Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Yin & Yang of 6 Medicinals

When Chinese, Koreans and many people of Asia, who have beliefs in hot and cold theories, are treating ailments and diseases, they first must understand the body constitution of the patient.

To know the body type, evaluating the physique, studying the diet with preferred foods and preferred temperatures of foods when eating, taking the pulse, and a few more points are taken into collective consideration before a body type "diagnosis" is pronounced. To be specific, there are 2 yang or warm body types (a greater and a lesser) and there are 2 yin or cool body types (again, a greater and a lesser). Only when the correct body type is ascertained can medicinals be prescribed.

3 Warm Herbs / Medicinals (Yang )

Ginseng - Ginseng is used to reduce stress, improve the digestive function, reduce fatigue, fight against colds and infections; mountain or wild ginseng is seen as far better than cultivated ginseng and the price in the thousands of dollars that a single wild ginseng plant brings in reflects this belief. A caution, however, for people wanting this cure-all is that people with dominating yang should avoid the plant, or their body balance will be blown with excessive heat.

Velvet Deer Antler - Deer antlers in the velvet are another warm medicinal with a more than 2000 year old medicinal history. Deer antlers commonly figure in medicinal compotes as they supposedly relieve arthritis pain, inflammation, support joints and improve blood circulation. They are pretty much viewed as enhancing the entire immune system. A caution when using deer antlers as a medicinal is to avoid alcohol.

Caterpillar Fungus (동춘화초) - Caterpillar fungus is one of the many fungi in Asia that has medicinal healing factors. This particular kind of fungi is believed to protect against lung and kidney problems, and also to help in the prevention of cancer. Cautions for this are unknown.

Cool Herbs / Medicinals (Yin )

Adlay also known as Job's Tear (율무) - Adlay is a gluten-free grain not commonly cultivated in Korea or until recently enjoyed as a grain. It predominantly figures in the sweetened instant drink 율무차. Adlay is believed to be good for the metabolism and promotes good blood circulation. Recently it has taken on the extra meaning of being beneficial for dieting and weight loss. There are two cautions for this grain. People who have cool constitutions are very much affected by the cooling affects of this grain. Likewise, preganant women should avoid as it "cools" the blood which affects the fetus.

Mung Beans (녹두) - Mung beans are believed to be very beneficial for detoxing the body and improving urination. They also help sick individuals recovery their health and improve the actions of the organs in the body. Mung beans are not to be taken with chemical medicines as through interaction they may reduce the effects of the intended treatment outcome.

Gardenia Seeds (치자) - Gardenia seeds are a cooling "herb" for reducing an internal fever, and according to the 동귀보감 they are especially helpful for improving liver function. A secondary outcome when taking them is the lowering of one's blood pressure. They also can help depression and soothe blood shot eyes. The only mentioned caution for gardenia seeds is the likelihood of a diarrhea.

This interesting piece of research was done by my students Doyoung Lee and Sojung Oh. Although there are sooooo many types of yang and yin medicinals, the students prefaced their presentation with choosing six, three from both of the yin and yang categories, to explain to the audience for tips on how to improve their own or their family members' health.

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