This post is adapted from an article written for the summer 2016 edition of Acu - the British Acupuncture Council magazine - the BAcC is the largest regulatory body for acupuncture in the UK and hundreds of its members use Elixir Living Tea.
Whilst travelling through Fujian, Jiangxi and Yunnan on a spring tea trip I had one of those Chinese Medicine eureka moments that I thought you might like to hear about.
James with Mark Turner in the tea gardens of Bulang Village, YunnanAfter years of giving out dietary advice to patients - I always figured I had the whole food energetics angle covered. A trip to China can be a challenge to even the hardiest enteric system - not least a Cold and Damp sodden one like mine. So it was no small surprise to me that my ailing Spleen not only benefited from a Chinese diet - it positively thrived on it.
Pickled pigs face? No problem. Fermented egg? I’ll have two. Whatever came my way - familiar or frightening - went down just fine. The secret to my newly discovered iron constitution? Warming the Stomach.
Chinese herbs grafted onto ancient tea treesAside from copious amounts of delicious tea (see post on benefits of Oolong tea) the most obvious difference in the Chinese diet is that there are virtually no cold drinks. Aside from a little beer.
Tap water in a restaurant? Comes hot.
Iced coffee = hot coffee (with ice cubes in).
In fact - drinks often don’t feature at all at mealtimes, as at least one dish will come with a form of soup, broth or cooking liquor to warm the Stomach and stoke the digestive Fire.
Stomach warming ingredients are also used differently in the cooking process. Whereas we tend to finely chop small amounts of hot herbs and spices, Chinese dishes will come piled high with huge chunks of chilli, garlic and ginger.
Eye watering amounts of chillies in a fish soup
Savvy diners (and keen eyed tourists) dig through these fiery nuggets, to eat the food beneath that has been flavoured and warmed by the heating oils that have mingled in the pot. This kind of spicing is warming, soothing and gentle on the stomach - literally putting fire in the belly.
When it comes to tea and warming the Stomach, Chinese dietary wisdom abounds. Green tea (lu cha) may be served hot (in temperature) but it is Cold in nature and overuse can really dampen down any digestive action in the Middle Jiao. Most women know to avoid drinking green tea before or during menstruation.
Cooked Puerh pressed into cakes and ready for drying (Yunnan, 2016)
So if you or your patients want the stomach of an Iron Horse - or an Iron Buddha - my message to you is to keep it hot! And if you’re fond of the odd Starbucks iced matcha latte, that sound you hear between slurps is the Yellow Emperor turning in his grave.