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Apr 8

Chinese Medicine Soup Recipe for Postpartum Mothers

My cousin had a gorgeous little girl recently and as is common in Chinese tradition, I wanted to help her by supporting her health. What is it that commonly happens to a woman’s energy and vital substances during labour?What does she need to ensure that her and the newborn are at their optimal level of health?

Much Blood is lost during and after childbirth, resulting in Blood and Qi (energy) deficiency, and therefore, a woman is susceptible to contraction of disease. At this time, Kidney energy and Essence is also low as a result of the pregnancy, and Yang is low due to the energy used to push the baby from the Uterus. The deficiency of Yang means that the woman is in a state of Cold and is also susceptible to being penetrated by cold and having it lodged. It does seem like nothing good for the mother comes out of the pregnancy and birth as it is believed that during a period of approximately 40 days after birth, the Golden Month, illness contracted will stay with a person for the rest of their lives but alternatively, this is also a time when existing illnesses can be eliminated. With the appropriate self-care, a woman can end up healthier than before having the baby.

Most of the issues that occur post-partum are a result of Blood loss. An example of this would be hair loss because there is not enough Blood to nourish the hair or insufficient lactation due to deficient Blood. Postpartum depression is also quite common and is also due to lack of Blood. The Spirit resides in the Heart and when there is not enough Blood in the Heart to nourish the Spirit, lethargy, insomnia, despair, anxiety, sadness, worthlessness, apathy or feeling separated from reality can develop. Therefore, it is vital to have foods that nourish the Blood, some of which include:

  • chicken
  • fish
  • green leafy vegetables
  • eggs
  • raisins
  • sweet rice
  • dried logan fruit

A very simple recipe that I used for a chicken soup to bring to my cousin was:

  • 1 x approx. 1.8kg whole chicken
  • 12 cups of water
  • 60 grams of dried logan fruit (Long Yan Rou)
  • 40 grams of angelica (Dang Gui)
  • Place all ingredients into pot, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for two hours. Season with salt.

Both the herbal ingredients can be bought from a Chinese grocery store, with the dried logan fruit found in the refrigerated section of the store. The soup is best had several times in a day and will also help prevent joint pain that is common after childbirth as bone soups contain marrow and in addition to nourishing Blood, also nourishes Essence and the Kidneys.

For further information, check out “Traditional Chinese Medicine for Women” by Xiaolan Zhao and if you are having postpartum problems, please see your Chinese Medicine practitioner for some acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine to bring you back to good health!

Dec 5

What to Eat to so we can Nourish our Jing, our Life Essence

In Chinese Medicine, Jing is the essence of who we are, where we have come from and where we are going. It is a substance or energy that comes from our parents and from it, our growth and development occur. With weak Kidney Jing, people may experience infertility, chronic miscarriage, low quality sperm count, impotence and low libido as well as lower back pain, premature hair greying, or poor memory and concentration.

In people of traditional Chinese culture, one of their aims in life was to have a long life and the amount and quality of Jing is a good determinant of your longevity. Thus, people were taught to conserve Jing from an early age.

One of the ways was by taking life at a gentle pace, and not rushing around doing so much as is common in modern Western culture. Life doesn’t have to be such that you are sitting in the bush surrounded by birdsong and rustling leaves all the time. What is necessary is an inner quietness amidst any external busyness that happens in your life. This rushing about all the time doesn’t just make us stressed, it exhausts us and consumes Jing.

Jing is also consumed through major trauma such as recovery from an accident or serious illness. Events such as these draw deeply on life reserves.

Men can consume Jing through ejaculation because Jing is tied very closely to reproductive processes. It was encouraged in traditional Chinese thought to have sex without ejaculation to preserve Jing. For men with poor Jing and Kidney energy, it was recommended to limit sexual activity, including masturbation, and to having sex with their partner at their fertile time.

For women, sexual fluids do not affect Jing as much as it does Kidney Yin. It is the menstrual cycle, which affects a woman’s Jing. Any time ovulation occurs, Jing is consumed. It is also used up, along with Qi and Blood, during pregnancy, when a lot of energy is required to form a new human being.

In summary, Jing is consumed in the following ways:

  • Being over busy
  • Recovery from accident or serious illness
  • Excessive sexual activity in men
  • Menstruation and pregnancy in women

One way to nourish Jing is through the foods that we eat.

In general, the foods in nature which are designed to nourish offspring will enhance your Jing, as well as some animal organs and tissues:

  • Royal jelly
  • Eggs of birds e.g. Chickens or ducks
  • Fish eggs or roe
  • Seeds and nuts
  • Pollen
  • Bone marrow, particularly from pig spine
  • Brains
  • Kidneys
  • Oysters, delivery of nutrients to sperm-manufacturing cells
  • Seaweed and algae, includes trace elements for production of gametes and related hormones
  • Artichoke leaf
  • Nettles
  • Oats
  • Raw Milk

Chinese herbal medicine can also nourish Jing and acupuncture can reduce leakages of Jing that occurs with daily living. Please look after your Jing, one of our treasures, by moderating your lifestyle and eating well.

Jul 25

How to Beat your Cold with Food – Chinese Medicine Style

Lemon and Ginger Tea

Colds are often something that we often just deal with and ride out – we continue to push through doing what we do daily and “soldier on”. They usually happen when we are tired, run-down and our immune system is isn’t able to protect ourselves from the viruses and bacteria out there.

In Chinese Medicine, Qi is the energy that flows through our body. There are four levels of Qi in the body and the outermost level is called the Wei Qi, which is the defensive Qi of the body. When we have become run down, overworked, eaten poorly, not exercised and generally just not looking after ourselves, our Wei Qi weakens and we become more susceptible to getting a cold. If you catch colds often, this is a sign that there is an underlying deficiency in your body, which Chinese Medicine can help you with.

A cold generally manifests fairly suddenly in a couple of ways, cold-natured or heat-natured, and there are steps that we can take to get rid of it so we can get back quicker to what doing what we love!

Cold-natured signs and symptoms:
  • feeling more chilled than fever-like
  • phlegm is clear or white
  • aversion to cold
  • no or limited sweating
  • sneezing
  • stiff neck and/or body aches
When you feel some or all of the above signs and symptoms, the foods to have are:
  • ginger
  • onions
  • garlic
  • hot peppers
  • soups
  • ginger tea
In addition, you can also apply sweating therapy by drinking a cup of ginger tea, having a hot shower, putting on lots of clothes and covering yourself with blankets to get yourself to sweat. You don’t need to sweat excessively and do not apply sweating therapy if you are severely weak or dehydrated.

Heat-natured signs and symptoms:

  • feeling more fever-like than chilled
  • phlegm is yellow or green
  • sore throat
  • cough
  • thirst
  • body aches, headaches
Some foods to have when you have the above are:
  • mung beans
  • apples
  • spinach
  • peppermint tea
  • chrysanthemum tea

Overall, if you have either cold or heat signs and symptoms:

  • eat less food
  • drink more warm fluids
  • drink honey (particularly raw honey), which has antibacterial and antiviral properties, with lemon and its Vitamin C to boost your immune system
  • keep your neck covered
  • rest when tired

Above all else, prevention is the best cure and make sure you look after yourself, rest well and do things for yourself that nourish you!

Sep 8

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival: Mooncake Heaven

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival for 2014!

This is a time of family gathering and giving thanks to them. Traditionally, it is also a time of gathering of the harvest and giving thanks for the abundance nature has provided. It is also a time of big banquets, followed by my favourite once-a-year dessert, “Moon Cake”.

Mooncake

Moon Cakes are a big feature of this festival, their roundness symbolising completeness and unity. The cakes are gifted to each other and are shared amongst family and friends, and this sharing is a show of the completeness and unity that moon cakes represent.

Generally, they are made with lotus seed, which in Chinese Medicine, has astringent, sweet and neutral properties and targets the Chinese Medicine organs of Spleen, Kidney and Heart.

The sweetness supports and nourishes the Spleen, aiding your digestive system as well as any diarrhoea associated with weak Spleen energy.

The Kidneys benefit from the astringent nature of the lotus seed and helps a person to keep their Kidney Essence, which is a person’s vital energy. In men, it can help with weak sexual function and in women, with excessive vaginal discharge.

The seed also has calming properties and can subdue restlessness, palpitations and insomnia, particularly if consumed with the seed kernel.

So, as well as being a celebratory food, Moon Cakes have positive health properties, too, though bear in mind that in current times, there is more sugar in them than traditionally, so do enjoy it but in moderation!

Jul 8

Mindful Eating

When was the last time you really savoured your food? Do you find that you’re often in a rush in the morning, scoffing down your toast whilst finding your clothes for the day and making your lunch at the same time? Or you might even be eating it in the car in peak-hour traffic? Does multitasking at work with lunch and your e-mails sound familiar?

Food is the main source of energy that we get and it is vital that we absorb all we can from it using a digestive system that is functioning optimally. Eating mindfully, being present with the food and really savouring the tastes, smells and textures, helps us to do this. It can:

  • improve your digestion, particularly because chewing produces saliva which starts to break down the food in your mouth
  • reduce your overeating because it takes 20 minutes for your brain to realise that your stomach is full
  • help you be satisfied with less because you can trust yourself to feel satisfied after a couple of blocks of chocolate rather than the whole block

image

So, how do we mindfully eat?

  1. Start small: Choose one meal or snack a day with which you will be mindful of and build from there.
  2. Avoid multitasking: Remind yourself that eating is important, it is something that you are doing now, and the other things, including watching TV or reading a book, can wait whilst you are being present with your food.
  3. Only eat at the table: This will help you focus on your task at hand, which is eating, and not walking around doing something else.
  4. Breathe: This seems like a given but by taking a conscious breath, we bring ourselves to the present, which will help us to eat mindfully.
  5. Appreciate the appearance: Before you eat, allow yourself to drool over the food.
  6. Focus on each mouthful: Savour the aroma, the taste, the texture, the sensations and feelings that the food triggers in you. Does it bring you back to your grandmother’s kitchen? Does it make your throat feel warm?
  7. Chew: Take your time to thoroughly chew your food. Feelings of food lumps going down your throat is a sign more chewing is needed.
  8. Use cutlery and put it down between mouthfuls: Eating with cutlery makes each mouthful smaller and more digestible. Between each mouthful, putting your cutlery down gives yourself time to finish chewing and swallowing a bite of food before the next bite.
  9. Eat quality food: Eating quality food means that you will enjoy it more, be more satisfied and eat less.

The best time to have breakfast is between 7-9am, which is the time when your Stomach energy is strongest. I really enjoy having breakfast early in the morning, when the world is still quiet outside, and at this time of year, the sun is casting its first orange rays of light on the world – a great time for practicing mindful eating!

Apr 14

Foods for Autumn

Autumn is one of my favourite seasons of the year, though according to Taoist philosophy, there can be no favourites – the seasons are as they are and we can enjoy them all! The weather is mild, the air feeling fresh and crisp and of course, the change that is happening in nature is beautiful and fascinating.

Autumn Trees

The season of Autumn is related to harvesting, pulling in together and gathering. There is abundance but also contraction to prepare for Winter as it approaches – leaves and fruit fall, seeds dry, the sap of trees enters the roots. The foods to focus on this season are astringent foods and heartier flavours and foods to prepare to store energy for Winter.

Astringent foods are sour-flavoured and are contracting in nature. Some of these foods include sourdough bread, sauerkraut, olives, pickles, leeks, aduki beans, salt plums, rose hip tea, vinegar, cheese, yoghurt, lemons, limes, grapefruit and the sour varieties of apples, plums and grapes. Sour foods are very effective in small amounts so take care with the consumption of extremely sour foods.
The cooking method for these foods is to cook with less water, at a lower heat and for longer periods of time to internalise the energy of the food.

Autumn also tends to be drying in nature, though dryness affecting the body can occur in any season. Some symptoms of Dryness in the body are thirst, dryness of the skin, nose, lips and throat, and itchiness. Foods which moisten the boy include soybean products, spinach, barley, millet, pear, apple, persimmon, loquat, seaweeds, almond, pinenut, peanut, sesame seed, cooked honey, milk and dairy products, eggs, clam, crab, oyster, mussel, herring and pork, as well as a little bit of salt. The milk and other animal products are more appropriate for people who have dryness with weakness, frailty and diagnosed as Deficient in Chinese Medicine.
Foods to limit to avoid drying include bitter, aromatic and/or warming foods which include many spices and herbs.

Enjoy slowing down with the cooking and gathering into yourself!

Dec 30

Food for Summer

Summer is a Yang season, which means that lightness, brightness, liveliness, expansion, growth and creativity are the principles that hold true at this time of year. So to live in accordance with these natural principles to enhance your health, the lifestyle we live and the foods we eat are important. The last post focused on the Chinese Medicine summer lifestyle of waking early and being light-hearted (in Chinese Medicine, this is the season of the Heart) and this post will focus on its complementary component, the summer foods for good health!

Varied, many-coloured fruits and vegetables are the way to go this season and creating a visually appealing display of the food will enhance their benefits. The cooking style should be light, which means lightly sauteing at high heat, steaming and simmering foods quickly.
On particularly hot days, create a cooling atmosphere in which to eat, such as having a picnic under a tree or dining al-fresco on your back patio, and eat foods that are cooling. These include:

  • salads
  • sprouts (particularly mung, soy and alfalfa)
  • fruit (especially apples, watermelons, lemons and limes)
  • cucumber
  • tofu
  • flower and leaf teas such as chyrsanthemum, mint and chamomile

To help regulate your temperature, drinking hot drinks and having warm showers will cause sudden sweating and cool your body down. Also, having hot-flavoured spices will intially cause your body to become warmer but will actually disperse the heat from the inside to outside. Some of these foods include:

  • red and green hot peppers
  • cayenne red pepper
  • fresh ginger
  • horseradish
  • black pepper

As always, have these foods in moderation because if you have too much cooling food, it causes contraction in your body and you will hold in sweat and heat, and it will also affect your digestion. For this reason, it is also important to avoid icy drinks and cold foods such as ice-cream. If you have too much dispersing spices, it weakens your warming energy and being able to stay warm in the cooler seasons may be lost. Also avoid heavy foods such as meats, eggs and too many nuts, seeds and grains because they will create sluggishness.

If you find yourself with any combination of the following: red face, red eyes, a bright red tongue with a yellow coating, irritability, restlessness, insomnia, skin eruptions, nose bleeds, constipation, mouth ulcers or an unusually large appetite – it is possible that you have excessive heat in your body and following a diet as above, will help to cool you down!

Sep 29

Springtime Foods

If you look about you and see what is going on in nature in Spring, you’ll see a lot of growth, which tends to have an active and ascending nature. Your body functions best when it is in harmony with nature so these same characteristics of growth correspond to the type of food that is good for you in Spring.

In Spring, it is natural to eat less and cleanse the body of the fats and heavier food consumed in Winter. In Chinese Medicine, Spring is the season of the Liver and Gallbladder. One of the main functions of these organs is to ensure that the energy in your body is flowing freely. In our society today, it is very common for this function to be hampered due to poor diet and stressful lifestyles.

If the flow of energy is blocked, you may find yourself getting irritated or angry more easily, having PMS if you’re a woman, feeling depressed or having a feeling of a lump in your throat. This blockage can lead to other complaints such as digestive problems, headaches, migraines, dizziness and high blood pressure. However, not to worry because you can help yourself and allow your Liver and Gallbladder be happy and free!

The Liver and Gallbladder need to be cleansed and nurtured during this season, and the foods to eat are very light, with that upward and expanding nature.

Sprouts

1) Green sprouting foods: young plants, fresh greens, sprouts, and immature wheat or other cereal grasses.

2) Raw foods: are beneficial for cleansing and cooling the body when eaten in moderation but only if your digestive system is strong and you don’t experience digestive complaints such as bloating, indigestion or diarrhoea.

3) Pungent foods: is the food taste that has the rising and expansive nature needed for Spring. Some pungent herbs include: basil, fennel, marjoram, rosemary, caraway, dill, bay leaf, turmeric, cumin, black pepper, horseradish and various mints. For that extra hit of pungency, onions and garlic can be used.

4) Bitter foods: rye, romaine lettuce, asparagus, amaranth, quinoa, alfalfa, radish leaves and citrus peel.

5) Complex carbohydrates: young beets, carrots and other sweet starchy vegetables, as well as grains, legumes and seeds that are generally sweet in flavour. In moderation, this will support your digestive function, which is very closely linked with the Liver.

6) Cooking method: cook at high temperatures for a short amount of time, so the food is slightly uncooked on the inside. If cooking with water, simmering or steaming lightly is the best.

7) Spring beverages: add one teaspoon of lemon, lime or grapefruit juice and one teaspoon of honey to one cup of warm water, or for a more exotic feel, go for a mint tea with one teaspoon of honey.

8) Avoid heavy foods: including dairy, fried foods and excessive amounts of nuts.

I hope that you enjoy the lightness that is Spring – get that Liver energy moving with some exercise and some deliciously uplifting foods!

Reference:
Pitchford, P. (2002) Healing with whole foods: asian traditions and modern nutrition, 3rd ed., North Atlantic Books, California.

Jul 27

Just a Simple Flower

Ju Hua, pronounced “joo hwa”, is the Chrysanthemum flower. I love having this as a tea – its flowery flavour has a distinct and soothing taste. In a tea, it is often made with the dried flowers but it is also available as a powdered granule combined with cane sugar – highly delicious but they are made with just a little too much sugar!

In Chinese Medicine, Ju Hua is a herb that “releases the exterior”, which essentially means getting rid of viruses and bacteria that cause colds, flu and other common respiratory infections, but in particular, Ju Hua targets conditions with sore throats, fevers and/or headache. As a child, if I started to get a sore throat, my mother would boil some up (of course with a little bit of sugar to help the medicine go down), and my sore throat would be very mild and I’d be back to playing in the street in no time.

This delightful flower also “calms the Liver” and brightens the eyes, which can roughly translate to de-stressing you and reducing headaches, and if you have red eyes, blurry vision or general eye problems, it’s definitely good for you.

So imagine that you are sitting in the office, typing on the computer in front of you, as you have been doing for the past three hours, and your email inbox is refusing to be emptied and your boss has been hounding you all day for that report, a chrysanthemum tea is your solution to a healthier and happier office you. To top it off, if you combine it with goji berries (Gou Qi Zi), you will further benefit your eyes and maybe even bring a sparkle to them as well as adding a lovely sweetness to your tea.

Chrysanthemum and Goji Berries

Chrysanthemum and Goji Berries

Chrysanthemum and goji berry tea

Ingredients (can be bought at any Asian grocery store)

  • Chrysanthemum flowers (approx. 5)
  • Goji berries (approx. 5)

Method

  • Place chrysanthemum and goji berries into a cup or small teapot
  • Fill with hot water
  • Let tea steep for 2-3 minutes
  • Enjoy
Chrysanthemum and Goji Berry Tea

Chrysanthemum and Goji Berry Tea

 

Jul 7

Winter Wonderfoods

Vegetable Soup
In Chinese Medicine, being in tune with nature is important in maintaining health and preventing illness, and a part of this is being able to change with the seasons. Throughout the year, we experience change from the heat of Summer to the dryness of Autumn, to the cold of Winter and the wind of Spring. Each season has particular characteristics and it is with these that we align ourselves.

Winter is a season of utmost Yin, Yin having qualities of the feminine, nurturing, quietness, inwardness and cold. This is a time for us to slow down and conserve energy, stay warm and be more aware and reflective. It helps us to prepare for and have the energy for Spring when growth and change occur.

Food plays a vital part in health maintainance so eating the appropriate foods for the season will keep you nourished.

The Kidney is the organ associated with Winter because it stores our basic and fundamental energy, which is an inward and nurturing function. Salty foods have an inward energy and support this storage function of the Kidney, so a little bit of sea salt and seaweed assists this vital organ. Take care not to have too much as it will then overwork the Kidney. Other foods which support the Kidney are:

  • kidney beans
  • black bean
  • chestnuts
  • walnut
  • lamb
  • chicken
  • dark leafy greens

Also, the types of foods that are more readily available in Winter are beneficial to eat and these include:

  • root vegetables
  • Winter greens such as cabbage, kale and silverbeet
  • nuts, legumes and grains
  • pumpkins
  • pears, apples and citrus fruits

Have these in warm hearty soups with vegetables and nourishing stocks, casseroles and stews because by cooking food for longer and at lower temperatures, the demand on your digestive system is lessened.

There are a lot of delicious and nourishing meals to be eaten in Winter. Be sure to share them with family and friends because though this is a time of introspection, connecting with family and friends will definitely keep you warmer in Winter!