Sunday, June 20, 2010

Foods for Healthy Hair

In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) hair loss or premature gray hair often reflects an underlying problem in the body. Hair, according to TCM, reflects the quality of blood and the strength of the kidneys. Keeping hair healthy for a lifetime is generally a balance between eating the right foods, sleeping well and keeping stress in check.  Some foods that strengthen the blood and kidneys to nourish hair are: black sesame seeds, hijiki seaweed, black beans, mulberry fruit, Chinese dates and royal jelly.

In addition to food sources, Chinese herbs have a long history of rejuvenating hair.  One such herb called "He shou wu" (Polygonum multiflorum) can be used long-term to strengthen and re-grow hair. The literal translation of the name he shu wu is "black-haired Mr. He" refering to the Chinese legend where Mr. He returned from living in the woods for some time, and his grey hair had turned to black. As it turned out, Mr. He had been consuming this herb to survive.  There are quite a few additional herbs that encourage hair growth, but "he shou wu" is the best know herb to restore hair color and nourish the skin, hair, teeth and nails.

As with most conditions in TCM, Chinese herbal medicine is best applied while considering the person's constitutional pattern.  By addressing a person's underlying constitution, the effects of any herbs or dietary change will be greatly increased.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Natural Prevention for Colds and Flu

If it's not cold & flu season, so why are there so many people getting sick lately?  There seems to be a potent little virus "going around", so it is best to be prepared.  Here are some obvious and some not-so-obvious tips on the topic:

The Obvious:
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water.  Be especially sure that you wash your hands before touching your eyes or face.
  • Get plenty of sleep and a moderate amount of exercise to keep your immune system up.
  • Eat your fruits and veggies and keep dietary intake of refined sugar low.  Keep in mind that refined carbohydrates (like breads) act in the same way as white sugar in your body.  When blood sugar goes up in an uncontrolled manner your immune system does not function as effectively.

The Less Obvious:
  • Don't share drinks with others.  Even during healthy times, people carry a whole host of viruses with them.  This is completely normal as most of these latent viruses are not causing illness, meaning the body has developed immunity from their effects.  In the US, our social standard is that friends and family are automatically "safe" to share drinks with; This is only true, however, if your friends and family have identical immune systems and antibodies as you do.
  • Even in the summer, you may be hit by some chilly air.  A blast of cold air could come in the form of air conditioning or a evening temperature drop.  In either case, when body temperature drops immune response drops as well.  Consider carrying a light jacket or scarf with you if you think there's a chance of a cold blast coming your way.
  • Incorporate some form of "active relaxation" into your daily life.  This could be a yoga or meditation practice or just taking some time to breath and listen (watching TV doesn't count as "active relaxation"!).

Chinese Medicine Help:

If you feel like you are starting to get sick, it is always best to act quickly.  A hot tea made with fresh ginger, mint and honey is a good start.  In addition, you may consult your herbalist to get an herbal formula that is best for you based on your current symptoms.  There are a variety of herbal formulas available for colds and flu, so it is important to select the best one for each specific case.

Lastly, If you get hit by every cold & flu bug that comes around, this may indicate a lowered immune system.  If adhering to the tips given above does not seem to change the pattern then you may benefit from an herbal and/or acupuncture approach.  There are a variety of natural herbs and time-tested herbal formulas that are effective to keep the immune system functioning at optimal levels.  Acupuncture also improves immune response if done regularly.