With this post I would like to share my approach to the viral pandemic we found ourselves into and offer it to anyone who finds it sensible and beneficial. My approach and in-home therapies are based on my education, knowledge and experience in traditional Chinese medicine, as well as my knowledge in Western herbal medicine and Western conventional medicine. 

Please know that this information is for consumer education purpose only and that you always need to seek the advice of a physician or other qualified professional regarding concerns with your personal health and medical condition. Please read our Disclaimer.

 

The concept of immunity in traditional Chinese medicine is very different from what immunity is perceived as in Western medicine. Immunity in TCM is largely guided/overseen by two major organs – the uppermost and lowermost solid organs in the body - the Lung and the Kidney. Let’s look at them a little more closely.

 

The Lung in Chinese medicine is often referred to as the “umbrella organ”. When you look at an x-ray of a lung you will easily see why.

 

Lung

 

The Lung is viewed as the “protective” organ of the body, the one shielding the rest of the organs from external pathogens (in Chinese medicine external pathogens are viewed as the six climatic factors or “the six evils”). Together with the lower respiratory tract (trachea, bronchi) the Lung also governs the upper respiratory tract (nose, nasal passages, sinuses). Whenever there is pathogen attacking the body it goes through the Lung and its constituents – the upper and lower respiratory tract. They all work as shields that protect the body from the pathogen entering it further and deeper in. The Lung furthermore governs the so called Wei Qi  (Protective Qi), which circulates under the skin and between the muscles and also protects the body from external pathogens. Thus it is essential that at all times the vitality of the Lung is strong - it is our frontline soldier. 

 

Usually the pathogen first hits the upper respiratory tract having the body fight it with runny nose (the body's attempt to flush out the pathogen), cough (from the runny nose), sore throat (the body trying to locally “toast” the pathogen by sending white blood cells to the area), and maybe fever (the body’s overall response to external/pathogenic attack). If the body cannot hold up at that level the pathogen sinks deeper entering the actual organ – Lung – causing internal diseases known in Western medicine as bronchitis and pneumonia. It is considered that once it manages to pass the Lung the pathogen enters the deeper realms of the body transforming itself from initially being "wind" into "heat", then "toxic heat", "dryness", etc., attacking different organs and causing various internal damages.

  

The Kidney in Chinese medicine is referred to as the “root organ”.

 

Roots Of Big Old Tree

 

Just like the root is essential for the growth, strength, longevity, reproduction and overall vitality of the plant, so is the Kidney responsible for all these essentials in the human being. Thus if the Lung has a “protective” function in the sense of shielding the body from external threat, the Kidney has a “nurturing” function in the sense of developing/nurturing the body from within. So when we want strong immunity we want to cater to those two organs. How do we do that? Through selecting healing substances based on the appropriate colors and tastes.

 

The Lung benefits from white color foods, herbs and substances. Every ingredient with white color benefits the Lung. In the current situation (knowing that the Lung is a constituent of the immunity and that it will take the first and most dangerous hit of the pathogen that circles the world right now) there are 5 major white color ingredients completely accessible in every part of the world that can be used to maintain our immunity and assure that the vitality of the Lung is strong. These substances are – garlic, onion, coconut oil, baking soda and salt. Let’s go through them one by one.

 

White Foods

 

I would like to start with garlic first. This amazing vegetable is largely used in many cultures as a culinary aid yet here we need to consider consuming it raw. Garlic has a proven antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, antiparasitic property. It is white and … spicy – the taste that stimulates the Lung. Taking raw garlic daily benefits our body and immunity from the perspective of both medicines - Eastern and Western. It is important to mention that its truly strong anti-pathogenic effect might cause some (if not most) people to experience side effects when consuming it. This is due to the fact that whenever bacteria and parasites get destroyed they release toxins which based on the amount of garlic taken might give unpleasant sensation of nausea and lightheadedness to flu-like symptoms. Therefore it is best that the strong quality of raw garlic is introduced to the body gradually. Starting with 1/3 garlic clove a day for couple of days in a row, moving to 2/3 garlic clove for couple of more days, coming to a full garlic clove daily, is gradual and easy on the body. Taking one garlic clove a day for 1-2 months a year to cleanse the body from all kinds of viruses, bacteria, fungus and parasites is something reasonable to do yearly. In the case of pandemic it is something we might consider doing as we speak.

In my culture eating raw garlic together with your meal is part of our culinary ethnicity. I do understand however that for a lot of other cultures out there this might be odd or even repulsive (I tried to advocate the garlic “internal hygiene” principle to my medical students in China and it didn’t go very well…). So for those who feel repelled by the idea of snacking on raw garlic I suggest to cut the garlic clove into small slices and swallow them in the form of small pills. This may also help with the “garlic breath” situation as the garlic will not be chewed up (causing bad breath) but swallowed directly, causing say…mildly bad breath. Certainly if one is social and unrestrained one can have the garlic at dinner time.

 

The other white substance that stimulates the Lung is onion. Consuming raw onion with your meal just like consuming raw garlic is also very beneficial for the Lung not only from TCM perspective (color-white/ taste-spicy) but also from Western science perspective. Yet it is my experience that garlic has a broader antimicrobial spectrum therefore a better soldier to choose. Certainly we can consume both as well. But here I will propose a different onion therapy for the Lung – inhalation of onion water vapor.

  

Luk

 

This is very effective for first stage “wind-attack” symptoms (known as “common cold” in the West). Runny nose benefits greatly from inhalations with onion. Lower respiratory symptoms such as cough (dry or productive) and cough with sputum also benefit greatly from such an onion therapy. Simply chop two to three large onions into quarters – and throw them together with their peels in a stove 1/3 full with water. Once the water starts to boil bow down above the stove, cover your head with a towel (to preserve the healing mist), and breath in deeply the mist. If your nose is runny and/or congested you might start with breathing the vapor through your nose. If you have some cough and lower respiratory issues you can switch to breathing through your mouth to get the healing vapor into the lungs directly.

 

Here is when we introduce the baking soda. Another white substance that is antimicrobial - simply for the fact that it is alkaline (usually bad bacteria, viruses, parasites, etc. do not thrive in alkaline environment). One table spoon of baking soda is added to the boiling onion water to further disinfect the upper and lower respiratory tracts. I have been using baking soda as a cleanser and disinfectant for some years now. I have two boys, a dog, and a ferret, and my house gets quite messy very often. I keep it clean and nice-smelling with baking soda. I sprinkle it on my carpets and let it stay for half an hour, then vacuum the carpets to find everything smelling fresh and clean. I dilute it with water (around 3 tablespoons per litter) and sprinkle it on my kitchen counter daily (specially after I have worked with raw meat). If the vegetables for my salad are not my own produce I soak them in water diluted with baking soda for 10-15 minutes (again – 3 teaspoons/liter will do). If you do this yourself you will find that the color of your fruits and veggetables is much more vibrant after you've soaked them with baking soda than it was before. Everything – kitchen and bathroom appliances and surfaces, fruits and vegetables (even your own face! … but this is another discussion for another time) are visibly cleaner and more vibrant after they have been through some baking soda treatment.

 

The fourth white-color antimicrobial substance that I use is coconut oil. Most of you know that nowadays coconut oil is viewed as superfood. There is so much information on its properties and indications that there is no need to list them here. Here we only want to remember that it is white color and that it is highly antimicrobial (so much so that it needs to be introduced to the body gradually in order to avoid “healing crisis” as the one mentioned with the garlic). Yet – just like the garlic – this is a substance that cannot be consumed in large quantities and at any time. Being oil it can fit in only few of our daily routines. I personally put a table spoon into my morning coffee or tea and I consume it like that. In the beginning the oily surface of your favorite drink will feel and taste odd but within couple of days I personally got used to it and actually craved its nourishing/moisturizing property when I discover that I am out.

 

Last but not least – salt. Another white color substance salt is very beneficial to the Lung and its constituents in the form of nose drops. The way to make them is really easy – take some boiled water and add sea salt to it. Keep adding salt until the mixture gets the taste of the sea. Put couple of drops into your nose three times a day if you have mild runny nose and increase to couple of drops every couple of hours if you have a more serious cold/flu like symptoms. What it does is it dehydrates the environment of the microbe (which as every living being requires water to survive) thus destroys the ability of the microbe to survive. When introduced through a pipette to the nose the salty liquid drips down back to the throat dehydrating (thus destroying) the microbes that have covered ones throat. This is what makes this treatment very useful for the current pandemic situation because we know that the virus likes to attach itself to the throat mucosa and remain there. Throwing some salt water through the nose down the throat will not only dehydrate and unplug the breathing but also dehydrate the throat mucosa surface where the virus resides, thus devastate its environment.

 

It is here where we will take a little detour from Chinese medicine’s white color substances and mention fish oil. This amazing supplement is something I give my boys daily to strengthen their immunity and relieve eventual stress. It is good for the immunity because it fortifies the mucosa thus reduces the ability of microbes to easily attach to it. It has many more amazing health inducing properties (especially for women) but we will talk about them in different posts. 

 

Back to Chinese medicine we also need to mention the not-so-white ginger – another herb with antimicrobial properties. In Chinese medicine ginger is a warm acrid herb used to expel “wind-cold” (common cold) and is prescribed for acute and chronic cough patterns and Lung disorders with phlegm. I personally like to throw a slice or two of fresh ginger in my green tea to neutralize the green tea’s cold temperature with the warm temperature of the ginger (if you like to know more about the temperatures of the different foods, herbs and spices click here).

 

After we sufficiently covered how to strengthen the “umbrella organ” let’s go to “the root organ” – the Kidney. As mentioned above the Kidney benefits from black color foods. I found the best ones to be black sesame (you can take it in the form of black sesame tahini), black beans (beans have the shape of a kidney), water chestnut, blackberry and blueberry. They can be incorporated in snacks and meals and are easy to be found everywhere in the world. Yet here I would like to mention one black food-herb that I discovered two years ago and tested its amazing immune-inducing properties together with my family – elderberry (Sambucus nigra). One of its many properties is to strongly stimulate the immunity being especially beneficial for coughs, colds, flu, bacterial and viral infections as well as tonsillitis. I found on the internet that Elderberry juice was used to treat a flu epidemic in Panama in 1995. I can personally root for this herb as I have given it to my boys every day during the last year’s flu season and they remained completely healthy despite the fact that half of the pupils in their school had the flu and were absend from school, and that the school had to go into “flu vacation” eventually because of the severity of the infection.

 

Elderberry

 

In my country elderberry can be found in the fields and in the mountains so I go in the autumn season to pick it myself. If you happen to decide to do that (and if you are certain that you can recognise the herb with precision) please know that you can only pick completely ripe black elderberries and absolutely avoid the green colored and purple colored unripe ones, which are very toxic. This is extremely important!

After I have my berries I make syrup (based on the recipe by our country's famous traditional medicine healer Peter Dimkov). I place one finger-width elderberry in a jar then and add one finger-width sugar. Than on top of this I add another finger-width elderberry and another finger-width sugar up until the jar is completely full. I then cover it with cotton cloth to let it breath and leave it in a dark and dry place somewhere in my basement for 40 days. After 40 days I take it out and strain the juice throwing out the remain of the berries. I keep the syrup in glass jars and bottles and in the refrigerator. The daily dose is one teaspoon for kids and one tablespoon for adults on empty stomach.  Another local healer recommends 10 elderberries on empty stomach for 1 month for cleansing the blood, which I have also done with my husband and felt very good. In any ways - I am not sure if you have elderberry growing in your country/continent and whether it exists in your culture's traditional medicine or not but it is definitely worth the research!

 

Now let’s go over everything we discussed so far and show you how our family fits it all into our daily routine. We start our day with a hot cup of coffee or tea (for the boys) in which I dissolve at least one teaspoon of coconut oil. We take one teaspoon of the elderberry syrup on an empty stomach at that time. We take our fish oil supplement with our breakfast. If we are not leaving the house for the day we have some raw garlic with our lunch (if we are – with our dinner). For afternoon snack we could have fresh black/blueberries or berry jam mixed with yogurt. If any of us feels a little off with some upper or lower respiratory symptoms – runny or congested nose, some sore throat and/or cough - we apply salt-water nose drops every couple of hours and do onion water inhalations every couple of hours as well. In those cases we stop completely consuming sugar and sugar products (besides the elderberry syrup) as sugar is tonic and tonifies the pathogen. We eat only raw honey for it has strong antimicrobial properties and not-so-sweet fruits such as grapefruits. We also drink an extra amount of antimicrobial herbal tea - St. John's Worth tea for the adults and Chamomile tea for the boys. 

 

This is how I handle the current situation – strengthening my family’s and my own immunity and preparing our bodies to be strong in case we get hit with the virus. I hope that this information sounds sensible and that it can be of some benefit.

 

There is one last thing I would like to add. As everyone understandably feels fearful in this situation it is important to mention that according to Chinese medicine fear is the emotion that corresponds to/is connected with the Kidney. Immense fear destroys the Kidney’s vitality and this is exactly what we cannot allow in the current situation.  

The antidote of fear is love. One cannot feel fear and love simultaneously. Love extinguishes fear. Therefore as part of working on becoming stronger and healthier let's fill our minds with compassion, love and good wishes for all sentient beings. I am certain that this will bring great benefit to everyone around us, to ourselves, and will work strongly towards transforming our current uneasy situation. 

 

In health,

 

Yana

Founder of the Holosapiens Project

 

Roots Korean Red Ginseng Root Human 260x555

Oil pulling is not Chinese medicine practice but an Ayurvedic medicine one. The procedure is simple –  one tablespoon of oil is swished 10-20 minutes in the mouth. When the oil starts giving a watery-like feeling in the mouth it is ready to be spit out. The mouth should be thoroughly rinsed after – none of the oil residue should be swallowed.

 

Oil pulling is used to cleanse the oral cavity but it is also suggested that it detoxifies the whole body. This makes sense from the perspective of traditional Chinese medicine, therefore I talk about it here.

 

In Chinese medicine the tongue is the mirror of our internal body. Every part of the tongue corresponds to a different body organ – the tip of the tongue corresponds to the Heart, right behind it is the spot of the Lung, the center belongs to the Spleen and Stomach, the sides of the tongue correspond to the Liver and Gall Bladder, and the back corresponds to the Kidney and the Urinary Bladder. When making a diagnosis a TCM practitioner mandatory looks at the patients tongue to get the full picture of the patient’s condition. A tongue covered with thick greasy fur among other things indicates a build-up of toxins and vice-versa – a naturally pink tongue with thin white coat reflects a healthy digestive system, a normal gut flora, and overall healthy functioning body organs. Thus when the tongue is “clean” the body is “clean”. Therefore oil pulling, which cleanses the oral cavity, including the tongue, could be considered to cleanse the internal body, which is reflected by the tongue.

 

Tongue Map

 

The most commonly oils used for oil pulling are the ones with most abundant health benefits such as coconut oil, sesame oil and olive oil. Today I suggest olive oil to get in the rhythm of the spring and its correspondent green-cleansing color (which is also color of the olive oil).

 

Olive Oil

 

Oil pulling couple of times a week during spring season is a nice addition to the other practices and eating suggestions listed in the Kitchen medicine blog and the Project. All of them collectively aim to cleanse the Liver, dissipate anger and/or depression, and vitalize the way we experience life.

 

This is a simple Chinese soup with soft tofu and Goji berry leaves.

 Gouqi Leaves

 

The "soup culture" in China is different from the "soup culture" in the West. In the West the soups are rich in flavor, spices and ingredients and they alone can serve as a meal. Chinese soups are very plain and if I may say “watery”. They serve somewhat as a nourishing hot drink to go with the meal rather than a separate dish. Chinese herbs of various kinds (fresh, dried, from animal or plant sources) are usually added to the soup to enhance its healing and nourishing property. It is also not uncommon for people to have the soup after the main dish rather than starting the meal with the soup.

Today we will make a simple Chinese soup with only few ingredients: soft tofu, Goji berry leaves, some ground beef (this is difficult to find here in China so I use ground pork), some oil (try sesame oil! – it has great health benefits and gives the soup a nice Chinese cuisine smell), and black pepper (lots of it).

 

IMG 0702

 

Among other vital minerals tofu is rich in iron, which immediately qualifies it as blood tonic. In Chinese medicine the two organs that are prone to blood deficiency are the Liver and the Heart. Thus one way to nourish the Liver during spring time (and during any time!) is to nourish Liver blood. Tofu is a nice addition to any blood tonic dish and we use it here today.

 

In Chinese medicine Goji berry is in the blood tonifying class of herbs. It enters the Liver (together with the Kidney and Lung) and is used and known specifically for brightening the eyes (where Essence and blood are unable to nourish the eyes). Here we will use the leaves of the Goji berry plant, which are also known to strongly nourish Liver blood and benefit the eyes. If you can’t find Goji berry leaves feel free to substitute with spinach for its blood tonic properties.

 

The way I’ve seen Chinese people prepare this soup is very different from my approach of cooking. They first heat up the oil. Then they pour hot water into the oil (be careful when you do this – the combo of hot oil and water is quite explosive!). After the oil and water are well mixed they let them boil for a minute and then they add the chopped tofu. The tofu boils for couple of minutes, then the ground beef/pork is added in small pieces (plain without any spices). Last follow the Goji berry leaves (or spinach if you can’t find such), salt and black pepper. You want to add more black pepper than usual, maybe a teaspoon or even some more. After another minute the soup is done! Plain, healthy and fresh. Enjoy!

 

IMG 0663

 

This is a vegetable juice I have been making every morning since the beginning of the spring season to cleanse, nourish, and stimulate the Liver (please check the previous posts on how the spring and the Liver are related).

Drinking fresh juice first thing in the morning (whether it is from fruits or vegetables) is completely against Chinese medicine concepts because the cold nature of fruits and vegetables cools off, respectively slows down the digestion and the whole body. Morning juicing and morning consumption of fruits and vegetables on empty stomach in the long run will end up with manifesting cold signs of various kinds (feeling colder than usual, lack of strength/stamina/mood/energy) which is something that eventually will become predominant and burdening. So to stay true to the TCM principle of always warming up the Spleen/digestion at the beginning of the day we should consider eating or drinking something with warming quality before we have our juice and also not do morning juicing for too long. What I do - I simply drink a cup of hot ginger water with some honey before I have the juice – it helps to additionally hydrate and detoxify the body while it also warms up and tonifies the Spleen. Another thing that can be done is to add fresh ginger directly to the juice, which will warm up and balance out its cooling property.

 

Here are the ingredients: bitter melon, spinach, celery and lemon.

IMG 0656

 

There is a copious amount of information about the wonders of bitter melon on the internet therefore we do not need to discuss it more here. From Chinese medicine perspective it strongly drains heat toxins from the Liver (bitter taste cools and drains/green color enters the Liver thus brings the bitter property to the Liver). The fact that it also strongly benefits the eyes points again that it is an amazing Liver tonic (the Liver opens into the eyes). I have also seen people lose weight for as short as one week with “bitter melon diet” – they eat what they like until noon, they have fruit in the afternoon and for dinner they have bitter melon juice and nothing else. They do this for a week and loose quite a lot of weight while looking and feeling healthy. In Chinese cuisine bitter melon is also widely used. You can find it in dishes chopped with meat or stuffed with ground pork. It is a very special vegetable that definitely deserves your attention.

 

IMG 0690

 

The second ingredient is spinach. Spinach is a powerful Liver blood tonic and as we know is great source of iron.

Celery – one of the most alkalizing vegetables - is used here as a healthy green diluter – besides its various health benefits it reduces the bitter taste of the melon and gives the juice a fresh and delicious taste.

Last but not least 1/3 of a lemon (throw it in together with the peel!) additionally freshens up the juice. Its sour taste enters the Liver and cleanses and nourishes it (sour is the taste of the Liver). Vitamin C is additionally essential to absorb iron thus the lemon here also compliments the spinach in supplementing the body with iron.

 

 

IMG 0693

 

Here you have it – a bitter-sour green delight to flush the Liver, cleanse and energize. Enjoy!

 

Our “green journey” will begin with a very simple five minute Chinese salad. As the vegetables are slightly cooked and the salad is eaten hot I like to call it "hot salad". 

In China most people (if not all) do not eat raw vegetables. Even the slightest suggestion to try out a raw vegetable brings about a reaction that shows clearly that this is not going to happen. Although there is a stable logic behind their choices and their traditional diet we will not discuss it now.

The hot salad shared here is one of the most common side dishes in China (especially the Southern part). It is called Qing Cai (meaning green vegetable/green grass) and it pertains to all kinds of green leafy vegetables, which are abundant here in China. Any green leafy vegetable in your local supermarket can be prepared with this recipe, including spinach. I suggest you choose firmer vegetables for better crunch effect. I chose Shanghai grass - one of my favorite.

I like to soak my vegetables in water and baking soda for 10-15 minutes to remove pesticide residue. So we start by soaking (if you like) and washing our vegetables first.

 

IMG 0536

 

Second we prepare the sauce - 3-4 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 teaspoon sugar (I use brown), salt (I use sea salt) and cooking oil. Here I use coconut oil to enhance the healing benefits but if you are not fond of the combination feel free to use oil that suits your taste. You could try sesame oil which gives the salad a special Eastern flavor or simply sunflower oil which does not change the flavor and is used in the traditional version. 

IMG 0540

 

We add one small cup of water to the mixture, bring it to boil while stirring, and set it aside - the sauce is done! 

Now we cook our green leafy vegetables. The trick here is not to overcook them meaning they need to be crunchy not soft. We put water in a pan and bring it to boil. We add the veggetables and let them boil no longer than a minute. Please note that if the vegetable is softer and thinner it will cook faster so keep checking it with a fork if it is still firm.

 

IMG 0541

 

We take the vegetables out, put them on a plate and pour the sauce on top (even though it is hot). And … we are ready! A healthy easy to make side dish to cleanse and stimulate the Liver. Enjoy!

 

IMG 0542

 

 

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