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).


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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!


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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.

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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.


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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.



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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.


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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. 

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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.


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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!


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As we move into season Spring a new organ becomes the topic of our discussions and new color foods become more predominant in our kitchen. The organ is Liver and the foods that have stimulating, nurturing and cleansing effect on the Liver are green color foods.


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Whenever air and water move in nature the environment is healthy. When the river flows continuously and uninterruptedly its water is fresh and safe to drink. When wind blows through our city the air is cleansed. The same pertains to our body – whenever blood and Qi move continually and uninterruptedly the body is balanced, the mood is good, the emotions are harmonious.

In Chinese medicine the Liver is responsible for the proper movement of Qi in the body. As Qi and blood are interconnected a proper movement of Qi will ensure ceasless movement of blood. Vice versa if the Qi ceases to move the blood will eventually stagnate as well. On a physical level Qi stagnation manifests in distention, while blood stagnation manifests in pain. On a mental level Qi stagnation manifests in mood changes, lack of patience and unstable behavior. Liver Qi stagnation also brings about anger (with all its varieties) as anger is the emotion that manifests with an unbalanced Liver. Long term suppressed anger will eventually transform into depression. Thus anger and depression are also signs of Liver Qi stagnation. A typical sign of Liver Qi stagnation in women is PMS. If the Qi stagnation is chronic the blood will stagnate too leading to painful menstruation (in TCM the Liver governs the women’s cycle).

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The time during which the Liver is most active is spring. Thus if there is Liver disharmony it will be during spring season when it will manifest the most. People with unbalanced/stagnated livers will experience spring depression or feel more irritable than usual. They may also feel tired and/or have variety of digestive issues (when the Liver stagnates it overacts the Spleen causing digestive problems and lack of energy). The best thing we could do to help ourselves in this situation is to cater to the Liver with moving/anti-stagnant and cleansing foods and herbs which will break the stagnation and clear heavy emotions. We could do that also if we do not experience the above symptoms – simply to cleanse our body after the rather fatty winter diet making sure the Qi of the Liver flows uninterruptedly. So the next couple of months we will use green color, pungent and anti-stagnant foods to prepare our meals. As Qi and blood are interconnected a blood deficient person will especially be prone to Liver Qi stagnation (not enough blood to move the Qi). Thus we will also include blood tonifying foods and herbs during spring season. Stay tuned!