Monday, October 22, 2007

Don't Get Sick

This might come too late for some people and I am sorry if you are already sniffling, sneezing, blowing or coughing. I have recently returned from a trip to find friends and clients suffering from colds and allergies. Even though that is a logical condition to experience with the season change, it doesn’t have to happen, really!

In Chinese Medicine a cold is an exterior condition since it is an acute pathogen entering the body from the external environment. The first step is prevention – keeping your exterior (immunity, skin, pores and joints) strong. I have successfully kept seasonal and winter colds away for several years. I’ve gotten the scratchy throat or minor sinus drainage but halted it from sinking deeper into my lungs avoiding cough, fatigue and time off from work.

An herbal formula like Jade Windscreen taken for several weeks prior to seasonal changes will strengthen immunity and balance Lung and Liver reducing seasonal allergies. Foods high in vitamin A, C and zinc and basic herbs such as rosehips, echinacea, parsley, nettles, ginseng, and barley grass will bolster the immune system. Energy boosters like Emergen-C help in a pinch.

The second step is know your very first symptom of a cold, don’t deny it’s a cold and treat it before it gets lodged into your respiratory system. The Chinese Medicine theory regarding colds is that Wind, the pathogen that causes the cold, enters at the nape of the neck.

General early signs of a cold: mild tiredness, headache, joint or neck aches,

chills, aversion to wind or cold, throat pressure or scratching, sinus sniffles,

sneezing or clear drainage. Fever, sore throat, fatigue or sinus pressure are

usually signs the cold is present and not an early sign. Each person is different

and you may have an early symptom that is not listed.

This second step reverses the pathogen’s progress. A practitioner recommends a tea with the action to vent energy up and out through the skin, or gua shas the neck and upper back, or needles points which will vent out the pathogen and strengthen the immune system. Gua sha, application of tool on the skin surface, causes the body to push out the Wind pathogen. Applying pressure and friction to the upper back and nape of the neck moves energy and blood mimicking the effects of sweating. The pores are stabilized reversing the pathogen’s progress.

If you want to treat yourself, you should sweat it out literally. Staying with the theory that the cold came in through your pores, push it out with sweat. Sweating will open your pores to release the pathogen. You don’t want to sweat to exhaustion since releasing sweat also releases your vital energy. If you have already been sweating since your early symptoms, you actually want to stop the sweating so don’t use the following instructions.

Drink a cup or two of hot tea of fresh herbs simmered and steeped in water – ginger or peppermint or cayenne or the sure fire scallion tea (3 – 5 stalks); or drink First Defense (my tactic for the last 8 years) a granule tea from Life Rising Herbs. Then take a steamy hot bath, stay warm keeping your pores open but protected by covering up and drink more tea while remaining warm and covered. Sweat away.

If you’ve been sweating from the start, this means your energy is a little on the weak side and you need to rest and to take herbs that will close the pores and increase your energy. Try drinking cinnamon twig and fresh ginger tea or a vegetable leek soup – foods that are nurturing, warm and slightly sweet natured.

The third step, if you didn’t catch your first sign of imbalance (most people get stuck at denying it’s a cold), is prevent it from reaching your lungs. To prevent that cough and mucus, you may need to let it run its course or get in to your local herbalist. Basic herbal formulas are as numerous as drugstore remedies. Over-the-counter cough suppressants do just that they suppress the cough pushing it deeper. It could just allow the pathogen to lie dormant until later in the season or push it down into the digestive system causing other symptoms. A cough causing discomfort, lack of sleep, or fatigue can benefit from a cough formula or syrup from Chinatown or an herbalist/acupuncturist or from some acupuncture and other herbal teas.

Autumn Dryness

I anxiously scan the trees for color changes from the airplane window on the descent into Chicago. Days prior to leaving town, I noticed a few deep red leaves appear along the Skokie Swift L ride. Would I miss the last blast of energetic color? I sighed. I saw significant dryness in the trees and in the air but the last shout from nature before the long hibernation of Winter was yet to come.

Metal is the element corresponding to Autumn. The turning of our yang active energy to the contemplative yin of Water of Winter mirrors the last vestiges of the foliage color explosion. Autumn’s seasonal climate and changes affects the Lung and Large Intestine organ energy making us susceptible to allergies, colds, and other respiratory symptoms.

One day back in town and I feel the effects of the Autumn dryness. I pull out an herbal formula to protect my lungs. Maintaining the yin fluids of the lung with herbs will prevent a dry scratchy or hacking cough.

But, what about food? What could I eat to protect my lungs? What would I recommend to clients?

Soy (tofu, tempeh, soymilk, miso), spinach, asparagus, millet, barley,

salt, seaweed, white fungus, apple, tangerine, pinenut, persimmon,

peanut, pear, honey, barley malt, sugar cane, whole sugar, oyster,

clam, mussels, pork, pork kidney.

Dryness in Chinese Medicine is decreased fluids of the body resulting in dry skin, itching, chapped lips, dry nose and throat, thirst, or unproductive cough. It particularly affects the Lung. Diet, excessive exercise, climate, or prolonged illness can lead to Dryness depleting the yin cooling moistening fluids of the Lung. Clients living in the standard Chicago apartment with radiator heat usually present with Dryness resulting from the intense dry heat hissing through the metal coils all winter.

I actually have a two fold task - protect my Lung and clear my skin. Skin is the physical expression of the Metal element in Chinese Medicine. I could feel and see the outcome of my two week “diet” of indulging in pasta, bread, tomatoes, and dairy and no green vegetables. My pores were congested, skin was peeling in the Lung area of my face, and my skin undertone was red and heated. Returning to my usual diet will be a start but I need to scour away the residue of congested dampness from my last two weeks. I want an easy fix.

The two-fold remedy of increasing moisture and removing dampness is handled delicately. Promoting moisture must be done in moderation or it will increase the level of dampness in my body. Scouring the dampness must be done gently or it will counter the effects of moistening drawing it all down and out of the body. As a result of my contradictory conditions I don’t get an easy fix.

Food is a gentle way to treat both ends of the spectrum. I munch on radishes during the day; make a stew with turnips, mung beans and mustard greens. I make a warm brussel sprout and sorrel sauté. The bitter pungent radish, turnip, and mustard along with brussel sprouts will reduce the indulgences of my trip; the nourishing and cooling mung bean will ease the heat from the espresso and sugar excesses. A pear tart is a beneficial treat. I focus my protein on white fish mainly to avoid animal fat counteracting the effects of the pungent vegetables. Fish is cooling and yin protein and very much an expression of the Water element. Water follows Metal in the Five Element cycle so I am supporting and building Metal strength from the foundation by working with Water.

Other than some of the seafood (mussels, clam, shrimp, oyster) any food I eat that benefits Lung and Large Intestine will improve my skin condition since Chinese nutrition heals from the inside out.

Lung Moistening foods

apple, apricot, avocado, banana,

cucumber, fig, irish moss, mulberry,

papaya, peach, pear, persimmon,

pinenut, radish, strawberry,

tangerine, walnut, watercress

Intestine Moistening foods

alfalfa sprouts, almond, apple,

apricot, banana, beet, carrot,

cauliflower, honey, okra, pear,

peach, prune, pine nut, seaweed,

sesame seed, soy products, spinach,



Soup Cubed

1 yellow onion diced

4 cloves garlic chopped

6 turnips cubed

3 med parsnips cubed

1 ½ lb celeriac cubed

1 lb butternut squash cubed

8 cups cut greens – any combo of mustard, turnip, collard, broccoli rabe

4 cups miso broth

1 cup cooked mung beans

turmeric, mace, cayenne

splash of vinegar


Pour a small amount of olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Toss in as you cube and chop each: onion, garlic, parsnip, turnip, celeriac, and squash. Stir as you add in each vegetable. Add pinch of salt, ¼ to ½ tsp each turmeric, mace and cayenne. Stir and sauté til most vegetables are softened. Add mung beans and miso broth. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Slowly add in greens. Add splash of vinegar.

Brussel Sprout Sorrell Saute

20 brussel sprouts shredded

2 cups sorrel leaves

Saute sprouts and sorrel for 5 – 10 minutes. Sorrel will pretty much melt while brussel sprouts will begin to wilt but maintain some body and crunch. Toss with dressing and serve.


1 fuyu persimmon or one very ripe hachiya persimmon**

Orange zest


Olive Oil

Umeboshi Vinegar* or Lemon juice

Agave nectar, if desired

Stew a chopped persimmon in small amount of water, puree with orange zest; continue to blend adding olive oil and vinegar until salad dressing consistency.

*Vinegar is astringent and can be used when no issues with candida exist. Ubeboshi Plum vinegar is appropriate in moderation for excess dampness or candida, otherwise lemon juice is a cooling alternative.

**Hachiya persimmon is very tart and draining unless completely ripe.

Pear Tart

4 cups pears thinly sliced lengthwise

½ tsp cinnamon

¼ cup agave nectar

½ cup chopped walnuts


1 ½ cups rice flour

2/3 cup tapioca flour (or starch)

2/3 cup potato flour (or starch)

1/3 cup flax meal

1 stick butter or equivalent other solid shortening

1/8 cup agave nectar

Lemon zest

Incorporate crust ingredients together to make dough. Pat crust into greased or parchment lined 9 inch rectangular pan. Carefully mix pears with cinnamon and agave nectar. Place pear slices onto crust. Bake at 425 for 30-40 minutes. Add walnuts coated with a small amount of agave nectar and/or olive oil for the last 10 minutes.