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Friday, June 26, 2009

Keeping Naturally Cool in Summer: The Why and How

Summer has arrived and with it comes hot weather and bright fiery sun.
Summer is the season of maximum "yang," a time of extreme heat, light, and activity; in summer our energy circulates centrifugally; it is closer to the surface and our pulse rises. It is a time of extremes.
We can choose our response--do we seek respite from the heat and dry gently, with shade and water, or drastically, with freezing air conditioning and ice filled "Big Gulps."

The effect of the weather in summer is to overheat and over-dry; the latter due to sweating. Its easy to create balance with a diet and lifestyle that cools heat and replenishes fluids. However, at the same time we do not want to over-respond by following a diet or lifestyle that over-cools and chills our bodies, as in the above Big Gulp/air-conditioned mall example.

Why Cool Naturally?
The Lungs, Digestion, Toxins, and Excess Cold

It is important to cool naturally, as excessive cooling weakens the digestive system, the Lung Qi, and the Kidney Yang. Collectively, these are the masters of the immune system, so weakening them in the summer makes you more susceptible to common colds and flu in autumn and winter, and also ripens you for a summer cold.

The Lungs

The lungs strongly dislike extremes of cold and dry. They are "the delicate" organ in Chinese medicine, and prefer to be slightly moist and slightly warm. Cold causes the Qi to stagnate, and when the lung Qi stagnates, the tissues are weakened, and fail in their function of defense. This is one aspect of immune function


Iced beverages and excessive cold energy foods like ice cream and smoothies, or large amounts of raw foods and salads out of season weaken the digestive fire (Agni in Ayurveda, Spleen Qi in Chinese medicine) and lead to the accumulation of toxic dampness and food stagnation, the root of many digestive, metabolic, and immune disorders.

This is logic, not superstition. You use an ice pack on an injury to restrict inflammation by constricting blood vessels. So drinking iced beverages is like putting an ice pack on the lining of your stomach, precisely at the point when digestion requires an increased flow of blood to the stomach. I have seen lots of cases of digestive, chronic respiratory, and skin disorders improve once the patient gave up iced beverages and substituted room temp water or even tea.


Toxic dampness (Ama in Ayurveda) in the body is at the root of much chronic illness, but especially allergies, asthma, sinus congestion and infection, ear infections, dermatological, digestive, and many gynecological disorders.

How can you tell if you have toxic dampness? Just look at your tongue! A healthy tongue coat is thin, white, and light. Accumulation of toxic dampness will give your tongue a thick greasy coating. It will also cause it to be swollen, so that teeth marks appear on its sides.

All of the above, of course, is relative to your Mind-Body type and the relative health of your immune system and lungs. In Ayurveda, Pitta types with strong digestive fire (agni) can tolerate more cold foods than Kapha or Vata types who are susceptible to cold-damp, and cold-dry, respectively, or what Chinese medicine calls weak Spleen. Weak Spleen types have weak digestion and get sick easily.

Naturally Cooling Foods for Summer:

Salads, Fruit, Cool Herbal Drinks, Cool Soups, Juicing, Tofu, Dairy

Summer is the season to eat more salads.
Most raw vegetables are intrinsically cooling; they utilize more digestive fire to "cook", and contain water that is removed by cooking. Water is by nature cool, so this helps to refresh and cool.

Again, if one has weak digestive fire (Agni), then even in summer you can't eat too much salad or raw vegetables. But if you don't, then go ahead.

Cucumber, Tomato, Red Onion Salad

Especially cooling are cucumbers and tomatoes, which may help explain their popularity in the middle-east. Chop them with red onion and mix with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for a great quick salad. Add cooked small fava beans or chick-peas,, dried mint, and sesame seed and you have Badjilla, an Iraqi favorite.

Coleslaw is also a great way to bring down hot temperatures, and you can add chopped dark salad greens like dandelion and arugula to coleslaw to increase its nutritive value and make it "stronger."

Cilantro is a wonderful cooling herb that turns ordinary coleslaw upside down into an Indian cole slaw. Adding a little roasted cumin seed or popped mustard seed increases digestibility and makes it even more Indian flavored.

Chopped celery, apples, and walnuts make a great natural salad, and you will find mayonnaise is no longer necessary. Instead, add some raisins and sesame seeds .

Melons: In Season, Cooling, and Refreshing

Nothing is as cooling and refreshing as good watermelon. Buy organic and juice it whole; the rind is full of minerals and natural salts. Try serving it with slices of Feta cheese. (Think of how Italians eat melon with prosciutto.) But be careful, it is all too easy to over-indulge in melon, which will cause dampness in the tummy.

Almost all fruits are cooling. (Exceptions are raspberries, strawberries, and peaches.) So when you go for a long walk in summer, bring a piece of fruit. At the end of your walk when you are hot and thirsty, reward yourself with some juicy fruit, instead of frozen yogurt or ice cream. Going to the beach? Bring fruit salad or watermelon.

Think Cooling Herbal Teas and Creative Juice Drinks

In Summer we need more water due to sweating. Sweat is considered a precious fluid in Chinese medicine. When it’s dry you lose water without noticing. In humid weather we sweat profusely and lose precious fluid. As a result we feel great fatigue.

Certain herbs like American Ginseng generate fluids and help restore what is lost by vigorous exercise. The same herbs are useful as "anti-aging" medicines. With age we have a natural loss of "yin" fluids; by our 50's we tend to dry eyes, dry skin, and dry mucus membranes. Certain herbs remedy this by producing fluids. They are also good in Summer.

Koreans make Chicken with White Ginseng or American Ginseng and Sweet Rice and Mochi as a summer dish, to restore lost fluids and energy.

How to Eat Less Sugar--Healthy Sugar Substitutes

We know from science that we will drink more liquid if it has a flavor. However, this does not mean we need to consume tons of sugar. There are plenty of beverages that are a cinch to make yourself, that are great unsweetened or mildly sweetened.

The truth is that American soft drinks unnecessarily sweet, so try something better: make your own with the following items:

* Honey, which has many health benefits and contains floride, good for the teeth.
* Yucca syrup, which is sweeter than sugar so you use less
* Stevia powder, which has no caloric value and may stabilize blood sugar. Stevia is a little bitter, too, but if you mix it with a little natural sweetener, the bitter taste is masked.

Six Fast Natural Soft Drinks

* Sparkling mineral water is naturally cooling, and the mineral content quenches thirst and stimulates the drinking reflex
* Squeeze fresh lime into sparkling mineral water. Sweeten with non-caloric Stevia if you like to make a Vietnamese soda. Lime is naturally cooling.
* Add a small amount of grape or orange juice to sparkling mineral water. Wow! Italian soda.
* Buy or grow lemongrass, mint, lemon or Thai basil. Put a few sprigs or slices in a bottle of water. Voila!
* A favorite Mexican beverage is Jamaicha. This is made from dried Hibiscus flower. You can buy dried Hibiscus (Jamaicha) in the Mexican section of ANY supermarket, and also at any Mid-eastern or Iranian market. Simply boil water and pour over the Hibiscus and let it sit for at least 10 minutes, but 60 is better. Sweeten to taste if you want and put it in the refrigerator.
* Good old-fashioned ice tea can be made with your favorite green or black tea. I love Earl Grey or Jasmine, which are both cooling. Another great one is Green Tea with Mint Tea 50/50: Welcome to Morocco!

Try Cool Beverages Rather Than Iced

What I do is make my iced teas very strong and keep in the frig. Then I take the iced tea out of the refrigerator, and mix it fifty-fifty with room temperature water. Then it is cooling and refreshing without freezing my throat and over cooling the stomach and lungs.

Summer is a Great Time for Cool Soups

On really hot days we may not feel like hot food. The Spanish make delicious Gazpacho. However, any kind of pureed vegetable or bean soup is great at room temperature or slightly chilled. See below for one of my favorite pureed bean soups.

Pureed Provencal Lima Bean Soup, Yes!

1. Boil lima beans till soft
2. Add tomatoes or tomato paste to make a slight reddish color and give a slight sweet/sour taste
3. Sauté onions and garlic in olive oil until translucent.
4. Add some "Herbs de Provence" to the onion and garlic and sauté another 5 minutes as the herb fragrance deepens. If you have trouble finding Herbs de Provence just use a mix of tarragon, sage, rosemary, parsley and basil
5. Salt and pepper to taste.
6. Now puree the whole thing in the blender.

This is superb served warm or cold topped with croutons or even some quality bread crumbs.

You could also boil some celery and carrot in with the beans. Try the same concept with root vegetables like turnip, parsnip, and rutabaga. Play with the herb component. Try dill. Dill with Yogurt added in is classic. Bon Appetite!
See a recent blog post on May and June Gloom Odessa Borscht for more cold soup recipes.

How About Using a Juicer?

A great healthy way to cool off in Summer is to juice fresh vegetables. Be aware, though, of how much sugar is in carrots and fruit.

One of my favorites is celery, cucumber, parsley, a little bit of kale, and just enough carrot to sweeten it a bit. Sometime I add beet or a little pear. Occasionally I add some Nopales cactus, too. You can also juice mung bean sprouts, which are cooling, or really any green veggie you might eat or cook.

As I said earlier, with organic watermelon you can juice the rind, which is excellent in very hot weather, and for people with bladder infections or interstitial cystitis.

Occasionally I juice grapes, and then mix the juice with sparkling mineral water for an Italian soda. People with a sweet tooth can satisfy it naturally with a little natural sweet.

Dairy Products, Tofu, and Soy Milk

Milk: Uncultured dairy products like cow's and goat's milk are quite cooling and naturally moistening, too. Great for hot dry weather, but if you have a damp condition (Kapha), don't overdo it. If you are craving ice cream, try a glass of cooled previously cooked, sweetened milk instead (rose water, cardamom, natural sweetener,and milk) or milk in the blender with almonds, cocoa, and frozen cherries!

Cheese: Soft white cheeses, like cottage cheese, farmer's cheese, feta, and paneer, are considered easier to digest, less damp producing, and more cooling than hard cheeses.

Yogurt: Rather than buying ice cream and frozen yogurt, try blending some quality plain low-fat yogurt in the blender with fresh fruit such as blueberries or banana in the summer. Or how about plain yogurt with fresh fruit and some toasted nuts or seeds? Of course the immune-boosting qualities of yogurt are legendary. Pitta types need to avoid too much sour yogurt.

Lassi: Another very cooling summer drink is yogurt in the blender with water, salt, cumin powder, and mint. This is called lassi in India and dugh in Iran/Afghanistan. There are myriad variations on this from Turkey to India. Some people add cucumber, shredded or blended in.

Soy Milk: Soy milk is also naturally cooling, so if you prefer, make a smoothie with it.

Tofu: Tofu is consider a cold energy food, as in addition to the naturally cool qualities of the soy, the process of making tofu involves coagulating soy milk with a mineral, magnesium chloride, that is extremely cold in its energy. In herbal medicine we even use it for fevers!

Tofu can be used to balance the energy of hot foods. In Summer Japanese will eat small amounts uncooked as an appetizer with a dip. Try tofu in salads, and you can ever put soft tofu in a smoothie for texture and protein!

Tofu pudding is the bomb! Just put soft-type tofu in the blender with some fresh fruit. Add your favorite sweetener if you feel like it. Feeling decadent? Add chocolate chips.

Avoid Air Conditioning

People go crazy with air conditioning. If you have to use it, keep it at the temperature you would keep the heater in Winter. (Air conditioning is best set in the mid -70's.) Lots of people get colds in the summer from going from the hot outside into over air conditioned cold air, especially at the mall. The hotter it is outside, the greater this problem becomes.

Really, you can keep your home cool by keeping the air moving with a ceiling or window fan. Plant lots of greenery around windows. Keep the sun out with heavy blinds, especially on southern exposure.

Only Mad Dogs and Englishmen Go Out in the Mid-day Sun

This was an expression in India, where the mid-day sun can actually kill.

If you are susceptible to the heat, as in a Pitta condition like migraine, stay out of the hot sun. Exercise in the early morning or at sunset. Wear a hat. Drink lots of fluids. Put your head under cold water on a real hot day. Place a cold wash cloth on your neck. Eat fruit. Have fun. Stay cool. Be cool. Live naturally. Cheers!


Keep the Surfer Warm Decoction: Boost Performance, Prevent Colds, Surfer's Ear, Pain and Stiffness

KEEP THE SURFER WARM DeCOCTION is my own mixture of Chinese Herbs, extracted here in the USA by Kan Herbs Co (see link below to learn more about their process), that are used to improve performance, prevent colds, surfer's ear, yeast infections, aches and pains, and actually keeps you warm in the cold water. It gives you the peace of mind you need to just focus on surfing well.

This dual water/alcohol extract contains Chinese Medicine herbs that were used traditionally in Martial Arts training to improve performance and prevent tendon and ligament injury; and that were used medically to boost immune function,promote longevity, and eliminate "wind cold damp toxins" from the head, joints, and lower body, the cause of much joint pain, ear infection, and yeast problems.

Keep Surfer Warm decoction really works! I have helped many surfers and snow boarders with this formula since 1992. Kan herb's unique closed system dual water alcohol extract process retains all the natural essential oils of the herbs, and at the same time extracts the chemical constituents of the tonic herbs that are sensitive to alcohol.

The other issue with Chinese and other herbal preparations is quality and contamination. Kan herbs are the only supplier that issues certificates of analysis demonstrating their products are free of heavy metal and pesticide contamination.
(see below)

How to Use:

Depending on the season, your health, and weight, take from 2 to 6 dropper-fulls of extract in 4 oz of water, juice, or hot ginger or cinnamon tea before going in the water. If a cold type person take another dose when getting out, especially in cold weather or when staying in the water longer.


$18 per bottle. One bottle yields appx. 11 3-dropper-full doses
Shipping and Handling $7.95, free for orders over $75
Volume discounts available

Quality Assurance from Start to Finish
Committed to the Pursuit of Good Medicine

Meticulous about the potency, quality and safety of every proprietary product, Kan Herb Company manufactures all formulas at our facility in California, surpassing rigorous current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP). Kan Herb Company controls all phases of the production process, from procurement and testing of raw ingredients, to manufacturing and packaging of our products. We do not leave these critical processes to another, thereby risking contamination, substitution of herbs, or falsified test results. Combining outstanding formulations by modern masters of Traditional Chinese Medicine with exceptionally strict standards, utilizing state-of-the-art equipment and methodologies, Kan Herb Company stands apart as a quality leader. Our Certificates of Analysis, offered with each proprietary product, attest to the potency and purity of our products. We are confident that our products will meet your needs.

Many companies selling Chinese herbal products in the U.S. market do not inspect the raw herbs procured for their products, nor do they oversee the manufacturing process, which often occurs outside U.S. borders. Assurance of quality, safety and identity are left to others. Testing to ensure the proper identity or composition of the final product is rarely performed. The only assurance these companies have that their products are what they are claimed to be, is the documentation provided to them by the manufacturers. If Certificates of Analysis, are available, they are often in Chinese or poor English translations. More often than not, the laboratory results provided are conducted by the manufacturer's own laboratories, rather than by independent, recognized laboratories. The accuracy of the Certificates of Analysis, and thus the quality and safety of the products, can justifiably be called into question.



Ayurveda, Acupuncture, and Chinese Medicine in San Diego

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

May and June Gloom Vegan Odessa Borscht

Samuel Clemens' remark that the coldest winter he ever spent was summer in San Francisco, could be modified to include May and June in San Diego, when morning and afternoon cloud cover keeps the air cool and moist. The clouds typically burn off by afternoon, but lately there have been days of full cloud cover. Don't mind it a bit myself, it makes the air smells soooo good at night, and there is really lots and lots of sun the rest of the year, so I enjoy the elemental change; but its true it doesn't exactly feel like summer in San Diego until July.

Here is a lovely easy mild colorful soup that is perfect for this so called gloom, as it is clean, light, and just slightly warming,not heat producing like a true winter soup, so even if the weather turns hot suddenly you can still enjoy this dish.

The theme of any kind of Borscht (also called Borsch) is shredded cabbage, and the other veggies in this recipe are shredded, too, except for the potato, which stands pleasingly out,then,in that special way that only large chunks of potato can. I shred my veggies on an old grater, by hand; i both like the size that produces, and i dislike the sound of the food processor, one less high decibel motor to contend with.

This soup is wonderful pureed, too, with a little bread crumbs or cooked barley.
It can even be served cold in summer, with a little yogurt, buttermilk, or sour cream.

Ingredients to make about 4-5 cups of soup

3 cups shredded cabbage
1 medium to large potato, i like white or red here
1 small white or yellow onion, chopped
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1/2 cup shredded beet
1/4 cup shredded bell pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped tomato or tomato juice
1-2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped, can use dry dill, too.
1-2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
a little oil for sauteing, say, 1 tbsp
1.5 quarts water

1. In a large heavy pot lightly saute onions, cabbage, potato, carrot and bell pepper (everything but the beet and tomato) for about 5 minutes on a low flame.
2. If using fresh dill, set it aside and add at the end, about 10 minutes before serving.
3. If using dry dill, add it and the beets, tomato, bay leaf, salt, pepper, and water.
4. Cook on a low flame until the vegetables are tender to your taste, for me this is about 20 minutes.

Yields two to three quarts of soup

Notes: There are as many ways to make Borscht as there are babushkas. Other good veggies are turnip, rutabaga, celery. Heck, this is the USA, make it with apricots instead of tomato, or butternut squash instead of carrot. Make an turkmenistani borscht with curry powder or cumin and coriander. Make a Thai borscht with lemongrass...:-)

There is a traditional borscht like this with both beans and beef that I had, years ago, in a Ukrainian restaurant in the East Village, New York City, with a side of fantastic dark sour rye bread. That, and the pureed red garlicky beet borscht my grandmother used to serve in the summer with sour cream are memories and recipes for another day.


Pitta types may want to delete the tomato, bell and black pepper, and use a small amount of sweeter yoghurt or sour cream for garnishing. Make it a little sweeter with more carrot and less sour with out the tomato, even adding a bitter green like dandelion.

I am suggesting sweet white onion or yellow onion, as they are milder in terms of pitta aggravation. Kapha types could use the stimming effect of a sharper onion like red spanish onion, and could avoid the potato.

Vata does not typically do well with cabbage, on the other hand does well with both sour and sweet, so could decrease the cabbage and increase the carrot, potato, and beet.

Ayurveda, Acupuncture, and Chinese Medicine in San Diego