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TCM food therapy for autumn ills

AUTUMN dryness can cause sore throat, coughing, breathing problems and constipation. It's not enough to drink fluids. TCM advises moisturizing foods. Tan Weiyun reports.

As the cool clear weather arrives and the humidity departs, the season seems perfect, and perfectly healthy. But according to traditional Chinese medicine, this is the season of qiuzao or autumn dryness that brings special problems.

Sore throat, dry nasal passages, breathing problems, bad coughing, headache, chapped lips and constipation are among the problems associated with this season, according to TCM.

About 80 percent of the people feel some kind of discomfort during autumn, TCM practitioners say.

Replenishing fluids is especially important, by both drinking fluids and eating foods that promote moisture in the body. Just drinking fluids isn't enough.

"TCM holds that nature and man are one and as an integral part of nature, people are easily affected by changes in climate and weather," said Yuan Xiande, a TCM doctor from Beijing Tong Ren Tang, a pharmacy founded in 1669.

It was appointed to provide medicine for the royal pharmacy of the imperial palace of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) for 188 years.

In autumn as the air dries, the moisture in the human body also decreases; the reduced moisture in the upper respiratory tract and mouth can lead to coughing, increased phlegm and bronchitis.

The lungs and the skin are the two organs most in contact with the outside environment. When people inhale dry air and breathe out humid carbon dioxide, the body's moisture level falls. The skin also dries.

"The moisture that is lost is not sweat, as most people think, and drinking enough water cannot solve the problem," Yuan said.

It is essential to nourish yin (cool energy), reduce dryness and moisturize the body, inside and out.

The lungs are very sensitive and often the first organ to be attacked by dryness, so protecting the lungs is a must in autumn.

Turnips, sesame, tofu and soy-bean milk all produce internal moisture. yin'er, or Tremella, a fungus also known as wood ear, can be made into a thick soup to moisten the lungs. Eating a spoonful of ground walnut is a traditional autumn and winter tonic that promotes a good night's sleep.

Fresh lily bulb and honey can be cooked together, and is an especially good treatment for bad coughs. Pears and chuanbei (Sichuan fritillary bulb) cooked together can help treat bronchitis.

Dr Yuan suggests avoiding spicy foods, such as onions, chilis, pepper and other foods that upset the respiratory system and can cause indigestion.

Some foods promote jin, the secretion of saliva and body fluids. These include shanyao or Chinese yam, and lotus root, among others.

For constipation, the doctor recommends honey, sesame and walnut powder.

"You can drink a big cup of honey water right after getting up in the morning. It's very effective to treat constipation."

Grapes, pears and lotus root help treat nasal dryness and sore throat, while pork skin, dairy products, meat, eggs and beans can moisturize and smooth skin.

Some popular TCM prescriptions are easy to make at home.

* Chuanbei powder, pear juice and e'jiao (gelatin made from donkey skin) can be stewed together. It should be drunk twice daily and is said to help treat coughs and nosebleeds.

* Boil juice from lotus root, ginger, pear, turnip, ginkgo, sugarcane, honey and zhuli(bamboo juice). Keep in a glass bottle and drink frequently. It helps dispel inner heat, reduce phlegm and promote jin.

Fresh fruit is also good in autumn, especially those with a sweet and sour taste like tangerines.

Tangerine is a "cold" (yin energy) fruit that dispels inner heat, moistens lungs and relieves coughing. It's said to help treat hangovers as well.

Pear, also "cold" in energy, helps relieve fever, remove the toxins, moisten the lungs and treat bad coughs. If cooked with water chestnut, sugarcane and honey, it helps treat bronchitis.

Persimmon, another "cold" fruit, helps relieve cough and reduce internal heat.

Pomegranate, also "cold," helps generate jin and induce thirst. Juice helps stop coughing and treat dysentery in children.

Sour and sweet grapes act as a diuretic and protect the liver and kidney (kidney refers to reproductive system). When cooked it helps quench thirst caused by lack of moisture; it is used to treat weakness and fatigue.

Jujubes nourish the stomach and moisten the heart and lungs. They are widely used in Chinese dishes, and are said to be especially good for women.

People with diabetes and cardiovascular problems should not eat too much fruit because of their high sugar content. DIY soups to fight dryness

Pears, pork, Chinese olives


Olives 15g, pears 50g, lean pork 100g, 1 jujube, 2 ginger slices


Stew all ingredients in 250ml water for two hours

Treats sore throat, hoarseness, thirst and dry cough.

Pig heart, pig lung, and herbs


Shasheng (root of straight ladybell), yuzhu (radix polygonati officinalis), pig's heart, pig's lung, 2 ginger slices


Stew all ingredients in 300ml water for two hours.

Treats thirst, hoarseness, dry cough, recurrent fever.

Couchgrass root, pork, watermelon peel


Lean pork 100g, watermelon peel 20g, red beans 10g, couchgrass 5g, shengdi (rehmannia glutinosa libosch) 10g, 2 ginger slices


Stew all ingredients in 300ml water for three hours.

Treats thirst, dry eyes, sore throat and poor sleep.


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