Thursday, April 18, 2013

Herb For The Heart

You know how it is with herbs. You don't really pay attention to it until you need it.

Which is precisely what happened.

Nic was complaining of a dull ache near his heart a few weeks ago. He was worried, I could see. After all, having a heart problem is no laughing matter.

He is 40 years old but he has been physically fit most of his life. In fact, I am the one with the aches and pains. I am the one with knots in my shoulders (from hunching over the laptop no less) and need my fortnightly reflexology or Thai body massage sessions.

He attributes his good health to cod liver oil which he took as a kid. This is not the first time I heard of the cod liver oil theory. I had heard it before from my ex-boss about a decade ago (that was when I was still working for others). He said the same thing. He said his daughters never had a cold or flu after taking cod liver oil.

Nic is not a believer in Western medicine. He thinks it's a load of crock especially when doctors these days often recommend surgery for any ailment, acute or otherwise. I am not so much against doctors as I am against the medication. I don't like taking antibiotics and I certainly don't think the medicine help with the root of the health problem. Most times, it's like putting a bandage on a wound - you don't see the wound but it's still there.

Maybe that is one reason why I am passionate about herbs and Chinese medicinal herbs. Chinese medicine is about balance and getting to the root of the issue. Of course Chinese medicine does not work as quickly as Western medicine.

When I used to visit the Chinese doctor or "sin seh" for my prolonged cough (most of the time due to wind heat) about 8 years ago, he'd prescribed packets of bitter, herbal powder. Each packet had to be taken with some water about 4 hours apart. When I was taking this Chinese medicinal powder, I could not eat fried or spicy food, dairy and poultry. Oh, and no tea or coffee. Just plain water.

During the course of  treatment,  I ate only white bread, simple stir-fried vegetables, rice, porridge and a little meat (mostly pork is allowed). This "diet" is difficult to adhere to but if you wanted to get well on one course of the herbal powder (which I had to take for 5 days in a row), you had to grin and bear it. It's not easy to stop eating one's favourite foods. But that's Chinese medicine to you. It works slowly but it gets down to the crux of the illness.

Chinese medicinal treatment requires self discipline. You won't see instant results. But over time, you will see a much healthier you with less coughs, colds and flus. Even if you do fall ill, you recover much faster. Food and soups are meant to preserve and maintain good health. I believe that it's a more delicious way to eating your "medicine" than popping paracetamol or taking antibiotics.

Anyway, I decided to find out what herbs I could use to help Nic with his heart issue.

I remembered Dang Shen, touted as the Poor Man's Ginseng. It is also a herb that is good for the heart and for blood circulation.

Dang shen root & dried red dates

I made a soup with dang shen in the first round and a few days after that I brewed a dang shen and dried red date tea.

Buy the best quality dang shen you can find (ask your herbalist). Then place some into a slow cooker with pitted dried red dates. Add enough water for 2 persons (usually I add boiling water). Turn it on to "Auto" and let it simmer for about 3-4 hours. Drink warm. We each drank a mug of this at night before we turned in. The next day, I re-used the dang shen to make yet another 2 more mugs of weaker dang shen tea. No point wasting the herb!

Nic told me that his heart pain seems to have been reduced after all that dang shen! I am still monitoring him as he refuses to see a doctor.

Even if you don't have a heart problem, making and drinking dang shen or "tong sum" tea with dried red dates is an immunity booster for the whole family. It's mild enough for everyone, young and old.

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