By Samantha Kloss, L.Ac., Dipl. O.M.
Chinese herbs have been used for thousands of years as well as written about extensively in several classical texts. Our current “Materia Medica”, (book of herbal medicines), contains well over 500 herbs, which all have specific and unique properties and actions. Chinese herbs are differentiated by categories in terms of what they treat, as well as by the flavor and nature of the herb. In Chinese medicine, the flavor of the herb tells us a little bit about the action that the herb has on the body.
In my nutrition class last month, I talked about how the particular flavors of food provides more than just delicious diversity for our palates. In Chinese herbal medicine, flavors also initiate physiological reactions in the body. While drinking the herbs may cause an initial unpleasant reaction due to their strong taste, they are ultimately initiating change inside of the body, which is necessary to bring our bodies back into balance.
Below are some example of flavors and their corresponding actions.
Sour- Think about taking a bite out of a lemon, our mouth puckers, our body contracts, and salivation occurs. This illustrates what we know to be true in Chinese medicine- that the sour flavor has a constricting and astringent nature, and also helps to generate body fluids (for example: saliva).
Sweet- Most of us crave the sweet flavor when we feel tired and depleted and there is a very good reason for this! The sweet flavor, when used in moderation, is helpful in supporting overall “tonification” for the body. This means that it helps to strengthen our energy reserves, and helps to supplement and nourish our blood. In Chinese medicine, the state and amount of the blood is a huge factor for our overall vitality and health, especially in women.
Salty- Have you ever gurgled salt water in order to calm a swollen, sore throat? Modern research shows that salt pulls mucous out of inflamed tissue in order to relieve throat discomfort. Chinese medicine has known that salt does this for years! Salty softens accumulations and areas of hardness and also has a draining action. Kelp, another salty food and a Chinese herb, is actually currently being studied for its ability to break down plaque, another hard accumulation that forms on teeth.
Bitter- While it is perhaps the most unpalatable of all the flavors, the bitter flavor is so crucial as it is used to clear inflammation from the body. Inflammation is what we call “heat” in Chinese medicine. It can manifest in so many different ways- the most obvious being fevers and sensations of heat or “hot flashes”, skin eruptions, red swellings, a burning sensation, gut issues, etc.
Spicy/Acrid- Have you ever eaten something spicy, such as horseradish and experienced a runny nose or the ability to breathe better? The spicy(acrid) flavor is used to create warmth and promote circulation and movement throughout the body. In this way, they can be used to open up the orifices of the nose by moving blockages out of the way and promoting circulation.
When we use Chinese herbal medicine, we rarely ever use single herbs. We pair several different herbs, often herbs with different flavors and natures in order to create a balanced and comprehensive prescription that matches your exact presentation. By creating customized herbal formulas, we can treat complex diseases unique to the individual that manifest with multiple different patterns and symptoms.
I once heard someone say, “Just as the best advice can often be painful to the ears, the best medicine is painful to the tongue!”. It’s true that herbs can be bitter, sour, bland, salty, and sweet tasting and depending on the formula, it might not make for the most pleasant tasting drink. However, herbs aren’t meant to taste good- they are used as medicine and meant to provide relief from chronic health issues with minimal to no side effects. If you are interested in Chinese herbal medicine, we offer affordable herbal consults, in which we take an in-depth look into your health history and create a customized formula specifically for you. I’d be happy to talk to you about whether you can benefit from Chinese herbal medicine!
So What’s the Big Deal About Circulation?
By Mary Dravis-Parrish
Maybe I learned all about circulation in biology class, but it didn’t stick with me just how vital it is to have good circulation at a micro-level and how this can affect my overall health. Circulation is a very BIG deal.
Why is our circulatory system so important?
Circulation is the transport mechanism that involves the whole body, from the largest vessels to the smallest. The capillary level is where it is crucial to maintain the exchange of nutrients and oxygen and the removal of metabolic waste products such as carbon dioxide, which accumulates because of normal cellular function. There is a huge network of extremely small blood vessels in our body, some of which are four times thinner than a strand of hair. These networks of small vessels surround all organs and tissues in the body and are vital to cellular function.
Did you know…
That the BEMER (Bio-Electro-Magnetic-Energy-Regulation) is specifically designed to improve your vital circulatory system at the micro level so that our capillaries can be a more efficient transport system and support our other systems like digestion, immunity, pulmonary, muscular, and neurological. This in turn affects how well we move, feel and enjoy life. This video gives you a demonstration of what occurs at the micro level.
While I have experienced various benefits, one of the surprise advantages that I have received from using the BEMER at least once a week, is an increase in endurance. I used to get out of breath climbing any incline, including the stairs in my home. Being one that loves to hike, I decided to go for a hike this fall willing to concede that I may only make it half a mile before I would be tired. Imagine my surprise when I walked not one mile, but 3 miles to the top of the foothill and then back another 3 miles. And I wasn’t winded at all at the top of the hill and could enjoy the view. Now I can look forward to one of my favorite activities. The BEMER has also assisted me in reducing joint discomfort, healing after a broken tailbone, and improved mental clarity. You are invited…
At Thrive Community Acupuncture in Fort Collins, you can come in for a free session of the BEMER and learn how to use this advanced technology so that you too can receive benefits that can enhance your life. Here is a summary of the benefits which may occur from increased micro-capillary blood flow:
Click here to learn more and to schedule your free session.
By: Dee Gorski, L.Ac., Dipl. Ac.
A tree cannot stand, much less thrive, without solid roots. In its pushing through the soil, reaching for the sun, a sprout balances by digging in, gripping the Earth. As it grows, those roots don’t vanish, or become moot, but become the very basis for its survival. If you feel skeptical about that claim, think about how many trees can be toppled by storms only to grow fresh stalks from the torn stump left behind. To be sure, the sun and wind play a vital part in the trees life, the yang energy (or heavenly qi) feeding it from above, but it is the foundation of yin that keeps it grounded in a storm and alive through the cold winter. In our lives it is sleep that plays that role for us.
Sleep is a vital portion of our health. Our modern view is that sleep should account for a third of your life to maintain a healthy balance… I know, that sounds like a lot but 8 out of 24 hours is one third of each day. It is not only a significant amount of time, but of significant importance to our stability and health. We can usually feel the effects of not getting enough sleep; in our minds, our emotions, in our bodies. Sleep is when we repair.
In the view of Chinese Medicine, sleep is when the spirit and defensive qi (wei qi, pronounced “way chee”) condenses inward, settles in the heart and directs the healing of the body as a whole (mind, body and spirit.) Classically this process is thought to trigger around sunset, as the world around us enters into a cooler, yin phase. As we enter into our own personal yin phase, there are a number of factors that can disrupt or even displace this time for us. This shows up as trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, waking unrested, and/or having restless active dreaming. Any of these problems can slowly wear a person down and create bigger problems, which is why it is so important to focus on the regenerative powers of rest. It is the foundation, the roots, of your good health.
If you are having problems with sleep there are many tools to help sleep patterns stabilize, many are easy to find or just generally known (I bet you're thinking of one or two already!) While many of these options can seem simple, not all of them are helpful to everyone's situation, and some can even develop long term problems. I hope you can join me for my free talk about sleep supports on Tuesday, February 18th at 7:00 pm, to dive deeper into this important topic. CLICK HERE to register.
By: Samantha Kloss, L.Ac., Dipl. O.M.
The Importance of Nutrition from a TCM Point of View
Over the last decade or so, the topics of healthy eating and proclaimed “superfoods” have received massive attention as more people are becoming cognizant of the link between eating whole, unprocessed foods and good health. Instead of focusing on how efficient we can make the process of eating (via fast food or microwaved frozen meals), the new quest is which foods can increase our body’s performance.
Western medicine, as well, has made great progress over the last few years in recognizing the role of the gut biome and how the state of our digestion can impact mood, behavior, and overall health. However, the idea of food being a catalyst for both health and disease has existed for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine. The need for the traditional way of eating is becoming more relevant than ever as the state of our health nationally has declined from decades of fried, sugary, processed foods being the centerfold of our diet.
The view of Chinese medicine is that both good health and disease start in the gut; and therefore, the foods we eat can either be an aid for healing or a weight that drags us down and leaves us feeling heavy, bloated, tired, or sick. Most everyone of us has had at least one experience where eating a particular food has caused our body to not feel so great. I’m here to write about how eating the right foods can do just the opposite! But, what are the “right” foods? This question has become even more confusing as it seems like each year there is a new diet trend that promises to be the best thing for us!
What I personally love about Chinese medicine “food therapy”, a term used to describe food being used medicinally, is that diet is considered unique to the individual and there is no “one size fits all”. The basic principles of eating according to Chinese medicine include eating whole, unprocessed foods, eating foods that are in season, eating mindfully, and eating in accordance with your own unique constitution or Chinese medicine diagnosis. In other words, if you seek to use food medicinally - either for prevention or to heal from a specific ailment, eating the “right” food varies from person to person and is based specifically on your symptoms and constitution.
If you would like learn more, please join me for my upcoming talk about Chinese medicine nutrition on Monday, January 20th at 7:00 pm in our Fort Collins office. I look forward to sharing the benefits of eating from a traditional perspective and how you can use food as a source of medicine to enhance your health! If you would like a more personalized approach, you can schedule a TCM Nutrition Consult with me and we can explore your personal needs together.