Chinese Nutrition Therapy: Start with Ginseng
Chinese Nutrition Therapy: Start with Ginseng
By Mark Zuleger-Thyss/Garden of Healing
One of the promising "new" treatments found today, and indeed much in vogue in America, is acupuncture. Yet, it is one of the oldest therapies known to the healing arts. Chinese physicians have been practicing it for at least 2,500 years.
The oldest Eastern healing traditions are native to China and India. They are rooted in the dominant philosophical systems and ancient religions of those countries - Taoism in China and Hinduism in India. Whenever the exact date these practices started, what is not in dispute is their long and reliable history.
Acupuncture is considered a wide-spectrum weapon against many of the illnesses that beset humankind, which fuels its popularity. While often hard to understand, it is acupuncture's results that are worth investigating. Once bitten or piqued, most patients swear by acupuncture's effectiveness.
Most people think of needles when they ponder an acupuncture treatment, but this healing tradition is not without its foods used for their healing properties, as in Chinese Food therapy.
In China, Ginseng has an ancient reputation as a concentration of the vital force or Chi. Let us not forget Ginseng's use by Native Americans. Aromatic American Ginseng found in the North American woodlands was historically used to treat dozens of medical problems by them.
Chinese Food Therapy is applying medicinal food dishes, using select food ingredients and herbs, to derive the necessary nutrients for treating health conditions. This knowledge is the product of the accumulated generational experience of monitoring and refining recipes for their health benefits.
Food therapy is a modality of Traditional Chinese Medicine, also known as Chinese Nutrition therapy. It is incredibly popular among Cantonese people who enjoy slow-cooked soups.
During the Chau dynasty (16 BC), food therapy gained prominence as a specialist field. The state even had food specialists serving the emperor in the imperial court. During the Tang dynasty (608-906 AD), food therapy became popular, and classic books on the subject became available.
Calculating how many plants the Chinese use in healing is difficult. 5000 in number is probably the right place to start. Specialists in food therapy used whole and divided into parts - roots, stems, leaves, even the flowers, and seeds. Each piece had a different purpose. Locally grown vegetation was the most productive, many of them grown throughout China's vast southern provinces. Growers cultivated this vegetation, but the best ones grow wild.
Ginseng refers to species within Panax, a genus of 11 species of slow-growing perennial plants with fleshy roots. Panax species constitute the proverbial panacea, from the Greek, Πανάκεια, Panakeia, meaning "cure-all." Elixir was the goddess of cures in Greek mythology. Panacea was said to have a potion with which she healed the ill, which brought about the cure-all concept.
Chinese healers believe some herbs have affinities for specific organs, but this notion is only a starting point for herbal medicine's complexities.
The most widely used medicinal herb in Asia, if not the world, is Ginseng. In the West, we might think of Ginseng more of a food than a spice, as we most often use it in cooking. Ginseng is a gnarled root with seemingly limitless benefits and is now used to treat almost every affliction known to humanity. Indeed, Ginseng's botanical name, Panax pseudoginseng, translates as a "remedy for all."
Throughout Chinese history, the state did not take responsibility for healthcare; instead, it was every ordinary citizen's duty. People used their resources to find cures when they became sick, which meant that most people could not afford to be sick. It is no wonder why preventive healthcare is so prevalent in China.
Of the four pillars of health in China are lifestyle, diet, exercise, and mind - diet is most important. In the East, food is considered the primary cause of sickness and a starting point for health and healing. Food and nutrition play a central role in Chinese culture. Cooking good food for family members is a lifelong profession for most women. Mothers teach their children some knowledge of the nature of everyday foods.
In the East, the patient is not merely a body, but an integral amalgam of body, mind, and spirit, all equally important, all continually interacting - and, at best, harmoniously. In the West, we term this notion "holistic health."
Ginseng is only one of the many "foods as medicine" brought to us from China and India, and Ginseng is excellent food, or herb, to begin learning about and working with Chinese Food Therapy.
Let us not forget Ginseng's use by Native Americans. Aromatic American Ginseng found in the North American woodlands was historically used to treat dozens of medical problems by Native Americans. They used Ginseng both internally and externally to relieve pain and fever, treat wounds and skin sores, ease vomiting, and increase other remedies' effectiveness. In this way, Ginseng is not exclusive to Eastern methods of healing.
With upwards of 5000 Chinese plants used for healing, to start with Ginseng, it is only one down and 4999-plus foods to go.
© 2020 Mark Zuleger-Thyss, Garden of Healing LLC. All rights reserved.