Chinese food therapy

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Biologically based alternative
and complementary therapy
- edit
NCCAM classifications
  1. Alternative Medical Systems
  2. Mind-Body Intervention
  3. Biologically Based Therapy
  4. Manipulative Methods
  5. Energy Therapy
See also

Chinese food therapy (simplified Chinese: 食疗; traditional Chinese: 食療; pinyin: shíliáo) is a practice in the belief of healing through the use of natural foods instead of, or in addition to medications.

Chinese food or Nutrition therapy, is a modality of traditional Chinese medicine. Central to this belief system is the idea that certain foods have a "hot" or heat-inducing quality while others have a "cold" or chilling effect on the body and its organs and fluids. An imbalance of this "heat" and "cold" is said to increase susceptibility to sickness or to directly cause disease itself. Such an imbalance is not necessarily related to the subjective feeling of being hot (tending toward sweating) or cold (tending toward shivering).

As an example, if one had a cold, or felt he was about to get a cold, he would not want to eat any "cold" foods such as a lemon, melon or cucumber. If one had a so-called "hot" disease, like Eczema, then he would not want to eat "hot" foods such as garlic, onions, or chocolate lest the "hot" disease is worsened. Indeed, it is thought by some that these "hot" or "cold" properties of foods are so intense that merely the eating of too many of one or another can actually cause diseases. For example, the eating of too many "hot" foods like chili peppers or lobster could cause a rash, or the eating of too many "cold" foods such as watermelon, or seaweed could cause one to develop stomach pain or diarrhea. In this way, this health system is in direct opposition to evidence-based medicine and the germ theory of disease (where microbes are described as the cause of many disease states). It is related to the concept of 內外"邪" nèi-wàixié in Chinese medicine, being more aligned with Claude Bernard, and Antoine Bechamp's biological terrain theory of disease.

This belief in foods having inherent "hot" or "cold" properties is prevalent throughout greater China and significant in Cantonese culture. Congee or jook (Mandarin "zhou") is commonly used as a panacea and recipes vary, depending upon the desired health benefits.

Chinese food therapy is said to date back as early as 2000 BC, though documentary evidence goes only to about 500 BC. The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine, also known as the Huangdi Neijing, which was written around 300 BC, was most important in forming the basis of Chinese food therapy. It classified food by four food groups, five tastes and by their natures and characteristics.

Philosophy about food[edit]

The ideas of yin and yang are used in the sphere of food and cooking. Yang foods are believed to increase the body's heat (e.g. raise the metabolism), while Yin foods are believed to decrease the body's heat (e.g. lower the metabolism). As a generalization, Yang foods tend to be dense in food energy, especially energy from fat, while Yin foods tend to have high water content. The Chinese ideal is to eat both types of food to keep the body in "balance". A person eating too much Yang food might suffer from acne and bad breath while a person eating too much Yin food might be lethargic or anemic.

Cantonese classification of food[edit]

Diet is adjusted based on the body's conditions. The following is a list of common food classifications:

Mandarin name rough translation related symptoms/effects examples cures
燥火 zàohuǒ dry fire (yang) causes dryness of skin, chapped lips, nose bleed etc. chili pepper, deep fried food, beef jerky, lychee. any yin or cooling food
濕熱 shīrè wet heat (yang) causes mouth sore, urinary burning etc. probably due to the acidity or alkalinity. mango, pineapple, cherry. chrysanthemum, sugar cane (竹蔗 zhúzhè), Imperata arundinacea (茅根 máogēn), Prunella vulgaris L. (夏枯草 xiàkūcǎo)
寒涼 hánliáng cold cooling (yin) causes dizziness, weakness, pale or green face (low oxygen level in blood) etc. watermelon, cantelope, honeydew and certain kinds of melon-type fruits or vegetables, green tea. any boosting or dry fire food
滯 zhì blocking cause indigestion, stomach gas etc. all fibrous food, e.g. yam, chestnuts haw (fruit 山楂 shānzhā), malt (麥芽 màiyá)
毒 dú poisoning causes pus or swelling in wound, outbreak of acnes, hemorrhoid etc. duck, goose, bamboo shoot, all shellfish abstinence at outbreak
油膩 yóunì greasy causes gastric upset, runny stool, outbreak of acnes etc. all greasy food, e.g. bacon etc. abstinence at outbreak
清涼 qīngliáng clear cooling mild yin type that counteract the dry fire type. Also listed as yin when overused. beer, lettuce, sugar cane (竹蔗 zhúzhè), Imperata arundinacea (茅根, máogēn), American ginseng. not needed if not overused
滋潤 zīrùn nourishing moisturizing, soothing apple, pear, fig, winter melon, longan, Dioscorea opposita (淮山 huáishān), lotus seed, lily bulb etc. not needed
補血益氣 bǔxuè-yìqì boosting replenishes blood and Qi. Also listed as dry fire when overused. Mutton, snake, wild games, beef, red dates (紅棗 hóngzǎo). not needed if not overused
行血活氣 xíngxuè-huóqì vigorating circulating blood and Qi. red wine, Korean ginseng. not needed
健脾 jiànpí, 開胃 kāiwèi, 生津 shēngjīn, 養心 yǎngxīn, 強筋 qiángjīn, 強骨 qiánggǔ etc. generating, strengthening improves various internal functions various not needed

The theory is that the yin-yang type of each individual determines how susceptible the person is to these effects of food. A neutral person is generally healthy and will have strong reactions to these effects only after overconsumption of certain kind of food. In Chinese Food Therapy, a yang type person can usually eat all yin type food with no ill effect, but may easily get a nose bleed with small amount of yang type food. A yin type person is usually very unhealthy and is reactive to either yin or yang food. Boosting or nourishing type of food is needed to bring a yin person back to health.

Some common food therapy items and recipes[edit]

Bird nest (燕窩 yànwō)[edit]

Oral secretion of swiftlets, collected from the binding material of their nests.

  • Alleged effects: promote beautiful skin for women; "strengthen the spleen and open up the stomach" (健脾開胃 jiànpí-kāiwèi, meaning improve appetite and digestion).
  • vegetables and fruits are believed to nullify the effect of bird nest if taken within the same day.
  • The dried material is soaked in water to rehydrate.
  • The soaked bird nest is cleaned by hand to remove other nest building debris such as grass and feathers.
  • The cleaned and crumbled bird nest is double steamed with rock sugar as a dessert or with a small amount of pork as a soup.

Korean or Chinese ginseng (高麗參 Gāolìshēn)[edit]

Root of a plant that has the Yang properties.

  • Alleged effects: promote circulation, increase blood supply, revitalize and aid recovery from weakness after illness.
  • The ginseng root is double steamed with chicken meat as a soup. (See samgyetang.)

American ginseng (花旗參 huāqíshēn)[edit]

Root of a plant similar to Korean ginseng, but it has the Yin properties.

  • Alleged effects: cleansing of excessive Yang in the body, aphrodisiac.
  • The ginseng is sliced, a few slices are soaked in hot water to make a tea.
  • Most American ginseng is produced in Wisconsin, USA.

Cantonese cough remedy[edit]

Dried duck gizzards, watercress, almond kernels (南北杏陳腎西洋菜湯 nán-běixìng chén-shèn xīyángcài tāng):

  • Alleged effects: relieve both Yin (resulted from cold) or Yang (resulted from dryness) type of coughing.
  • Watercress (西洋菜 xīyángcài) is for removing excessive yang in the body.
  • The sweet almond kernels (南杏仁 nánxìngrén) and bitter almond kernels (北杏仁 běixìngrén) target the lungs.
  • The dried duck gizzards (乾鴨腎 gān yā-shèn) are used to balance the yin-yang of the recipe.
  • Watercress is available in most supermarkets while the rest of the ingredients can be found in most Chinese herb stores.
  • The ingredients are slow cooked for couple of hours into a soup, a small piece of pork is optional for flavor.
  • Do not use Yang type meat such as beef or chicken in this recipe because they nullify the effects of the watercress.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]