Roger Green’s enjoyable “barefoot doctor” class at Academy of Healing
Nutrition offers simple ways to keep you and family sane, healthy and safe
from stress and germs. It is a good guide for wellness care during home
quarantine as well as everyday ways to reduce fatigue and aging. The class
is not based on the traditional Chinese barefoot doctor treatments but
suited to today’s needs.
The Maoist barefoot doctor guide to patriotic wellbeing, written
during China’s starving 1940s, when families were separated to avoid
childbirth and students were ripped from university studies to become
overnight farmers. No one was prepared: China found itself with a billion
people and only a few medically trained doctors. The barefoot doctors
were lay people who were taught basic skills in hygiene, traditional
diagnosis and use of Chinese herbs, surgery, childbirth, cure of wounds,
snakebites and broken bones and methods of childbirth and sterilization
using local plants, some herbs cured with human or cow urine or wine,
animal ingredients and some toxic herbs. The aim was political as well as
We must actively initiate a patriotic health movement for the masses
centered around hygienic measures and elimination of . . . pests, to
reduce the incidence of disease and to strengthen the people’s
resistance, for the benefit of ‘grasping the revolution and production,
and stimulating work and war preparedness.’
In Roger’s weekend class we learned some basics of Japanese Do-In
(self massage), shiatsu massage, and applied a ginger compress to the
lower back. We discussed healing baths and ways to purify our home. The
coronavirus COVID-19 is the elephant in the room. Here is how I am
keeping it at bay: Wearing gloves outside especially in the subway and
public transportation. Avoiding crowds and close contact with strangers
and keeping immunity strong with a sensible diet and some immune-
enhancing herbs. See the previous blog “Longevity in the time of Plague.”
Who should be quarantined? People returning from high risk areas.
The president has already banned travel from Europe and other locales may
follow. People who have a fever higher than 100 degrees, feelings of
weakness with or without chills, with cough and shortness of breath.
The Chinese Barefoot Doctor Guide goes into detail about the types
of cough detected with a stethoscope. When breathing, a whistling sound
of wind blowing indicates dryness or irritation in bronchitis, a bubbling
sound is from excess moisture and congestion affecting the lungs. The
coronavirus cough is dry (from fever) but when the lungs are charged with
fluid enough to affect breathing, it is a deep loud cough with pain and
difficulty breathing. Such discomforts should be reported to your doctor.
Keeping the lungs healthy on a daily basis includes digestive foods.
Traditional acupuncture teaches that the stomach when digesting foods
gives off a “vapor” to the lungs. That means what we eat affects breathing.
Anyone who overindulges in creamy, sweet, non-nourishing foods (ice
cream) may have excess lung phlegm. Roger stresses eating fruits in
season that are locally grown, not tropical fruits in winter. Summer is an
apt time for fruits. Fruits tend to be cooling but can be cooked to warm
their nature. Digestive spices may be added when cooking, for example
ginger, cinnamon, clove, star anise. See the section on “kitchen medicines”
to learn the temperature of herbs and spices in Karma Herbs.
People who smoke or eat lots of hot, drying foods may develop a dry
cough. Diabetes also tends to create chronic thirst and hunger from
dryness. An ancient Vietnamese doctor, head of gynecology in Saigon’s
main hospital who taught acupuncture to medical doctors, told a TCM
conference, “People with diabetes should avoid All sweet foods even
carrots and beets.” Smoking and diabetes weaken our immune system
impacting our defense against coronavirus. Moistening foods (for thirst
and dry cough) include soaked oatmeal, asparagus, and teas sweetened
with monk fruit (lo han kuo.) Roger recommends Bravo yogurt, if possible
made with raw milk, which has been used for easing symptoms of cancer
chemo treatments, Alzheimer’s and childhood autism. Most Big City
people breathe from the neck up. They get stuck Qi in the lungs. One
good way to address stagnation, poor circulation and chronic pain is the
famous ginger compress.
We all know about drinking ginger tea to soothe an upset stomach or
ease nausea and morning sickness. But applying ginger to the skin is
recommended by macrobiotic and other health advisers in order to ease
certain chronic pains in back or abdomen, used in drug detox treatments,
and to gradually improve infertility. It brings blood circulation to the area
treated. Blood and Qi flow (adequate circulation) are the balancing
features of healthy organ function. Since the abdomen, lower back and
lungs are energetically connected, a ginger compress placed over adrenal
glands may also improve breathing and energy. The warmth is relaxing for
lower back strains. Important: Ginger compress should be avoided by young
children and very weak or pregnant people.
Bring 2 quarts of water to nearly a boil. Rinse then finely grate about
1 cup of raw ginger. Squeeze about 1/2 cup of liquid from the grated
ginger to the very hot water which allows the ginger enzymes to be
released into the water. Carefully dip a clean towel into the ginger water,
wring it to remove excess water. Check the temperature so that it does not
burn the area where you will place the towel. It should feel warm but not
burning. Place the wet towel over the kidneys or lower abdomen and cover
the towel with another dry towel to keep the warmth inside. Repeat this
several times when the wet ginger towel cools. This can be done once a
week as needed to ease chronic pain and cramps from stagnant Qi, internal
cold, or irregular menstrual periods that are overly light, sparse, and feel
better with application of warmth. Avoid this treatment if you have a
fever or may be pregnant.
Other compresses Roger discussed included the cooling, detoxifying
salt compress, and various cooling food compresses made with taro,
chlorophyll, buckwheat, and miso. They follow the energy principles of
the Five Elements and Tastes:
- sour gathers and is astringent;
- bitter scatters energy,
- sweet sedates,
- salty softens and dissolves lumps
- pungent increases Qi.
Our grandparents applied a mustard plaster, our parents used
Vick’s VapoRub, which contains camphor, eucalyptus and menthol, on the
chest and we inhale fragrant steam of ginger water or essential oils.
These are wonderful for applying topically with a carrier oil or used
in house cleaning to enhance the aroma and vibration of your rooms.
Some are toxic for pets so avoid using peppermint, pennyroyal, tea tree,
lavender, citrus, ylang ylang and wintergreen where pets may lick or inhale
them. Don’t apply essential oils to pets. For us, mint, lavender, citrus and
ylang ylang are relaxing and recommended to ease depression. Tea tree
diluted with water is a favorite oil for application to cuts and fungus and as
a disinfectant gargle. I like to use seasonal essential oils with water to
wash my wood floors: cooling ylang ylang or sandalwood in hot weather
and cider or spruce in winter. Lavender both strengthens and moderates
the heart and in that way eases stress.
Topically helichrysum oil has been recommended for skin problems
including wrinkles and spots and neem oil for bug bites and eczema.
Academy of Healing Nutrition students will learn more about the sacred
neem tree in my class on Ayurveda in May.
Healing baths are an easy way to incorporate energy treatments into a daily routine. Chamomile tea can be added to a warm bath to help heal wounds, itchy skin and lung congestion. The fragrant tea is digestive and soothes stress. In Heart to Heart: Care for your heart naturally, I describe detoxifying baths. Mud pulls toxins from the skin. Mud from the Dead Sea and water spas from Budapest to Mexico have long been enjoyed as a
luxury treatment used to naturally treat chronic pains of arthritis as well as clear skin irregularities. Add 1/4 cup of pure clay powder to a warm bath to soak away troubles and feel grounded by Mother Earth. Borax is another natural earth element that is mined from lake bottoms. Minerals in borax are heavier than water and pull heavy metals from the skin and water down the bathtub drain. Add up to 1/4 cup each of borax and baking soda to the warm bath and soak for 15 minutes. Borax (Twenty Mule Team Borax) is the same powder, sold in the supermarket, used as a clothes washing additive to make clothes cleaner. Make sure there are no added chemicals or fragrance.
Your bath is an apt time to do Do-In. Sitting in warm perfumed
water, tap gently with fingertips along the bladder meridian, starting
from above the eyes, over the top of the head and back of the neck
to the tops of shoulders. Tap from the palms of hands upward to
the underarms. Tap from the top of the shoulders down to the tops
of the fingers. The same for legs: Up the inside, down the outside.
The Yin meridians are on the front of the body, the inner areas of arms
and legs. The Yang meridians are on the tops (dorsal side) of the arms,
legs, and back. You can reach everything–meridians and internal
organs–by massaging the ears, hands and feet. Do some relaxed deep
breathing, listen to soothing music, bless those you love and wish
health and happiness for all sentient beings.