medicine has included
dietary therapy since as
early as A.D. 652.
In the traditional system of dietary cures, foods have been organized into categories based on their innate temperature, energetics (the direction in which they move qi and how they affect qi and blood flow), and the organs they affect.
For example, a person who has a wind cold condition with excessive clear mucus might be told to consume hot soup made from onions and mustard greens. The onions are warming, expel cold, and sedate excess yin. The mustard greens have similar properties, and they also help expel mucus and relieve chest congestion. Flavoring the soup with ginger and black pepper enhances the warming, expectorant action. With such a lunch, one can imagine that the person's herb formula would be much more effective.
On the other hand, if the same patient decided to have salad for lunch with a cold glass of milk, the cold and damp nature of this meal would make the wind cold condition much worse. Any herbal therapy administered at this point would be much less effective, since the therapy first needs to overcome the negative effect of the food before dealing with the acute ailment. For this reason, a patient is always advised about which foods could exacerbate the imbalance and which will help restore balance.
In general, grains and beans are considered to bring stability to the body. They build blood and qi, and they establish rhythm and stability. Vegetables, which are best if eaten in season, bring vitality. Leafy greens have an affinity for the upper body, while root vegetables give strength to the middle and lower body. Fruits build fluids and purge toxins, and they tend to be cooling by nature. They should be eaten alone, or they can cause indigestion.
Meats possess the full range of temperatures, and they are a simple source of blood. But they are meant to be consumed in small quantities; their overconsumption in Western countries has caused an epidemic of heart disease. Finally, dairy products are a good source of fats, but they should also be eaten in moderation. Overconsumption can result in excess dampness or mucus.
A healthy diet should consist mainly of a wide variety of organically grown whole grains, beans, and vegetables; fruits and animal protein should be eaten in smaller amounts. While it is possible to have a healthy, well-balanced vegetarian diet, people who eat no animal products at all (vegans) should supplement their diet with vitamin B12.
How to make Rice Congee
The food most commonly used for therapeutic effects is congee, a rice gruel that is soothing to the stomach and exceptionally easy to digest. It is made by slowly cooking 1 part white rice in 6 parts water until the rice is the consistency of a thick soup. A crock pot works especially well for this purpose.
In China, the previous day's leftovers are typically cooked into the congee in large pots. In the morning, people gather to have the congee for breakfast.
As a therapy, specific ingredients can be added for their medicinal effect. For example:
Dietary therapy will typically be just part of a treatment program. Learn how practitioners put treatment plans together in the next section of this article.
For more about traditional Chinese medicine, treatments, cures, beliefs, and other interesting topics, see:
- How Traditional Chinese Medicine Works
- How to Treat Common Ailments with Traditional Chinese Medicine
- Traditional Chinese Medicine for Coughs, Colds, Flu, and Allergies
- Traditional Chinese Medicine for the Digestive System
- Traditional Chinese Medicine for Pain Relief
- Traditional Chinese Medicine for Overall Health