Chinese and other eastern cultures have been using herbal medicine to treat and prevent illness, and to maintain good health. It is only recently that we in the West have begun to appreciate how a natural approach to healing, and indeed to living, can enhance the quality of our lives. In the old days in china, you paid your doctor while you were well and stopped paying him when you fell ill. Practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine had no such fears: their system of preventative medicine worked superlatively.
Patients were taught a combination of good diet, good exercise and good breathing technique. If a patient did fall sick, there were powerful ways to bring him or her back to health: acupuncture, herbalism and massage. Sickness was simply not a way of life surely a tempting enough reason to investigate this incredible holistic system of healing.
Nowadays, in the West, we generally use only a small part of traditional Chinese medicine. Many people practice solely acupuncture; others purely herbalism. Both can have powerful effects on their own, but, if you really want to use this therapy in its most potent form, seek out a practitioner who can counsel you on all aspects of the Chinese way to health. Once you are eating, exercising and breathing properly, you shouldn't need more than a quarterly check-up and perhaps the odd tweak of a needle or the stray tonic to keep you in perfect health.
From the earliest times, people have stumbled across the healing powers of certain foods and herbs. But how did they discover that sticking a needle in a certain part of the body could have an effect on other parts, even curing disease? Some people say that acupuncture developed out of marma therapy. Others think that, after battles, the Chinese noticed some curious side effects of arrow wounds.
If the victim survived his wound, sometimes he would discover that a formerly chronic disease had mysteriously improved, or even vanished. From these observations, they surmise, acupuncture was developed.
The underlying philosophy behind traditional Chinese medicine is that good health revolves around the correct flow of qi, or chi, the subtle energy of the body. Qi flows around the body in channels called meridians, and along the meridians lie hundreds of points which link the various organs and functions of the body. While Western doctors often scorn this idea, new instruments such as the PIP scanner have actually confirmed what the Chinese have known for years: the position of the meridians and the acupuncture points.
If we look after ourselves, eat the right kinds of foods and undertake the right kinds of exercise, we can increase the amount of qi in our bodies. If we fall into bad ways, our levels of qi drop or are blocked and the consequence is lack of vital energy, emotional distress or even disease. The entire Chinese life view is immensely complex and, some might say, almost obsessive. Qi can be depleted or lost through too much, too little or the wrong kind of food, drink, exercise, work and even sex. Even your emotions can fall out of balance and affect your health.
YIN & YAN
According to traditional Chinese medicine, the world can be divided into two forces, yin and yang. Yin is considered to be dark, cold, negative, passive and feminine, while yang is light, warm, positive, active and male. Disturb the balance of yin and yang, and the result is disharmony, possibly ill health. In addition, there are the five elements to consider. Every one of us contains the elements of fire, earth, air (known as metal), water and wood. When a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner diagnoses, he or she does not just check for the flow of qi, but also looks to see how much of each element is within the body and what kind of energy is being transmitted. It is then possible to stimulate or quite unbalanced organs or body systems through food, exercise, massage, herbs or the needles of acupuncture.
WHAT CAN TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE HELP?
· Almost every condition will respond well to Chinese medicine
· Chinese herbs have become famous for treating eczema and other skin conditions
· Acupuncture also has good effects on emotional and psychological problems
· Acupuncture is well known as an aid to dieting and giving up smoking
· Conditions that respond well to acupuncture include headaches, cough and colds, irritable bowel
· syndrome, premenstrual syndrome , rheumatism and eczema
· Mechanical problems are usually treated with Chinese therapeutic massage – tuina.
KEEPING HEALTHY THE CHINESE WAY
There are simple changes we can all make to our daily lives which can help us to live healthier and even longer lives. A good diet is crucial. The first rule is to eat sparingly.
The Chinese say you should eat until you are 70-80 per cent full. All food should be chewed thoroughly to allow the enzymes in the saliva to start digestion. Liquids should also be sipped rather than gulped.
Avoid extremes of temperature -the Chinese tend not to eat or drink things that are either very hot or very cold. Ideally, food should be steamed, poached or stir-fried. The traditional Chinese diet follows the World Health Organization guidelines almost exactly being high in complex carbohydrates, vegetables and fruits, while low in saturated fat. Fish is rated highly and meat is eaten only in small quantities. Chinese physicians have always recommended eating 'earth’ chicken.
The Chinese diet avoids dairy produce. as it is believed to cause allergies and infections. Eggs are eaten only rarely. The Chinese also avoid most of the nightshade family of vegetables, which includes potatoes, tomatoes and peppers. Caffeine and tobacco should also be avoided.
Grains are rated very highly and rice is considered to be the most nourishing of all grains. Pulses such as lentils, aduki beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, mung beans and tofu (made from soya beans) are also important mainstays of the Chinese diet. Vegetables are usually cooked, as they are considered much easier for the body to assimilate in that form. Also, cooked vegetables are believed to build up the body. White cold vegetables have a more eliminating action.
Red meat is very rarely eaten and then only when the body is depleted -it is considered very rich and to cause aggression and irritability in large doses. However, it can be therapeutic -e.g. a woman might eat a nourishing lamb stew after her period to regain blood and energy.
THE CHINESE MEDICINE CABINET
Sun Ssu-mo, an ancient Chinese physician in the Tang Dynasty, correctly diagnosed and cured beriberi, the nutritional deficiency disease caused by a lack of thiamine (vitamin B-1) -1;000 years before European doctors. He wrote: 'A truly good physician first finds out the cause of the illness and, having found that, he first tries to cure it with food. Only when food fails does he prescribe medication.
Barley meal: helps the digestion and drains what the Chinese call 'damp heat' - moving away foods that are stagnant in the system. Boil with rice for two hours.
Brussels sprouts: are rich in alkalizing elements when lightly steamed, and particularly good for the pancreas.
Cherries: are detoxifying, works as a laxative and stimulate the nervous system. The darker the cherries are, the more therapeutic their value.
Chicken: raises qi (energy) and is generally uplifting.
Cinnamon bark and euconia bark: both possess aphrodisiac qualities.
Cucumber: is rich in potassium, sodium and phosphorus. It is good for the nails and hair, as well as promoting excretion of waste through the kidneys.
Ginseng: is an energy tonic to lift spirits and raise energy. It is very useful for those who are run down after an illness. Ginseng is also good for mental and physical stamina. (Note: contraindicated for high blood pressure, severe headaches or fever.)
Grapes: are often used to cure constipation and gastritis, and as general detoxifiers. They also alkalize the digestive tract and bloodstream. Dark grapes are best.
Horseradish and lemon juice: provides quick relief from mucus congestion –useful for coughs, colds, flu, asthma and pneumonia.
Lycii berries: tonify the blood, Put them in buns or sprinkle them on porridge.
Mushrooms Shiitake: mushrooms are often used as energy raisers. Reigen mushrooms are used as immune stimulants said to raise the white blood cell count. Often used by those with HIV/ AIDS, they can also be used by anyone for their calming effects. They are said to alleviate stress and help you work with more vision.
Raw beetroot juice: is a natural kidney cleanser, dissolving and eliminating any gravel.
Raw carrot and spinach juice: detoxifies the digestive tract and helps normal bowel function. It is also used for tonsillitis and pneumonia, can help with rheumatism and colitis, and is believed to strengthen the heart and ease menstrual problems.
Raw, crushed garlic: contains allicin, a powerful natural antibiotic and fungicide that helps prevents colds and flu, and is said to raise libido.
Raw tomato: is believed to reduce inflammation of the liver.
Red meat: is helpful for blood. It is eaten very rarely by the Chinese, but some practitioners recommend women eat red meat after their periods to make new blood. A typical recipe is to cook lamb with Chinese angelica and Iycii berries.
Schizandra: helps focus the mind and is useful for those who are studying.