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2022 CHINESE ASTROLOGICAL WELLNESS OUTLOOK


2022 Chinese Astrological Wellness Outlook 🐅


Our wellness outlook for 2022 combines classical commentaries with modern commentary by Taiwanese scholar-physician Chen Xinhong, former director of the Chinese Medical Division of Chang Gung Hospital

YUN: EXCESS WOOD
This year, the “yun” (movement) is called “excess wood” and will be more influential than the six qi this year. According to the most revered classical commentary on this topic by Tang Dynasty scholar Wang Bing (710-805 A.D.), this energy makes people more prone to emotional upset, anxiety and anger. Wood also suppresses earth, which is related to the digestive system, so the energy of this year may also make people more liable to develop G.I. symptoms

Amidst the stress caused by the pandemic, it would be wise to focus on mental health and ground ourselves in mindfulness, exercise, quality time with friends and family, and whatever else lends comfort and happiness. Eat slowly, practice gratitude for your food, and keep a positive atmosphere around the dinner table

Emotional issues can often lead to indigestion, so this year we should try to be mindful when eating. Stay away from overly greasy or spicy foods that might lead to indigestion. Teas which calm indigestion, including chamomile and Pu’er (particularly our Pu’er tea oranges, which have the added benefit of citrus peel, a remedy for indigestion), emerge as choice medicinals for the new year

SIX QI: LESSER YANG FIRE
The six qi climatic energy for the first half of this year is Lesser Yang Fire. In Chinese medicine, it is believed that this energy makes people prone to respiratory and skin conditions like rhinitis, cough, and hives, while the weather will be characterized by a hotter climate and high winds.

The classics recommend eating cool, salty foods to counteract the energetic dynamic of this spring season—examples include clams, mussels and other mollusks. We can also set an intention to spend more time in the clean, nourishing airs of forests and wooded areas to cleanse and replenish the respiratory system. (Full year outlook will be sent in our newsletter)

What do you think of these wellness predictions for 2022? 🧧

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ADVICE FROM 200 YEAR-OLD CHINESE HERBALIST


Advice From 200 Year-Old Chinese Herbalist


While those in Asia often seek advice for longevity—Li Qing-Yun was recruited as a ‘life coach’ for at least two Chinese warlords to lecture them on “getting the most out of each century”—Westerners tend to be more interested in anti-aging: looking and feeling young during their lifetime.

Li mastered both: his 1928 NYT feature noted that “many who have seen him recently declare that his facial appearance is no different from that of persons two centuries his junior.” Regardless, we can look to his habits for the key to a healthy life, which included speaking as little as possible and a daily qi gong practice.

The western world was introduced to Li Qing-Yun in US newspaper accounts during the 1920s, and finally, a 1933 NYT obituary that read, “LI QING-YUN DEAD: GAVE HIS AGE AS 197… BURIED 23 WIVES.”

Although 197 is already astounding, Li may have been as old as 256. Time Magazine noted that in 1930, the “dean of education at Chengtu University found records that the Imperial Chinese Government had congratulated one Li Ching-yun in 1827 on his birthday. The birthday was his 150th, making [Li] a 256-year-old.”

Li was known as a Chinese medicine herbalist, and according to Time Magazine, “by the time he was ten years old he had traveled in Kansu, Shansi, Tibet, Annam, Siam and Manchuria gathering herbs. He continued to gather herbs for the rest of his first 100 years.”

Above all, Li believed that a peaceful mind was the key to longevity. He spent most of his free time in meditation or practicing qi gong, and refrained from speech except when necessary. He also valued moderation, and instructed: “Do not walk too fast, read for too long, expose oneself to loud noises. Don’t sit to the point of fatigue or lie for too long. Protect oneself from extremes of cold, heat, hunger and thirst. Take small frequent meals.”

In terms of diet, Li recommended foods to maintain the “free coursing of blood, urine and bowel movements” including hawthorn, black bean, and seaweed. His most prized herb was goji, which he took daily as a tea, and he also regularly ate rice and pearl barley.

Will you adopt any of his habits into your life?

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ORIGIN OF IMMUNIZATION IN ANCIENT CHINA


Origin Of Immunization In Ancient China


When I posted about my vaccination last spring, I received a comment asking how I could support both vaccination and Traditional Chinese Medicine. I was stunned—not just by the implication that systems of medicine cannot be practiced synergistically, but by the notion that vaccines somehow went against TCM, a medical system whose core conviction is “prevention is better than cure.” The commenter’s implication is even more astounding considering immunization was first developed by TCM practitioners.

While Edward Jenner (1749–1823) is often credited as the Father of Immunology, for more than a millennium, doctors in China have been preventing diseases through immunization. Early written references to immunization can be traced to the Liao Dynasty (10th century), when the son of a statesman was inoculated against smallpox. (Even earlier, in 303 AD, the doctor Ge Hong wrote in a text to “kill the dog that bites and use its brain to prevent recurrence of rabies.” In 649, Sun Simiao wrote that the most effective method to prevent rabies was to “cover the people with the sick dog's brain.”)


The early Chinese method of inoculation involved blowing or inserting smallpox scabs up the nose. Surviving recipes show that the scabs were first carried at body temperature for a month or exposed to hot steam and herbs to reduce the infectious load. A Chinese medical book published in 1549 even revealed a concern of variolation-induced menstruation. Joseph Needham, a biochemist/historian (and UNESCO cofounder) describes an even older tradition of inoculation, invented around 1000 AD by wandering Taoist healers.

In 1661, the Emperor K’ang succeeded to the throne after his father had died of smallpox. He became an advocate of inoculation, and later boasted that he had inoculated his whole family and his army. He wrote:

“In the beginning, when I had it tested on one or two people, some old women taxed me with extravagance, and spoke very strongly against inoculation. The courage which I summoned up to insist on its practice has saved the lives and health of millions of men. This is an extremely important thing, of which I am very proud.”

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CHINESE MEDICINE ON BRAIN FOG


Chinese Medicine On Brain Fog


“Long COVID” is a troubling development that has emerged amidst the pandemic, with a significant portion of survivors reporting persisting brain fog: symptoms that include poor memory, difficulty concentrating, and fatigue.

While this is a common symptom also seen in Chronic Lyme and Epstein-Barr, modern medical understanding of brain fog is still in its infancy, with no approved treatments and few studies.

Many experts agree, however, that the condition is attributed to inflammation in the brain caused by “persistent immune activation after initial infection subsides,” according to the NIH’s Dr. Avindra Nath. This immune activation may be caused by lingering virus that the immune system cannot clear, as well as virus-triggered autoimmunity and inflammation. The psychological trauma of COVID can also cause neural inflammation.

Is there a Traditional Chinese Medicine explanation and approach in treating chronic viral illness?

During the Ming Dynasty, as a pandemic ravaged China, the physician Wu Youke (1582–1652) proposed a pathomechanism and treatment for “persistent immune activation,” almost two centuries before the Western world discovered "agents that cause infectious disease.”

Frustrated by the lack of medical knowledge at the time, Wu Youke theorized that “pathogenic qi” lodges in membranes in the body that protect them from immunity, causing headache and exhaustion. His findings accord with the modern discovery that pathogens can form biofilms to resist immunity and pharmaceuticals.

Wu created an herbal formula designed to attack pathogenic qi, and new research has shown that several ingredients he used can break down biofilms, clear inflammation and lingering virus, and regulate gut flora imbalance, all which mitigate neuroinflammation (more detail on this in our upcoming newsletter).

Brain fog can be a crippling symptom, but with over 2,000 years of accumulated experience in treating pandemic disease, and time-tested solutions to improve memory and support brain function, Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture provide invaluable tools for treating the symptoms that modern medicine has yet to provide answers for.

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Gua Sha


Dispelling Gua Sha Myths


The traditional Chinese medical practice of gua sha has become trendy in the West, where many claim that it can smooth face wrinkles, decrease puffiness, or reduce fat. In reality, this cosmetic application is a very new phenomenon that bears almost no resemblance to the powerful healing modality that folk doctors and physicians have used in China for 2500 years. In this multi-post series, we examine the history of gua sha in ancient & modern Chinese medicine, and scientific research into its healing mechanism.

The first written record of gua sha comes from the ~400 BC medical manuscript, Prescriptions for 52 Diseases. In an entry for pediatric febrile seizures, the author recommends scraping over the convulsed muscles until “red marks like fly’s wings” appear.” This is a distinct feature of gua sha notably missing from its cosmetic use, namely that scraping should produce petechiae from extravasated blood cells, resulting in red dots on the skin. Extravasation was seen to be key to gua sha’s healing mechanism, allowing for the release of “pathogens with the blood.

Due to culture misunderstanding, there have been many cases of Chinese and Vietnamese immigrants in the US being accused of child abuse, who were performing gua sha on their children or grandchildren. There is even a 2011 movie starring tony Leung Ka-Fai on this issue titled The Gua Sha Treatment. 

A folk practice throughout antiquity, gua sha gained widespread acceptance as a legitimate healing method in the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1912) Dynasties, with records showing it was successfully applied to a disease involving fever and severe abdominal pain, attributed to exposure to “dung heap pestilence” or sha (痧)—likely a bacterial or viral infection.

In the 1960s, the Chinese government conducted a large-scale clinical survey of gua sha led by Dr. Jiang Jing-Bo. Through the publication of Gua Sha Treatment Methodology, Jiang expanded the use of gua sha to 400+ medical conditions, from hypertension to colds. Gua sha remains an extremely common healing modality in China and the Chinese diaspora applied to the neck and back for the treatment of colds, neck tension, heat stroke, and more.

Jiang and other modern scholars also defined advanced parameters for gua sha, in which petechiae color and distribution can be used as a diagnostic tool for the health and condition of the body.


Gua Sha Mechanism & Diagnosis


Researchers have begun investigating gua sha’s mechanism of action, with recent studies demonstrating that the traditional Chinese medical practice resulting in red petechiae upregulates the immune system, in particular heme oxygenase-1, a molecule with strong anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant action.

As extravasated blood cells from the gua sha process are reabsorbed into the circulatory system, they stimulate the release of HO-1, bilirubin and biliverdin, producing an anti-inflammatory response. This helps explain gua sha’s use in treating allergies, asthma, IBS, and colds.

Gua sha also manually stimulates surface lymph and microvascular circulation. A 2019 animal study found that gua sha can effectively stimulate the absorption of interstitial fluid into the lymph and capillary beds, notably improving local circulation. This helps explain why gua sha has also been found to help mitigate painful breast engorgement in new nursing mothers, and partially explains how cosmetic application to the face may assist in relieving puffiness (although this should not be considered gua sha in its intended medical form).

Modern scholars, including Dr. Jiang Jing-Bo—who led the large-scale clinical survey of gua sha—defined advanced parameters for gua sha to serve as a diagnostic tool:

In healthy individuals: sha are very light red, sparse and evenly distributed

Crimson red and densely distributed sha: indicates there is too much “heat,” pointing to an inflammatory state

Darker red or purple sha: indicates cold or blood stagnation—signs of poor circulation

Faint light red sha, scraping triggers pain & soreness: indicates patient may be “deficient”; often occurs in women during menstruation

Further, because acupuncture points down the spine correspond to specific internal organs, denser distributions of sha in particular areas can indicate problems with specific organs, i.e., sha clustered from the 1-6th vertebrae can be a sign of problems with the lung and heart. As a result, gua sha is also used as a means of diagnosing illnesses before they become more serious.

Do these findings change your perception of gua sha?

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ADAPTOGENS and NANAI HUNTERS


Adaptogens And Nanai Hunters


The Nanai are the indigenous inhabitants of Southeast Siberia and Northeastern China who traditionally lived along the Heilongjiang and Ussury rivers. They are fishers and hunters—even hunting on skis during the winter.

Dersu Uzala (photo below) was a Nanai trapper-hunter who worked as a guide for Russian explorer Vladimir Arsenyev, who immortalized him in his book “Dersu Uzala” (the book was eventually adapted into a movie, which won an Oscar for Best Foreign Film!). In 1902, Uzala introduced Arsenyev to the Schisandra berry, a plant commonly used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, which was also used by Nanai hunters as a tonic to reduce thirst, hunger, and exhaustion, and to improve night vision. “It gives forces to follow a sable all day without food,” he observed. Arsenyev would commemorate Uzala’s intelligence, keen instincts, and uncanny observational skills in his book, as well as details on the effects of Schisandra 🍒

The book sparked great interest in Schisandra throughout Russia, and the berry came to have considerable value for Soviet soldiers during WWII, with research published in their WWII military journals (more recent scientific analysis discovered that the berries instigate significant antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity in the body, capacities which make it especially useful for athletes. Other research trials indicate that Schisandra improves cerebral endurance as well: participants experienced improved concentration and produced more accurate, higher quality work. Clinical studies that focused specifically on doctors, students, and soldiers reported superior mind-sharpening properties.) 🌱

The idea of using herbal medicinal plants to increase stamina and survival in harmful environments was extensively studied in Russia, and a new concept of “adaptogens” was born—due in no small part to a Nanai hunter.

Dersu Uzala

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BANLANGEN


Banlangen For Prevention/Treatment
Of Colds, Flu & Covid


Banlangen is the dry root of the plant Isatis indigotica, with a clinical medical history spanning thousands of years in China.

First documented as an herbal medicine in The Divine Husbandman's Herbal Foundation Canon, a well-known medical text from the Han Dynasty (200 AD), it’s since been highlighted as a classic anti-viral and anti-influenza agent in China’s official Pharmacopoeia. It’s also one of the most clinically studied herbs in TCM, with anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties confirmed both in vivo and in vitro.

Most often sold in packets of granules that dissolve in water to make a tea, Banlangen has experienced a huge surge in popularity during SARS and now COVID, with sales in China rising 3,130% in one day after a research team found that Banlangen granules were effective against COVID in a series of in vitro (test tube) studies.

While further in vivo studies would be helpful to demonstrate efficacy against COVID, we are unlikely to see large placebo-controlled human trials for banlangen, unless a “big pharma” company decides to synthesize the herb and foot the multi-million dollar costs such a study would entail.

However, we can look to Banlangen’s performance against other viruses as an indication of its potential to prevent or help in the treatment of COVID. While people often think of herbal medicine as being less effective than synthetic medicine, in one remarkable study, researchers found that natural compounds and extracts from Banlangen have better therapeutic action against influenza virus (FM1) than the commercial synthetic antiviral drug ribavirin.

Moreover, compared with ribavirin, natural Banlangen compounds or extracts have significantly higher prophylactic (preventative) activity against influenza virus (FM1).

Banlangen extracts were observed to exert their anti-influenza activity by inhibiting virus multiplication and blocking virus attachment. In vivo experiments from another study also revealed a Banlangen extract to significantly inhibit pneumonia and virus proliferation in lung tissue.

What has your experience been with Banlangen for colds or COVID?

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ICE

Ice


Ice is a ubiquitous part of the modern Western lifestyle, and cold food and drink are particularly enjoyed in summer. Traditional Chinese Medicine, however, believes ice is immensely harmful to our health, and that the intake of cold food or drink can decrease circulation, hinder nutrient absorption, prevent adequate hydration, and potentially lead to reduced immunity and even female reproductive system disorders. This is why you’ll find the Chinese drinking hot tea year-round—and why we always drink water at room temperature!

Chinese wisdom suggests that all food and drink be consumed around 100 degrees F, at body temperature or greater. Your stomach, like your other organs, is optimized at 98.6 degrees. After the intake of cold drink or food, the stomach will attempt to draw heat from the lower body in an effort to return to its optimal temperature, decreasing circulation. In Western terms, the intake of cold food and drink causes blood vessel constriction, which prevent our bodies from fully absorbing nutrients and also hinders hydration.

In TCM terms, ingesting cold food and drink weakens the Spleen and Stomach and creates “dampness” in the body. The TCM idea of the Spleen as a multi-functional unit believes that it promotes immune function, and dampness is linked to the production of phlegm. Ultimately, excess internal phlegm creates lethargy and excess weight, and can also be linked to qi stagnation, resulting in irritability and low motivation.

Although clinical studies on the negative effects of drinking cold liquids are limited, there has been evidence to show that cold water can exacerbate asthma in children, according to a study by the European Society of Pediatrics. Other studies have directly linked headaches to drinking ice water—the phenomenon of “brain freeze” many are familiar with, caused by rapid blood vessel constriction.

Have you been able to reduce your consumption of cold food and drink? While I always prefer to drink water at room temperature and often drink hot green tea or chaga throughout the day, I struggle with eliminating cold foods completely, as ice pops are one of my guilty pleasures!

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Acid Reflux


ACID REFLUX
Why Chinese Medicine May Be the Best Treatment


Have you tried Chinese medicine for acid reflux?

Affecting 1 in 5 people, acid reflux is one of the most common disorders afflicting all ages. Though biomedicine offers treatment options, including H-2 receptor blockers and proton pump inhibitors, these drugs come with a troubling list of side effects including mineral deficiency, anemia and even kidney disease. Few are aware that Chinese medicine offers effective treatment options for reflux or GERD.

As early as the Sui Dynasty (581-619 CE), Chinese medicine already had a clear understanding of the disease mechanism. The classic text “The Pathogenesis and Manifestation of Diseases” noted: “Reflux occurs due to impairment of digestion causing bloating and fullness, which leads to counterflow of qi in the stomach.” This accords with the biomedical mechanism of reflux: slowed digestion causes distention, leading to relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter and reflux of stomach acid.

In the early 1600s, Gao Gufeng summarized a millennium of research into the disease: “In reflux, there is cold deficiency leading to stagnation; stagnation breeds heat and with heat comes reflux.” Gao thus identified the three main components:

- Deficiency: refers not only to impaired digestion, but also slackness in the lower esophageal sphincter
- Stagnation: slowed digestion and insufficient pancreatic and bile secretion, causing distention and reflux
- Heat: inflammation, which recent research has found is the main source of esophagitis

Unlike biomedical drugs, which suppress stomach acid but fail to treat the underlying causes, Chinese herbal medicine addresses these three root causes of the disease, targeting deficiency, stagnation and heat.

There are a number of formulas for reflux, but two of the most popular are Xiang Sha Liu Jun and Xiang Sha Yang Wei (more on these in comments; both available on our site). Ginger tea is also considered a good option, and the celebrated clinician and distinguished member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Tong Xiaolin, recommends using 15-30g of ginger in a cup of tea to relieve acid reflux.

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Red yeast rice (hong qu)


Red Yeast Rice (Hong Qu)


Here’s a delicious and good-for-you quarantine activity: homemade red (and white) yeast rice wine—we made both! 🥃 These jugs have been aged for two years, but yeast rice wine can be enjoyed after only one month of brewing and can keep up to 5 years.

Red yeast rice, or hong qu, is a traditional Chinese food and herbal medicine. Following numerous clinical studies, it’s now received growing attention in the West for its cholesterol-lowering qualities and is one of the top-selling supplements on sites like Amazon. Thanks to its high nutritional content and smooth, unique taste, red yeast wine has been a popular drink in China for thousands of years, with new mothers in particular drinking it during the 30-day “confinement period” after giving birth, for nourishment.

In Chinese medicine, hong qu has been historically used to treat indigestion and invigorate blood circulation. It also relieves pain due to trauma and injuries when combined with other herbs, such as yan hu suo (rhizoma corydalis) and dang gui.

It’s easy to make red yeast rice wine and there are numerous recipes online but my mom’s secret tip is to use an oak stirring stick to enhance the flavor. She also keeps the storage area and equipment super clean to avoid any contamination, as the wine can easily spoil if it comes into contact with oil.
 

Time to Make Red Yeast Rice Wine! 🍷

Red Yeast Rice (RYR), also called koji, is a traditional Chinese medicine ingredient popular in China, Japan, and other Asian countries. A medicinal remedy and health food since ancient times, it has been used in at least 24 TCM prescriptions for treating various chronic diseases, and was first recorded in the Local Chronicles of Gutian, dating back to the Tang Dynasty (618–907 AD).

RYR has been used to lower cholesterol, relieve anxiety and stress, reduce inflammation, enhance immunity, and fight cancer. A recent research report also noted its anti-obesity, anti-fatigue, and anti-microbial activities. The fermentation used in making RYR wine further adds to its health benefits, producing GABA in the process. GABA helps lower blood pressure and reduce anxiety and stress, making RYR wine a drink that many like to sip at night, including former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping—his doctor actually ordered him to drink RYR wine before bed to reduce stress levels.

RYR has met with some controversy in the US, as it contains a cholesterol-lowering statin called monacolin K, which pharma company Merck has patented in its drug, Mevacor. Despite this, many have discovered the naturally occurring medicinal benefits of consuming RYR, and in capsule form, it is one of the top-selling supplements on Amazon.

In China, RYR wine is commonly made at home, as it is easy and requires only 3 ingredients—it’s also ready to drink in only 30 days. RYR wine is only made this time of year, as cooler weather produces the finest quality rice wine and the timing of the “harvest” is aligned with Chinese New Year celebrations.

Here are the ingredients you’ll need to buy:

5 lbs. short grain sweet rice (glutinous rice) – Sho-Chiku-Bai rice is very high quality
0.5 lb. red yeast rice
3.5 dried yeast balls - rice wine starter (they also come in blocks)
Oak wooden dowel stirrer - this is the “secret ingredient” in my family – it enhances taste!
Large bucket


Red yeast rice wine is easy to make but a bit time-consuming, in that you need to dedicate about a minute a day to stir and clean the stirrer, and it takes around 30 days to “ripen.” My recipe yields a little more than a gallon of wine, and given the time and effort needed, how inexpensive the ingredients are, and how delicious and healthy the end result, I think it would be a waste to not make at least this amount—I usually make a batch twice this large!

Note: It is crucial that no oil touches the ingredients, as this will spoil the batch. Make sure everything is thoroughly washed and disinfected (hands included!)

1.Wash and soak glutinous rice overnight—add enough water to cover the rice by 2-3”

2. In the am, drain the rice

3. Fill a large steamer with water (about 3” high). Add rice, wrapped in muslin. Use your finger and poke a few holes through the rice so the steam can rise and cook the rice evenly. Steam on medium-high for 25 min. The steamed rice should be plump but remain individual grains (see photo)—it must not be mushy, which creates sour wine. Let the rice cool completely

4. Ground the yeast balls into powder using a mortar and pestle. Pour the red yeast rice into a bowl and add the powder, mixing well

5. Add a handful of glutinous rice into the bucket. Layer one handful of red yeast rice mixture on top and combine well with your hands, then repeat until all rice has been used up. Leave one handful of red yeast rice mixture for Step 6

6. Boil 1 gallon of water and let it cool completely. Add this water to the mixture, then sprinkle the last handful of red yeast rice mixture on top

7. Cover the bucket but leave the top untightened, as this will allow gas from fermentation to escape. The bucket should be kept at room temperature and out of direct sunlight

8. Stir the mixture once a day with a clean wooden dowel or spatula (wash it after every stir and store it in a clean place). You’ll start to notice that it smells quite delicious after just a few days!

9. Once all the rice has sunk to the bottom, the wine is ready to drink—this takes 20-30 days (with 30 days being the maximum time you should allow it to ferment). Harvest the wine by pouring out the liquid into a jug or bottle; store the residual rice, called the wine lees, separately—this is healthy and prized in Chinese cooking and can be used to make vibrantly colored savory dishes, buns, or even mooncake

10. Celebrate that you just made homemade rice wine!

Are you going to be trying your hand at winemaking?


Note: This photo was taken 3 days after starting the process, and it was already very aromatic!

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