The Essence of Herbs

Tip of the Month – March 2013 

By Joey Mazzera, Danville Area Sustainable Business Owner, Green Apple Acupuncture 

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) herbal medicine is at the root, so to speak, of achieving balance in the body. For thousands of years Chinese doctors have used nature and more specifically food as not only preventative but also active medicine. When we think of herbal medicine we tend to think of sticks, roots, flowers and maybe even some obscure animal parts. All of those do in fact make up the Chinese Pharmacopeia however everyday foods are also considered medicine. In TCM, dietary choices are the anchor of health and healing. As an acupuncturist people are always asking me about weight loss, a faster metabolism, and what specific foods they should be eating; The fact of the matter is how you eat is just as important as what you eat. Keep it simple and listen to your body.

Every body is a different machine that requires an individual and specific dietary plan. The TCM diet is very much a personalized approach to food and nutritional health. The foundation begins with eating fresh foods, eating as seasonally as possible and acknowledging how your body reacts to certain foods. Eating mindfully with intention can teach us how we are assimilating our foods and how we may need to change our dietary ways. The preparation of foods changes the energetic properties. For instance, a raw carrot may cause a different metabolic reaction than a baked carrot. Understanding what you need from an individual food will change the way you prepare it. For someone who can’t digest raw vegetables a light sauté may be the way to incorporate those important veggies. If someone runs too hot but still wants spicy food pairing that dish with something cooling in nature is a way to eat those spicy treats. When you start to look at foods as a balancing act you begin to understand how to create the perfect harmonious plate.

When we use food as medicine it is important to think of food in terms of energetics. All foods and herbs are composed of three elements – Energy, Movement, and Flavor.

The energy of foods relates to a foods ability to either create heat or act as a coolant. When a person generates too much heat in their body we can see things like hot, itchy skin issues or a hot red face. In these cases its beneficial for that person to eat foods cool in nature. Bamboo shoot, chrysanthemum (a staple Chinese herbs) and bananas all have a cooling effect on the body. Contrarily a person with arthritis that is exacerbated by a cold and damp day would do better with warm foods: pumpkin, onions, peppercorns, etc.

When we think of movement of foods we think in terms of guiding the “Qi” of certain foods. Food and herbs have the ability to move inward, outward, up and down. For example when at first sign of a cold you can make a strong cup of ginger and garlic tea in efforts to induce a sweat (an outward motion) to expel pathogens and help body recover from the cold more quickly.

Finally, there are five flavor categories that food falls into – salty, sour, bitter, sweet, and pungent. Each of these flavors has a specific action in your body and are often used in conjunction with each other to create a balanced meal. Understanding the flavor relationship can enhance your digestive assimilation of nutrients as well as help guide you to the food your body needs. The flavors of foods are often associated with specific organs and related processes.

Using food as medicine is a primal and instinctive way to get in touch with our bodies and reconnect with our health. Food should be fun and interesting and used a way to nourish not only our bodies but also our heart and souls. Bon appetite!

Sustainable Danville Area and The Danville Library present The Essence of Herbs on Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 6:30pm  at The Danville Library, Mt. Diablo Room 400 Front Street.  With Joey Erwin Mazzera, Green Apple Acupuncture a  Diplomat of Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine with the NCCAOM and a licensed Acupuncturist with the state of California we’ll explore the five food categories and dozens of herbs that delight the senses, enhance food and your health.  For more information, visit and follow us at

Reprinted with permission from Danville Today News


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