Did you know that many holiday spices are actually medicinal herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine? You’ll be absolutely thrilled and delighted when you discover the healing benefits of these herbs. You’ll feel like you’re five years old again unwrapping a present for the first time.
Okay, maybe it’s not THAT exciting. However, it’s actually pretty cool and interesting how these festive flavours can help heal your body. Once you learn what they’re good for, you’ll never look at these spices again in the same way.
Since it’s the holidays and I’m supposed to be on vacation right now, I’ll focus on the benefits of these herbs as they relate to the holiday season. However, they have many more uses than what’s listed here.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, herbs are categorized by different properties such as temperature and taste, and they also influence different energy meridians in the body.
I was amazed when I put this article together because it turns out that these seasonal spices are a perfect match for holiday get-togethers. Whoever came up with these traditional recipes was a genius!
- Chinese Name: Gui Zhi
- Properties: Acrid, Sweet, Warm
- Channels Entered: Heart, Lung, Bladder
Gui Zhi, commonly known as cinnamon is considered to be a warm herb which helps counteract the effects of wind-cold. This is “Chinese medicine speak” for the common cold. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, colds are classified into one of two categories, wind-cold and wind-heat.
The course of treatment depends on which type of cold you have and the treatments are completely opposite of each other. That’s why you’ll find that one person’s sworn remedy for a cold doesn’t work for you or what does the trick one time may not work another time. Wind-cold and wind-heat are a whole other article which you can read about in What Colour Is Your Snot?
Cinnamon enters into the Heart and Lung meridians and warms Yang energy in the chest. This is especially beneficial if you have phlegm in your lungs that is making you cough.
- Chinese Name: Sheng Jiang
- Properties: Acrid, Slightly Warm
- Channels Entered: Lung, Spleen, Stomach
Ginger, also known as Sheng Jiang has two awesome functions that are especially useful during the holidays. First, it’s like cinnamon in that it’s a warm herb that enters the Lung channel. It’s good for tackling a wind-cold cold because it helps to break up constricted Lung Qi that can cause mucous to gather in your lungs.
Ginger’s second benefit is that it helps relieve nausea and vomiting due to “stomach cold.” What’s that you may ask? Well, let’s just say when it’s cold outside and you’re licking the spoon after devouring a huge bowl of egg nog-flavoured ice cream, it might not be so surprising if your stomach doesn’t feel so good afterwards. That’s “stomach cold”.
- Chinese Name: Bo He
- Properties: Acrid, Cool
- Channels Entered: Lung, Liver
Bo He, also known as mint is a cool herb that can help soothe a sore throat. In Chinese medicine, a sore throat is caused by heat in the body that is directed upwards towards the throat. The cooling property of mint helps to clear the heat to give you relief from a sore throat.
Mint also helps to soothe what is referred to as damp-heat accumulation in the abdomen. While this primarily occurs in the summer, you can also get damp-heat from eating too many spicy foods or too much food with hot properties. Similar to herbs, foods can be classified by temperature, but this doesn’t usually refer to the actual physical temperature so a hot cup of peppermint tea would still be considered to be cooling.
It should go without saying that sucking on a candy cane does not have the same healing benefits as a nice cup of peppermint tea :).
- Chinese Name: Ding Xiang
- Properties: Acrid, Warm
- Channels Entered: Kidney, Spleen, Stomach
Cloves also known as Ding Xiang (translation: spike fragrance) are considered to be a warm herb which enters the Spleen and Stomach meridians.
Cloves warm the Middle Jiao which is the middle portion of the body that includes the stomach, spleen, liver, pancreas and gallbladder. This makes this holiday favourite an excellent stomach soother for abdominal pain or vomiting due to stomach-cold.
5. Citrus Peel
- Chinese Name: Chen Pi
- Properties: Acrid, Bitter, Warm
- Channels Entered: Lung, Spleen
Chen Pi refers to dried citrus peels, specifically orange and tangerine peels. Chen Pi belongs to a category of herbs known as Qi regulating herbs. Throughout your body, Qi is supposed to flow a certain way. When Qi is not flowing as it should, these herbs can help send it back in the right direction.
Chen Pi regulates Stomach and Spleen Qi which helps with indigestion, gas and bloating.
- Chinese Name: Rou Dou Kou
- Properties: Acrid, Warm
- Channels Entered: Large Intestine, Spleen, Stomach
I don’t know why, but the Chinese name for nutmeg makes me smile. Rou Dou Kou warms the Middle Jiao and helps regulate Qi. This makes it really good for a cold feeling in the abdomen, pain, discomfort, indigestion and bloating.
By now, you may have noticed a common thread to these holiday spices. This is the time of year when we get together with friends and family and usually enjoy a hearty feast. For readers living in the northern hemisphere (myself included), it’s also wintertime.
These festive flavourful herbs are great for soothing digestion especially if you eat too much over the holidays. As well, when you throw 20 people together in a room over winter and mix in some kids, you’ve got a recipe for spreading germs faster than you can spread butter on your dinner roll.
So bundle up, look after yourself, celebrate with your loved ones and try not to eat too much. But when you do, enjoy every single bite!
I wish you and your family a happy and healthy holiday season. I also have a holiday gift for you. If you’re not already a subscriber to my newsletter, Amazing Feet, sign up today for awesome tips and information on self-healing for the body, mind, heart and spirit. You’ll get free Chinese Reflexology foot charts and a series of mini online lessons on how to find and clear energy blocks in your body to improve your overall health and well-being. Now that’s a gift that will benefit you for a lifetime!
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