There are certain pursuits which, if not wholly poetic and true, do at least suggest a nobler and finer relation to nature than we know. The keeping of bees, for instance.
Henry David Thoreau
I grew up on my grandparent’s farm outside of Caldwell, on Chicken Dinner Road, among vegetable gardens, berry patches, orchards, flower gardens….and bees. Grandpa Herman held many passions but at the top of the list were roses, walnuts and bees.
Grandpa’s bee hives would come to life every spring as soon as the first violets appeared. The apricot and crab apple trees buzzed with life and the melodious hum meant fresh honey. In a few weeks we would be blessed with plates of oozing honeycomb. The honey, gently flavored with whatever was blooming, ranged in color from golds to nearly black was fragrant and delicious. Mmmmm.
A Little History
The collection of honey dates back to 7000 b.c.e., and it shows up in nearly every form of medicine. However, honey fell out of popular use due to the availability and ease of processed white refined sugar. Let’s face it, refined sugar is cheaper and easier to obtain. You don’t have to risk stings or wait for the right season, you don’t have to manage a hive and its queen. Honey also adds a distinct flavor to whatever it goes into, another put-off to spoiled taste buds, but I digress.
Like all real food, bee products hold medicinal properties and energetics–the post metabolic phenomenon of what it does in the body (heat, cool, etc.)– once it is ingested. Here’s a brief picture of our bees’ bounty.
Whoever coined the phrase “bitter hearts” was right. Bitter is the flavor that goes directly to the Heart. Bitter. Even its name can make us cringe, and it’s certainly not the most popular of the 5 Flavors (sweet, sour, pungent, and salty) yet it serves a vital role in our health. The flavor is a powerful mover and enters the Heart, Small Intestines, Triple Warmer and Pericardium–all the Fire organs. When the Fire element is in-balance we are joyful and can act on life plans, we make meaningful relationships and set appropriate boundaries–engage!
Still frowning? You don’t need a lot of bitter, so just play along for a bit.
Bitter flavors enter the Heart and other Fire Organs
Each of the 5 Elements has numerous correspondences including flavor, season, color, organs, sound and emotion. Fire and the bitter flavor correspond with the season of Summer, which is unique in that it has four organ systems rather than two like the other elements. The Heart (Yin), Small Intestines (Yang), Pericardium (Yin) and Triple Warmer (Yang) all belong to the Fire element-and they have a lot going on. The Heart, as the emperor, sits on his throne and controls the circulation of blood and allows us our most intimate relationships. Heart needs to express its truest self to the world. Small Intestines constantly sorts the ‘pure from the impure’–what to digest and what not to digest–physically, emotionally and spiritually–who do we keep in our lives, who do we need to let go of? A lot of people can get stuck in the process of sorting. Pericardium has similar properties to the Heart and the Triple Warmer […]
April Crowell, Dipl. ABT (NCCAOM), AOBTA CI & CP, CHN
We love our Summers and the sunshine here in Boise. It’s time to be in the garden, rivers and mountains. The temperature can swing nearly 40 degrees from sun up to sundown, and then there is that spell in July and August where it hangs out above 100 and never seems to cool off—ack, melt. Occasionally, we spend too much time in the sun, or the season changes so rapidly that we have problems adapting. You may experience a little ‘Summer Heat’ invasion.
Each of the 5 Seasons in Chinese medicine has a climatic nature. Spring relates to Wind, Autumn to Dryness, Winter to Cold, Late Summer (the transition of seasons) relates to Dampness, and Summer corresponds to Heat. These climates are simply part of the nature of the season and Chinese medicine practitioners observe these climatic influences and their behaviors in the body as they can become a source of disease or disharmony. For example, Wind can be involved in many forms of headaches, allergies and palsies. Any of these climatic conditions can pop up in any season due to rapid weather changes, change in location, etc. Heat is most likely to affect us during the Summer and the Summer organs are most vulnerable to Heat, and the 6th Pernicious Influence–Summer Heat.
Summer Heat is an exterior pathogen
Exterior pathogens or the 6 Pernicious Influences or 6 Evils are hot, cold, wind, damp, dry and summer heat. They are acute in nature and come on quickly. They invade our bodies either because the pathogen is excessively strong compared to normal Wei Qi (immunity), like in the cases of plagues, or our Wei Qi is too weak […]
Summer, the season of the Fire Element, has arrived! The days are long and the bright sunshine invites us outdoors to work in our gardens or play in the sun. It’s a season of activity and joy. All seasons represent the possibility for change in our lives. We can fight their energetic nature or we can use the season’s blessings for our own growth and benefit…and summer has so much to offer.
Why the seasons matter
In Asian medicine’s 5 Element Theory each season (Spring, Summer, Late Summer, Autumn and Winter) possess their own energetic dynamics and movement of Qi (energy). They ebb and flow from one to another. Understanding the energetic nature of each season helps us to adapt so we move gracefully from phase to another. For example– knowing that Spring’s climate is wind, helps those that are susceptible to wind conditions such as epilepsy, headaches, anger, and allergies to take appropriate precautions to not be as easily affected by the condition. Winter, encourages us to rest and be introspective, to consider our deepest selves–whereas, Summer invites us to expand and be active. We need not hunker down or fear each season, rather having awareness can help us become flexible and adaptive, we can embrace and benefit from the virtue and blessings each season rather than fight them.
|Sound||Laughter–including laughter at inappropriate times|
|State of growth||Maximum growth|
|Odor||Scorched or burnt|
|Yin organ & time||Heart: 11am-1pm & Pericardium: 7-9 pm|
|Yang organ & time||Small Intestines: 1-3pm & Triple Warmer: 9-11 pm|
|Body tissue||Blood vessels and the Blood|
|Emotion||Joy or lack of Joy|
|Virtue||Ability to create quality relationships and interactions with others, propriety|
|Vice||Inappropriate relationships and boundaries, victimization|
Let’s look a […]
It’s time for cherries! If you’ve ever picked cherries, likely you have an appreciation for how much labor goes into caring for and harvesting the delicate, tart orbs that are available fresh for only a few weeks. Depending on the variety, a single cherry tree can produce about 30 lbs of fruit each year. A single acre of land can be planted with several hundred trees. That’s a lot of little fruit, and although there are mechanical harvesters, most cherries are still picked by hand making them one of the most labor intensive fruits with the one of the shortest harvest season. But they are well worth it.
A little cherry history
Cherries are a drupe, meaning they have a pit in their center. Like other drupes, including apricots, nectarines, and peaches, they are a member of the rose family and are native to the western hemisphere of Europe and Asia. Written records of cherry farming date back to 72 BC Anatolia (modern day Turkey) and they found their way to America with the pilgrims. Today, only about 15 of some 500 plus varieties are grown for the American consumer. However, heirloom varieties are on the rise thanks to the natural food movements throughout the world and our nation.
Western nutritional highlights of cherries
Cherries range from a deep black/red to a golden yellow, and they are categorized as sweet or sour, even in western nutritional terms. Raw cherries provide dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin A and minerals. Don’t look to cherries if you are seeking proteins, fats and or complex carbohydrates. That’s not their job–cherries clear and cleanse.
The healing energetics […]
It’s a blustery day!
Each of the 5 Seasons in Chinese medicine has a climatic nature that it corresponds to. Summer relates to Heat, Autumn to Dryness, Winter to Cold, Late Summer (the transition of seasons) relates to Dampness, and Spring corresponds to Wind. These climates are simply part of the nature of the season, and people may be more vulnerable to these climatic conditions, and each can manifest as a series of patterns in the body. What I pay attention to, as Chinese medicine practitioner and Amma Therapist, is how these may manifest in the body. Ah…here comes the Wind. Whipping through the tops of the trees, windy patterns may arise in our bodies as colds, allergies, ticks, stiff necks and more. In Chinese medicine, Wind corresponds to Spring season and the Liver and Gall Bladder channel, and most Springs are windy. But Wind can invade in any season, and Wind often picks up again in the Autumn.
Wind can be an exterior or interior pattern
Exterior pathogens (Wind, Hot, Cold, Dry, Damp, Summer Heat ) invade our bodies either because the pathogen is excessively strong compared to normal Wei Qi (immunity), think of plagues and virulent viruses–OR–the body is too week to fend off the invasion. This is the pattern that appears in people who seem to get sick at the drop of a hat.
Interior patterns are generated by disharmonies within the body. Eating too many hot foods can damage the Yin (cooling) of the body and lead to heat. Although there may be a bit of overlap, the treatment focus of interior vs exterior will be different. Read more on exterior and interior […]
Welcome to Spring!
When does Spring really begin? For most Western cultures, we correlate the start of Spring with the Spring equinox, around March 20-21st. But all of us know that Spring has been well underway by the time the equinox pops up. If you look at the seasonal correspondences in Chinese medicine’s Yin/Yang theory, the Winter solstice marks the depth of Winter, yet as soon as we reach maximum Yin (the shortest day of the year), Yang and light start to return–literally, Spring is on its way. A quick look at the lunar calendar can also help us understand why Spring seems to come early or late from one year to the next. The Chinese New Year heralds the start of the Spring festivals and planting seasons. This holiday falls on the second new moon after the Winter solstice, sometime between the end of January and the middle of February.
Our bodies feel seasonal changes, and when we are in harmony with these shifts we can delight in the blessings of the season. However, the transition from Winter to Spring is perhaps, the most tumultuous transition. It’s a duel between the quiet and restive inward energy of Winter into the strong, upward ascending of Yang energy–and its energy can be big. The season of the Wood element, Spring is a time of tremendous energy, and excitement in the world and in our bodies. It’s a time of change and growth. Our bodies want to move more, we have more energy within us and we want to get up and go! In disharmony, we resist the changes and encounter difficulties. During the Spring this can […]
April Crowell, Dipl. ABT (NCCAOM), AOBTA CI & CP, CHN
Baby, it’s cold outside. Now that you have an ear worm to pester you for the day, let’s talk about keeping the core of the body warm.
The Asian cultures have a long tradition of dressing to protect the abdomen and the lower back and with good reason–the Kidneys. Called the “Root of Life” in Chinese medicine, and their energies and organs are greatly protected in classical Asian medicine and martial arts. In Japanese, the region is called the Hara, in Chinese it’s the Dan Tian. All Asian cultures hold the same concept–the vital energy of the body is centered in the space located just behind the belly button to between the two kidneys. If you’ve ever done martial arts, this where you move from. It’s your core, and the store house of energy and we want to keep it warm.
The Kidneys are the “Root of Life” and “Sealed Storage”
Let me see if I can boil down a 5 hour lecture into a couple of simple paragraphs.
All organs have a Yin and Yang aspect, however, these two aspects take on a different meaning with the Kidneys. The Kidneys are the foundation for all Yin and Yang for all organs. One of the first channels to develop as a baby grows, Kidney Yin is the foundation or “root” for the Yin and the Yang organs alike, making it the basis for Fire and Water in the body. If the Kidney energy is strong, the baby will grow strong and have vitality. Kidney energy is required for all growth, maturation and reproduction– the bones, marrow, and spine; and […]
Each Asian culture has its own New Year’s tradition. In Japan, the Nabe pot often makes an appearance. The process takes a little time, but that is a part of the celebration–taking time with family and friends. The nabe stock is made from mushrooms soaked overnight and the soup is then heated and served at the dinner table with fresh vegetables. Feel free to vary the vegetables to your tastes. Just lovely. Nabe Pot (Japanese New Year's Soup) – Nabe pots soups that are heated and served at the dinner table as part of Japanese New Year traditions. – shiitake mushrooms, chicken thighs with bones ( remove the bones and reserve for the stock), salmon filet (optional), tiger prawns (peeled with tails left on (optional)), bak choi (cleaned), carrot (peeled and sliced), daikon radish (peeled and sliced), spring onions or scallions (thinly sliced), bean sprouts (rinsed and drained), cabbage (thinly slice), tamari, firm tofu (pressed to drain water and thinly sliced), lime (thinly sliced), sake, , Make the stock: For the stock. Soak shiitakes overnight in 4 cups of water.
Strain water in a pan, bring to boil and add in chicken bones, reduce heat to medium.
Skim stock as scum rises up to the surface. Simmer stock until it reduces one third.
Cut chicken and salmon into bite sized chunks. Boil these in 2 cups of water with 1 T. sake for 1 minute. Drain immediately under cold water.
Clean and remove shiitake stems. ; Make the nabe: Pour stock into a clay (donabe) pot or sukiyaki pot and place over table top burner.
Add remaining sake to stock and bring to boil.
Add the daikon and carrots and cook over medium heat for […]
April Crowell Dipl. ABT (NCCAOM), AOBTA CI & CP, CHN
Autumn’s arrival shifts the Qi that had been expanding outward (Yang) in the Summer to begin to shift inward (Yin). We glide through Late Summer at the equinox and then slide into Autumn–the season of Yin within Yang. Of the 5 Elements, Autumn is the season that corresponds to the Metal element.
Autumn is the time of harvest and a time to start storing to prepare for Winter’s cold. After shedding their leaves or ripened fruits and seeds, plants die back or their energy retreats to their roots. Appropriately, Autumn’s abundant food is perfectly suited to help our body’s Qi move inward. This allows our bodies to have greater energy to fend off common ailments, a chance to replenish and provide the opportunity to embrace the season’s delights. During this season, I encourage clients to use foods and tonic herbs like ginseng and rhodiola (if they aren’t treating disharmonies where tonics are contraindicated) to help strengthen the body for the upcoming colder months.
Autumn is a wonderful time to clear out old habits that we no longer need–letting go of that which harms us. It’s a good to time to consolidate and begin storing energy. This might include resting more, or adjusting your exercise–take long walks, practice T’ai Chi or Qigong and include meditation into your routine.
Like all of the 5 Elements, each season has numerous correspondences that Chinese medicine practitioners use to identify patterns in clients, both physical and mental, emotion. Let’s look at a few major correspondence of Autumn.