Spring is the Season to Nourish the Liver

yellow rooftops and the Pavilion of Ten Thousa...

Spring Season in China

Spring is a time of year when plants and animals are bursting forth from their dormant state.  Springtime has an energy that is fresh, vibrant, youthful, and alive.  You can see this energy of spring reflected in nature.  This is the time when flora bloom and fauna come out from under the hibernation of winter.

Traditional Chinese Medicine says that the Liver is related to spring and is strongly influenced by this season.  Therefore, nourishing the Liver just before and during spring is beneficial to keeping healthy and free from disease.  A healthy Liver cleanses and refreshes the body effectively by processing toxins and removing them from the blood.  Reduced blood toxins reciprocally increases proper immune system function.

According to the laws of nature, one should focus on improving Liver function during the vernal season.  One way of doing so, is to eat more raw foods, such as fresh greens and sprouts.  These light, uplifting foods are yang in nature and work to cleanse the body of the heavy, rich and dense foods that warm the body during the typically cooler temperatures of winter.  Drink plenty of water during spring to help your body stay hydrated.  On the flip side, drink less soft drinks and other beverages, especially ones that contain artificial sweeteners and/or chemicals.  Exercise is a great way to circulate blood and nutrients through the body.  This is very important for good liver function as well as other organ function.  For those that live in colder climates, spring is when one can get outside and return to a more active lifestyle.

When Liver energy in the body is balanced, the yin energy of winter transitions seamlessly into the yang energy of spring.  In Chinese medicine, a smoothly functioning Liver is responsible for healthy immune system balance during the changing of the seasons in which people tend to catch colds and flu.

3 ways to help unburden the Liver during spring:

  • Cut out processed food.  Incorporate fresh, seasonal vegetables and fruits into the diet.
  • .Eliminate soft drinks and other beverages with artificial sweeteners.  Drink plenty of water instead.
  • Get some exercise.  Help strengthen the Liver as well as all of the organs through physical activity.

Detoxify Your Liver Gently and Naturally With Common Herbs

The liver is an extremely complex organ. Located in the upper right hypochondriac region, it is the largest gland in the body, weighing around 3 lbs. The liver is responsible for processing nearly every type of nutrient and carrying out over 500 metabolic functions, including regulation of blood plasma cholesterol levels. Therefore, proper function of the liver is important for health and vitality.

Luckily, the liver has an incredible capacity to heal itself. Able to regenerate its hepatocytes, the liver can regrow to its former size even if 70% of liver tissue has been removed. Clearly, this ability highlights the importance of liver function on human physiology and life.

An enjoyable way to improve the health of the liver is through natural herbal medicine.  Used for thousands of years, herbal medicine can be effective as well as gentle on the body system.  Ingesting herbs or drinking an herbal tea can aid in liver detoxification and promote or restore liver function. Below are 5 herbs that are great for improving liver function in the body:

  • Milk Thistle – contains silymarin. Silymarin has been proven to protect the liver from alcohol abuse, substance abuse and hepatitis virus. Silymarin also stimulates the repair of liver.  Studies have also shown that silymarin may help patients with type II Diabetes by assisting in blood sugar control.  Milk thistle has been tested and approved in Europe to use for liver damage.
  • Dandelion Leaf – contains potassium, calcium, beta-carotene, vitamins A and C.  Dandelion leaf can increase the output of the liver, pancreas, and spleen.  The leaf stimulates the release of bile from the liver into the gallbladder.  Dandelion leaf also produces a slight diuretic effect.  Those with allergies to ragweed may have a reaction.   The University of Maryland Medical Center states that there is supporting clinical evidence of dandelion’s effects on the liver and hepatic function.
  • Chamomile Flowers – is traditionally used to calm and induce a deep sleep.  It is a widely used herb in America for this purpose as well as to ease stomach upset. Another major use for chamomile is to relax smooth muscle spasms in the gut. Chamomile is also an anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-parasitic herb. The chemical compounds azulene and guaiazulene present in chamomile were identified as being able to initiate the growth of new tissue in experimental rats which had a portion of their livers surgically removed.
  • Lavender Flowers – are typically used in culinary dishes.  Some of the benefits of lavender flowers are to aid in treating insomnia, nervous stomach, and anxiety. Other uses for lavender are to treat headaches, migraines, diabetes and insulin resistance.  Lavender’s benefits are similar to those of chamomile.
  • White Peony Root – Peony root is a highly sought after plant in Chinese medicine for its ability to relax muscle and cleanse the blood. Peony root is used to relieve cramps and spasms anywhere in the body.  White peony is used primarily to nourish the blood circulation and to smooth and relax the liver function.

August Point Wellness offers an herbal tea composed of all five of these herbs for a powerful, effective liver detoxifying effect. The Liver Longevity Tea By August Point Wellness is 100% organic, herbicide, and pesticide free and carries two certifications for organic authenticity, USDA Certified and OTCO Certified. This is a natural remedy for liver detoxification and liver protection to be used long-term as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle.  Every ingredient of the Liver Longevity Tea is edible and can provide even more benefit if ingested.  Add a teaspoon of lemon juice to your Liver Longevity Tea for greater liver detox effect.

Liver Longevity Tea By August Point Wellness - 100% Organic

In combination with a liver detoxification tea, here are a few other great natural ways to detoxify your liver.

  • Eat healthy and organic foods
  • Exercise daily
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Avoid interaction with harsh chemicals
  • Stop smoking
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Avoid artificial sweeteners, ingredients, and food coloring

Chick Pea Roast with Sherry Sauce – (Vegetarian)

I got this recipe from a book called Classic Vegetarian Recipes By Parragon.  It’s somewhat of an intermediate level recipe, but if you’re willing to put in a little extra effort, the reward is worth it.

  • 16-oz can of chick peas (garbanzo beans) drained
  • 1 Tsp marmite (yeast extract)  [I used yeast here instead]
  • 1 and 1/4 Cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 and 1/4 Cup white breadcrumbs  [I used 3 slices of bread instead]
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 and 1/4 Cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 Ounces canned corn, drained [I used frozen corn instead]
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbsp Dry sherry
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable stock
  • 1 Tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 8 Ounce puff pastry
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 Tbsp milk
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • TOPPING
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 leek, thinly sliced
  • 4 Tbsp Dry sherry
  • 2/3 Cup vegetable stock

—–

Chick Pea Roast – Before

Put the chick peas, marmite (yeast), nuts, and breadcrumbs in a food processor.  Blend for 30 seconds.  Put the onion and mushrooms in a large skillet and saute for 3-4 minutes.

Stir the chick pea mixture into the skillet.  Add corn and garlic.  Stir in the dry sherry, vegetable stock, cilantro, salt and pepper.  Bind the mixture together.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Roll the pastry out to form a 14″ x 12″ rectangle.  I think they usually come in 12″ x 12″ squares, so it’s not that difficult to stretch out a little bit more.

Shape the chick pea mixture into a loaf shape.  Place the mixture in the center of the pastry puff dough and wrap the pastry around it, sealing the edges.  Place the seam side down on a dampened cookie sheet and score the top in a criss-cross pattern.  Mix the egg and 2 Tbsp milk and brush over the pastry to glaze.  Cook in oven for 30-35 minutes or until risen and golden.

Heat the oil for the sauce in a pan and saute the leek for 5 minutes, stirring.  Add the dry sherry and vegetable stock.  Simmer for 5 minutes and serve with the roast.

Chick Pea Roast – After

TCM Notes:

This dish is yin in nature and neutral in temperature.  The chick peas.

Chick peas are sweet and moderate in nature.  They regulate the Spleen and Stomach and promotes detoxification.  Chick peas are good for treating diarrhea.

Garlic is a powerful anti-bacterial, help digestion, and prevents diarrhea. Eating garlic on a regular basis lowers the risk of stomach and colon cancers according to research.

Onion supports the immune system.  It can also open the pores and release exterior attack from colds and flu.

Dry Sherry is an alcohol, warm in nature.  Sherry promotes digestion and increase blood flow.

Mushrooms typically support the immune system.  Mushrooms have different properties depending on what type you are using in the cuisine.

Vegetable Quiche – (Vegetarian)

  • 1 9″ pie crust

    Vegetable Quiche

  • 1 clove of garlic (minced)
  • 1/2 Cup onion (chopped)
  • 1/2 Cup grape tomatoes (chopped)
  • 1/2 Cup zucchini (chopped)
  • 1/4 cup watercress (chopped)
  • 4 baby red potatoes (diced)
  • 2 and 1/2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/4 Tsp curry powder
  • 1/4 Tsp Herbs de Provence
  • 1/2 Tsp salt
  • 1/8 Tsp pepper
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/4 Cup milk
  • 1/4 Cup parmesan cheese
  • TOPPING
  • 1/4 Cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 Cup baby spinach (chopped)

—–

Heat oven to 450°.  Spread pie crust into bottom of glass pie dish.  Prick bottom of crust.  Cook pie crust for 5 minutes.  Remove crust from oven.  Lower oven temperature to 350°.  

Beat eggs, milk and 1/4 cup parmesan cheese in bowl.  Set aside.  Saute garlic, onion, potatoes, zucchini, salt, pepper, Herbs de Provence and curry powder in butter.  Add sauteed ingredients to pie crust.  Add tomatoes and watercress to pie crust.  Mix vegetables together and spread evenly into pie crust.  Pour egg mixture over vegetables in pie crust.  

Cook at 350° for 25 minutes.  Sprinkle topping over quiche and cook for another 10-15 minutes.  Check center of quiche for doneness with butter knife.  Knife should come out of center clean.

TCM Notes:

This dish is slightly cool in nature.  The eggs and potato are heavy and yin, while the fresh vegetables are more yang.

Turmeric, typically found in curry powder, is an herb also known as Jiang Huang.  It invigorates blood stagnation caused by cold from deficiency.  It also moves qi in the epigastrium and abdomen.  This herb is also good for gynecological disorders. (Materia Medica, Bensky)

Cuminalso found in curry, is known as Xi Hui Xiang in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).  Cumin harmonizes the Stomach, stops pain, and warms the abdomen.

Eggs are yin in nature.  They tonify the yin and blood of the body and lubricate dryness.  They are slightly cool in temperature.

Potatoes are neutral in temperature and are used in tonifying the Spleen.  Potatoes also harmonize the Stomach and lubricate the intestines.

Garlic is a powerful anti-bacterial, help digestion, and prevents diarrhea. Eating garlic on a regular basis lowers the risk of stomach and colon cancers according to research.

Curried Potato, Chick Peas, and Eggs – (Vegetarian)

  • 1 can chick peas, drained
  • 3 Tbsp cooking oil
  • 1/2 Cup chopped onion
  • 1 Tsp minced garlic
  • 2 Tbsp curry powder
  • 1/4 Cup water
  • 1 1/2 Cups water
  • 8 oz. potato, cubed (small)
  • 1 Tsp salt
  • Black pepper or hot pepper to taste

—–

Heat oil in a frying pan.  Add onion and garlic.  Saute for a few minutes until golden brown.  Mix curry powder with 1/4 cup water and add to onion and garlic in pan.  Cook until thick, stirring continuously.  Add potato and stir until curry mixture coats potato.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Add 1 1/2 cups water, chick peas, salt and pepper.  Simmer until water is reduced and mixture has thickened.

Add more salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over rice or with naan bread. 

—–

TCM Notes:

Overall, this meal is slightly warm and has both yin nourishing and yang nourishing energy.

Eggs are yin in nature.  They tonify the yin and blood of the body and lubricate dryness.  They are slightly cool in temperature.

Chick peas are sweet and moderate in nature.  They regulate the Spleen and Stomach and promotes detoxification.  Chick peas are good for treating diarrhea.

Potatoes are neutral in temperature and are used in tonifying the Spleen.  Potatoes also harmonize the Stomach and lubricate the intestines.

Curry powder contains a natural anti-inflammatory ingredient, curcumin.

Red Ginseng Date Rice – Serves 2 (Vegetarian, Vegan)

  • 2 scoops rice (automatic rice cooker measuring cup)  It turns out to be about 1 and 1/4 cups rice, if you don’t have a rice cooker.
  • Water to boil rice
  • 2 Tsp dried red ginseng (pulverized)
  • 6 dates (chopped)
  • 1/4 Tsp Salt
  • TOPPING
  • 2 Tbsp Chives (chopped)
  • Extra Salt to taste

—–

I use an automatic rice cooker.  It’s quick, easy, and I can do other things while the rice is cooking and not worry about the rice being undercooked or overcooked.  It always comes out right.  That being said, the 2 scoops of rice pertains to the little scoop that usually comes with a rice cooker.  (If you make rice the old fashioned way, just add ginseng, dates and salt to the pot once the rice comes to a boil.)

Put the ginseng in a mortar and crush it into small pieces.  If the ginseng is dried enough, it will break apart quickly with little force.  Slice the dates into thin pieces.  Put ginseng and dates into rice cooker and make recipe for “2” according to your rice cooker.  Add salt and let rice cooker do its job.

When rice is done, mix it all together to distribute dates and ginseng evenly.  Top with chives.  Add salt to taste.  Serve.

—–

TCM Notes:

Overall, this red ginseng date rice is nourishing, warming and boosts the body’s own yin, yang, and qi. It is energetically balanced and a great dish for the winter time and helping one to support the immune system during cold and flu season.

Ginseng is called Ren Shen, translated “man root” in Chinese, because of the way the roots resemble the shape of a man.  Ginseng is known for its properties of tonifying the body’s overall qi.  Red ginseng is generally considered more warming than white ginseng.  Ask your acupuncturist about the different types of ginseng and how they can benefit you.

Dates, called Mi Zao in Chinese, are an iron-rich food and used in cases of mild constipation.  Dates can also help rid the body of toxins from alcohol.  Dates tonify the yin according to TCM.  Dates have a high sugar content and should be monitored in diabetes patients.

Chives, also known as garlic chives (or Chinese chives), are great for expelling colds.  Chives open the pores and allow sweating.  Chives are also great for stimulating digestion.

Celery Lentil Soup – Serves 2 (Vegetarian, Vegan)

  • 2 Cups Water
  • 1/3 Cup Dried Lentils (You may use pretty much any color Lentil bean you like.  I use brown)
  • 1/4 Cup Chopped Onion
  • 2 Celery Stalks (finely chopped)
  • 1 Cup Potatoes (either finely chopped or pureed.  I puree mine for thicker soup.)
  • 4 Salad Tomatoes (halved)
  • 1 Garlic clove (minced)
  • 2 Tsp Lemon Juice
  • SPICE
  • 1 Tsp Ground Cumin
  • 1/2 Tsp Turmeric
  • 1/2 Tsp Salt
  • 2 Tsp Canola oil
  • TOPPING
  • 1/4 Cup Cilantro (chopped)
  • 1/2 Tsp Scotch Bonnet Pepper (finely chopped)  This ingredient is for adding extra spicy flavor
  • Extra Salt and Pepper to taste

—–

Put first 8 ingredients into large pot.  Bring to boil.  Cover and lower heat.  Simmer for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Lentils will start to break up and soften.  (If you like, you can cook until most of the lentils are soft and leave some of the lentils slightly firm.)  Turn off heat.

Put spices and oil into a small saucepan.  Stir continuously over medium heat for 2-3 minutes until spices brown slightly.  (Be careful not to burn the spices!)  Add to soup mixture.

Stir pot with soup and spices.  Now, add salt and pepper to taste.

Pour into bowls and garnish with cilantro (and scotch bonnet pepper).  Serve.

—–

TCM Notes:

The herbs and spices in this dish are great for regulating digestion.  Energetically, the cooling effect of the celery and lemon balance the warming effect of the turmeric, cilantro, and cumin.

Other:

Turmeric is an herb also known as Jiang Huang.  It invigorates blood stagnation caused by cold from deficiency.  It also moves qi in the epigastrium and abdomen.  This herb is also good for gynecological disorders. (Materia Medica, Bensky)

Cumin is also known as Xi Hui Xiang in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).  Cumin harmonizes the Stomach, stops pain, and warms the abdomen.

Cilantro is usually the leaf, while the seed is known as coriander.  In TCM, cilantro resolves the exterior, enhances appetite and digestion.

A Bash on Soft Drinks

I’ll be the first to tell you that I love Mountain Dew.  No, not the diet version, or the Mountain Blast version, or any other version other than the original. Give me the glow-in-the-dark green libation along with the mythical stories of causing testicular shrinkage and premature baldness.  For loving this drink so much, I probably have it about once a year, twice if I decide to go crazy and splurge.

The reason why I don’t drink soft drinks is because they are plain awful for you. They are loaded with sugar, or loaded with artificial sweeteners. The phosphoric and citric acid in a can will eat the paint off of a house, unclog a drain, and burn a hole in your stomach. With that said, some people believe that the diet versions of the soft drinks are healthier. They contain lots of flavor and no calories. They must be good for you, right? Wrong.

Plastic doesn’t have calories for you. You don’t eat that, right? It’s indigestible. These artificial sweeteners must be indigestible as well, at least partially, but apparently no one has done any serious study on the negative effects of artificial sweeteners on the human body.  (I mean no study that isn’t biased one way or the other.)  The long term effects of these non-natural sweeteners has not been proven to harm the body…because there is no significant research being done. I’ve seen patients remove every food and drink containing artificial sweeteners from their diet and notice a significant improvement in overall feeling of wellness.

Let’s get back to the story here. The United States is the world’s largest consumer of soft drinks. We are also the fattest country in the world marked by obesity.  This land of excess spends over $58 Billion in soft drinks annually. Our consumption of soft drinks is higher than any other country by more than 30% and we are one of the most unhealthy. Is there a correlation? I feel that there is, especially when the average American is consuming over 200 liters of carbonated beverages a year. Soft drinks are a business and no soft drink manufacturer is going to tell you that their product can be harmful to the body.

What I am trying to say here is that all soft drinks should be consumed in moderation. If soft drinks make up some part of your daily intake of fluids, then maybe it’s time to weed it out of your system. You don’t have to take it completely out of your diet. Try reducing soft drinks to a once a week activity and gradually work it out to once a month, at most. If you’re unhealthy or overweight, or if you are just suffering from: strange aches and pains, headaches, irritability, acid regurgitation, PMS, insomnia, hormonal imbalance, skin disorders, abdominal pain, etc., try to remove the soft drinks in your life.  Some of these health issues may dissipate or completely disappear altogether. Replace the soft drinks with water, tea, or another beverage such as a low sugar fruit juice. Try it for 2 months and see what your body says. You may find that the healthier you is happier without them.

Warm Up With Cinnamon Chai Based on Chinese Herbal Medicine

Americans are fast becoming tea lovers.  Tea is growing in popularity here in the West.  There are different styles of tea and many teas have combinations of herbs, spices, fruit, etc., inside the steeping pot!  Each tea recipe has properties that can also improve your health.

At August Point Wellness, we observe the interaction between man and his environment.  As the environment changes, man should be able to adapt in order to stay healthy.  The theories of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) are based on these observations.  With acupuncture, herbs, and other forms of therapy, August Point works with the client to achieve that harmony with nature.  In the interest of herbal medicine, we have decided to share our very first recipe for a warming, winter tea.

  • 1-2 tsp loose green tea
  • 1 cinnamon stick (or in a pinch, use 1/4 tsp cinnamon powder)
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1/8 tsp sliced fresh ginger
  • 20 dried Goji berries
  • 1/2 tsp honey

Nature of this Tea Recipe:  Warm

TCM benefits:

  • Green tea – Cooling.  Balances the warm nature of herbs in this tea.
  • Cinnamon – Treats chills and fever without sweating
  • Clove – Tonify Kidney, Spleen, Stomach. tonify Yang.
  • Ginger – Warms Lung, strengthens Stomach, stops cough
  • Goji berry – Nourish Liver and Kidney, tonify Yin.
  • Honey – Tonify the Lung, Spleen, Large Intestine.

In a nutshell, this tea has properties of warming the center of the body, promoting healthy digestive function, keeping lungs moist, and preventing cold weather from injuring the body.  If you tend toward coldness in the winter time that chills you to the core, this tea helps your body regulate its temperature more sufficiently.  If you also tend to have poor digestion that gets worse in the winter time, this tea can provide benefit.  This tea will also help with that winter cough that has been lingering for weeks.  Try it!

Peppermint for a Happy Holiday Tummy!

The holiday season is here!  Peppermint chocolates, peppermint ice cream, peppermint toffee, peppermint cookies, peppermint martinis! Peppermint is inside of every edible creation around the holiday time.

For some, the peppermint craze only lasts through the holidays.  But for some IBS sufferers, peppermint is a year-round companion.  Herba piperita, as it is also known, has long been used for its benefits on the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has used mint for centuries to aid such things as upper respiratory distress with sore throat, headaches from cold and flu, skin irritations, as well as nausea and upset stomach.  Peppermint, part of the mint family, is a cross between spearmint and water mint plants.  The peppermint plant contains a high amount of menthol, which is responsible for that cool feeling the peppermint has on the body.

Peppermint has been studied for its use in those affected by irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Animal studies show that peppermint has a relaxation effect on GI tissue, and analgesic and anesthetic effects in the central and peripheral nervous system. In one research study, Grigoleit and Grigoleit found statistically significant effects in favor of peppermint oil for use in IBS cases presenting with non-serious constipation and diarrhea.  Another study, done by a group from Section of Digestive Sciences, Department of Medicine, G d’Annunzio University, Chieti-Pescara, Italy (Cappello, Spezzaferro, Grossi) specifically targeted IBS cases excluding bacterial overgrowth, lactose intolerance, and celiac patients.  75% of these patients showed significant improvement through the use of enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules.

Peppermint itself, can be found as a tea leaf, concentrated oil, enteric-coated capsule, or liquid for ingestion.  A recommendation would be to begin with a cup of peppermint tea daily.  If symptoms don’t improve, try two cups daily.  If there is still no relief, look into the enteric-coated capsule.  Enteric-coated capsules delay the release of the peppermint oil and is easier on the digestive tract.  Ingesting peppermint oil directly is harsh on the stomach and could cause heartburn, nausea and vomiting. So, this method should be dosed carefully.  Regardless, the most preferable form would be the plant form.  It is a complete, natural herbal remedy.  But, if necessary, the other forms may alleviate the IBS signs and symptoms as well.

So, break out the peppermint for the holidays.  And if you suffer from IBS or occasional digestive discomfort,  save a little peppermint for the rest of the year.