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'One man's meat is another man's poison'

WHEN an emperor decided to murder a powerful general, he ordered him to eat goose meat, a famous fa wu food that would worsen the warrior's ulcer and kill him. Zhang Qian reports on no-no foods

As spring is one the way, it's time to change the diet for the new season, according to traditional Chinese medicine.

TCM says green foods are especially important in spring, though we know fresh greens are important all year around. TCM has a whole theory about food color and season: black foods for winter, red for summer, yellow for late summer and white for autumn.

So it's time for green veggies. It's also good to eat some sweets, while avoiding sour foods to protect the liver and spleen that are vulnerable in this transition to spring.

It is also important to avoid certain fa wu, depending on your own condition. Fa wu literally means "emitting or thrusting out a substance." They are foods that tend to generate yang (hot) energy.

Fa wu for some people are all right for others; it depends on their constitutions and chronic ailments. One man's meat is another man's poison.

Fa wu is an issue in this season because hepatitis, allergies, respiratory ailments and skin rashes tend to return.

Apart from eating healthy food, leading a balanced life and getting regular exercise, people should identify fa wu that can aggravate your problems and eliminate them from your diet.

Generally, most Chinese people know what kinds of foods they should avoid. If you don't know your fa wu, then a TCM diagnosis can help.

There's a scary legend about fa wu. It is said that famous marshal Xu Da of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) was deliberately forced to eat a famously fa wu food, goose meat, that killed him.

Xu had helped put the first Ming Dynasty emperor Zhu Yuanzhang on the throne, but Zhu planned to kill all senior generals, including Xu, lest they someday topple him or his heirs.

When Zhu learned that Xu had a serious skin ulcer on his back, he deliberately ordered him a bowl of goose meat as a reward for his valor. Xu knew that goose was fa wu, and, as we say, his goose was cooked. He couldn't refused the emperor's order, so he ate the goose meat and soon died.

Foods that cause thirst, red eyes, painful gums and constipation are generally fa wu and include green onions, black mushrooms and mustard. Other fa wu foods induce coughing, diarrhea and ulcers. This assessment comes from Qin Bomo, a famous TCM doctor in the 20th century who wrote "TCM View on the Diet of Patients."

TCM generally classifies fa wu into six categories according to the ailments they may induce or aggravate.

Foods that can generate "pathogenic heat" (toxic yang/hot energy) include green onions, ginger, pepper, mutton and dog meat.

Foods linked to "pathogenic wind" include shrimp, crab, goose, chicken's eggs and Cedrela chinensis (ragweed).

"Pathogenic damp and heat" are linked to sticky rice, pork and maltose; "pathogenic cold" is linked to watermelon, pear and persimmon.

Stagnant energy is linked to potato, lotus seeds and gordon euryale seeds; and "pathogenic heat in the blood" is linked to peppers and chilies.

Western medicine explains fa wu in terms of allergic reaction, to shellfish or peanuts, for example.

Sometimes, TCM doctors will use fa wu to aggravate ailments, thus shortening the duration of diseases like measles, or to make a vaccination take effect more quickly. In most cases, however, a TCM doctor treats the ailment and warns you off the fa wu.

Some don'ts:

Don't eat pears or watermelons when suffering diarrhea or stomachache.

Don't eat ginger or peppers if you're constipated.

Don't eat seafood or spicy food if you have eczema, acne or wounds.

Asthma patients can eat anything, but if during an attack they should avoid all high-protein foods like eggs, milk, fish and shrimp.

Some fa wu Mushrooms:

Mongolian mushroom and black mushroom

They aggravate headache and dizziness due to overactive yang (hot) energy in the liver; they can aggravate skin ulcers.


Green onions, bamboo shoots, mustard, Cedrela chinensis, parsley and spinach

They can induce or aggravate skin rashes and itching.


Peaches and apricots

They can induce or aggravate skin ulcers or skin allergies.


Chicken, goose, mutton and dog meat

They can induce or aggravate headaches or dizziness due to overactive yang (hot) energy in liver; they can worsen skin problems and inflammation. Mutton enhances phlegm production and should be avoided by respiratory patients.


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