Chinese Medicine considers preventative care as important as treating the disease itself. If we cultivate our health we can prevent illness and injury from occurring and minimize their consequences when 'disease evils' do attack us. Join Kath Bartlett, MS, LAc as she shares thoughts, news articles, recipes & tips derived from a wide variety of source material, as it relates to Chinese medicine and cultivating optimal health for the body, mind and spirit.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Herbal Poison Ivy Remedy

I learned
a couple of herbal poison ivy remedies in a Kitchen Herbs class I took a few years back. I don't have any feedback as to efficacy, so please add comments with your experiences.

There are two easily accessible Chinese herbs that treat poison ivy. Both are weeds that are ubiquitous in the summer. The first is Ge Gen, or Kudzu powder. You will find this in the macrobiotic section of natural foods stores. Ge Gen is the root of the kudzu vine, which grows over everything in the Southeastern United States: trees, bushes, signs and telephone poles.

You'll find the second in your backyard lawn: dandelion.

You can take dandelion and kudzu internally as a tea. Kudzu is a white powder, and can be used to thicken sauces. Use a tablespoon or so in a tea made with dandelion leaves. Drink several times a day. You can also use kudzu as a skin wash for legions (rash).

Dandelion can be steeped as a tea and added to bath water to sooth the skin. In Chinese herbal theory, dandelion clears heat and toxins, and hones to the Lung, which rules the skin. Poison ivy rashes are red and itchy, indicating heat toxins. You'll want a strong tea for this purpose. Fill the pot with the leaves, cover with water and steep for 30 minutes or so.

Ge Gen, or kudzu releases the exterior. Chinese herbalists also use Ge Gen to relieve neck and shoulder pain, especially associated with colds or cold weather.

Jewel weed grows in the Southeast and is also used to treat poison ivy, though not a Chinese herb. Mash the stems and rub the juice on the skin to sooth outbreaks, or as a preventative before or after possible exposure, as demonstrated in this You Tube video. KB

Muffit, flickr creative commons 2.0

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Warm Up Your Fruit Smoothies With a Little Ginger

I was in
nlife (Wholefoods) yesterday and noticed a juicing demonstration in the produce section. I know many like to juice, especially in the summer. As a vegan, lately I have been relying on fruit smoothies as a valuable source of protein: they are a convenient way to take protein powder. However, in Chinese dietary therapy, we advise against consuming cold, raw foods. So I advise adding a little ginger to warm them up. Here's why:

In Chinese medicine, the Spleen system is responsible for digestive function. The Chinese Spleen system includes other functions, including aspects of the immune system. We consider digestion a warm transformation: heat is required to break down foods into nutrients the body can absorb, and waste for excretion. Ingesting cold, raw
foods weakens the Spleen because it requires it to do extra work to raise the food to a temperature suitable for its transformative function to take place.

When the Spleen is weakened, one becomes fatigued because Qi (energy) is not being manufactured from foods due to poor Spleen function. Digestive problems occur, including loose stools, low appetite, pain and nausea. Immune function is weakened: allergies, frequent colds and flu are typical signs of Spleen Qi Deficiency.

So in Chinese dietary therapy, we strongly advise against eating cold, raw foods, which means no juicing. However, as a vegan, I understand the reason for smoothies. So if you feel you absolutely must juice, do it sparingly and add something warm: garlic, cayenne pepper or ginger. Ginger works well for sweet juices and smoothies and adds a certain spicy zing. As an added benefit, ginger is a digestive aid and warms the Spleen. Try adding 3 slices.

Please do not use frozen fruit or ice in your smoothies. This only makes the drink colder, causing more damage to the delicate digestive system. KB


Photo: Flickr Jose Carlos Cortizo Perez, Creative Commons 2.0

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Your Body is Your Garden: We Must Cultivate Our Health

I spent this holiday weekend planting my vegetable garden. Yes its a late start, bu
t I'm actually right on time for a crop of fall vegetables: spinach, chard, peas, beans, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, lettuce, parsley and cilantro. I'm a novice gardener so it's a bit of Plant and Pray. I picked up a couple of vegetable gardening books, one of which, Dick Raymond's Joy of Gardening has become my new vegetable growing bible. I'm realizing why I haven't had auspicious success in my past efforts. Gardening is work. You don't just put seeds in the ground and wait to pick. There are a many techniques and cultivation methods one must employ to achieve a bountiful harvest.

While remarking about this to a patient today, and it occurred to me that cultivating one's health is a lot like gardening: You can't just go through life living however you please and expect everything to turn out alright, healthwise. Like crops in the garden, health must be cultivated. In the garden, there are three basic fertilizers: nitrogen to grow green leaves, phosphorus to develops roots, important for root crops like beets and carrots, and potassium important for growth and development of the plant and fruiting. Likewise we must fertilize our bodies by eating well: watch the documentary film Super Size Me to see what a diet of fast food causes, including obesity, depression and hypercholesterolemia.

We can't just eat whatever we want and expect to enjoy our health. Optimally a balanced diet of organic foods, mostly plants and avoiding greasy, fried, sugary and spicy foods. In Chinese dietary therapy we refer to the Qing Dai diet or Clear, Bland diet: a diet emphasizing litely streamed vegetables, free from rich sauces or heavy meals with gooey desserts.

In addition to the NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) the vegetables require other nutrients and trace minerals, including calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc. Sound familiar? We need a wide variety of foods, including vegetables of all colors to provide all the vitamins and minerals we need.

Sea vegetables are loaded with trace minerals we don't usually get from other sources. Many sea veggies, such as wakame, kombu, hijiki and arame are high in calcium, containing 800-1300g/100g. For comparison, spinach and cow's milk have 93 & 118g/100g. The calcium in sea veggies are an easier form for your body to digest, and do not cause stone formation. In fact, in Chinese herbal medicine we use 2 sea veggies, hai zao and kombu to dissolve cysts, masses and tumors.

In addition, the gardener or farmer puts a great deal of effort into taking care of plants: covering to protect from frost or pests, planting the seeds at the proper time, trellising or hilling to provide support, building up the soil and so on.

Likewise we must take care of our bodies with proper lifestyle: making sure we get proper rest and don't overwork, exercising regularly, practicing meditation, yoga, qi gong and other stress management techniques and living in harmony with our environment.

My point is that just as the gardener takes care of the crops, we must cultivate health with right living and preventative care. Regular acupuncture treatments keep the body functioning in optimal condition and helps to manage stress, just as one takes the car in regularly for oil changes and tune ups. This becomes more important as the body begins the aging process, after 40y. We need to give it extra support, as the gardener fertilizes the crops to encourage strength and healthy growth. KB


Photo: flickr ItzaFineDay Creative Commons 2.0