All posts filed under: Chinese Medicine

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Learning Herbs – Chinese Medicine School Style, and Jing Jie

I am in 2 of 12 terms in school. The pace at which we learn things is incredible.  Study a subject  for one week and bam! you are expected to know everything (yes, this is an overstatement) about the muscles of the thigh, the Spleen meridian, the integument system, and (as luck would have it) certain categories of herbs. Tomorrow is out first herb test, which will consist of answering questions about the 14 herbs we learned in the “Warm Herbs that Release the Exterior” category. Starting in 2002, I regularly studied herbs in earnest. That meant that on most day of the week, I read about, tasted, looked at, sat with, thought of, gardened, identified and wildcrafted, and took notes about the herbs that I was studying. Since I was in a self-education situation, I tended to migrate towards herbs that myself or my friends and family needed. There is the time to sit and digest  (literally and figuratively) all the information and subtleties about the plants. With all the ways I studied herbs, …

Plant part actions, Chinese medicine view.

Actions/Directions of Plant Parts

One of the first books I read on herbalism and health was Elson Haas’ Staying Healthy with the Seasons. There were many interesting little bits of knowledge and graphics in that book, including one relating parts of herbs to actions in the body systems. Here is how I remember it: A week ago, I checked out a neat book to help me learn more about Chinese herbal formulations. Traditional Chinese Medicine Formula Study Guide by Qiao Yi walks the reader through all angles of formulating and a bit about pathology. The more I read about Chinese herbalism, the more I see similarities with what I’ve learned studying Western herbalism. Take this categorization about plant parts and actions from the study guide: I have looked in a few other sources in attempt to find more information about plant part and action/direction for both Western and Chinese herbalism, to no avail. (If you know of a resource, let me know!) One aspect in particular I’d like to get more information about is the Chinese medicine view about …

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Reflections on Chinese Medicine, Resolved

The reflections continues. This fall I will be starting a program in Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture. I am excited to start a new adventure down the healing path, but I also have a few points of concern. The main concern I have is a common one for me: local versus global. Western herbalism is present in my backyard and spice rack. I can walk three steps out my front door and harvest nettles (yes, I stupidly planted nettle right in front of my house), chickweed, plantain, yarrow and more. My family is of European descent, I live in the USA, I grew up acculturated in Western linear, rational thought, and have been studying Western herbalism for over eight years. My roots lie here. Chinese medicine is present around me too, but more in theory and than practice. Acupuncture needles don’t grow on pine trees, and even if I did have Chinese herbs growing around (which I do, actually), I don’t know a lot about harvesting or preparing them.  How do you make ‘raw’ versus ‘cooked’ …

Wood Element, Yin and Yang Organs

Most everyone in Minnesota is floating on cloud nine about the early spring we are having. It is seriously beautiful, 50 some degrees, bulbs poking through the soil, buds on the trees and so on. Personally, I am still hoping for a monster snow storm, since I loooove snow and we had only one blizzard this winter – and it was in December! How unsatisfying… We have late springs, so why not have an early spring? I guess I gotta accept it is here. I’ve already talked about Wood, the Chinese element of spring, in an emotional, symbolic and philosophical perspective in the past. The funny thing is I published that entry on May 19th, and now it is March 16th. Did I say spring was early?! The Liver and Gallbladder represent the element of Wood in the body (these nouns are capitalized to remind us of their symbolic, not literal, meanings). Here is a brief list of qualities associated with these organs. See if you can recognize the thread of Wood qualities like growth, …

A native Minnesota variety of an astragalus relative.

Astragalus membranaceaus

Astragalus membranaceaus is a native to China and other areas of Asia and is a member of the Fabaceae (pea) family. It tastes sweet, starchy, slightly warm and moist. According to Lesley Tierra, astragalus has adaptogenic, diuretic, antiviral, cardiotonic, antioxidant and hepatoprotective properties. Astragalus has gotten a lot of press as an adapotgen and for helping people with cancer and rightfully so as it “…helps prevent immuosuppression caused by chemotherapy and has tumor-inhibiting activity”(Winston, 149). It is a personal favorite of mine for preventing and/or treating regular-old colds and related infections. The Chinese name of this herb is huang qi, huang meaning yellow (the color of the root) and qi meaning leader, as it is considered a “leader” among the tonics in the Chinese pharmacopeia because it can be used by a wider range of people than other tonics like ginseng. Astragalus strengthens spleen qi to aid weak digestion, nausea and vomiting, bloating, assimilation and lack of appetite. It also bolsters wei qi (protective energy or immunity) and lung qi. Not surprisingly, astragalus has been …

Dried teasel in the fall

Teasel – Dipsacus sylvestirs

This summer, I have not harvested or made much medicine beyond blending teas. Instead, I find myself staring off at plants, wondering about them. One that has attracted much of my attention and wonderment is teasel. It’s not hard to be intrigued by teasel. It grows tall and stately, and its stems, ribs and flower heads are lined with sharp spikes. The leaves join the stalk and create a cup where rain gathers. The flowers form a band or patch on the flower head with little sweet-smelling, tube-like periwinkle flowers. When that band or patch of flowers is done flowering, other parts of the flower head will be filled with flowers, traveling up, down and around. Teasel is in its own family (the Teasel family, related to the Asteraceaes) and is an European introduction. All over the world, the sharp, bristle-like dried flower heads have been used for carding (or teasing) wool. Though it hasn’t been used much in Western and Native American medicine, it has a traditional use in Chinese medicine, where its name …

Hun – The Woods of Spring

For the second time on this blog, I have to state how much I love Iona Teeguarden’s The Joy of Feeling. This entry is drawn from her writings. What energies and activities do we associate with spring? First and foremost, we see that THINGS ARE GROWING! This is very exciting, and I think it sets the mood for spring. No longer are seeds simple potential-packets, nor are the trees and other perennials satisfied to energetically chill out in their roots. No sir, now is the time for living things to actuate. Hun is aspect of the psyche (as well as an aspect of nature herself) that is associated with spring. Hun could be described as the forces “which allow us to carry out our functions and responsibilities.” The tree is the symbol of Hun, wood the substance. Teeguarden explains that the tree is a symbol for self-actualization, and that “the psychic activity of Hun is like the force that causes a little seed to sprout, to push its way through obstructions of the dark soil, …

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Yin Tonics – Nourish the Fluids

Here is the long time in coming follow-up to a post I did a while back about Kidney Yang tonics. I realized in I need to resolve the ‘wintery’ topics and start thinking about ‘spring’ topics. From browsing some of my favorite herb blogs, I have fully realized how behind Northern Minnesota is, seasonally speaking. We are late bloomers! The grass just started to turn green last week, along with tiny dandelion whorls and a few budding trees. Luckily, I was able to harvest some Cottonwood buds last week after a storm broke a good sized branch to the ground. Umm, those resinous buds pack a powerfully good scent! Ok, back to Yin… Yin, like Yang, is stored in the Kidneys. Yin is the watery foundation for the entire body; it moistens, nourishes and lubricates all the organs and tissues in the body. Yin and Yang may originate from the Kidneys, but of course are found all over the body and organ systems. We can talk about Yin in a general sense, or we can …

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Dang Gui and Blood Deficiency

One of the first herbs I used was dang gui. Still, I have a hard time understanding this herb so here is my attempt at gaining clarity. Any comments about indications for or experience with this herb would be much appreciated! Its botanical name is Angelica sinensis (a common species name, meaning “of China”). Dang gui is one of them many members of the volatile oil containing Apiaceae (parsley) family. It is one of the most popular Chinese herbs in the US. Foster and Chongxi state that dang gui is the most used herb in China, for “it is used more frequently and in larger amounts that ginseng and licorice, often considered the most widely used Chinese herbs”. Its flavor is sweet with an earthy bitterness. The taste can be strong for some, but I have witnessed that those who need it crave it and love its distinctive smell. I have a entirely non-technical and strange way to associate herbs with colors; to me dang qui conjures a dusty lavender taupe color. Every time I …

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Headache Differentiation #2

After I wrote the entry on headaches, I started to get one. What’s with that? I haven’t had a headache in at least three or four years! Anyways, it was an annoying and painful experience, since I had it for seven days. Maybe it was because I needed to write more about headaches… This headache was dull, located in the temples down into the face for six days. The fixed pain was so mild I didn’t realize it was there most for most of the day but made itself apparent when I laid down at night. I was under a lot of emotional stress, especially the last day when the pain was the worst. The seventh day it was located in the same place, but became progressively stronger as the day wore on. By the time I went to bed it was unbearable, keeping me up for hours. The pain was mediated when I rubbed my whole head, neck and shoulders, but I as soon as I stopped it would assuredly return. The headache had …

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Introduction to Headache Differentiation

A while back I was talking to a friend who had migraines about six times a year, but came two at a time. She would have one for two days, then within a week she’d come down with another. I felt very sympathetic for her and everyone else who are prone to headaches, and thought to myself, “I’d rather have horrible menstrual cramps then a headache any day”. At least with cramps, you know when they are coming and when they will be done. To be honest, the main reason I’d rather have cramps is because there is something so elusive, so hard to pin down about headaches. Feverfew has been proven to help migraines, but I have known it to not work on some people. Laying down with a wet rag over their eyes help some people, but others feel the headache actually get worse when resting. When I got Lesley Tierra’s Healing with the Herbs of Life I became enamored with her chapter about headaches. Part of the mystery of headaches dissolved as …

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Kidney Yang Tonics – Warm the Source

Remember that the Kidneys are the root of both Yin and Yang, even though in and of themselves the Kidneys are considered Yin. Michael Tierra says that Kidney Yang is the “pilot light for our energy system”. When deficient, the warming ability of the Kidneys decreases and can manifest in one or more of the following patterns: Cold, sore, weak low back Copius clear or pale urine, incontinence, nighttime urination, weak or dripping urine stream Coldness, cold limbs, avoiding cold and wanting warm Weak legs, leg edema Poor appetite, loose stools Sexual dysfunction, infertility, premature ejaculation, nocturnal emission Chronic vaginal discharge, leukorrhea, spermatorrhea As you can see, some of these Kidney Yang deficiency patterns overlap with other Kidney deficiency patterns, although the bolded symptoms are the most tell-tale of Kidney Yang. We should also keep in mind that a person may very well have Kidney Yang deficiency and another pattern of excess, and maybe more deficiency patterns, as our bodymind is connected on so many levels. For example, the Kidneys receive from the Spleen and …