As we welcome back spring into our lives, often this also means for many, the unwelcome visitor of hayfever allergies. In this second edition of the newsletter series speaking about a Chinese herb relevant to the season, a popular herb of recent years comes to mind this time of year – Gou Qi Zi – aka Goji berries as the Western common name.
Spring is the time of the element of Wood which is related to the organ and meridian system of the Liver, and its partnered organ the Gall Bladder. In this season Wind is predominant, and in our body, like in nature, this Wind element is strong, activating, quick moving and changing. Internally, we may feel more vibrancy, as well as more irritations. Externally, Wind in Chinese Medicine, carries pathogens, and spreads it around easily. Thus at this time of year, we are dealing with viral and bacterial pathogens, as well as allergens, all carried by the Wind that is strong and rising at this time of year. People with allergies usually do not have a strong defensive immunity system to fend off the strength of the Wind and all the pathogens. The Liver, being a Wood element is thus easily affected by Wind as it has an affinity to it. However this also means it can be easily set off-balance at this time of year, if we have either too much Wind offsetting the harmony, or too weak a support system to defend against it. One of the Liver meridian systems’ function is to regulate the function of our eyes. In addition, it supports our “Blood” nourishment function, which provides a base of strength to our defensive immunity (“Wei Qi) and other types of Qi strength. If you have eye problems, such as itchy, sandy or dry eyes at this time of year, this is often due to a weakness in the Liver Bloods’ strength and its Wind pathogen expelling function. Thus, the goal of this season is to promote the free, calm, easy and smooth flow of energy, and strengthen our defensive immunity system by strengthening our Blood and Qi – the base and the strength.
Gou Qi Zi (Fructus Lycii) whose common name is Chinese Wolfberry fruit, Lycium fruit, matrimony vine fruit or Goji berry , has been used for thousands of years in Chinese Medicine, and has several main actions and indications. One of the functions is to nourish and strengthen the Liver and Kidney organ systems for patterns of Yin and Blood deficiency. Another function is to help our base essential Blood function to nourish our eye function. Note, this does not literally mean the amount of blood in our body, but rather a qualitative function. Thus Gou Qi Zi or Lycium fruit/Goji berry, is an excellent herb to have at this time of year to more optimally nourish the basis to eye health and immunity functioning. Some may ask, why not just boost the Qi if that is what the immunity needs? The reason is that Blood function in Chinese Medicine partly serves to be the ‘Mother’ of Qi – so just like you need form before you can have function, like you need a a frame for a door to hang from, you need the foundation of Blood in order to have Qi thrive. You can pick up a bag of dried Gou Qi Zi/Goji berries at many natural health foods stores these days (it’s best to have the actual herb/fruit/whole food, not an extract). Good quality ones are large, soft, sweet and red. You can include them in yogurts, soups and salads, or steep them as a tea, leaving the fruit in while drinking the water, then eat the fruit after.
Speaking about foods, we often have a cupboard full of simple remedies right at home in our kitchen. Interested to learn more? Attend our seminar on Kitchen Medicine with Chrystal Malapas, RAc, on Saturday April 30, 2011 from 10am to 12pm. Spots are limited so sign up early to reserve your spot! Go to our Continuing Education page for more information.
Keep in mind that Chinese Herbs are not meant to be used individually or as stand-alone, unlike Western traditions. Herbs used whole are more balanced, however used individually with a person, it may not be balanced for that person. That is why Chinese Herbs are traditionally given as a formula, grouped together with checks and balances, and customized to fit the pattern of that individual person. Everyone has different manifestations of signs and symptoms and varying constitutions, so when we fit things better and are more focused than general, they work better. With this ability to customize according to TCM principles, Chinese herbal medicine can treat a full range of human illnesses, sick as colds and flus, allergies, gynecological disorders, digestive disorders, degenerative diseases, pain and more. In particular, Chinese herbal medicine is particularly good at promoting the body’s ability to heal and recuperate. If using the single herb does not seem to be strong enough or your are experiencing some adverse effects, it’s is likely that you need a more balance formula of other herbs to help you out.
Enjoy the rising Qi of spring and may you have good health and happiness.
Sonia F. Tan
BA, BA(H), DTCM, R.Ac, R.TCM.P.