Five Chinese Herbs for High Summer

girl eating watermelon

Mother Nature is in full bloom in high summer, and these five Chinese herbs are the perfect antidotes for the heat.

Watermelon: Considered by many to be the fruit of summer, watermelon is naturally full of the nutrients, electrolytes, and liquid we need to stay hydrated in extremely hot weather. This wonderful, sweet fruit also offers a kick of sugar, which can revive us when we’ve overworked in the yard, taken a long hike, or danced in the sun at a summer music festival. I recommend buying, cleaning, and cutting up a watermelon once a week and leaving it in the refrigerator to use as a preventative medicine as well as a quick-recovery herb if you become overheated.

Mint: Mint is energetically cool and grows like a weed in the summertime. In fact, some gardeners consider anything in the mint family to be a major pest because it is so prolific. Take advantage of the availability of fresh mint by using it in your cooking or making a tea out of the leaves. Steep a large, crushed amount of mint in hot water for ten minutes, then transfer that to a pitcher filled with ice for instant iced tea. Mint is also particular helpful for stomachaches and intestinal upsets after ingesting oily, heavy foods. The light and cool nature of this herb make it the perfect accompaniment to hot weather.

Mung bean: Many Americans are unfamiliar with the lovely green mung bean, but this ingredient is actually quite common in some Asian cuisines. Mung beans are energetically cool and help the body drain excess water. As a very mild diuretic, you may think mung bean would be the wrong choice for summer. As with all herbs though, its efficacy depends on your personal constitution, as well as where you are living. Mung bean is useful in hot, damp environments, like the American south and the Midwest, where high levels of humidity can leave our insides feeling like a swamp. Incorporate mung beans in summer salads or soups, or make a tea from the rehydrated beans. You may find you develop a taste for this little green herb.

Barley tea: Barley, or Job’s tears, is another common ingredient in Asian cooking and is often found in teas designed to cool the digestive system. Like mung bean, barley helps the body drain excess water, which can improve digestion and cool the stomach. Many Americans don’t think of drinking teas made from grains, but barley is an excellent place to start. Simply boil the herb in hot water and simmer for twenty minutes. Next, drain the liquid from the herb, allow it to cool, and enjoy. Of course, if you are celiac, or gluten-sensitive, skip the barley tea and consider one of the other herbs on this list.

Chrysanthemum: Chrysanthemum tea is an excellent choice if your eyes become red and irritated in hot weather. This could be due to environmental irritants—like pollen or dust—or you may simply express heat through your eyes. If red eyes are a problem, chrysanthemum tea can bring great benefits. Considered a powerful herb for eye health, this flower has a delicate flavor that lends well to hot or cold infusions. Just remember that chrysanthemum does not need to be steeped for longer than five minutes. Also, if you have allergies to any plants in the aster family, it’s best to avoid chrysanthemum. Try mint instead.

This summer stock your pantry with these easy-to-find Chinese herbs and use them to prevent and treat mild cases of dehydration, upset stomach, and heat exhaustion. If you find one of these treasures really works for you, consider nurturing and growing them in your garden next year.

Just be sure to put the mint in its own pot!

Feature Formula: Gan Mai Da Zao Tang

Dried red jujube
Dried red dates

Gan Mai Da Zao Tang—or Licorice, Wheat and Date Decoction—is a 2,000-year-old formula created by the Chinese master herbalist Zhang Zhong Jing and recorded in the classic text Jin Gui Yao Lue. Although this blend of three herbs may look simple, its effects on body, heart and mind can be profound, if it is matched with the right patient.

Gan Mai Da Zao Tang is used in cases of “Zang Zao”, or what the Chinese call “Restless Organ Syndrome”. This state of agitation is associated with frequent crying and mood swings, poor sleep, irritating bodily sensations, fatigue and feeling emotionally low.

Each herb in the formula serves a unique role. Licorice gently boosts energy by helping the digestive system. Wheat berries calm the spirit and anchor the mind. And those beautiful red dates? They soothe rattled nerves and moisten dryness.

I like to think of Gan Mai Da Zao Tang as the hug you offer a friend who is going through a difficult transition. Its sweet taste and gentle nature make this formula easy to digest, and its simplicity works well with other herbs.

If you are suffering through an emotional storm, ask us if Licorice, Wheat and Date Decoction is right for you.

Are You Making this One Immunity Mistake with Every Cold?

frozen branchAutumn is the start of the dreaded cold and flu season, which means coughs, sniffles, body aches, and missed days of work. In fact, you may already be impulsively buying immune-boosting supplements to stave off catching the latest bug living on your office door handles. But are you making this one immunity mistake every time you catch a cold?

This year, before you spend any more money on immunity herbs and supplements, remember this: taking immune-boosting herbs at the beginning of an illness may actually make you sicker.

Believe me, I know the allure of those immunity herbs. Before I became a trained herbalist, every time I came down with something, I took tonic herbs, which never seemed to help me recover quickly. It wasn’t until I visited an acupuncturist during the first few days of a cold that I learned how counterproductive this self-help remedy actually is.

Herbs like ginseng, astragalus, and medicinal mushrooms, such as Reishi, are immune super-herbs. These plants have powerful stimulating characteristics that are ideal for jump-starting a weakened immune system. But these herbs also become super foods for invading viruses and bacteria.

It’s kind of like giving your cold or flu the spa treatment, complete with a smoothie, a pedicure, and a massage.

In Chinese medicine, the herbs used at the beginning of a cold address the surface of the body. After all, cold and flu bugs are superficial illnesses, meaning they are not lodged too deeply inside. We call this a surface invasion and use medicinals that gently open the pores, releasing the pathogen through the skin. Many Chinese formulas for colds and flus actually induce a light sweat.

If a cold or flu bug has decided to call your body home get an acupuncture treatment and a custom Chinese herbal formula right away. If I could train patients to do one thing when they feel “a little something coming on,” it would be to call me within the first 24-48 hours of getting sick.

Chinese medicine has been effectively treating the common cold for over 2,000 years. Acupuncture and the appropriate herbs can significantly reduce the amount of time you spend on the couch, and in some cases, keep you from developing a full-fledged illness, like pneumonia.

If chronically low immunity is always a factor for you during the colder months, visit our clinic before you catch that first cold. We create customized acupuncture and herbal treatments meant to support your immunity, optimize your digestion, and keep you sleeping so that you’re prepared for winter weather.

When it comes to protecting your immunity, start now, and start early. Stay warm, eat cooked healthy food, exercise, sleep, and monitor your mood. If you encourage your body to naturally repel cold and flu bugs, those immune super-pills won’t be necessary.

Just think of how much time and money you’ll save!