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.

This delicious photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

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.

The lovely photo by Daniel Ruswick on Unsplash

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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The lovely featured image photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash 


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.

Photo by Mike Kotsch on Unsplash

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.

Featured image photo by Matthew Hamilton on Unsplash


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.

This delicious photo by Artur Rutkowski on Unsplash

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.

Photo by Elli O. on Unsplash

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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Featured image photo by Sharon Chen on Unsplash


Calming & Balancing Congee for Better Sleep

By NourishU

Insomnia in Chinese Medicine

There are many factors contributing to insomnia such as an unhealthy lifestyle, irregular sleeping habits, eating the wrong foods or eating too much, external disturbances, stress, psychological issues, illnesses or drug-related problems, etc. Western medicine uses vitamins, amino acids, and minerals such as magnesium and calcium for prevention. Sleeping pills, hormones and tranquilizers are commonly used to fight insomnia but they can be habit forming and are not addressing the root of the problem. They should only be used very briefly when absolutely necessary because prolonged usage can make the matter worse and create more health problems. The lack of genuine sleep can deprive the body of the critical body functions being performed at night and can lead to lower immunity, internal imbalances and organs malfunction.


Photo by Alexandra Gorn on Unsplash

To treat insomnia, it is necessary to treat the root of the problem. Eating too full at dinner or eating too late or eating the wrong foods such as coffee, tea, alcohol, spicy food and hard to digest food can all affect sleep and can be easily avoided. If it is due to external disturbances such as light, noise or electrical smog, etc.; follow the rules to make your bedroom a sleeping sanctuary so that you have the perfect conditions to induce sleep. Don’t under estimate the power of ear-plugs which can numb your senses and lower your guard effectively. They do work for easing anxiety too. If it is due to other illness such as digestive problems; treat the illness and sleep will return. If it is due to psychological reasons; try to peace your mind by meditation, relaxation exercise, journaling, music, hypnotherapy, etc. Exercising outdoor, such as jogging, can force you to breathe more deeply and with more oxygen intake, it can help to relax your mind and body. Sweating helps the body to expel toxin and therefore helps to release tension. Also, you will get tired after exercising which makes falling asleep easier.

When insomnia persists for a long period of time, it is important to focus on repairing the damages done to the body especially to the liver, kidney and heart. If the damages remain in-repaired over time, they can become both the causes and effects of insomnia and treatment will be more difficult.

L-tryptophan

According to science, food rich in L-tryptophan such as red meat, dairy products, nuts, seeds, bananas, soybeans, soy products, tuna, shellfish, and turkey can promote sleep because L-tryptophan is the essential amino acid that helps the body to produce serotonin and melatonin, the hormones that regulate sleep. Serotonin can also impact our mood, psychological health and behaviour. Serotonin is found in greatest concentration in our gut so it makes perfect sense to nourish our gut flora for optimal serotonin level to promote better sleep.

Calcium and Magnesium

Deficiencies of calcium and magnesium may cause easy waking. Dietary sources of magnesium include dried beans, soybeans, pumpkins seeds, wheat germ, almonds and leafy green vegetables such as spinach and Swiss chard. Calcium can be found in many different foods, including dairy products, fish, broccoli, almonds, dried figs, kelp, prunes, rhubarb, seaweed, soybeans, sesame seeds, watercress, dandelion greens, amaranth and chickweed. Taking a combined calcium-magnesium tablet 30 minutes before going to bed is helpful. Kiwi fruit is extremely high in calcium, taking 2 everyday will find great improvement in sleep quality. The enzyme in kiwi can calm gut swelling, also helpful in promoting sleep.

Sleep on Time

If you are fighting insomnia, you must firstly observe the proper sleeping hours. It is vitally important to be in bed and in complete rest between 11 p.m. to  6 a.m. even if you cannot sleep. This will enable blood to return to the liver for the important detoxification and renewal process. Staying up at night will draw blood away from the liver. It is equally important to be up in the morning and during the day so that the other yang bodily functions can be performed properly. When necessary, napping for half an hour during noon time can support the heart and provide energy for the rest of the day. Sleeping any longer during the day can disrupt sleep at night.


Photo by petradr on Unsplash

Chinese medicine regards sleep as number one priority for health and insomnia is most detrimental. For people who are not sleeping between 11 p.m. to 1 a.m., the gall bladder system is highly compromised. It can lead to gall bladder stones, weaker immune system, slower metabolic functions and general weakness. For people who are not sleeping between 1 a.m. to 3 a.m., the important liver functions of detoxifying and replenishing blood are disrupted. Blood deficiency can lead to many illnesses such as premature aging, osteoporosis, blood related diseases and women diseases, etc. When the liver is weakened, it cannot support the other vital organs properly and can lead to stomach and spleen deficiencies, kidney deficiencies, heart deficiencies and lung deficiencies. There is also higher chance of getting liver related diseases such as hepatitis, high cholesterol and eyes diseases.

Chinese medicine treatments are to reinforce qi, replenish blood, nourish yin, clear liver fire, remove stagnant energy, harmonize stomach energy, and calm the nerve and mind. Chinese herbal remedies are necessary to control adverse symptoms and to rectify imbalances. Herbal medicines are non-hypnotic in nature and are not habit forming. Once adverse symptoms are under control, nutritional food therapy will be used to help the body to recover and regain its original functions.

Food Cures

Food cures such as dates, wheat, longan fruit, lily flower and egg yolk are commonly used for nourishing the heart, promoting yin and calming the mind. Seafood such as oysters, clams, fish, shrimp and eel, are high in zinc and copper and are good for calming the nerve and easing anxiety. Oatmeal, sweet potato, banana and tomato are good for promoting sleep. Cherries are naturally high in melatonin. Eating eight ounces of cherries in the morning and eight ounces at night consecutively for two weeks can help to restore sleep. Lemon-scented mint tea is sleep-inducing because it improve digestion and decreased agitation.

Calming the Gut

Our gut is like our second brain which can be easily affected by our mind and emotion. Calming the gut can help to quiet the mind. If a restless mind is keeping you awake, eat a light carbohydrate snack right before sleep such as whole grain cereals with organic milk, bread, biscuits or an organic yogurt with good bacteria can be helpful. The key is to combine carbs with a protein containing tryptophan to help your body better utilize the sleep inducer. If you need this remedy in the middle of the night, make sure you are not turning on any light which can affect your melatonin level.

Calming & Balancing Congee Recipe

Symptoms

Restless sleep due to anxiety and over worrying, pale looking, lack of energy, loose bowel or occasional palpitation of the heart.

Therapeutic Effects

Calms nerves, enriches blood, removes dampness and fire, improves spleen and kidney health, and promotes yang energy of the heart.

Ingredients (2 to 3 servings)

  • Job's Tears / Coix Lacryma-Jobi (yi yi ren) 薏米 – 30gm
  • Little red bean 赤小豆 – 30gm
  • Longan Fruit (long yan rou) 桂圆 /龍眼肉 – 30gm
  • Chinese Jujube / red dates (da zao) 大枣 – 4 to 6
  • Lotus Seeds (lien zi) 莲子 – 30gm
  • Dried lily bulb / Bulbus Lilii (bai he) 百合 – 30gm
  • Rice – half cup
  • Sugar - to taste

Directions

  1. Soak all herbal ingredients for about 15 minutes and rinse.
  2. Rinse rice and put all ingredients in a pot with about 6 to 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil and lower heat to medium to cook for about 45 minutes to about 3 cups of congee.
  3. Add some sugar if prefer. Eat as meal.

Usage

No restrictions. Most suitable for teens and seniors.


Eating Out the Chinese Way - The History of Chinese Medicine Nutrition

By John Voigt

One should be mindful of what one consumes to ensure proper growth, reproduction, and development of bones, tendons, ligaments and channels and collaterals [i.e., meridians] This will help generate the smooth flow of qi [life energy] and blood, enabling one to live to a ripe old age. 

From The Yellow Emperor’s Classic on Medicine.

The Yellow Emperor’s Classic On Medicine (Huang Di Nei Jing), circa second century BCE, is the most important ancient text on Chinese medicine. In it are the concepts of a balanced and complete diet, and probably the world's first dietary guidelines.

The Thermal Nature of Foods - Warming, Cooling & Neutral

Basic concerns are about Han (“cold”) and Re (“hot”) foods. Han foods such as kelp, wheat, vegetables, and pork possibly may cause diarrhea. Re foods such as ginger, pepper, mutton, and unripened guava possibly may cause heartburn or constipation. Wen (“neutral”) foods such as rice, beans, fish, and beef can help to repair the body’s tissues.  Bu (strengthening) foods such as ginseng, deer velvet, and dates may be healing.

Food Relationships in Chinese Medicine - A Holistic Approach

But this is not about one food by itself being good or bad, it’s about the relationships of food.  Chinese dietetics—as most past and present Chinese thought—is based on holistic concepts, not singularity concerns. For example, with the above foods, vegetables (a Han or so-called “cold” food) is usually cooked with some Re (a so-called “hot”) food such as ginger or pepper. That neutralizes or balances out the “cold” [yin] and “hot” [yang] aspects of each food, and helps create something good for you and delicious as well.

Along the same idea of a food gaining its meaning by its relationships to other foods, in classic Chinese cuisine we most often find the “neutral” food (the rice or noodles) along with the main meal (meat or fish), accompanied by various other dishes usually vegetables. For example, The yang of rare beef is balanced by yin of tofu or cool slices of fruit.

The Healing Nature of Foods

The foods need to be prepared in the proper way, vegetables not overcooked, but not raw either; small portions of meat or fish not fried. In The Yellow Emperor’s Classic we find, “Heavy and greasy food causes a change that may result in serious illness.”

Also from that book, from Chapter 81, section 22 we find: Five cereals (such as rice, sesame seeds, soya beans, wheat, millet) provide our basic nourishment. Five fruits (such as dates, plum, chestnut, apricot, peach) add what the cereals lack. Five animals (such as beef, dog meat, pork, mutton, chicken) give certain advantages that animals possess. Five vegetables (such as marrow, chive, bean sprouts, shallot, onion)  provide a wide range of needed substances. If the food tastes and smells good, then eat it to replenish the body’s needs.

These guidelines are approximately two thousand years old, yet amazingly from that time to today most Chinese people followed them whenever they were able to do so. This article will close on how the tradition is being automatically preserved today without the restaurant or their customers knowing what is happening.

Now to make all this simple for the health (and food loving) reader. After all, the many millions of Chinese who go to their favorite restaurants aren’t bring along any of the ancient treatises on dietetics. Nevertheless, the traditional way of ordering and serving food seems to be right on the mark on what the ancient seers taught about food and good health. All over the world you will see this standard pattern in middle and smaller sized Chinese restaurants—(the more larger ones are becoming more geared to tourists and the new Chinese upper classes who eat like their western counterparts).  Not surprisingly such non-traditional diets have been accompanied with an increase in western styled diseases.

Eating - The Chinese Way

Here’s how the “natives” eat, and how you can do the same.

Begin with those tiny bowls of free sweet and sour pickles, or pickled cabbage, or cooked peanuts, etc. that many restaurants just bring you without you asking for them. Something like an appetizer, but not quite; they prime the digestion. Then order several different vegetable dishes. And some rice. Then some fish (usually with the bones included—be careful don't swallow any); or some meat. And finish it all off with a soup. That will help your digestion. Traditionally the final close is making a big burp to show your appreciation to the cooks and servers, and remove any bad qi—but you might because of western propriety leave out that final gesture—(or is it better described as a bodily function noise?).

That’s it. Now go enjoy such a standard traditional and healthy meal.  Best done in a large group of friends and family with chopsticks.

Postscript: For more about the proper kinds of food for health from both an eastern and western point of view, see my “Color Dietetics – With a Poster to Hang on the Wall. https://www.chinesemedicineliving.com/blog/color-dietetics-poster-hang-wall/

Sources and Further Information

Ho Zhi-chien. “Principles of Diet Therapy in Ancient Chinese Medicine: ‘Huang Di Nei Jing.”  http://apjcn.nhri.org.tw/server/apjcn/2/2/91.pdf

Sun Simiao on Dietetics in the Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine Journal (Autumn 2013, vol. 10, no. 2). https://static1.squarespace.com/static/537fb379e4b0fe1778d0f178/t/5399d890e4b0bcfc5d028d47/1402591376077/Sunsimiao+on+dietetics.pdf

“Chinese food therapy.” Wikipedia.

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

Some Other Interesting Info (Nerd Facts)...

Sun Simiao (581-682) who was known as “The King of Medicine” - (one of is greatest credentials is that he lived to be 101 years old) - taught that the prevention of disease should come before any medical treatment. However, if treatment was required, he believed that dietary concerns should never be neglected. He wrote, “Proper food is able to expel evil and secure the zang and fu organs [the viscera] to please the spirit and clear the will, by supplying blood and qi. If you are able to use food to stabilize chronic disease, release emotions, and chase away disease, you can call yourself an outstanding artisan. This is the special method of lengthening the years and “eating for old age,” and the utmost art of nurturing life. Sun Simiao,  known as the “King of Medicine,” (581-682). https://static1.squarespace.com/static/537fb379e4b0fe1778d0f178/t/5399d890e4b0bcfc5d028d47/1402591376077/Sunsimiao+on+dietetics.pdf

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Image Credits

The featured image photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

Vegetable photo by David Vázquez on Unsplash

Bok Choy photo by Jodie Morgan on Unsplash

Soup photo by Elli O. on Unsplash


Diet and Spirituality: Feeding the Mind, Body, and Soul

By freelance writer Sally Perkins

The idea that food can be a direct route to health and happiness is a belief that’s been long held by proprietors of traditional Chinese medicine. Recipes have passed down through generations that are used to help prevent and treat disease, slow down the aging process, or simply improve overall fitness. To this day, many households that use a traditional approach to health consider the pantry to be synonymous with the medicine cabinet.

In traditional Chinese medicine, food is more than just sustenance. It’s a healthy lifestyle choice that has a significant impact on your mental, physical, and spiritual health. Practitioners of traditional medicine promote the idea that a carefully crafted diet plan should be the first line of defense against any illness or ailment. Traditional medicine has shaped many common Chinese dishes that include a wide variety of vegetables and meats considered to have positive health benefits. Different health call for different ingredients, including herbs, spices, and vegetables that are known to have healing properties.

Dampness

Foods that are damp in nature can slow the digestive system and interfere with the flow of energy throughout your body. This blockage can lead to pain, disease, chronic allergies, and even arthritis. Signs of dampness can include congestion and excessive mucus formation, indigestion, weight gain, and swelling in the joints.

Foods to Include

  • Cooked vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Beans, lentils, and legumes
  • Lean protein
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Seaweed and kelp
  • Nuts and seeds

Foods to Avoid

  • Dairy
  • Wheat
  • Refined sugars
  • Processed flour
  • Coffee and alcohol
  • Bananas and avocado

Yin Deficiency

Responsible for keeping you cool, a deficiency with your yin can lead to overheating and fever. Yin is closely associated with the kidneys, which function to remove toxins from your system. An imbalance in your Yin can be the result of stress or overwork, but it may also be due to an inadequate diet.

Foods to Include

  • Barley, millet, and other whole grains
  • Beans and seeds
  • Eggs
  • Fruits such as apples, pears, and bananas
  • Seafood and red meat

Foods to Avoid

  • Hot or spicy foods
  • Caffeine, cigarettes, and other stimulants
  • Sugars

Yang Deficiency

Also often a result of improper kidney functioning, a deficiency in Yang energy is characterized by soreness in the joints and lumbar region, cold sensations in the limbs, difficulty urinating, incontinence, and a decreased libido.

Foods to Include

  • Berries and nuts
  • Red meats such as lamb and venison
  • Seafood
  • Strong spices such as black pepper, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, peppermint, and more

Foods to Avoid

  • Cold foods and liquids
  • Raw food

According to traditional Chinese medicine, a balance between flavor and nutrition helps to promote both physical and spiritual well being. By eating the right foods, you can keep your body in balance and reduce or alleviate the symptoms of certain chronic conditions.

 

**Beautiful featured image by Blair Fraser on Unsplash


Winter Recipe - Lamb Thigh & Warming Herbs Soup

By NourishU

Winter Recipes in Chinese Medicine

This beautiful Photo by Natasha Vasiljeva on Unsplash

Winter, with the drop in temperature, is the time to slow down physical activities as our body's metabolic rate slows down at this time of year. 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.

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 a 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, as it is 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 warming herbs such as dangshen, ginseng, astragalus, reishi mushroom, longan fruit and deer horn, etc. to promote yang energy.

Winter Recipe - Lamb Thigh & Warming Herbs Soup

Symptoms

Lack of appetite, cold hands and feet and general weakness due to being overworked.

Therapeutic Effects

Warms the center, promotes blood and qi, promotes vital fluids and prevents aging.

INGREDIENTS (3 servings)

Rou Cong Rong

  • Lamb thigh 羊脾肉 – 360gm
  • Broomrape (rou cong rong) 肉鬆蓉 – 15gm
  • Chinese Yam (shan yao) 淮山 – 30gm
  • Angelica Sinensis (dang gui) 當歸- 9gm
  • Asparagus root (tian dong) 天冬 ( 去心 ) – 9gm
  • Astragalus / Astragali Radix (huang qi) 北耆 – 6gm
  • American ginseng 花旗參 - 9gm
  • Atractylodes Rhizoma (pai chu) 白朮 – 6gm
  • Glutinous rice 糯米 – 60gm

Shan Yao - Chinese Yam

1.   Rinse lamb and put in boiling water to cook for a few minutes. Remove, rinse and drain dry.

2.   Brown lamb in a wok with no oil.

3.   Rinse herbs and rice and put together with lamb in a slow cooker with 6 cups of boiling water. Turn on high heat and let it cook for at least 4 hours until meat is all tender.

4.   Add salt and 2 spoonfuls of wine and serve.

Dang Gui Chinese Herb

USAGE

Not suitable if you have a cold or flu. Take once a day with a meal.

For people who may be too weak to accept this enriching recipe right away, it is recommended to start taking astragalus and dates tea, a couple of times per week for two weeks before taking this recipe.

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Featured image by Photo by Tom Crew on Unsplash

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.


Fall Recipe for Cough - Steamed Banana with Rock Sugar

By Vicky Chan of NourishU

Fall - Cough & Other Lung Diseases

Fall is the season that is vital to lung health because it is the season dominated by dry air which can cause lung heat to accumulate. It is important to avoid too spicy and hot foods to prevent further intensifying of lung heat. Eating white colored foods such as white beans and raw white turnips can help to soothe lung and lower heat.

To promote lung health on a regular basis, deep breathing exercises can strengthen lungs and increase their capacity. Researchers have found that eating apples at least five times a week can help to promote strong lungs by removing toxins from them effectively.

According to Chinese medicine, chronic cough can be caused by external evils or an internal functional imbalance. External factors can be wind cold, wind heat and dry heat. Internal factors can be due to lung qi deficiency resulting in lung heat and phlegm or due to liver fire surging out of control.

For cough associated with fever and common cold, herbs such as ma-huang, aconite, asarum and bupleurum are used to ventilate the lungs, relieve exterior symptoms, stop coughing and dispel phlegm. For chronic cough due to internal injury with wheezing: pinellia, cinnamon, ginger, peony and licorice are used to clear lungs, strengthen the spleen, alleviate cough and resolve sputum.

Food cures for cough due to excessive heat type are Chinese pear, white turnip, sugar cane juice and steamed papaya with honey. They are most effective in lowering heat and relieving cough. Drinking, smoking and spicy foods should be avoided in order not to irritate the throat and intensify coughing. Food promoting digestion and sending energy downwards can relieve phlegm dampness due to spleen deficiency.

Emphysema begins with chronic bronchitis or bronchial asthma. It is the damage of lung tissue over a long period of time mostly due to smoking or environmental factors. The common symptoms are wheezing, coughing, a feeling of pressure in the chest and difficulty in breathing on physical exertion. It is a sickness that cannot be completely cured.

During asthma attack, Chinese doctors treat the excesses first. When the attack is over, treatment will be for restoring the proper functions of the deficient parts. Food cures for treating cold excess are to warm the lungs, resolve phlegm and relieve asthma. Foods for treating heat excess are to clear lung heat, resolve phlegm and relieve asthma. For treating lung deficiencies, foods to invigorate kidney are used because kidney is considered to be the main source of qi for lungs. When there is sufficient qi, it can prevent abnormal flow of qi and asthma attacks.

Steamed Banana with Rock Sugar

SYMPTOMS   

Chronic cough

THERAPUTIC EFFECTS

Stops coughing. 

INGREDIENTS

  • Bananas – 2 to 3
  • Rock sugar – to taste (30 to 60gm)

DIRECTIONS

1.   Remove skin of bananas and cut into one inch sections.

2.   Break rock sugar into smaller pieces.

3.   Put both ingredients inside a bowl with water half covering the banana.

4.   Place the bowl inside a pot or a steamer to steam for 10 minutes.

5.   Remove bowl, let cool down a bit and serve.

USAGE:

Take once every evening for one week to see best results.

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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 Fall Season in Chinese Medicine, you can find it here - The Fall Season in Chinese Medicine.

 


Fall Lung Recipe - American Ginseng & Chicken Soup

By Vicky Chan of NourishU

Cooking in the Fall Season

Fall is the time when dryness and cooler temperatures predominate. This is also the time of year when your lungs are most vulnerable to attack. Symptoms related to dryness include coughing with sputum, dry nose and throat, dry skin and lips, chest pain and dry stools.

It is important to increase the intake of soothing fluids to balance the effect of external dryness. The cooling temperatures can increase your appetite, especially for meat, but it is important to change gradually from a diet high in vegetables and fruit over summer months to one that is a mix of meat and vegetables so that the digestive system can adjust more easily. In fall, eat less eggplant because they can turn the digestive system sluggish.

The following superfoods are highly recommended to be taken more in fall to counter the dry seasonal effects.

Fresh Lily Bulb

Excellent for moisturizing lungs and is regarded as vegetable ginseng because of its high protein, phosphate, potassium, calcium and rich multivitamin content.

Red Dates/Jujube

Promote energy, reduce stress on the liver, benefit the formation and maintenance of the bloodstream, body hormones, bones, muscles, skin, hair, body enzymes, and neurotransmitters.

Sweet Potatoes

High in fiber and nutritional content can help to prevent constipation and adding pounds.

Goji-berries

Goji-berries have many health benefits and can improve immune functions to prevent sickness.

Pears

Excellent in lowering heat and moisturizing lungs, prevent cough and clear phlegm.

Pumpkin

Moisturizing, strengthen stomach and spleen functions.

American Ginseng Chicken Soup

American Ginseng / Image from nootriment.com

Symptoms

Lack of energy, easily tired, dry mouth and throat, lack of appetite and profuse perspiration.

Therapeutic Effects

Clears, moisturizes and tonifies the lungs, strengthens the spleen and builds blood.

Ingredients (2 to 3 servings)

  • Chicken - one whole
  • Ginger - 40gm
  • American ginseng 花旗參 - 20gm
  • Pitted red dates 紅棗 - 4

Chinese Red Dates / Image from katjuju.com

Directions

  1. Wash chicken, cut into halves and remove skin and fat. Put chicken in boiling water to boil for 5 minutes, remove and rinse.
  2. Wash other ingredients and put all ingredients in a pot with adequate water (about 3 liters) and bring to a boil. Remove foam, reduce heat and simmer for 2 to 3 hours to about 3 cups of soup left.
  3. Add salt to serve and drink soup mainly.

Usage

Suitable for the whole family.


The Benefits of Breastfeeding

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Chinese medicine has always seemed like such a logical, common sense approach to medicine, at least to me. It takes what is natural and enhances and supports it to gain the maximum benefits. Whenever I am wondering about something, or how to tackle a problem or health concern, I always go back to nature because while nature may not always be kind, in my opinion, it is always right.

Human beings were brilliantly designed. Chinese medicine believes that the body has its own intelligence (that far exceeds our own which we attribute mostly to our brains), and this is what is really at the heart of the philosophy of Chinese medicine. It is also one of the reasons that it works so well, even now, 4000+ years after its inception. And so, when we look at having babies, it is the same. The body amazingly, has everything it needs to create life and nourish it after it comes into the world. All we have to do is support our bodies and give them what they need, and if everything is in balance and working properly, we are able to have babies and feed them everything they need to grow and develop into healthy children and hopefully, adults.

this sweet image from todaysparent.com

Breastfeeding Statistics

Recently, I was reading an article about the results of a study analyzing global trends in breastfeeding. I was surprised when it cited some statistics on the percentage of women who breastfed. In fact, it stated that only one in two hundred women in the UK breastfeed their babies until they are a year old. That is 0.5 percent and is in fact, the lowest rate anywhere in the world. The article continued...

To put that in context: 27 percent in the U.S., 35 percent in Norway and 44 percent in Mexico were still breastfeeding after one year. The rates were remarkably higher in much of the developing world, with Senegal (99.4 percent), Gambia (98.7 percent) and Malawi (98.3 percent) topping the league table.

The interesting thing to me as I read the article was that breastfeeding rates were far higher in countries that were poor compared to wealthier countries where breastfeeding rates were much lower. The truth is, that women is poorer countries breastfeed because that's what they have always done, for generations. Breastfeeding is not only free, but has immense health benefits for both mama and baby. In wealthy countries like the United States, Canada and Europe pharmaceutical companies have managed to work their way into hospitals and very often new mother's are offered free formula and told it has many added benefits and that breastfeeding is inferior. Out of a desire to do what is best for their babies, mother's often take the formula and never look back. The formula company has now gained a customer, which, at least in my opinion, is the whole point.

I remember in my first pregnancy, I got offered more formula than I could ever want. It felt like every time I bought anything baby related, I ended up receiving boxes of formula on my doorstep, and I kept having to give it away. I actually found it pretty aggressive they way it would show up at my door, and I would receive email after email asking me to redeem my coupon for free formula because it was the best thing I could give my baby. I ended up taking all of the formula to the birth centre and offered it to the midwives. They said they didn't want it and politely asked me to take it away. Their thinking was that if a woman CAN breastfeed, she should. And I agree.

Breastfeeding is Not Always Easy

It has been humbling for me to have studied and practiced Chinese medicine for many years, and having treated many pregnant patients because I had some very definite ideas about things, like breastfeeding. I was all about the breastfeeding and knew I would breastfeed my children for as long as I could. But when I had my first baby, I had a really hard time with it. We both struggled, and he finally gave up after five months. At that point I had to supplement with formula which was devastating, and at the time, felt like a failure. With my second baby - who is now two months old - breastfeeding is going smashingly. I thoroughly enjoy my time feeding her (it is a wonderful time to bond with her cuteness) and she is gaining weight and growing like a weed. A completely different experience from that with my first baby. Why has it been so different? Am I more confident as a mother? Yes. Do I still have anxieties about my ability to be awesome and provide for their every need? Of course. Am I under different stresses than I was when I had my first baby? Certainly. Does common sense and intellect go out the window when your hormones are all over the place and you haven't slept for more than 3 hours at a time? Absolutely. The answer is probably a combination of the above as well as the fact that every baby is different. I am just grateful that this time things are easier, for both mama and baby. If being a parent has taught me anything, it is not to be too rigid with my ideas. Being flexible is how you maintain your sanity. It is a constant battle. :)

So, why is it that the numbers of women in wealthy countries who breastfeed are so low?? Well, let me be honest. In my opinion, pregnancy and especially childbirth have been so medicalized (if you would like to watch a sobering film on the subject, watch The Business of Being Born) - that women are taught that they cannot trust their bodies and that doctors always know better. And when it comes to breastfeeding, the pharmaceutical companies now have their formula in hospitals where it is pushed on new mothers who are often overwhelmed, unsure of what to do and wanting to do what is best for their babies. The problem is, and I will be frank, pharmaceutical companies have a profit motive, and are more interested in making money than making sure your baby is getting everything it needs to grow and develop into a healthy toddler. So, if you must use formula, please do your research. Below is an excellent recipe for a home made formula as well as a very good store bought formula with clean ingredients.

The Benefits of Breastfeeding

Mother's milk is the best thing you can feed your baby. It has everything the baby needs nutritionally (granted mama has a good diet), and gives baby immunity to infection and disease. Colostrum, the fluid that mother's produce in the first days after birth, is the best thing you can give your baby and is an important part of building up their brand new immune systems. Ideally, breast milk is high in fats which your baby needs to nourish their growing brain and nervous systems. Breastfeeding also serves an important emotional purpose as it is a time  for bonding between a mother and her baby which releases hormones that strengthen that bond like oxytocin. Breastfeeding helps the new mother lose her baby weight as well as protecting her from osteoporosis and breast cancer later on. Breastfeeding is also inexpensive (although your investment is in your diet to ensure your breastmilk is the healthiest it can be for your babe), as well as being convenient (you never run out) as well as highly portable (you have a supply everywhere you go!).

Breastfeeding and The Mother's Diet

There is a misconception that new mother's don't need to worry about what they eat, and that their breast milk will have everything that their babies need. This is simply not true. What a mother eats has a huge impact on the quality of her milk and ultimately, how her baby will grow and develop. Mother's milk should contain long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCP) which are important for a developing nervous system and cognitive health. Because these long chain fatty acids are stored in the retina an brain, a deficiency can lead to visual problems and learning disabilities. Some of the best sources of LCP's are arachidonic acid (AA) of the omega-6 family, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) of the omega-3 family and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), also of the omega-3 family. Vitamins and minerals are also of vital importance for breastfeeding mothers and the best way to get everything you need is from a healthy and varied diet. Eating organic (foods free of genetic alterations, pesticides and such), foods that grow locally and are in season and that are fresh are the best foods to consume - when you are breastfeeding and at all times for good health. Breastfeeding mothers also need to be getting at least an extra 500 calories a day when they are breastfeeding as it is depleting, so eat up mama! Processed foods should always be avoided, especially processed oils, soy (which is a hormone disruptor amongst other things), and processed sugar (which is in so many processed foods). Also be sure to take caution not to be around any environmental toxins, or things like commercial paints, cleaning products or airborne pollutants. Think of your diet during both pregnancy and breastfeeding as the best investment in your child's (and your) overall health.

The Importance of Water


If you would like this sassy bottle, you can buy it here

One thing that the midwives drilled into me when I was breastfeeding was how important it was to get enough water. Their advice was to always have a very large glass of water beside me wherever I was breastfeeding and to finish it all. Every time your baby eats, you need to be drinking water, and the cleanest and purest water possible. When I was a child, I fondly remember going with my grandparents to a nearby spring to collect drinking water in clear jugs. I remember how amazing it tasted and am so glad that I was able to drink such wonderful, pure water when I visited them (they lived in the Laurentian mountains in Quebec). When I was living in the U.S. I remembered this and found an awesome website - Find A Spring -  where you can do a search for the location of a natural spring where you can get clean water near you. I believe that they post springs from all over the world and you are able to submit a spring if you know of one near you. It is a wonderful resource, so please check it out. The water we drink is so important to our health! I am so grateful to this website for the service they offer all of us for the good of our collective health.

One Last Thought

Not everyone wants to breastfeed for their own reasons. Of course, the choice is up to each individual. In some cases, there are women who are not able to breastfeed and must rely on formula to feed their babies. If this is the case, here is a link to what I think is one of the healthiest formulas you can give your child, and you can make it yourself. Home made baby formula.

If you must use store bought formula, try to find one that is organic (free of GMO's) and especially, free of soy. A good one is Earth's Best Organic Infant Formula.

Despite the good intentions of friends and family members, as well as some doctors and midwives, sometimes new mother's can receive a lot of unsolicited "advice". This can be overwhelming and, depending on the delivery, hurtful. Motherhood is wonderful, but often an overwhelming responsibility, especially at first. So let me give you some unsolicited advice. Mother's should trust themselves and their instincts and that they ultimately know what is best for their babies. If you are struggling with something regarding your baby, speak to someone you trust and who will not be judgmental and talk it through with them. Do not isolate yourself, there are millions of mother's out there, so whatever you may be struggling with, just know you are not alone. In an environment of information overload, I always go back to nature. Breastfeeding your baby is one of the best things you can do for them, for many reasons. It is also some of the best time you will get to spend with them in the very brief time that they are babies.

 

**The lovely featured image from motherrisingbirth.com