Food is medicine part 6

Ever wonder why a restaurant will often give you a mint at the end of your meal?

It is because mint stimulates digestion and helps relieve nausea and that overfull feeling.

The type of mint I want to share with you today is peppermint.  This is the type of mint you will most often see in teas and cooking, and is easily found in your local grocery store.

Mint is most widely known for its cooling effects.

I would invite you to brew yourself a steaming hot mug of fresh peppermint tea and observe what happens when you are drinking the hot liquid.

Does your tongue feel cool? Then your throat and stomach?

That is because of the volatile oils within the peppermint leaf.

This cooling effect makes it a great herb to use if you are feeling overfull, nauseous and especially after eating hot and spicy food.

Peppermint is also aromatic, meaning it has a strong aroma.

Because of this feature, mint has a great effect on helping rid the body of external pathogens (i.e. toxins) and relieving pain, especially in the head, with symptoms like headaches, sinus and throat pain. You will often see this herb used in formulas during cold and flu season for this reason.

If you have a red, sore throat, peppermint tea is a great way to clear any excess heat and reduce pain and inflammation in the area. Because mint leaves are light you don’t want to over cook them, you want to keep the aromatic properties.

It is best to steep the fresh or dried leave for 5 minutes only, stir in some honey and let it sooth your throat.

Mint is also a great breath freshener, as you know, mint is the most common “flavor” of toothpastes, mouthwash and breath mints. The cooling and refreshing feeling not only helps soothe the stomach but also helps with any foul odour after belching or vomiting.

There are no known reactions or side effects with peppermint which makes it a great herb to experiment with at home!

Food is medicine part 5

You are likely familiar with licorice, but perhaps not the kind I want to share with you today. Maybe you have had the red twizzlers candy or black jellybeans that taste like “.

Fun Fact : that black licorice flavor is actually extracted from the anise plant and not the licorice plant itself.

The medicinal part of the licorice plant is the root.

It is a Mediterranean medicinal plant, meaning it prefers hot weather and full sun.

I would say that the most widely used reason for using this herb is for its anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties. The licorice root has a naturally sweet flavor (50 times sweeter then table sugar – although it is not actually a sugar, just sweet tasting) and is slightly warm.

This makes it a very neutralizing herb and is often combined in herbal formulas to harmonize all the other herbs together.

Licorice root has anti spasmodic properties, making it great for abdominal cramping, stomach and bowel irritations.

This herb is most often consumed in a tea, after being steeped for a minimum of 15 minutes. Steeping roots (denser herbs) is required to receive the full medicinal benefit.

Licorice root has also been used as a tonifying herb, which means it builds up the body, boosts immunity and has been used as a remedy against adrenal exhaustion.

A simple tea blend for a sore throat is as follows:

One part licorice root

One part mint leaves

½ part honey

Steep the licorice root for 15 minutes before adding the mint leaves for an additional 5 minutes.

Strain out the herbs, stir in honey and enjoy!

Curious to learn more? Lets chat!

Food is medicine part 4

Have you ever suffered from motion sickness and nausea while travelling, only to down some Gravol and immediately feel extremely drowsy? That used to be what I turned to on early morning road trips or long overnight flights, but I could never get used to the groggy feeling that lingered. Now when travelling, if I can’t prepare something myself I will pick up the Gravol ginger chews, whose only ingredient: ginger; and you know what, it works even better!

Ginger is an extremely effective remedy for cramps, nausea, morning and motion sickness.

The rhizome (or root – which is the part of the ginger plant we use medicinally) contains a proteolytic enzyme that has been shown to reduce inflammation and help repair damaged joints and cartilage tissue.

Clinical studies have shown that ginger rivals antinausea drugs used during chemotherapy, but without the side effects. It also has antiseptic properties which make it highly effective for treating gastrointestinal infections and can help during a bout of food poisoning.

As you have probably tasted, ginger is warm and spicy.

Because of these qualities, in TCM we will often use ginger to warm up the digestive system and stop vomiting, as well as during particular symptoms of cold or flu, as it helps to release the exterior (i.e push out any pathogens/toxins that have invaded your body).

Ginger has also been shown to help get rid of migraines, if taken immediately at the onset of any symptoms, in a large dose (i.e 2 tbsp. of ginger powder into hot water), as it is invigorating, stimulating, and anti-inflammatory.

A simple tea recipe to enjoy the benefits of ginger below:

  • 1 tbsp. grated or finely minced fresh ginger
  • Squirt of lemon juice
  • Honey to taste (about ½ tsp)

Place the fresh ginger in a mug with the lemon juice and honey. Pour boiling water over the ingredients, cover and let steep for 15 minutes. If desired, strain before drinking.

Enjoy warm!

Food is medicine part 3

Are you familiar with the spice cinnamon?

You have most likely enjoyed a cinnamon bun, apple pie or chai tea; all of these have a strong cinnamon flavor, but did you also know it is used as a medicinal herb?

Cinnamon is a common house hold spice, often used in powder form. Perhaps you have also seen cinnamon sticks in the spice section of your grocery store. The cinnamon stick is actually the inner bark of the tree which is peeled off and curls up as it dries.

Cinnamon is sweet, spicy, and hot.

Because of these warm and stimulating properties cinnamon is often used to improve circulation (alleviate pain) and ease digestive complaints. It is a powerful antiseptic, and has antiviral and antifungal properties.

There have been numerous clinical studies that show cinnamon can dramatically decrease glucose and insulin levels. Which means it may be a great herb to consider if you are diabetic.

Because cinnamon can also connect with the uterus, both in a warming and invigorating fashion, it can be used to bring on a delayed menstrual cycle but should be used with caution in high doses during pregnancy.

A personal note:

A few years ago, I spent time in India, a country that uses a lot of cinnamon! A woman I met along the way, would have us over a few times a week to practice henna, and would also invite us into the kitchen to help prepare chai tea. Here is a simple and delicious recipe which can be consumed to aid digestion and warm up the body.

  • 1 part crushed cinnamon bark
  • 1 part crushed ginger root
  • ¼ part crushed cardamom pods
  • ¼ part cloves
  • ¼ part crushed black peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp. Black tea (Darjeeling if available)
  • Honey to taste

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil, add the first 5 herbs and let simmer about 20 minutes. Remove from heat, add black tea, cover and steep for 5 minutes. Strain, sweeten to taste.

Food is medicine part 2

What is all this hype about turmeric?

Well, let me tell you a little bit about it and maybe you will get hyped up too!

Turmeric is an herb that is widely used across eastern and western herbal medicine. This root originates from Southeast Asia but grows in tropical locations all around the world. In Chinese medicine we use this herb to promote movement and healing in the body, eliminate pain, stop bleeding, and control inflammation.

Typically you will see turmeric in powdered form in the spice section of the grocery store, some will even carry the actual root in the produce section.

In my opinion, one of the most notable benefits of turmeric is its anti-inflammatory properties, or should I say inflammatory moderating properties. You see, inflammation is a necessary and life-saving function performed by the body when needed, however, often time’s inflammation becomes chronic which can then manifest into disease.

When taking over the counter NSAIDS (like Advil) to reduce pain and inflammation, you are actually stopping all of the inflammatory responses in the body, even the good ones!

Inflammation plays a significant role in diseases such as cancer, type 2 diabetes, asthma, arthritis, autoimmune conditions, skin ailments and more.

Turmeric is also known for its support in gut and liver health, healing wounds, ulcers, heart health, insulin resistance, and improved memory.

The main constituent of turmeric (i.e. the most medicinally beneficial part) is called curcumin. Often time’s supplements will extract this specific component of turmeric in order to “give you only the good stuff’.

However, plant medicine is rarely used by taking out specific components of an individual plant, and more often by consuming the entire herb as its many different constituents work in various miraculous ways in the body and have been consumed this way for thousands of years.

Curcumin becomes more available for absorption in the body by adding fresh ground pepper or by heating up with oil before ingestion.

Get in touch and let’s chat more about herbs and your health!

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Food is Medicine Part 1

There are a many different theories and a lot of different people telling you how to eat healthy. Most of these theories have credibility to them but it is also important to understand that there is no right way to eat, and that as an individual it is up to you to find your happy balance.

That is one of the beautiful things about Chinese medicine diet therapy. Just as treatments are tailored to an individual, proper diet is deciphered by how you are feeling in a day to day basis.

For example, you would choose a certain food if you are feeling bloated, and would choose a different food if you were feeling irritated and stressed.

We look at food as having different properties and functions as we consume it.

Take cucumber for example, this vegetable is cooling and water dense; consider ginger, it is warm and spicy. If you were feeling very bloated and having loose stools, you would likely avoid cucumber. If you had recently consumed hot and spicy food and your stomach was upset, you would likely avoid ginger.

Alternatively, if you are outside enjoying the sun and it is hot out or you have a sunburn, cucumber could be a great choice. If you have some abdominal discomfort and are feeling nauseas, ginger tea could work well.

As you may be able to tell, you are making choices based on how you are feeling.

Often we will do things the other way around and eat food we crave. Chinese medicine diet therapy suggests we listen to our bodies, consider any symptoms or messages that are coming up, and then eat and drink accordingly.

I will be exploring in more detail over the next few weeks this topic.