Seasonal Tips for Spring

Over the past 6 weeks we have seen a different type of flu type pathogen pass through our community. Just as a refresher for everyone, Chinese divides and defines viral infection according to the symptom-sign presentation. The simplest way to think about this is hot vs cold and damp vs dry. Here is a quick reference chart to make it simple.

Symptoms of… 

Heat Cold
Feels hot Feels chilled
Burning painful sore throat Mild scratchy throat
Body ache severe Body ache, but mild
Exhausted but restless Tired but rests easily
Yellow or green phlegm/mucous Clear or white phlegm/mucous
Profuse or easy sweating Minimal sweating/clammy tight pores
Desires cold drinks Desires warm drinks

Symptoms of…

Dry Damp
Dry throat Excess saliva
Feels thirsty Not thirsty
Dry stuffy sinus Watery mucous and sinus
Phlegm is thick and difficult to move Phlegm is water and profuse

So how is this useful? Simple, once the effect can be identified the proper therapeutic approach can be utilized. Now here is one area where TCM is different from the western or allopathic medicine. Allopathic medicine now looks for a pathogen to “kill”. Works great for a bacteria with antibiotics. Not so good against a virus. 

The TCM approach seeks to change the internal environment. From cold to warm, from hot to cool, from dry to moist, or from moist to dry. Of course, the equation can get complicated for some cases, requiring a fairly well nuanced herb formula. But the basic concept is simplicity itself.

As it turns out many of the herbs used over the past 2,000 years happen to have actual antiviral effects. Herbs such as Jin Yin Hua (honeysuckle), Bang Len Gen, (Rx Isatis), have shown anti-viral effects in vitro (in the test tube), usually by stopping the viral reproductive process1. 

Here is a list of common, easy to obtain household herbs and the functions.

  • Peppermint – is cooling and dry, good for sore throat, liver, and allergies
  • Cinnamon – is spicy, warm, and slightly dry, counters wind and chill
  • Ginger – is spicy, warm to hot dispels clear and white phlegm, aids digestion, calms nausea, and regulates the liver
  • Garlic – is warm and spicy with antibiotic functions
  • Oregano – very warm, spicy with antibiotic, antiviral, and anti-fungal effects
  • Dandelion – Bitter cool with antiviral and antibiotic effects
  • Rice – is neutral with a mild dry effect

Are you plagued by this common factor that causes impotence, infertility and insomnia?

These are problems that can be quite bothersome for people and really deserve some attention. From a traditional Chinese medicine point of view, we look at these things a little bit differently than the rest of the western medicine in the Western world. To begin with, we always want to review the basic concepts of the balancing of the elements of Yin and Yang. Most folks have heard the terms before, and I’m sure all of my patients are quite familiar with the meaning of them, but just a quick review. Let’s remember that the Yin and Yang elements are defined with some universal terms, of course we want to know what do those terms mean for our own physical bodies?

In the broad sense, Yin is the more containing and more cooling, more moistening, nurturing, inward focused, feminine element. Yang is the more energetic, more expanding, more heat, outward focused, masculine element. According to the philosophy of Chinese medicine, you need both in balance. In other words, they’re not oppositional opposites, they are complimentary opposites. One does what the other one does not do, and when they work in harmony, you have life and balance and health. If they don’t work in harmony, you have illness and you have disharmony and that can be applied socially, that can be applied culturally and that can be applied to your health as well. Where there is a complete separation of Yin and Yang there is death. We always think in these terms when applying Chinese medical philosophy. Now, what does this mean in terms of the physical body?

Let’s take a look at what the Yin Element is. Cooling and containing basically, it is also the structure through which everything operates. In other words, your physical body is considered Yin.

What is the Yang? The Yang is the energy that moves everything. What does that energy actually mean? Well, if we break this down into biochemistry, for you folks out there who have had a biology class, the biological process called Krebs Cycle, especially the ATP – ADP cycle, adenosine triphosphate is the energy packet that your blood delivers to the cells, which then goes to the mitochondria in the cells. The mitochondria break that down and release actual energy that allows the cells to do everything from move your muscles to reproduce. You name it. That’s the Yang component in a chemical sense.

You need these factors to be in balance. Yang has to have a structure to work through. So interestingly enough, it’s not just that your whole body has to be balanced with Yin and Yang, but each independent organ has its own Yin and Yang balance.

So I find this extremely interesting because you could be in balance in one organ and out of balance in another organ. Now, most of you may have seen my discussion on five element theory and the function of the 12 organs present on our YouTube channel and on our web site, when an acupuncturist like myself refers to the organ systems, we are specifically referring to the traditional 12 organs that are noted in traditional Chinese medicine. They are for the most part, the standard organs we have in western medicine, the heart, small intestine, stomach, spleen, lung, large intestine, kidney, bladder, liver and gallbladder. Each organ has its own area of function. When Yin/Yang imbalance occurs in that organ, dysfunction occurs.

What is the root cause of most infertility, impotence or erectile dysfunction, as is being advertised all over television these days, and insomnia?

Now, who would have thought you could have a common factor? The common factor is actually the Kidney or what’s otherwise known in traditional Chinese medicine as the water element. When we take a look at kidney, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, most modern acupuncturists now recognize the concept includes kidney / adrenal gland. The adrenal glands are little almond shaped glands that sit right on top of the kidney. Adrenal gland function is vital to considerable amount of the endocrine and hormonal function in the body. The adrenal glands actually produce estrogen and testosterone as well as a slew of other hormones, including regulating the cortisol levels, which is going to reflect on your energy throughout the day and many, many other endocrine functions that would be too deep to go into here, but we’re really focused on the fact that the kidney / adrenal or adrenal glands from a western point of view are directly responsible for the production of estrogen and testosterone.

When things go out of balance organ dysfunction occurs that leads to symptoms of fatigue and eventually to disease of one sort or another. Lack of testosterone has a lot to do with the reproductive drive for men. We all know that men over time, as they grow older, start to lose testosterone production. By the time they are in the fifties, sixties, and seventies, a lot of men are wondering what happened to their get up and go. This doesn’t just affect the sex drive but general energy, enthusiasm and inspiration. All because of a gradual decline of the function and the productivity of their testosterone produced by adrenals. This is what we call the Yang element of the Kidney. So if the Yang becomes deficient, there’s a problem for men. If the Yang becomes deficient for the gals, there’s still a problem because women have to have a certain amount of Yang energy or testosterone as well.

It turns out that testosterone is also has a lot to do with the sex drive for the gals, although there is a higher level of estrogen with the gals than with the men obviously, but, there’s a little bit of each hormone that needs to be present in both the male and the female in order to function normally and healthy. Chinese medicine has recognized this a long time ago, always balance the Yin and the Yang. The kidney also has an effect, according to Chinese medical theory, on the heart. The heart, according to Chinese medical theory is the seat of the soul, the seat of the consciousness. If the heart is not calm, the mind becomes restless. During sleep, the mind needs to be controlled, calm and a reduced effect of Yang Chi or heat of the heart.

If there’s a deficiency of Yin in either the kidney or the heart, then there’s an excess of Yang and the mind becomes restless. This condition becomes exacerbated at nighttime, and you have restlessness which then predominates causing insomnia. So again, the imbalance of Yin and Yang of the Kidney has a strong effect on the heart. That is what causes a large amount of the insomnia problems. Perhaps not 100 percent, but it is a large amount. As it turns out, if you balance the Kidneys Yin/Yang, sleep comes easier and deeper, the Yin actually contains the Yang. That allows us to be calm. Now, I’ve stated this all in terms of Chinese medical terminology, but leave no question in your mind that whatever is true in Chinese medicine is also true in Western medicine and there’s a parallel concept in western medicine.

In other words, if you look and study at the hormone balances and you look and study what’s causing insomnia for a lot of people with adrenal gland imbalance, the cortisol level, which is supposed to gear us up for action and for dealing with stress, becomes reversed and becomes excessive at nighttime and becomes deficient during the daytime.

This is the person who’s basically described accurately from a Chinese medicine point of view in terms of Yin deficiency and Yang excess. You want your Yang to be present in the daytime when we’re awake, alert, and doing things. And you want it to be calm at nighttime. You want your cortisol levels to begin rising in the morning and the peak in the afternoon and gradually subside as we get into the evening time, and by the time you’re ready to go to bed your cortisol levels should be really starting to bottom out. So you get a good restful sleep. So the parallels are between eastern and Western medicine are definitely there. They’re definitely apparent if you do a little research and study with this, but the cause of all three of these items always comes back to the balance of the Kidney Yin and the Yang, and there’s one more fundamental factor which is deeper than Yin and Yang in Chinese medicine, it’s what they call the kidney essence. And there’s something about the essence which is also called the Ancestral Qi or the energy you received from your parents and that generates the kidney Yin and Yang.

If the essence is damaged or injured, there’s a deeper problem in the kidney. So that’s a short analysis, but the question is what do you do about it? What is the common person do to rectify these imbalances? And there are a number of different strategies. There are foods we will look at foods that will tonify and strengthen the kidney essence, Kidney Yin and Kidney Yang. And more importantly, there are a whole categories of traditional Chinese herbs that take care of these matters as well. Now that brings up an interesting topic. A lot of times people will see herbal Viagra advertised and you wonder, well, is that true? Could that be real? And when I look at the companies that produce these herbal Viagra and I studied their formulas, this is what I find. Of course we have herbs that strengthen the kidney Yang.

We have herbs that strengthened the kidney Yin as well as herbs that do all the functions throughout all of the other organ systems. But let’s talk about the kidney. When I look at these herb formulas, what I see is a lot of herbs that tonify kidney Yang only. If you only tonify kidney Yang, you have too much heat, too much heat is going to throw people out of balance. In other words, a lot of the nutritional companies have no concept of balancing the Yin and the Yang. When you look at traditional Chinese herbal formulas, yin and Yang herbs are always balanced. Now, if somebody is extremely Yang deficient, an herb formula, heavily weighted in Yang herbs make sense, but what if the person is Yang excess? Would you want a lot of Yang herbs going into that system? No, of course not. It’s going to make it much worse. We do note douse a fire with gas.

So individual attention needs to be paid to exactly the precise formula for each individual. Is the person Yin or Yang deficient? Either of those conditions can cause these three problems that we’re discussing. So we recommend folks, if you want to get an accurate herb formula made, go see your family acupuncturist. Other modalities that we highly recommend for resolving these problems are meditation, yoga, Chi Gong. Acupuncture can of course help.

Hopefully this gives you a little insight in terms of thinking of balancing the kidney element for the solution to these three plaguing problems.

Food lists:

Support Kidney Yin:

  • Pork, duck, oysters, octopus, perch, carp, pears, grapes, cabbage, asparagus, carrots, barley, rice, wheat, black sesame, and walnuts.

Support Kidney Yang:

  • All smoked fish especially salmon, mussels, shrimp, tuna and oysters, venison, lamb, wild pig, duck, pork, cabbage with warm spices, leeks, radish, root vegetables, onions, cherries, grape, coffee, spiced tea, buckwheat, oats, millet, rice, ginger, garlic, black pepper, cinnamon, adzuki beans, lentils, black soy beans, chestnuts, lotus seeds, black sesame, sunflower seeds, roasted walnuts.