An Acupuncturist Looks at Herbs and Foods

I have been reading more and more about Lacto-fermented foods and their nutritional bonuses. I have also been reading about the problems with nutrition in processing foods. In Chinese Medicine, food was often a form of healing. Herbal teas were brewed but herbs were also added to soups and stews for flavoring. Certain flavors were more popular at certain times of the year.

In our modern day, these herbal remedies are occasionally made with brewed teas. There are a few packaged herb mixes to add to chicken soup. More commonly herbs are taken in granules or further processed into pill form. As a practitioner I have used all of these for myself. I have recommended most formulas in pill form due to space limitations. During this time I also found herbal tinctures, which I have been reasonably happy with.

I have found that pills and granules often don’t work well with my body. I have used raw herbs for myself and find that I get the biggest boost from those. In an ideal world I would have at least the raw herbs for colds. I’d even show patients how to cook them at cooking classes. It’s easy but often people are worried about their skill. Additionally most of the herbal teas do not smell good. They tend to have a rather unfamiliar and often disgusting flavor. These teas are medicinal.

Like real food, real formulas work the best. They are the least processed. Any processing done to raw herbs is typically done traditionally to minimize any toxins the plants may carry. They are cleaned and dried. They have expiration dates. This is one main reason why smaller clinics often don’t use raw herbs. They expire too quickly to be used up.

When I use granules and pills there are times when my body starts showing more side effects. As I read more about processing I wonder about fillers. What was my body reacting to. There is one brand that I have the same reaction to no matter which formula I take. Even when I take a formula that is supposed to help the symptom I get, it just gets worse. I tend to think I am reacting to something they are using to make this formula.

These remind me of processed foods. The essence of what they are is refined, processed, taken out and pressed into a new form. These formulas often claim to be better. In some case the formulation may be very good but what about the other ingredients? What about the processing? Do we know what the processing does? Most herbal makers understand that processed formulas are not as strong as raw herbs and advertise as such. The market for them is the understanding that patient compliance in the US for making strong tasting teas can be poor.

Like buying prepackaged mayonnaise, ketchup and other condiments, these formulas claim to save time and to be just as good. Formulas are often changed. At one time, according to Nourishing Traditions, ketchup was a lacto-fermented food offering vitamins and nutrients to people who used it on their food. Today we eat it with sugar or high fructose corn syrup added in. Not only has ketchup lost it’s nutritional status, but it can now be argued that it is bad for us. This is in the interest of saving time.

Are my processed herbs like this? I worry sometimes.

Tinctures on the other hand also work well for me. These are created using alcohol as a base and the herbs are placed in there. It is a bit different from fermented food but I believe the idea is the same. I suspect that this is one reason when I use this type of formula my patients with the most troubling symptoms who require the formulas that are the most difficult to digest often do well. I can’t exactly equate these to fermenting foods but I have a suspicion that these are slightly better than other types of processing. I like that they are easy to digest in a world where everyone seems to have digestive issues.

As I learn more about real food, the handling of it, the cooking of it and natural ways of storing it, I hope to learn by experience how to use food for healing from an energetic perspective. Certain foods were considered healing for certain conditions. I have found that people get minimal response from these things. I consider now that perhaps we are not eating these foods correctly and that’s a topic I’ll explore in further posts.

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Bonnie Koenig has been a licensed acupuncturist since 1999. She is passionate about helping people find real healing and real health. In the process she keeps asking about our attitudes towards sickness and health. Only by being clear on what sickness is, can we ever find health.

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