In honor of Chicago’s below freezing temperatures for the next few days, I’d like to share with you my favorite category of Traditional Chinese herbal Medicine, Herbs that Warm the Interior. They are my favorite because I’ve always loved food and cooking and almost all of the herbs in this category are common spices!
Black pepper, aged dried ginger, cloves, cinnamon bark, fennel, and szechuan pepper are all TCM warm interior herbs! An examples of an herb that is not a TCM herb that would also belong in this category is cayenne pepper.
So how do you warm up without ending up too hot & dry? Mix your warm interior herbs with yin-fluid foods or include fresh fruits and veggies!
How to Consume Warm Interior Herbs
In my opinion, some of the most perfect examples of how to consume warm spices come from Aruveda – Traditional East Indian medicine.
Chai Tea is traditionally based with milk (which is neutral and yin) and contains warm herb spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, black pepper, etc. Non-dairy “milks” such as almond, oat, cashew, and coconut may be used, but the amount of spices may need to be reduced since those “milks” are not as yin.
Also in Indian cooking, hot and spicy foods are traditionally served with yogurt a naturally sweet & sour flavored food (again yin and fluid nourishing) which provides natural balance for the hot spicy herbs. Try adding some of the above spices to your yogurt with fruit. Not only will it be delicious, but it will also help digest the yogurt which then forms less mucus in your system!
Try adding cinnamon to your butternut squash soup or making a tea with a few shakes of cinnamon or ginger then adding cream or adding cinnamon to your cocoa. We have several teas that contain warm interior herbs in stock in our natural apothecary!
Handling Exceptional Cold
Are you warm but have cold fingers and toes; cold hands and feet; cold feet only; or cold low back and knees only? Do you have difficulty taking spicy herbs? Have you tried warming spices, but are still cold? These are signs of a deeper imbalance that Chinese Medicine can help relieve!
Also remember that life and health is all about balance. If you are very dry (dry skin, hair, eyes, mouth), you may simply need more fluids to circulate and warm the body. This is why we diagnose each person individually and also why we use herbal formulas instead of one herb alone!
Traditional East Asian Medicine also uses a warming technique called moxabustion to treat channels that are too cold. Your acupuncturist can create a custom plan to keep you warm and balanced all winter. If you are on medications or seeking a movement technique that can significantly warm you, our affiliated practitioner, Shannon Tetteh, of Golden Palm & Needle is teaching qi gong classes currently in Wednesdays. See his website and contact him to sign up!
Stay warm everyone!
Caution, warm interior herbs can be very hot! Do not use directly without diluting, especially the oil form, and avoid contact with eyes.