Spring with Traditional Chinese Medicine – Part 1

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Despite the light snow falling out of my window, the first signs of spring are here. We can hear the birds, the crocuses are peaking through the earth and even the trees are waking up from this long winter.

Springtime is associated with the Wood element. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Wood element represents the Liver and the Gall Bladder. The Liver functions as the “official of strategic planning”. This is where we find our vision of the future. Spring is a time to renew, to encourage new growth and creativity. The Gall Bladder assists the Liver by giving us the ability to make decision and judge wisely. Without Wood’s vision and plan, decision and direction, no movement is possible- there is only frustration.

This Wood element organ is perhaps the most congested of all organ in the modern person. Too much fat, chemicals, intoxicants and denatured food all disrupt the hundreds of intricate biochemical process of the liver. Too much stress is as detrimental as poor nutrition. To help to unblock stuck energy, acupuncturist chose among hundreds of points. These truly help, especially during the transition from one season to the other. Nevertheless, there are many things that you can do for yourself for living in harmony with the spring season.

– Begin your day early, with a brisk walk. Start to spend more time outside, feel the sun on your face, take the time to look at nature waking up.

– Begin new things –at home, in your work and in yourself. During this season, Nature re-invents itself, follow the flow…

– Consider what you would like to implement in your life. The energy of spring brings vision. Take a chance.

Next week, we will look at the physical and nutritional approach to spring and how to transit safely to the new season.

Yours in Health,

Laurence

Arrowroot Sauce

Arrowroot sauce recipe

This taste so much better than the regular white sauce. I used it to make a “cauliflower gratin” (I added garlic and parsley for this) or a white fish gratin (add tarragon herb for taste)

Ingredients:    

1 teaspoon of arrowroot powder

1 cup of milk (I used unsweetened almond milk)

1 teaspoon of butter

1 little glass of white wine

2 Tablespoons of grated Swiss cheese

In a skillet, heat butter and add arrowroot powder to it. Slowly had the milk to the mixture and continue to stir. When the mixture thickens, add salt and pepper and remove from the heat.  While stirring, add your cheese and wine, salt and pepper to taste.

Chocolate Pudding with Arrowroot

Chocolate pudding

Ingredients:

1/3 cup arrowroot

 ¼ cup of raw cashews

  1 cup milk (I used almond milk)

  1/2 cup of sugar

  ½ cup of raw chocolate (or 1 semi-sweet chocolate bar grated)

    Vanilla to taste

   Water

  1. Combine arrowroot powder with water to make a thick paste and let it rest for 3 mn
  2. Meanwhile, you can powder the cashews with a strong blender, and grate the chocolate bar
  3. Combine the arrowroot paste with milk in a pan and bring to a boil
  4. Reduce flame and add cashews, sugar and chocolate. Once the mixture thickens a little, remove it form the heat, let it cool and serve.

 

Arrowroot and Chestnut Pancakes

Arrowroot and chestnut pancakes.

These were so good! They were moist with a very slight chestnut favor. Feel free to add blueberries, other berries or anything else you would like.

Ingredients:    

½ cup of chestnut flour

                                    ½ cup of Arrowroot powder

2 Tablespoons of sugar

1 teaspoon of baking powder

1 teaspoon of baking soda

2  Tablespoons of coconut oil (some people like to use butter instead)

1 egg

Salt to taste

  1. Add and mix the ingredients in the same order for the batter.
  2. Warm up a pan, add a little coconut oil to melt, before making your first pancake.

Creme d’Arrow

Crème d’arrow

This “drink” is for any child or adult coming out of a stomach virus. Not being able to “hold on” anything. Not much taste but a soothing action on the full digestive tract. This would also help in case of Urinary Tract infection.

Ingredients:     

1 Tablespoon of Arrow starch

1 cup of water

1 pinch of cinnamon or cardamom

  1. Put the arrowroot in a pan, add the water slowly, while mixing, to keep a smooth consistency. Bring the mix to a boil. Add a pinch of cinnamon or cardamom for taste (these spices are also excellent for digestion). Let it cool and drink it warm!

Arrowroot

Arrowroot

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(Maranta arundinacea)

While in vacations in St Martin last week, I was lucky enough to participate in the “Jollification of Arrowroot” organized by the Nature Valley Association of Colombier. The goal of the association is to preserve and share the heritage of St Martin. The traditional cultivation of arrowroot is passed down from mothers to grandmothers but Vivian Roberts, the president of Nature Valley Association of Columbier, sadly reported that the youngest generations tend to loose interest in this cultural staple. Arrowroot requires care. It is harvested around March. The cultivators dig up the root and replant new shoots at the same time. The roots are washed, peeled and pounded into a pulp. The pulp is rinsed with water few times and strained through a cloth. Once the water is removed, the starch is laid out to dry in the sun on big sheets.

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I didn’t know that Arrowroot was so much more than a thickener agent. First, you have to know that it is gluten free which makes it a very nice wheat replacement for sauces or puddings. It can also be cooked with water to nourish babies with a very sensitive stomach. Arrowroot has actually been used as an infant formula in the place of breast milk or to help the baby adjust after weaning. Compared to other starches, arrowroot is believed to be the easiest to digest. His demulcent properties also make this herb a mild laxative. It can also be used as a poultice for small pox sores, or acne and as an infusion to aid urinary tract infections. According to Vivian, the people of Columbier would clean their jewelry and starch their clothing with it. They also use the plant to alleviate nausea and to replenish nutrients lost through diarrhea and vomiting.

I really encourage you to try this gentle herb, especially as no side effects are linked to arrowroot and it is not known to have any adverse interactions with drugs according to Wikipedia.

How to Apply Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to our Everyday Life

It is actually very simple and based on common sense. According to TCM each season is associated to an element: water, fire, earth, wind or metal. Each of these elements is supported by two organs that are closely related. We are still in the winter. Its related element is the water and supporting organs: the kidneys and urinary bladder. Eating according to the season also means nourishing these two organs that are vulnerable at this time of the year. This is important as the water element strongly influences:

–        Our bones, especially those of our knees, low back and teeth;

–        Our ears and earing

–        Our hairs on the head

–        Our hormones and premature aging

An excellent way to nourish your water element is in the winter to regularly eat warm stews and soups. Here is a recipe of my favorite lentil soup. You could replace the lentils by any beans that you like. Enjoy!

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Ingredients:

–        1 bag of dry lentils

–        1 big onion

–        4/5 cloves of garlic

–        Herbs de Provence (thyme, laurel, lavender, marjoram) + fresh parsley

–        1 big carrot

–        2/3 celery branches

–        1 big tomato

–        Miso paste, pepper to taste

–        Olive oil

–        Chicken or vegetable broth quart

–        Turmeric and cilantro –to add at the end if you like the taste. Not necessary

Directions:

  1. In pressure cooker, sauté the onion, carrot, celery and garlic with a little olive oil.
  2. Mix about a tablespoon of miso with some chicken broth
  3. Add the lentils to the onion mix + Tomato + full 1.5 liter of chicken broth + miso/chicken broth mixture
  4. Add the herbs the Provence to taste
  5. Make sure that the lentils are well covered with liquid as otherwise they could burn during process.
  6. Cover pressure cooker and let cook at low temperature until you can hear the pressure. Then turn off heat and let the pot sit of about an hour.
  7. Soup is ready to eat. You could add a little of turmeric and cilantro in your plate.

How to Make a Good Cup of Green Tea

Green Tea

How to Make a Good Cup of Green Tea

It wasn’t just the taste of the tea that was unusual; it was what it was doing inside me. It was what I was experiencing in my body, my heart and my soul that made me pay attention. I moved over to the kitchen table and sat down. And there I sat, letting the tea wash over me.”

-The Spirit of Tea, Frank Hadley Murphy

 

Making a good cup of tea is an art that tea masters have developed over years of practice. But with few easy rules, we can also accomplish this -not so simple -task. Like in wine tasting, it is important to invite our senses to choose good loose leaves for green tea. Look at the color of the dry leaf. A green tea should not be black or brown as the oxidation process should not have deteriorated the color of the leaf. There should be a nice and fresh smell too. Some Japanese green teas are so fresh that you could almost recognize the smell of grass. My favorites are the Chinese jasmine green teas. The light floral smell touches me deeply. My full being wakes up gently to a new day.

The next important component is the water. Do not use tap water. The harsh chemicals of the water would destroy the delicate flavor of your tea, plus do you really want to ingest chlorine, fluoride regularly? You can use distilled or purified water. Your next step is the water temperature. Never boil your water; it would scorch your leaves. Green tea is ideally brewed at 160ᵒ F for 3 to 5mn. It’s better to steep delicate teas a little longer using water at a lower temperature then it is to force the leaves to gives up their essence with high temperature and end up with a bitter brew.

You are now ready to pick up your favorite cup and savor your tea. But just before that, a tea master. a long time ago, shared with me her personal daily ritual that I am now passing down to you: Gently turn your cup and make your tea circle twice: once for peace on earth and once for peace in you.

 

Enjoy!

The Year of the Snake

Year of the Snake

The operative word for the year is integrity. Begin with the self.

Divest yourself of the illusions that hold you back. The truths you discover become your most powerful ally. Own the truths so that you may grow and thrive. The way you treat your body; how you speak to yourself; the way you might use judgments to separate yourself from people.

Most important – express gratitude for all that has been given to you.

Take the time to ponder and appreciate all that is and all that was. Guided by desire, commitment and intention are the fuels that propel you into a future that is all you would like it to be.
The Snake is a lover of knowledge and truth. Re-awaken intellectual pursuits. Read some books; an inspiring way to overcome lazy thinking. Investigate the world in a way that you haven’t before. What you discover will surprise, delight and even empower you.

Any kind of educational experience, whether it be learning new manual or technical skills or simply leading to self-improvement is greatly encouraged.

Examine your most intimate relationships. The Snake’s fixed element is fire. Matters of the heart are re-energized this Year. If you are looking, you may well meet that special one. If already involved, passions can be re-kindled explosively. Honesty and fidelity are the catalysts and are required.