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A Quick Synopsis of Chinese Medicinal Dietary Theory

Nutritional or dietary therapy is a cornerstone of traditional Chinese medicine. It is considered one of the fundamental five branches of medicine, which consist of acupuncture and moxibustion, herbalism, exercise and meditation, massage or bodywork and nutrition.

As esoteric as this ancient doctrine may appear on the surface, Chinese medicine is guided by the principles of balance and common sense. People are considered a part of

the ecosystem, subject to climactic factors just as the land is, for instance drought, flooding, coldness or heat. This should motivate us to gain a sense of our own internal landscape: what particular challenges we face and what organ systems are most crucial for us to support to enjoy long-term health and vitality.

It is an empowering discovery: we can build on our constitution at home on an on-going basis. Daily habits can have far-reaching dividends.

According to Chinese medicine, the digestive organs are the root of the body’s vitality.  There is an image of the digestive organs as an alchemical furnace, transmuting food into life-giving Qi and blood supplying all of our organs and tissues with the nourishment we need to thrive. Try to remember that everything ingested should have potential to meet the ultimate end our nourishing our being.

Energetics of food and herbs are a key aspect of medicinal food and herbs. What this means is that each substance has its own characteristic, such as a warming, cooling, lubricating or decongesting property. After some education, one can learn to ascertain these characteristics of food and herbs and eat accordingly. 

The book Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford is a great reference and guidebook in this area. People can get bogged down by this book, so don’t let that happen to you- just use it as a pleasant learning tool with a great index, in-depth information and, to me, doldrum-y recipes. Between Heaven and Earth by Harriet Beinfield and Efrem Korngold is another great resource. The chapter called “Culinary Alchemy” is a good primer on incorporating herbs into your recipes.

Huang Di
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