February 16, 2019, by Michael
“Often I find myself drinking a delicious warming tea that I refer to as a cup of hug”
Chinese medicine is a preventative medicine; typically patients are treated before they are sick. Historically, Chinese doctors would only treat healthy people, and their patients should not get sick in the first place. Also, treatment is related to the season, and if a patient has a health problem in a particular season, then treatment should begin long before the start of that season.
In this light, I would like to share with you some of the wonderful warming herbs and spices used in Chinese medicine dietary therapy for those people whos health declines in winter, for those who find it hard to stay warm or get warm in the first place.
Warmth is so important to maintain healthy digestion, blood flow, joints, and muscles. Cold has a contracting nature that tightens the pores on the skin, restrict circulation and can lead to pain. For these reasons so many aspects of warmth have such a lovely healing effect on the body.
Of course, not everyone requires the same amount of warmth to be healthy. Some people can have too much heat in the body, for those people this advice is not for you. Heat in Chinese medicine refers to Yang. If you are deficient in Yang you may experience some of these signs and symptoms:
- A pale face and tongue
- Dark circles under the eyes
- Spontaneous sweating
- Poor digestion and abdominal pain
- morning diarrhea
- copious clear urination
- low sex drive or a long menstrual cycle
- low energy and a desire to sleep a lot
- feeling very cold
As the colder days approach, it can be a great idea to start bringing out some lovely warming spices and herbs to start supporting your Yang. Often I find myself drinking a delicious warming tea that I refer to as ‘a cup of hug’, because of the warmth that starts radiating from my stomach as I drink it.
There are many herbs that can be incorporated in teas and dishes if you find that you are easily affected by the cold such as:
- Ginger – fresh has the ability to make you sweat out a pathogen when you have a cold, whilst the dry type goes to your digestion. Simmer with green onions and water at the first sign of a cold with white phlegm. Or have grated as a tea to help circulation or if you have arthritis that gets worst in the winter. Also often used for nausea.
- Cinnamon – Warms the digestion, relieves bloating and encourages circulation. I love the flavor of this in Morrocan curries.
- Fennel seeds – Used for abdominal distension/pain, reduced appetite and or vomiting. It is great as tea or season meats or added to salads.
- Lamb – Nourishes the blood and warms the Yang to treat weakness in the lower back, knees, frequent nocturnal urination, and low libido. Cook in liquid with ginger, garlic chives, rosemary, thyme and oregano to enhance the warming effect.
- Star Anise – improves appetite, used for bloating, lower back and abdominal pain. Add it to your Indian curries.
- Tumeric – invigorates blood to treat pain, period pain, often used for shoulder joint pain. Though it should be avoided during pregnancy because of its strong moving quality. Enjoy a turmeric latte, add to curries or add it to a sweet potato soup.
Incorporating some of these into your diet is a great way to use food as medicine and ensure that healthy digestion and a strong Yang is ready as the days get colder.
In the colder seasons, it is also important to reduce cold liquids and keep the body warm, particularly the kidneys, nape of the neck and the feet.