Keeping warm in Frigid Weather: Common Spices in Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine


In honor of Chicago’s negative 20 degree Fahrenheit temperatures today, I’d like to share with you my favorite category of 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, fennel, and szechuan pepper are all TCM warm interior herbs!  Examples of some herbs that are not Chinese herbs that would also belong in this category are cayenne pepper and oregano oil.

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.  We rarely use one herb alone.

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

The most perfect examples comes from Aruveda – Traditional East Indian medicine.

Chai Tea which is traditionally made with milk and contains herbal spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, black pepper, etc.  Non-dairy “milks” such as almond, oat, cashew, and coconut can be used as well.

Also in Indian cooking, hot and spicy foods are traditionally served with yogurt which being naturally sweet & sour flavor makes it extremely yin and fluid nourishing.  Try adding the above spices to your yogurt.

Try making a tea with a few shakes of cinnamon or ginger then adding cream or adding cinnamon to your cocoa.

Caution, warm interior herbs can be very hot!  Do not use directly without diluting especially the oil form and avoid contact with eyes.

Only cold sometimes or certain areas?

If you have difficulty taking spicy herbs, it could be due to damage or blockages in your system.  If you’re warm but have cold fingers and toes; cold hands and feet; cold feet only; or cold low back and knees only, these are also imbalances that Chinese Medicine can help relieve.

Repairing these imbalances can prevent damage  due to long term inadequate circulation.

Acupuncturists also use 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!

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