Antibiotics. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

The term antibiotics literally means "against life." In this case, against microbes. When most people think of antibiotics they think of antibacterial drugs, used to treat bacterial infections, but antibiotics actually covers a much larger group of medications including antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and antiparasitic drugs.

A Brief History

The History of Antibiotics : Chinese Medicine Living

Treating wounds and infections with moulds goes far back into ancient history, long before the discovery of penicillin by Sir Alexander Fleming, the Scottish biologist, in 1928.

  • Greeks and Indians used moulds and other plants to treat infections.
  • In Greece and Serbia, mouldy bread was traditionally used to treat wounds and infections.
  • Warm soil was used in Russia by peasants to cure infected wounds.
  • Sumerian doctors gave patients beer soup mixed with turtle shells and snake skins.
  • Babylonian doctors healed the eyes using a mixture of frog bile and sour milk.
  • Sri Lankan army used oil cake (sweetmeat) to serve both as desiccant and antibacterial.

The discovery of penicillin from the fungus Penicillium notatum perfected the treatment of bacterial infections such as syphilis, gangrene and tuberculosis. Alexander Fleming also contributed immensely towards medical sciences with his writings on the subjects of bacteriology, immunology and chemotherapy.

One sometimes finds what one is not looking for.
- Sir Alexander Fleming on the discovery of penicillin

The discovery of antibiotics, made by a succession of cultures and people throughout the ages and perfected by a handful of scientists spanning from 1640 to 1932 was one of the most significant discoveries in Western medical history. Antibiotics have led to the eradication of many infectious diseases in the developed world and saved countless lives.

Antibiotic Resistance

The problem we face presently, is antibiotics being over prescribed, often unnecessarily and this has led to the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria and "superbugs". Each year in the United States an estimated 2 million people are infected with such antibiotic resistant bacteria and a staggering 23,000 people die every year as a result of these infections.

Perhaps the most famous of these drug resistant bacteria is MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) which is caused by antibiotic resistant strain of staph bacteria used to treat common staph infections. About one third of people carry the staph bacteria in their nose or on their skin and have no symptoms. A MRSA infection contracted outside a medical setting usually results in a skin infection. MRSA infections are particularly dangerous to hospital workers or other health care providers which is where many MRSA infections are contracted. MRSA infections are typically associated with invasive procedures or devices, such as surgeries, intravenous tubing or artificial joints. In medical facilities, MRSA can cause life-threatening bloodstream infections, pneumonia and surgical site infections. MRSA is usually spread through contact with an infected wound or from contaminated hands or equipment. People who carry MRSA and do not have any symptoms can also spread the infection to others which is why rigid disinfecting procedures are practiced for all hospital equipment and by all medical staff that have access to patients.

This is a cute animation on what causes antibiotic resistance. Video by Kevin Woo for TED Ed

Antibiotics & Chinese Medicine

Widespread antibiotic use is something commonly seen in clinic. I have many patients who come to me for the express purpose of getting off of many of their medications and looking for more natural alternatives to treat their ailments. For serious infections antibiotics are sometimes necessary, but there are consequences to the body. Antibiotics may be good at killing the infection, but they generally weaken the body and cause imbalances in other organ systems that need to be corrected.

Many infections in Chinese medicine are seen as a combination of heat and dampness. Antibiotics are generally good at resolving many of the heat symptoms (fever, swelling, sort throat, redness), but they do nothing to treat dampness (phlegm, loose stool, vaginal discharge, dizzy, heavy feeling, edema, tiredness and a fuzzy feeling in the head). The spleen is the organ responsible for dampness is the body, so if you have an infection, chances are that your spleen is already deficient. If you add to this the fact that antibiotics are very cold in nature according to Chinese medicine, the spleen is taking another hit (the spleen likes to be warm and dry). On top of that the spleen is the main organ (paired with the stomach) of digestion, and the use of antibiotics severely decreases the amount of beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract. There are over 500 different species of beneficial bacteria that collectively destroy pathogenic microbes while also neutralizing harmful chemical toxins that the body is trying to get rid of. When the amount of beneficial bacteria is compromised the result can a proliferation of colonies of harmful fungus and bacteria that can be detrimental to health. This beneficial bacteria is also an important part of a healthy immune system, so although use of antibiotics can deal with an infection, it can wreak havoc on the rest of the body, weakening it and making it more susceptible to future infections.

One of the important things to do after you have done a course (or many courses) of antibiotics is to get the beneficial bacteria built up again. You can do this in many ways be taking acidophilus, or eating yoghurt with a high count of beneficial bacteria (in the billions if you can). I often use Chinese herbs to strengthen the immune system and tonify the spleen after a patient has taken antibiotics to attempt to bring them back into a healthy balance.

The other thing to consider before taking antibiotics is that there are many Chinese herbal formulas with antibacterial properties that combat infections very effectively with no side effects. They do not weaken the body or immune system and attempt to restore the balance of the entire organism. Chinese herbal formulas do not use a single herb but a combination of herbs that work synergistically to treat various types of infections often in a few days. If the infection is not serious (an outpatient infection), consider seeking out a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine who can prescribe the right formula for the type of infection that you are experiencing. Repeated use of antibiotics often causes subsequent infections due to the hit on the immune system, and patients often come in who have been on one or several antibiotics that have either not worked for the initial infection, or dealt with the initial infection but have caused subsequent infections that are being treated the same way, more antibiotics. It is a bit of a vicious cycle. Many Chinese herbs have antibacterial and antiviral properties and have been well documented over thousands of years. Before getting that prescription, consider all your options.

Detoxing from Antibiotics Use

Antibiotic Resistance : Chinese Medicine Living

 

Drugs, both medicinal and recreational, are stored in the body long after use in various tissues such as the liver, and brain. The residues of these drugs, like alcohol, nicotine, LSD, pain medications, birth control pills and antibiotics build up in the body and their accumulation can cause reactions that cause a buildup of toxins that threaten health. A grain and vegetable based diet along with green foods helps to cleanse these residues from the body.

If the use of medications or drugs is prolonged, an excellent remedy is the herb chaparral (Larrea tridentata), also known as greasewood and creosote bush, which cleanses toxins and drug related deposits from the body. Chaparral's medicinal properties can be extracted in water, but for maximum effectiveness the entire plant should be consumed, or it can be taken in a tincture (extracted with alcohol).

Ayurvedic medicine (the traditional medicine of India) uses an herb called calamus root (Acorus calamus) which helps to restore mental damage resulting from prolonged drug use.

Eat Your Medicine

Thankfully, there are many foods that also have antibiotic properties, and can be added to the diet in the event of an infection. Here is the list of some of the best ones:

Natural Antibiotic Foods : Chinese Medicine Living

  • Honey
  • Cabbage
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Coconut Oil
  • Fermented Foods
  • Turmeric

Ginger Natural Antibiotic : Chinese Medicine Living

 

There are also herbs and tinctures with strong antibiotic properties like:

  • Tea Tree Oil
  • Oil of Oregano
  • Echinacea
  • Golden Seal
  • Olive Leaf Extract

Essential Oils Natural Antibiotics : Chinese Medicine Living

It is unfortunate that today, with more information than ever about the human body and natural medicines, that antibiotics are so overprescribed. Although sometimes they may be necessary, often times they are not. I believe that this has led to both the prolonged weakening of the immune systems of their recipients as well as the development of antibiotic resistant organisms that put both health care workers and the public in danger. Thankfully, there are numerous natural ways in which we can treat infections from various microbes, from foods to herbs to acupuncture. Chinese medicine has been developed over thousands of years and has many herbal formulas that are excellent for treating infections of various kinds often more quickly and effectively than antibiotics would, and without the damage to the immune system, side effects and risk of subsequent infections. I am a firm believer that the body has an incredible ability to heal, if we only give it what it needs to do so, and often that is a change in diet, or a rebalancing with natural but powerful medicines like acupuncture and Chinese herbs.

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Healing with Whole Foods - Paul Pitchford
Explorable - History of Antibiotics

Chinese Silk Pulse Cushions : Chinese Medicine Living

Antibiotics and Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living


Why Garlic is Your New BFF

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

How do I even begin to describe the wonders and deliciousness of garlic? Let me put it this way. I love garlic. Sometimes inappropriately. When a recipe calls for 4 cloves, I use 8. Garlic makes everything better, and the great thing about it that it has more healing properties than you could imagine. So lets look at garlic and why it is going to be your new BFF.

Garlic is a member of the onion family and is one of the few herbs that have has been recognized around the globe for its many medicinal properties, and its daily usage protects and supports the body in a way that no other herb does. It is one of the most antimicrobial plants known, acting on bacteria, viruses and parasites acquired from consuming unclean food and water. The oil is where many of garlics healing properties lie and is extracted largely via the lungs making it extremely affective to treat respiratory infections like chronic bronchitis, catarrh, recurring colds and influenza. Garlic is used preventatively for many infectious conditions, both digestive and respiratory. In the digestive tract, garlic will support the growth of good bacteria as well as killing pathogenic organisms. It reduces high blood pressure, and taken over an extended period of time, will lower blood cholesterol.

garlic as medicine

Garlic's Medicinal Properties

  • Anti-bacterial
  • Anti-microbial
  • Anti-fungal
  • Anti-viral
  • Anti-parasitic
  • Commonly used to treat infections of the upper respiratory tract
  • Taken preventatively for infectious conditions, both digestive and respiratory
  • Reduces blood pressure
  • Reduces blood cholesterol
  • Used to treat worms (ringworm and threadworm)
  • Promotes circulation
  • Promotes sweating
  • Eliminates yeasts, including Candida albicans
  • Inhibits viruses and other micro-organisms associated with degenerative diseases like cancer
  • Eliminates toxins from the body, including poisonous metals like cadmium and lead
  • A drop of garlic oil in the ear canal once a day relieves ear infections
  • A poultice made of garlic draws out swelling from boils
  • Eliminates worms
  • Used for dysentery, snake bites, warts, hepatitis, asthma, tuberculosis, hay fever, asthma and diarrhea
  • When travelling eating a clove of raw garlic before suspected food or water will protect against dysentery
  • Eating a clove of raw garlic a day will protect against colds and flu
  • Garlic tea relieves poison ivy, poison oak and nettle stings
  • Promotes the growth of healthy intestinal bacteria

Preparation & Dosage

There are many ways to use garlic depending on what condition you are treating. Most of garlic's medicinal properties are in the oil, so any cooking or using capsules that are "odourless" are of little medicinal value. Garlic can be eaten raw; the entire clove with the paper or crushed and swallowed, but for some, this might be too intense as there is a significant burn going down. To remove some of garlics strong flavour and odour, it can be steamed - although some of its potency will be lost. Eating a few sprigs of parsley or other cereal glasses which are very cooling is a good way to neutralize the burning sensation in the digestive tract after eating garlic raw. Also drinking something cooling directly after taking garlic will help with the intense aftertaste.

As you can see garlic is an amazing herb with a huge list of healing properties, so next time you aren't feeling well and reach for the advil or think you might need antibiotics, consider reaching for the garlic instead. Because, for all of the reasons above, garlic should be your new BFF.

Garlic InfoGraphic

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Thank you to the people at Stedas Dizajn for this lovely infographic. 

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Why Garlic is Your New BFF : Chinese Medicine Living


Ginger is Medicine.

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

There is nothing sassier than biting down on a piece of ginger in your stir fry or noodle bowl. You immediately understand the power of this tasty root as it floods your mouth with a burning sensation that brings tears to your eyes. But, do not underestimate this tiny rhizome, it is not just burn - it is chalked full of medicinal effects and a well documented history of healing the body of innumerable ailments. Ginger is medicine.

Ginger Healing Properties

  • Treats and prevents multiple forms of cancer
  • Prevents diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Is a natural antibiotic
  • Is excellent for treating digestive problems, nausea, stomachache and vomiting
  • Prevents intestinal ulcers
  • Fights fungal infections and toxicity
  • Is used as a stimulant in cases of bad circulation
  • In feverish conditions is used as a diaphoretic (promotes sweating)
  • Important for heart health
  • Fights gout and arthritis
  • Is an effective gargle for sore throats
  • Is a remedy for motion sickness
  • Reduces pain and inflammation
  • Boosts the immune system to fight off colds and flu
  • Is a natural painkiller
  • Treats migraines
  • Relieves menstrual cramps
  • Prevents diabetic neuropathy
  • Promote energy circulation and increase metabolic rate
  • Is rich in vitamin C
  • Eaten in the summer to increase sweating and cool the body (raw not dried)

Ginger Healing Properties

Ginger Facts

  • Cultivation of ginger started in South Asia and spread to East Africa and the Caribbean.
  • Top producers are India, China and Indonesia
  • Ginger is extremely rare and difficult to find in the wild
  • Ginger is not a root, it is actually a rhizome
  • Contains silicon for healthy skin, hair, nails and teeth
  • One of the most important herbs in the world
  • Ginger should be stored in a cool, dry place

Ginger for Health

In Chinese medicine, ginger is considered a warming herb and acts specifically on the lungs, spleen and stomach. It is a qi tonic, promotes circulation and treats phlegm in the lungs accompanied with cough. It promotes circulation as well as sweating, and is used to treat joint pain due to cold.

Ginger has a particular use in Chinese medicine for digestive problems and yang deficiency (a deficiency of the warming energy of the body). The belly button is filled with salt and then a slice of ginger is placed on top with some holes punched in it. Then, some moxa (a Chinese herb) is placed on top and burned. The effect is a pleasant warming sensation for the patient and this method is used to treat weakness of the stomach and spleen causing symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting.

Ginger is an incredibly powerful herb, and I bet that you had no idea of all of the good it was doing for your body by just adding it to your favourite recipe. Nutritional therapy is a huge aspect of Chinese medicine, so know that everything you eat is potentially medicine for your body. Who knew medicine could be so delicious?

Ginger is medicine


Eight Treasures Dessert - The Nutrient Powerhouse

By Vicky Chan of NourishU

Warming & Nourishing Dessert

In winter months, we all tend to eat more to keep warm and exercise less, therefore it is hard to avoid packing on extra pounds. Especially with all the festivities and celebrations happening at the same time, surely we will be tempted to indulge in more heavy, greasy and high calorie foods. The worst culprit are desserts, such as Christmas puddings and cakes. They are packed with sugar, butter, dried fruits, chocolate, cheese, cream and alcohol which inevitably can quickly add pounds to our bodies and create an extra burden to our health.

If you are health conscious but do not want to give up on desserts completely and are hoping to find healthier alternatives, here is a perfect recipe for you. It is quick and easy to make, very soothing and warming to the body, not heavy and is easy to digest. It can even give your family and friends a new surprise. Each ingredient chosen is a powerhouse of nutrients by itself with so many health benefits to offer. (You can search our website www.noruishu.com to see the therapeutic effects of each ingredient.) The best part of this recipe is you can vary the quantity of each ingredient according to your own likings. You can even skip one or two ingredients if they are not conveniently availability to you. No matter what you do, it will just come out perfectly.

Eight Treasures Dessert

SYMPTOMS

Dry skin, dry throat and/or with occasional dry cough.

THERAPEUTIC EFFECTS

Promotes vital fluids, lowers internal heat and moisturizes skin.

Eight Treasures Dessert : TCM Recipe

INGREDIENTS (3 to 4 Servings)

  • snow-ear mushroom – one

  • honey dates – four

  • gingko seeds – 20

  • apple – one

  • banana – one

  • fresh lily bulb – 50gm

  • egg – one

  • tapioca pearls / sagu – 25gm

  • sugar – to taste

    INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Soak snow-ear mushroom with plenty of water for around 30 minutes. Cut out the brown base and separate mushroom into smaller pieces. Rinse a few times.
  2. Rinse honey dates and gingko, and put together with mushroom in a pot with about 8 cups of water. Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes.
  3. Remove skin and core of apple, cut into small cubes and add to the cooking.
  4. Add sagu and stir until they become transparent (about 3 to 4 minutes) to act as healthy thickener.
  5. Add sugar to taste. Add more water if necessary.
  6. Separate lily bulbs and rinse clean. Cut banana into small cubes. Add the two to the cooking for just another 2 minutes more.
  7. Beat egg, pour and stir into the cooking and turn off heat. Serve warm.

USAGE

No restrictions and is suitable for all ages.

Remarks

Fresh gingko seeds and fresh lily bulbs can be found in most Chinese supermarkets in the refrigerated fresh produce section.

 


Bitter Melon - The Number One Melon for Diabetes

By Vicky Chan of NourishU

Li Shizhen (1518 -1593), one of the greatest Chinese doctors, scientists, herbalists and acupuncturists in history ranked bitter melon as the number one melon on earth in his renowned medical textbook, the Compendium of Medical Herbs (1596).

He described bitter melon as cool in nature, bitter in taste and with proven healing properties of expelling evil heat, sharpening vision, improving liver function, promoting heart health and expelling toxic effects in the body.

In recent years, western medical science has confirmed the effectiveness of bitter melon in controlling viral diseases, regulating metabolism and transporting glucose from the blood into the cells, therefore reducing the body’s blood sugar levels. That is why bitter melon is most beneficial to people with diabetes.

Bitter melon is also known to cure a large number of ailments including stomach complaints, skin problems, type 1 herpes simplex virus, measles and chickenpox.

With the many health benefits of bitter melon, it has long been in use by many cultures around the world as home remedies. It is important for people today to know about it and eat more for good health. However, because of its distinctive bitter taste, not too many people really like to eat them. To make them less bitter, it is important to clean out the seeds and white membrane in the middle completely. Cutting them thinly or blanching them in hot water for a couple of minutes before cooking can definitely help. The best approach is to combine bitter melon with meat or seafood to make them delicious. We have many recipes in our website using them for treating various ailments.

Here is a quick and easy recipe to make a delicious dish. It is most palatable and even welcome by children. It is best for preventing and treating diabetes.

Bitter Melon Omelette with Goji-berries and Enoki Mushroom

Bitter melon recipe ingredients

THERAPEUTIC EFFECTS

Detoxifies, clears internal heat and regulates blood sugar.

INGREDIENTS

  • Bitter Melon 涼瓜 – one
  • Enoki Mushrooms 金針菇 – one package
  • Goji Berries – one to two table spoons
  • Chopped Scallions and Coriander– one spoonful each
  • Eggs – two to three
  • Sugar, Salt, Cooking Wine and Sesame Oil

Bitter melon recipe ingredients 2

DIRECTIONS

1.   Wash bitter melon, cut in half lengthwise, and remove seeds and white membrane with a spoon. Cut each half lengthwise once again. Then slice melon thinly, season with one spoonful of salt for about 10 minutes and rinse.

2.   Cut out stems of enoki mushrooms. Cut the rest into short sections and soak with plenty of water for 5 to 10 minutes. Rinse and strain.

3.   Soak goji berries for 15 minutes, changing the water a couple of times and strain.

4.   Beat eggs in a bowl with one spoonful of cooking wine and one spoonful of sesame oil.

5.   Warm two spoonfuls of oil in a non-stick pan. Add bitter melon to stir fry for a couple of minutes. Then add one spoonful of salt and sugar and about half a cup of water and let it cook for 10 to 15 minutes until melon is tender and there is a little water left.

6.  Add enoki mushrooms, goji berries, scallions and coriander and stir to combine. Let cook for a few minutes.

7.   Add half of the egg mixture to the cooking and let it brown slightly on one side. Then flip over, add the remaining egg mixture and brown the other side. Add more oil to the cooking if necessary. When it is evenly brown, it is ready to serve.

Bitter melon omelette with goji berries and enoki mushrooms

USAGE

No Restrictions. This recipe is best served with rice.


The Common Cold - Causes and Food Therapy in Chinese Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

How many of us, with the coming of winter and colder weather, succumb to the common cold? Sore throat, stuffy nose, fever and chills are all symptoms that accompany a cold, and ones most of us have come to know so well.

In Chinese medicine, the common cold is seen to be caused by external pathogens invading the body. There are several kinds of external pathogenic factors leading to the common cold. The first is wind-cold, the second is wind-heat and the third is summer-heat and dampness. Remember, if your immune system is depressed or under stress then your defences are less able to fight off a cold or any pathogenic factors.

The common cold occurs at any time of year, but is most common in winter and spring. The incubation period for a cold is about one day. Symptoms usually begin around the nose and throat, with a stuffy nose, sore throat or sneezing, and sometimes there may be a slight fever. Here is how, in Chinese medicine, you can tell what kind of cold you have and below are some simple Chinese herbal recipes to help relieve symptoms and help you get over your cold more quickly.

 

Wind-Cold Common Cold

The symptoms of a wind-cold invasion are:

~ strong aversion to cold

~ slight fever without sweating

~ headache

~ stuffy nose

~ watery nasal discharge

~ cough

~ expectoration of thin, white sputum

~ thirst with a desire for hot drinks

~ pain in the limbs

 

Wind-Heat Common Cold

The symptoms of an invasion of wind-heat are:

~ high fever

~ slight aversion to wind

~ distending pain in the head

~ a little sweating

~ sore throat

~ stuffy nose

~ thick yellow nasal discharge

~ cough with sticky yellow phlegm

~ thirst with a strong desire to drink

 

Summer-Heat and Dampness Common Cold

The symptoms of a summer-heat with dampness type cold are:

~ fever

~slight aversion to wind

~ heavy and distending pain in the head

~ aching pain in the limbs

~ thirst but little or no desire to drink

~ chest oppression

~ loss of appetite

~ nausea

~ yellow or cloudy urine

Food Therapy Recipes for the Common Cold

Wind-Heat Common Cold Recipe

Peppermint Porridge (Congee)

Step 1

1. Take 30g (1 oz) of fresh peppermint, or 15g (1/2 oz) of dried peppermint.

2. Add 2 cups of boiling water to fresh or dried peppermint

3. Cover and allow to steep for 5 minutes

4. Strain and save the liquid to add to step 2

Step 2

5. Take 90g (3oz) round grain rice, 3 cups of water and 1 tsp of honey

6. Bring rice and water to a boil, then allow to simmer for 30 minutes

7. When the rice is cooked, add the peppermint tea and teaspoon of honey

8. Stir and allow to boil for 5 minutes

9. Divide porridge into 2 servings and take on in the morning and the other in the evening.

 

Wind-Cold Common Cold Recipe

Ginger Rice Soup

1. Take 10g (5 slices) of fresh ginger, 100g (3 1/2 oz) polished round grain rice or glutinous rice and 30g (2 pieces) green onion

2. Cook the fresh ginger and rice in 4 cups of water for 30 minutes

3. Then add the green onion and simmer for 30 minutes

4. Eat the entire amount while it is still hot

5. After eating, lie in bed under a thick blanket to sweat out the cold that has entered the body. (This soup enduces sweating!)

Summer-Heat and Dampness Common Cold Recipe

Porridge of Job's Tears Seed & Hyacinth Bean

1. Take 30g (1oz) Job's-tears seed, 30g (1oz) white hyacinth bean, 100g (3 1/2oz) round grain rice

2. Bring all ingredients to a boil in 4 cups of water

3. After bringing to a boil, reduce to a simmer and allow to cook for 40 minutes

4. Separate porridge into 2 servings, and take one in the morning and the other in the evening.

There are several things we can do to prevent catching a cold. Things like dressing warmly (so wind doesn't get in), getting enough sleep to keep your immune system strong, staying hydrated, eating well and exercising are all important to staying healthy in the winter months and all year round. But, with our busy lifestyles, if you do happen to come down with a cold, resting, and using Chinese food therapy is a good way to get over your cold as quickly as possible.


Food as Medicine

Dietary therapy provides a powerful tool for correcting disharmonies and is used in conjunction with acupuncture, herbal therapy and Qi Gong to restore balance to the Essential Substances, Organ Systems and channels.

Article from http://www.shen-nong.com/eng/lifestyles/food_property_food_tcm.html

What are the energies, flavors and other properties of food?

In Western diet, foods are evaluated for proteins, calories, carbohydrates, vitamins, and other nutritional contents. However in Chinese diet (and that includes herbs), one looks for not only vitamins and minerals but also the energetic properties of food like energy, flavor and movement. Other less importance aspects include meridian tropism and common and organic actions. These refer to specific internalorgans or the meridians on which the foods can act. For example, celery acts on the stomach and lungs, carrot on the lungs and spleen.
According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), foods are just as herbs that can be selected and prepared appropriately to tonify, cleanse and regulate the body.

1. The five energies of foods
Chinese tea is considered to have "cool" energy even though it is a hot drink.

The energies of foods refer to their capacity to generate sensations - either hot or cold - in the human body. The five kinds of energy are cold, hot, warm, cool and neutral, and this refers not to the state of the food but its effect on our bodies. For example, tea has a cool energy, it means that when we drink hot tea, it generates cool energy and it is therefore considered a cool beverage. Shortly after you have drunk hot tea, the heat begins to fade quickly and it begins to generate cool energy internally, allowing your body to cool off.

Here are some food samples with different energies.

Energy generated Food samples
Yin Cold Bamboo shoot, chrysanthemum, bitter gourd, lotus root, water chestnut, root of kudzu vine, wild rice stem, angled luffa, sugar cane, tomato, watermelon, banana, pomelo, grapefruit, persimmon, mulberry, star fruit, preserved jellyfish, seaweed, kelp, cuttlefish, crabs, sea clams, snails, pig's bone marrow, sprouts, water spinach, watercress, lettuces, arrowhead, salt and soya sauce.
Yin Cool Millet, barley, wheat, buckwheat, coix seed, eggplant, cucumber, wax gourd, loofah, Chinese radish, lettuce root, celery, peppermint, broccoli, cauliflower, leaf mustard, spinach, Peking cabbage, Chinese cabbage, amaranth, Indian lettuce, lily bulb, pea, mung bean, pears, muskmelon, apple, pineapple, coconut, strawberry, orange, tangerine, loquat fruit, mango, papaya, water caltrop, tea leaf, bean curb, mushrooms, lily flower, duck egg, egg white, pig skin, rabbit meat, conch, frogs, sesame oil, cream, yogurt and cheese.
Balanced yin and yang Neutral Round-grained rice, corn, taro, sweet potato, potato, turnips, carrot, cabbage, radish leaf, beetroot, fuzzy melon, soybeans, adzuki beans, peanut, cashew nut, pistachio nut, lotus seed, black sesame, sunflower seed, plums, fig, grapes, lemon, olives, white fungus, black fungus, shiitake mushroom, sea shrimps, loach, pork, duck, goose, oyster, beef, quail, sea eels, egg yolk, quail egg, royal jelly honey, milk, soybean milk, rock sugar and sugar.
Yang Warm Coriander, Chinese chives, onion, leeks, green onion, asparagus, sweet peppers, sword bean, spearmint, Garland chrysanthemum, pomegranate, apricot, peach, cherry, litchi, longan fruit, raspberry, chestnut, pumpkin, glutinous rice, dates, walnut, pine nut, mussels, fresh water eels, sea cucumber, carps, abalone, hairtail, lobster, fresh water shrimps, chicken, mutton, sparrow, venison, pig's liver, ham, goat milk, goose egg, sparrow egg, maltose, brown sugar, cumin, clove, fennel, garlic, ginger (fresh), dill seed, nutmeg, rosemary, star anise, Sichuan peppercorn, sweet basil, sword bean, tobacco, coffee, vinegar, wine, vegetable oil, rose bud, osmanthus flowers and jasmine.
Yang Hot Black pepper, cinnamon, ginger(dried), chili pepper, and mustard seed.
Ginger is pungent in flavor, warm in energy and tends to move upward and outward.

It is important to know about the energies of food because different energies act upon the human body in different ways and affect our state of health. If a person suffers from cold rheumatism and the pain is particularly severe on cold winter day, eating foods with a warm or hot energy shall relieve the pain considerably. Or if a person suffers from skin eruptions that worsen when exposed to heat, it is beneficial to eat foods with a cold or cool energy to relieve the symptoms.

To seek a balance in diet, we can define food as predominantly yin or yang. If you eat predominantly yin foods, your body will be capable of producing more yin energy - darker, slower-moving and colder. In contrast, eating predominantly yang foods will produce more yang energy - faster, hotter and much more energetic. It's helpful to remember certain rules to determine the type of energy a food produces:

If it grows in the air and sunshine, it is probably yang;
If it grows in the earth and darkness, it is probably yin;
If it is soft, wet and cool, it is more yin;
if it is hard, dry and spicy, it is more yang.
2. The five flavors of foods
Bean curd is sweet in flavor, cool in energy and tends to move downward and inward.

The Chinese think flavor is very important because it helps to send nutrition via the meridians to the correspondingorgans. If we eat a balanced meal with many tastes, we feel satisfied and don't binge. The five flavors of food include pungent (acrid), sweet, sour, bitter, and salty.

Different flavors have their respective important effects upon the internal organs:
Flavors Organs affected Effects Food samples
Pungent Lung
Large intestine
Promote distributions and circulations, and stimulate appetite. Fresh ginger, onion, leeks, green onion, Sichuan peppercorn, garlic, celery, coriander, Chinese chives, fennel, spearmint, Chinese radish, radish leaf, chili pepper, sweet peppers, turnips, taro, leaf mustard, Shanghai cabbage, cinnamon, tangerine peel, kumquat, mustard seed and wine.
Sweet Stomach 
Spleen
Slow down acute reactions and neutralize the toxic effects of other foods, and also lubricate and nourish the body. Honey, dates, shiitake mushroom, taro, sweet potato, potato, pumpkin, carrot, glutinous rice, peas, soybean, rice, wheat, corn, sugar cane, peanut, milk, apple, pears, cherry, chestnut, grapes, lotus seed, longan aril, carps and abalone.
Sour Liver
Gall bladder
The astringent character helps to arrest abnormal discharge of fluids and other substances from the body, such as diarrhea, emission and heavy sweating. Lemon, tomatoes, pineapple, apple, strawberry, papaya, pears, loquat fruit, oranges, tangerines, peaches, hawthorn fruit, olives, pomegranate, plums, pomelo, mango, grapes, vinegar and royal jelly.
Bitter Heart
Small intestine
Clear heat, dry dampness, stimulate appetite, and promote lowering effects like urination and bowel movements. Bitter gourd, Indian lettuce, wine, vinegar, lotus leaf, tea leaf, turnips, apricot seed, lily bulb, gingko, plum kernel, peach kernel, seaweed, pig's liver, bergamot, arrowhead, asparagus, wild cucumber and coffee.
Salty Kidney
Bladder
Dissipate accumulations, soften hardness, nourish blood, and lubricate intestines to induce bowel movements. Amaranths, millet, barley, laver, preserved jellyfish, seaweed, kelp, sea clams, sea shrimps, oyster, crabs, sea cucumber, field snail, pork, pig's bone marrow, pig's blood, pig's organs, razor clam, dried mussel, ham, pigeon's egg, abalone, duck meat and cuttlefish.
Coix seed is bland and sweet in flavors, cool in energy and tends to move downward and inward.

Some foods may possess two different flavors or a bland flavor which means it has little or not taste. For example, cucumbers have both sweet and bland flavors. Foods with a bland flavor usually promote urination and may be used as diuretic, coix seed and wax gourd are outstanding examples of this kind. In addition, foods with a strong scent are categorized as "aromatic", such as basil, fennel, coriander, peppermint and citrus fruits. These foods can be eaten to enliven the spleen, stimulate appetite, promote qi(vital energy) circulation, resolve dampness and turbidity, refresh the mind, open up the orifices, and detoxify.

 

3. The movements of foods
Food acts on the body through specialized movements. Depending on the properties of food, food moves in different regions within the body and can driveqi (vital energy) in the same direction as well. TCM claims that disease is caused when any of the external or exogenous evils exert too much influence on our body, foods that have specialized movements can be used to counter these evils. For example, when a person suffers from mild flu (which caused by exogenous wind invasion), foods with a floating action such as green onion and fresh ginger can expel the evils out of the body.
TCM has classified the movements of foods into four aspects.
TCM food movements Actions Effects Food samples Associated properties of food
Lifting To move from lower region towards upper region The upward movements arrest diarrhea, and hold internal organs in their proper places (to prevent them prolapse or sinking) Wine Warm or hot in energy, pungent or sweet in flavor.
Floating To move from inside towards outside The outward movements induce perspiration and dissipate body heat Ginger
Lowering To move from upper region towards lower region The downward movements relieve vomiting, hiccupping, coughing and panting Salt Cool or cold in energy, sour or bitter or salty in flavor.
Sinking To move from outside towards inside The inward movements slow down bowel movements and relieve abdominal distention Vinegar
Lifting Lowering Floating Sinking
The four movements of food: upward, downward, outward and inward.
In general, foods like leaves and flowers and those with light and loose qualities possess a tendency to move upwards or outwards; while roots and seeds and fruits that are heavy and hard in qualities possess a tendency to move downwards or inwards. However there are many other exceptions and some foods can move in two directions e.g. lettuce possess both downward and inward movements.
Honey is sweet in flavor and neutral in energy, it can moisten the inner body, promote bowel movements, tonify the middle burner, slow down acute reactions, detoxify and lower blood pressure.

Two other terms are also used to describe the movements of foods: glossy (sliding) and astringent. Glossy foods such as honey, banana, white fungus and milk facilitate movement by acting as a lubricant. This is why these are good for constipation and internal dryness. On the other hand, astringent foods such as guava, plum, euryale seed and lotus seed slow down movement, which is good for diarrhea and seminal emission. The movements of foods can be changed through certain methods of cooking.


References

English References:
1. Chinese System of Food Cures Prevention & Remedies by Henry C. Lu.Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. 1986.
2. The Tao of Food, Richard Craze and Ronifjay, 1999 Godsfield Press.
3. Chinese Food: a Holistic Therapy by Tom Neuhaus, www.hopedance.org
4. Medicinal Food in China by Junshi Chen, M.D. http://newcenturynutrition.com
5. Cooling the Summer with Food: An Introduction to Medicinal Foods by Yanfang Wang, M.D., Ph.D. http://newcenturynutrition.com
 

 

Beautiful feature image photo by Jenny Dorsey on Unsplash