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Herbal Explorations

Crossing The Barrier: Applying TCM Food Therapy to American Cuisine

By: JK DeLapp

It´s hard to believe I´ve been writing this column for one year, now. High fives all around to those of you who have been walking with me and eating your way through life over the past year. I´ve appreciated your company and couldn´t have asked for a better group of people to be breaking bread with!

This Spring has already been a very unusual one, presenting us with a rare full Moon on March 19th. This Moon, also called "Super Moon" is rare for two reasons. First, it is the closest the Moon has been to Earth since March of 1993. Second, it occurred at the Spring Equinox (which was actually the 20th—but historically, a new day started at sundown—when the full Moon paid a visit). This made it a very unique Spring, especially from the perspective of Chinese medicine.

To understand the Super Moon phenomenon, we must take a look at the Moon´s elliptical orbit around the Earth. Because the Earth is not centered within the ellipse, there is a point of apogee and perigee. These terms refer to the distance from the Earth to the Moon. Apogee is the point of orbit when the Moon is farthest from the Earth. Perigee is the point of orbit when to the Moon is closest to the Earth; and it is in this stage that the Moon appears larger. Looking at the Moon in the sky without a point of reference, you wouldn´t notice the size difference when, in fact, the difference is quite significant! The perigee moons are 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than apogee moons. Are you starting to get my drift yet?

Winter is Yin within Yin. Spring is Yang within Yin. And the Spring Equinox is when the transition happens. It is the Seasonal Ovulation—Yin building and building into one powerful burst of potential. It´s really a magnificent time of year, and is very cool to think about through Yin Yang Theory.

Let´s take this one step further: If the Moon is Yin (the Sun being Yang), and it has been building and building over the past months (really, over the past 18 years) to be the most Yang within Yin—AND coinciding with the Equinox—the transition from Yin to Yang—what does that mean for the potential of this coming Spring!? Think "larger and brighter!"

The roots of Chinese medicine and Yin Yang Theory are tied up in astrological phenomena. I´m not talking about reading your horoscope. I´m talking about understanding your relation to time and space in the Universe. Just as if you were standing outside on a rainy day—you will get wet; so, too, if you are standing in a certain place in Space (Outer Space, that is) will the positions of everything else affect you.

It´s a bit of a tangent, I know—but it´s fun to think about. And it has a bearing on you and I, and on our patients. Expect to see big breakthroughs in your patients, especially with longstanding illnesses, as the momentum of the Universe can help them push through things they have been stuck with. You may also expect to see some of your patients get worse, as that momentum swings both ways—so where things are stuck, their symptoms may worsen.

Either way, the idea to keep in mind is Potential. Spring is a time for New Growth and New Beginnings—Potential. Let´s harness that potential by being both aware of it, and intentional about hitching a ride with it.

A Thought about Herbs

The interesting thing about transitions is that in order for them to run smoothly, they have to do so uninhibitedly. I don´t know what your life runs like, but mine is rarely uninhibited! There are generally snags along the way.

Some of the gunk that we hold onto can be likened to saying it´s "Half In, Half Out." It´s not fully processed. Neither here, nor there; in, nor out. You and I would call this Shao Yang Disorder.

For those of us and our patients that are not quite experiencing the breakthroughs that we have been hoping for, or are still dealing with some chronic pain, gastrointensinal junk, or emotional stagnation, I might suggest trying a few doses of Xiao Chai Hu Tang. Now is the perfect time of year for it!

Fei Bo Xiang has likened it to soldiers during peacetimes. When there comes a time of peace, soldiers will get restless and begin to cause trouble. The solution is to run and drill the soldiers so they get all that pent up Qi out and do not cause trouble. A few doses of Xiao Chai Hu Tang is like taking your Qi out for a run and release to keep it from trouble!

I suggest a few doses for any patients dealing with unexplained, intermittent, or chronic illnesses and emotions that they can´t seem to kick. We all get stuck at times, and sometimes we just need to let that Qi out!

**Be cautious with patients that are prone to headaches. Either use a smaller dose (prepared formula) or decrease the amount of Chai Hu if doing a raw formula.

A Summation of various things to think about using this for: -Febrile diseases with alternating fever and chills -Digestive disorders with Liver and Gallbladder Clumping -Gynecological disorders with Heat in the Blood Chamber (Uterus) -Uro-genital disorders with Heat and Stagnation -Miscellaneous Lymphatic disorders -Nervous System disorders, Psycho-Emotional disorders, or Unexplained Nerve Pain *Even something as simple as sore muscles from overdoing it in the gym!

I have found that taking a dose of this once or twice a week for a month will help to keep the system clear of any residual dirt that might have gotten stuck as the sprouts of new growth are pushing up out of the ground. Let that Springtime growth be uninhibited!

Now let´s talk about some food!

Living and writing in San Diego about the seasons gives me a bit of a skewed perspective of time. Spring officially started on March 20th. But out here, it started in the middle of January. It was a bit fascinating to watch everyone get really antsy…like, all of a sudden people had this uncomfortable urge to move!

I keep a garden here at the house, and I learn from my little family every day. Before anyone realized Spring had begun here, the flowers had started to push up through the dirt, the fruiting trees had started to put out flowers, the citrus started to fall off the trees (they ripen in late Winter and early Spring), my orchids all started putting out new shoots, and the migration of countless varieties of birds had begun. It has been really amazing to sit back and watch!

This also meant that our Spring produce had started hitting the grocery store shelves several weeks ago. I´m sure California produce has been getting shipped out to you as it was arriving here for us, so it will be even more glorious as Spring arrives at the rest of your doorsteps!

Needless to say, it´s been a great time for produce!

This Month´s Recipes:

The main thing to keep in mind during the Spring is to Nourish Yin While Supporting Yang. Doing so is the equivalent to adding fertilizer to your gardens to support the growth of the season.

Light and more frequent meals are great ideas for these months, as that helps to keep the body´s Qi focused on expansion—just as frequently, lightly fertilizing of your yard will keep it healthy. Of course, I hope you´re choosing to use real, organic, high quality fertilizers. Say no to fake foods, additives, and poor quality ingredients—for both your yards and your bodies.

Spring Eggs with Rosemary

Especially good for:

Nourishing Yin to Support Yang.

Outside of factory farming, chickens should molt for 1-3 months over the Winter and not lay any eggs. After this period of rest is over, the eggs that chickens lay are super potent foods for Nourishing Yin and Blood. Fertilized eggs will be even better, and are a healthier balance of Yin and Yang, as well as have tripple the nutrition of an unfertilized egg.

>I´ve found that most people don´t realize that chickens and roosters don´t have sex. All eggs at the time of laying are unfertilized—and it is the rooster who comes to fertilize each egg after it has been laid, which doesn´t happen within the factory farming paradigm. Smaller farmers often keep roosters to both fertilize and protect their flocks—so be sure to let them know that this is something you want, and I´m sure they´ll be able to put fertile eggs into your hands.

A lot of people in this country are on an egg-white kick. Don´t get rid of those yolks! This is what you need most! The yolks are a wonderful Yin and Blood builder.

Another thing to keep in mind is the color of the yolk. They shouldn´t be yellow, but be a dark yellow-orange that can range from light orange to almost red. This is an indication that the hens have been outside and had access to sunlight, as well as being fed properly (not "vegetarian fed"—chickens aren´t vegetarians—only 30% of their natural diet is grasses—and no soy and corn!), which means they have access to pasture where they consume innumerable insects, worms, and the occasional lizard or snake. The shells should also be nice and thick. A thin shell and yellow yolk are indication that you´re wasting your money on nutrient-lacking, inhumanely treated animals.

**Check with your local farmers or through a local chapter of The Weston A. Price Foundation (www.westonaprice.org/find-a-local-chapter) to connect with people who are properly raising animals and crops.

A great Western herb to be thinking about in your recipes this Spring is rosemary. Rosemary is a great herb for moving Liver Qi. It´s more or less a culinary equivalent of Chai Hu, but is not as drying and tastes a heck of a lot better! I use it on everything this time of year, from eggs and toast to roasts and herb-infused water. It´s painfully easy to grow, and grows almost everywhere in the US—either outside, or in a pot indoors.

This recipe is great for Nourishing Yin to Support Yang, as well as to gently move Liver Qi. Great for breakfast, a quick snack, or breakfast for dinner!

Ingredients:

2-4 Pastured Eggs, fertilized if possible
Sea Salt, pinch
1 tsp Dried or Fresh Rosemary
Butter or Ghee

Directions:

1. The eggs can either be scrambled or cooked sunny side up—your choice.

2. If scrambling, mix all the first 3 ingredients together. Otherwise, add the butter or ghee and then the eggs to the pan.

3. Sprinkle with sea salt and rosemary until cooked to your liking. Yum!

Raw Milk with Vanilla and Cinnamon

Especially good for:

Suffice it to say that the milk you buy at the grocery store and the milk that was drank 100 years ago in this country (heck—even 20 years ago!) are not the same in any way. Factory farming, hormone supplementation, and horrendous diets all but make milk poison, which is why the need for pasteurization, and also a large reason that so many people are becoming intolerant to dairy.

I highly recommend thouroughly reading through these websites, www.realmilk.com and www.organicpastures.com, to learn more about the value and benefit of real, pastured milk.

Grassfed milk is fantastic for people with "lactose intolerance" (which is really "pasteurization and poor quality milk intolerance"), a vast array of skin diseases, the young and elderly, anyone recovering from a chronic illness, and, of course—wanting to Nourish your Spring Growth.

This is a recipe that is so painfully easy to make and is ridiculously delicious—everyone will love it! I highly recommend checking with a chapter leader from The Weston A. Price Foundation (www.westonaprice.org/find-a-local-chapter) for local sources, or with your local health food store, especially in states where raw milk can be purchased straight out of a store.

Goat´s and sheep´s milk are both easier to digest than cow´s milk—and are a little less Dampening. I wouldn´t worry about it, though, since raw milk is totally unlike any milk you´ve probably had before, and will most likely help you overcome whatever is ailing you.

The Milk Nourishes Blood and Moistens Dryness. The Rou Gui/Cinnamon, if you choose to add it, supports the Ming Men by bringing Heat back to its Source, the Kidneys. The Sea Salt Nourishes the Water Element (the Mother of Wood), and the Vanilla Calms the Shen by Nourishing the Heart.

A glass with breakfast will give you sustained energy throughout the day, and a glass an hour before bed will help you sleep soundly through the night. Best drank at room temperature or warmed a little on the stove.

Ingredients:

Raw Milk
Vanilla Extract (organic), to taste
Ground Cinnamon or Rou Gui, to taste—if desired
1 tsp Sea Salt
Honey, if desired
Whisky, to make a Toddy

**You will most likely be purchasing the milk in either ½ gallon or 1 gallon containers. I´ll let you make your own mix to taste. Per half gallon of milk, I would use 2-4 tsp of Vanilla. It´s an Art, not a Science =)

Directions:

1. Mix all the ingredients in the jug and shake. Simple!

•When pouring a glass, allow it to warm to room temperature before drinking, or gently warm it on the stove 1-2 cups at a time.

•A little honey could be added for a nice after-dinner beverage, or a shot of whisky to make it a toddy!

Rosemary-infused Water

Especially good for:

As I had mentioned earlier, rosemary is like a culinary version of Chai Hu and is great at moving Liver Qi. It´s also quite refreshing when drank in water like this.

I do this often with wild rosemary as I´m hiking around these parts; it grows everywhere. I just pull off a piece and add it to my water bottle. Keep your eyes open for it if you´re out hiking around, wherever it is that you are in the country!

Ingredients:

1 Gallon Jug or Pitcher of Water A few sprigs of fresh Rosemary

Directions:

1. Place the fresh rosemary into a pitcher of water and allow it to infuse for at least 15 mintues.

Douglas Fir Spring Tips Tea

Especially good for:

I know it sounds a little odd, but this is a tea that is made from the previous year´s harvest of the Spring shoots of the Douglas Fir Tree. My friends all looked at me sideways when I first pulled it out on them, but they were surprised at just how great it tastes. Not like a tree, but a citrusy lemon flavor that is quite lovely.

The spring tips—just like the rootlets of roots—have tons of Yang in them. I find this tea to be great for Moving Stagnant Qi. I tend to feel a lot of things in my tongue (long story), and I find that this tea will relax my tongue any time I am feeling a little internal contraint. I´ve noticed it loosens tight shoulders and necks and puts just about everyone at ease.

Check with your local health food store for Juniper Ridge: Douglas Fir Spring Tips or online at www.juniperridge.com to order some. Really a lovely Spring tea!

Pan-seared Fish on a Bed of Micro Greens

Especially good for:

Keeping in the Mother/Son relationships in TCM, it´s a great idea to Nourish the Mother Element during the Spring. Nourishing the Kidneys will ensure that the Liver is properly nourished through it´s Season.

Ocean fish are great for Nourishing the Water Element, as well as Strengthening the Spleen and Stomach, and Eliminating Dampness.

"Micro Greens" are early growth greens from various lettuces. Harvesting them when they are young takes advantage of their Yang and Growth capacities, which makes them perfect for the Spring.

Adding a splash of white wine (I prefer a Gewurztraminer) or Ume Plum vinegar also Soothes the Liver and Gallbladder.

This dish is great once or twice a week throughout the Spring to ensure the Kidneys are not overly taxed during the next few months.

Ingredients:

1-2 lbs. of Saltwater Fish (Cod, Wild Salmon, etc.)
2 tsp. Garlic, minced
Fresh Cracked Pepper
Splash of White Wine (like a Gewurztraminer)
or
Splash of Ume Plum Vinegar
Sea Salt, to taste
1-2 Tbls. Butter
Micro Greens

Directions:

1. Add the butter to your pan and heat it till is smokes slightly.

2. Add the fish to quickly sear it in the hot pan.

3. Add the minced garlic and fresh cracked pepper.

4. Cook for just a few minutes. I generally prefer my fish to be medium rare, especially if it is really fresh. Otherwise, 3-5 minutes on each side should do the trick.

5. Just before the fish is finished, add a splash of the white wine or Ume Plum vinegar.

6. Serve on a bed of greens and enjoy!

Strawberry Rhubarb Compote

Especially good for:

Strawberries and Rhubarb are both great Spring foods. Their balance of sweet and tart compliment one another wonderfully. For many people, this will be a new dish, as it isn´t quite as popular as it has been in years past here in the United States. But thankfully. it takes only a few minutes to make.

Rhubarb is actually the celery-like stalk of Da Huang, which is rhubarb root. It is not nearly as potent as Da Huang, but does gently Clear Liver and Gallbladder Damp Heat.

Strawberries are sweet and compliment the tart taste of the rhubarb. Strawberries are also great for Relieving Food Stagnation.

Maple Syrup Nourishes the Blood and Jing, as well as balances any residual tartness that the strawberries don´t fully take care of by themselves.

My roommates all squeel when they see (more often smell!) me making this dish. It´s inexpensive, mouthwatering, and simple. I have a feeling you´ll love this dish, as will your visiting tongues from friends and family alike!

I dedicate this recipe to my mother, Candy, and Grandma, Martha—as they both are the inspiration for this dish. I can remember, as a kid, my Grandma making this with fresh rhubarb from her garden. Good God was that stuff wonderful! Mom carried on her mother´s tradition at home. Both of these great women always made pies—I make mine as a compote. It takes much less time, and becomes a versitile food—as it can be eaten by itself as a light dessert, as a marinade or glaze for fish, or as a sauce on ice cream or gelato…even as a sauce for grilled steaks! Mmm Mmm!

Ingredients:

8-12 stalks of Rhubarb, the redder the better
1-2 quarts of Strawberries
Maple Syrup, to taste
3 Tbsp. Butter

Directions:

1. Slice the rhubarb and straberries.

2. In a 4-quart sauce pan, heat the butter over Medium Heat. Add a little bit of the rhubarb to caramelize it, adding in the rest of the rhubarb after a few minutes.

3. Add the strawberries. Cover and reduce heat, stirring every few minutes. 4. Reduce temperature to Low, add maple syrup to taste, and allow the flavors to meld for a few minutes. 5. It´s now ready to be eaten right then and there, or stored in the fridge for use elsewhere. Enjoy! Is there something that you would like to be learning about specifically as we journey through the season? Are there any types of foods or dishes that you would like to be learning more about? Any questions and queries that you may have, nuherbs Co. and I would love to hear about them. Please do send us an email. We´d love to hear what you have to say: herbalexplorations@nuherbs.com