If you know me at all or have been following the Breakfast Cure story, then you are aware of how I love Chinese medicine with my heart and soul.
I'm continuously humbled by the wealth of ancient knowledge and how this wisdom can be applied to the most modern concerns and always sheds a brilliant light.
One of the things I love most about my beloved medicine is how many ways there are to incorporate the value of these insights into your daily routine. For some, Qi Gong or Tai Chi practice is the apex of embodying the power of ancient wisdom. For me, I continue to be transfixed by the nourishment I find from respecting my food as medicine.
Remedies only work if you take them. Not everyone is so good about taking vitamins or herbs even when intending to make it a habit. I love my adaptogenic herbs and my superfoods too, but I know myself, and the best way to ensure I get these nutrients into by body is to eat them regularly in my everyday meals.
Red Mushroom Medley is a savory recipe formulated to be a powerful Blood tonic that also boosts Qi Energy and regulates fluids.
Adaptogenic herbs are the apex of superfoods. These culinary medicinals have been enjoyed at the dining table in a variety of recipes across Asia for hundreds of years.
Red Mushroom Medley is the first Breakfast Cure congee flavor to inlclude a pile of extra nourishing ingredients found in the Chinese Medicine herbal apothocary. In this case, food is definitely medicine. I carefully selected each ingredient for its ability to build blood and nourish body, mind, and spirit.
Blood deficiency is a common diagnosis in Chinese medicine. Often the lack of red blood cells isn't yet to the level of setting of alarms at the doctors office when looking at bloodwork results. Chinese medicine allows us to make this diagnosis based on a consellation of symptoms and complaints. We often catch it before serious symptoms arise.
Blood moistens and brings oxygen and nutrients to your cells. If you don't have enough blood, you are likely to experience difficulty falling asleep, anxiety, fatigue, dizziness or light-headedness, dry skin, hair, or lips, and dry type constipation.
Here are some of the powerful medicinal foods in Red Mushroom Medley. Check out why they made the cut.
Wuyi mushrooms are brilliantly red and an extra special tonic mushroom that can't be cultivated. They grow wild and only on Wuyi Mountain in China.
Da Zao or Jujubes nourish blood and calm the spirit, benefit the Spleen and build Qi. They also harmonize the other ingredients in an herbal formula or recipe.
Long Yan Rou or Longan fruit benefits the Heart and Spleen, nourishes blood, and calms the spirit (mind). Longan fruit is good for insomnia and forgetfulness as well as issues that arise due to over-thinking or excessive over-working.
Adzuki beans nourish blood and are very easy to digest compared to other beans. Adzuki beans are strenghtening and the most warming or Yang bean. High in fiber, protein, iron, potassium, magnesium, and B vitamins, these little red beans deliver most of the nutrients needed to build red blood cells. Traditionally sweetend in Asian meals, adzuki beans are delicious in savory recipes too.
Try some today!
Still curious about these special little red beauties? The Michelin Guide has more to say on the subject if you want to learn more or see how and where they are harvested.
If you’re new to Breakfast Cure then you need to know about the most common breakfast pitfalls and how to avoid them. A few moments can save you from any hassles.
The Top 5 Breakfast Pitfalls are:
Eating a good breakfast is one of the best ways to fuel your day so you are free to accomplish and enjoy what’s important to you.
So many people struggle to find a rhythm that ensures a delicious healthy breakfast every morning, especially on the busiest days.
How to avoid the top 5 breakfast pitfalls.
It really is that simple.
The easiest way is the Breakfast Cure Method because it allows you to sleep while your breakfast is cooking.
Whether you make your breakfast from scratch the night before or use Breakfast Cure packets that are ready to pour into your slow cooker, mornings are always better with no rushing, days are always better with breakfast in your belly, and life is simply better without getting bogged down with planning, deciding, and forgetting.
Wake up knowing breakfast is handled without any time or hassle and embrace your day relaxed, satisfied, and nourished, ready for whatever may come your way.
I've noticed that our culture is not very focused on the liver. Where is it? Most don’t even know. What does it do? Why do we care?
When I was living in France during my junior year of high school, I was aware of how many folks would bring up their liver in casual conversation. Holding it and commenting on it frequently in relation to food, drink, emotions, and more.
Spring is the season that belongs to the Liver and Gallbladder, or the Wood element in Chinese medicine.
A time of rebirth, new beginnings, and emerging from the hibernation of winter. Many people enjoy waking up their system with some type of Liver cleanse each spring.
If you follow my writing, you know that I have strong opinions about cleansing. You can read about them here. The short story is that I usually prefer simple, gentle, easy cleansing that does not scour and deplete the body and especially the organs of digestion, absorption and elimination.
I teach regularly about the wisdom and benefits of congee as a hydrating cleanse for the intestines, excellent for constipation. Read about it here.
Today, I want to talk about one of my favorite congee ingredients, blueberries!
Gentle, hydrating, easy to eat and digest, blueberries are a natural companion for a little spring cleaning for your Liver.
Whether you pop delicious blueberries into your mouth whole, in a smoothie, in your congee, or even in your pancakes covered with maple syrup, blueberries are a gentle, cleansing, superfood that's easy to love.
Among the many amazing qualities of blueberries are the Chinese medicinal food energetics of these amazing treats.
Most people already know about the powerful antioxidants, low sugar, high vitamins and minerals that make blueberries popular in healthy meals and snacks. But most people here in the West are unfamiliar with the energetic effects blueberries have on the Liver and its associated meridian or energy channel.
Blueberries benefit the Liver, and nourish Yin and Blood, which is soothing for the Liver in itself. A powerful internal pathway connects the eyes to the Liver, which allows acupuncturists to treat and benefit the eyes and vision via the Liver.
Tangled Up in Blueberry:
I created Tangled Up in Blueberry, one of the original Breakfast Cure recipes, to benefit the Liver.
Together the ingredients do just that, benefit the Liver, nourish Yin and Blood, and calm and soothe the Liver Qi. By also nourishing the Heart Yin, this recipe helps relax the Liver by supporting a calm Heart and mind, known as calming Shen.
A relaxed Shen and a Liver and Heart nourished with ample blood supply allows for a deep and restful sleep.
Tangled up in Blueberry is a perfect early spring cleanse. It's a warm, soothing wake up call for the digestion that also balances the Liver and calms the mind.
Soothing Liver Qi is a wonderful affect for your food to have on you when you eat it. Stagnation of Liver Qi produces all the same symptoms of PMS, so I’m pretty sure we all want to keep our Liver Qi moving smoothly! Feeling a little irritable, sluggish, bloated, or constipated? Liver Qi stagnation could be at the root.
In fact, Liver Qi stagnation happens with stress. Tension spills over to the Spleen and Stomach thus compromising digestion and absorption. Relaxation while eating is critical because we create energy out of the food we eat and the air we breathe. With Liver constriction, we breathe less deeply and our digestive juices are out of balance. So, moving Liver Qi with a little movement of the body and by eating foods that soothe the Liver, you are benefiting digestion and energy too.
Eating blueberries helps Build Liver Blood which will alleviate symptoms of Liver Blood deficiency such as:
Spring is a time of planning and decision making, the domain of the Liver and Gallbladder respectively. So, what better medicine for the planning, deciding brain than a little dose of blueberries to soothe your Liver and calm your Heart and mind?
Dig in today and enjoy knowing the benefits of your breakfast!
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You probably already know that fiber is necessary for healthy and regular elimination, but did you know that water plays an equally important role in that process?
It's important to consume enough water along with that fiber in order to plump it up and soften it. That way the food moves easily through the intestines, providing a gentle yet very effective daily cleanse which is vital to optimal health.
The concept of cleansing our systems has intrigued humans for thousands of years. We moderns are no different. It's no wonder it appeals to so many people because we all want to feel great. It makes sense to us that some kind of challenging, extreme deprivation is the best antidote for all our over indulgences and missteps on the path of pure, healthy eating.
But cleansing can be a comfort and does not have to be a challenge to you system or your schedule.
What I’ve noticed in my practice over the years is that those who could benefit most from a cleanse are never the people who are the slightest bit interested in cleansing! These are generally the folks who are content with their diet filled with rich, hard to digest foods, meat, alcohol, and sweets.
I am often asked for my opinion about the most recent fad cleanse that is popular on social media or endorsed by a celebrity. Those asking are often weak, tired, worn out, and simply looking for relief. It's a common interpretation that a cleanse must eliminate toxins from the body to improve overall health, whereas in Chinese medicine, these symptoms are viewed as a deficiency which needs to be built up and nourished.
In Chinese medicine, food and nutrition are understood as integral components to building longevity, vitality, and optimal health.
This way of thinking is inconsistent with the Western mindset which tends to focus on eliminating fat storage and toxins. By contrast, among the primary approaches of Asian medicine is optimizing all the organs and systems so they can best perform their important tasks. Vitality and longevity are generally of concern, not only disease.
Short fasting or vegetable juice cleanses can be extremely beneficial for maintaining balance. Integrating these into your routine once a month or even for a few days in Springtime can be beneficial without feeling overly draining or extreme.
By gravitating towards a diet that emphasizes daily harsh cleansing, your whole system will become more depleted over time.
Instead, adjust your focus to the optimal health concept which treats the organs and major body systems in order to restore balance so there is neither excess or deficiency.
The more gentle the treatment the better. Unless there is an extremely acute situation, the body responds to gentle, simple suggestions much better and in a more lasting way compared to blasting it.
Constipation and digestive discomfort are my primary areas of study.
Twenty years of working with people to heal digestive disorders has constantly reinforced my belief that soothing medicine is the best medicine.
Better yet is when the medicine isn’t really medicine at all, but instead simple diet changes and easy, enjoyable lifestyle tweaks.
Breakfast Cure is the solution for the most common complaints I hear from my patients. It evolved from my personal daily practice of slow-cooking congee overnight. This method allows you to experience the remarkable benefits of Chinese Medicine from the comfort of your own home.
And frankly, I'm darn excited about it!
As Breakfast Cure spreads, I've learned that there are acupuncturists across the states who have also struggled to get their patients started on this valuable congee path. Like me, they are excited to introduce their patients to this easy, adaptable morning routine.
The tribe of Breakfast Cure converts is growing daily!
The brilliant thing about congee is that it's beneficial for so many people, regardless of body types or health conditions. And it's So. Easy.
Try it and feel the difference for yourself!
Have you wondered what inspires Breakfast Cure recipe creation? There is always a different answer because each flavor has a unique spark.
This year, I really needed something that would chill me out! Why, you ask? I turned 50 this year.
I was experiencing the heat which often accompanies menopause. That sweating just doesn't stop for, say, important meetings, or close partner dancing!
The very last straw was when I broke into a sweat from every single pore in my body, true to form, right in the middle of treating a patient for, can you guess? Yes, hot flashes and menopausal insomnia!
Though she was very understanding, I knew it was time to pull out every trick in my doctor bag.
Menopause in Chinese medicine is Yin deficiency, or a decline of the fluids and tissue that provide a cooling balance to all that warming, moving Yang energy.
Without the anchor of all that Yin substance, the Yang energy flares up causing symptoms.
I know! Let's optimize a recipe to be hydrating for everyone, but formulate it to Nourish Yin and clear the upward flaring fires of menopause!
Naturally, I called Dana LaVoie, my amazing acupuncturist, great friend, and menopause dietary expert, so we could put our heads together and come up with a list of ingredients that nourish Yin fluids and taste yummy too!
The results are in! Mega Omega to the rescue!
Here is how the magic happens. Take a little inspiration, add some Chinese medical science, combine with ancient Asian wisdom, sprinkle with modern foodie exclamations of approval and BOOM!
A new recipe is born. Welcome to the family, Mega O.
As promised, here is some of the thinking behind the creative process:
Brown basmati rice establishes the foundation with a low glycemic grain to help maintain balanced blood sugar levels to keep mood even and prevent fat storage.
Pears are known in Asia to nourish Yin. They are very juicy and deliver an abundance of fluids packed with flavor, nutrients, and moderate natural sugars.
Chia Seeds are a must-include ingredient to nourish Yin. Able to absorb up to 20 times their volume in water, chia seeds deliver massive hydration to the entire system. These powerful seeds slowly release the moistening fluids over time. PLUS chia seeds are an excellent source of healthy omega essential fatty acids that are protected during low temperature cooking, so the full nutrient value is delivered in Breakfast Cure congee.
Black rice also known as forbidden rice strengthens Jing and the Kidneys which is important for controlling sweating and hot flashes. It is a superfood that has more antioxidants by weight than blueberries.
Red rice supports Qi to prevent fatigue and increase well being.
Cinnamon helps make it yummy and regulates fluids to help prevent bloating.
Coconut cream is neutral to slightly cooling in nature and nourishes Heart Yin which makes it exceptionally good for the type of anxiety and insomnia that is common during menopause is caused by the decrease of Heart Yin.
Pink Himalayan salt provides extra trace minerals that are often depleted as we age and are needed for your whole system to function optimally.
Fennel is amazing for gently warming and aiding digestion and elimination while also soothing the Liver which helps relaxation and reduces any tendency to irritability. Fennel builds Liver Blood which is part of Yin.
3 cups water- extra water is needed to achieve the maximum Yin nourishing benefits.
Together these ingredients are satisfying, soothing, moistening, calming, and deeply nourishing.
Mega-Omega is part of my morning routine for building Yin to cool, moisten, and stop the upward flaring of fire (read hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, and irritability).
All this awesomness without compromising (the fire of) my digestion. High Five!
I'm so grateful for having food medicine in my magical back of tricks.
All day focus and brain power... on a breakfast tray! Yes, please.
I'm very excited to share an article with you that was just published in Acupuncture Today. Written for acupuncturists who may not be tapping into the power and wisdom of our traditions, I explore some of the reasons ancient wisdom is the key to healing the modern epidemic of digestive distress.
By Karen M. Taylor, L.Ac.
Are you ignoring a powerful tool in your doctor's bag? Many acupuncturists realize that Spleen Qi deficiency has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S. Yet, we don't prioritize educating our patients about the importance of warm, cooked foods.
Most of us don't have time to make nutritional counseling part of everyday care even though digestive distress is increasingly common. Fad diets, conflicting nutritional information, endless processed food choices, ice cold drinks, and little time for home cooked meals all contribute to digestive distress.
Sometimes the simplest solution is the best one. I have found this to be especially true in cases of poor absorption, constipation, lack of appetite, slow transit, stomach aches, intestinal cramping and indigestion.
During my 23 years of clinical experience specializing in Chinese medical nutrition, I regularly prescribe congee, a traditional Asian rice porridge, with excellent results. Many acupuncturists are already aware that congee reinforces key concepts of Asian medicine. I appreciate the way it helps my patients understand Spleen Yang through their own experience of improved digestive fire.
While studying at Southwest Acupuncture College, my own health issues led me to seek advice from a respected professor. She taught me the benefits of traditional congee, how to make it, and where to find classical references and food energetics. She challenged me to mindfully feel into my belly after eating congee one morning and to and compare that feeling to my usual breakfast of cold cereal. I've been eating my warm, moist, soothing breakfast and feeling amazingly satisfied and nourished ever since.
The value of congee remains through every health fad of the past 25 years. "Bad" foods to be avoided went from meat and eggs to fats and now to grains. When questions arise about how to be truly healthy, I suggest we rely on the time-tested wisdom of the classical texts and our deeply rooted traditions, and not let ourselves be blown off course by the smallest breeze.
Congee in Our Diet
References to congee can be found as early as the Han dynasty, 206 B.C. to 220 A.D., but people were likely cooking congee hundreds of years prior. We can draw on the wisdom of a variety of classical medicinal congee recipes and adapt them for the modern Western palate. Congee can contain a wide variety of the highest quality gluten-free, organic whole grains, fruits, healthy fats, herbs and spices. However, never underestimate the power of a traditional white rice congee for those with compromised digestion!
In Prince Wen Hui's Cook: Chinese Dietary Therapy, Bob Flaws and Honora Wolfe discuss the benefits of congee; "This incredibly simple food has a number of health benefits. It is easy to digest and assimilate, it tonifies both Qi and Blood, it tones and harmonizes the Middle Burner, and it promotes urination. Depending on what is cooked with the Congee, it can have almost unlimited medicinal applications. Lord Buddha considered Congee made with milk and honey to be the chief medicinal food for preserving health. In the Mahavagga of the Vinaya Pitaka, Lord Buddha is recorded as saying: It confers ten things on him: life and beauty, ease and strength; It dispels hunger, thirst, and wind; It cleanses the bladder, It digests food. This medicine is praised by the well-farer."
The Right Consistency
Compliance is the key; taste and consistency are crucial to success. Yet ease really is the number one reason I still eat congee today. As a busy student, I immediately started making congee overnight in a slow cooker and found it so convenient that I've never strayed. Staying the course allowed me to discover for myself the positive effects on digestion and elimination.
I've spent years tailoring my recipes to suit my foodie taste buds as well as the diagnostic patterns of my own constitution. I've also discovered how to increase patient compliance in adopting this simple nutritional recommendation. Because this habit is easy to establish, and the results are long lasting, educating patients about congee is the best solution to offer for digestive complaints. The results have been so positive they've even surprised me.
Many of my patients report resolution of long-term digestive issues or constipation within one month of eating congee four or five times per week. They find this easy to do because this congee method is so easy and delicious. With a basic understanding of Chinese herbs such as rou dou kou (nutmeg) and sheng or gan jiang (fresh or dried ginger) it is simple to prescribe personalized congee made with ingredients found in the everyday kitchen with incredible results.
Congee sits in stark contrast to modern diets composed of dry and difficult to digest processed foods, cold options, or skipping breakfast altogether. Congee is exceptionally hydrating because it cooks slowly over many hours with ample water making it extremely easy to digest and absorb. It gently cleanses and soothes as it passes through the entire digestive system.
It's not a leap to imagine how congee in your belly would feel like a hug compared to the standard toast and coffee, yet American acupuncturists have not yet made it our mission to share this transformational wisdom with everyone.
I'm here to change that. If you haven't, start with yourself and experience just how amazing you can feel from this simple solution.
I wasn't always a congee advocate. Even though I've eaten congee for 25 years and always believed it to be a cornerstone of my excellent health, it wasn't until my own mother died from complications of constipation that I realized how important this information truly is. I am certain this warm, moist breakfast would have prevented the premature end to her brilliant life.
The benefits of a warm moist breakfast are obvious right away to patients once they feel the difference in their own stomachs and intestines. Give it a few weeks and symptoms like bloating and belching can disappear. If you are an herbalist, you can help patients tailor their congee recipes to treat a specific pattern diagnosis such and yin deficiency with false fire or Liver Qi stagnation.
If this sounds a bit overwhelming, please don't despair because it is quite simple. My mission is to provide recipes and educational materials to facilitate adopting congee as a morning ritual for everyone from toddlers to doctors of Chinese medicine.
Karen Taylor is a licensed acupuncturist and diplomate of Chinese herbology in Eugene, Oregon and has been in private practice for 23 years. In 2017, Karen established "Breakfast Cure" to educate and inspire you to eat congee for breakfast, so you feel soothed and nourished. For additional information please visit breakfastcure.com.
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To make energy, or Qi (pronounced "chee") for ourselves, we must breathe air into our Lungs and be able to digest food in our Stomach. Out of air and food we make Qi, our animating life-force. The understanding of Qi is one of the main ways that medicine and thought in Asia contrast with our Western outlook.
The secret to keeping your Stomach and its main cohort of digestion, the Spleen, happy is common knowledge all over Asia.
Just the other day I bumped into a Chinese American acquaintance who was curious about my congee based project. She told me about her mom's traditional recipes that I hope to have the pleasure of trying someday.
But, I was thrilled with what she said next!
“Oh, I love eating congee, especially in the winter. Of course, it keeps you slim!”
Most Americans don’t get that. It’s just not part of the way we relate to food at all. She agreed.
So, here is a bit of a cheat sheet on this wise perspective.
1. Give your digestion a break with very well cooked foods. Translation: Your belly needs a break just like the rest of us! Foods that are easy to digest and absorb give your whole digestive system a break and yet deliver the nutrients you need without all the effort. The net effect is an overall energy and metabolism boost.
2. Include warm foods and drinks in your diet. Translation: Consume warm foods and drinks. Pay attention to the nature of the food as well, meaning ginger and chilis are warming even if you eat them at room temperature.
3. Lube it up. Your digestion and all your cells that is! Getting well hydrated keeps everything running smoothly. Translation: Eat foods that are full of moisture and water to make sure all the fiber is extra plump and soft. This keeps everything moving through your system so you stay regular. When nothing is sluggish or backed up your digestion, elimination, and metabolism are optimized.
4. Don't put out your digestive fire. Translation: Ice-cold drinks, raw and cold foods slow your digestion and dial back your metabolism.
5. Don't eat only complex meals of hard, dry foods. Translation: Avoid exclusively eating difficult to digest, processed, rich, undercooked foods all mixed together because they take so much energy to digest. It slows down your metabolism and it slows you down too.
That's it. You've got this!
6. Embrace simple foods. Most Americans looking out for their health avoid white rice and consider it unhealthy. My patients are often shocked when I recommend this simple fare. Tip: When slow-cooked for a long time with tons of water, rice becomes congee, the cornerstone of medicinal food all over Asia.
The most important thing is that you eat warm, warming, hydrating foods that are easy to digest so your Spleen and Stomach will be happy.
This is exactly what I had in mind when I formulated my recipe for Breakfast Cure Masala Chai Spice. White rice is a medicinal food in this case and the spices amplify the metabolism boost that circulates the Qi so you feel motivated and nourished through winter.
Masala Chai Spice Breakfast Cure is a recipe that accomplishes all 5 of the steps to boosting metabolism and keeping your digestion and energy balanced for the long winter months.
It's a delicious breakfast that was created to build Qi, soothe and regulate digestion, and give your whole system a break with the most gentle, hydrating cleanse. White rice breaks down completely when cooked for a long time and is able to absorb 5 times the volume of water!
Anyone who knows me even a little bit knows that I'm a huge advocate of whole grains that haven't been processed, no parts have been removed. The fiber and nutrients are so good for you. But there is a time for true comfort food that focuses solely on gently soothing, healing and nourishing.
That time is any time you feel like it, but it is highly recommended for anyone experiencing digestive distress. Over the course of a few meals you can feel the soothing relief.
Try it for yourself. The true test is how it feels in your stomach after you eat it, and how you feel moving into your day. My friend Mo said it best. "It feels like a hug in your belly!" I think you'll agree.
The wisdom of Asian medicine is used to create a delicious healthy breakfast that boosts metabolism and soothes digestion. It's easy to make and cooks while you sleep so you wake up to an amazing breakfast ready and waiting.
A concept in Asian medicine that's really important for understanding how the breakfast cure works is water metabolism. It's part of your regular metabolism, but it's specific to what we would call the transformation and transportation of fluids. This matters because when it isn't working well in the body, bloating, water weight gain, and swelling are the result and who wants that?
Whole grains are excellent at resolving what we call "dampness." Warm foods are a good way to keep this dampness from originating in the first place. You really don't want this dampness because it makes you feel uncomfortable. It makes you feel sluggish, and it makes you feel tired.
It's so important to keep our Spleen and Stomach happy. Foods that support the spleen and stomach are these warm foods that are easy to digest. Giving your whole digestive system a break, while delivering excellent nutrition, is one of the benefits of congee.
Foods that support the spleen and stomach are these warm foods that are easy to digest. Giving your whole digestive system a break, while delivering excellent nutrition, is one of the benefits of congee.
Boost your metabolic furnace by eating warm foods and by adding warming spices, such as ginger and nutmeg. I'll talk about that more another time, but we understand that there's both the temperature and the nature of food. The temperature is what you eat it at. Is it boiling, or is it freezing?
There's also the inherent nature that doesn't change. If you freeze ginger, or make it into ice cream, there's still this warming quality underneath it.
Same with cayenne or other hot spicy foods. Also, many of the more subtle, culinary spices like nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, are all excellent for digestion and warm the digestion and the system in general. You want to incorporate those whenever you can. You make cucumbers into soup. They're still gonna be cooling. If you're eating warm food that feels warm in your belly, you are on the right track.
I like to talk about the benefits of warm, well-cooked food because most people I talk to haven't thought much about how much of their diet is cooked versus how much is raw and cold. Yet, this is such an important distinction made in Asian nutritional wisdom. If you missed my article on the Yin and Yang of Digestion, I talk more about my beloved topic.
First thing in the morning of course is one of the most important times to have a warming meal. You've just fasted overnight. To break this fast, the best thing you can do is have a really warm, nourishing breakfast that's easy to digest.
How much of your breakfast is cooked and how much is raw or cold? Leave a comment below and let me know. How did you get here? Do you base what you eat on information or on how it feels in your belly and the how it sustains your energy through the day? Is convenience and ease the biggest factor?
Digestion isn't what most people think of when I say "Yin and Yang." Just about everyone has heard of Yin and Yang, many have seen the symbol, and some have an idea that it represents balance. In the West, exposure to this concept often ends there, yet the paradigm of Yin and Yang informs so much of Eastern thought and is critical to understanding and improving digestion.
A medicine with Yin and Yang as a core principle of understanding has a unique window into the function and animation of the human being. At the most basic level, Yin is the substance, the fluid, and the tissue, whereas Yang is the warming, moving, energetic function of the body.
For example, the Spleen (an organ/channel complex) is a very important organ of digestion, but like all of the organs in Asian medicine, it is also the domain of other important functions. The Spleen, for example, transports and transforms the fluids, “checks” lifts/holds the organs in place, and also keeps the blood in the vessels to prevent unhealthy bleeding.
Have you ever thought you completely understood and believed in a theory or method only to have your own skepticism revealed to you? I love when this happens, as it did one day very early in my practice before I even had a license to use needles in my home state. More on that in a moment.
Moxa is a integral and important part of an acupuncture practice. Considered the only substance that is pure Yang, Moxa (Artemesia vulgaris) grows plentifully in Asia.
Dried and run through finer and finer screens, moxa becomes a lovely wool-like texture that can be formed into cones or rice sized grains. Called moxibustion when burned over the skin, this treatment is exceptionally effective for simply warming joints that hurt in the cold, but more importantly, treatment with moxa actually improves the functions of the organs themselves.
Called moxibustion when burned over the skin, this treatment is exceptionally effective for simply warming joints that hurt in the cold, but more importantly, treatment with moxa actually increases the functions of the organs themselves.
Back to my light bulb moment when my friend called to ask if I could help slow the extreme menstrual bleeding she was experiencing so she could drive two hours to the big city to see a specialist. She came over right away and I realized this was perfect for my current situation because I could treat her without needles.
The primary treatment for menstrual flooding such as this is to burn 7-10 rice grain moxa rolls on Spleen 1 in order to increase the function of the Spleen to hold the blood in the vessels. This acupuncture point is on the big toe.
Once I had burned 7 moxa grains on each Spleen 1, snuffing them out before burning the skin, my friend got up off the table. She came out of the bathroom looking confused and then ecstatic as the bleeding had completely stopped, no sign of it!
I was stunned. Yes, I had witnessed some amazing things in school and even while interning myself, but I had yet to really experience the truth of what I had learned on a much deeper lever. Yes, I believed, understood, memorized the functions of the organs in Asian medicine, but clearly part of me doubted.
From that day forward I never doubted again. I fully embraced the wisdom and importance of keeping the Yang of the Spleen strong, the approaches to keeping it strong, and how to treat it when it is weakened by excessive worry, overthinking, iced drinks, and raw or cold foods. Learn more in my article, Temperature vs Nature of Food.
This was a dramatic example of how important it is to keep your Spleen warm and happy. During the same time period I had started to seriously experiment with congee recipes. I was even more motivated at this point to optimize my recipes for strengthening the Spleen and Stomach.
There are many ways to be kind to your Spleen. Managing worry is one of the most important ways, but eating warm cooked food is often an easier and more predictable way to take care of this sensitive organ of digestion.
What is one thing you can do today to help your Spleen? Leave a comment below and let us know, or share one thing you've learned that has helped you to reduce worry or to warm up your diet?