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Aug 19

Foods to Relieve Coughing

In Chinese Medicine and many other cultures with a traditional healing modality, food is medicine. If you eat the right foods, it can help you feel better and alternatively, if you eat the wrong foods, it can make you feel worse. There are certain foods that can help you to feel better by relieving your coughing.

As with all conditions in Chinese Medicine, there are several possible causes for each condition.  For coughs, a few of the causes are due to what is called an “External Pathogenic Factor (EPF)”, which is what happens when we develop cold or flu-like symptoms. The EPFs that can invade us and cause a cough are Wind-Cold, Wind-Heat and Dry-Heat. We can choose the appropriate foods to alleviate our cough dependent on the EPF.

Cough due to Wind-Cold

Some signs and symptoms of a cough due to Wind-Cold are: cough, moderate amount of thin & white sputum, non-productive cough at initial stage, tight chest and stuffy nose with clear discharge and sneezing.

Some foods which help relieve this type of cough are:

Onion

Onions decreases phlegm and inflammation of the nose and throat, induces sweating and is a cure for a common cold. One way to use this to stop your cough is to simmer onions with a little bit of honey until they are soft and eat one every four hours.

Grapefruit peel

This has a warming energy and helps to resolve mucous conditions of the lungs and can treat lung congestion. To use the peel effectively, make a tea by simmering the fresh or dried peel for about 20 minutes.

Mustard greens

They have a warming thermal nature, influences the lungs, clears chest congestion and reduces mucous. For best effect from these, use mustard greens in a tea. Mustard greens are generally not found in a regular supermarket and in an Asian grocery store, there is a version known as “Gai Choi”. Please note that this shouldn’t be used in people with heat conditions.

Cough due to Wind-Heat

If you have a Heat type of cough, you may have thick yellow sputum which is difficult to cough up, thick nasal discharge, sore throat, thirst or fever, and these are the following foods which will help:

Pears

Pears have a cooling thermal nature which targets the lungs and eliminates heat and excess mucous. It stops coughing associated with heat in the lungs, moistens the lungs, throat and dryness in general and quenches thirst due to heat conditions.

Soybeans

They also moisten conditions of dryness, lowers fever, is highly alkalising and eliminates toxins from the body. They do need to be cooked well or fermented, otherwise, the soybean will inhibit the digestive enzyme, trypsin, which makes the soybean difficult to digest. Some examples of fermented soybean include tempeh, tofu, miso and soy sauce.

Turnips

Resolves mucous and other damp conditions, relieves coughing and due to its alkalising nature, sulfur and other factors, turnip also detoxes the body. The best way to use the turnip for dispersing lung congestion is to eat sliced raw turnip.

Cough due to Dry-Heat

For coughs resulting from Dry-Heat, your cough will be non-productive or there will be scanty and sticky sputum which is difficult to cough up, or severe cough with chest pain, as well as dryness of the nose and throat. For these types of coughs, you can relieve the cough with the following foods:

Lemons and limes

These fruits have a cooling thermal nature, are antiseptic, anti-microbial and mucous-resolving, which makes it great for colds, flus and hacking coughs. It’s to be avoided by people with too much stomach acid or ulcers and to be used cautiously for those with Blood deficiency signs. Begin with 1-3 lemons daily for a week and increase according to need and desire (9-12 lemons can be tolerated by a robust person who needs their properties).

Bananas

Bananas have a very cooling thermal nature, lubricates the lungs and generally benefits conditions of thirst and dryness. For dry coughs, eat bananas that have been sliced and cooked into a thick soup.

Figs

They are neutral in thermal nature and moistens the lungs. For dry coughs, drink half a cup of the water and eat 1-2 figs from a lightly cooked fig soup several times a day.

Make sure you get plenty of rest and drink plenty of fluids. A cough from a cold or flu should be gone in a week or two but if it is still lingering, a visit to a Chinese Medicine practitioner for some acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine will help to clear it before it becomes a chronic condition.

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!

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.