In Part I we learned about the many signs and symptoms of Food Stagnation. In this segment we’ll cover how to treat and prevent it.
Foods to Eat: Adequate amounts of protein (but not too much!), lots of cooked vegetables and dark leafy greens, and small amounts of grains and fruits (room temperature or cooked and with spices).
Foods to Avoid: Fatty, greasy, fried foods, excessive protein, cold drinks with fatty foods, excessive intake of dampening foods (see Part I for specific foods to avoid!)
Appropriate expression and release of emotional issues that cause emotional eating
One of my Chinese teachers always taught this healthy digestive sequence: eat calmly, rest 15 minutes, walk 15 minutes and then rest (nap) 15 or more minutes. This ensures good digestion and prevents Food Stagnation.
Stretching or yogic postures that compress and release the abdomen such as forward bends; swimming, brisk walking, running/jogging, bicycling and other similar active forms of exercise/fun; stomach wash or fire wash, one of the Four Purifications. Here’s how to do it:
Fire Wash (Agnisara Dhauti)
Perform this exercise with all air held out of the body. Begin by taking a normal inhalation and exhalation, expelling all air. While holding the breath out, pull the diaphragm up and toward the backbone, and then release it suddenly. Repeat this in-and-out movement rapidly, as long as the breath can be held out without strain, about 30 pulls. Then inhale gently. This makes one round. Start with three rounds, gradually increasing to ten, beginning with 30 pulls per breath and working up to 60.
This technique strengthens the `navel lock' (frequently used in breathing exercises), creating heat at the navel center (manipura chakra) that purifies nerve channels, stimulates digestion, increases gastric fire, strengthens lungs, and alleviates indigestion, abdominal diseases and menstrual disorders.
For quick use around the home, I find fermented foods, acidophilus, spouted grains (rice and barley), and spices such as fennel, caraway, anise, dill and clove to be useful for Food Stagnation.
Food Stagnation-relieving herbs tend to be warm and sweet in energy. They assist the passage of food through the digestive tract and aid assimilation. I imagine that some herbs, such as the sprouted grains, act as little "brushes" to cleanse old food matter from the intestinal walls, while fermented foods help break it down through their enzymatic actions.
Generally, Food Stagnation-relieving herbs are combined with digestive-aiding herbs such as carminatives, and possibly laxatives. As well, there is often concurrent Damp Stagnation and Deficient Spleen Qi, so herbs to address these issues are often combined with food stagnation relieving herbs.
Bao He Wan (Preserve Harmony Pill; Citrus and Crataegus Formula)
This formula is a specific for food stagnation in the upper abdomen with stomach discomfort, distention and fullness, abdominal bloating, foul belching, sour regurgitation, and possible nausea or diarrhea.
Hawthorn berries (shan zha) 9-15 g Crataegus pinnatifida
Medicated leaven (shen qu) 9-12 g Massa fermentata medicinalis
Radish seed (lai fu zi) 6-9 g Raphanus sativus
Citrus peel (chen pi) 6-9 g Citri reticulatae
Pinellia (ban xia) 9-12 g Pinelliae ternatae
Poria (fu ling) 9-12 g Poria cocos
Forsythia (lian qiao) 3-6 g Forsythia suspensa
Properties and Actions:
b) Reduces Food Stagnation
c) Harmonizes the Stomach
Indications: It is used for food poisoning and overindulgence in rich foods, alcohol, meat or greasy foods. There may be symptoms of abdominal distention with fullness of the stomach, epigastrium and chest, occasional pain, belching, acid regurgitation, nausea and vomiting, aversion to food, diarrhea, or constipation.
Tongue: Yellow, greasy coated tongue
Pulse: Slippery pulse
Variations: For more severe abdominal distention, add green citrus (zhi shi) and magnolia bark (hou po).
For constipation add rhubarb (da huang) and betel nut (bing lang).
Curing Pills (Pill Curing; Healthy Quiet Pills; Kang Ning Wan)
Chinese Curing Pills are one of the most famous Chinese herbal remedies. It alleviates most any kind of stomach upset, treating a variety of stomach disorders such as food poisoning, overeating, hangover, gas, nausea, acid indigestion, abdominal fullness, abdominal bloating with pain, motion sickness, acid regurgitation, and even the stomach flu. This is an excellent remedy to keep on hand and take on travels.
Contains: Gastrodia, red atractylodes, chrysanthemum, pueraria, trichosanthis, saussurea, coix, poria, magnolia bark, red tangerine peel, agastache (Korean mint or patchouli), angelica root, mint, shen qu, fermented rice sprout
Po Chai Pills (Bao Ji Pian)
A similar remedy to Curing Pills, Po Chai is another Chinese household remedy for stomach discomfort, food poisoning, motion sickness, hangover, acute stomach disorders, and overeating.
There may be up to 14 herbs in each formulation but in general it contains: citrus peel, magnolia bark, chrysanthemum, mint, barley sprouts, poria, saussurea, red atractylodes, agastache, angelica, pueraria, tricosanthis
Other formulas may include laxatives or purgatives to move matter out of the lower warmer. These may include such herbs as rhubarb, Cannabis seeds, senna leaf, or aloe.
Triphala: In Ayurveda, Triphala is used to clear stagnation of the Middle and Lower warmers.
Hingashtak: This Ayurvedic formula includes asafoetida as a major component and clears stagnation in the Middle and Lower warmers.
We made it!
We got through Qi, Blood, Cold and Damp stagnations, and now we are on the fifth and last one: Food Stagnation. This one is perhaps the easiest to understand and relate to because certainly most of us have experienced over-eating during holiday meals. All you have to do is remember how you felt after eating too much food, and you’ve got it.
Generally, Phlegm and Food stagnate in the Middle Warmer, the location of the Stomach. However, symptoms may also arise in the Lower or Upper warmers. In fact, people often go to the emergency room thinking they have heart problems while actually it’s acute Food Stagnation causing heart symptoms.
Food Stagnation may be either acute or chronic. The acute type is how you feel after over-eating; with the chronic type, you may not experience any symptoms or you may have any of those listed below.
Ayurvedic medicine calls chronic Food Stagnation ama. Ama is like rotten sludge, the undigested food particles that lodge in the organs and channels of the body. Similar to Damp Stagnation, it has a consistency of sticky paste with a foul smell. Chronic Food Stagnation arises when digestion becomes impaired and the body can no longer fully digest or absorb nutrients. In this case, food overwhelms the Stomach, preventing its normal descent and the Spleen’s normal ascent. It then either results in stomach symptoms of sour regurgitation, reflux or vomiting, belching and/or hiccupping, or it passes on to the intestines causing foul gas or loose stool or diarrhea with foul-smelling stools. The partially digested food then lingers in the body, congesting the organs and channels and slowing the circulation of Qi, Blood and Fluids.
Food Stagnation is itself an Excess condition regardless of whether it occurs in someone with Deficiency or Excess. It may be associated with either Cold or Heat and this is reflected on the tongue as either a white or yellow coat respectively.
Upper Warmer: Acute – Heart palpitations or stuffiness around the heart along within the epigastric region (Food Stagnation prevents Heart Qi from descending)
Middle Warmer: Acute – No appetite; fullness and distention of the epigastrium which are relieved by vomiting; insomnia with a full feeling in the stomach region (Heart Qi cannot descend); unrelieved hiccupping; epigastric spasms; nausea, vomiting. Chronic – Foul breath; sour regurgitation; belching; certain types of insomnia; abdominal fullness and bloating; poor distribution and/or assimilation of nutrients.
Lower Warmer: Chronic – Lower bowel stagnation; constipation.
Tightness of the muscle under the epigastrium and/or ribs (could also be Qi stagnation) or of upper abdominal muscles; tightness of lower intestines (could also be Qi stagnation); I’ve also felt and seen that thickening of the fat layer over the upper abdomen is a reflection of Food Stagnation.
There are many factors that can cause food to stagnate. Here are several:
Pathogenic Influences: Invasion of Cold into the stomach or intestines, especially combined with poor diet or over-eating
Emotions: Worrying while eating; emotional eating; PMS eating (eating too much and then nothing); eating disorders such as bulimia
Diet: Excessive consumption of: fatty, fried and greasy foods (for example French fries, hamburgers, pizza, and cheese), cold foods and drinks (including raw foods, fruit, tofu, soy milk, iced drinks, salads, ice cream and other refrigerated or iced items), and simple carbs (especially flour products like muffins, pastries, crackers, breads, toast, pasta, cakes and chips of all types)
Lifestyle Habits: Overeating, especially of hard-to-digest foods; eating too quickly; eating while in a hurry; irregular eating times and amounts; working while eating; driving while eating
In Part II we will discuss treatments and therapies for Food Stagnation. However, if you feel stagnant just by reading all of this, I suggest you – you guessed it! Immediately get up and MOVE! Movement is one of the great keys to circulating all substances in the body. Walking and stretching are particularly good for Food Stagnation as are any bending postures that compress and release the stomach.
In Part I we learned about the many signs and symptoms of Damp Stagnation and its far reaching affects on health. In this segment we’ll cover how to treat and prevent Damp Stagnation and Phlegm. Of course you’ll be immediately interested in the herbs and formulas to use, but first I’ll cover other therapies since they are integral, even essential, to preventing and treating this issue.
Foods to Eat: Protein, grains, legumes, cooked vegetables, cooked fruits, spices added to food, warm drinks
Foods to Avoid: Cold foods and/or drinks; iced foods and drinks; raw foods such as raw veggies in salads, fried and fatty foods, greasy foods, dairy (yogurt is the consistency of mucus, right?!), sugar, alcohol, tofu, soy milk, and all flour products (bread, muffins, bagels, pastries, doughnuts, cake, crackers, pasta, and so on!)
Appropriately express and release emotions on a regular basis
Regular eating habits; alternate work with rest and play; sufficient exercise and activity; limit pharmaceuticals as much as possible
Moxibustion, cupping (be sure to dress any water blisters that may appear); if working or living in damp environments such as concrete floors and rooms, wear protective shoes and sufficient clothing; avoid prolonged wearing of wet clothing (bathing suits for example) or standing in water
Both diuretics and Phlegm-resolving herbs are used depending on the severity of the Damp Stagnation.
The following expectorants are used according to whether it is Cold Phlegm or Hot Phlegm.
For quick use around the home use parsley, coriander seed, celery, peas, carrots, corn silk, or aduki beans (especially with carp or other fish) as diuretics; for Phlegm use cardamom or cloves.
Note: Because Drain Damp and Transform Phlegm herbs tend to be drying, use with caution in those with Deficient Blood or Yin. As well, combine with herbs to clear Heat or warm Internal Cold as appropriate.
This is the best general formula for most types of Damp Stagnation or Phlegm.
Prepare as a decoction adding 3 g of fresh ginger (sheng jiang) and one piece of umeboshi plum (dried or salt-preserved).
Properties and Actions
a) Dries Damp and dispels Phlegm
b) Regulates Qi and harmonizes the Middle Warmer (Stomach and Spleen).
Indications: Cough with Damp-Cold Phlegm caused by Damp-Cold of the Spleen and Stomach. Symptoms may include chest and epigastric fullness, nausea, vomiting, lassitude, feeling of heaviness (from excess mucus), possibly vertigo and palpitations in extreme cases. May be considered for upper respiratory tract infection, chronic bronchitis, cough, goiter, chronic gastritis, peptic ulcer and Meniere's disease.
Tongue: Moist, greasy white coat
There are many, many formulas for Damp stagnation and Phlegm. Following is a general list:
Properties and Actions:
a) Clears External conditions
Indications: For External Wind Heat and Interior Lung Heat. Symptoms include fever, with or without perspiration, asthma, thirst and dryness.
Tongue: Either a thin white or yellow coat
Pulse: Floating, rapid and slippery
Contraindication: Not for asthma caused by Wind Cold
Other useful upper warmer formulas
Dampness or Phlegm Obstructing the Head: Pinellia and Gastrodia Combination
Damp Phlegm Obstructing the Lungs: Perilla Seed Decoction
Properties and Actions:
a) Diuretic, clears edema
c) Digestive, strengthens the Spleen
Indications: This is the primary diuretic formula. It is used for Spleen dampness conditions, edema, thirst, headache, nausea and vomiting after drinking water, urinary retention, ascites, cardiac edema, digestive problems including acute gastritis, gastrectasis, ascites caused by liver cirrhosis, acute enteritis with diarrhea as well as swollen testicles.
Tongue: white and moist
Pulse: floating, slippery
Other useful Middle Warmer formulas
Phlegm and Dampness caused by Deficient Spleen: Six Gentlemen Decoction (Liu Jun Zi Tang)
Magnolia and Ginger Formula (Ping Wei San)
Magnolia and Hoelen Combination (Wei Ling Tang)
Obstruction of Spleen by Dampness with Stagnation of Liver Qi: Capillaris Combination (Yin Chen Hao Tang)
Stagnation of Phlegm in the Gall Bladder: Bamboo and Poria Combination (Wen Dan Tang; Gall Bladder Warming Decoction)
Properties and Actions: Clears Damp-Heat.
Indications: Lower back pain caused by Damp-Heat with symptoms of pain in the knees, eczema, leukorrhea, dark colored and scanty urine, tinea pedis (athlete’s feet), eczema, gonorrhea
Tongue: Yellow and greasy coat
Pulse: Soft and rapid
Other useful Lower Warmer formulas:
Vitality Combination (Zhen Wu Tang; Black Warrior Decoction)
Polyporus Combination (Zhu Ling Tang)
Properties and Actions:
a) Diuretic, clears Excess fluid and removes edema
b) Tonifies the Spleen Qi
c) Calms External Wind
Indications: For swollen abdomen, ascites, edema with a Deficient exterior. Other symptoms include spontaneous perspiration, pale and puffy skin, obesity (especially useful with Ledebouriella and Platycodon Combination), arthritis and rheumatic problems. It can be considered for congestive heart conditions and nephritic edema.
Tongue: Pale with a white coat
Pulse: Floating, weak, soft or thready
Contraindications: Not used if there are no signs of fluid retention.
Whether you've had April showers or are experiencing May ones, rain is a great metaphor for Dampness in the body. Just as rain collects and congests traffic (Qi or Blood stagnation) it can also flood and eventually swamp an area (Damp Stagnation). Damp Stagnation can be likened to standing swamp that breeds bacteria.
In TCM, when Dampness collects over time, Heat develops and dries Fluids. The Dampness then congeals to form Phlegm. Phlegm is a more serious condition that can cause such conditions as cough, wheezing, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, GERD, scrofula, goiter, arthritis and lymphadenitis, or it can lead to major diseases like cancer, stroke, atherosclerosis, plaque in the arteries, coma, lockjaw, contracted limbs, cerebral vascular accident, and seizures. While Phlegm is a secondary pathogen, it is considered "the mother of 100 diseases" by the Yuan dynasty physician, Wang Gui. In Ayurvedic medicine, it is called kapha, or the mucus humour.
In general, Fluid (Damp) Stagnation is often associated with Qi Deficiency or low energy. It is accompanied by a general appearance of edema or tissue swelling, especially seen on the abdomen, face, enlarged glands, nodules and/or any other puffy, swollen areas of the body. The tongue reflects generalized edema by appearing enlarged, swollen, scalloped on the sides, and very moist. The pulse feels "slippery," gliding or "rolling," whichever description aptly describes its manifestation.
Pulse: Slippery and/or wiry
Tongue body: Swollen – where the tongue is swollen indicates the location of Phlegm
Tongue coat: Sticky
Combinations of body and coat:
Frankly, if you’ve got to spit out mucus from your throat first thing in the morning or after eating meals, you’ve got phlegm.
Can be external
Is only internal
Slimy and/or sticky
Moves and changes
Diseases not so serious
Causes serious diseases
From Spleen impairment
From Spleen, Kidney and Lung impairment
Usually affects lower body
Usually affects middle and upper body
Doesn’t affect the mind
Affects the mind
Combines with Heat or Cold
Combines with Heat, Cold, Fire, Blood, Wind, Dryness
|Mostly affects the Spleen, Gall Bladder, Urinary Bladder, Large Intestine, Small Intestine||Mostly affects the Lungs Heart, Kidneys, Stomach|
Affects the Spleen
Affects the Stomach
Moves with (or blocks) Qi and Blood
Sticky, heavy, dirty, flows downward
Only assumes one form: watery
Can be Phlegm, Phlegm Fluids
Use "drain Dampness" herbs
Use "resolve Phlegm" herbs
Phlegm always affects the Spleen but it accumulates in the Lungs. However, because it moves and changes, it can be found anywhere in the body, such as:
Phlegm in the Lungs: cough, wheezing, stifling sensation in the chest, pain in the ribs
Damp Phlegm Obstructing the Lungs: chronic cough coming in bouts, profuse white sputum which is easy to expectorate, white-pasty complexion, stuffiness of the chest, feeling "clogged up," shortness of breath, dislike of lying down, slippery or weak-floating and fine pulse and thick-sticky white tongue coating.
Phlegm Heat in the Lungs: barking cough, profuse yellow or green or dark sputum which is foul-smelling, shortness of breath, asthma, stuffiness of the chest, slippery, rapid, full pulse and red tongue body with a thick-sticky yellow coating
Phlegm in the Stomach: nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, epigastric distention
Phlegm in the Channels: scrofula, goiter, lymphadenitis
Turbid Phlegm blocking the Heart orifices: wind stroke, coma, lockjaw, contracted limbs, CVA, seizures
Upper Warmer Symptoms: edema in top part of body such as face and hands, congestion in the head and/or chest
Middle Warmer Symptoms: sound of abdominal fluid, damp abdomen, ascites, edema in the middle part of the body
Lower Warmer Symptoms: Edema in lower part of body, such as the legs and ankles, pitting
Dampness and Phlegm always appear with either Heat or Cold. If with Heat, there’ll be other signs of Heat along with a yellow tongue coat and yellowish excretions and secretions; if with Cold, there’ll be other signs of Cold along with a white tongue coat and clear to white excretions and secretions.
Dampness and Phlegm are always pathologies of the Qi mechanism. While it is primarily caused by deficient Spleen Qi or Yang failing to transform and transport Body Fluids, it may also be created by deficient Kidneys unable to control the Fluids and/or Liver Qi Stagnation failing to facilitate the transportation and transformation functions of the Spleen. As well, it may be caused by the invasion of pathogenic influences such as External Wind-Cold that interferes with the Lung’s function of dispersing and descending. Here are several other factors that can cause Damp stagnation and Phlegm to develop:
Pathogenic Influences: Phlegm easily combines with other pathogens to create many conditions such as:
Emotions: Any emotional excess can eventually lead to Damp Stagnation and Phlegm
Diet: High consumption of cold foods and/or drinks; raw foods; dampening foods like fried and fatty foods, dairy, sugar, tofu, soy milk, alcohol, and flour products
Lifestyle Habits: Irregular eating habits, overwork, inactivity, excessive or long-term use of many pharmaceuticals such as antibiotics and antidepressants
In Part II we will discuss treatments and therapies for Damp Stagnation. However, if you feel stagnant just by reading all of this, guess what I’m going to suggest that you do? That’s right! Immediately get up and MOVE! Movement is one of the great keys to circulating everything in the body. It can be exercise, but if you do what you love at the same time, it also smoothes emotions and nourishes you, preventing further stagnation.
In Part I we learned about the many signs and symptoms of Cold Stagnation and its effects on physical and mental health. In this segment we’ll cover how to treat and prevent Cold Stagnation. You may be most interested in herbs and formulas that treat this condition, but first I’ll cover other therapies integral to preventing and treating this issue.
Foods to Eat: All cooked foods, warm drinks; spices added to food; animal protein (except crabmeat and shellfish); cooked and spiced vegetables and fruits
Foods to Avoid: Refrigerated foods and drinks; raw foods (including salads); iced drinks; frozen yogurt, ice cream, popsicles, etc.; most fruit and vegetable juices; melons, bananas; crabmeat and shellfish (except shrimp); soy milk and tofu
Emotional Therapy: Appropriate expression and release of emotions
Lifestyle Therapies: Dress warmly and adequately for the weather; cover neck with a high collar or scarf; cover lower back, waist and midriff
Other Therapies: As with Blood Stagnation, moxibustion is the main therapy for Cold Stagnation, although other heat applications may be used such as hot stones, hot packs, warming herbal patches, ginger fomentations, and so forth.
Herbal Therapy: Herbs for Cold Stagnation tend to come from the "Herbs That Warm the Interior" or "Herbs that Tonify Yang" categories. In Western herbalism this can include stimulants along with certain adaptogens. These herbs have a warm to hot energy and generally pungent and/or sweet flavor. If there is also Wind or Dampness involved, then herbs that resolve Wind-Cold or disperse Cold Damp are also used. Take these herbs with cooked, warm food or as warm teas. Examples of herbs used for Cold Stagnation follow:
Kitchen medicine: Many kitchen spices are warming in energy, which disperse Cold Stagnation, such as ginger, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper and garlic.
Properties and Actions:
a) For Yang exhaustion of the Lesser Yin (Xiao Yin) stage.
b) For Yang Deficiency caused by excessive perspiration.
Indications: This formula can be used for collapse of vital functions and cardiac failure. Symptoms include: cold extremities, fear of cold, fatigue and exhaustion, diarrhea with undigested food in the stool, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain and lack of thirst. This formula was originally indicated for individuals who were inappropriately prescribed diaphoretics.
Pulse: Deep and weak
Tongue: Pale or dark purplish-blue
Contraindications: Avoid if there is Excess Heat or Yin Deficiency.
Preparation: Grind the ingredients into a powder. Warm honey until it is liquid. Stir the herb powder into the honey until it is a thick doughy consistency. Roll into balls about half the size of a lime. Take two or three daily before meals. A single dose of pills should equal to about 6-9 grams of the powdered herb. It can also be taken as a decoction. The pill is often taken with rice congee. Unless it is an acute case, codonopsis (dang shen) can be doubled in amount and substituted for ginseng (ren shen).
Properties and Actions:
a) Tonic, warms and tonifies Spleen and Stomach Yang
b) Strengthens digestion and raises digestive metabolism
Indications: It may be considered for symptoms of deficiency such as diarrhea with watery stool, nausea and vomiting, no particular thirst, loss of appetite, abdominal pain.
Pulse: Deep and thin
Tongue: Pale tongue with white coat
Note: This formula is often combined with either or both 6 g of cinnamon bark (rou gui) and 6 g of prepared aconite (fu zi) to make it stronger and warmer; this is Aconite, Ginger and Ginseng Combination (Fu Zi Li Zhong Wan). It is particularly useful for vegetarians, who through eating too much cold, raw food, have injured the Spleen Yang and seriously weakened their digestive metabolism.
Contraindications: Avoid if there is Excess Heat or Yin Deficiency.
Properties and Actions:
a) Tonifies Yang
b) Warms the Kidneys and lower extremities
Indications: For symptoms of Kidney Yang Deficiency with lower backache, coldness in the lower extremities, impotence, spermatorrhea, prostatic hypertrophy, frequent urination, nocturia, cough, asthma, persistent diarrhea, dysuria, spasms of the lower abdomen. It can be considered for diabetes mellitus and insipidus, hyperaldosteronism, Addison’s disease, hypothyroidism, arteriosclerosis, hypertension, edema, cystitis, chronic nephritis, kidney stones, albuminaria, chronic bronchitis, edema, chronic diarrhea, rectal prolapse, chronic gonorrhea, arthritis, menopausal problems, eczema, senile pruritis, vaginal itching, urticaria, neurasthenia, cataracts, glaucoma, keratitis.
Pulse: Sunken, slow and weak
Contraindications: Avoid if there is Excess Heat, Yin Deficiency or gastrointestinal weakness.
Preparation: Take warm. Saussurea (mu xiang) is often substituted for the harder to obtain aquilaria, which is also known as Lignum vitae. This formula is particularly indicated for hernial disorders for which fennel seed is a near specific.
Contraindications: Avoid if there is Excess Heat, Yin Deficiency or gastrointestinal weakness.
Properties and Actions:
a) Eliminates Dampness of the Spleen (relieves bloating)
b) Carminative, restores the function of the Stomach and assists digestion.
Indications: Abdominal bloating and fullness, loss of appetite, dull heavy feeling in the head and body, watery diarrhea, decreased urination.
Pulse: Slippery and thready
Tongue: White with a greasy coat
Contraindications: Avoid if there is Excess Heat, or Yin Deficiency.
Properties and Actions:
a) Metabolic Stimulant, stimulates Yang
b) Warms and counteracts internal Cold
Indications: Aversion to cold, coldness in the hands and feet, coldness in the Stomach and Spleen, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, abdominal pain, lack of thirst.
Pulse: Thin, deep and faint
Tongue: White, moist coat
Variation: By adding 6-9 g of ginseng (ren shen), the formula has wider tonic properties, tonifying Yin, Blood and Qi. Both these formulas are appropriate for both the Xiao Yin and Jue Stages as well.
Note: This is the basic metabolic stimulant formula.
Contraindications: Avoid if there is Excess Heat or Deficient Yin.
Trikatu is used for Internal Cold Stagnation and to dry mucus. It consists of equal parts powdered black pepper, pippali long pepper and ginger mixed with honey. A teaspoon is taken 2 or 3 times daily to lessen mucus and treat upper respiratory allergies.
Sito Paladi Churna is a traditional household formula used to treat the symptoms of the common cold. It consists of equal parts sugar, bamboo manna, pippali long pepper, cardamom seeds, cinnamon bark and ginger. It is warming, anti-mucus and clears Dampness.
A teaspoon of this can be taken in hot or warm water three or four times daily. While this helps induce perspiration in someone with the first sign of a cold or flu (followed a half hour later with a bowl of thin porridge such as rice cream or oatmeal if the patient is weak), this formula may also be taken in smaller doses to move Cold Stagnation. As well, it may be modified with cinnamon bark and licorice.
Years ago when I worked in Cleveland, I’d stare out the office window at a sunny spring day. Ecstatic to finally have warm weather, I’d rush out at lunchtime without a coat – it looked warm after all – only to find it was still cold. It’s behaviors like this that are one of the reasons why the winter-into-spring turning point of the seasons is one of the two most vulnerable times of year for colds and flu.
For this reason, I’m choosing to discuss Cold Stagnation in this blog. In April, there is often still a chill in the air. While we want it to be warm outside and so dress more lightly, generally it’s still frigid, particularly with wind, and so this is one of the times of year when cold can penetrate or congest more easily.
Cold itselftends to contract like ice. It causes a person to hunch over or curl up in order to minimize exposed body surface and maintain inner warmth. With lack of heat, activity in all forms slows.
Coldness is characterized by:
Coldness impedes circulation, causes contraction and slows activity internally. If there’s Cold in the body, eventually it leads to other forms of stagnation or it depletes the inner fires. Cold Stagnation can be acute or chronic. If acute, it usually causes severe pain; if it’s chronic, you may not even be aware of its presence except for perhaps feelings of coldness in the affected area.
Cold Stagnation is sometimes called "Full Cold." Full Cold only exists a short time because it quickly consumes the Yang, turning into Yang Deficiency (Empty Cold) instead. Pain from Cold Stagnation is generally severe, but not fixed or stabbing, and it’s alleviated by warmth and pressure. Cold Stagnation often combines with Damp to form Cold-Damp Stagnation as well.
Pulse and Tongue:
Pulse: The pulse is slow (less than 60 BPM); deep and tight. Fewer than four beats per complete breath (60 beats/minute) indicates Cold:
Tongue: pale with a thick white coat (acute); pale with a thin white coat (chronic)
Cold Stagnation in the Upper Warmer:
Feelings of coldness in the head, arms, chest and back; pale complexion.
Cold Stagnation in the Middle Warmer:
"Cold" indigestion; anorexia; diarrhea
Cold Stagnation in the Lower Warmer:
Cold abdomen, legs, and/or feet; impotence; frigidity
Cold Obstruction in the Channels:
Pain in the joints and/or muscles with feelings of coldness
Stagnation of Cold in the Liver Channel:
In men: straining of the testes or contraction of the scrotum; fullness and distension of the bladder area with pain that refers to the scrotum and testes
In women: shrinking of the vagina; pain alleviated by warmth
Cold Obstructing the Large and/or Small Intestines:
Abdominal pain alleviated by heat and pressure; loose stools or diarrhea; if the Cold invades the Large or Small intestines, the pain is sudden and severe; diarrhea with pain; feeling of cold and cold sensation in abdomen
This is an acute condition from the invasion of Exterior Cold into the Large Intestine that occurs usually from sitting on cold and wet surfaces for prolonged periods, exposure to very cold weather, or from having the abdomen insufficiently covered.
This happened to our son one day when he was about 8 years old. He had been playing outdoors von a cool day when suddenly, he ran inside and rolled on the floor, holding his abdomen and crying with pain. When I felt the area, it as cool to the touch and so I applied heart. Very quickly the pain dispersed.
Cold Invading/Obstructing the Stomach:
Sudden pain in the epigastrium, feelings of coldness with preference for warmth, vomiting of clear fluid, worse after drinking cold fluids that are then vomited
Cold Invading/Obstructing the Uterus:
Infertility; miscarriage; leucorrhea; pain and cold feeling before or during period in the lower abdomen referring to the waist and back with the pain alleviated by warmth; scanty dark red menstrual blood with clots
Factors that can lead to Cold Stagnation are:
Pathogenic Influences: Wind-Chill invading the skin, channels, Stomach, Intestines, or Uterus.
Emotions: Inward behavior, passivity and dullness can all be signs of Cold Stagnation.
Diet: Excessive intake of cold drinks and foods, including the following:
Lifestyle Habits: Not wearing sufficient clothing for the weather, bear midriffs, standing or sitting in cold environments (like concrete floors and basements).
In Part II, we will discuss treatments and therapies for Cold Stagnation. However, if you feel cold just by reading all of this, I suggest you immediately get up and – you got it: MOVE! While you certainly may be tired of reading this repeated suggestion by now, movement is still one of the great keys not just to circulating Qi and Blood, but also to warming the body and dispersing Cold Stagnation.
In Part 1 we learned about the many signs and symptoms of Qi stagnation and its far reaching affects on physical and mental health. In this segment we’ll cover how to treat and prevent Qi stagnation. Of course you’ll be immediately interested in the herbs and formulas to use, but first I’ll cover other therapies since they are integral, even essential, to preventing and treating this issue.
Therapies for Qi Stagnation:
Foods to Eat: Foods that decongest and aid the Liver include vegetables, bitter foods and dark leafy greens such as kale, collards, dandelion, mustard, beet and mustard greens. Lemon juice also helps decongest the liver. A good morning liver cleanse is a fresh squeezed lemon in water with 1 or 2 teaspoons of olive oil and a couple of "00" sized capsules of cayenne pepper. This is followed with fennel seed tea.
Foods to Avoid: Avoid fried, fatty and oily foods, nuts and nut butters, avocados, cheese and dairy, chips of all kinds, turkey and red meats, alcohol, spicy foods, caffeinated foods and drinks, coffee, black tea, cocoa, colas and chocolate, recreational drugs and stimulants.
Emotional Therapy: Turning the "vices" of the Liver into "virtues" helps smooth Liver Qi Stagnation. The Liver’s vices are anger and frustration; its virtues are benevolence, forgiveness, esteem, respect and kindness. Ever hear of that saying, "Do acts of kindness?" Such actions actually cultivate the positive aspects of the Liver and help Qi flow smoothly and regularly. There are many ways to do this; choose ones that express and release emotions in constructive ways and cause no harm to you or others. Above all, do not repress or stuff your emotions, as this is what helped create these physical symptoms in the first place. Of course my new book, Metaphor-phosis: Transform Your Stories from Pain to Power, is a perfect tool to help you do this!
Lifestyle Therapies: To rebalance the Liver, go to sleep by 11 PM at the latest, move regularly through walking, dancing, swimming, cycling, jogging, exercise, hiking (especially in the woods), Tai Chi, Qi Gong, yoga or another physical activity and regular exercise, and engage in creative projects as this releases pent-up Liver energy and moves Qi. For computer work (and other electronic tools) and desk jobs, be sure to move and/or stretch for five minutes every 30 – 60 minutes.
Other Therapies: Participate in regular life activities, sex and exercise as regularity of habits helps regulate Qi. Go to sleep by 11 pm at the latest since the Wood Element time of the Liver and Gallbladder does its major work from 11 pm – 3 am (if there’s also Deficient Kidney Yin, go to bed by 9 - 9:30 PM). Find work and jobs you enjoy and are fulfilling.Alternate work with rest and play as over-working can cause this pattern. Do cupping (especially over the back), dermal hammer where needed, breathing exercises, abdominal massage, massage therapies, singing and wear a haramaki around the waist to keep the kidneys warm, the "mother" of the Liver.
Herbal Therapy: Finally - herbal therapy for Qi stagnation! This encompasses so many herbs and formulas that we can’t cover them all here, but I’ll give you enough juicy ones to start exploring. First of all, herbs that move Qi are those that help it move smoothly, regularly and in the right direction. In Western herbalism this includes carminatives. Examples include:
Qi-regulating herbs tend to be aromatic, warm and acrid or bitter in energy, treating symptoms of pain that comes and goes, and/or changes location and severity; distention, stifling feelings in the chest, belching, nausea, vomiting, wheezing, acid regurgitation, loss of appetite, diarrhea or alternating diarrhea or constipation, pain in the flanks or under the ribs, depression, mood swings, and hernias.
Qi-moving herbs are rarely used alone; rather they are combined with others based upon the nature of the condition being treated. Typically, they are combined with Blood-moving herbs as Qi and Blood are intricately intertwined. For this reason, when one tonifies Qi, it’s important to tonify Blood and when one moves Qi, it’s also important to move Blood.
Kitchen medicine: For quick use around the home, I find citrus peel tea to be very effective to move Qi. While the Chinese use mandarin orange peels, in Italy I was surprised with lemon peel tea after one dinner. As well, rose buds make a wonderful jam, delighting the senses and spirit as well as moving Qi. Fennel seeds, normally found mixed with sugar and taken after dinner in Indian restaurants, are great as a tea, eaten raw or toasted and cooked with vegetables and meats.
Caution: Because Qi-moving herbs tend to be warming and drying, use with caution in those with Deficient Blood or Yin, or Excess Heat; because they are dispersing, use with caution if there’s Deficient Qi.
There are lots of formulas that move the Qi and many are available in Chinese patent teapill form, which are easy to find and take. Because bupleurum is one of the major Qi-moving herbs, there are literally dozens of formulas based on this herb alone. Perhaps one of the best known is Bupleurum and Dang Gui Formula (Xiao Yao San) and its variation, Bupleurum and Peony Combination (Jia Wei Xiao Yao San). These two formulas treat most symptoms of Liver Qi stagnation. The first is more warming while the second also clears Heat.
Bupleurum and Dang Gui Formula (Rambling Powder, Xiao Yao San,or in Planetary Formulas: Bupleurum Calmative):
Bupleurum and Peony Formula (Jia Wei Xiao Yao San):
Add to the above formula:
Uses: Both formulas regulate the function of the Liver and Spleen, move Liver Qi stagnation and replenish Blood. They are used for anemia, costal pain, headache, mouth and throat dryness, dizziness, lassitude, loss of appetite, irregular menses, leukorrhea, uterine bleeding, PMS, mood swings, depression, breast distention, chronic hepatitis, and alternating chills and fevers as in shao yang stage diseases.
Other Bupleurum Formulas to Consider:
More Useful Qi-Moving Formulas:
Happy Spring to you! May your Qi flow smoothly and your energy rise with the sap in trees!