TCM health tips for the fall season
WITH autumn coming, the weather becomes cooler and drier. According to traditional Chinese medicine, pathogenic dryness becomes a major problem affecting the lungs, skin and digestive system.
Dr Zhang Zhenxian, director of the Special Medical Care Department of Yueyang Hospital attached to Shanghai University of TCM, says many people experience dry flaking skin, dry nasal cavity, frequent nose bleeds, sore throat, coughing and constipation, if they fail to take enough fluids.
Drinking enough water and avoiding losing too much fluids are always important, but are even more so at this time of year.
Here's a look at some foods that can help nourish and moisten vulnerable areas of the body.
"Neutral" white fungus is one of the top moisture foods in TCM. It helps nourish yin and promote body fluids, which can help prevent and relieve various "dry" problems such as coughing, constipation, dry skin and sleeplessness. Chinese women have included white fungus in their diets over the years to keep their skin healthy.
Modern research also found it is effective in improving immunity and enhancing cancer patients' tolerance for chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
White fungus is often made into thick soup as a dessert. Adding white fungus to congee or other dishes is also recommended.
Lotus root is rich in calcium, iron, phosphorus, vitamin C and polyphenols, which helps improve immunity and anti-aging. Cooked lotus root helps nourish yin and the digestive system, promotes fluids and relieves diarrhea. It is especially recommended for people with weak digestive systems. Fresh lotus root juice mixed with honey is a highly recommended drink that helps relieve dryness.
Sesame is rich in vitamin E and is a highly nourishing food in the fall. It can help protect skin from the dry air as well as benefit and nourish organs. It is especially effective in relieving constipation due to insufficient body fluids. Sesame is also good for the hair.
Tea and congee made with sesame powder are common preparations. Yet people with inflammation problems such as toothaches, digestive inflammations and diarrhea should not eat too much.
Yam is a healthy food that is effective in nourishing yin and the lungs while also being good for the skin. It's also known to help balance the metabolism. For those watching their weight, it's good to know that yams are also low in calories.
It can be added in soup or fried cuisines, but steamed yam preserves are the most nutritious.
Pear is in season in the fall and it's a good thing, too. The fruit is juicy and helps nourish the lungs, dissolve phlegm, relieve coughing and aid in bowel movements. Uncooked pears are recommended to relieve dry problems in upper respiratory systems such as a sore throat. Steamed pear with rock sugar is more effective in dissolving phlegm and helping the lungs. Pear juice mixed with herbal teas like pang da hai (boat-fruited sterculia seed, a tropical herb) can help protect the voice.
Still, TCM doctors warn not to eat too much pear as the "cold" (yin) fruit can cause problems like diarrhea and stomachache.
A Chinese saying states it is time for yellow wine when chrysanthemums blossom.
Drinking warm yellow wine (35 to 45 degrees Celsius) can help the digestive system, boost circulation and nourish the skin and lungs.
Dark plums are ideal companions with yellow wine as they help preserve energy and nourish the organs.
Apart from being a rich source of nutrition with protein, calcium, as well as vitamin Bs and vitamin C, lily's root also contains various alkaloids which helps prevent and relieve problems caused by dry weather.
TCM classifies lily's root as a nourishing herb that helps soothe nerves, nourish the lungs and relieve coughing.
Fresh lily's root is recommended for those with trouble sleeping while dried lily's root is better for nourishing organs.
Adding lily's root to congee or hot dishes is recommended in the fall.