How To: Nourish your Feminine Energy through TCM
The actual term “traditional Chinese medicine” can be misleading, as “medicine” in the Western sense treats symptoms as they arise. TCM, really, is a way of life – a holistic paradigm that focuses on maintaining and supporting optimal health and well-being, thereby preventing sickness and disease. TCM takes into consideration your body’s constitution, stage of life, current imbalances, stress levels, your mental and emotional health. It also includes being mindful of the seasons, and aware, of your body’s rhythms and consuming food and beverages that support that. This includes incorporating adaptogens – certain superfoods and herbs – as part of our everyday diet, which help our bodies adapt and cope with stress.
Nourishing our yin energy is an important concept in TCM. Yin is our feminine, restorative energy. It can get easily depleted by stress in all forms, whether it be emotional, environmental, or nutritional stress, etc. Yang is our masculine, action-oriented energy. We need both to be in balance and to manifest good health. With today’s socially acceptable culture of busy-ness, we are often susceptible to rushing about with work and other commitments, instead of resting and relaxing. Women, being more yin in nature, can be more affected by this current way of life. Feeling energetic but tiring quickly, insomnia, irritability, dry skin, infertility, dull headaches, low libido and constipation could all be symptoms of Yin deficiency.
Yin includes our jing (directly translated as “essence”), which is given to us by our parents. Jing is essentially our battery pack for our life. When we use up the battery, it doesn’t get replenished. It’s highly important to conserve Jing and nourish our yin. Coping with too much stress basically leads to the leakage and loss of jing and yin. This is where including superfoods in our diet can be supportive in resisting, and possibly reversing, the damaging effects of stress. Diet is one way to support our yin energy. Managing our stress, including making time for meditation, slowing down, and dedicating yourself to device-free days can also help. These pantry staples can support you in nourishing and nurturing your yin – and while it can seem like only a seasoned herbal pharmacists know how to deal with the scripts written by TCM doctors and practitioners, these are easy solutions that any urban professional can easily incorporate into his or her diet without too much thought, preparation or culinary expertise.
Black Sesame Seeds
I discovered the benefits of seeing black sesame seeds during my postpartum period to help promote lactation, and now I always make sure to keep a jar at home. If I feel run-down, with clammy hands and feet, I’ll heat up oat milk, add in two heaping teaspoons of ground black sesame seeds, stir it well (or use a frother) and curl up on the couch with a mug to unwind before bed. Black sesame is neutral and nourishing, known to replenish qi and blood, and to improve circulation. It makes sense that from a TCM perspective it helps replenish the blood, as it’s full of iron, vitamin B and healthy fats. The ground black sesame seeds are also easy to add into chia seed puddings or smoothies and bake well into cookies and cakes – or sprinkle into vanilla ice-cream for an after-dinner treat. The fibre content in the seeds make them great for digestion, too.
Rosebud tea is ideal for women who suffer from “cold” in their body, or qi stagnation – basically, when things don’t feel like they are flowing – as it is warming in nature. “Stagnation” can manifest as depression, anxiety or even menstrual pain. Rosebuds are not only great for emotional balance, but are also cleansing, which make for an ideal detox tea for springtime as well. They’re rich in antioxidants and used in TCM to support healthy menstruation. Steep a teaspoon of dried rosebuds in hot water for five minutes and enjoy. Or steep the buds along with a black tea for a rose-flavoured Darjeeling.
Dried goji berries, otherwise known as wolfberries, are yin in nature. Packed with antioxidants and medicinal properties, they are considered beneficial for strengthening the body while also being anti-ageing, supporting vision and easing life through the seasons. Throw a handful into your overnight oats, or steep with ginger for a warming tea. You can also sprinkle them into salads and soups, or sauté them with green veggies such as spinach.
Snow fungus, or white fungus, is a wonderful source of plant-based collagen, so much so that it’s also known as the “poor man’s bird’s nest”. It has a gelatinous texture and a high amount of polysaccharides, which are known for immune-boosting qualities. Snow fungus is also recognised for its anti-inflammatory properties, its ability to soothe dry coughs, and the way it can support a radiant complexion. Simply soak the dried snow fungus overnight to re-hydrate, trim away the tough yellow portion, tear into small pieces and add into a savory chicken soup, or a dessert tea with Chinese red dates (jujube), Asian pear and dried goji berries. After soaking, snow fungus blends well with smoothies, too.
This grain doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. Known as the “queen of all grains” in TCM, millet is easily digestible, purported to help build yin fluids, nourish qi and harmonise the body. It’s considered alkalizing and has a high amino-acid profile. Millet is gluten-free with a lower G.I index than other grains. Keep a portion of cooked millet in the fridge and add it to soups and salads, or start your day with a simple and nourishing millet congee simmered with a broth of your choice, with shiitake mushrooms and/or kabocha squash.