo by Lukas Budimaier on Unsplash

In fact, there are many clues to tell the conditions of our internal systems. If we are always tired in the morning and have a hard time waking up and getting out of bed, it is the symptom of serious internal wetness. We can also find clues in our feces. For a healthy body, elimination is regular, easy and in good quantity. It should be in perfect banana shape. If it is scanty, shapeless, too watery, sticking to the toilet bowl even after flushing or you need to use plenty of toilet paper to wipe yourself clean, your stomach system is too wet and at stress. The wetness can cause feces to glue to intestinal walls and promote re-absorption of toxins into your body which is detrimental to health.

To clear internal dampness out of our body, diuretic foods, and foods that can improve digestive health is most important. Eat healthy food, exercise regularly to let the body sweat (especially in summer), reduce salt intake to avoid water retention, suck on three slices of fresh ginger in the morning to get stomach energy going (never at night), don't over consume fluid during the day, quit smoking and drinking, and keep the living environment especially the bed and bedroom dry are effective in reducing internal dampness. Foods such as bitter melon, job's tears, little red beans, hyacinth bean, tofu, Chinese yam, green papaya, purslane, and luffa are all good for removing stomach heat and wetness and promoting gut health. Cabbage is considered as a natural medicine for our gut because it can solve many stomach problems, kill bad bacteria and heal ulcers. That's why we should eat more sauerkraut for increasing good bacteria as well.

Foods for Digestive Health

Chinese medicine believes that we are born with kidney health and stomach health is developed after birth. Since our stomach provides all the nutrients to support life, it should deserve our top attention and care. Many daily foods are for promoting digestive health and gut health.

Water

Water helps break down foods, carry nutrients to the body and remove wastes from the body.

Vegetables are as beautiful as they are delicious
Photo by ja ma on Unsplash

Vegetables

High Fiber Vegetables such as sweet potato, sweet potato leaves, Jicama, chive, cabbage, Chinese yu-choy - prevent constipation by moving waste through the large intestine quickly.

Protein

Protein helps to activate digestive juices in the stomach. A healthy stomach needs enough acid to reduce all the solid things eaten to soup form for absorption. Healthy stomach acid kills off dangerous parasites and bacteria.

Fermented Foods

Foods such as sauerkraut, cheese, yogurt, beer, miso, tempeh, and kimchi - can increase healthy bacteria in our gut and improve digestion.

Vinegar

Vinegar - helps to break down fats quickly and improves digestion.

Plum

They are sour in taste but alkaline in nature, promote digestive enzymes, anti-aging, prevent high blood pressure and hardening of arteries, clean blood, are anti-inflammatory and promote gut health.

Cinnamon powder

Cinnamon powder - sprinkled on two tablespoons of honey taken before food relieves acidity and digests the heaviest of meals.

Nature's Digestive Aids

1. Nature’s Best Constipation Reliever - Psyllium Seeds

They contain the highest level of soluble fiber of any grain source, relieve constipation, support healthy bowel function and reduce symptoms of hemorrhoids

2. Immune-Boosting Fiber - Oat Bran

It is a great fiber source that helps relieve constipation, help your immune system work better and maintain healthy cholesterol levels.

3. Toxin-Fighting Fiber - Beet

Beet Fiber relieve digestive disorders, relieve constipation and binds to toxins, heavy metals, and excess hormones that have been dumped into the gut from the liver.

4. Nature’s Diarrhea-Fighter - Apple

Apple Pectin is a remarkable soluble fiber that soaks up liquid and turns it into a gel. It helps relieve diarrhea and supports healthy digestion in many ways.

White rice helps to strengthen the spleen in Chinese medicine, which is the main organ of digestion
Photo by Vitchakorn Koonyosying on Unsplash

5. Ancient Chinese Remedy for Occasional Indigestion and Diarrhea - Rice

Rice fiber helps relieve indigestion, reduce diarrhea, improve circulation, speeds bowel transit time, improves fecal weight, and increases bowel movement frequency.

6. Relief for Flatulence and Bloating - Alfalfa

Alfalfa effective at relieving stomach upset, digestive problems, flatulence and bloating.

7. Nature’s Colon Calmer - Fennel Seed

They relieve intestinal spasms and gas, relieves upset stomach and supports healthy digestion.

8. Relief for Intestinal Spasms - Peppermint Leaf

They help calm digestive spasms and relieves occasional nausea and diarrhea, and naturally soothe the digestive tract.

9. The Green Superfood - Barley Grass

They help provide fiber for the digestive system. It’s loaded with phytonutrients that make it one of the most nutritious foods available.

10. The Native American Remedy for Digestive Problems - Slippery Elm

They help soothe the digestive tract and relieves occasional diarrhea.

11. The Stomach Soother - Red Raspberry Leaf

They soothe stomach aches and relieve bowel disorders, constrict the tissues of the intestines to prevent water loss and soothe occasional diarrhea.


Parsley not only promotes digestion it also cleanses the palette and freshens breath.
Photo by pintando la luz on Unsplash

12. Ancient Folk Remedy for Great Digestion - Parsley

Parsley has been used for centuries to improve digestion. It stimulates the release of digestive juices that help digest proteins and fats.

13. Grandma’s Favorite for Constipation Relief - Prune Juice

Prune juice has been used for generations to relieve constipation gently and soothe irritable bowel.

14. Special Pro-biotic Blend

Good bacteria helps to boost the immune system and supports good digestion. 80 percent of your immune cells are in your intestines. That’s why one of the keys to a highly functioning immune system is to restore the balance of healthy flora.

Balancing Digestive Health Herbal Soup


Photo by Peter Hershey on Unsplash

SYMPTOMS

Lack of appetite, yellow urine, dry mouth, and throat.

THERAPEUTIC EFFECTS

Clear dampness and strengthen spleen to improve appetite, diuretic.

INGREDIENTS (4 servings)

  • Lean Pork 瘦肉 – 180gm
  • Job's Tears (yi yi ren) 生苡米 – 30gm
  • Lotus Seeds (lien zi) 蓮子 – 30gm
  • Lily bulb (bai he) 百合 – 30gm
  • Chinese Yam (shan yao) 淮山 – 30gm
  • Solomon's Seal (yu ju) 玉竹 – 30gm
  • Fox Nut (qian shi) 茨實 – 30gm
  • Glehnia (bei sha shen) 沙參 – 30gm
  • White bean 白扁豆 – 30gm
  • Ginger 生薑 - 3 slices
  • Citrus Peel (chen-pi) 陳皮 – one small piece (pre-soaked and with white tissue removed)

1.   Soak herbs for half an hour and rinse clean.

2.   Rinse pork, cut into large pieces and put in boiling water to cook for a few minutes, remove and rinse.

3.   Put all ingredients in a soup pot with 3 liters of water and bring to boil. Remove foam, reduce heat to medium-low and let it simmer for 3 hours.

4.   Add salt to serve. Eat some herbs with soup.

USAGE

No restriction and should be taken regularly to promote health. Suitable for the whole family of all ages.

 

Featured image photo by Sudeera Seneviratne on Unsplash


Mustard Greens & Pork Soup Recipe

By NourishU

Chinese Medicine Nutrition & The Summer Season

The excessive heat and humidity in summer can affect our health in many ways. It can cause the loss of body fluid and energy with profuse perspiration and can weaken our appetite. Drinking too much fluid to fight summer heat can dilute digestive enzymes which can lead to indigestion.

Extreme heat can lead to heat stroke with symptoms such as fainting, spasm, and fatigue. It is important not to over-expose oneself to the immense heat. Drinking excessive ice cold drinks can further damage the spleen system and cause food and energy stagnation. Eating seasonal vegetables such as winter melon and citrus fruits to quench thirst, to promote digestion and to expel heat and dampness is most beneficial to health. It is also important to eat food that can improve appetite, promote digestion and benefit spleen functions. Oily and heavy meat dishes should be avoided because they will cause indigestion.

Potassium

Potassium is the most important mineral of all which is necessary for good health. Potassium's main function is to promote cell tissue and growth. Our body needs to replace dead cells and tissue every day. There is no better source of potassium than vinegar---particularly natural apple cider vinegar. It is probably the best and cheapest agent to detoxify our body. As such, it should be considered as a critical component to the fountain of youth!

In summer months: add 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar to a quart of water. Drink this on a hot summer day, especially before working out. Your body will feel very clean. In winter months: 2 TBLS of apple cider vinegar in a mug filled with hot water 3 times a day.

Pear

Photo by Sergey Zolkin on Unsplash

Eating pear after a meal/BBQ.

The Seoul National University of Medicine Division of Preventive Medicine research team led by Professor Yang Meixi in September 2010 released a report saying that eating a pear after a meal can discharge a lot of carcinogenic substances accumulated in the human body.

The survey results indicate that smoking or eating grilled & roasted meat, the carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the body will be significantly lower after eating a pear. The result of the findings indicated that heated pear juice contains a lot more anti-cancer substances - Polyphenol.

Mustard Greens & Pork Soup Recipe

 

This delicious image by INRTracker.com

SYMPTOMS:

Slight internal heat syndrome with symptoms such as slight constipation, red eyes, and bad breath.

THERAPEUTIC EFFECTS:

Clears internal heat and relieves constipation.

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • Mustard Greens  芥菜 -  300 gm
  • Lean Pork -  180gm
  • Ginger – 2 slices

1.   Wash mustard greens and cut into pieces.

2.   Rinse pork and cut into thin pieces, season (a little sugar, salt, pepper, cornstarch and sesame oil) and set aside.

3.   Boil about 8 cups of water in a soup pot and put in mustard greens and ginger to cook for about 30 minutes over medium heat. Add pork and cook for another 6 or 7 minutes and serve.

USAGE:

No restrictions.


Beautiful featured image photo by Masaaki Komori on Unsplash



How Ginko Biloba Can Enhance Memory in Chinese Medicine

By freelance writer Sally Perkins

Around 1.6 million U.S adults use the herb ginkgo biloba which can help with various ailments, including memory loss. Experiencing memory loss may well set off alarm bells, but according to the National Institute on Aging, it is often a reversible condition. Although Alzheimer’s may be the first conclusion that people jump to, there are actually a variety of causes which can occur at any age and recognizing what the root of the issue is and addressing it could also help to alleviate the memory loss. Chinese medicines, such as ginkgo biloba, can benefit brain function through improved circulation to the brain and can be used in addition to other healing practices such as targeting acupuncture points for better memory.

Understanding the Causes of Memory Loss

Memory loss tends to occur naturally with age but it is not necessarily only a symptom of getting older. In fact, it often occurs in much younger people as well and once the root of what is causing it has been fixed, the problem of the memory loss is often also solved. Poor sleep and feeling fatigued can result in your brain not operating on all cylinders and lead to memory complaints. If you are taking several medications at the same time, that could also contribute to feelings of confusion and forgetfulness.

Another underlying health problem that could be the cause of memory loss is a nutritional deficiency. Checking the condition of your cognitive function can be done online with an IQ test. It is important to be aware of what is normal for you and not taking it as a personal criticism when people close to you make observations about your slower than usual recall or forgetfulness. 

Ginko Biloba leaf / Photo by Buzo Jesús on Unsplash

Ginkgo Biloba to Improve Memory

There are many different herbs that are used in Chinese medicine that can be used to treat all manner of ailments. However, ginkgo biloba is the most popular for improved cognitive function. The way it works is by dilating the blood vessels that nourish the brain, which increases the flow of blood to the neural tissue.

Ginkgo biloba improves concentration and cognitive function through increased blood circulation to the brain alongside a greater circulation of oxygen, helping to inhibit neural cell damage. It is suggested that a dosage of 120 to 240mg per day in two or three divided doses can help with memory impairment and that it ought to be taken along with meals so as not to upset your stomach.

Chinese medicine has evolved over thousands of years and is now commonly referred to in the United States as a form of complementary health practice. Memory loss can be attributed to a great many causes so panic need not be your immediate reaction since it is often treatable. Using Chinese medicine, such as ginkgo biloba, allows you to use natural methods to treat memory loss.

Featured image from vititaal.nl


Spring Recipe - Stir Fried Chicken and Goji Berries

By Vicky Chan of NourishU

Spring Recipes

Spring is the season of new growth, the season of wood and the season of the liver. It is the season of wind and rain and very unstable weather. It marks the beginning of a new growing season including bacteria and viruses. People can easily catch cold/flu and infectious diseases in spring. Wind-injuries can be characterized by rapidly changing and moving symptoms such as a stuffy and runny nose, coughs, fever, body pain, sneezing, and dizziness.

Our livers are most vulnerable to wind-injury in spring. It is important to invigorate the liver by eating warming and pungent food to defend and expel wind evil. Foods that are sweet in nature such as dates, goji-berries, animal's liver and leek can benefit liver health and help to promote liver qi. Sour can nourish liver and promote blood. Salty taste can promote sour.

Spring tonics emphasize on light and healthful foods such as spinach, celery, onion, lettuce, leaf mustard, Chinese yam, wheat, dates, peanuts, onions, cilantro, bamboo shoot and mushrooms. Soybean, bean sprout, egg, and tofu are rich in protein and can promote liver health and healthy growth of tendons.

Chrysanthemum Flower

Chrysanthemum flowers are very effective in lowering liver heat and calming the liver. They can be used as a tea or cook with other ingredients to make soup or entree dishes.

Dandelion

Dandelion is everywhere in spring. It is bitter and sweet in taste, cold in nature, and attributive to liver and stomach channels.

Pick dandelion leaves from your garden or from a wild field where there is no chemical pollution to make a detoxification tea for yourself and your family in spring. It is diuretic, clears damp-heat and toxic material, and benefits liver health. You can repeat this once again in late summer when you see them bloom again. It is the most inexpensive and effect detoxification tea that you can give to your body.

Stir Fried Chicken & Goji Berries

THERAPEUTIC EFFECTS

Benefits the liver and eyes.

INGREDIENTS

  • Astragalus (huang qi) 黃耆 - 30 gm
  • Goji-berry / Chinese Wolfberry (gou ji zi) 枸杞子 - 15 gm
  • Chicken breast - one piece
  • Cucumber - one
  • Cooking wine - 2 spoonfuls
  1. Rinse astragalus and put with 2 cups of water in a pot and let it sit for 30 minutes. Then bring water to a boil and lower heat to medium-low to cook down to 1/2 cup of water left. Strain and keep aside.
  2. Wash and shred chicken and cucumber.
  3. Season chicken with salt, pepper, cornstarch and 2 to 3 spoons of astragalus water.
  4. Soak goji-berries for 20 minutes and rinse. Season goji-berries with some astragalus water.
  5. Warm one spoonful of oil in a wok and stir-fry chicken for a few minutes. Then sprinkle in cooking wine and the rest of the astragalus water, and stir.
  6. Add cucumber and stir for a few more minutes, then add wolfberry and stir for a couple of minutes more and is done.

USAGE

No restrictions.

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Photo by Tim Chow on Unsplash


Eat Your Way to Health: Chinese Superfoods

Chinese medicinal cuisine has been an important part of East Asian culture for hundreds of years. The concepts of a balanced and complete diet were noted down by the Chinese as far back as the second century BCE, with The Yellow Emperor’s Classic On Medicine (Huang Di Nei Jing) containing what is very likely the world’s first set of dietary guidelines.

As with a lot of things, some kinds of food are better than others, and this article enumerates five Chinese superfoods used to reach optimum nutrition and even treat some common ailments.

Goji berries

Also known as Chinese Wolfberries, goji berries are native to the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region and often come in dried form. Alive.com states that legend has it goji berries once helped a herbalist live to a ripe old age of 252 years. While there’s no way to prove the veracity of this claim, goji berries are in fact known for their anti-aging properties. They are rich in carotene, antioxidants, calcium, iron, and vitamins A1, B1, B2, and C.

This Wen (neutral) food is well loved for its nutritive qualities, and is used to treat eye, liver, and kidney illnesses. They are often recommended to boost immunity, relieve hypertension, and manage inflammation.

Chinese cabbage


This lovely image courtesy of Fit Day

The Chinese cabbage is a very common vegetable and is often served in a variety of everyday Chinese dishes. Also known as pak choi or bok choy, this Han (cold) food is one of the most nutrient-dense vegetables in the world. It comes in at just 9 calories, has barely any fat, but packs lots of protein, dietary fiber, and nearly all the essential vitamins and minerals.

Because of its rich nutrition profile, it is often used to promote bone health, regulate blood pressure, fight off inflammation, and even protect against certain forms of cancer, according to Medical News Today .

Bitter melon

The bitter melon is another Han vegetable that possesses lots of medicinal benefits. It is rich in folates, phytonutrients, and vitamins A, B3, B5, B6, and C, as well as minerals like iron, zinc, and magnesium. As a result, Organic Facts claims bitter melon is great for purifying the blood, improving immunity, promoting weight loss, and even treating diabetes, asthma, fungal infections, and skin irritation.

Gardenia fruit

The Gardenia fruit is a bitter Han food that is grown from an evergreen flowering plant common across Asia. Although mostly known for its fragrant white flowers, the gardenia also offers one of China’s superfoods in the form of a bitter orange fruit used in herbal medicine.

These fruits are rich in carotenoids, and combined with their 'cooling' effect, they are used to relieve fevers, halt bleeding, and reduce swelling. They have been known to control cholesterol levels, prevent urinary tract infection, and ease restlessness. Gardenia fruits are also known to be a natural alternative to mouthwash and chewing gum for treatment of bad breath or halitosis, according to a Patient.info feature. This matches the idea in Chinese medicine which indicates that the fruit’s cooling properties can help prevent 'dragon breath'.

Green tea

Green tea, which has been consumed in China and across the globe for centuries. The Daily Health Post revealed that it is believed to help flush out toxins, relax blood vessels, and reduce anxiety and stress. For the best effect, be sure to get whole loose tea leaves instead of powdered forms.

Do you have any favorite Chinese superfoods? Let us know in the comment section below!

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Beautiful featured image by Hao Ji on Unsplash


Dining Out When Following Traditional Chinese Medicine: 3 Tips

By Freelance Writer Sally Perkins

Whether you are a recent or lifelong follower of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), your perspective on nutrition is unique to that of the Western perspective. Instead of eating for indulgence and pleasure, TCM considers food to be as good as medicine. When balance is achieved in one’s diet, balance can be achieved within the body, mind, and soul. In addition to this notion, TCM also does not make universal dietary recommendations for all people. Instead, the foods that are good for one person may not be beneficial for another.

Since these principles vary so significantly from what is considered to be healthy in Western diets, dining out can quickly become a challenge. The majority of foods and beverages offered in restaurants are often heavily processed, full of sodium, sugar, and other toxins. Because of this, is it impossible for someone following TCM to dine out? Thankfully, the answer is ‘no.’ With a bit of planning and research, you can continue to follow your lifestyle while enjoying local restaurants and events. Here are three tips to help you meet your nutritional needs when dining out. 


Photo by Lan Pham on Unsplash

Research Restaurants in Advance

These days, nearly all restaurants make their menus available online. This makes it much easier to know which restaurants will have foods that are appropriate for you, and which ones you should avoid. Before deciding where to eat, research which local options have the most choices for your needs. It is also extremely helpful to follow this tip while traveling. If you have questions about a menu you have viewed online, or are wondering if certain dietary accommodations can be made, be sure to call the restaurant prior to your arrival. 

Bring a Nutritional “Cheat Sheet” With You

If you have an extensive list of foods/beverages to limit and include within your diet, it can be difficult to remember what is ok to eat and what isn’t. When going to a restaurant (or even to the grocery store), bring a “cheat sheet” that lists all of your essential nutritional items. Rather than the unreasonable alternative of bringing a TCM book with you, or even the inconvenience of looking up information on your phone, a concise list is all that you need. Carrying a TCM “cheat sheet” will help you stay focused and on-track with your nutritional needs. 

Speak with Special Event Coordinators About your Nutritional Needs

Planning or attending a big event (such as a wedding or a corporate retreat)? If so, you might be concerned about how your TCM dietary needs can be accommodated. Thankfully, there are ways to ensure that the catering company will have items that you can eat. First, if you are the one planning the event, find a local health focused caterer who is open to bringing at least one item that adheres to your needs. Be sure to also find out if there will be other individuals in attendance who have specific dietary requests as well. If you are simply attending an upcoming event, inquire about the foods that will be provided. In the event there is no food that will meet your needs, you will at least have advanced notice. Plan on eating prior to or after the event to avoid the temptation of indulging in foods that are heavily processed.

Although it may seem like a challenge, dining out while following TCM can be achieved. Rather than skipping fun dinners and events, research and plan in advance so that you can enjoy special moments with family and friends while maintaining balance in the body.

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Delicious featured image photo by Edward Guk on Unsplash

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Would you like to learn more about nutrition according to Chinese Medicine? Check out these fancy downloadable information sheets about all things Chinese Medicine to learn how to use this wonderful medicine to live a healthy lifestyle in the modern world. Get them here - Learn Chinese Medicine Living :)


Essential Oils for Health & Wellness

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

A Brief History of Essential Oils

Essential oils have been used by traditional cultures for thousands of years, and were some of the most highly valued possessions of traditional peoples, along with jewels and precious metals. Essential oils are considered to be the distillation of both the intelligence and spirit of the plants they come from. They have been used throughout history for their medicinal, emotional, aromatic and spirit enhancing effects. In recent years there has been a revival in the use of essential oils, many people use them in their homes, healthcare practitioners use them to offer patients an alternative to conventional treatments like medications, and companies are using essential oils in their products as natural alternatives to chemical ingredients.

My own experience with essential oils goes back as far as I can remember. Long before I became an acupuncturist, I used them in my home for things like cleaning, for making skin and hair care products as well as aromatherapy, and in my medicine cabinet to help heal a wide variety of problems. When I began treating patients as an acupuncturist, essential oils were a vital part of my toolbox. I have always loved the versatility that essential oils afford the person and certainly the practitioner. They have been an invaluable part of my practice, and I am always humbled at how powerful they can be to correct a huge number of imbalances and heal on a multitude of different levels.

Essential Oils At Home

I think that many people may not be aware of the enormous versatility of essential oils that you can use in your home to make everyday products. In an age where we are bombarded by toxins (you can read more about this here - 5 Toxins to Avoid for Better Health - essential oils offer the ability to make these products knowing they are pure, health-promoting and toxin free. You can make household cleaners, skin and hair products (some of the worst offenders in terms of toxicity), soaps and lotions as well as using a diffuser to gently release certain oils into the air to detoxify, cleanse the air and for health reasons - like certain oils that act as decongestants when you or your family are suffering with a cold. There are oils for relaxation and stress, you can add them to the bathtub to help calm - I use this often for my very high energy 2-year-old baby boy, and it works smashingly. Oils can also be put into laundry soap, on rags in the dryer instead of dryer sheets, and a drop or two placed onto a pillow or bed sheets to help freshen things up or aid with things like insomnia, stress or depression.

This lovely photo by Amy Treasure on Unsplash

Essential Oils In Health Care

I use essential oils every day in my clinic with my patients. They are simply another tool that I have in my healing toolbox. There are many ways in which to use essential oils for healing. In Chinese Medicine theory heat and cold are properties that contribute to health and disease. Essential oils also have heating and cooling properties, as well as having affinities for certain organs and meridians, so with this knowledge, I am able to use them on patients depending on both their constitution as well as what is ailing them. There are many ways that I use them - sometimes I apply them to specific acupuncture points, sometimes I mix them into massage oil to massage into certain points of areas of the body and sometimes I put oils into the diffuser for a more subtle effect. I often prescribe their use for patients at home, suggesting adding them to a bath, or massaging them into specific points when certain symptoms appear. For patients to participate in their own healing is the goal and essential oils are a wonderful way to help the process.

Using Essential Oils with Children & Babies

Since I have had children - and I have two, a two-year-old and a six-month-old - I have found that massage and essential oils are the most useful things I have to deal with everyday health matters. They also serve calm an excited child before a nap or sleep at night, dealing with anxiety, excessive crying in a colicky baby, and just keeping a chaotic house as relaxed and delicious smelling as humanly possible. Acupuncture is difficult on small children mostly because they have a hard time sitting still, so essential oils have been my go-to for everything that has to do with my babies, from their overall health, the state of their emotions and their wellbeing.

But, because they are so small and their systems so delicate, dosages and dilution are very important. You would always use way less of an oil on a child compared to an adult, and a good rule of thumb is to put any oil you are using medicinally into a carrier oil (I use coconut oil most of the time) and apply it to the feet as they are the farthest away from important organs. When my son gets a cold, I use various oils in this way which always helps clear his congestion, makes him more comfortable and I find that he gets over things a lot faster. With my baby girl, I tend to put a few drops of various oils into the diffuser when she isn't feeling well and I always find this helps her feel better, calmer and helps her sleep (which when you have 2 babies in your house is vital!!).

The other thing I have found is how powerful our olfactory senses are and the connection they have to our health and emotions. I find that just a drop of my favourite scent on my pillow after a long, intense day with 2 small children has a hugely calming effect on my nerves and psyche. A few drops on the sheets freshens up the room and makes for better sleeps. Some lavender on the temples helps you relax and all that tension you had in your jaws, neck, and shoulders, seems to just melt away. The therapeutic effects of essential oils are really limitless, and I know I am so grateful to have an arsenal to help me keep my children healthy without toxic chemicals while also being kind to the environment. Win/win!

Essential Oil Safety

It is important to remember that essential oils are medicine, and need to be used with caution. Like herbs, they can be very powerful and it is important to educate yourself about the oils properties, as well as any contraindications before using them therapeutically. Most commercially produced essential oils are used in the food and perfume industry (about 95%). However, when using them in your home for cleaning, skin or hair products or anything that will come in contact with your body, please be sure that you use high quality, therapeutic grade oils, that are extracted in a clean way and not using toxic chemicals. Here are some very good safety guidelines for using essential oils. When using essential oils directly on the body (and the best advice is to never use them directly on the body without diluting them or using a carrier oil) is to be careful of how much you are using or how much to dilute them. This is especially important when using them with children. You can find useful information at the link above about how to dilution ratios.

Natural Medicines

I am a firm believer that the cure for every disease that exists on this planet is available in its forests, rainforests, and jungles. Natural medicines have been healing human beings since the beginning of time. So many cultures have the wisdom to cure using these natural, plant-based medicines. This wisdom has largely been forgotten by Allopathic (Western) medicine that chooses to use petroleum-based pharmaceuticals to treat symptoms that are the result of our modern diseases.

This beautiful photo by Trần Anh Tuấn on Unsplash

From everything that I know about Chinese medicine, and indeed many of the wisdom traditions that have been around for thousands of years, the key to staying healthy is to live a healthy and balanced life. This has been increasingly difficult because many of us live in an unbalanced, toxic culture. For us now, I believe that living in the most natural way possible is the key to health. Eliminating toxins, eating clean, natural, fresh foods, drinking clean water, getting enough sleep and when we do become sick, using natural medicines to get us well again. Acupuncture, herbs, exercise, a healthy diet (using food as medicine) as well as things like essential oils are the best ways I know of to keep us all healthy, and if we fall ill, to bring us back to health again. Incorporating as many of these into our lives and our homes will ensure that we stay as healthy as we can, and empower us to heal ourselves when we are sick.

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The Role of Coffee in Traditional Chinese Medicine

By freelance writer Sally Perkins

Next to oil, coffee is the 2nd most prevalent legally-traded item in the world which is not surprising, seeing that almost 500 billion cups of coffee are consumed worldwide every year. While Scandinavian countries top the list in terms of coffee consumption, Europe, and the Americas aren’t that far behind. Even Asian countries such as China are experiencing an increase in coffee consumption, as industry giants Starbucks pushes into the East and more and more millennials are wanting to explore the ways of the West.

The benefits (and dangers) of the world’s most popular beverage has caused numerous debates as people fail to realize that a lot of the readily-available information about coffee is slanted. As more scientific research surfaces pointing towards its health benefits, coffee is being embraced increasingly by Chinese and Western medicine alike. The coffee bean forms part of the rubiaceae family from which numerous Chinese medicinal herbs such as gardenia fruit, rubia, uncaria and morinda stem. From a Chinese Traditional Medicine perspective, coffee holds numerous benefits if consumed in the correct dosages.

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How to get the most out of your coffee

Coffee is considered to be an herb in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and should be treated accordingly, with a proper dosage.  Your primary consideration should be to determine whether you have a cold or heat imbalance in your body. If you tend to lean more towards the heated side you might want to limit your consumption of roasted coffee and opt for green coffee extracts instead. A person who is overly Yin, however, can benefit the most from a cup of freshly brewed, roasted coffee complete with a delicious homemade creamer and a sweetener of choice.

How does coffee benefit the body?

According to Eastern belief, coffee has an invigorating, diuretic effect that encourages the elimination of waste products from the body. Coffee is considered to be fairly nourishing and boasts noteworthy amounts of Vitamins B5 and B12. By nature coffee has a slightly bitter taste which can clear heat from the body, helping to stabilize the extreme heat of the hot general consistency of coffee.  This could be the very reason why so many people in warmer climates proclaim that they drink coffee to cool them down.

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Coffee is seen as a bronchodilator and increases peristalsis. Many asthma patients claim that a cup of hot coffee help eases their symptoms significantly. It is furthermore believed that coffee has, due to its acidic flavor profile, a strong influence on the human liver. Qi and blood is moved by coffee and because the liver is most prone to becoming stagnant, coffee can boost the smooth flow of liver qi in tiny increments.  Coffee consumption is also known to help cleanse the livers partner organ, the gallbladder effectively.

There is no food or beverage in the world that is ideal for everyone to consume.  As long as coffee is enjoyed in moderation it poses no threat. Coffee consumption, like that of any Chinese herbal remedy, needs to be matched to the constitution of the individual consuming it. An experienced Chinese Medical Practitioner will be able to conduct a swift analysis to determine exactly what the personal tolerance and requirements of an individual are.

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Winter Recipe - Astragalus Dangshen Mutton Soup

By NourishU

Seasonal Eating in Chinese Medicine - Winter Recipes

Winter with the drop of temperature is the time to slow down on physical activities because our body's metabolic rate will be slower. It is also the time to eat nourishing food to help the body to preserve energy. Animals follow the law of nature and hibernate throughout winter. Human should also preserve energy and build up strength, preparing the body for regeneration and new growth in spring.

According to traditional Chinese medicine, tonic-taking in winter has a great bearing upon the balancing of Yin and Yang elements, the unblocking of meridians, and the harmonizing of Qi and blood. In the five elements theory of TCM, winter is when the kidneys are highly active and they have astringent and active storage functions that help in preserving energy. People should eat food with less salty taste in order to reduce the burden on the kidneys. Uncooked and frozen foods can damage the spleen and stomach and should be taken in moderation.

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In winter when body's resistance is low, elderly people are especially advised to take food tonics which can improve their body constitution and promote better resistance to illness. Food tonics can have much better healthful effects than supplementation and drugs.

The tonics include superior warming herbs, fatty and meaty foods. Our body is designed to absorb the rich and nutritional foods better at this time of the year. For people who have cold constitution with cold hands and feet, weak kidney health with frequent urination, cold and stiff body and constant pain in their backs and ankles, winter is the best time for them to correct these health problems when the body is most responsive to nutritional treatment.

The warming winter foods include chive, chicken, mutton, shrimp, ginger, garlic, walnut, mushroom, chestnut, mustard, vinegar, wine, gingko, red pepper and spring onion. For people who are cold in nature, they should also use the warming herbs such as dangshen, ginseng, astragalus, reishi mushroom, longan fruit and deer horn, etc. to promote yang energy.

Astragalus Dangshen Mutton Soup

Therapeutic Effects

Nourishes qi and blood, clears toxicity and promotes regeneration of skin.

Ingredients 

  • Mutton – 360gm (cut into pieces)
  • Dried shiitake mushroom – 10
  • Astragalus (huang qi) 黃耆 – 30gm
  • Dangshen (dang shen) 黨參 – 30 gm
  1. Wash mutton and put in boiling water to cook for a few minutes, remove and rinse.
  2. Soak mushroom for about 30 minutes, remove stem and cut into halves.
  3. Rinse herbs and put all ingredients in a soup pot with about 10 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce to medium heat and simmer for 3 hours.
  4. Add seasoning to serve. Drink soup and eat some meat.

Usage

Recommended for no more than twice per month in winter months for health promotion.

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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.

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The Yin & Yang Concept in Chinese Eating

By freelance writer Sally Perkins

The Yin And Yang Concept In Chinese Eating

Chinese food and Chinese medicine is based on the yin and yang concept of balance. It is never about specific foods, whether good or bad, but relationships created out of these foods and the health benefits acquired from them. The traditional concept of Chinese diets has always taken a holistic approach rather than individual foods. It is a relationship of cold, hot, and warm foods served together. The thermal nature of foods is not necessarily based on their preparation methods. Different seasons call for different foods. It is out of this combination that both delicious and highly nutritious foods are created.

Understanding Chinese Eating Concepts

Foods and Organs

According to Chinese medicine, every body organ is attached to a specific taste and a specific element. For instance, the heart is associated with bitterness and fire, lungs are associated with spicy foods and the metal element, the liver with soreness and wood, kidneys with the salty taste and water. This means that when preparing meals, they must always incorporate all the five tastes for the purpose of serving all the body organs. The composition of all these tastes ensures the body is well balanced and is protected from different kinds of diseases.

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Foods and Seasons

Foods are seasonal according to Chinese Eating. Summer is a period associated with yang: growth, light and energy. The heart is the organ symbol for summer. During this period, people are advised to eat cooling and hydrating foods. The cooking methods are also light, with most people preferring to sauté or steam food. The meals are light and servings small. Cool foods include lemons, cucumbers, watermelons, tofu, mung beans, sprouts, limes, apples, pumpkins and raw foods.  Flower leaf teas, the likes of mint and chamomile are great for cooling the body. During Autumn, sour and neutral foods are popular. These include pineapples, sesame, white fungus and most fruits. The organ associated with winter mostly is the kidney. Foods taken during this season are warm, spicy, dark and less salty. They include red pepper, red meat, chive, shrimp, spring onions, black fungus, ginger, vinegar, mustard, wine, leeks and mushrooms. The spices and food tonics help to heal up the body. Raw or frozen foods are shunned as they require a lot of digestive energy to be broken down. Meals taken during winter are often heavy and cooked for long periods. During Spring, a season indicating new birth, people eat sweet and cold foods like dates, spinach and coriander.

Foods and Nutritional Composition

Chinese medicine continues to champion for a balanced diet. A balanced meal with both carbohydrates and proteins ensures utmost metabolism. This combination also works in balancing the body's blood sugar as well as the insulin level. The nature of protein food is illustrated as crispy and dry, which heat up the carbohydrates that are illustrated as wet and moist. The benefits of eating proteins are numerous making them an intricate part of the Chinese diet.

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How To Make Your Chinese Diet Healthy and Balanced

It is of importance to rethink what you eat as your ideal main and side dish. In different parts of the world especially in America, we often eat so much meat that it becomes the main or go to dish.  To the contrary, every meal should consist of vegetables as the main course with proteins and carbohydrates as the side courses. Chinese medicine justifies the fact that having natural vegetables, spices and herbs can actually greatly minimize your visits to the doctor. A spice such as ginger is known to be a remedy for nausea. Chillies are also very effective in easing digestion and thus minimizing chances of constipation. One does not have to believe in the curing effect of Chinese foods to incorporate them in your diet but the general fact that natural foods translate to good health in plenty is more than enough reason. When shopping for food stuffs, try going for unrefined products. This will ensure that you get your food all natural. Soups should also be a mandatory part of your meals.

A Chinese diet does not necessarily have to be of Chinese food. They may be hard or even expensive to get. You can always use the readily available foods in your locality. What matters most is the concept of the Chinese diet. Always ensure the ingredients are natural and so more balanced.

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