Thursday, January 16, 2014

Herbs, The Original Medicine

Since the beginning of time, herbs have been important for man. As early people foraged for food, discovering which plants were edible, they also found plants with medicinal qualities. These medicinal plants were highly valued as they gave people a means of treating health problems. As people's experience with herbs grew they noted specific qualities of different herbs. For example, some herbs promoted sweating, which helped when a person was in the early stage of a cold. Some herbs had anti-rheumatic properties and eliminated pain in the joints, still other herbs had diuretic properties or were found to calm the spirit thus treating insomnia or mental disturbances.

One of the most common herbs available is ginseng. Ginseng has a long history in China as a tonic herb. In Chinese the name for ginseng is Renshen or man root because it look like a little man. The ginseng root was traditionally boiled in a tea but nowadays it is found in many products, such as prepared teas, capsules, liquid extracts, and in energy drinks. Ginseng is highly respected in the Orient and is a very important herb in the herb category of Replenishing and Tonifying herbs. In fact, it is the most important of the Qi tonifying herbs. Qi (pronounced “chee” as in cheese) is a term used to describe vital functions and/or substances of the body. Qi is said to animate all living beings. Qi tonifying herb's main action is to tonify or strengthen the Qi of the Lungs or Spleen, which in turn helps transform oxygen and food nutrients into usable energy.

There are two types of ginseng: wild and cultivated. The wild type is extremely rare, which makes it incredibly expensive if some is available. Roots selling for tens of thousands of dollars are not unheard of. Most of the world trade in ginseng consists almost exclusively of cultivated plants. Ginseng grows in China and Korea. In the United States there is a related plant called American Ginseng is grown in the northeastern part of the US. Wisconsin has some very good American Ginseng. Ginseng is a perennial plant. The root is collected in the spring or autumn, and is thoroughly dried before use.

The Chinese have given ginseng four traditional actions. They are: 1) Tonify Qi; it is indicated for patients after severe hemorrhage who have pallor, weak pulse, and cold extremities. 2) Tonify Qi and strengthen Spleen; it treats cough and asthma due to Lung Qi deficiency and diarrhea and abdominal distension due to spleen deficiency. 3). Relieve thirst; it treats body fluid deficiency. 4). Calms the Spirit; it treats insomnia and spontaneous sweating due to deficiency of Qi and Blood.

Research in China substantiates the traditional actions of ginseng and has given us more information on this herb. It has been shown that: a) Ginseng could increase thinking efficiency; b) It could relieve fatigue, improve appetite and sleep. A small dose could speed up the rate of the heart; c). It can promote the production of blood cells; d). It could treat high cholesterol in the blood; e). It is effective to increase the ratio of albumin/globumin in certain diseases; and f). The leaf and stalk of the ginseng plant can treat Addison's Disease.

The common dose of ginseng is 1.5 to 9 grams. It can be taken in many ways. The most common way is as a tea. To make ginseng tea, take a giseng root or part of a root and put it in a pot with four cups of water. Bring the water to a boil and then boil vigorously for ten minutes. Then lower to a medium boil for about 35 minutes. When done, you should have about two cups of concentrated tea left. Drink one-half to one cup. Be careful not to use too much as ginseng can be very stimulating and it may interfere with your sleep. Ginseng can also be chewed. You can cut a ginseng root into small pieces (you need to soften it first to cut it) and then put a small piece in your mouth. It will slowly dissolve as it mixes with your saliva until it is all gone.

Ginseng cannot be used for just any problem. It is contraindicated when someone gets hot easily, has an irritable or angry nature or has high blood pressure, also don't use it if you are sick with a cold.
In summary, ginseng is a strong tonic for general use, vitalizing and calming the mind and the functions of the body.

Where to get ginseng: One of the best sources of Chinese herb products, including ginseng is East Earth Trade Winds ( Established in 1985 they have a good reputation for quality products and good service. They are listed as a source of Chinese herbs in over 60 books. On their website you can buy whole ginseng roots (American ginseng, Chinese ginseng, Korean ginseng, and semi-wild Yi-sun ginseng). You can also buy Korean, American, or Siberian Ginseng in capsules. They also have hundreds of other Chinese herb products for treating minor health complaints or to be used as tonics.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Making Tonic Herb Soup

My friend Li is a wonderful cook and always trying new things. Last night we had a tonic soup that was cooked inside a watermelon. The taste was delicious. She used black skinned chicken (bought at an Oriental market), Jujubes, Lotus Seeds, Glehnia, and Lycii. What gave it an unusual and delicious taste was that it was cooked inside a hollowed out watermelon.
Here is how it looked on the stove:

The oil from the chicken reflects the light a bit but you can see the jujubes in the lower right and the lycii on the left. The black skin of the chick is floating near the center. (click on the picture to see larger).

Here's how it looked when served:

 You can see the jujube near the bottom and the white lotus seed just above it.

Here's how you make it.
Cut a watermelon in half and hollow it out (save the inside and mix in a blender for a refreshing drink).
Put the watermelon in a large pan and place water both inside and outside the watermelon.

Add chicken (white or black skinned)
Add 6-8 jujubes
Add 10-15 lycii
Add a couple sticks of Glehniae
Add a few Nelumbinis
Fill the watermelon with water.

The watermelon will act as a double-boiler when you cook it. Bring the water outside the watermelon to a boil then lower and simmer for three hours. Check to make sure the water doesn't evaporate while cooking. Cover the pot when boiling.
You can buy the herbs at the links above.
When done add a little salt to taste and enjoy!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Pregnancy and Mien Dream Interpretation - a True Story

Linda, who works at East Earth Trade Winds, is of Mien descent and often tells me about Mien culture - which I find very interesting. I wish I wrote down all the things she has told to me about Mien culture. It would be a very interesting book covering topics such as marriage ceremonies, family relationships, shamans, funeral ceremonies, feng shui, cooking, and life of the Mien before they migrated as refugee's to the USA.

One thing we talk about sometimes is dreams. The Mien have their own ways to interpret them. There's good dreams and bad dreams. All have meaning. Last Friday morning it was quiet in the office for a while and I told Linda I had a funny dream the night before. I was down the street from where I live at a neighbors and doing some yardwork by their fence. I had to climb up a ladder that was against the fence and while on the ladder noticed a fruit tree with branches hanging over on the side I was on. There was some fruit on it and I picked three pieces. I'm not sure what type of fruit it was but it was small, brown, and fig-like. Before I could go on with my dream Linda exclaimed "Your daughter's pregnant!" I asked her why she said that and she explained that dreaming of fruit means a pregnancy in the family. She said if my daughter wasn't pregnant then my son's girlfriend was. She told me both her mother and mother-in-law dreamed of picking fruit and asked her if she was pregnant - which she denied. A month later she found out she was pregnant.

My daughter lives in Hawaii with her husband and I talk to her every 4-6 weeks. She's been married about two years. She's never mentioned anything about wanting children before and I've never broached the subject figuring that's their own business. I told Linda I wasn't sure if I should ask. Linda told me to wait two weeks and then call her.

Three days later on Sunday my daughter calls. "Hi Dad!" she says and before she can say another word I asked if she was pregnant. With a puzzled voice she replied "How did you know?" I told her about my dream and Linda's interpretation of it. I was surprised and pleased that the dream was true. My daughter was surprised also. As for the fruit in the dream? Linda said the brown color means my daughter's child will be a boy.

After I finished talking to my daughter I texted Linda and told her she was right and that I was going to be a grandpa. She replied "I told you so!" and  "Congrats!".

I'm very happy for my daughter and son-in-law. I know they'll be happy with whatever sex the child is. I also need to pay more attention to my dreams.

May 17, 2014. My daughter gave birth to a beautiful, healthy boy in March. The dream interpretation proved true!

Friday, July 26, 2013

New Product Search Feature on

East Earth Trade Winds has added the ability to Shop for products by Manufacturer on their website. This new search function is found on the left hand side of the screen below the "search" function.
This enhances your ability to find the products you want by quickly browsing  a manufacturer's product line.

Monday, July 22, 2013

A visit to Bruce Lee's Grave

People may or may not know that Bruce Lee is buried in Seattle, Washington. Recently while in Seattle I had the opportunity to pay my respects. It was a beautiful day. I was visiting an old friend of mine and luckily he knew exactly how to get to the graveyard. We arrived there shortly before the cemetery closed for the night. The sun was setting behind the grave stone so the first picture is a little washed out. 

There is a bench facing the grave with an inscription from Bruce Lee's wife Linda Lee and his daughter Shannon.

Bruce Lee's son, Brandon Lee, is buried next to his father. Both died at a young age. Below are the graves of Bruce and Brandon Lee.

Last year while in Hong Kong I went to visit Bruce Lee's martial art instructor's (Ip Man) grave. There is another posting on this blog about that here: A Visit to Ip Man's Grave

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Miami Heat Chris Andersen Chinese character Tattoo

I'm don't follow basketball but when I see a tattoo of a Chinese word I like to know what it means. This photo of Miami Heat basketball player Chris Andersen appeared in our local paper. The tattoo on the inside of his right arm is very visible (as are all the rest of his tattoo's).

The tattoo didn't look right to me and I couldn't find it in my Chinese-English Dictionary. Here's a close up of the tattoo:

Fortunately a Chinese friend recognized it and told me what it was supposed to be. It is the Chinese word "e" which means "evil"*. After learning what the character was I looked it up. Here's a picture of the correct character from my dictionary. The first character on the left is the simplified character. The one in parenthesis is the traditional character. In either case, the top part of the character looks a lot different than the top part of Chris Andersen's tattoo.

The majority of people will never know the difference but just like misspelled words don't appear in English dictionaries there is no Chinese character such a the one on his arm to be found in a Chinese dictionary.

 The moral to this story is to be very careful if you are going to get a Chinese character (or any foreign language word) tattooed on your body.

*Apparently he has the Chinese word for good (hao) on the other arm.