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December 15, 2009

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Home » Feature » Health and Environment

Playing footsie for your health

MANY busy people ignore their feet these days and no longer take foot baths. But traditional Chinese medicine recommends daily foot baths that promote blood circulation and drive away pathogenic energy.

The feet are very important in health maintenance. Ancient Chinese often compare the human body to a tree, with the torso the trunk, the arms the branches and the feet the roots.

It is said that a dying tree withers first in its roots and an aging person first feels health recede from the feet.

So it's important to take good care of your feet for overall health. Massage, foot exercise, soaking in hot water and sometimes taking herbal soaks are all easy and effective.

There's also acupuncture, accupressure (reflexology) and application of herbal paste to the feet.

Simple soaking is surprisingly effective. Six meridians (liver, gall bladder, kidney, spleen and stomach) reach the feet, each of which has more than 60 acupunture points. As with the ear, the foot has points that correspond to many parts of the body.

Soaking in hot water activates blood and energy throughout the body. In herbal foot baths, the skin absorbs elements through the skin and these travel through energy channels to target points.

Soaking until there's a sweat can relieve symptoms of colds, flu and menstrual cramps.

Herbal soaks can be beneficial to those with chronic stomach inflammation, high blood pressure and to stroke patients.

Ideally, the feet should be soaked once a day in a relatively deep basin, more than 15 centimeters deep so the calves can be soaked as well. Start with hot (40 degree Celsius) water but don't fill up the basin; as it cools, keep adding hot water to keep up the temperature.

When you start sweating a little, in 15-30 minutes, remove your feet. Sweating indicates the energy channels are not stagnating. Too much sweating isn't good as it consumes too much energy. Healthy people usually start to sweat in around 20 minutes; it may take longer for those with energy-flow problems. If you don't sweat in 40 minutes, don't soak any more. Try again the next day.

It's best to soak feet before going to bed, especially in winter. This helps keep you warm and helps you get a good night's sleep. Don't soak an hour before or an hour after meals; don't soak when you're drunk or extremely tired. Accelerating blood ciculation isn't a good idea.

If you feel dizzy when soaking your feet, add some cold water so the blood vessels contract. That should help relieve dizziness.

A daily hot water soak is enough for healthy people who sweat quickly. Adding herbs can help unblock energy channels and relieve problems. First cook the herbs in water and then add the mixture to the foot basin.

Getting soaked Ginger and bai jiu (white spirit)

Ingredients: Ginger slices (50g), white spirit (50ml)

Directions: Boil the ginger in water and keep boiling for a few mintues. Add ginger soup and white spirit to hot water in a basin. Soak for 15-30 minutes or until there's a slight sweat.

Benefits: Helps unblock energy channels, dispels pathogenic yin (cold energy), reinforces yang (hot energy). Especially good for those with cold extremitiesin winter.

Ginger and dandelion

Ingredients: Ginger (50g), dandelion (50g)

Directions: Cook ingredients in water. Add soup to hot water in a basin. Soak for around 20 minutes or until there's a slight sweat.

Benefits: Ginger helps dispel pathogenic cold. Dandelion helps dispel pathogenic heat and toxins. It helps relieve symptoms of flu with fever or headache.

Green beans and bai zhi (angelica dahurica root)

Ingredients: Green beans (100g), bai zhi (15g)

Directions: Soak bean and angelica in water for 20 minutes. Cook ingredients. Add soup to foot bath. Soak 15-30 minutes, until you sweat.

Benefits: Green beans help relieve swelling and nourish skin; bai zhi is anti-bacterial, helps relieve inflammation and accelerates metabolism. This could also prevent and relieve chilblains.


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