Although some conditions can be effectively treated with just acupuncture, many other symptoms may require diet adjustments to be effective. Chinese nutrition is based upon the same balancing principles that govern Chinese medicine. There are said to be heating and cooling foods, and each type of food has a temperature ranging from hot, to warm, to neutral, to cool, to cold. A few foods, such as habanero peppers may be considered very hot, or very cold. That the body may be imbalanced due to too much hot or cold food is perhaps simple to understand, but Chinese nutrition is much more complex. Aside from heating and cooling, Chinese nutrition suggests that foods can have many other properties such as the ability to tonify blood, to tonify qi, to regulate essence, to expel wind, or to promote lactation. Each food also has a route, a pathway that it travels when being digested in the body. That pathway can also include the major organs of the body. Some foods, like licorice, are said to travel to all of the major organs in the body while the vast majority of foods will travel to only a few organ systems. The benefit of knowing a food's route (which organs it travels to) is that specific foods can be prescribed to alleviate specific diagnoses. For instance someone suffering from wind cold in the lungs should, according to Chinese nutrition, consume foods that clear wind cold from the lung like peppermint tea, walnuts, and cilantro.
Introuction to Chinese Herbs:
Chinese herbal medicine is the natural extension of Chinese nutrition. While it is true that certain foods have certain properties, herbs also have properties but can act much more powerfully than adjusting diet alone. In most cases herbs are not prescribed for symptoms but are instead prescribed to restore balance to the body. For instance a diagnoses of damp heat in the bladder may have the symptom of painful urination. In order to eliminate damp heat from the bladder the first step is to eliminate any foods that may be causing damp heat in the bladder (such as alcohol for instance). Secondly the pragmatic practitioner will advise adding foods that clear damp heat from the bladder, and finally herbs that clear damp heat will also be added.
Always Adjust the Diet before Adding Herbs
Using the example of damp heat in the bladder, it is pointless to add herbs that clear damp heat from the bladder if the patient is still consuming foods (like alcohol) that cause damp heat in the bladder. This is one example of how the diet must be considered when prescribing Chinese herbs. In Chinese medicine there is a saying "only treat with herbs what you can not treat with diet". This is because herbs are considered to be more powerful than adjusting diet alone, and it encourages practitioners to save the "big guns" (herbal medicine) for when they're truly necessary. Always start by considering and adjusting the diet first.
Does herbal medicine really work???:
Today many Westerners have been trained to believe that unless it was created in a pharmaceutical lab it is not really medicine. Please understand that this mental conditioning is exactly what big pharma wants you to believe. In fact most medicines were originally derived from herbs. Penicillin was derived from the mold on bread, and aspirin was derived from willow bark. There are very few drugs that are not modeled after some aspect of nature. Herbs do work and can be tremendously effective when taken as prescribed. By opening the door of awareness to the natural healing options that exist you are empowering yourself and disempowering big pharma.
Different types of Chinese herbs:
Chinese herbs can come in many different forms. When it comes to herbs that can be ingested the three types are pills, powders, and raw herbs. Raw herbs are literally leaves, nuts, shells, and so on that need to be boiled in water to extract their healing properties. Most Westerners do not have the patience to prepare raw herbs and take them as prescribed, but raw herbs are considered the most effective. The second most effective way of taking Chinese herbs is powders and extracts. In this case the problem tends to be that Westerners may not like the taste of the herbs, which is why many herbs are available in pills. Pills or tablets are considered the least effective way to take Chinese herbs but its easier for clients that are new to Chinese medicine to adapt to the concept of a pill that you take three times a day than it is to boil raw herbs in a big pot. There are also Chinese medicinal cures for skin problems and muscle problems that can be applied topically. These herbs can come as sprays, tinctures, or patches that are applied directly to skin. Chinese medicine has its own versions of many over the counter cures in America such as antibiotic ointment, burn creams, and muscle pain relief such as Icy-Hot.
Compliance is the Key to Success:
Whether its Chinese nutrition or Chinese herbs, if you're looking for healing that works then its absolutely essential that you stick to the plan your practitioner provides. With Chinese herbs you can not skip doses if you want them to work. Unlike Western pharmaceuticals Chinese herbs do not work with just a single dose because their intention is to balance the body. Think of your body as a climate, and the herbs as a tool to change the climate. If you have severe dryness then remember that it takes time to revitalize an area after a lengthy drought. Just a single rain drop will not restore life to the desert. Similarly you must stick with it, and take your herbs three times per day, or as often as is prescribed, if you want to experience the true healing potential of Chinese medicine.
Resources for learning about Chinese Herbs and Chinese Nutrition:
Chinese nutrition is just like Western nutrition in one aspect: you can not get the maximum benefit until you actively begin to learn about it yourself. Simply following your doctor's advice without understanding why he's making those suggestions is not likely to help you truly heal. There are many great resources online to help you learn about Chinese Nutrition, but the one we recommend is ChinseseNutrition.org. Once your practitioner gives you your diagnosis, you can visit ChineseNutrition.org and use their search engine to get specific diet plans that include food, beverages, Chinese herbs, essential oils, western medicinal herbs, and more. In addition you can learn more about the unique properties of each food at ChineseNutrition.org.