Posted by: Scott Stewart, MSAc., Dipl.Ac., LAc.
1. Cinnamon (Rou Gui 肉 桂)
Rou Gui is the powdered or stick cinnamon found on your spice rack. It’s both acrid and sweet with a hot nature.
Cinnamon is very warming; it disperses deep cold, especially in the stomach, alleviates pain and warms the channels. It reinforces Kidney Yang, in other words, it increases metabolism, and also encourages the generation of Qi & blood.
Medical Functions: Lowers blood pressure (particularly in Type II diabetic patients),[i][ii] anti-inflammatory,[iii] antibacterial,[iv] antibiotic effect,[v] antioxidant activity,[vi] [vii]and lowers glucose & lipid levels in diabetic patients.[viii] [ix] [x]
Cautions & Contraindications: If you have a lot of internal heat or heat signs, especially an easily upset stomach than do not take this herb. Do not take this herb if you are pregnant. Also, cinnamon extract may interact with blood thinners at higher doses. It may also have an additive effect with blood glucose lowering drugs.
2. Ginger (Sheng Jiang 生姜)
Fresh ginger should be in everyone’s refrigerator, because of its many uses and for its superb health value.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) ginger has an acrid taste with a slightly warm nature. It warms the lungs, transforms phlegm, stops cough, warms the middle jiao (diaphragm down to umbilicus), alleviates vomiting, and reduces the toxicity of some herbs. Ever wonder why they give you ginger with sushi . . . because it’s used for seafood poisoning.
Medical Functions: Anti-inflammatory,[xi] [xii] antiviral (especially in the lungs),[xiii] antibacterial,[xiv] anti-allergic,[xv] antitumor,[xvi] and promotes bile secretion.[xvii] [xviii]
Cautions & Contraindications: Vomiting due to stomach heat or Lung patterns involving excessive heat. Avoid taking ginger with non – steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), this can increase the risk of bleeding. Ginger has minor anticoagulant / antiplatelet activity and should be used cautiously with blood thinners. If you have gallstones it’s best to avoid ginger due to its potential cholagogic effect.
3. Walnuts (Hu Tao Ren 核桃)
Walnuts are one of my favorite snacks! They’re great in the winter time, because their nature is warming, and they have a sweet taste.
Walnuts are packed with all kinds of antioxidants, vitamins (A, C, E, K, Niacin, B6, etc.), minerals (Calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, etc.), protein, and both Omega - 3 fatty acids.
As a medicinal food, walnuts are very nourishing for the brain, the kidneys (Yang) and adrenals, and help enrich sperm.[xix] Walnuts moisten the intestines and lungs, helping to relieve constipation and cough with signs of cold. Due to their Omega – 3 fatty acids, they also help reduce inflammation[xx] and alleviate pain.
Medical Functions: Cardiovascular benefits,[xxi] including the improvement of blood circulation. It has also been shown that walnuts can reduce problems related to metabolic syndrome; more specifically, reducing atherosclerotic risks by lowering lipid profiles.[xxii] Lastly, they have an anti-oxidant effect.
To reap the benefits of one of nature’s greatest snacks, eat a handful of walnuts a day, or about 1oz. Enjoy!!!
4. Pumpkin (Nan Gua 南瓜)
Pumpkin flesh/meat (not canned) and pumpkin seeds are another superfood that should be incorporated into one’s diet.
In Chinese nutrition, pumpkin is sweet and warm, and has an affinity for the Stomach & Spleen organs. Its super nourishing, reinforces the middle jiao, descends counterflow Qi (belching, heartburn, etc.).
Medical Functions: Anti-carcinogenic,[xxiii] inhibits benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH),[xxiv] [xxv] anti-diabetic,[xxvi] [xxvii] anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant[xxviii] [xxix].
Cautions & Contraindications: Pumpkin does prevent the absorption of vitamin C. Information is lacking with regards to pregnancy and lactation, or any other adverse effects.
5. Chicken (Ji Rou 鸡肉)
There’s a reason why you always got a bowl of chicken soup when you were sick - it’s because chicken is very nourishing; black chicken is even more nourishing, although pretty hard to find here in the states.
Chicken nourishes the Spleen and Stomach, Tonifies the kidneys, and nourishes the Qi and blood.
Aside from regular consumption, chicken is indicated for weakness after childbirth or surgery, chronic illness, and frequent urination.
Although inconclusive, there have been a few studies that support the healing properties of chicken soup. One study surmised that chicken soup acts through an anti-inflammatory mechanism that lessens upper respiratory tract infections.[xxx] While another study suggests that there is an unknown substance that acts through the senses of taste and smell, which increases the velocity of nasal mucus.[xxxi]
Stay healthy this winter by eating foods that are warm in nature, foods that nourish, and stay away from cold/chilled foods, and especially iced drinks. Oh . . . and stay warm!
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[i] Akilen R1, Tsiami A, Devendra D, Robinson N. Glycated haemoglobin and blood pressure-lowering effect of cinnamon in multi-ethnic Type 2 diabetic patients in the UK: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial. Diabet Med. 2010 Oct;27(10):1159-67. doi: 10.1111/j.1464-5491.2010.03079.x.
[ii] Akilen R1, Pimlott Z, Tsiami A, Robinson N. Effect of short-term administration of cinnamon on blood pressure in patients with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. Nutrition. 2013 Oct;29(10):1192-6. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2013.03.007. Epub 2013 Jul 16.
[iii] Joung-Woo Hong1, Ga-Eun Yang1, Yoon Bum Kim2, Seok Hyun Eom3, Jae-Hwan Lew1 and Hee Kang1* Anti-inflammatory activity of cinnamon water extract in vivo and in vitro LPS-induced models. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2012, 12:237 doi:10.1186/1472-6882-12-237.
[iv] Seenivasan Prabuseenivasan,1 Manickkam Jayakumar,1 and Savarimuthu Ignacimuthucorresponding author1. In vitro antibacterial activity of some plant essential oils. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2006; 6: 39.
[v] Liesel Brenda GENDE, Ignazio FLORIS, Rosalia FRITZ, Martin Javier EGUARAS. Antimicrobial activity of cinnamon
(Cinnamomum zeylanicum ) essential oil and its main components against Paenibacillus larvae from Argentine. Bulletin of Insectology 61 (1): 1-4, 2008 ISSN 1721-8861.
[vi] C.-C. Lin, S.-J. Wu, C.-H. Chang, and L.-T. Ng, “Antioxidant activity of Cinnamomum cassia,” Phytotherapy Research, vol. 17, no. 7, pp. 726–730, 2003.
[vii] J. N. Dhuley, “Anti-oxidant effects of cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum) bark and greater cardamon (Amomum subulatum) seeds in rats fed high fat diet,” Indian Journal of Experimental Biology, vol. 37, no. 3, pp. 238–242, 1999.
[viii] B. Mang, M. Wolters, B. Schmitt et al., “Effects of a cinnamon extract on plasma glucose, HbA1c, and serum lipids in diabetes mellitus type 2,” European Journal of Clinical Investigation, vol. 36, no. 5, pp. 340–344, 2006.
[ix] A. Khan, M. Safdar, M. M. A. Khan, K. N. Khattak, and R. A. Anderson, “Cinnamon improves glucose and lipids of people with type 2 diabetes,” Diabetes Care, vol. 26, no. 12, pp. 3215–3218, 2003.
[x] P. Crawford, “Effectiveness of cinnamon for lowering hemoglobin A1C in patients with type 2 diabetes: a randomized, controlled trial,” The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, vol. 22, no. 5, pp. 507–512, 2009.
[xi] Young H. Y, Luo Y. L, Cheng H. Y, Hsieh W. C, Liao J. C, Peng W. H. Analgesic and anti-inflammatory activities of -gingerol. J Ethnopharmacol. 2005;96(1-2):207–10.
[xii] Dedov V. N, Tran V. H, Duke C. C, Connor M, Christie M. J, Mandadi S, Roufogalis B. D. Gingerols: A novel class of vanilloid receptor (VR1) agonists. Br J Pharmacol. 2002;137(6):793–8.
[xiii] Chang JS1, Wang KC, Yeh CF, Shieh DE, Chiang LC. Fresh ginger (Zingiber officinale) has anti-viral activity against human respiratory syncytial virus in human respiratory tract cell lines. J Ethnopharmacol. 2013 Jan 9;145(1):146-51. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2012.10.043. Epub 2012 Nov 1.
[xiv] A. Sebiomo*, A. D. Awofodu, A. O. Awosanya, F. E. Awotona and A. J. Ajayi. Comparative studies of antibacterial effect of some antibiotics and ginger (Zingiber officinale) on two pathogenic bacteria. Journal of Microbiology and Antimicrobials Vol. 3(1), pp. 18-22, January 2011.
[xv] Chen B. H, Wu P. Y, Chen K. M, Fu T. F, Wang H. M, Chen C. Y. Antiallergic potential on RBL- 2H3 cells of some phenolic constituents of Zingiber officinale (ginger) J Nat Prod. 2009;72:950–3.
[xvi] Sung B, Jhurani S, Ahn K. S, editors. et al. Zerumbone down-regulates chemokine receptor CXCR4 expression leading to inhibition of CXCL12-induced invasion of breast and pancreatic tumor cells. Cancer Res. 2008;68(21):8938–44.
[xvii] Yamahara J, Miki K, Chisaka T, Sawada T, Fujimura H, Tomimatsu T, Nakano K, Nohara T. Cholagogic effect of ginger and its active constituents. J Ethnopharmacol. 1985 May;13(2):217-25.
[xviii] Kalpana Platel & K.Srinivasan. Digestive stimulant action of spices: A myth or reality? Indian J Med Res 119, May 2004, pp 167-179
[xix] Wendie A. Robbins, Lin Xun, Leah Z. FitzGerald, Samantha Esguerra, Susanne M. Henning, and Catherine L. Carpenter. Walnuts Improve Semen Quality in Men Consuming a Western-Style Diet: Randomized Control Dietary Intervention Trial. Biology of Reproduction October 1, 2012 vol. 87 no. 4 101.
[xx] Emilio Ros. Health Benefits of Nut Consumption. Nutrients. Jul 2010; 2(7): 652–682.
[xxi] Banel DK1, Hu FB. Effects of walnut consumption on blood lipids and other cardiovascular risk factors: a meta-analysis and systematic review. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Jul;90(1):56-63. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.27457. Epub 2009 May 20.
[xxii] Ebrahim Abbasi Oshaghi, Arash Noori Sorkhani, Ali Rezaei. Effects of Walnut on Lipid Profile as Well as the Expression of Sterol-Regulatory Element Binding Protein-1c(SREBP-1c) and Peroxisome Proliferator Activated Receptors α (PPARα) in Diabetic Rat. Food and Nutrition Sciences, 2012, 3, 255-259.
[xxiii] Richter D1, Abarzua S, Chrobak M, Vrekoussis T, Weissenbacher T, Kuhn C, Schulze S, Kupka MS, Friese K, Briese V, Piechulla B, Makrigiannakis A, Jeschke U, Dian D. Effects of phytoestrogen extracts isolated from pumpkin seeds on estradiol production and ER/PR expression in breast cancer and trophoblast tumor cells. Nutr Cancer. 2013;65(5):739-45. doi: 10.1080/01635581.2013.797000.
[xxiv] Gossell-Williams M1, Davis A, O'Connor N. Inhibition of testosterone-induced hyperplasia of the prostate of sprague-dawley rats by pumpkin seed oil. J Med Food. 2006 Summer;9(2):284-6.
[xxv] Hong H1, Kim CS, Maeng S. Effects of pumpkin seed oil and saw palmetto oil in Korean men with symptomatic benign prostatic hyperplasia. Nutr Res Pract. 2009 Winter;3(4):323-7. doi: 10.4162/nrp.2009.3.4.323. Epub 2009 Dec 31.
[xxvi] Yoshinari O1, Sato H, Igarashi K. Anti-diabetic effects of pumpkin and its components, trigonelline and nicotinic acid, on Goto-Kakizaki rats. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2009 May;73(5):1033-41. Epub 2009 May 7.
[xxvii] Adams GG1, Imran S, Wang S, Mohammad A, Kok MS, Gray DA, Channell GA, Harding SE. The hypoglycemic effect of pumpkin seeds, Trigonelline (TRG), Nicotinic acid (NA), and D-Chiro-inositol (DCI) in controlling glycemic levels in diabetes mellitus. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2014;54(10):1322-9. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2011.635816.
[xxviii] Nara K1, Yamaguchi A, Maeda N, Koga H. Antioxidative activity of water soluble polysaccharide in pumpkin fruits (Cucurbita maxima Duchesne). Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2009 Jun;73(6):1416-8. Epub 2009 Jun 7.
[xxix] Marianna N. Xanthopoulou, Tzortzis Nomikos *, Elizabeth Fragopoulou, Smaragdi Antonopoulou. Antioxidant and lipoxygenase inhibitory activities of pumpkin seed extracts. Food Research International 42 (2009) 641–646.
[xxx] Barbara O. Rennard, BA; Ronald F. Ertl, BS; Gail L. Gossman, BS; Richard A. Robbins, MD, FCCP; Stephen I. Rennard, MD, FCCP. Chicken Soup Inhibits Neutrophil Chemotaxis In Vitro. Chest. 2000;118(4):1150-1157. doi:10.1378/chest.118.4.1150.
[xxxi] K Saketkhoo; A Januszkiewicz; M A Sackner. Effects of drinking hot water, cold water, and chicken soup on nasal mucus velocity and nasal airflow resistance. Chest. 1978;74(4):408-410. doi:10.1378/chest.74.4.408.