Kombucha Tea for Stomach Qi

Greetings Dear Readers,

Kombucha is a raw, living, fizzy sweet tea drink prized for its numerous health benefits.  The earliest record of its use dates back to imagesChina’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.

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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).

G.T.Dave's Kombucha is raw and unpasteurized. I don't receive any money for saying this. You can also use it to start home brew.

G.T.Dave’s Kombucha is raw and unpasteurized. You can also use it to start a home brew. I don’t receive any money for saying this.

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.

Have you tried kombucha yet?

Love to hear your comments and questions.

Yours in health,

Cynthia

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Food and the Sun’s Daily Rhythm

Greetings Dear Readers,

Just as the year has a seasonal cycle – spring, summer, fall and winter  – so too does each day have a cycle.  Early morning, when the sun is rising, is the most Yang (warming, energizing, invigorating) part of the day.  Later morning and early afternoon are Yang with some Yin while late afternoon and evening are Yin with some Yang.  Late night is the most Yin (cool, calm, quiet).  In TCM, health is about harmonizing with the Yin-Yang energy rhythm of the day and night which in Western terms is called the circadian rhythm. I10-67-circadianclock So what does this all mean in terms of diet?   By matching your food choices with the sun’s energy phase, i.e. Yang foods during the Yang part of the day and Yin foods during the Yin part of the day your overall energy, digestion and stamina will increase.  Plenty of research on shift workers has shown that living outside the normal rhythm (i.e. sleeping during the day and working and eating at night) increases the incidence of breast cancer, colorectal cancer as well as gastrointestinal disorders, mental health problems and preterm deliveries in pregnant women.1  This is a good reminder for our modern age when people are working more according to the rhythm of their work place or their technological devices rather than their bodies’ circadian rhythm and the sun.

On a side note – a set of acupuncture points called “Horary points” can also be used to horary-pointsadjust your body to the sun’s rhythm in cases of jet lag or shift lag.  Shift workers often develop an excess on Yang and deficiency of Yin because they are not getting sleep at the most Yin time which is night, so they lose out on this Yin energy.  If you have heat signs such as dry mouth at night, sore throat, feeling of heat, try eating more Yin foods such as sesame, lotus seed, water chestnut, white fungus, lily bulb, seaweeds, pears, wolfberry fruits, red dates, lotus root, tomato, water chestnut, soybean sprout, and Chinese cabbage.

Early morning as the sun rises, it is most Yang.  This is the time to eat more Yang foods.  Interestingly many people already do that.  Many people like to drink coffee first thing in the morning.  This is not surprising at all as Chinese Medicine says that coffee is Yang and warming.  For those who would like an alternative to coffee for their morning Yang tonic, there is ginger tea or, if pressed for time, you can nibble on a piece of ginger pickle which you can make yourself using the very simple recipe below.

In the West, many people start their day with cooling Yin foods such as cold milk and dry cereal with a glass of cold juice.  Others who are trying to be quite health conscious may drink a fruit smoothie with bananas and yogurt.  The problem with these breakfasts is that they are too cold, or Yin.  Bananas and dairy are Yin and cool in TCM and are best eaten later in the Yin phase of the day, late afternoon or evening.

A Chinese friend of mine recently gave me this ginger pickle recipe below that is used for strengthening the Yang energy and digestive fire. It is a perfect thing to take first thing in images-1the morning to give you stronger energy all day provided that you are not over-heated (it’s all about balance!).  Ginger benefits the spleen, stomach and lung channels.  Ginger disperses cold, wind and damp-phlegm.  This recipe is also traditionally used to prevent the common cold virus because ginger clears “Wind” which is the external pathogen that carries the virus into the body.  Fresh ginger is warm while dried ginger is considered hot.  If the Spleen is deficient and causing blood to leak out of the vessels as in for example, menorrhagia, ginger can strengthen the Spleen’s astringing function to hold the blood inside the vessels and stop the excessive bleeding.

How to make Ginger Pickles

Ingredients:

8 oz ginger sliced finely

1 cup apple cider vinegar**

1/3 cup unpasteurized honey

1. Chop up fresh ginger into bite-size pieces.

2. Place ginger pieces into vinegar (organic apple cider vinegar is the healthiest kind)

3. Let ginger “pickle” by letting it sit and absorb the vinegar for 1 week or more.

4. Start each day eating one or two pieces of ginger pickle.

**Using high quality rice vinegar instead will cause a slight pinkish colour change to the ginger if that is preferred.

Yours in health,

Cynthia

References:

1.Institute for Work and Health. 2005. Shift Work and Health.      http://www.iwh.on.ca/topics/shift-work

2. Health Tips for Shift Workers and TCM Remedies. Shen-nong Ltd. 2002-2005. Taken from: http://www.shen-nong.com/eng/lifestyles/tcmrole_sleep_shift.html.

Liver Qi Gets A Move On

triangle

triangle (Photo credit: daniel.julia)

Greetings Dear Readers,

Liver Qi Stagnation is a very common condition.  The Liver is responsible for the smooth flow of qi (energy) in the body.  One famous quote in TCM “Where there is movement, there if life, where there is no movement, there is no life”.  Acupuncture is an excellent way to move qi that has become stagnant.  Between treatments there are many additional ways to help your Liver system with this process.

Lifestyle:  Liver energy is the energy of Wood.  It is likened to young plants in spring pushing their way through the earth and bursting with new life on the surface.  This pushing upwards energy is similar to a healthy assertiveness on the mental level.  When Wood energy is low there is timidity and lack of action and decisions to make things happen.  When Wood energy is stuck or too strong there is aggression, anger or irritability. 

500 year old green tea fields, Boseong, Jeolla...

500 year old green tea fields, Boseong, Jeollanam-do, South Korea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Diet: The colour green is associated with the Liver and the Wood element.  Eating green foods such as lettuce, kale, green tea, dandelion leaves, broccoli, sprouts, artichoke hearts, asparagus, olives, etc. is especially helpful to do each day.  Sour foods such as all citrus (oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit), vinegar, cranberries, also assist the Liver system.

Exercise:  A stretch for the Liver channel is wide-angled forward bend.  Triangle pose and Fish pose also open and release energy in the Liver channel.   Walking is associated with the Liver system and walking in a lush green forest is even better.    

English: Finger Painting.

English: Finger Painting. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Helpful thoughts:  The mind has a powerful influence over the body.  The mental/spirit side of Liver energy is called the “Hun” which is related to our ability to create visions, have dreams and perform visually creative activities such as art.  Here are some thoughts or affirmations that relate to balancing Liver energy:

“I can see my dreams coming true.”

“I am free to make my own healthy choices.”

“I allow myself to express my creative spirit.”

Acupuncture is also an excellent way to move Liver Qi and results are felt quite quickly in most people.

How’s your Liver Qi doing? Love to hear your comments and questions.

Yours in health,

Cynthia

Strengthening the Spleen Qi

Purple Carrots

Purple Carrots

Greetings Dear Readers,

Now that we are entering Earth season, also called “late summer” in TCM, here are some seasonal tips to support your Earth energy and Spleen.

Lifestyle:The Spleen is about nourishment, mothering energy and feeling grounded and connected. It’s about the way food is eaten, ideally sitting down, chewing thoroughly, enjoying regular meals eaten mindfully in a peaceful setting.  The mental side of the Spleen is the Yi (say “yee”) which means intellect.  Students, people who study a lot, or anyone doing a lot of concentration and difficult mental tasks are using Spleen energy which can be supported by these tips here.

Exercise: The Spleen governs the muscle tissue of the body.  Massage is excellent for the Spleen system.  A balanced amount of exercise, neither too much nor too little is ideal.  Listening to your body is important.  Regularity is best, a little each day, even 10 or 20 minutes of walking, dancing, stretching, or weights is great. A stretch for the Spleen channel is a yoga pose called “Reclining Hero Pose”. A Qi Gong exercise for the Spleen can be found at: https://cynthiamcgilvray.com/2013/02/07/5-yin-organ-exercises/

Diet: The Spleen belongs to the Earth element in TCM.  Earthy things are round and have earthy colours such as brown, orange and yellow and as such Spleen foods include grains, squash, carrots, potatoes, and beets (esp. good for women).  The Spleen is associated with naturally sweet foods such as dates, grapes, maple syrup and molasses.  The Spleen needs Yang (warm, dry) energy to function at best so adding some warming foods such as ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, pepper and clove to foods will help with digestion and strengthen Spleen Qi.

Happy Earthiness!

Yours in health,

Cynthia

Ear Acupuncture for Yin Deficiency

Greetings Dear Readers,

Today I’d like to share with you some of the benefits of the 5-point ear acupuncture protocol called “NADA”.

NADA, which stands for National Acupuncture Detoxification Association, works by increasing the Yin energy of the body thus promoting an internal sense of peace which improves concentration and sleep, and reducing the need to find “peace” through external substances such as cigarettes, drugs, and other behaviours that may become addictive such as over-eating, gambling, etc.

The ears are associated with the Kidney/Water element in TCM which is Yin.  Similar to foot reflexology, the ear is a micro-system of the entire body so for every body part there is a corresponding ear point to stimulate it.  Below you will find a description of how each acupuncture point addresses Yin deficiency to calm the system physically, mentally and spiritually.   You will also find a recipe for Sleepmix tea, the herbal formula developed by Michael O. Smith to support this treatment.  Also, please note that acupuncture treatment can be used concurrently with prescription medications.

In modern times, our nervous system and mind tend to get too Yang due to our fast-paced living, busy schedules, mental distractions, lacking connection to Yin things such as the Earth, silence).  Too much Yang “burns up” the Yin and so Yin deficiencies are extremely common.   NADA is now being successfully used for various Yin-deficiency conditions such as insomnia, improving concentration for students and those suffering from ADD, stress reduction, night tremors, various behavioural disorders including suicidal ideation as well as recovery from traumatic events such as war and crises.

Sympathetic point:

Body – regulates the sympathetic nervous system, controls pain, relaxes tension in internal organs, dilates blood vessels.

Mind  – lowers epinephrine/norepinephrine causing relaxation

Spirit – quiets the spirit, promotes feelings of serenity

Shen Men:

Body  – pain relief, tension reduction, lowers hypertension

Mind –  quiets the mind and brings relief from anxiety, depression, restlessness, insomnia

Spirit – improves spiritual connection, opens the Heart to loving self and others

Kidney point:

Body – activates hormonal and physiological functions

Mind – promotes courage and will to overcome fear, improves mental state

Spirit – helps strengthen intentions, seeing the positive in situations

Liver Point:

Body – activates hormonal and physiological functions, reduces tension in muscles

Mind – improves mental clarity and decision making, helps to clear away anger, frustration, depression

Spirit  – helps one connect to one’s creativity, dreams, intuitions and life goals

Lung Point:

Body  – used for expelling toxins from the lungs, regulates defensive qi (immunity)

Mind – helps relieve sadness and grief, restores sense of integrity and self-esteem/ self-respect

Spirit – for Heavenly inspiration, stronger connection with one’s Higher power

Recipe for Sleepmix Tea

This tea is a Western herbal formula used to reduce insomnia, improve digestion, lower stress, aid in detoxification, and increase feelings of relaxation.

3 parts chamomile

1 part peppermint

1 part yarrow

1 part hops

1 part skullcap

1 part catnip

Use 1 Tablespoon of herbs per cup of boiling water.  Let steep for 5 minutes.  Can be used long-term and won’t cause morning drowsiness.  It contains no caffeine.

Yours in health,

Cynthia