Throughout Asia there are many Chinese Herbal Medicine products that can be found for purchase over the counter practically everywhere for a variety of issues. While these products and their proper use are often common household knowledge among locals, for foreigners it can be overwhelming trying figure out what products are good for what conditions. I am no exception.
During my trip to the Philippines, I was introduced to a product called Kwan Loong Oil. I found this oil to be so incredibly useful that I wanted to share my experience with you.
Kwan Loong Oil is labeled as a topical analgesic - a topical pain relieving oil that provides relief from muscle and joint aches and pains including simple backaches, arthritis, bruises and strains. Manufacturers claim it is especially helpful in the treatment of minor sports-related injuries and pains and can be used for minor skin irritations, dizziness, nausea and insect bites. It is easy to apply over large areas of the body and is fast acting.
However in the Philippines, Kwan Loong Oil was highly recommended to me as an insect repellent. I was going to be spending time traveling through remote islands with malaria and dengue infected misquotes - so an effective bug repellent was a high priority. Locals swear that the Kwan Loong was very effective for mosquitoes and the only thing effective against sand flies. So I figured, when in Rome...
And to my pleasure, I found the Kwan Loong really did work. As long as I kept reapplying the oil, I was not bothered by the mosquitoes and other biting insects. And it was easy to determine when I needed to reapply the oil - the Kwan Loong has a very strong aromatic scent that would dissipate in about 30 minutes.
The best thing about Kwan Loong was the it's ability to cool. The manufacturers state "by increasing superficial circulation, [Kwan Loong] can speed healing and its spicy ingredients (lavender and eucalyptus) combine to feel cooling and invigorating." Cool and invigorating it was indeed!
The first couple of nights on my trip, there was no night breeze which meant was about 85 degrees in still air. No electricity meant no fans or climate control, which in turn meant long sleepless nights in this weather - agony! But as I was using the Kwan Loong to protect myself from mosquitoes, I found that when I applied the oil, the cooling herbs were actually strong enough to cool my body down! Enough for me to actually fall asleep. By the end of the trip I was referring to my bottle of Kwan Loong as AC in a bottle.
Trust me when I say that the next time I travel to a tropical area with mosquitoes and limited climate control, I am bringing a big bottle of Kwan Loong Oil with me.
Household Herbs and Spices for Winter
Relying on the shelves of your local pharmacy for drugs that mask your symptoms ultimately prolongs your illness. The drugs make you feel better, so you behave as though you are not sick, and your cold becomes this month-long drawn out thing. But if you shift your thinking just a little, work to plan rather than react, you can use the farmacy in your kitchen pantry to keep yourself healthier this winter.
Many common household herbs and spices in American homes have medicinal uses, and some are even listed in the Chinese Materia Medica - the collection of information about substances used in Chinese medicine over thousands of years. Here are a few common items and their winter-time uses according to Chinese Medicine. Give these uses a try this winter and see if you can stay well better!
Ground Cinnamon Bark
This herb warms the interior of the body and expel interior cold. As the weather begins to chill, simply start adding it to your morning oatmeal or porridge to help protect against invading cold.
This herb can expel pathogenic wind, detoxify seafood and meats, settle an upset stomach, and reduce nausea and vomiting. It is warm, but not as warm as dried ginger or ground cinnamon. Boil sliced fresh ginger in water for at least 15 minutes. Pour into a mug and add some organic raw honey and protect against the invasion of pathogenic wind.
This herb, like Cinnamon Bark warms the interior and expels interior cold. It a great addition to the morning oatmeal, porridge, you can even add it to your smoothies to help balance out the coldness of this popular UN-Chinese medicine breakfast.
Categorized as an herb that stabilizes and binds, this warming herb can be a great addition in the winter months to oatmeal, porridge or smoothies - especially if you tend toward loose stools.
Mild Sweating Soup
New York life is fast paced - we work hard, play hard and barely sleep. It can be a tough juggling act especially in cold and flu season, with temperatures that jump daily between winter and summer; dryness from steam heat and chilly air; and the stress of the approaching holidays. Eating well, getting enough rest and taking time to relax are the best ways to avoid precious time lost to illness but if you are good at paying attention to your body, you may be able to nip any winter bug before it blossoms into a cold or flu.
The key to this method can be summed up with the ancient Greek aphorism, "gnothi seauton" or know thyself. In Chinese Medicine, there is a small window of opportunity to expel an invading pathogen - we call it expelling pathogenic wind. The 'window' is the moment when pathogenic wind is trying to enter your body. When it is still on the outer surface, right at your skin layer. If you pay close attention, at this time you can notice a slight, funny feeling on your skin. Some folks may just feel a little off; a heightened sensitivity to drafts or temperature changes; maybe even a slight tingle, especially around your head, neck and shoulders. HOWEVER, this is before you actually start showing general symptoms like headache, fatigue, chills and congestion. Once you are showing these symptoms, it is too late to try this method.
If you think you are in your 'window', stay home or go home. Make an "executive decision'" to use the rest of this day to deal with your pathogenic wind, because it is just like an unwanted and unexpected visitor stopping by. Ignoring this opportunity can mean the difference between half or one sick day versus a couple days sick in bed and a bunch running around at reduced capacity and on a bunch of symptom-masking drugs.
For this method, you will need a few basic ingredients. If you don't keep these things on hand, make a stop at the store or you can do what I've been doing lately - have a service deliver to you. I have found Amazon Prime to be a great just for this situation. There is an app and if you time it right, you can have it arrive shortly after you get home. As soon as get home, change into warm, comfy pajamas. Keep warm and covered.
miso soup paste - try to get organic, non-GMO
In a small pot, boil enough water to make a couple bowls of soup. While the water is boiling, peel and cut about two inches of daikon radish into thin slices and set aside. Chop the scallions into thin slices at an angle and set aside. Once the water is boiling, add about a tablespoon of the miso paste and the daikon radish and reduce heat to a simmer. Once the radish becomes translucent, the soup is done. Remove from heat and top off with a big handful of scallions.
Eat your soup and immediately go to bed and get under covers. You should feel a slight sweat - this is the whole point. The radish and scallions encourage a slight sweat, in addition to the temperature and being wrapped up. Miso is fermented soy bean paste, so you are getting probiotics to nourish your gut microbiome. Research over the past few years has shown the gut microbiome to be a huge factor in immunity and brain function. There is no need to go crazy like trying to sweat it out in a sauna. If you sweat too much it can actually tax your body, making you weaker and more susceptible to the pathogenic wind. The key is to sweat just enough to push the wind out.
If you feel like you missed the window or just want to take that extra step to "secure your exterior" as we say in Chinese Medicine, take note of any symptoms or changes and make an appointment ASAP (email me directly and I'll try to fit you in). If possible, don't take any medications before your appointment so I can see what is actually going on.
It takes a bit of practice to learn how to recognize the 'window'. I think this is particularly because in our society, we are taught to keep going until we basically collapse. This method requires you to shift your mindset about illness and wellness - essentially asking you to giving up a little bit of time on the front end in exchange for a reduced intensity, duration and even frequency of illness on the back end.
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