Spring seems to be my favorite time to talk about Chinese Medicine Food Therapy and how one can tailor their diet to the season for healing. In May 2018, I did a lecture on this topic and am posting my notes and recipes here:
Spring: Time to Tame the Liver
Summary Table of Spring Foods discussed
Five Element Chart
Anti-Aging Brain Mix recipe
Raspberry-Lime Aqua Fresca
Ban Lan Gen Chong Ji
Dandelion Flower Syrup
Stir-fried Watercress with Almonds and Ginger
No-Cook Mint Syrup
Mint Syrup (cooking required)
Rose Hips Lemonade (with Hibiscus)
References for recipes are in the documents themselves.
This is an update to notes in my Spring 2013 Newsletter.
Research showing the link between loss of sense of smell and Alzheimer’s disease dates back as far as 2002, with this small study showing a “classification accuracy of 95%”. Sounds like an easy, low-cost tool that the medical community should routinely use to help patients and their families prepare to prevent and/or treat this increasingly common health tragedy!
Please note that natural medicine, especially including nutritional support1 (which is much more comprehensive than just your ‘diet’ and what you food you eat), exercise2, and Traditional Chinese Medicine3, all offer many benefits for preventing dementia.
A sampling of Traditional Chinese herbal formulas for brain and cognitive function.
Here’s a ‘Simple Marinade’ recipe I use often in the summer to grill vegetables. This recipe includes rosemary, oregano, basil and garlic – culinary spices that are amongst the top 10 antioxidant-containing spices (or herbs!) to use while grilling meat (or vegetables) to protect against creating carcinogenic compounds.1
For more information on safe grilling, see this Safe Grilling Guide from the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
1Prevent Grilled Food from Charring Your Health. Includes another yummy sounding marinade – using cherries!
I am a big proponent of a gluten-free diet due to all the chronic health issues it may cause. Going gluten-free myself years ago helped my health tremendously, and it was specifically atopic dermatitis or eczema that lead me down this road of healing. This is a great article on the subject of gluten in our diets, the damage it causes in our gut, and the many skin diseases it may cause (from one of my favorite blogs on CAM and natural medicine):
For more information on this topic, search my blog for “gluten” for articles I have written on this topic also.
Just started carrying this product in my office: Nutricology’s Caricol® Papaya Concentrate. I have had many patients throughout the years who have had great results using papaya, or its main active ingredient, papain for digestive complaints. Papain is a known digestive enyzme, and is in many natural digestive enzyme products nowadays (including another product I have carried for years).
So this specific product caught my attention, because:
1. It is a liquid, papaya concentrate “made from the pulp of certified organic, GMO-free, tree-ripened papaya”
2. The papain is “naturally concentrated by means of a propriety production process which originated at the Lotus Buddhist Monastery, Big Island, Hawaii”, and
3. The company notes on the box that “a portion of the proceeds from your purchase will be donated to the monastery” that originated this process.
After learning all this, I thought this is a product I can get behind! For specific details on this product, including research relating to its effects on IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), constipation and diarrhea, see: Caricol.com. More information can be found at the distributor’s site, Nutricology.
Other interesting info about papain is that it has been used for years in meat tenderizer products, was sold in topical preparations in the past for wound debridement (removing dead tissue)1, and has been used as a home remedy for insect bites and stings2.
From Harper’s Magazine Harper’s Index, September 2014 (p. 9):
‘Year in which the World Health Organization began keeping records on global obesity: 1980 ′
‘Number of years since then in which at least one country has reduced its obesity rate: 0’
Reference: World Health Organization (Geneva)
I attended the Institute of Functional Medicine’s Nutrition Conference this year. It was held in San Francisco in May 2014, and since the speakers were many of the scholars I have been following for years and the conference was held so close to home, I could not pass up this opportunity to see these physicians and leaders speak in person! It was a wonderful experience, and as always, I came away with more ideas on how to educate patients about maintaining health (there is always more to LEARN)!
(Click here to learn more about ‘What is Functional Medicine?’)
Here are highlights of some of the sessions I attended:
- “Food Rules: A Candid Conversation with Michael Pollan“
Dr. Mark Hyman, Chairman of IFM, leading authority on Functional Medicine (FM) and best-selling author in this field, interviewed Michael Pollan, food activist, journalism professor and author of In Defense of Food, Omnivore’s Dilemma and Cooked. Michael Pollan started the discussion by quoting Wendell Berry – “People are fed by the food industry, which pays no attention to health, and are treated by the health industry, which pays no attention to food“. Berry’s words such as these and others on agrarian agriculture lead Pollan from a career as an editor of one of the best magazines in the US (I think – Harper’s Magazine), to author and educator in the politics of our food culture. Pollan discussed the food politics in the US, which results in a lack of a health-oriented food policy, likening the sugar industry of today to the tobacco industry of the 1950’s. He discussed that this current administration is silent about the food industry (except for Let’s Move!), has no ‘food policy’, citing such examples of “incoherent policies” as subsidizing the sugar industry while also subsidizing insulin pumps, and our soybean and corn “monoculture”. Pollan discussed the food industry’s ability to make Americans think they are eating healthy by what he terms as ‘Nutritionism’ – where processed food is marketed as ‘healthy’ because of added nutrients (‘fortified with Vitamin D’, for example) – but as he points out – “real food cannot change its nutrients”! Pollan and Hyman also discussed that the ‘health care crisis’ of today is the “catastrophe of the American diet”, with Hyman noting “we have outsourced our cooking to corporations”, which I think is an excellent way to think about what has happened to the American diet! Hyman also discussed specifically how high-fructose corn syrup damages our intestines, leading to ‘leaky-gut syndrome’1 occurring very frequently in our population, causing a multitude of chronic health issues. Pollan believes that any ‘food policy’ by our government has to be towards health, since it is of “huge economic value” to reduce Type 2 diabetes. He also mentioned that in the US, “40% of hospitals have ‘fast food'” today! He also believes that “industrial agriculture is unsustainable”, that we need to look at “the real cost of food production” and that it is possible to feed all the people in the world via small, sustainable, organic, local farming with its built-in, natural resiliency to change. Pollan mentioned that even Mexico now is moving towards having a ‘food policy’ (such as limiting food marketing to children, eliminating junk foods from schools since they promote disease, and putting taxes on soda and junk food). Pollan is also known for a set of Food Rules, and here is the most famous and best one:
Eat (real) food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
- “Medical Nutrition Therapy in the 21st Century: The Future of Personalized Nutrition, presented by Jeffrey Bland, PhD. Bland is the biochemist and research scientist at the forefront of Functional Medicine, being a co-founder of the IFM, Metagenics, Inc., and Bastyr University, and the founder of Functional Medicine Update aka Synthesis. Bland initially reviewed the categories of nutrients: 1) Essential Nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids and fatty acids, 2) Conditionally Essential Nutrients, such as CoQ10 and Lipoic Acid, 3) Spice‐Derived Phytochemicals, such as beta-carotene, lycopene, curcumin, and lutein, 4) Accessory Nutrients, such as probiotics, prebiotics and fibers, and 5) Replacement of Insufficient Metabolites such as galactose and pyruvate. Although research-based and quite technical, Bland’s talk was about how modern nutritional research is showing how these various nutrients affect our genetic expression and cellular function, and that there are many mechanisms which can influence our physiology. This science is now known as NutriGenomics. Bland summarized by saying that “medical nutrition therapeutics requires the design and implementation of a dietary program that is personalized to the patient’s genetic characteristics, environment, health status, and lifestyle”. To do this, since “no two people are identical with regard to how they respond to their diet” and “there is considerably more variation in nutrient needs among individuals than is indicated by the RDIs” (Recommended Daily Intake), those practicing FM should:
• Evaluate the type, amount and form of plant‐based foods in the diet.
• Make sure that vegetables and fruits are providing adequate amounts of all the major phytochemical families.
• Use specific phytochemical concentrates including herbs and spices to amplify specific influences on genetic expression for the management of imbalanced physiology.
Bland also just had a new book published, Disease Delusion: Conquering the Causes of Chronic Illness for a Healthier, Longer, and Happier Life. This is finally a book for the layperson describing all that Functional Medicine is today, including what current nutritional research tells us to date. Basically, FM treats all chronic illness by combining the latest research in genetic science, systems biology and nutrition, with laboratory testing and nutritional, lifestyle and environmental factor analysis, and then using a patient-centered approach, offers nutrition, lifestyle and natural medicine treatment options. It can be quite amazing how diet and nutrition tailored to the individual, using NutriGenomics along with lifestyle adjustments can influence the health of the individual with great success!
I will write a book review soon of Bland’s book summarizing the approach of Functional Medicine to treat chronic illness (it will be posted on this blog and linked here).
- “Nourishing the Whole Self: The Food & Spirit Clinical Approach to Patient Transformation“, presented by Deanna Minich, PhD. This dynamic woman has a PhD in Nutrition, is the author of several books2 and has created a system of connecting the Ayurvedic Chakra system to ‘Food and Spirit’, via the modern Functional Medicine outlook of diet and lifestyle. Her approach especially resonates with me, since it is similar to my approach of integrating the dietary and nutritional approach of Traditional Chinese Medicine with Functional Medicine. She discussed the ‘elements of health’ and how to integrate it via her ‘therapeutic elements’ of Food & Spirit. She used the analogy that combining ‘good energy’ (from food, people or experiences) and ‘quality matter’ (from whole food and supplements) combine to give us ‘optimal health and well-being’. She has a toolkit of an assessment questionnaire, workbook and affirmation cards (I really love these!) to help patients with a personalized diet and lifestyle plan to maintain health. For more information see Food & Spirit. Dr. Minich also recently organized an online Functional Medicine “Detox Summit”, which includes many of the same speakers as the Nutrition Conference held in SF.
- Nutrition Controversies: What’s the ‘Right’ Diet?
This was a set of research-based presentations of three common modern diets. The panel consisted of both research scientists and clinicians. It was initially discussed by the moderator that answering this question is inherently very difficult from evidence-based scientific studies due to several reasons – but mainly due to the difficulty of defining a diet, getting participants in studies to achieve adherence to a diet, and probably most importantly, food and diets are not homogeneous, but rather are very diverse, or heterogeneous. He also pointed out that researchers have made the mistake thinking “there is a single healthy diet that’s right for everyone”. The presenters were:
- • Mediterranean Diet, by Mimi Guarneri, MD, a cardiologist and author ofThe Heart Speaks
• Paleolithic Diet, by Loren Cordain, PhD, nutrition professor and researcher and founder of the Paleo Diet,
• Plant-Based Diet, by Joel Fuhrman, MD, a family physician and author of several books, including Super Immunity and The End of Diabetes
- The excellent moderator was Christopher Gardner, PhD, a nutrition researcher and Professor of Medicine at Stanford University, who realized that the best way to summarize ‘the right diet’ from these researched, varied diets was to highlight what these researchers and physicians are in agreement on! It is:
1) Added sugar in our diets is out of control
2) Eat lots of vegetables
3) Eat low glycemic fruits
4) Reduce consumption of potatoes (more dangerous when more insulin resistance)
5) No trans-fat (often added to processed foods)
6) No processed foods
Recipes from the IFM Conference:
I have recipes from Rebecca Katz, Chef and author of Longevity Kitchen, and other contributors, plus these were also provided:
Smoothie Recipes at IFM Booth
1 ‘Leaky-gut syndrome’, or intestinal dysbiosis or intestinal permeability is caused by inflammation and resulting damage to the intestinal walls from several possible factors: an inflammatory diet (such as excess carbohydrates or sugar, processed foods, or allergens such as gluten or dairy, etc.), medications (antibiotics, corticosteroids, antacids), viral infections, parasites, stress (increased cortisol), environmental toxins, yeast or bacterial overgrowth, hormone deficiencies, and autoimmune disease processes.
2 As I am writing this, I realize I already have one of her books in my office, for perusal and for sale both! An A to Z Guide to Food Additives: Never Eat What You Can’t Pronounce.
This is a ‘Detox Diet’ that I was given years ago as a patient of Dr. Elson Haas when I had chronic headaches. The detoxification helped me then and it has helped me cleanse and rejuvenate many times since. I still use it to this day and try to do it at least 2 times a year. Dr. Haas wrote a book about this, The Detox Diet, and I see now that it is in its third edition!! For more info on Dr. Haas, his practice in Marin County, California, or his books, see his website Haas Health Online.
To this day, I recommend this ‘cleanse’ (as I call it) to patients for many reasons, but mainly as a technique to adjust to or return to healthy eating habits or to jump start a weight loss plan. It is fairly easy to do since it basically is eating lots of steamed vegetables, is done for only 7-10 days and works! For more details, see my handout:
Article published in Lotus Guide, April/May/Jun 2014 issue:
It has been discussed in natural medicine circles for years that many food additives have not been proven to be safe and may in fact be potentially detrimental to our health. Now the FDA is finally looking into one, the caramel coloring added to many colas and other foods, and whether it should be banned:
FDA Reviewing Potential Carcinogen of Caramel Coloring in Colas
Please note the side articles that discuss how one company in particular changed their soda formulation to avoid Prop 65 labeling in California of this potential carcinogen.
More and more people in the United States, no matter what their politics, are realizing that food safety here needs to be improved. Banning GMOs in our food supply like done elsewhere in the world should occur, such as in Europe, due to bonafide health concerns being the priority of our government vs. allowing the pockets of corporate America (and government officials both) to be lined with greed!
Mothers Across America: GMO Research Shows Organ Damage in Pigs – You Are What You Eat!
Here’s a link to an article about the study mentioned above (with the link to the study also):
Adverse Effects of GMO Crops Found
Article summarizing research done by the USDA’s Economic Research Service on USDA recommended Dietary Guidelines:
Americans’ Food Choices at Home and Away: How Do They Compare With Recommendations?
The Highlights summarize this research:
-Grocery purchase data reveal that consumers underspend on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and overspend on refined grains, fats, and sugars/sweets, compared with USDA food plan recommendations, a pattern that showed little change from 1998 to 2006.
-Food consumption data point to an even bigger challenge to improving diet quality: away-from-home foods now account for one-third of daily caloric intake, and they are not as healthful as at-home foods.
-New Government and private industry initiatives to make food labels and point-of-purchase information more relevant, understandable, and motivating may help consumers choose more healthful foods.
Sample data from the article about this research:
This research shows that post-menopausal women who consume sodas and other sugary ‘foods’ are at an increased risk of one type of endometrial cancer, an estrogen-dependent one. As this researcher says, “Increased levels of estrogens and insulin are established risk factors for endometrial cancer.”
Sugary Drinks Raise Endometrial Cancer Risk
It is worth noting that this research didn’t find any correlation between the consumption of ‘sugar-free’ sodas or foods with the risk of endometrial cancer. However, keep in mind that the consumption of the ‘sugar substitutes’ such as aspartamine, saccharin, sucralose, sorbitol, etc. all have other potential detrimental health effects of their own! (I.e., I highly recommend not consuming these ‘sugars’ as well – I generally recommend to use only natural sugars such as honey, stevia, coconut sugar, maple syrup, raw cane sugar, xylitol, etc.!)
Obtained online circa 4/13, I can no longer find this on the Smart Publications website, but this is an excellent summary or monograph of the research done on GoJi Berries, aka Gou Qi Zi in the Traditional Chinese Medicine Materia Medica (Lycium Barbarum):
GoJi Berries Monograph
Another great summary of the benefits of this herb, or berry, is:
Ray Sahelian’s GoJi Berry Information
Additionally, information of the brand of GoJi Berries I carry in my office can be found at:
Dragon Herbs GoJi Berries
The founder of this company, Ron Teeguarden, is a scholar in the field of Chinese Medicine and his company carries some of the best products around!
Healthy Cocoa – what a concept?!?!?
EnerHealth Botanicals Cocoa MoJo is now carried in my office. It is a ‘great way to enjoy yummy Cocoa while supporting your immune system… especially during the winter’1. This is an organic non-dutched (no alkaloids) cocoa powder with organic coconut palm sugar and organic extracts immune-boosting medicinal mushrooms. The coconut palm sugar has a low glycemic index (of 35), making this a nice dessert treat even for diabetics and others who are watching their sugar intake. The medicinal mushrooms extracts in Cocoa Mojo are:
√ Cordyceps Sinensis – this is a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) herb that I call the ‘Ginseng for the Lungs’; it is a ‘Lung Tonic’ and is used to treat many respiratory disorders. It is also effective in the prevention and treatment of a variety of cardiovascular disorders, and is also a strong immune stimulant, being antineoplastic (anti-cancer) as well. Additionally, research has shown it is renal-protective (for example, it can help kidney problems such as chronic renal failure).2,3
√ Ganoderma Lucidum aka Reishi mushroom – this is another TCM herb, used to calm the mind, strengthen the Lungs and the body in general, and it also known to be antineoplastic, anti-viral and anti-bacterial (see this excerpt from a TCM professional reference).
√ Coriollus Versicolor aka Turkey Tail mushroom – now widely known to have anti-cancer effects, more research has shown direct antioxidant effect as well.4,5
√ Agaricus Blazei – this is a Brazilian mushroom, researched highly in Japan, that has demonstrated antineoplastic abilities in many research studies, along with immunomodulatory effects.6. It is also known by its Japanese name of himematsutake.
2Clinical Manual of Oriental Medicine, 2nd edition, Lotus Institute of Integrative Medicine.
3Panaxea.com research summary.
More references for medicinal mushrooms:
1) Hobbs, Christopher. Medicinal Mushrooms – An Exploration of Tradition, Healing, & Culture. Santa Cruz, CA: Botanica Press, 1995.
2) MycoHerb Clinical Guide for Practitioners. Golden Mirror Press, 2008.
3) Review of Medicinal Mushrooms Advances: Good News from Old Allies, Solomon P. Wasser, HerbalGram. 2002; 56:28-33 American Botanical Council (article online).
I now have some great new products available and all of them are food items to help support a healthy diet! These products are from Dr. Mao Shing Ni, affectionately known as Dr. Mao. Dr. Mao co-wrote one of the first Chinese Medicine dietary therapy books years ago, called the “Tao of Nutrition”, which is basically considered a classic text in this field today. Dr. Mao has written many others books about health from a Chinese Medicine perspective as well. Dr. Mao is now more widely known since appearing on the Dr. Oz show in recent years. Dr. Mao’s most recent book is the “Secrets of Longevity Cookbook”. (See my book review also.)
1) One recipe published in this cookbook is his Hot Herbal Cereal. This recipe, modified slightly, is now available pre-packaged for easy preparation from Dr. Mao as “Dr. Mao’s Beautiful Hot Herbal Cereal“. This is a gluten-free combination of over 20 ingredients that has been eaten in his family for generations. As he says in his cookbook, this is a ‘one-stop, complete-nutrition meal’! It benefits the heart, immune system, digestion, helps metabolism and moods, and is also anti-inflammatory.1 The ingredients are:
Whole grain brown rice, mung beans, dried chestnuts, long-grain white rice, white lotus seeds, black rice, oats, green lentils, red lentils, black beans, millet, black sesame seeds, dried fox nuts, small red beans, red kidney beans, white beans, green split peas, black-eyed beans, yellow split peas, lima beans, pink beans, pinto beans, poria cocos, wild yam root.
2) Dr. Mao’s Longevity Spice Blends: These are special herb and spice blends, also published in the “Secrets of Longevity” cookbook2 , created by Dr. Mao for his patients to incorporate into their diets and then made available pre-packaged as well. There are many blends, and the following list are those that I am carrying in my office at this time:
√ Digestion Spice Blend: Without proper digestion, your body isn’t able to absorb the nutrients from the healthy food you are eating. This blend supports healthy digestion, helping ensure regularity, absorb nutrients, and relieve heartburn, gas, and bloating.
√ Anti-Inflammatory Spice Blend: This spice blend helps combat inflammation, making it very helpful for arthritis support and muscle pain.
√ Sexual Health Spice Blend: Hormonal and sexual support for both women and men is supported by this blend.
√ Metabolism Spice Blend: The herbs and spices in this blend help increase your energy level and boost the function of your metabolism, making it good for healthy weight management. This blend can be helpful for insulin resistance and pre-diabetes care.
√ Heart Spice Blend: The herbs and spices in this spice blend are an all-around heart support, helpful for heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, pre-diabetes conditions, and diabetes.
3) Anti-Aging Brain Mix
I originally came across this recipe in Dr. Mao’s book, “Second Spring”, published in 2009, and have shared it with my patients since then. And Dr. Mao has also made this available pre-packaged (with slight modification). This is a nice medicinal ‘trail mix’ combination to snack on daily, and wonderful for your health and brain too! Ingredients: walnuts, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, dried goji berries, dried apricots, and dried blueberries.
1 Ni, Dr. Mao Shing. Dr Mao’s Secrets of Longevity Cookbook. Kansas City, MI: Andrews McNeel Publishing, Inc., 2012, p. 77.
2 Ibid, p. 47-49.
This was my paternal grandmother’s recipe (I am unsure of the original source). I still love it to this day. It is very simple to make (no-bake), and the pie is very light – perfect for after the heavy meals of the holidays. The trick is to whip egg whites to be very stiff, making sure to use room-temperature egg whites. (I now substitute a gluten-free crust I make, which is similar to a graham cracker crust.)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
3 egg yolks
3/4 cup milk
1-1/4 cup canned or cooked pumpkin
3 egg whites
1/3 cup sugar
Combine first 8 ingredients and bring to boil. Then stir in pumpkin and chill slightly. Beat egg whites and sugar. Fold into above mixture. Put into crumb crust.
This cookbook is a jewel! Dr. Mao, as he is affectionately known, is a 38th-generation doctor of Chinese Medicine, a co-founder of an acupuncture college, a prolific author, and of course, a well-respected authority on Chinese Medicine. Hippocrates said ‘let food by thy medicine’, and Dr. Mao shows one how in this book full of recipes from centenarians and from many years of experience with patients from around the world. The intro to this book gives ‘Top Ten Longevity Habits for Good Digestion and Good Health’ and the recipes focus on using his ‘Top Ten Healing, Anti-Aging Foods’ (which I must add, is very similar to my ‘Top Ten Foods for Longevity’ article written in 2010). Additionally, Dr. Mao’s book lists commonly-used culinary herbs and spices for specific health conditions, and each recipe notes which health condition(s) it can benefit. There is also specific menu combinations given for certain health conditions. But the real ‘treasure’ of this ‘jewel’ are the recipes themselves! Besides being healthy, these recipes are unique, scrumptious, and most of them are simple and easy too, so one who is new to cooking healthy should not be overwhelmed at all. Sample recipes are: Banana Buckwheat Pancakes (gluten-free), Avocado Hummus, Chicken Mango and Butternut Squash Soup, Vegetable Almond Pie (gluten-free), Millet Pilaf, Curry Vegetables with Brown Rice, and Pecan Pudding. (Some of the recipes use dried Chinese herbs, all of which are readily available at my office from my ‘herbal pharmacy’ – GoJi berries, hawthorn fruit, chrysanthemum, etc.) And I must lastly mention Dr. Mao’s Hot Herbal Cereal recipe – it is a combination of over 20 grains, nuts, seeds, beans and legumes that his family has been eating for generations – it is really a ‘one-stop, complete-nutrition meal, as he describes! Definitely consider adding this treasure of a cookbook to your kitchen shelf!
Dr. Mao is also the author of several other books, many of which I consider ‘must-haves’ for those interested in Chinese or Natural Medicine – Second Spring: Hundreds of Natural Secrets for Women to Revitalize and Regenerate at Any Age and Secrets of Self-Healing: Harness Nature’s Power to Heal Common Ailments, Boost Your Vitality, and Achieve Optimal Wellness.