Do you have a penchant for all things old-fashioned or making things from scratch with honest ingredients? I do. Maybe it’s the idea that things were some how more simple or more wholesome in the past? Anyways, I thought I’d share this recipe for strengthening the lungs and immune system with elderberry syrup. You can find elderberry syrup in a lot of good health food stores, but you can also make it at home for much less and have some fun while you’re at it.
Recently after going through a recovery from mild acute liver failure last December (long story, but I learned some people’s livers cannot process an herb called skullcap – take note!), I’ve been going through a process of trying to detoxify my liver. My naturopath prescribed a powerful homeopathic formula which really cleared the congestion and pain, however I started to get eczema all around my eyes. My naturopath guided me to support my kidneys with herbs to help flush out my system. This makes sense in TCM because the Kidney nourishes the Liver system.
It worked somewhat, but didn’t see great results until I realized that the Lung system was also involved. In Japanese acupuncture, eczema is often looked at as “Lungs not Controlling Liver”. Lungs govern the skin, hence the eczema. Most of my life I’ve had a Lung weakness and some skin issues. The Lung system nourishes the Kidneys so Lung Deficiency can create Kidney Deficiency. It was early winter, a time when the Kidney system is more taxed, so I knew had to support my Lung and Kidney systems as well.
Long story short, elderberry syrup daily along with oolong tea (both are lung tonics) has really cleared up most of the eczema, and incidentally (since the Lung system deals with immunity too) I have not had a cold all winter and normally I get one. Using the Lung system to control the Liver system is a key concept for the spring season when the Liver tends towards imbalance. Liver Yang excess symptoms such as anger outbursts, muscle tension, temporal or vertex headaches, eye issues, skin rashes, allergies etc. can be helped by supporting the Lung system.
3 cups water
1/2 cup dried Elderberries
¼ cup raw honey (preferably local)
1 cinnamon stick (optional)
3-4 cloves (optional)
1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger (optional)
Put all the ingredients except for the honey in a pot and bring to a low boil. Simmer mixture on low for 30 min. Then turn off heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Strain mixture and press berries well through strainer to extract as much of the liquid as possible. Add honey once the mixture has cooled and stir. Store in the fridge.
Adding the cinnamon, ginger and cloves will add flavour but also heating properties. Avoid adding these spices if you already have a fever, or other heat symptoms such as red rashes, sore throat, or the during spring and summer season.
Often times people will tell me they drink “enough” water. Generally, we drink enough to satiate our thirst. That’s all well and good, but did you know that if you are not drinking enough water it can cause your thirst reflex can diminish? That means you drink even less, leaving you chronically dehydrated resulting in poor outflow of toxins through the kidneys and intestines, constipation and inflammation to name a few?
A better way to know how much water to drink is to take your weight in pounds and divide that in half. This number is how many ounces a day of water you will need, minimum, for healthy body functioning.
Weight in pounds i.e. 150 pounds divided by 2 = 75 ounces of water = 9.3 cups of water.
Now that may sound like a lot.
Let’s remember, 8 ounces = 1 cup of water.
Now some of you may be thinking, well, I just feel so bloated or water-logged if I try to drink that much. Yes, this can happen when you combine water with your meals. The key thing is to drink water BEFORE the meals and not after. Really important. If you drink water with or soon after your meals, you will water down your digestive enzymes and make it hard for your stomach to digest your food, resulting in poor absorption of nutrients, bloating etc. A little water or tea/coffee with meals is fine. The good things is that your water intake measurement includes soups, juices, smoothies and other drinks.
So for example, my water intake goes something like this:
2 cups before breakfast
2 cups before lunch
2 cups before dinner
2 cups before bed (at least an hour after dinner)
This may be a new habit for you and it will pay off. At first you may notice that you are urinating more, but generally this should not be a concern because your body is now finally getting the chance to flush out toxins that it wasn’t able to before because of the lack of water. Over a few weeks this should subside. You may also notice that your bowel movements are more frequent and regular. This is a good thing. Thank you water.
Yes, you can thank your water. There are many places in the world where people have to walk for miles to find water or where water is contaminated. So if your water is easily available, abundant and fairly clean, thank your water today.
Kombucha is a raw, living, fizzy sweet tea drink prized for its numerous health benefits. The earliest record of its use dates back to China’s Qin Dynasty (221 – 206 BC) where it was given names such as “The Tea of Immortality” and “Stomach Treasure”. It was later brought to Russia and Europe by travelers in the 20th century when it started to re-emerge in popularity after a disappearance during the sugar and tea rationing of World War II. Many people discovering kombucha, myself included, feel so good after drinking it that it quickly turns into a daily habit. Kombucha drinkers report many benefits from much increased energy, immunity to colds and flus to excellent digestion and even increased hair growth. Why is that? Well, here is some of what Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has to say about kombucha.
It Detoxes the Liver
One of the main patterns seen by TCM acupuncturists in the modern world is a pattern called “Liver Qi Stagnation”. This means that the Liver energy is clogged, over-heated and excessive (although sometimes deficient) most often due to emotional stress and poor eating habits. Kombucha has a number of properties that make it an excellent remedy for the Liver system. TCM considers kombucha to be sour, bitter and warming. The sour flavour in TCM herbology and nutrition is used to cleanse the Liver and Gall Baldder. Similarly, Western science has identified a number of naturally occuring acids (think sour) in kombucha such as glucoronic acid which benefit the liver and have been found to prevent the build up of toxins in the tissues. These healthy acids have a similar effect as lemons which are acidic before being ingested but are transformed inside the body and in the end leave the body more alkaline, i.e. healthy. Kombucha’s bitter properties mean that it has the ability to improve circulation, reduce inflammation and clear toxins from the body. The bitter flavour in TCM also has the ability to prevent infection and prevent tumors.
Kombucha Tea Improves Digestion
Kombucha supports the “Middle Burner Qi”, meaning the proper functioning of the Spleen and Stomach systems. The stomach’s job is to break down food. The Spleen system also has many jobs including extracting nutrients from the food to support the production of blood. When the Spleen system is “deficient” there are often sugar cravings. It’s interesting to note that fermented foods, including kombucha, actually work to reduce sugar cravings. Raw kombucha is probiotic containing live beneficial bacterial cultures which support the breakdown of food and digestion (for the full beneficial effects, always check that store-bought kombucha is truly raw – read labels and check for strands of the culture in the glass).
Being warming in its thermal nature, kombucha helps the Spleen system which prefers Yang (warming) food and drink. The Spleen system is often weak because of the Liver imbalances where the over-burdened Liver “attacks” the Spleen. So kombucha tea helps both organ systems. Warming food and drinks such as kombucha also help those is transition from a more meat and dairy type diet which is more warm to a vegan or raw vegan diet which is more cooling. The effervescent quality of the drink resembles soda pop and is used by many to overcome the craving for pop drinks. It is a sweet-tasting drink but the sugar content is very low (7 grams per 250mL).
When the energy of the Spleen and Stomach improves, the side-effect is better immunity. In TCM, immunity relates to the Metal element which governs the Lungs. In the Five-Element cycle, The Earth element (Spleen and Stomach) is the “mother” of Metal (Lungs and Large Intestine). So when the Spleen and Stomach are healthier and stronger, they send their extra energy to nourish the Lungs to build “Defensive Qi” to fight off external pathogens such as colds and flus.
Kombucha improves Stomach Acid and Nutrition
While the body does need alkaline reserves, some areas of the body do need to be acidic to do their job. One such is the stomach lining which needs to have a pH of around 2-3.5 in order to be able to break down food. If Stomach acid is weak or lacking (which happens quite frequently in the modern age because of adrenal stress – the fight or flight response shuts down digestion) the result is poor absorption of nutrients causing malnutrition. Yes, this means that even if you are eating amazingly fresh, organic tree-ripened foods, if your stomach doesn’t have the acids to break it down enough to extract the nutrients, you will be malnourished. It’s not just what you eat, it’s what you absorb. Kombucha to the rescue! Kombucha has been found to contain seven plant acids as well as various B vitamins, vitamin C, enzymes and amino acids. These plant acids increase the acidity of your stomach lining which gives your stomach the ability to break down food. The improved Spleen and Stomach function from this drink results in improved athletic performance (the Spleen governs muscle tissue in TCM) as well as mental ability (the Spleen governs the intellect in TCM). People have also reported increased hair growth which would be because of improved nutrient absorption.
Resolves Dampness and Phlegm (AKA Tumors and Cancer)
Dampness and Phlegm are TCM terms used to describe a Yin pathogen that shows up as discharges such as excessive vaginal discharge (leukorrhea), excessive nasal mucous (rhinitis), productive cough, watery swellings, wheeping discharges from the skin, and excess body fat. When pathogenic Dampness has been in the body for too long, it becomes hardened by the natural heat of the body and becomes Phlegm which appears as hardened nodules, lumps or tumors. Dampness and Phlegm produce stagnation in the body. Kombucha, which has similar properties to vinegar in TCM, is used to remove stagnation by moving Qi and Blood. For this reason kombucha has been used traditionally for cancer patients – by increasing the Qi flow, the body can resolve the dampness and phlegm. According to the ancient axiom in TCM, where there is Qi (energy) flow there is health, harmony, where there is no Qi flow there is pain, disease.
**Please note: If you are a child, are pregnant, have a compromised immune system, or have kidney disease, it may be advisable to talk with your doctor before beginning to drink kombucha, especially if you are doing a home-brew. Kombucha can cause the body to detoxify strongly and pregnancy is not the time to begin to detox. If you have been a regular kombucha drinker before becoming pregnant than drinking kombucha while pregnant should not be a concern, however starting to drink kombucha after becoming pregnant is not advisable.