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angeliniby Nancy Angelini

If one were to look up the term bacteriocins or fermented media in PUBMED, one would find over 5000 citations indicating the wide range of actions by these compounds that are, essentially, a by-product of fermentation. These exudates from beneficial bacteria are a vast array of compounds that many of us are familiar with as nutraceuticals in their isolated forms.

So much of our attention is on the bacteria themselves that we forget to see beyond and into the materials and compounds left over after the bacteria have done their work and expired.

In some ways we take for granted those by-products because the media is so familiar. Yogurt, miso, kefir, shoyu, kombucha, Kimchi -- the list goes on. On closer inspection of this media it is astonishing to find a kaleidoscope of compounds that are touted to be some of our most interesting and powerful nutraceuticals. For example, B-12, CoQ10, Glutathione, Lipoic Acid, Super Oxide Dismutase, SAM-e, Butyrate and N-Acetyl Cysteine to name only a few.

The type of bacteria as well as the food or growth substrate will determine the type of compounds, their volume and their assimilability by humans.

In essence, the focus is on the 'media' or the cultured food or the end product of fermentation. One could argue that some of the most nutritive, easily digested and healing of foods are cultured. However, it is by virtue of the metabolites and exudates of the beneficial bacteria devouring, utilizing and excreting 'stuff' from some food source back into its environment that a multitude of health supporting chemistries is conferred back to the environment or to the host of that bacteria.

In absolute truth, this is the process of our digestion. In most cases, we look to digestive enzymes as the springboard to the human body's ability to make nutrients available to our cells, tissues and fluids. We somehow conveniently forget that our bodies are actually fermentation containers. This part of our body is anaerobic (without oxygen) and is a closed container that allows our beneficial bacteria to masterfully complete the job of disassembling and reassembling the raw materials we have supplied to them. Our Lactobacillus species do the heavy lifting for our bodies if we allow them to. Of course how well they function is up to us and the food or substrate choices we make for our beneficial bacteria. In this way we are in a symbiotic relationship with a world we cannot see with the naked eye.

It is this marriage of varying substrates with varying beneficial bacterial species that creates a world unto itself. Any of these worlds such as yogurt, or miso, or natto, or sauerkraut and even apple cider vinegar can be studied endlessly for its cornucopia of synergistic, health promoting and supporting compounds.

In fact it is the wisdom of the ancients that have truly mined the life extending rewards of ferment metabolites. Fermentation starters are gleaned from the end process of a finished cultured product. Thus the 'end result' becomes the 'beginning seed.'

Below are a few excerpts from choice studies on fermented foods as well as a short list of some of the best-known ferment metabolites.

There are numerous studies showing fermentation of food with lactobacilli increase the quantity, availability, digestibility, and assimilability of nutrients. '”Lactic Acid Bacteria and Human Health, Tufts Univ. School of Medicine 1990

These data suggest that miso [fermented soy] consumption may be a factor producing a lower breast cancer incidence in Japanese women. '”Nutr Cancer 1990, Department of Nutrition, U. of Alabama

Butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid produced during microbial fermentation of fiber, induces growth arrest, differentiation, and apoptosis of colonic epithelial cells in vitro'¦. Colonic turmorigenesis is characterized by abnormalities in proliferation, apoptosis, and mitochondrial activities.  Thus, butyrate may reduce risk for colon cancer by inducing a pathway that enhances mitochondrial function, ultimately resulting in initiation of growth arrest and apoptosis of colonic epithelial cells. '”Cell Growth Diff 1997, Albert Einstein Cancer Center, New York

Changes in the vitamin content of cereals with fermentation vary according to the fermentation process, and the raw material used in the fermentation.  B group vitamins generally show an increase on fermentation. '”'Fermented Cereals: A Global Perspective' FAO Bulletin No. 138, United Nations, Rome 1999

Partial List of Beneficial Compounds Created by Fermentation (Ferment Metabolites)


S-Adenosyl Methionine (SAM or SAM-e; pronounced "sammy") is an amino acid produced naturally in all animals. In the human body SAM is known to be essential to at least 35 biochemical processes, including maintaining the structure of cell membranes and manufacturing substances vital to transmitting nerve impulses and influencing emotions and moods.

Antimicrobial Peptides

Also called host defense peptides) These peptides are potent, broad-spectrum antibiotics, which demonstrate potential as novel therapeutic agents. Antimicrobial peptides have been demonstrated to kill Gram negative and Gram-positive bacteria (including strains that are resistant to conventional antibiotics), mycobacterium, viruses, fungi and even transformed cancerous cells. Unlike the majority of conventional antibiotics it appears as though antimicrobial peptides may also have the ability to enhance immunity by functioning as immunomodulators.


Adenosine 5'-triphosphate is a multifunctional nucleotide that is most important as a "molecular currency" of intracellular energy transfer. In this role ATP transports chemical energy within cells.


Toxins produced by bacteria to inhibit the growth of similar or closely related bacterial strain(s).   Bacteriocins are of interest in medicine because they are made by non-pathogenic bacteria that normally colonize the human body. Loss of these harmless bacteria following antibiotic use may allow opportunistic pathogenic bacteria to invade the human body.

Beta Glucans

The Beta-1,3-(D)-glucan with Beta- 1,6-glucan linkage extracted from yeast cell wall (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) has been shown to act as a potent non-specific immune-activator.  Beta glucan is a scientifically proven biological defense modifier that nutritionally potentiates and modulates the immune response.  Beta glucan is ingested primarily through macrophage and dendritic immune cells, to nutritionally and safely yield, through immune response potentiation and modulation, in many instances various therapeutic healing effects generated by the immune cells.  For many years Glucans have been investigated for these immune enhancing properties, particularly their ability to activate macrophage immune cells and NK-Cells, plus in turn, the T-Cells and B-Cells include selected cytokines.


Microorganisms produce potent surface-active agents which vary in their chemical             properties and molecular size. These complex molecules include peptides, fatty acids, phospholipids, glycolipids, antibiotics, lipopeptides, etc.


The biotin complex of yeast, a peptide yielding biotin and lysine when hydrolyzed.


A water-soluble B vitamin that plays an important role in metabolizing the energy we get from food.  Assists four essential enzymes that break down fats, carbohydrates, and proteins.  Also known as vitamin H or B7.

Coenzyme A

A coenzyme present in all living cells that functions as an acytl group carrier and is necessary for fatty acid synthesis and oxidation, pyruvate oxidation, and other acetylation reactions.

Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)

Derived from Omega 6, suppresses an enzyme that breaks down and stores fat from the diet.


An amino acid containing sulfur that is found in most proteins oxidize on exposure to air to form cysteine.  It is an important precursor in the production of glutathione in the body and other organisms.


Flavin adenine dinucleotide, is used by organisms to carry out energy requiring processes. It is a coenzyme that is a derivative of riboflavin and functions in certain oxidation-reduction reactions in the body.

Folic Acid

A water-soluble B vitamin essential in the human diet. It is an important cofactor in the synthesis of DNA and RNA of dividing cells, particularly during pregnancy and infancy when there is an increase in cell division and growth.


A major antioxidant highly active in human lungs and many other organ systems and tissues.  It has a critical role in protecting cells from oxidative stress and maintaining the immune system.

GTF Chromium

A trace mineral that plays a role in regulating blood sugar levels.  GTF works with insulin to transport glucose from the blood into the cells.  The liver also needs chromium to manufacture fatty acids, lecithin, cholesterol and lipoproteins. Without chromium, blood fats tend to rise because the liver cannot filter them out.

Hydrogen Peroxide

In the body, hydrogen peroxide shows up in the lysisomes of cells as a function of our immunity. It is used to purify, change pH, and kill invading microbes.

Immune-enhancing Peptides

Any of various natural compounds containing two or more amino acids linked by the carboxyl group of one amino acid and the amino group of another enhance the immune response.

Lactic Acid

The end product of bacterial fermentation.

Lipoic Acid

Able to scavenge reactive oxygen species and has been shown in cell culture experiments to increase cellular uptake of glucose, suggesting its use in diabetes.  Studies of rat aging have suggested that the use of L-carnitine and lipoic acid results in improved memory performance and delayed structural mitochondrial decay. As a result, it may be helpful for people with Alzheimer's disease or Parkinson's disease.


An enzyme capable of destroying the cell walls of certain bacteria and thereby acting as a mild antiseptic.


Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADP+) are two important cofactors found in cells.  NADH is used extensively in glycolysis and the citric acid cycle of cellular respiration; in contrast NADPH is required for the biosynthesis of nucleic acids and fatty acids.


A more potent form of vitamin B5 than pantothenic acid.


A polymer found in the cell walls of prokaryotes (bacteria) that consists of polysaccharide and peptide chains in a strong molecular network.


A phospholipid that is a major component of cellular membranes and functions in the transport of lipoproteins in tissues.  In biochemistry, lecithin is usually used as a synonym for pure phosphatidylcholine


Any of a group of phospholipids that occur especially in blood plasma and in the white matter of the central nervous system called also cephalin.


A minor phospholipid component of eukaryotic (animals, plants and fungi) cell membranes.


A phospholipid nutrient found in fish, green leafy vegetables, soybeans and rice, and is      essential for the normal functioning of neuronal (nerve cells and nerve fibers) cell membranes.


A B vitamin that is essential for metabolism of amino acids and starch [vitamin B6]


A crystalline amine of the vitamin B6 group that in the form of its phosphate is active as a coenzyme.

Pyridoxamine Phosphate

A member of the vitamin B6 group.  It is necessary in the processes to metabolize            proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, to make hormones and neurotransmitters, and to support the immune system. It also plays a role in the production of normal, healthy red blood cells and some of the neurotransmitters needed for proper nervous system function.


A newly discovered, broad-spectrum antimicrobial substance produced by Lactobacillus during fermentation.

Teichoic Acid

A polymer of ribitol or glycerol phosphate with additional compounds such as glucose linked to the backbone of the polymer; found in the cell walls of some bacteria. Evidence suggests teichoic acid may act as a bacteriophage receptor, however, this has not yet been conclusively proven. The main function of teichoic acids is to provide rigidity to the cell-wall by attracting cations such as magnesium and sodium.

Unidentified ACE Inhibitors

Inhibitors of Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme, that cause vasodilatation and are used to treat hypertension and heart failure.

Unidentified Antimutagens

A substance that reduces or interferes with the mutagenic effects of another substance.

Vitamin B1 (thiamin)

Of the vitamin B complex, found in meat, yeast, and the bran coat of grains, and necessary for carbohydrate metabolism and normal neural activity.

Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)

Provides essential factors for the production of cellular enzymes that turn proteins, fats, and carbohydrates into energy. It also participates in cell reproduction, and keeps skin, hair, nails, eyes, and mucous membranes healthy.

Vitamin B3 (nicotinic acid)

A B vitamin essential for the normal function of the nervous system and the gastrointestinal tract.  Also known as niacin.

Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)

It is an essential ingredient of two substances, coenzyme A and acetyl carrier protein, which are needed to metabolize carbohydrates and fats. The same coenzymes play a part in production of certain hormones, vitamin D, red blood cells, and the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Pantothenic acid is necessary for proper growth and development.

Vitamin B12

Cobalamin, also known as B12, is a key factor in the body's proper use of iron and formation of red blood cells. The nervous system also relies on an adequate supply of cobalamin to function appropriately, as it is an essential component in the creation and maintenance of the myelin sheath that lines nerve cells.

Vitamin B13 (orotic acid)

A growth factor for certain bacteria

Volatile Fatty Acids

These are fatty acids with a carbon chain of 6 carbons or fewer. These are a class of very important fatty acids such as acetic, butyric, capric, undecyclic, propionate, palmitic and stearic. These fatty acids are the product of proper fermentation and are critical to the overall health of any organism.

  • Acetic- formed when bacteria interact with the alcohol present in fermented solutions.
  • Propionic- A liquid fatty acid found naturally as a product of bacterial fermentation
  • Butyric- Butyrate is produced as end-product of a fermentation process of fibers with specific fatty acids. A good example in food rich with this is ghee.


An isoflavone with antimutagenic activity found in fermented soy.


An isoflavone with antimutagenic activity found in fermented soy.


An isoflavone with free radical-scavenging and antiproliferative activity found in fermented soy.

Sarah Holland
Director of the East West Herb Course in the U.K.

Throughout life our needs change, that is part of the continuous cycle and continual striving for balance. Balance is the key in life and this includes the food we eat. Making changes in our lives, whether this is following a more spiritual path or regaining balance from disease will in event necessitate a change in our diet and food. The food we intake is also a source of prana outside of the air we breathe, so therefore our food choices should be an important consideration in our everyday life. Using food therapy as an integral part of our work in health and healing requires us to maintain flexibility and openness when dealing with such issues.

There has been much media press about diet and food over the years, creating immense confusion. Different diets purport different things and today we see such diets as the Hay system, F plan etc. We also have diets for a way of life, such as macrobiotics or a yogic more sattvic diet. I remember as a child my mother going on a high protein, low carbohydrate diet and being perpetually hungry! Certainly there are highly processed, refined foods on the market with no life force that are not necessary in our diet.

Protein has come under much controversy: eating too much, too little, attribution to disease and what is best for us. It always concerned me greatly when teaching Vegetarian cookery how many people decide to give up meat and fish, consume too much dairy and eggs and have no understanding of vegetable proteins, their importance in the diet or how to combine them; this is how the following article came about! Part 1 examines how protein is made, its function in the body, terms used and a brief overview of the digestive process. Part 2 will discuss protein from the viewpoint of Chinese, Ayurvedic and Western nutrition, patterns in excess and deficiency and making change, considering foods from both a chemical constituent viewpoint and a holistic, energetic approach.

The word protein is derived from Greek and means '˜holding the first place'. Proteins hold the first place in the building and maintaining of all living things and without them no life can exist. It has two main functions in the body, it is used as a building and repair material for tissues and organs, eg. skin, hair, muscles, liver and in the formation of hormones, enzymes and antibodies.

There are many types of protein including, animal protein, plant protein, human protein amongst a few. They can all be made from the same 20 amino acids in long multiple chains. These can be arranged in any order and there maybe several hundred amino acids in a single protein molecule.

The body can produce many of the 20 amino acids but there are eight essential amino acids that the body relies on from foods for its source, namely, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine. Children also require two further amino acids, histidine and arginine. Each of these amino acids have their own specific function, as do the other less essential amino acids for example GABA and tyrosine, which are also essential to health.

There are several terms used to describe protein which are as follows:

First Class protein or Complete protein, these are of animal sources, meat, fish, dairy, eggs. They have a good balance of the essential amino acids and are in similar proportions to those found in human tissues, muscles and organs.

Net Protein Utilisation (NPU) or biological value is the term used to describe the percentage of protein which is actually available to the body. Eggs and human breast milk have the highest NPU ratings of all foods and are therefore classified as complete protein.

Second Class protein or Incomplete protein are vegetable proteins, which are grains, nuts, pulses and seeds. They are classified as incomplete protein because these foods by themselves are low in one or more of the essential amino acids. These amino acids are called limited amino acids because they reduce the NPU of that protein. To obtain the essential amino acids from vegetable proteins in good proportion they need to be combined together, for example grains contain alot of tryptophan and not much lysine whereas pulses contain a lot of lysine but not much tryptophan so by combining grains and pulses together gives a good balance. The best combinations of vegetable proteins are grains and pulses, pulses and nuts.

Soya bean and soya bean products, for example tofu, are also a complete protein of vegetable source. However, strictly speaking the soya bean is slightly low in the amino acid methionine and therefore to combine with other vegetable protein for example a grain will enhance the quality of protein.

Concentrated Protein is a term we often hear within Alternative Medicine and it is referring to complete protein, meat, fish, dairy, eggs.

Protein metabolism is complex therefore I am going to give a brief overview. Proteins are converted by the enzymes of the gastric, pancreatic and intestinal juices into amino acids. They are absorbed by the villi of the small intestine and carried by the portal vein to the liver. The waste products of protein metabolism are urea and to a lesser extent uric acid and creatinine.

Some plant protein is not suitable for building and repairing and therefore is converted to glucose in the liver or urea. The glucose is either stored in the liver or used as fuel. This is not a substitute for carbohydrate energy giving foods such as grains. Animal sources of protein are more fully utilised than plant protein.

For the full utilisation of protein, a good balance of the essential amino acids is required from our food so that the function of protein is carried out. Secondly, carbohydrate is necessary. If protein is ingested by itself or with inadequate carbohydrate, it will be used for energy giving, which is the main function of carbohydrate. This highlights the necessity for a good carbohydrate/protein balance in the diet. Persistant low carbohydrate intake where protein is being used for energy is seen in cases of starvation, anorexia, overall weakness in the body, poor skin, loss of hair and poor absorption and digestion.

Protein Part 2

I ask myself, why do I leave things to the last minute? Its either a mad rush or for a reason. In this case writing Part 2 of the article on Protein has been for a reason, it has given me time for reflection and a time to look closer at new sources of nutritional information.

The aim of the NACNE report in 1983 was to present guidelines for the British diet that would result in better health and thereby reduce the incidence of such disease as angina, strokes, heart attacks, gallstones, diverticulitis, cancer of the colon, constipation, obesity and dental carries. There were recommended dietary changes with specific emphasis on less fat (especially saturated), less salt and sugar, more unrefined whole carbohydrate, less alcohol, which meant looking much closer at our food choices. This was left wide open for interpretation and resulted in overly high carbohydrate diets with little protein complement, low fat and an increased consumption of raw cold food. It was also a time when many people decided to become vegetarian which continues to grow.

But what about the long term effects? Today we are seeing people with fatigue, feelings of ungroundness, mood swings, sweet cravings, weight gain, increasing candidiasis, PMS, gluten problems and so forth. Our diets are out of balance! The balance between the macro-nutrients, carbohydrate, protein and fat needs to be re-evaluated, which in real terms means eating less carbohydrate foods, more protein and more fat! It is not being suggested that we increase our consumption of saturated fats, but look closer at the intricate relationship between fats and the essential fatty acids. This article focus' on the carbohydrate, protein balance and why the ratios between these need to be changed. The Fats, Essential Fatty Acids (EFA's) and the energetic perspective will be looked at in the next Newsletter.

Carbohydrate foods give us energy, they are more yang and balancing in nature whereas protein foods repair, rebuild and are more yin and nurturing in nature.

We need to be concerned with which carbohydrate foods to eat. There are simple and complex carbohydrates, which we know as empty and full sweet in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. The simple carbohydrates are sugars, table sugar, natural sweeteners such as honey; fructose found in fruits, fruit juice; lactose found in milk, ice cream. Complex carbohydrates are found in starches, grains, starchy vegetables such as potato; legumes, beans and peas; vegetables such as broccoli, asparagus, carrots. Simple carbohydrates give more instant energy, but this burst of energy can be relatively short then we crash and need more. Complex carbohydrates sustain us for longer.

Lets look closer at the complex carbohydrate foods which we have been encouraged to eat more of. What has occurred is an over consumption of foods such as pasta, cereals such as muesli and bread products, frequently served with tomato sauce and salad, to the neglect of whole protein complement.

These foods are made from the whole grain and many today are highly processed. Because of the nutritional guidelines on fats, these are being removed from many products and frequently replaced with simple sugars. In a round about way we could be continuing to ingest rather high levels of simple sugars in our diets, so what is this doing?

Nutritional thoughts to the digestion and metabolism of carbohydrates are looking at highly processed carbohydrates, discussed in the previous paragraph in the same light as simple sugars.

All carbohydrates are converted to glucose, which is used for energy and goes to the muscles or fat cells. If it is not used right away it is stored in the liver as glycogen. The more active you are the more glycogen you will use. There are also paired sets of endocrine hormones in the body, the two released from the pancreas are insulin and glucagon.

Insulin drives blood sugar levels down, whilst glucagon has the opposite effect. So we can see that the more carbohydrate we eat the more insulin that is released, the blood sugar level drops fatigue sets in and we need more. A condition known as insulin resistance, where both insulin levels and blood sugar levels remain high because the target cells no longer respond to the insulin results in the accumulation of excess body fat.

These two hormones, insulin and glucagon play an important role in both weight loss and gain. It is now recognised that a large proportion of overweight people may have a carbohydrate intolerance and such links are being looked at more closely in those who have chronic yeast problems. It can also give onset to diabetes.

Protein also plays a vital part in regulating the hormone glucagon and the Essential Fatty Acids in the metabolism of insulin. Dr Jenkins and Dr Wolever analyzed many different carbohydrate foods to see what the effect on blood sugar was, the relation between the test food and the glucose effects in the body is called the Glycemic Index.

Some people will have no problem with carbohydrate foods and insulin, however awareness of the wider perspective on carbohydrate foods is very helpful to us when we are considering food choices. Rebalancing our macro-nutrients is the key. Carbohydrate, protein, fat balances have become extreme, which when looking at a daily food intake would show the foods consumed centred around carbohydrate meals, with a small amount of protein and minimal fat intake. It is important to re-emphasise for the body to make and utilise protein the foods eaten need to have good proportions of the eight essential amino acids as was discussed in Part 1.

How much protein do we need? To suggest 50-100g per day is not as simple as it sounds. We need to consider the composition of the protein, meat contains the eight essential amino acids, has no fibre, is high in saturated fat and will be more available to the body in terms of protein than a limited vegetable protein which is high in fibre and low in fat, (beneficial to us in otherways). This hi lights how necessary it is with vegetable proteins to eat good protein complement at each meal. Considering foods in terms of calories is of little help to us, the only thing we can say is that if we intake more calories per day than our energy output the excess will be stored as body fat. Neither of these take in to account optimal health, how we actually would like to feel, constitutional types, imbalances, lifestyle and so forth.

Carbohydrates to encourage in the diet are fresh vegetables both roots and leafy, fruit, legumes (beans and peas), and whole grains (such as rice and barley). The fibre in these foods is more soluble and easier for the digestive tract to manage than fibre from wheat/rye products which can be more irritating. More people today are showing sensitivities to gluten found in some whole grains and whilst these foods are excellent for us, consume in moderation. Some diets over the past years have purported 4-6 helpings per day. This is excessive and can exacerbate the body with over elimination. This also applies to fruit.

Protein needs are greater in children, the elderly, pregnancy, lactating women, surgery/post operative, high energy output activity, such as athletes

Protein foods are better eaten individually than in a cocktail. Milk particularly is better taken by itself (warmed, not cold) as its such a concentrated source of protein. Protein foods do not mix well with fruit, the fruit undermines the digestion of the protein. Some people tolerate milk protein with grains, generally meat and fish with grains is harder to digest.

So what protein sources are best for us to eat? Since the NACNE report the following food choices have been encouraged but there are some new nutritional thoughts which I shall just touch on. White meat (eg chicken, without the skin), fish both white and oily (eg haddock and sardines), low fat dairy products! such as skimmed milk, tofu, grains (eg rice, millet), beans (eg mung, aduki), nuts and seeds (eg sunflower, almonds). In addition to this there are products not so widely used, tempeh, seitan and processed products such as quorn and other soya products on the market. Meat, such as lamb and beef, full fat dairy and eggs have tended to be given bad press and many people have either cut these out of their diets or greatly reduced them.

The Western view on food does not consider excess/deficiency patterns, hot/cold, taste, flavour or how individual foods can be used for specific imbalances. There is the wider perspective, the emotions (physical,emotional,spiritual balance), methods of cooking, seasons and so on.

Current nutritional thinking and the foods we eat are drawing us back to the 'hunting and gathering man' and how we evolved.We can look at protein foods eaten then such as wild game, fish, insects, to the far greater range of foods now available since the advent of modern day agriculture. The other relationship is to do with fats. Meat hunted by our ancestors contained structural fat, whereas meat from farming today contain storage fat. We have also seen a decline in the consumption of fish which has attributed to the EFA imbalance, both of these aspects we will looker closer at in the next Newsletter.

Shasta Tierra L.Ac., AHG

Do you eat the same food year round? Do you experience low energy after eating certain food? Have you wondered why when you've hardly eaten any calories you still have a hard time losing weight and eventually just keep gaining?

Traditional Chinese Medicine has a unique way of energetically looking at food that is not a part of our standard western concept nutrition. Besides the known macro and micro nutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals, etc.) energetically, by their seasonal growth, color, textures and flavors, whole foods have a stimulatory effect on innate organic functions.

Being 4000 years old, TCM is a highly effective form of medicine practiced throughout the world. It not only includes acupuncture, herbology, moxibustion (heat therapy) and QI Gong (exercise therapy), it also includes food therapy as one of its primary modalities! In the old days in China, the acupuncturist's (TCM practitioners) job was to keep their patients well. If their patients fell sick they didn't get paid, So education and participation in all aspects of their patients' health was of utmost importance, and food was and still is right at the top of the list.

Many patients complain of allergies, migraines, addiction to coffee, cigarettes, sugar, fatigue, stress and diverse other acute and chronic complaints, I always ask them "What do you eat? How often do you eat? When do you eat?" etc.

So frequently, I have discovered patients who eat only two meals a day -- usually completely skipping breakfast or just having a couple cups of coffee first thing in the a.m.. At that, this may consist of sugary things perhaps with an occasional serving of vegetables such as a salad. This is topped off during the afternoon off with ice cold sodas, coffee and perhaps in the evening with a couple glasses of wine or beer. Because they may have eaten a salad, they may think that they eat well. For some, if I ask if they ate any protein, they answer "I had some pasta, or oatmeal," which of course is not protein. It never fails to amaze me how little time people spend thinking about what, when, where, and how they eat.

If we truly consider the Hippocratic dictum of letting our medicine be our food, and our food be our medicine, then most of us are greatly depriving ourselves of important therapeutic foods. Despite this, we require our bodies to endure high emotional and physical stress as some of use work 50, 60, 70 hours a week without vital nutritional support. So, how long do we logically think we can keep going before things begin to break down? Even by our thirties, many of us have found that we've worked hard getting through college, manifested a career, perhaps bought a house, but we've done it all on half a tank -- and poor fuel at that. Now when it's time to enjoy our success, we find ourselves with debilitating health problems that may have been easily prevented with a little time and care.

People have lost their sense of eating in harmony with the seasons. Before refrigeration most of our food was eaten seasonally, now we don't even know what that means. Ancient sages of all lands, including the Chinese, meticulously studied nature, and its affect on our health. As a result, their entire medicine is about living in harmony with nature, and by living in harmony with nature their bodies would be healthy.

The Five Elements

The Chinese envisioned five elements in nature with each element corresponding to the each of the different seasons. Besides this, they assigned specific foods, flavors, activities, emotions, colors, sounds, etc.

The wood element corresponds to Spring. Its corresponding flavor is sour. Perhaps, this corresponds to the need especially in Spring for an increase of vitamin C (which as ascorbic acid is sour tasting). It is at this time that we should especially forage for the early spring greens and vitamin rich edible weeds. These foods tend to eliminate the buildup of higher levels of mucus necessary for bodily warmth during the winter season.

The summer element is fire. Its flavor is bitter. Some greens have a bitter flavor like dandelion root and greens, some salad greens, therefore raw foods such as these are only supposed to be eaten in season otherwise they cause an imbalance if eaten year round. While during the summer it is more appropriate to eat more raw foods, people with a tendency towards allergies should limit the intake of cold raw food, because they need internal warming and building to increase their bodies immunity to the antigens.

This is very shocking to most people because our better understanding of nutrition is that fruit and salads are always good. This is not true with the energetic dietary principles of traditional medicine. A few weeks off these otherwise healthy foods, and eating mostly warm cooked foods, these people feel better, have more energy and their symptoms soon begin to clear up.

The next season is Indian summer; the flavor is sweet. This is not the kind of strong sweet most of us consider. Rather it is the need for full sweet which includes whole protein and complex carbohydrates such as beans, whole grains, root veggies, winter squash, animal protein, etc. These foods are nutritionally dense and tonify all bodily tissues. Carbohydrates are necessary for energy while protein is used to heal and repair the cells of the body as they naturally break down and helps us maintain metabolic strength. We can see that sweet in the sense of full sweet as opposed to mere empty calories, is vastly different from the refined sugar that too many people addictively crave. These foods as well as caffeinated drinks such as coffee and most commercial sodas, robs the body of its reserves and may provide only a temporary lift of false or nervous energy. Ultimately people who routinely run on their reserves eventually experience exhaustion and the various pangs and woes, their 'abused' flesh is heir to.

The next element is metal which corresponds to the season of fall. The flavor is spicy (acrid or pungent) and includes garlic, onion, ginger and mint. This flavor disperses congestion, and stagnation, increases blood and lymph flow while counteracting mucous production. These foods are especially important to help prevent the type of diseases such as colds and flus that typically occur during the fall and winter seasons.

The last element is water and it's flavor is salt. This again is a full or wholesome salt, naturally found in nature and rich in an abundance of vital trace minerals. Refined kitchen salt, like refined sugar, is refined to be pure sodium chloride with none of the accompanying buffering minerals. Of all the foods, the sea-vegetables including wakame, kombu, kelp as well as salt fermented foods such as miso have a salty flavor. Good quality mineral-rich salt, is important to maintain the proper ratio of potassium in the blood and cells. It is through the chemical reaction of potassium and sodium, called electrolyte balance, that nutrients and waste is carried to and from the cells. Because salt tends to retain fluid in the body, it is important to maintain pliability and softness of the various tissues and organs of the body. Certainly in the winter, a time of storage, we may need more salt to help us retain body fluid and other nutrients.

Over millennia, the ancient Chinese discovered how these flavors harmonized with the organs, either tonifying or sedated them according to our individual requirements and the seasons. The teachings of Taoist priests always included a knowledge of therapeutic diet.

So, what does all of this have to do with those of use who upon catching a cold, for instance, believe that the best foods are fruit juices such as sugar-rich orange juice because of its purported high vitamin C content? Perhaps the vitamin C is good but the cold temperature and nature of the juice is definitely wrong. The concept of cold essentially means to lower our body metabolism while heat means to raise it. Therefore, when we consume cold natured foods out of season it throws the chemistry of our blood and body out of balance with the seasons and climatic environment. As a result, our immune system and digestion become weaker and we are more prone to external diseases such as colds and flus.

The same is true for people who are overweight. They can deprive themselves of necessary calories, eat cold natured foods such as yogurt, fruit, salad, etc. and because they have depressed or cooled down their metabolism, once they start eating normal food they gain all the weight returns with a vengeance with more to boot. Most of patients who want to lose weight are treated on an individual basis. I consider their problem and explore with them the possible energetic food imbalances based on their unique constitution.

The Chinese think of the stomach (called the "'spleen" in TCM) as cooking receptacle that likes to be about 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Of course, this heat, besides actual temperature, is biochemical and consists of hydrochloric acid and the various digestive enzymes that are used to break down food. We could consider this like our internal fire metabolism. The therapeutic objective is to harmonize the individual with the season, innate constitution, lifestyle and activity so that the body is better able to maintain itself.

Breath, food and proper rest is primary to health. The job of the Spleen in TCM physiology is to transform food into blood and ultimately the very substance of the body itself. The Spleen, therefore, represents the innate warmth and strength of our metabolism and following the Chinese teachings, it doesn't like to be cold and damp because these are the two energies that will lower overall physical metabolism. The results are symptoms of coldness and dampness including weak digestion, abnormal weight gain, lowered immune system, etc. Too much cold or raw foods weakens our digestive and assimilative capacity on all levels and it is much like placing a cold, wet log into a burning fireplace. We create smoke. In the body metaphorical 'smoke' is expressed as gas, bloating, heaviness and in general, decreased assimilation of important nutrients including vitamins and minerals This eventually leads to chronic disease. This is why all traditional healing systems stress the importance of maintaining good digestion.

The dietary principles of traditional medicine, including TCM are:

  1. Eat whole natural unprocessed food.
  2. Consume more high quality nutrient dense foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals. This includes good quality protein found in fish and range fed poultry and other animals as well as light vegetable sources of protein such as soy products and various beans. Be sure to include the various seaweeds for important trace minerals and organic vegetables of all kinds. Also include one or two servings of whole grains such as brown rice once or twice a day. Again, the use of grains may need to be modified according to individual requirements.
    Try to avoid refined foods, foods with artificial coloring and preservatives, coffee and other stimulants, alcohol, drugs including marijuana, Limit dairy products and all foods with saturated fats and oils. Primarily use olive and sesame oil for cooking and dressings.
  3. Have three good meals a day with breakfast or lunch being the largest and the evening meal the lightest. Many do better, and even lose weight, on a 'grazing' schedule having six balanced meals throughout the day. Balanced means a proper ration of protein and carbohydrate at each meal.
  4. Eat foods as they are seasonally available in your climatic environment. Foods that are imported from warmer climates tend to alter the chemistry of our blood to acclimatize us to foreign environment.
  5. Learn to acknowledge and accept your unique constitutional requirements based on ancestral history and innate constitutional type. These are outlined in the Ayurvedic Tridosha or the three humours principle and in TCM, in the book, Between Heaven and Earth, by Efrem Korngold and Harriet Beinfield, published by Ballantine Books.
  6. Take time to focus on your food when you eat. Fully experience its colors, flavors and textures which are an expression of their energies. Take time to carefully chew each mouthful, since digestion begins in the mouth.
  7. Avoid the overconsumption of cold or raw foods unless it is in the warmer seasons
  8. When you are tempted by sugary foods and foods that lack wholesome, balanced qualities, let this be a sign that you need to eat more balanced, proteinaceous foods first. Quite often, our abnormal and addictive cravings will automatically vanish if we follow this principle.
  9. Avoid excess. Learn to eat everything in moderation. While it is not good to waste food, we live in a society of repletion so that learning to leave a little food in the plate each time we eat ultimately makes good soil compost.

There is no one diet for all people. Each individual is requires different foods to health. Patients who I have counseled and guided in the above principles, are always gratified and amazed at the sense of renewed inner harmony and balance they experience. As a result, their symptoms clear up, even faster with the use of herbs, they feel calmer, more energy, decreased cravings and generally feel more in control of their lives and eating. They lose or gain weight if needed and have increased endurance and productivity in their lives.

Shasta Tierra studied and worked with her father, Michael Tierra, a well-known herbalist and author of The East West Herbal Correspondence Course, The Way of Herbs, Planetary Herbology, The Natural Remedy Bible, Chinese Herbal Medicine and The Way of Chinese Herbs. She also worked with herbalist, Christopher Hobbs L.Ac., AHG. and acupuncturist Miriam Lee.

She currently practices Traditional Chinese Medicine from her clinic in San Jose, California. You can reach her office at 1-408-971-6422.

Modified by Dr. Michael Tierra L.AC., O.M.D.


  • 6 large green onions or large red onion
  • 1-2 cans of tomatoes
  • 1 large head of cabbage
  • 2 green peppers
  • 1 bunch celery
  • rosemary & tarragon for flavoring
  • shitake mushrooms for flavoring
  • 1 hot pepper
  • 2 or 3 cloves of chopped garlic
  • 1 4 inch piece of kombu seaweed
  • vegetable bouillon (such as Bioforce's Plantaforce)

Spices such as rosemary, sage, thyme, tarragon or oregano can be added as desired toward the ending of cooking. Season with salt, pepper, parsley, bouillon or hot sauce, if desired. However, with the bouillon added, it probably requires little or no salt.

Cut vegetables in small to medium pieces, sauté in olive oil and cover with water. Boil fast for 10 (ten) minutes. Reduce heat to simmer and continue cooking until vegetables are tender. Spices, such as rosemary, sage, thyme, tarragon or oregano, may be added as desired toward the end of cooking. Season with pepper, parsley, or hot sauce, if desired. Because of the bouillon, it will probably require little or no salt.

This soup can be eaten any time you are hungry. Eat as much as you want, whenever you want. This soup will not add calories. The more you eat, the more you will lose. Fill a thermos in the morning if you will be away during the day. However, if eaten alone for indefinite periods, you would suffer from malnutrition.

Weight Loss Program

DAY ONE: All fruits except bananas. Cantaloupe and watermelon are lower in calories than most fruits. Eat only the soup and fruits. For drinks - un-sweetened tea, cranberry juice, or water.

DAY TWO: All vegetables. Eat until you are stuffed with all the fresh, raw or canned vegetables. Try to eat leafy vegetables and stay away from dry beans, peas and corn. Eat along with the soup. At dinner time on this day, reward yourself with a big baked potato an butter. Do not eat any fruits on this day.

DAY THREE: Eat all soup, fruits and vegetables you want. Do not have a baked potato. If you have eaten for three days, as above, and have not cheated, you will find you have lost 5-7 pounds.

DAY FOUR: Bananas and skim milk. Eat as many as 3 bananas and drink as many glasses of skim milk as you can on this day along with the soup. Bananas are high in calories and carbohydrates and so is the milk, but on this particular day your body will need the potassium and the carbohydrates, proteins and calcium to lessen your craving for sweets.

DAY FIVE: Beef or lamb and tomatoes. Try to select high quality range fed animal protein, free of antibiotics or hormones. You may have 10-20 ounces of beef or lamb and a can of tomatoes or as many as 6 fresh tomatoes on this day. Try to drink at least 6-8 glasses of water on this day to wash away the uric acid in your body. Eat the soup at least once this day. You may substitute either wheat gluten (seitan) for the beef or lamb, or adzuki beans, chicken or fish.

DAY SIX: Beef or lamb & vegetables. Eat to your heart's content of the beef or lamb and vegetables on this day. You can have two or three steaks if you like, with green leafy vegetables, but no baked potato. Be sure and eat the soup at least once on this day. You may substitute either wheat gluten (seitan) for the beef or lamb, or adzuki beans, chicken or fish.

DAY SEVEN: Brown rice, un-sweetened fruit and vegetables. Again, stuff yourself. Be sure to have the soup at least once today.

By the end of the seventh day, if you have not cheated on the diet, you will have lost 10-17 pounds. If you have lost more than 15 pounds, stay off the diet for two days before resuming the diet again at day one.

This seven-day eating plan can be used as often as you like. As a matter of fact, if correctly followed, it will clean your system of impurities and give you a feeling of well-being as never before.

After only seven days of this process, you will begin to feel lighter by at least 10 lbs. and possibly as much as 17 lbs. Having an abundance of energy, continue this plan as long as you wish and feel the difference.

This diet is a fast way to burn off fat and the secret is that you will burn more calories than you take in. It will flush your system of impurities and give you a feeling of well-being. This diet does not lend itself to drinking alcoholic beverages at any time because of the removal of fat buildup in your system. Go off the diet at least 24 hours before any intake of alcohol

Because everyone's digestive system is different, this diet will affect everyone differently. After day three, you will have more energy than when you began, if you did not cheat. After being on the diet for several days, you will find your bowel movements have changed -- eat a cup of bran or fiber. You may even find that you don't need caffeine after the third day.



The basic fat-burning soup can be eaten anytime you feel hungry. Eat as much as you wish. Remember, the more you eat, the more you will lose. No fried foods or bread. You can eat broiled chicken (absolutely no skin) instead of beef. Vegetarians can use adzuki or mung beans, seitan.

Any prescribed medication will not hurt you on this diet. Continue this plan as long as you wish and feel the difference both mentally and physically. If you prefer, you can substitute broiled fish for the beef on only one of the beef days. You need the high protein in the beef on the other days.

One of the best herbal formulas to use during this fast is Triphala. Take from 2 to 4 tablets morning and midday and 4 in the evening. Instead of coffee or tea use a grain beverage. A very good fasting tea is a combination of nettles, chickweed and fennel seed, which also helps in weight reduction. There are many excellent green drinks and soya protein powders that can be used to supplement as needed or to replace the meat.

To keep the weight off, replace one meal a day with soup and eat more vegetables.

This diet is derived from one given at the Sacred Heart Memorial Hospital for overweight heart patients to lose weight rapidly, usually before surgery. Modifications have been added by Dr. Michael Tierra, Acupuncturist and Herbalist.

By Michael Tierra

With his ageless axiom, Let your food be your medicine and your medicine, your food, Hippocrates, regarded as the father of medicine might as well be referring to kichari. This delicious mainstay of Indian cuisine consists of split yellow mung beans called dahl, and white basmati rice cooked together with ghee (clarified butter) and mild spices. In fact, kichadi may well be the most perfect therapeutic recipe of all because it detoxifies the entire system, while kindling the body's digestive fires called 'agni.' Unlike other fasts or restricted diets, following an exclusive diet of kichadi with the addition of some steamed seasonal vegetables and fresh fruits and perhaps a few tablespoons of yogurt mid-day, supplies all the bodies' nutritional needs and will cause no nutritional deficiencies.

A yogic sage who at the time of our meeting was in his early 90's, adhered to an ascetic practices of an exclusive year round diet of kichari. He was physically fit, mentally alert and could out distance all of his younger students' speed in walking on the beach. Every ayurvedic doctor in fact all people of India are raised to appreciate the benefits of kichari to enhance the treatment of disease. Thus it is widely prescribed as the primary food in panch karma, ayurvedic cleansing therapy. It's no wonder that enjoying a breakfast of freshly prepared kichari at a Northern California retreat center, the a respected Ayurvedic doctor, Vasant Ladd exclaimed that this was not only food but also medicine.

Kichari, called Indian dahl, is served in all Indian restaurants and is a mainstay of traditional Indian households. All traditional East Indian people know that when one is weakened or sick they should eat only kichari for a speedy recovery.

The reason is simple; since it is generally recognized by systems of natural medicine throughout the world, that the majority of all diseases begins in the stomach with faulty digestion. In areas of the world were food is scarce, it would be unthinkable to treat diseases caused by inadequate nutrition with raw foods, liquid fasts of vegetable and fruit juice as these would not supply the adequate amount of protein and complex carbohydrates and would only cause more degenerative wasting. However, kichari would be ideal for such individuals, being an easily assimilated porridge of rice and beans. In the West, where food is abundant and excess is more likely to be the underlying cause of disease, raw foods and juice fasting may be more appropriate as an initial fast to eliminate and detoxify excess waste clogging the circulatory vessels and organs of the body, however as a long-term diet it creates deficiency weakness which kichari would not. Further, for most busy people, extreme fasting regimes are impractical and the bouts of incapacitating hypoglycemic episodes along the way can be a challenge. Kichari on the other hand achieves the same eliminating and detoxifying goals in a smoother, more balanced way, allowing one to continue their normal daily routine and without any of the concomitant bouts of low blood sugar. Thus kichari diet is safer and provides a more balanced, gradual approach to detoxification while maintaining adequate amounts of required complex carbohydrates and protein in the diet without causing nutritional deficiencies.

Iin India, where its indigenous medicine known as Ayurveda, is deemed '˜the mother of natural healing,' there is a millennia old tradition that if one eats only kichari for at least three weeks, it will cure all diseases. The reasons as stated are that kichari is a delicious, light and easily digestible food that supplies all one's nutritional needs while affording the internal organs the opportunity to recover from dietary excesses and/or deficiencies that are the foundation for disease.

Few of us are sufficiently in touch with how food affects our mental states and emotions. Although, increasingly individuals are recognizing the hyped feeling that comes from consuming too much sugar, the heavy, dull feeling from an excess of dairy, fats and red meat or the ungrounded , spaced and unfocussed effects from too much raw foods, vegetable and fruit juices. An entire book as been written describing the depressive state called '˜sugar blues[1]' that occurs as withdrawal symptoms from excess sugar consumption. Volumes have been written about this latter phenomenon but now there is an entire disease complex popularly known as '˜Syndrome X' which is a constellation of conditions involving possible erratic blood sugar fluctuations, high blood pressure, overweight, particularly with weight carried around the middle, abnormalities of blood lipids, particularly triglycerides and gout. Kichari ameliorates all of these physical conditions by balancing body and blood chemistry and one of the first notable experiences is a greater sense of inner calm and stress relief. For many, this can be felt in as little as three days after beginning the kichari diet.

Over three decades of clinical herbal and acupuncture practice in Northern California I and my daughter, Shasta Tierra have prescribed kichari to our patients. We have corroborated ageless Indian wisdom that an exclusive diet of kichari enables and enhances all other natural therapies and can be used with great benefit for a wide range of diseases from colds and flu, depression, diabetes, gynecological disease, cardio-vascular disease, arthritis, digestive disorders, liver disease, arthritis and cancer. Shasta Tierra, who is an acupuncturist and herbalist, working in San Jose, California is locally well known for prescribing kichari both for the treatment of disease but also to promote fitness and general health.

Many are amazed how such a simple, easily prepared dish with so many health benefits such as kichari possesses can also be so delicious and satisfying.

Kichari and weight loss

An exclusive diet of kichari for at least one to several weeks is the safest and best way to lose unwanted pounds. One respected martial arts and qi gong exponent uses kichari as his personal self healing method for healing and safe and effective weight control. He would reduce weight initially with an exclusive diet of kichari, after achieving the desired weight; he might then only eat kichari for one or two meals each day for ongoing maintenance. In this way he is able to lose and then maintain his ideal weight while continuing with his physically strenuous and demanding daily workout schedule.

Ayurveda Tridosha and Sheldon's Somatypes

In Ayurveda the human constitution is evaluated according to the three basic body types, Vata - sensitive, nerve oriented, Pitta '“ fire oriented and Kapha '“ water oriented. This is called tridosha and is the cornerstone for all ayurvedic treatment. Ayurveda teaches that each individual is naturally born with a predominance of any one or a combination of any of these three basic types and that this dominance is reflected in one's overall constitution, personality as well as their day to day climatic and dietary preferences and aversions. Thus the term '˜dosha' means '˜fault' because an imbalance of any of these is deemed the cause of disease. Ayurvedic treatment then goes on to prescribe dietary, herbal, activity and lifestyle changes that are specifically intended to restore balance or tridosha.

This ancient medical theory has its modern scientific counterpart with the more contemporary theory of somatypes developed in the 1940's by American psychologist, William Sheldon[i]. This is a respected scientific principle of physiological and psychological medicine probably with unintended marked similarities with the Ayurveda tridosha system. Sheldon corroborated three body types, endomorph, mesomorph and ectomorph with human temperament types. These are described below with their Ayurvedic tridosha counterparts:

The endomorph which corresponds to Ayurvedic Kapha has a more phlegmatic, naturally rounder shaped body with a greater tendency towards stockiness along with congestive and digestive disorders. They are more prone to conditions and diseases exhibiting an excess fat, fluids and mucus. Their complexion and hair is lustrous and more oily. Temperamentally they are slower responders but with a tendency towards greater tolerance and pleasurable self-indulgence. Negatively they can be succumb to greater rigidity and '˜stuck' manners of being. The stereotype is 'the fat, jolly person.' This is indeed a stereotype and only represents a tendency.

The mesomorph or Pitta type is centered on muscle and fiery energy. Sheldon says that they are centered on muscle rather than the fat tissue of the endomorph and the circulatory system. Similar to pitta dosha, they tend to be of a more medium build with a tendency to be impetuous and quick, courageous, active, dynamic, assertive and competitive. In contrast, while the kapha individual has greater stamina and endurance for the long haul, pitta types tend towards more dynamic bold initiation and risk taking. The stereotype is: : 'type A personality,' 'jock' or 'GI Joe.'

The ecotomorph or Vata type is thinner, more hypersensitive, introverted and moody. Thus they are metaphorically compared to air with less involvement with the physical act of doing and more with the mental process of ideation. Thus ideally the vata type is more likely to be the '˜seer,' or visionary or negatively the one tending towards deranged mental states. The stereotype is the 'hypersensitive individual,' 'thin skinned.'

Correspondingly an ayurvedic doctor, will prescribe diet, herbs and lifestyle according to one's dosha imbalance. It is possible to further fine tune the basic recipe according to ingredients, proportions, consistency and spices based on one's dosha propensity. The result is the same, which is the ability of kichari to restore metabolic balance while eliminating toxins called '˜ama' and kindling '˜agni' which is digestive or metabolic life fire.

One basic kichari recipe is as follows:

1 cup split mung dal (yellow)

2 cups of white basmati rice

2 tsp of ghee (clarified butter)

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp of coriander powder

1/2 tsp of cumin powder

1/2 tsp of whole cumin seeds

1/4 tsp of rock salt

8 cups of water (6 cups when using a pressure cooker)

This is suitable for all body types. However for those who may be more of a kapha or vata type, one may want to make a more heating version of kichari by adding:

1 inch of fresh minced ginger root

1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 scant pinch of hing (asafetida)

and either red chilli or black pepper omitting or limiting the inclusion of dairy or yogurt

The pitta type on the other hand would use less warming spices and slightly more dairy and yogurt while the vata type uses slightly more warming spices with the addition of dairy or yogurt.

Method of preparation

Wash the rice and dal together to eliminate the excess starch which is done when the water runs clear. Add eight cups of water and cook the covered rice and dal until it becomes soft and tender. Saute the mustard seeds, whole cumin seeds, hing, cumin powder, coriander powder and turmeric together with the ghee in a separate sauce pan for a few minutes or until the aroma begins to permeated the air. Stirr the cooked rice and dal into the pan and cook until it is done. Add rock salt, and the cilantro leaves just before serving.

Another recipe is as follows:

2 cups of white basmati rice

1 cup split yellow mung beans

8 to 12 cups of water, depending on how soupy the resultant final product

2 tsp of ghee

1 tsp of ground cumin seed

1 scant tsp of coriander seed

1/4 to 1/2 tsp of turmeric powder

3 to 5 whole cardamom pods

1 to 2 tsp of powdered ginger

pinch of rock salt or powdered kelp

pinch of hing (asafetida)

Again this is a more heating kichari useful for individuals with a tendency to gas and bloating and weaker digestion.

Why White Rice?

Rice is universally regarded as one of the most perfectly balanced foods. The difference between naturally brown and white rice is that brown rice has all of the out skin or bran intact while white rice has been mechanically polished to remove part or all of the bran depending on one's digestive capability. Japanese Macrobiotics favors the use of brown rice but they also advocate chewing each mouthful of food 80 to 100 times. For most this is extremely impractical and overly rigid especially since many older people may not even retain all of their teeth for proper chewing. White rice has less of the whole food nutritional elements of brown rice but it is better assimilated. Further, by adding beans or other proteinaceous foods to white rice what is lost nutritionally is mostly replaced.

Basmati rice is preferred because it is the best nutritionally and the most delicious variety. It is more expensive because it yields less per acre than all other types of rice. Assuming that one is taking kichari because they are in a weakened state and must have food that is easily digested, polished white basmati rice would be the best to use.

However, recognizing that just as our outer physical body must be moderately challenged to develop one might use more whole grains such as brown rice to maintain digestive strength. The rule is that when one is weaker white rice used with kichari is best. However, to develop and maintain digestive power one can make kichari with whole brown basmati rice or a judicious mixture of both.

As an aside, in rural villages throughout Asia, people would bring their rice to the local miller. Depending on their need, they could specify how much of the bran to leave or remove in the milling process. For older people or individuals with weaker digestion, more or all of the bran is polished away.

Gourmet Kichari

First: 1/4 cups split yellow mung beans

1/2 cups of rinsed white basmati rice

1 cup of chopped or grated carrots

1 cup of chopped parsnips

1 tbsp of chopped fresh ginger.

Combine these together and cook in a stock pot covered. Bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer.

Second: 3 tbsp of ghee

1/2 cup of chopped onions

1 tsp of mustard seeds

1/2 tsp of dry roasted coriander powder

1/2 tsp of dry roasted cumin seed powder

(dry roasting is simply to put these powders onto a dry skiller until the slightly brown)

1/2 tsp of turmeric powder

1 chopped or torn dried chili pepper

1/2 tsp of fresh ground black pepper

Heat the ghee in second pan and then add the mustard seeds, after they begin to pop, add the onions and spices and fry until slightly brown.


Combine everything together, ideally into the second pan.

Add 1/2 tsp of rock salt

1/2 lemon or lime juice, freshly squeezed

3 to 5 fresh basil leaves (or one can use chopped coriander leaves).

Serves 4 to 6 people.

The following two preparations are from Secrets of Ayurveda by Maya Tiwiri published by Lotus Press

Kichari '“ Rice and Bean mixture

8 c water

1 1/2 c white basmati rice

1/2 cup yellow split mung beans

1 tsp powdered rock salt

1/2 tsp ajwan seeds,

1/2 tsp coriander seeds

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

2 tbsp ghee.

Bring the water to a boil in a large stainless steel pot (never use aluminum or a water soluble metal when preparing food). Wash the rice and beans and add to the boiling water, along with the salt. Cover and simmer on medium-low heat for 25 minutes. In a small cast-iron skillet, dry roast the seeds for a few minutes over low heat, until they are golden brown. Grind them into coarse pieces using a mortar and pestle or a suribachi. Heat the ghee in the same skillet and add the crushed seeds. Sizzle for 2 minutes, then pour into the rice and beans mixture. Cover and continue cooking on low heat for another 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let the kichari sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Thick Kichari '“ Rice and Bean mixture

1 tbsp dried tamarind

10 c of water

1 1/2 brown basmati rice

1/2 cup whole green mung bean

1 tsp powdered rock salt

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp coriander seeds

1/2 tbsp black peppercorns

2 tbsp of ghee

Soak the tamarind in 1/2 cup of hot water for 5 hours. Bring the 10 cups of water to a boil. Wash the rice and beans and add to the boiling water along with the sat. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 40 minutes. Rast the seeds and peppercors in a small cast-iron skillet for a few minutes or until they crackle. Heat the ghee in the same skillet and then add the crushed seeds and immediately pour into the rice and bean misture. Use a small spoon to mash the tamarind into a pulp and add, along with the soaking water and roughage, to the rice and bean mixture. Stire, cover and continue cooking on low heat for an additional 15 minutes, until the Kichari becomes a thick porridge. Remove from heat and let cool for 15 minutes. Remove the tamarind roughage from the kichari before serving.

For vata and pitta types the following is recommended:

Basmati Rice Kichari

Four servings:

1 1/2 cu white basmati rice

1/2 c yellow split mung beans

1/2 tsp powdered rock salt

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tbsp ghee

Bring the water to a boil in a large stainless steel pot. Wash the rice and beans and add to boiling water along with the salt. Cover and simmer on low heat for 20 minutes. In a small cast-iron skillet, heat the ghee and add the cumin seeds. When the seeds turn golden brown, pour the mixture into the kichari. Stir, cover and continue to simmer for an additional 5 minutes over low heat. Serve while still warm.

Maya Tiwiri suggests that both Vata and Pitta types may substitute equal amounts of bulgur, cous cous or jasmine rice for the white basmati rice. Vata types may also add a pinch of asafetida along with the salt.

For Kapha types she suggests the following:

Millet Kichari

Four servings:

5 c water

1 1/2 cup millet

1/c c yellow split mung beans

1/4 tsp powdered rock salt

5 fresh or dried neem leaves

1 tsp corn oil

1 tsp cumin seeds

Prepare similar to the preceeding recipes.

Following is a personal favorite recipe that admits of many variations. It was developed by my former student and herbalist Darlena L'Orange.

Spring kichari: a stew with vegetables.

1 cup of split yellow mung beans 1 cup of white basmati rice

1 tablespoon (or less) of ghee or sunflower oil 1 tsp of cumin seeds

1/2 tsp of cumin powder

1 tsp of coriander powder

1 tsp of turmeric

1/2 tsp of mustard seeds

1/4/ -1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional) 1/2 tsp of salt

1 tsp of fresh ginger (peeled and grated)

6 inch piece burdock root (peeled and chopped) 1 parsnip sliced or turnip roughly chopped

1 bunch of dark leafy greens (kale, chard, or dandelion greens which are slightly bitter)

Ideally, the beans and rice are better cooked separately. They should both be presoaked overnight. With beans I like to add a 4 to 6 inch piece of kombu seaweed which can even shorten the soaking process to as little as two hours. Besides adding a rich abundance trace minerals that are naturally found in good quality sea vegetables, soaking and cooking beans will also shorten the soaking process.

Warm ghee or oil in a pot, add cumin, coriander, turmeric, and mustard seeds. Sauté for a few minutes while stirring regularly. Add beans and rice and stir with spices, Add 6 cups of water and salt, ginger, and burdock. Let cook until beans and rice are very soft (30-45min). Add veggies and cook another 15 min (you may need to add more water depending on the consistency you like.)

These are only a few of the many was to adjust or augment the basic rice and beans kichari. One can consider making more like a soup or porridge or a somewhat thicker stew, possibly serving with a whole wheat chapatti (flat, unyeasted wheat paddy or with the addition of a few tablespoons of yogurt. Just as the grains can be varied one can also vary the type of beans. For instance green mung can be used, or black beans.

Comparisons with other cultures that rely on a basic rice and beans diet as the foundation for healing

The fundamental combination of rice and beans, which form the basis for Kichari is also the basic therapeutic diet of many traditional cultures worldwide:

  • The Chinese traditional medicine recommends congee (long cooked rice porridge) and tofu for regaining strength and for weak digestion. Often this is with the addition of various other foods and herbs according to the indications of the patient.
  • The traditional Japanese diet recommends the use of brown rice, beans and miso (fermented soya bean soup) for healing.
  • The Central American people and curanderos recommend that patients consume only corn and beans perhaps with steamed vegetables as their primary therapeutic diet.
  • Throughout the Caribbean the basic therapeutic diet consists of black beans and rice called 'moors and Christians' by the local people.


How to make Ghee

Ghee or clarified butter is the secret of delicious French cooking. It is the clear oil with the more saturated fats removed from butter. It restores vitality, mental clarity, clears the skin and enhances digestion. All of these attributes along with its delicious buttery flavor, make it the most desirable of all cooking oils.

It is easily made in the kitchen. Simply obtain a pound or two of unsalted butter. Place it in a skillet atop a low flame. The butter will melt to a liquid and eventually the fat solids will congeal and settle to the bottom. Be careful to not burn it. After a period of time, carefully decant the clear golden butter oil (ghee) into a wide mouthed jar to which one should have a metal spoon to absorb some of the heat and prevent the jar from cracking. Discard the white fat solids.

Ghee does not need to be refrigerated and will keep unrefrigerated virtually indefinitely. One can therefore store it in a jar on or near the cooking area.

The Spices of Kichari

The three spices turmeric, cumin and coriander are the basis of Indian curry mixes. Besides adding wonderful exotic flavors to foods, these also have potent medicinal properties.

The Healing Power of Turmeric

Turmeric (curcuma longa), which imparts a wonderful yellow color to food, is one of the most potent herbs for the liver, digestive and cardiovascular systems. It is also a powerful antioxidant. Counteracting free-radical damage or oxidation implicated with the aging process and in all chronic degenerative conditions including arthritis and cancer. Think of oxidation as something akin to cellular, organic '˜rust,' with similar negative degenerating effects on the body as rust has to metals. Turmeric, which has been used for thousands of years to impart a wonderful flavor and golden color to meats, poultry, grains and vegetables, is high in polyphenols called curcuminoids that have been shown to be more effective than vitamins C and E, beta-carotene and even the OPC;s (Oligomeric Proanthocyanidins) found in grapeseed and pine bark, making it one of the most effective herbal antioxidants.

Turmeric a potent Cox-2 inhibitor

Inflammation implicated in osteoarthritis and a wide number of chronic degenerative conditions ranging from cardiovascular disease to Alzheimer's, are caused by prostaglandins, which are produced through the cyclo-oxygenase 1 and 2 (COX-1 and COX-2) enzyme systems. Prostaglandins are known to be over-expressed in inflammation, but certain prostaglandins are beneficial and protective.

Many drugs advertised and sold for osteoarthritis are COX-2 inhibitors and the best known are celecoxib (Celebrex) and rofecoxib (Vioxx). They are considered a better and more potent version of the traditional Non-steroidal Anti-Inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) which include aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. All of these relieve pain by reducing inflammation. However, they are all known to have serious long term side adverse effects especially on the liver.

Turmeric offers all the beneficial effects of the COX-2 inhibitors but it is beneficial to the liver without any of the harmful side effects of the pharmaceutical drugs. A study from the UK found turmeric able to inhibit the production of COX-2 making it a very effective and safer natural alternative for a wide variety of joint ailments including arthritis.

Acetaminophen is the active ingredient in a variety of over-the-counter drugs, most notably Tylenol. Acetaminophen overdose is the leading cause of calls to the Poison Control Centers across the United States. It is estimated that acetaminophen poisoning calls exceed 100,000 per year. Studies indicate that acetaminophen overdose results in over 56,000 injuries, 2,500 hospitalizations, and an estimated 450 deaths per year.

The most significant risk involving acetaminophen is acute liver toxicity. Data acquired from the U.S. Acute Liver Failure Study Group registry indicates that nearly 50% of all acute liver failure in this country is linked to acetaminophen poisoning. There have even been reported cases of acute liver toxicity in individuals whose acetaminophen dosage did not exceed 4 grams/day. Surprisingly, a dosage of 4 grams/day falls within the recommended dosage for Extra Strength Tylenol.

Turmeric and the liver

People who suffer with joint problems are known to be chronic users of NSAIDS. In fact Tylenol (acetaminophen), the leading cause of calls to the Poison Control Centers across the United States resulting in an estimated 56,000 injuries, 2500 hospitalization and an estimate 450 deaths per year[2]. Turmeric, on the other hand, has shown some amazing results in animal studies in helping the liver eliminate dangerous toxins. When fed curcuminoids (the active compound in turmeric) animals have shown a higher than average blood levels of the enzyme glutathione S-transferase, which is the key antioxidant the liver makes to detoxify our bodies. In fact glutathione, which is naturally produced by our bodies, is the most powerful of all antioxidants. Unfortunately it is not nearly so effective when taken orally. Turmeric enhances general detoxification and liver metabolism by stimulating the flow of bile which also helps to help digest fats. It is therefore effective for the prevention and dissolution of gallstones..

I have personally found turmeric to be effective for treating gall bladder inflammation as well as acute and chronic hepatitis and cirrhosis.

Other health conditions for which Turmeric is beneficial

It is doubtful that any organ or cell in the body would not find benefit from turmeric. The specific areas we've mentioned thus far include the joints and the liver, however, considering that turmeric helps in the digestion of fat, it is described as lipotropic, meaning that it prevents excess fat buildup, thins and emulsifies fat for easy movement through the bloodstream. As a result turmeric helps to keep the veins clear by promoting healthy levels of cholesterol and regulate blood pressure.

Cortisol is a hormone created in response to stress. Again it is implicated in a wide range of chronic degenerative conditions including diabetes. Turmeric sensitizes cortisol receptor sites which encourage this hormone to move out of the blood thus slowing signs of aging in all body tissues including facial skin. Turmeric is an effective gynecological herb that is effective for regulating and relieving pains associated with menstruation.

Turmeric and the Nerves
Turmeric has been shown to aid in the treatment of Multiple sclerosis (MS) by reducing the IL-2 protein that can destroy the myelin sheath.

The Healing properties of Cumin

Cumin (Cuminum cyminum) is widely used as both a healing herb and a culinary spice throughout most parts of Asia, Mexico and South America.
It can be either be ground, roasted, added to foods whole or boiled in water to treat many common ailments. It is used alone or in combination with other herbs and or with rock salt or sugar to treat many illnesses. It is commonly used as an aid to digestion and the seeds will freshen the breath which is why it is commonly added to foods. Cumin seed, like the seeds of other plants in the umbelliferae such as celery seed, have a special affinity for the urinary tract treating diseases of the bladder and kidneys. When combined with turmeric and peppercorn it becomes an effective digestive aid and immune stimulant.


The Healing Properties of Coriander

Coriander seed is an aromatic stimulant, a carminative (remedial in flatulence), an appetizer and a digestant with a beneficial stimulating the stomach and intestines. It is generally beneficial to the nervous system. It is commonly prescribed to relieve the '˜griping' effects of purgatives

[1] Sugar Blues by William Duffy

[2] http://www.lawyersandsettlements.com/case/tylenol

[i] William Sheldon. The Varieties of Human Physique: An Introduction to Constitutional Psychology. New York: Harper, 1940.

'”'”'” The Varieties of Temperament: A Psychology of Constitutional Differences. New York: Harper, 1942.

'”'”'” Varieties of Delinquent Youth: An Introduction to Constitutional Psychiatry. New York: Harper, 1949.

'”'”'” Atlas of Men: A Guide for Somatotyping the Adult Male at All Ages. New York: Harper, 1954.

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