Herb of the Month - September 2011

Poria Poria Cocus – Fu Ling

Cellulite plunger

Fu Ling is a mushroom. When used medicinally, it drains dampness. Its high potassium content, and that fact that it is sweet in nature, allows for it to gently free up interstitial fluid, not just promote urination as most draining damp medicinals do. This makes the herb very safe, as it does not damage the beneficial fluids in your body tissues. In a more simple way of looking at it, it helps to flush out old dirty body fluid and create fresh, better quality body fluids.

What is dampness and do you have it?

Dampness is a term used by Traditional Chinese Medicine to describe the pathogenic abundance of fluid in the body. Some symptoms of dampness are edema, scanty and difficult urination, lack of appetite, abdominal distention, diarrhea, undigested food in the stool, a general feeling of heaviness, bloating, fatigue, cough with copious amounts of wet phlegm, increased vaginal fluids, sticky taste in the mouth, moist skin disorders, impaired movement of the muscles in the limbs, and cellulite. Basically, if you don't have any dampness, you should have supple skin, smooth digestion, no muscle tension and feel light as a feather! Yeah, I think we are all a little damp here in Oregon.

How do Chinese medicinals treat dampness?

Medicinals used to treat dampness are diuretics. They "drain" the dampness through urination, and stools. Although, in the case of Fu Ling, it has properties that allow it to balance out the good and bad fluids rather than just drain them like some medicinals in the drain damp category. SIDE: This aspect of medicinals is inspiring and miraculous to me. Just as the shape and size of people vary, there is an equal variety of medicinals available in the Chinese pharmacopia to treat them specifically.

A little theory to back this "damp" concept up....

The spleen and stomach are the main organs involved in metabolism of food and drink in the body. They are supported by lung and kidney qi to digest properly. Bob Flaws, in his book The Tao of Healthy Eating, likens the spleen and stomach to a big pot of soup on a burner. You can understand from his description below, why the spleen and stomach are so vital in the formation of good fluids in the body. When treated properly, that is.

"The stomach is the pot of the middle burner and the spleen is both the fire under the pot and the distillation mechanism to which this pot is attached. Just as a mash rots and ripens in a pot, foods and liquids decompose and are cooked with in the stomach. In Chinese medical terms, this means that as foods and liquids decompose and are cooked, the pure or clear and impure or turbid parts of these foods and liquids are separated. It is then the spleen's function to distill or drive upward the purest parts of foods and liquids are separated. It is then the spleen's function distill and drive upward the purest parts of the foods up to the lungs and the pure part of liquids up to the heart. The pure part of the liquids becomes the basis for the creation of blood within the heart."

How do you promote proper rotting and ripening of your spleen and stomach you ask?

The foundations of Chinese medicine, says that the key to maintaining good health and to treat disease is "No matter what disease, protect and promote the spleen and stomach". There are an abundance of ways to ~ protect your spleen and stomach ~, but each person is very different, so I will give you a couple easy guidelines.

  1. Don't eat foods that damage the spleen. The key is avoiding over consuming COLD, RAW, GREASY and DAIRY foods. Here are some common culprits: Ice cream, raw vegetables, iced beverages, concentrated sweets such as; sugar, honey, molasses and maple syrup. Some foods are energetically cold (meaning they have a cooling effect on the body), such as lettuce, celery, cucumbers, watermelon, mung bean, buckwheat, seaweed, mango, millet, pears, persimmon, spinach, tomatoes, and wheat.

    Its important to understand that it is OVER CONSUMPTION of these foods that can damage the spleen and stomach qi and over time create dampness. Some of these foods seem like healthy foods.. well in general all real food is healthy. However, our bodies are all different. If you have a weak spleen and stomach, cold foods will aggravate it, and it will produce dampness. So, the key is to keep the balance by cooking or quickly blanching the vegetables to make it easier for the spleen energy to break down. Leave the ice out of water or beverages, so the spleen energy doesn't get overtaxed.

  2. Avoid overexerting and over-worrying. Worry is the emotion that directly drains the spleen energy. As far as overexertion, if more energy is going out than in, the spleen can't keep up with its needs. I do understand life can get crazy and that not worrying or doing too much is easier said than done, so I recommend regular acupuncture and massage to help manage this process and to keep your spleen happy.

Yeah, it's true, we can't all have a perfect diet, and no matter how hard we try it seems like there is temptation around every corner. Just remember to first and foremost ~ protect your spleen and stomach ~ and yielding to temptation will be an easy task. It is a good thing the lines at VooDoo Doughnuts are so long!

What can you do herbally to help protect your spleen and stomach?

Remember our new friend Fu Ling?

Of course! The medicinal Fu Ling is always a great helper in helping the body drain-o the pathogenic fluids out of the body. But, if you don't mindfully protecti the spleen and stomach, you may not get the amazing results Fu Ling has to offer. Good health is not a quick fix, it's a lifestyle.

Other therapies for ridding the body of dampness.. Dry Brushing!