Roger Green’s “Longevity Diet” approach at Academy of Healing Nutrition teaches our immune system to be intelligent and adaptable. The key foods are deeply strengthening, alkalizing, nourishing and tonifying for kidney/adrenal energy which impacts vitality, breathing, hormones, and sexuality.
Imagine your body is a fortress. Along the outer walls are the parapets where armed soldiers protect against invasion. Their attention is outward as they scan the distance. Inside the fort are ammunition, supplies, reinforcements and family. Your body, the fortress, is protected inside by nourishing foods and herbs for organs, blood, and for freeing circulation so that oxygen and hormones can move where needed. Chief among protective foods are medicinal mushrooms such as reishi, chaga, shiitake, and coriolus (turkey tail.) They are cooked slowly at low to medium temperatures and can be consumed as beverages or water extracts. The polysaccharides and beta glucan are released with cooking. A polysaccharide —a large molecule made up of multiple sugar molecules—beta-glucan offers a number of health benefits, including lowering cholesterol, improving blood sugar management, and boosting the immune system. For people with auto-immune illness, medicinal mushrooms are a way to bring about balance since the body uses them as needed to slowly enhance resilience to stress. They are adaptogens.
During cold damp weather—cold/flu season–our vitality faces special challenges: Fatigue, pollution, and crowds of sick people on the subway and bus, coughing in your face require well-prepared grounding and warming foods like stews with root vegetables, yams, digitata kelp seaweed and pungent herbs and spices to spark immunity. Garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, onions, cardamom, cinnamon, star anise, paprika. Add these to slow cook in your bone broth.
When cooking soups and strews add some tonic herbs. For example in chicken vegetable soup you might add a slice of dong kuei (Angelical sinensis) and 2 – 3 slices of astragalus (huang qi).
Dong quai (tang kuei) is a semi-sweet/bitter blood-enhancing herb that stimulates circulation and especially moves stuck qi in the digestive and reproductive areas. Some women use it monthly if their period is too light and painful due to weakness, blood deficiency and poor circulation due to internal cold (see facial pallor, pale tongue, shortness of breath, cold hands and feet, aching joints, fatigue, low mood and menstrual cramps that feel better with application of warmth or massage.) Dong quai is estrogenic so should be avoided by women who have an active cancer. Otherwise it can be taken long term as needed to warm and energize circulation and blood production.
People who have internal heat, chronic thirst and dryness, chronic fevers, stabbing menstrual pain, acne, irritability and other signs of inflammation will benefit more from goji berries instead of dong quai.
Astragalus is a marvelous herb to enhance immunity. It increases our T cells, our natural immune boosters and cancer-fighters. Energetically it tonifies qi vital energy from the waist down to feet. It moves circulation and normalizes sweating problems such as night sweats or spontaneous sweating due to weakness and chronic illness: HIV, cancer prevention, chronic fatigue and chronic depression and low enthusiasm. Astragalus, researched by scientists and reported in JAMA Journal of American Medical Association, comes in many forms—Chinese herbal combination pills, health food store capsules, extracts and my favorite form dried, sliced herb. The slices look like a tongue depressor and have a mild slightly sweet flavor when cooked as a water extract or added to soups. The nourishing, blood enhancing and Qi energizing foods are our inner defense.
Remember the walls of our fortress with soldiers protecting against invasion? In our body that surface protection, moving defenses outward to create a barrier, is called Wei Qi. Ancient Chinese medicine offers one of the most famous herbal formulas for increasing Wei Qi. It is called Jade Screen formula sold as pills. Jade is precious for its beauty, elegance and durability. The screen is our protection against cold/flu, excess humidity, germs, allergies, and other pathogens. Also useful for exhausting work and stress. The main herbs used in Jade Screen are astragalus which fortifies immunity and siler an herb that affects sweating. The siler acts like a cannon to open pores and along with astragalus pushes out the pathogens. The herbal combination normalizes sweating and detoxifies “clears the surface.”
It was believed that people who perspire excessively are weak because they lose their Qi. People who do not perspire risk trapping germs/pathogens inside. So the screen is a protective barrier as well as a detoxifying formula. A third herb added to Jade Screen is atractylodes, a bitter/sweet spleen tonic. So all together the digestion is nourished by strengthening spleen Qi and the barrier (astragalus and siler) regulate the pores to normalize sweating.
With dietary additions to improve energy, breathing, muscle agility, bone strength and reduce stress, we feel confident to face The City. All this is fine, but what do we do in the face of a plague? Plagues have been with us a long time and are not likely to be eliminated as long as we share the planet with animals, poisons, and global warming. Coronavirus COVID19 began in a Chinese “wet market” where they slaughter and sell live wild animals as food and medicine. Animal products have been used to make herbal pills for centuries, but that process of cooking, purifying protects against possible virus inside the animal that could be transmitted to us. Selling caged beasts in dirty conditions breeds germs and epidemic virus. The Chinese government supported the practice of “wet markets” during the starvation of the 1930s, 40s when peasants caught wild game and it has continued and grown into a multi-million yuan industry.
Since there is no vaccine or widely accepted treatment to “cure” the virus and it is not certain whether it can return or remain contagious, the Chinese government hospitals are treating COVID19 with a combination of western anti-viral drugs and traditional Chinese herbs to ease symptoms, including high fever, chills, dry cough and thick sticky phlegm that shuts down breathing for sick, elderly and immune-compromised persons. It takes Qi to be able to inhale sufficiently to bring oxygen to refresh the lungs and entire body. Low vitality, obesity, hypertension, diabetes all weaken breathing and, therefore, our defense against pneumonia which kills COVID19 patients.
Chinese herbs used to fight the virus include well-known anti-bacterial, anti-viral, honeysuckle flower (jin yin hua) a broad-spectrum antibiotic that kills staph, strept, and pneumonia germs, treats sore throat, fever, dry cough, lung and large intestine infections. Honeysuckle flower (AKA lonicera japanica, Japanese honeysuckle) is often combined with cooling herbs in cold/flu formulas such as Gan Mao Ling pills and Yin Chiao pills. Honeysuckle is a bitter herb. Use too much and you get diarrhea. It is cooling and works on throat, lungs and large intestine like a broom. Gan Mao Ling combines it with chrysanthemum flower used for fever and headache. Chinese chrysanthemum flower (jeu hua) is sweet and moves Qi upward and outward to clear heat in the head and “lift the veil” that clouds vision.
You can find instant teas in Chinese food and herb shops that combine honeysuckle and chrysanthemum either as flowers to brew or as granules sweetened with cane sugar. A better sweetener if you are cooking the herbs at home is monk fruit (AKA Lo Han Quo) which is a pod that resembles a brown tennis ball. Crack the pod and simmer it in water. The flavor is very sweet like sugar but completely safe for diabetes and cooling for lung inflammation.
So your herbal regimen for reducing cold/flu
fever, sore throat, lung dryness, thick yellow phlegm is honeysuckle flower, chrysanthemum flower or pills such as Gan Mao Ling containing them. Added protection for fever and sore throat comes in the form of a strong extremely bitter herbal antibiotic. Don’t cook it, take pills of andrographis (chuan xin lian, wode root and herb) You will be treating symptoms like the Chinese and western doctors aim to do. But the added advantage of using herbs is the potency that comes from using an entire plant, not only an active ingredient. The entire herb is closer in energy to our body and builds our defense without tearing down vitality or harming digestion. When using any antibiotic—allopathic or herbal—fortify your gut with foods and herbs that prevent damage to the extremely thin delicate tissue of the gut. See the previous blog about pre-biotic and probiotic foods.
Important: Using cooling, detoxifying herbs over a period of time, sometimes even for a week, and especially if you are already weakened from illness or have a weak constitution, requires the addition of tonic medicinal mushrooms or other appropriate tonics like astragalus in order to avoid diarrhea and other signs of exhaustion.
For help in determining individual herbal needs as well as information on cold/flu and many herbal treatments for prevention and recovery from illness, see Karma Herbs sold at Amazon.com
The next Blog will describe Roger Green’s Chinese Barefoot Doctor class which highlights fun things to do while you are home with family waiting out the virus. Relaxing massage and Qi fortifying treatments bring friends and lovers closer together in a healing way.