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April 6, 2010

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Color code to your health

WHITE skin with pink cheeks is a beauty standard sought by many Chinese girls. And it's also a sign of health, according to traditional Chinese medicine. A dark color in the face or one that is too pale or too yellow, suggests a qi disorder which requires adjustment through healthy lifestyle, balanced diet and sometimes medication.

Traditional Chinese medicine believes that any energy disorder in the body will be reflected at its surface. W?ng (observation) has long been an essential method of TCM diagnosis, the other three being w??n (smell), w'n (ask) and qie (palpation/pulse feeling).

"Huangdi Neijing" ("The Medical Classic of the Yellow Emperor") suggests that all the blood and qi flows in channels will be reflected in the face and observing facial color is a widely used method of diagnosis, especially for blood and qi conditions.

A light yellow face with red cheeks and luster is usually considered healthy, according to Dr Qian Xinlan, TCM physician of Cheng Zhi Tang Chinese Medicine Hospital.

Yet it is not a strict standard for everybody, as some people are born with paler or darker skin. And the sun may also change your color. Generally, as long as you have a light red cheek and a shine on your face, you are still healthy even though your color is dark. Otherwise, pale, yellow or dark face color with no redness at all may be a warning that you should care more about your health.

Apart from serious ailments, unhealthy face color also helps suggest an unhealthy condition, which is more common nowadays.

Pale faces used to be common in China in the old days due to nutrition deficiency, according to Dr Qian, while yellow and dark faces appear more often in young people today due to an unhealthy lifestyle involving staying up late, having an irregular and unbalanced diet, and psychological pressure.

"Face color is an effective window that shows the energy and blood condition. As long as you rebuild the balance inside, you will look good in no time," Dr Qian says.


Yellow face

A yellow face usually suggests deficient spleen qi and pathogenic dampness.

When the spleen cannot work properly, nutrition cannot be sent to nourish organs as well as the face.

Pathogenic dampness causes disordered metabolism and the face may also be an unhealthy yellow.

Irregular diet, stress and over-work may all damage the spleen. Huang lian po (yellow face women) was a term widely used to describe women who had lost their looks as a yellow face was a common factor. They were made weary by chores and worry about husbands and children.

However, young women are often affected these days, with work-related stress a major cause.

Suggestion: Spleen-benefiting foods include yam, lily roots, pearl barley, lotus seeds, chub and yellow croaker.

Recipe: Pearl barley and red bean soup

Ingredients: pearl barley (30g), red beans (30g)


1. Soak beans and barley overnight.

2. Add water and bring to a boil.

3. Simmer gently for about an hour.

4. Add sugar to sweeten.

Pale face

A pale face usually suggests deficient qi and blood. It may occur more often in menstruating women. Some patients with problems such as stomach bleeding or who are recovering from serious illness may also have pale faces. Pale-faced people with deficient qi and blood may also often feel tired and weak.

Suggestion: If it is a bleeding problem, deal with that first. Eating foods that help reinforce qi and blood is helpful. These includes fungus, jujube, longan, red beans, spinach and pig's liver.

Recipe: Jujube, wolfberry fruits, red glutinous rice congee

Ingredients: jujubes (12), wolfberry fruits (30g), red glutinous rice (50g), brown sugar (30g)


1. Soak the jujubes, wolfberry and rice in water for about 12 hours.

2. Put ingredients in a saucepan with water and quickly bring to a boil.

3. Turn down heat and simmer gently for about half an hour until the congee gets thick.

4. Add brown sugar to sweeten.

Dark face

A dark face usually suggests qi stagnation and blood stasis. It may not be dark all over, but partial darkness with no redness such as dark pouches also suggests stagnation. People with deficient energy in the kidneys may also have a dark face. It often occurs in patients with heart, liver or kidney problems.

Suggestion: Yang (warm) energy reinforcing foods are recommended. These include mutton, beef, pepper, shrimps, walnuts, black beans, hawthorn, eggplants, lotus roots, rose and yellow wine.

Recipe: Chestnuts and Chinese cabbage

Ingredients: chestnuts (200g), Chinese cabbage (200g), duck soup


1. Peel the chestnuts and chop in two. Slice the cabbage.

2. Cook the chestnuts with the duck soup until soft.

3. Add cabbage.

4. Add salt and pour on a starchy sauce.

Red face

A red face usually suggests pathogenic heat inside as this usually accelerates blood flow and thus makes the face red. Though light red cheeks are also signs of health, a bright red face or frequent flushes are not good signs. Redness in the whole face is usually accompanied with excess heat syndrome (with excessive yang energy inside), while redness in just the cheeks or frequent flushes usually suggests deficiency-heat syndrome (with deficient yin energy making yang energy seemingly excessive).

Suggestion: Restoring the balance of yin and yang energy is the solution. It is advised to dispel pathogenic heat for those with excess-heat syndrome while nourishing yin energy for those with deficiency-heat syndrome. Some foodscan help. They include watermelon, pear, apple, lemon, dragon fruit, green bean, tomato and cucumber.

Food Corner

Hyacinth beans are rich in protein, fiber, and vitamin B. It also contains hemaglutinin that can help fight tumors.

TCM considers it a "neutral" food that helps benefit spleen and dispel pathogenic dampness. Eating hyacinth beans often can help relieve indigestion, vomiting or diarrhea, fatigue and edema.

It is suitable for most people, especially those with indigestion problems. It is also said to be an anti-cancer food.

Hyacinth bean and mushroom

Ingredients: hyacinth beans (700g), mushrooms (100g), chicken soup (700g)


1. Boil the mushrooms in water.

2. Pan-fry hyacinth beans with oil.

3. Add chicken soup, mushrooms, a little yellow wine and salt in the pan.

4. Pan-fry for a while.

5. Add starchy sauce to thicken.

Benefits: Helps relieve indigestion, dispel pathogenic dampness and prevent tumor.

Hyacinth bean and yam congee

Ingredients: Rice (100g), yam (30g), hyacinth beans (20g)


1. Peel the yam and chop into pieces.

2. Put hyacinth beans and rice in a saucepan with water.

3. Bring it to a quickly boil and add yam pieces in.

4. Turn to gentle heat to simmer for about half an hour.

5. Add sugar to sweeten.

Benefits: Helps promote blood circulation, improve immunity, dispel pathogenic dampness and benefit digestive system.


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