Are You Yin or Yang?

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

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

Yin

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

Yang

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

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

The Yin and Yang of Foods

The Yin

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

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

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

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

Yin & Yang Constitution

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

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

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

Yin & Yang Conditions

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

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

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

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

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

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Gingko - Good for Your Lungs & Brain

By Vicky Chan of NourishU

Ginkgo biloba’s natural health benefits are recognized by practitioners of traditional medicine. They use the health benefits to treat circulatory disorders and enhance memory.

Ginko Biloba Recipe : Chinese Medicine Living

Western researchers have valued ginkgo leaves as effective prevention and treatment for premature senility, dementia, brain damage and a wide range of cognitive disorders.

TCM classifies ginkgo seeds as neutral in nature, sweet and bitter in taste and is beneficial to the kidneys, heart and lungs. Ginkgo seeds are proven to have therapeutic effects such as being astringent to the lungs and relieving persistent cough and wheezing, they are a strong antioxidant, stabilize brain cells and prevent mental deterioration, treat asthma and tinnitus as well as treat impotence, spermatorrhea, nocturnal emission, white urine and frequent urination. Ginkgo seeds are used as a general drug as well as food. However, ginkgo seeds are known to be slightly poisonous if taken in large quantities with symptoms such as vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, etc. **The recommended daily limit is around 10 seeds per person.

Gingko seeds are commonly used in Chinese cuisine in soup, stew, congee, stir-fries and dessert. The following is a dessert recipe which is my personal favourite. It is easy to make and is good for people of all ages including children. Just prepare the ginkgo seeds ahead of time, keep them in the freezer and they can come in handy. This dessert is especially good in winter months because it is warming, soothing to the respiratory system and helps to moisturize skin to combat the dry heat in most households due to the heating system.

Gingko and Bean Curd Pastry Dessert

THERAPEUTIC EFFECTS:

Clear heat and phlegm, moisturizes lungs and skin, and soothes the throat.

Ginko Biloba Recipe : Chinese Medicine Living

INGREDIENTS

(for two to three servings)

  • Bean curd sheets 腐竹皮 - 2 sheets of fresh or 1 bag of dried sheets
  • Gingko seeds白果- 20
  • Rock sugar – to taste
  • One egg
  • Milk – half cup

Ginko Biloba Recipe : Chinese Medicine Living

1.   Remove gingko shells with a nutcracker, cut into halves and put in boiling water for a couple of minutes. Remove from heat, drain and let cool for a few minutes. While the water is still warm, remove membrane and while/green kernel in the middle if any. Rinse and put aside.

2.   Cut bean curd sheets into tiny pieces if fresh one is used. If using dried ones, crush the sheets inside the plastic bag into fine pieces.

3.   Bring 4 to 5 cups of water in a pot to boil and add in ginkgo seeds and bean curd.  When the water comes to a boil again, reduce heat to medium and cook for about 10 to 15 minutes until the bean curd is mostly dissolved. Do not cover the cooking with a lid because it will boil over.

4.   When ready, add sugar and milk.  When it boils again, beat the egg and stir it in and immediately remove from heat to serve.

Ginko Biloba Recipe : Chinese Medicine Living

USAGE:

Limit not more than 10 ginkgo seeds per day per person. : )

 

Gingko - Good for Your Lungs & Brain

 


Chive – The Mega Food for Your Health

By Vicky Chan of NourishU

Chive is a grass like perennial vegetable with long green leave tubules, is very inexpensive and can be found in most grocery stores. It is in the same allium family as garlic, onions, scallions and leeks. Chive is very popular in Chinese cuisine because of its many health benefits. Many households grow chives in their backyard or in containers because it is easy to grow and can be handy in times of need. Besides, after each harvest cutting, all the leaves will grow back very quickly giving continuous yield from early spring to late autumn and year after year without much work. To maximize chives' healthful effects, homegrown organic chives and freshly cut momentarily before cooking is the best way to receive the maximum benefit.

Chive Recipe

Chinese medicine defines chives as warm in nature and pungent in taste. It is a yang food which acts on the liver, stomach and kidney, warms the middle region and promotes energy circulation. Chive is commonly known as a ‘rising yang vegetable’ because it is used to treat men with impotence. Chive is also known to be effective in dispersing blood coagulation, treating diarrhea and intestinal infections, treating difficulty in swallowing and improving appetite, relieving stomach aches of cold nature and stopping nosebleeds. The best season to eat chive is spring because the new growth has the most nutrients to offer and they work more effectively with the spleen system.

Modern science has found chives to be low in calories but high in folates, anti-oxidants, plant fiber, minerals (copper, iron, manganese, zinc, and calcium) and vitamins (K, B, A and C). It can lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and prevent dangerous blood clots. Chive also has anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal and has some cancer-fighting properties.

Chive is certainly more than just a vegetable. It is almost like a standby home remedy which can come to the rescue for many ailments. I can remember when my brother was about 3 years old and he swallowed a dime while playing with it. My parents quickly cooked some chives and fed him and the dime came out with his stools in just a few hours. Chive is also effective in treating nosebleeds, stomach discomfort and overgrowth of intestinal bacteria or worms, especially in children.

Many people eat chives to treat erectile dysfunction. Chive is also god sent for people with kidney deficiency which has manifested as incontinence or difficulty in passing urine, or water retention in the lower legs and feet. Taking chive regularly for a few weeks to a couple of months can cure these problems permanently. The following is a very simple but effective recipe just for that.

Please have a look at our website www.nourishu.com to find other recipes for cooking with chives. You can also put chives in your noodle, soup, or dumpling, or stir-fry them with meat or shrimp and seafood. The distinctive pungent taste and the crunchiness will make your food more inviting and tasty.

Chive and Egg Stir Fry Recipe

Stir-fried Chives with Egg

SYMPTOMS

Kidney deficiencies with symptoms such as too much or too little urine, incontinence, swelling of legs and feet, lack of energy and/or impotence.

THERAPEUTIC EFFECTS

Nourishes kidney and promotes yang energy.

INGREDIENTS  (2 to 3 servings)

  • Chinese chives – one bunch (about 300gm)
  • Eggs – 3
  • Minced ginger – one spoonful
  • Cooking wine – 2 table spoonfuls

DIRECTIONS

1.   Rinse chives a few times, strain and cut into bite size sections.

2.   Beat eggs and mix in seasoning to taste (salt, pepper, one spoonful of cooking oil).

3.   Warm 2 spoonfuls of oil in a non-stick pan. Add minced ginger and stir for half a minute. Add chives and stir for another minute until just cooked. Add cooking wine and a small pitch of salt. Mix and put chives onto a plate.

4.   Warm another spoonful of oil in the pan. Pour in egg mixture and scramble to egg until its about 80% cooked. Return chive to pan to mix with egg, then put everything onto a plate and serve.

USAGE

Can be eaten with no restrictions.

Chive and Egg Stir Fry Recipe


Loving Your Spleen in Chinese Medicine

Taking Care of Your Spleen Will Do Way More Than Improve Your Digestion

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

One of the most common things I see in my practice is problems with digestion. Interestingly, this isn’t usually the reason that people come to see me, but when I am going through their medical history, it usually comes up. The sad thing is that most people live with digestive problems when in Chinese Medicine they are relatively easy to fix with a little treatment, nutritional counselling and some tips on how to help support and strengthen our digestions.

Now, a lot of people think of the spleen as in the western medicine spleen, part of the immune system and responsible for the production of white blood cells (lymphocytes) and removal of old red blood cells. It is not the same as it is in Chinese Medicine. The spleen in Chinese Medicine is paired with the Stomach, and both are the main organs of digestion for the body. The difference is that they not only digest food but also stimulus and information - everything that comes into the body through our sense organs.

What you learn your first year in Acupuncture school when learning Chinese Medicine theory, is that we live in a Spleen deficient culture. We are constantly taking in information, and that information has to be processed by, you guessed it, the Spleen. We eat in front of the TV (taking in food, and stimulus at the same time), we are constantly looking at our mobile devices on the road and wherever we go, and we are always multitasking, never doing just one thing at a time. And thus, we are overloading our poor Spleens.

So, what can we do? There are lots of things that, once you are aware of them, can help take the burden off your Spleen.

Don’t Put Ice In Your Drinks.
Avoid Cold Foods.

The Spleen hates cold, so one easy way to help your Spleen is to avoid ice in your drinks. Because the Spleen is responsible for breaking down your food through the process of digestion, and this is powered by heat. Eating and drinking cold foods such as icy drinks, eating ice cream (a TCM nono!), or eating a lot of frozen or very cold foods (many foods in raw form are considered “cold”) taxes the Spleens energy, as it has to heat up again to be able to do the work necessary for digestion.

Be Mindful.

This is not just good advice for helping your Spleen, but a good life philosophy. One of the best things you can do for your Spleen is to do one thing at a time and be absolutely mindful when you do it. This means when you are eating, JUST EAT. Don’t sit in front of the TV, read, study or catch up on work. In such a fast-paced world where everyone is short on time, it is understandable that people are always doing many things at once, but this small thing will not only help your Spleen, it will relax your mind and body as well.

Chew Your Food.

We can all help our Spleens by making sure that we really chew our food well. We tend to all be in such a hurry that we do not chew our food nearly as well as we should. Chewing will help the breakdown of the foods before they get to the stomach, making the Spleens job a little easier.

Eat Soups.

Since most of us have at least some Spleen deficiency, one of the best things you can do to be kind to your Spleen is to eat soups. These are warming (the longer and slower they are cooked, the more warming they become) and they are very easy to digest which is why they are prescribed to you when you are sick - your body requires less energy to digest them, focussing its energies to fighting pathogens and getting you well. Soups do not take a lot of energy to digest, saving the Spleens energy for other things. There are many foods that are beneficial to the Spleen which I will list later in the article. I will also list foods that the Spleen is not so fond of so you can at least be aware of what they are and avoid them when you can.

Take A Break.

Because we live in a culture that is so bombarded by stimulus, most people have deficient Spleens. The Spleen must take in and process ALL that information, including the food we eat and liquids we drink, so you can imagine, it is a very hard-working organ. Something that you can do to give your Spleen a break, is to literally, take a break. Go for a walk outside. Leave your phone at home. Sit somewhere quiet and meditate away from the TV, the phone and try to avoid interruptions. Doing this even once a day for a few minutes will really help the Spleen and you will notice a big difference in how you feel. You will notice that you are calmer, more aware and feel more at peace. And your Spleen will love you.

The Spleens Functions in Chinese Medicine

The Spleen is responsible for many functions so that if you have symptoms in any of these areas, they point to a disharmony of the Spleen.

The Spleen Controls Blood

The Spleen is responsible for manufacturing the Blood and the Spleen Qi keeps it in the vessels. If Spleen-Qi is weak, a person will bruise easily, and/or will have problems with bleeding.

muscles

The Spleen Controls The Muscles And The Four Limbs

The Spleen is responsible for circulating nutrients to the muscles and tissues. If the Spleen is weak, then the muscles and limbs are not nourished and become weak and tired.

The Spleen Is Responsible For Transformation & Transportation

The Spleen is responsible for the intake, processing, and distribution of nutrients extracted from food and drink. The Spleen takes these nutrients and creates Qi and Blood, both vital substances for all the body’s functions and maintaining proper health. If transformation and transportation are functioning properly, the Qi is strong, digestion is smooth and the body is kept moist. When malfunctioning, the Qi is weak (lassitude and lethargy), the appetite is poor, digestion is sluggish and the stools are loose and watery.

The Spleen manifests on the lips

The Spleen Opens Into The Mouth & Manifests In The Lips

Chewing is necessary for the functioning of the Spleen and if the Spleen is deficient, the sense of taste may be dulled. Red, moist and vibrant lips indicate a healthy Spleen. If the Spleen is deficient, however, the lips will be pale from lack of nourishment.

Controls The Upright Qi

The Spleen is responsible for the body’s “holding” function. This is called the upright Qi. It is specifically the force that counteracts gravity when it comes to holding things, specifically the organs, in place. This is very important! Without healthy upright Qi, all of our organs would be at the bottom of our abdomen! When the Spleen is weak, we see prolapse of organs (uterus, bladder, stomach), prolapse of the vagina as well as things like haemorrhoids (prolapse of the anus, PLUS bleeding also attributed to the Spleen).

Houses Thought

Every organ in TCM is seen to have its own unique Spirit, and the Spirit of the Spleen is called the Yi. The Spleen is directly related to our capacity for thinking. How well we manage our thoughts, concentrate, exercise discernment, and form intentions are dependent on the strength of the Spleen.

Young Woman Biting Her Finger Nail

Worry - The Emotion of the Spleen

All organs in Chinese Medicine also are associated with an emotion, and the emotion of the Spleen is worry and overthinking. This works in two ways. Excessive worry will damage the Spleen Qi, and a deficient Spleen can weaken the mind and our capacity to think clearly and focus, leaving us susceptible to worry.

Colour food circle

Foods Beneficial For The Spleen

  • Organic lightly cooked vegetables, corn, celery, watercress, turnip, pumpkin, alfalfa sprouts, button mushrooms, radish, caper
  • Brown rice, barley, amaranth, rye, oats
  • Legumes, kidney beans, adzuki beans, lentils
  • A small amount of lean organic meat, poultry and fish, tuna
  • A small number of whole fruits (as opposed to just the juice), lemon
  • Sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds
  • Seaweed, kelp
  • Green tea, jasmine tea, raspberry leaf tea, chai tea
  • Raspberry, peach, strawberry, cherry
  • Walnut, chestnuts, pine nuts, pistachios
  • Lamb, venison
  • Lobster, mussels, prawns, shrimp, trout
  • Black pepper, cinnamon bark, clove, dill, fennel, garlic, ginger, peppermint, rosemary, sage, turmeric, thyme, horseradish, cayenne, nutmeg

preparing food

Foods That Hurt The Spleen

  • Dairy
  • Wheat
  • Cold drinks
  • Fruit juice
  • Processed foods
  • Refined flour, pastry, pasta, bread
  • Cold raw foods
  • Refined sugar and sugar substitutes
  • Coffee, alcohol
  • Deep-fried foods
  • Peanuts and peanut butter
  • Bananas, avocado

When the Spleen is functioning well a person will feel energetic, their digestion will be smooth, their bowel movements will be regular and firm (not soft), thoughts will be clear and one will be able to concentrate.

When the Spleen is imbalanced there will be symptoms of digestive upset, loose stools, poor appetite, low energy, oedema (water retention), nausea, vomiting, weakness in the four limbs, pale lips, organ prolapse, bruising and a feeling of cold.

Because most of us have some level of Spleen deficiency, we can all help our Spleens by being aware of simple things we can all do to take some of the pressure off of this important organ. Your Spleen will love you for it. :)

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If you suspect you are having problems with your spleen and would like an expert opinion, Emma offers skype consultations. Please email emma@chinesemedicineliving.com for more information or to set up an appointment.

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Loving Your Spleen in Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living