Not Even The Chinese Doctor Can Save Him! The History of Chinese Medicine in Cuba

by John Voigt

The History of Chinese Medicine in Cuba

Throughout Cuba there is a common slang expression people use when someone is thought to be incurably sick: ¡A Ese No lo Salva, Ni el Medico Chino!  - Not Even The Chinese Doctor Can Save Him!

Not many know the origins of this phrase, or the man behind it. But that phrase and that man helped lay the foundation for an alternative healthcare revolution within a revolutionary country. In China he was born Chang Pon Piang. Having trouble pronouncing it,  Cubans called him Cham Bom Biam. Then to give himself a Spanish sounding name he called himself Juan Chambombián. We begin with a summary of the adventures of his life:

His Early History

Chang Pon Piang was born as one of the Hakka people, an ethnic group found in the Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Macau areas of southeastern China.  In the mid-nineteenth century these areas, along with most the rest of China, were in chaos: the last of the Opium Wars with Great Britain still raged; technological changes to the farming system put many out of work; there was a dramatic increase in the size of population. All that along with widespread political discontentment, natural disasters, banditry, and ethnic strife led many young people to look for work overseas.

Chang grew fascinated with the advertisements he saw that promised a better life by working in Cuba.  All that was needed was to sign an eight year contract. (Only men could sign. Chinese women were not allowed to enter Cuba.)

What was not mentioned on the posters was that this was no more than a scheme to trap unsuspecting young men into an eight year long indentured servitude at the pay of four pesos a month. Once in Cuba the émigré was usually sent to large sugar plantations and once there was treated like a indentured slave, (or “coolie” - 苦力; pinyin: kǔlì) meaning "bitter work" or "bitter use of force.”

The situation was so severe that in 1873 the imperial Chinese government sent investigators to Cuba to investigate the large number of suicides by Chinese laborers, as well as allegations of abuse and breach of contract by plantation owners. Shortly after, the Chinese labor trade was prohibited and the last ship carrying Chinese laborers reached Cuba in 1874. By 1877 a treaty was signed between China and Spain completely banning the contracting system. [Source]

In 1854 Chang Pon Piang entered Cuba with a contract for agricultural work in the province of Guamacaro, in the western province of Matanzas. Chang as many other Chinese of the time was familiar with herbal medicines. He had a working knowledge of the healing properties of certain herbs, roots, bark, leaves, grasses, fruits, even shells. Legend has it that as a field worker he was able to prepare medicines made from the roots of shrubs and tubers that saved many lives.

In 1858, four years before the contract was supposed to be over, somehow he escaped his servitude and began practicing medicine in Havana. His knowledge of botanical medicine served him well for the preparation of herbal teas, poultices, ointments, powders, soaps, and healing incenses.

He also knew about arsenic, mercury, and opium. This knowledge may have lead to his eventual downfall.

He grew successful in Havana; not only Chinese, but now Spanish, Afro-Cubans and people of mixed blood came to him for help. Other doctors began losing patients and because of that, along with a jealousy  triggered by Chambombián’s successes, they began a series of law suits against him. In 1863 Juan Chambombián was accused of the illegal practice of medicine. It was claimed that he was  practicing medicine without a license (which was probably true), and that he had just received a consignment of medicinal drugs from Chinese suppliers in San Francisco, California. To his accusers the techniques of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) seemed bizarre, no more than unbelievable occult garbage. (“Imagine making medicine out of weeds, such utter nonsense.”) But what really made it unacceptable for the other doctors is that these “bogus” methods all too often worked better than their own!

in 1864 he was placed on trial. The judge and jury agreed with the doctors and Juan Chambombián was found guilty.  He lost his home and was forced to stay with Chinese friends. He soon he relocated fifty-six miles away to Matanzas and undaunted again began practicing Chinese Traditional Medicine (TCM).  There he lived on 11 Calle Mercaderes (11 Merchants Street) in the Chinese district of that city. Again the allegations of practicing illegal medicine were raised; to his enemies he was no more than a charlatan, a mountebank, an unscrupulous foreigner cheating other people. With new court trials pending against him—and because of his having few patients—in either 1871 or 1872 (accounts differ) he moved to  Cárdenas, which had a large Chinese population. There he continued to develop his own medicines. He is said to have used rhubarb, aconite, sulfur, arsenic, and opium— along with folk medicines native to Cuba, and especially to its Afro-Cuban population—in his extensive collections of healing formulations along with the TCM medications he still continued to import from San Francisco.  He also worked at and operated a Chinese pharmacy, which gave him a way to make money and to find more patients for his private practice.

It was said he had a number of miraculous cures of clients said to be terminally ill by western doctors: those who had been blind could now see: those with paralyzed arms or legs could now move them. His fame began to spread throughout Cuba. Most likely it was during this time that the expression, Not Even The Chinese Doctor Can Save Him!—(meaning that a person was in such bad shape that not even a miracle worker such as Juan Chambombián could help them)—appeared.

To promote his own medical and business activities he would travel back and forth the ninety-seven miles between the cities of Cárdenas, Matanzas and Havana. In a Matanzas newspaper the following appeared:

CHAMBOMBIAN, this old Chinese doctor, authorized as a botanist by the government, sent a card to a newspaper of Matanzas in which he announced that he had invented a medicine to cure fevers and a patch to treat rheumatism. He also announced that he would next visit Matanzas, a city where he was well known and to whose inhabitants he offered his services, from his home at Calle Dragones 94 in Havana.

A month later in the same newspaper the following appeared (one should not be surprised if the enterprising Juan Chambombián had written both of these notices himself and paid for their publication):

Your enlightened mind and gifts exalt

your knowledge and appliance,

intelligence, and science,

to win applause from the world of thought;

a monument to you well wrought

where your historic fame will rest,

where memories will be the best

the living spirit to preserve;

itself enriched it will observe

with the laurels of your glorious quest.

Signed: Some friends.

Dr. Juan Chambombián was described as a tall statuesque man, with a solemn, if at times, bombastic bearing. He had small penetrating eyes, a slightly drooping mustache and a small skimpy goatee at the end of a long sloping chin. He spoke Spanish and some English with a quirky Chinese accent in a formal but artificial literary style. He dressed professionally in the manner of a western doctor: jacket, top-hat and loose fitting linen frock coat, which he often carried formally draped over his arm.  But he never forgot his humble past: when people came to him for medical treatments he would say, “If you have the money you pay. If you have no money you do not pay. I am no more than one simple man giving medicine to someone else.”

His Death: Was He Murdered?

One morning in 1872 (the exact date is unknown) Juan Chambombián was found dead in his home, in Cardenas.  He lived alone. He had seemed perfectly healthy the day before, and no cause of death could be determined.

Rumors began to spread. Given the lack of any physical trauma to his body it seemed likely that he had been poisoned—but by whom? There were many possibilities:  perhaps an irate local doctor infuriated that Juan Chambombián had taken away his clientele. Or perhaps by the relatives of a patient whom he was not able to save with his herbal medicines. It was possible that the death was accidental, that he was trying one of his newly prepared experimental medicines and it proved deadly. Or perhaps seeking longevity he prepared and drank some exotic version of a Daoist elixir of immortality—but the recipes for such elixirs might contain toxic substances such as lead, arsenic, and mercury, all chemicals which he owned. Or possibly he as many other Chinese in Cardenas became depressed and committed suicide.

And there had been whispered stories of a love affair gone wrong. He had children by eight different concubines. (No one knew the total number of lovers he had throughout his life. There are no extant records of his ever having married. At that time it was illegal for any Chinese person to marry a Caucasian; and back in China having many concubines was a common custom for rich men.)  One popular story had it that he was secretly murdered by one of his jilted mulatto concubines by her use of some secret African poison. Rumor also had it that it was she was the same person who had taught him the use of certain medicinal herbs. Others said she had brought about his death by the use of a Santeria curse. (Santeria is a cult like religion, a fusion of Yoruba [Nigerian] gods and goddess with holy figures taken from the Catholic Church.)

Santeria Central Havana / Author Bernardo Capellini / Source - Wikipedia Commons

A recent source  says that he is buried in the Chinese Cemetery in the Nuevo Vedado section of Havana (at Calle 26 & Zapata, Calle 26), and that the grave site is often covered with flowers or other offerings left by people hoping to be cured of some incurable disease.

It is no surprise that such a flamboyant and exceptional person as Dr. Juan Chambombián—along with the TCM that he practiced—would have its critics,  especially among the privileged upper classes. For example, sixteen years after his death he was mentioned in the lowest of terms as being a faith healer (which he was not) in a speech at the meeting in Havana of the Anthropological Society on March 4, 1888:

Even today among the most civilized nations abound in the lower classes of people, healers who exploit the innate good faith in men to cure diseases with a mixture of empirical remedies, and religious or mystical formulas that are a real medicine imagination; such as examples the treatment of erysipelas [an acute bacterial infection of the skin] saying prayers and making crosses on the diseased part, the various cures of Lourdes, trumpeted in all shades, and among us, not long ago, the supposed wonders of Chinese famous Chambombián.

Source: Revista Cubana: periódico mensual de ciencias, filosofía ... Volumen 7.

 

NOT EVEN THE CHINESE DOCTOR CAN SAVE HIM!  Began to be used to refer to other famous Chinese physicians of the 19th Century, although none ever would gain the legendary status of Juan Chambombián.  

Kan Shi Kom lived in at the corner of Rayo and San Jose streets in Havana. He died in 1885. According to historian Antonio Chuffat Latour the great pomp of his funeral made history in the city.

However not all stories about Chinese doctors are favorable.  According to one such fanciful tale, an unnamed doctor (some say it was Kan Shi Kom, others that it was Juan Chambombián—actually it is unclear who the doctor was or even if the story is true). In any case, the doctor is said to have made a decoction using the stems of the tronquillos verdes plant, which people called “chopsticks” because of its appearance.  He taught the preparation to a colleague, a Spanish doctor who soon after made some, drank it and died.  In the story, the inscription on the tomb of the unfortunate dead man read, "Here lies, against his will, Pancho Perez Vitaluga:  Good husband, good father, bad drinker. Died by helping the Chinese doctor." When the Chinese doctor, whoever it was, heard about the death, he was nonplused. Without showing any concern for the other man and just being concerned about his own medication all he said was, “Carumba! It seems that stick is poisonous.”  (¡Calamba, palece que ese palito son veneno! ).  And so was born another popular Cuban slang expression. [Source]

Chang Bu Bian - Don Damián Morales.  Some say this man was the Chinese doctor referred to in the saying “Not Even the Chinese Doctor Can Save Him!”  Beginning August 20th 1856 a series of Apocalyptic earthquakes accompanied by torrential rain storms struck Santiago de Cuba. To the inhabitants it seemed as if the world was ending. Many others from all over the island came to help, but unknowingly they brought with them cholera.  Throughout October the disease quickly spread. November brought new earthquakes and storms and even more occurrences of the disease. (By the end of the epidemic 2,000 people had died.) City Health employees refused to move the corpses to the cemetery. Sometimes the bodies of the victims remained for days crushed under the bricks of fallen buildings. Prisoners had to be brought from Havana to remove the rubble and bury the bodies in mass graves.

Near the peak of the epidemic, and seemingly in answer to the prayers of those still alive,  there appeared an apparent miracle worker: an Asian man claiming to be a doctor; but he didn’t give out any pills or powders, he only used a strange kind of massage never seen before. In fact what he was practicing was his version of tuina (massage) techniques he learned from a classic Chinese text of the sixteenth century, the  T'uei na pi-kieu, or Treaty of Massage.   

His massage was tortuously painful. With his index finger and thumb of his left hand he pressed certain tender points and tendons in the armpits of the patient and forcibly vibrated the flesh. At the same time with his right hand he pulled the skin over the larynx (Adam’s apple) producing a hematoma (a solid swelling of clotted blood within the tissues). He then would vigorously rub the patient’s shoulder blades and spine with his arms, elbows and knees. The patients suffered, but many of them were healed. [Source: “Cuban Characters.” thecubanhistory.com]

Chinese Siam - Juan de Dios Siam Zaldívar. Coming from Beijing in 1840 he originally was known by the names “Sián” or “El Siam”, or “Chinese Siam.” Unlike most other Chinese immigrants, he entered Cuba with 20,000 Spanish gold pesos. Using his version of TCM he brought about many cures, which not surprisingly frightened certain inhabitants of Santa María del Puerto del Príncipe, the city in which he lived. Rumors spread that he was some sort of a black magic wizard in league with strange demonic forces. But all that changed when during a religious procession, El Siam unexpectedly knelt before a statue of the Virgin of Veracruz; after which he was considered a Christian.  He made it official by being baptized on April 25, 1850, taking on the name Juan de Dios Siam Zaldívar—but remaining true to ancient customs, he signed his new name with a Chinese calligraphy brush. He had two families, one with his wife, a white woman, and another with a black mistress. Today descendants of both branches are proud of their famous ancestor. Possessing a great fortune, he died in 1885.

[Source]

These legends about the outstanding Chinese doctors of the nineteenth century helped create a foundation for the widespread use of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in 21st century Cuba. This is addressed in my next article, Traditional Chinese Medicine in Today’s Cuban Health Care.

This entry originally appeared as part of “Traditional Chinese Medicine in Cuba” in Qi Journal, vol. 26/3; autumn 2016. 

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Images

Juan Chambombián in Chinese clothing.
Source: https://www.artsy.net/show/taikang-space-portrait-hot-taikang-photography-collection

Juan Chambombián as a young man of about 20 years old soon after his arrival in Havana in 1854.
The photography was damaged in a hurricane.
Source: http://hojassdeprensa.blogspot.com/2011/09/cham-bom-bia-el-famoso-medico-chino-de.html

Juan Chambombián in his western doctor suit.
October 20, 2010 Opus Habana Magazine.

Santeria Centro Habana / Author Bernardo Capellini
Source: Wikipedia Commons

Author John Voigt in Havana at a paladar (a small private restaurant in a family home) mulling over
the cause of the death of Dr. Juan Chambombián.
Source: Author.

Chinese cemetery in Havana where Juan Chambombián is buried.
Source: Tripadvisor.  

 



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


Detoxifying & Balancing 6 Vegetable Stir-Fry

By Vicky Chan of NourishU

Detoxifying and Balancing

Toxins are a fact of life, but taking proactive actions to expel them and not allowing them to accumulate in our body can make a big difference. The best approach to detoxify is to eat fresh clean food with high fiber and antioxidant content, drinking plenty of good clean water to flush the system and passing bowel at least once or twice daily. Exercising and taking sauna bath occasionally are all effective in helping the body to expel toxins through sweating.

Eating foods such as carrot, pumpkin, garlic, seaweed, green tea and foods with high vitamin C content such as oranges, lemon, leafy green vegetables, water chestnuts, etc. are excellent in cleaning out heavy metals from our body such as lead. Blueberry is high in anti-oxidant but purple or black glutinous rice is even higher in vitamin E and anti-oxidants.

To get the most disease-fighting antioxidants from fruits and vegetables, choose those with color; usually the deeper the color, the more antioxidants. Also fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables have more antioxidants than those that are canned, processed or heated.

Therapeutic Effects

Benefits all five organs, balancing yin and yang.

Ingredients

  • Chinese broccoli 芥蘭 – 3 to 4 stems
  • Bitter melon 涼瓜 - half
  • Lotus root 蓮藕 – a small section
  • Carrot 甘筍 – one
  • Fresh mushrooms 鮮磨菇 - 6
  • Fresh lily buds 鮮百合 - 2

Directions

1.   Wash all ingredients. Cut broccoli stems, bitter melon, lotus root, carrot and mushrooms into thin slices.

2.   Remove stems of lily bulb to separate petals and cut out any blackened edges.

3.    Heat a spoonful of oil in a wok to stir-fry carrot, broccoli, lotus root and bitter melon together. Sprinkle in a spoonful of cooking wine and a spoonful of water and cook for a few minutes or to desire softness.

4.   Add mushroom to cook for a few more minutes. Add seasoning (salt, sugar, pepper, sesame oil and a little oyster sauce) and mix well.

5.   Mix in lily and add a little corn starch water to finish.

Usage

No restrictions.

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Featured imagePhoto by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

 


Chrysanthemum & Licorice Tea for Liver Detoxification

By Vicky Chan of NourishU

Liver/ Gallbladder Disease

The liver is the sole organ in promoting and detoxifying the blood. Promoting liver health is similar to promoting blood. Spring is the best season to address liver health because it is the beginning of a new cycle of growth and the liver needs to produce more blood to support the growth. To protect and improve liver health, we need to observe the following guideline:

1. Drink More Water

Water is important to keep fluid moving and to clean out toxins from the body. Water helps in digestion, circulation of nutrients and detoxification of blood. The more toxins we can clean out of the body, the lesser burden it will be for the liver. Green color foods can increase the detoxifying function and mung bean is the best choice. Cooking mung beans in boiling water for 5 to 6 minutes and drink the green water regularly throughout spring and summer is best to support detoxification and can cool down internal heat.

2. Eat A Regular, Balanced Diet

Both overeating or under eating can cause abnormal production of digestive enzymes and bile by the liver, therefore affecting its normal function. Foods should be bland in taste in spring and not too hot or spicy. It is best to eat more fruits and vegetables.

3. Not Too Much Alcohol

Moderate drinking can uplift liver yang energy but too much alcohol can damage the liver by giving it too many things to detoxify.

4. Stay Positive and Be Happy

Anxiety, anger, sad and worry are the emotions that can cause suppression to liver energy and damage the liver. Controlling these emotions can give positive and uplifting energy to the liver so that it can work at its best.

5. Get Adequate Exercise

Light outdoor exercise in spring such as hiking, jogging, and tai-chi can promote blood circulation which is good for promoting liver function.

6. Eat Foods That Benefit The Liver

Foods such as chrysanthemum, animal's liver, goji-berries, angelica, etc. can lower liver heat and enrich the blood. Eating some sour taste foods can help to promote liver health but overdoing it can suppress liver energy.

The Liver in Environmental Illnesses

The importance of the gut flora in ill health is becoming increasingly obvious as it is implicated as a cause of an increasing number of illnesses. The health of the gut has a substantial impact on the health of the liver as everything absorbed from the intestines passes through the liver so that harmful substances can be detoxified before the rest of the body is exposed to them.

In one study by doctors at Biolab UK, 61% of sufferers of undiagnosed chronic illnesses with predominant fatigue were found to have overgrowth of both bacteria and yeast in the gut1. As a result of their normal metabolism, these micro-organisms produce waste products that in increased amounts can be harmful to the liver and the person’s health as a whole. Yeast in particular produce a large amount of ethanol (drinking alcohol) which is highly toxic to the liver, in fact, alcohol is the single most toxic substance to liver cells. As well as producing increased amounts of toxic substances for the liver to deal with, yeast or bacterial overgrowth also causes damage to the intestinal lining causing 'leaky gut'.

Increased gut permeability results in even more potentially toxic substances from the gut being absorbed to put further stress on the liver's detoxification pathways. A study of liver disease in alcoholics found that only the patients with a leaky gut developed cirrhosis of the liver2. This points to the possibility that in people with gut dysbiosis, not only is there chronic ingestion of alcohol but the leaky gut caused by bacterial and/or yeast overgrowth leads to more severe effects on the liver from the alcohol produced. If the liver is overwhelmed by toxins from the gut and from chemicals in everyday use it won't function correctly and may even become damaged and inflamed. As a result, not all toxins entering the liver are detoxified and gain access to the bloodstream to travel anywhere in the body. These toxins and the excess of free radicals (highly reactive forms of oxygen) caused by poor liver function can cause direct damage to tissues and also initiate allergic or auto-immune reactions. Un-neutralized toxins are also expelled into the bile in this situation and can further damage the intestinal lining, setting up a vicious cycle in which gut dysbiosis and leaky gut cause poor liver function which in turn worsens the gut dysbiosis and leaky gut.

As mentioned earlier, the liver requires large amounts of energy and nutrients to function efficiently. If the liver is overwhelmed by toxins, these nutrients can become depleted and the liver will function inefficiently resulting in numerous symptoms and problems throughout the body. Many of these nutrients can be replaced by supplementation, improving the functioning of the liver. There are also a number of herbs and other methods that can heal a damaged liver and improve detoxification functions.

Herbs for the Liver

Milk Thistle (Silymarin)

Milk Thistle for Liver Health : Chinese Medicine LivingThis lovely image from medicinalplantsindia.com

The milk thistle plant contains silymarin and related flavonoids which are some of the most potent liver-protecting substances known. These flavonoids are powerful antioxidants so protect the liver from damaging toxins and free radicals. They also stimulate healing and the production of new liver cells and cause the liver to increase production of glutathione, the bodies most important antioxidant and detoxifying substance. Silymarin has been proven to both protect liver cells and repair existing damage in animals intoxicated with mushroom toxins, medicines, heavy metals or toxic organic solvents3. Human studies have also shown decreased mortality in patients with alcoholic liver damage who are treated with silymarin3. Milk thistle is commonly available in capsule or tincture form and a common dose would be 200mg 2/3 times per day. For hepatitis and cirrhosis doses of 400mg or more 3 times per day are common.

Burdock

Burdock for Liver Health : Chinese Medicine LivingThis lovely image from commonsensehome.com

Burdock contains a number of nutrients important to liver function. These include vitamins B1, B6 and B12 which are essential for the function of phase 1 liver detoxification's pathways, vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant and sulphur which is essential for a number of important phase 2 liver detoxification pathways in which potent toxins created by phase 1 detoxification are neutralized. Phase 2 pathways requiring sulphur include those utilizing glutathione. Burdock also contains other substances such as arctiin which act to improve liver and gallbladder function.

Dandelion

Dandelion for Liver Health : Chinese Medicine LivingThis lovely image from smallfootprintfamily.com

Clinical studies have shown dandelion extract to have protective effects against lipid peroxidation and free radicals, both damaging products of a poorly functioning liver4. Like burdock, dandelion contains a wealth of nutrients important to liver function, especially the B vitamins. It cleanses the liver and increases the production of bile. Dandelion is often used as a herbal treatment for all liver diseases of the liver including hepatitis, cirrhosis, and jaundice.

Hepatitis

Hepatitis is an infection or inflammation of the liver due to viruses of "A", "B" and "C". Drinking contaminated water or eating contaminated seafood can result in hepatitis A. It can easily spread through person-to-person contacts. Hepatitis B is usually contracted from bad blood or infected needles or sexual activity. Hepatitis C is always acquired from blood transfusions. The major symptoms are fever, flu-like symptoms, weakness, poor appetite, fatigue, dark urine and light-colored stools. Most people who got hepatitis can eventually recover with proper nutrition and complete rest. However, liver disease caused by alcohol can lead to death.

Chinese medicine sees hepatitis as damp heat invasion causing spleen dampness, liver energy congestion, blood coagulation, disharmony of liver and spleen, and liver-kidney yin deficiency. An Infectious virus, excessive alcohol consumption, and irregular eating habits can impair the normal functions of the spleen, therefore affecting liver and gallbladder's ability to regulate bile. Bile will then deposit in muscles, skin, bladder, creating yellowish eyes, face and urine. Treatments focus on clearing heat, removing dampness, harmonizing spleen, and nourishing yin. Herbs commonly prescribed are capillaris, atractylodes, aconite, persica, and carthamus.

Jaundice

Jaundice is a yellowish pigmentation of the skin. Jaundice is often seen in liver diseases such as hepatitis or liver cancer. It may also indicate obstruction of the biliary tract, for example by gallstones or pancreatic cancer. Turmeric in yellow curry is effective in treating jaundice.

The diet for people with liver disease should be low in protein, low fat and avoid raw fish and shellfish. Avoid spicy and highly processed foods. Sweet potatoes can lower the yellowish color in the skin. Foods that are diuretic, such as job's tear, are useful in removing dampness. Drinks made of bitter melon and dates are tonics for the liver. Dandelion and burdock are effective in cleansing the liver and the bloodstream. Licorice is used for treating viral hepatitis. Honey can promote proper functioning of liver cells, lower liver fat and promote proper circulation of blood and lower blood pressure. Green pepper and bitter melon are best for releasing liver fire with symptoms of red and dry eyes. White turnip soaked in vinegar can promote bile movement and help to secrete gall bladder stones and kill cancer cells.

Gallstones

Gallstones are formed by stagnant bile flows, secreted by the liver and passed to the gallbladder for storage. First, it formed sludge and then stones. When the stones are small, they will pass through into the intestines and out. If they are large and got stuck in the bile duct, they will cause a sharp, stabbing sensation. Most elderly people have gallstones due to excess cholesterol, high sugar and fat diet and overweight. Women on the pill are more likely to have gallstones. The symptoms are bloating, upper abdominal discomfort, flatulence and food intolerance.

Diet plays an important part in preventing the formation of gallstones and reduces the frequency of their attacks. The preventive diet consists of fruits, vegetables, fiber, no sugar, and little saturated or unsaturated fat. A vegetarian diet is recommended. Lemon juice with olive oil before bedtime will help to eliminate gallstones. Apple juice, pear juice, and beet juice are good for cleaning out the system. Sour white turnip promotes the production of bile and prevents the formation of gallstone. Walnut and celery can help to pass out small stones and so is sour plum juice.

Chrysanthemum & Licorice Tea

Chrysanthemum Flowers for Liver Health : Chinese Medicine Living

Chrysanthemum Flowers 

SYMPTOMS:

Eyes with white secretions at both corners of the eyes, especially upon waking up in the morning.

THERAPEUTIC EFFECTS:

Lowers liver heat and clear toxins in the eyes and liver.

Licorice Root : Chinese Medicine LivingLicorice Root : This lovely image from Mountain Rose Herbs

INGREDIENTS:

  • Chrysanthemum (ju hua) 菊花 – 30gm
  • Licorice (gan cao) 甘草 – 15gm

1.   Rinse herbs and cook both ingredients with 3 cups of water over medium heat down to one cup of tea (about 15 minutes).

2.   Strain and drink tea.

USAGE:

No restriction.

The beautiful featured image photo by Marisa Harris on Unsplash


Chestnut for Kidney Health

By Vicky Chan of NourishU

According to TCM, winter is the season for promoting kidney health. Kidneys have astringent and active storage functions which help in preserving energy. In winter, our body is also designed to better absorb rich and nutritional foods to stay warm and healthy. 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 lower back and ankles, winter is the best time to correct these health problems as it is when the body is most responsive to nutritional treatment. Winter food should be eaten with less salt to reduce work burden on the kidneys. Elderly people in particular should take winter/kidney tonics which can greatly improve their body constitution and promote better resistance to illness.

Winter/kidney tonics include superior warming herbs, fatty and meaty foods. Warming herbs such as dang shen, ginseng, astragalus, reishi mushroom, longan fruit and deer horn are most popular for promoting yang energy. Warming foods include chive, chicken, mutton, shrimp, ginger, garlic, walnut, mushroom, chestnut, mustard, vinegar, wine, gingko, red pepper and spring onion.

Chestnut for Kidney Health : Chinese Medicine Living

Chestnut is plentiful in winter and is best for making hearty soups and stews. Chestnut is warm in nature, sweet in taste and acts on the spleen, stomach and kidney. The following is my favourite winter recipe with chestnut which is very delicious but needs some work for preparing the chestnuts. It is well worth the effort!

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Pork Ribs, Shiitake Mushroom
and Chestnut Stew

Therapeutic Effects

  • Strengthens spleen
  • tonifies kidney
  • strengthens tendons
  • promotes blood circulation and stops bleeding
  • cures asthma, cough, back pain and diarrhea
  • promotes weight loss
  • protects the heart
  • lowers blood pressure and cholesterol
  • combats cancer

 

Chestnut for Liver : Chinese Medicine Living

Ingredients

(3 to 4 servings)

  • Chestnuts – about 20
  • Pork ribs or chicken pieces – about 400gm
  • Dried shiitake mushrooms – 6 to 8
  • Carrot – one
  • Minced ginger – 2 spoonfuls
  • Minced garlic – 2 spoonfuls
  • Spring Onion – 3 pieces
  • Dark soy sauce – 3 spoonfuls
  • Light soy sauce – 3 spoonfuls
  • Sugar – 2 spoonfuls
  • Sesame oil – one spoonful
  • Cooking oil – about 3 spoonfuls
  • Cooking wine – 2 spoonfuls
  • Potato starch – one spoonful

Directions

  1. Prepare chestnuts ahead of time by cutting a few crosses on the outer shell by using scissors. Then put chestnuts in a toaster oven (a few at a time) to bake on medium heat for about 10 minutes. Use a small knife to remove the shell and membrane together while still hot (please wear gloves!). The alternative method is to remove the hard shell first with a small knife, then put chestnuts with membrane in boiling water to cook for about 8 minutes. Strain and remove membrane while warm.
  2. Soak mushrooms for 30 minutes or until soft, rinse and slice into halves. Peel carrot and cut into pieces.
  3. Wash ribs/chicken pieces. Put them in boiling water to cook for a few minutes to remove foam and fat. Retrieve, rinse and strain.
  4. Warm one spoonful of oil in a skillet. Put chestnuts in, stir to brown for a few minutes (so chestnuts will not be so easily disintegrated when cooked), remove and put aside.
  5. Add one spoonful of oil to the skillet, put in half of the ginger and garlic to stir briefly and put in the mushrooms. Stir, add one spoonful of sugar to mix well and follow by one spoonful of cooking wine and half a cup of water. Cook for a couple of minutes and put aside.
  6. Add one spoonful of oil to the skillet, put in remaining ginger and garlic and ribs/chicken to stir for a couple of minutes. Add in remaining sugar, cooking wine and stir for a couple of minutes more and then add mushrooms, carrot and enough water just to cover everything. Add soy sauce, bring to a slow boil, cover with lid and simmer for about 30 minutes. Add chestnuts and simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes to just a little sauce is left. Add water if necessary.
  7. When the meat and chestnuts are cooked to the desired softness, add salt to taste if necessary. Wash and cut spring onion into sections and add to the cooking. Mix potato starch with 2 spoonfuls of water and sesame oil, add to the cooking and cook for another minute and serve.

 

Chestnut Recipe for Kidney : Chinese Medicine Living

USAGE

Serve with rice. No restrictions.

Chestnut for kidney health

* Featured image from paleohacks.com

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Chinese Herbs - Ancient Wisdom for the Modern World

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

A Brief History

Traditional Chinese Medicine is the oldest medical system on the planet. It predates the rise of the Roman empire, the discovery of electricity and the life of Jesus. The Chinese have been using herbs to treat illnesses for thousands of years, and that knowledge is still with us today and very much a part of the present system of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Chinese herbal medicine is a vital part of the broader umbrella of Chinese medicine which includes modalities like acupuncture, gua sha, moxibustion, cupping, auricular and tui na.

The first formal manual of pharmacology was the Shen Nong which lists 365 herbs and dates back to the Han dynasty in the first century. The next major and still most influential text on Chinese herbs was the Bencao Gangmu (Compendium of Materia Medica) written by Li Shizhen in the Ming dynasty in 1596.  The book was compiled over a forty year period and contains more than 1800 herbs, with 1,100 illustrations and 11,000 formulas.

Traditional Chinese Medicine - Chinese Herbs

Chinese herbalism is complex and can take a lifetime to master. Each herb has many different properties which interact with both the person taking them as well as the other herbs in the formula. Chinese herbs function much in the same way as acupuncture in that the goal is to rebalance the body using Qi (the body's intrinsic energy), Yin and Yang. Each herb has a thermal nature, a flavour, specific organs it acts upon and a direction in which it moves, and all must be balanced with incredible precision to achieve their desired outcome in the body. Because herbs are taken internally, they have a strong and often immediate effect and are incredibly powerful. They can be used in conjunction with acupuncture or other modalities, or alone, and are often chosen for chronic problems, long standing deficiencies or degenerative diseases because of their powerful nature.

The entire Chinese medical model has been developed over thousands of years (five thousand, actually), and it is not only a medical system, in its essence, it is a way of life. There is emphasis on living in harmony with ones environment, changing eating habits, sleeping patterns and workload depending on the seasons, keeping a healthy and balanced emotional life, exercising, meditating - they are all are part of the complete package to keep us healthy on every level. The Chinese also put great emphasis on prevention - encouraging people to live well so that illness never has a chance to develop which is very different from our present way of thinking in the West. Although there are many acupuncture protocols for correcting imbalances when we get sick, there are just as many for building immunity and keeping the body strong so it is able to fight off the constant barrage of bacteria and viruses we encounter on a daily basis. It is the same with herbs - there are countless formulas that are able to restore health once we have come down with an illness, but there are also many formulas and creative ways of combining herbs to create a strong barrier that is able to ward off illness and disease.

Chinese Herbs for Health & Longevity

Modern Applications

In the modern world we have lost much of that connection to the world around us, and I believe that is one of the reasons why we are suffering from diseases on an unprecedented scale. We are disconnected from the planet, from each other and most importantly, from ourselves. In our society, we often wait until we get sick before we seek out treatment or take steps to correct it. This is wildly different from the Chinese view in which people were more connected to the natural world and their bodies, noticing even small changes and knowing how to change their behaviour, what foods to eat, or herbs to use to rebalance at the early stages so that problems didn't get serious and require more drastic intervention. One great example is a company that has taken the wisdom of Chinese herbs and created a tonic that can be taken daily to improve health and longevity. The company is Imperial Tonics and they are taking powerful Chinese herbs and combining them into a tonic to be used for prevention by strengthening the body and building immunity.  The product is called Ancient Wisdom and it's something they refer to as a “tonic superfood". It comes as a powder making it convenient to add into smoothies and other drinks and contains some of the most powerful Chinese herbs you can get, including…

Astragalus IV

Astragalus IV is considered to be the ultimate nutricuetical developed in the world. Astragalus is known the world over for its strengthening abilities to the body. It is said to fortify and support the body's major energy meridians and the Three Burning Spaces and is a potent immune system modulating tonic.

Duanwood Reishi Spores

Known as the Mushroom of Immortality, Duanwood Reishi is grown in mountainous environments in Northern China on original, specific logs that are known to be twice as potent as conventional Reishi. The spores from Duanwood Reishi are gathered once a year towards the end of growing season and it is these cracked spores, studies show, that have seventy-times the immunological activity of conventional Reishi Mushrooms.

Schizandra

The Empress of Chinese herbalism, Schizandra contains all five classical flavours, tonifies all five yin organs of the body and possesses large amounts of all three treasures. It is said that if Schizandra is taken for 100 days continuously, it will sharpen the mind, purify the blood, improve memory, rejuvenate the Kidney Jing energy, and cause the skin to become radiantly beautiful. Today Schizandra is recognized for its broad-spectrum effects as a Phase I & II liver detoxifier, not only cleansing toxins from the liver but effectively binding to them and removing them from the body.

He Shou Wu

He Shou Wu, which translates as "Mr. He's Black Hair", is known in Chinese herbalism for it's role as a restorative. As legend goes, Mr. He was an old man who was unable to bear children. Upon seeing the vine of Polygonum growing intertwined in the forest he was advised by a Daoist monk to take it. Mr. He is said to have regained his virility, restored his health and return his hair to jet black hair when he was 130 years old.

Goji Berries

Goji berries have long been touted for the promotion of longevity. Goji is known for its role as a Yin Jing tonic to strengthen the blood and revitalize the body. The concentration of 40% Lycium Barbarum Polysaccharides has been shown to be the most beneficial concentration of Goji Berry polysaccharides. It is these polysaccharides that support SOD activity, known as the youth enzyme, and promote Goji's role as a longevity tonic.

After taking Ancient Wisdom for a few days I started to notice a difference. I was sleeping better, thinking more clearly, my concentration improved and I had more energy. After years of cooking up raw herbs - which although very potent, is time consuming and tastes terrible - it is really nice to have the option to put a scoop of herbal goodness into my smoothie and get on with my day knowing it is going to make me feel awesome. Imperial Tonics have done a great job of modernizing Chinese herbs and have made it easier and more accessible so that everyone can enjoy the benefits of these amazing herbs in a way that fits into our modern lifestyles.

I have been taking Chinese herbs for more than 20 years and I am continually humbled and consistently amazed at how profound and immediate their effects. I am always happy to see that more and more people, both regular folks and medical professionals, are discovering the limitless applications of the enormous body of knowledge that is Chinese Herbal Medicine. I believe that if we come to realize the magnitude of our planets ability to heal us, that we will work harder to keep the earth that we all call home protected and show it the love and respect it deserves.

Yin Yang Chinese Medicine


Treating Infections with Herbal Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac

We all occasionally succumb to infections. Thankfully nature always gives us ways to heal and recover. I am continually amazed at the healing properties of plants and am convinced that every ailment out there has a plant based cure.

Herbs can be used in 2 ways to treat infections; through their anti-microbial action they work directly against microbes and in addition, they increase and the body's defences helping it to better fight things on its own. Fortunately, in most cases they will be performing both functions at the same time.

Myrrh is an example of an herb which combines direct toxic action on bacteria with the ability to stimulate our body's production of white blood cells - or leucocytes - which are an integral part of the immune system and do the majority of the defensive work in the body. Other actions that are indicated in treating infections are those that help to eliminate toxins, such as diaphoretics (things that make you sweat), laxatives and diuretics. Any accumulation of waste materials and toxins are the perfect environment for microbes to breed in. Most herbs can play a role in treating infections.

When treating infections, it is always important to treat the underlying cause and not the symptoms. This is at the root of Chinese Medicine as well. The symptoms are the clues that tell you what is happening in the body. For example, a fever should not be seen as something that needs to be stopped immediately, the fever is often a symptom of the healing process which should be supported, not suppressed. The body has an incredible intelligence and most often knows what to do without our interference. Here is a basic mixture that helps the body work through a fever.

Herbal Remedy for Fever

Boneset - 2 parts
Yarrow - 2 parts
Echinacea - 1 part

Parts refers to the amount of herb mixture used per cup of water. 1 teaspoonful of the mixture per cup of water should be simmered for 10 minutes to make a decoction. Drink half a cup as hot as possible every 2 hours.

Echinacea is included to help the body deal with any microbes, but the simple use of diaphoretics (things that make you sweat) like Boneset and Yarrow are often enough. If the diaphoretic strength needs to be increased, you can add a pinch of Cayenne. If the glands are swollen indicating lymphatic involvement, thenMarigold or Cleavers can be included. If the mucous membranes are involved, Golden Seal can be added as a useful general tonic and is specifically helpful to dry things up. If there is a lot of restlessness, then nervine relaxants like Chamomile and Skullcap can be included. These mixtures can be used not only in fevers where the cause is not clear, but also in diseases such as chicken pox, measles or scarlet fever.  This is because herbs do not simply stop the disease, they bring balance to an unbalanced system. Thus the same herbs  may suit a range of  people with a range of infectious diseases.

If the skin is itching, the irritation may be eased by sponging the body with diluted distilled Witch Hazel. In more intransigent viral infections such as glandular fever, a most beneficial mixture that can help even if the problem has turned into a low level, debilitating weakness  that might go on for months is as follows:

Echinacea - 2 parts
Poke Root - 2 parts
Wild Indigo - 2 parts
Wormwood - 2 parts
Myrrh - 1 part

Parts refers to the amount of herb mixture used per cup of water. 1 teaspoonful of the mixture per cup of water should be simmered for 10 minutes to make a decoction. Drink half a cup as hot as possible every 2 hours.

The mixture should be drunk 3 times a day. If you do not like its unpleasant taste, you can mask it with the use of Licorice.

In any infection, you should increase your intake of vitamin C to at least 2g daily. Vitamin B complex should be included and Garlic (preferably raw) should be added to the diet. Garlic is especially helpful when you feel the first signs of illness. You can take a clove and crush it into a spoon and swallow. This will usually fight off what is trying to take up residence. A diet of fruits, fruit juices and vegetables is important for nutrition. Sometimes fasting is advisable during an infection (but not if you have never fasted before). It is best to continue with the medication for a short while after recovery to make sure that the body is fully rebalanced.

Definitions:

Diaphoretics

Diaphoretics aid the skin in the elimination of toxins and promote perspiration.

Laxatives

Laxatives promote the evacuation of the bowels

Diuretics

Diuretics increase the secretion and elimination of urine.

Herbs

Boneset

Boneset is perhaps the best remedy for the relief of the associated symptoms that accompany influenza. It will speedily relieve the aches and pains as well as aid the body in dealing with any fever that is present. Boneset may also be used to help clear the upper respiratory tract of mucous congestion. Its mild aperient activity will help clear the body of any build up of waste and ease constipation.

Part Used:

Dried Aerial Parts

Collection:

Boneset should be collected as soon as the flowers open in late summer or early fall.

Yarrow

Yarrow is one of the best diaphoretic herbs and is a standard remedy for aiding the body to deal with fevers. It lowers blood pressure due to a dilation of the peripheral vessels. It stimulates the digestion and tones the blood vessels. As a urinary antiseptic it is indicated in infections such as cystitis. Used externally it will aid in the healing of wounds. It is considered to be a specific in thrombotic conditions associated with high blood pressure.

Part Used:

Aerial Parts

Collection:

The whole of the plant above ground should be gathered when in flower between early summer and early fall.

Echinacea

Echinacea is the prime remedy to help the body rid itself of microbial infections.It is effective against both bacterial and viral attacks. It may be used in conditions such as boils, septicemia and other infections of that sort. In conjunction with other herbs it may be used for any infection, anywhere in the body.  For example, in combination with Yarrow or Bearberry it will effectively stop cystitis. It is especially used for infections of the upper respiratory tract such as laryngitis, tonsillitis, and for catarrhal conditions of the nose and sinus. In general it may be used widely and safely. The tincture or decoction may be used as a mouthwash in the treatment of pyorrhea and gingivitis. As a lotion is helps septic sores and cuts.

Part Used:

Cone Flower, Roots

Collection:

The roots should be unearthed in the fall. It is suggested that the fresh extract is more effective than the dried root.

Poke Root

Poke Root has a wide range of uses and is a valuable addition to many holistic treatments. It may be seen primarily as a remedy for use in infections of the upper respiratory tract, removing catarrh and aiding the cleansing of the lymphatic glands. It may be used for catarrh, tonsillitis, laryngitis, swollen glands (adenitis), mumps, etc. It will be found of value in in lymphatic problems elsewhere in the body and especially where it is long standing. Care must be taken with this herb as in large doses it is powerfully emetic and purgative. Externally, as a lotion or ointment, it may be used to rid the skin of scabies and other pests.

Part Used:

Root

Collection:

The root should be unearthed in the late fall or spring. Clean it and split lengthwise before drying.

Wild Indigo

Wild Indigo is an herb to be considered wherever there is a focused infection. It is especially useful in the treatment of infections of the nose and sinus. Taken both internally and as a mouthwash  it will heal mouth ulcers, gingivitis, and help in the control of pyorrhea. Systematically, it may be helpful in the treatment of  enlarged and inflamed lymph glands (lymphadenitis) and also to reduce fevers. Externally an ointment will help infected ulcers and ease sore nipples. A douche of the decoction will help leucorrhea.

Part Used:

Root

Collection:

The root is unearthed in the fall after flowering has stopped. Clean the root and cut; dry well.

Wormwood

Traditionally, Wormwood has been used in a wide range of conditions, most of which have been vindicated by analysis of the herb. It is primarily used as a bitter and therefore has the effect stimulating and invigorating the whole of the digestive process. It may be used where there is indigestion, especially when due to a deficient quantity or quality of gastric juice. It is a powerful remedy in the treatment of worm infestations, especially roundworm and pinworm. It may also be used to help the body deal with fever and infections. Due to the general tonic action it will be of benefit in many diverse conditions  because it benefits the body in general.

Part Used:

Leaves or Flowering Tops

Collection:

The leaves and flowering tops are gathered at the end of the flowering period between mid summer and early fall.

Myrrh

Myrrh is an effective anti-microbial agent that has been shown to work in two complementary ways. Primarily it stimulates the production of white blood corpuscles (with their anti-pathogenic actions) and secondarily it has a direct anti-microbial effect. Myrrh finds specific use in the treatment of infections in the mouth as well as the catarrhal problems of pharyngitis and sinusitis. It may also help with laryngitis and respiratory complaints. Systematically it is of value in the treatment of boils as well as glandular fever and brucellosis. It is often used as part of the treatment of the common cold. Externally, it will be healing and antiseptic for wounds and abrasions.

Part Used:

Gum Resin

Collection:

The gum resin is collected from the bushes that secrete it in the arid regions of East Africa and Arabia.

This info and recipes from The Holistic Herbal by David Hoffman. One of my herbal bibles, it is a wonderful book and offers a huge variety of ways to keep yourself healthy with herbs.