Tuesday, January 20, 2009
The Advice Column: Herbal Purity
Today we initiate a new feature: the Advice Column! If you have any questions about Chinese medicine, herbs, acupuncture or the like please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. The picture above is of two of America's greatest advice columnists: Ann Landers and Dan Savage.
Dear Everyday Health,
I am a person who naturally chokes with incense and smelly candles etc and my mouth always gets numb on the inside lining... that is my test of how toxic something is... It is important to me to get clean herbs... clean like minimal pesticides... do you have any info for me on this... I actually took a year off Chinese herbs and have secretly not been into them at all... only because i feel that the toxicity is disgusting in China... even if they are 'organic' the air and the subsequent rain that irrigates the organic herb is like acid rain or worse... I wish they were from the rain forest... :)
I need to order a bunch of moxa and a bunch of yin and blood tonics stat since i am on a mission to get strong... I actually would order rain forest herbs if i knew their properties, but after studying all these herbs and formulas I am enthusiastic and wish there was a cleaner way that i could feel comfortable with them. :)
-Wants Heavily Organic Action
You are right to be concerned about herb quality and purity. However it is unwise to categorically dismiss all products from China as being impure, and cuts you off from a lot of wonderful healing herbs. Work with trusted companies who use pesticide-free herbs and you should be alright.
If you are naturally a sensitive person, the best way to tonify is with food. The toxin-attacking or detoxification doctrine of Traditional Chinese Medicine (攻邪学派 gong xie xue pai) espoused by Zhang Zihe (张子和) maintains that when "nourishing life, use food" and when "treating disease, use medicine" (养生食补,治病药攻 yang sheng shi bu, zhi bing yao gong).
For instance mushrooms are one of the best yin-tonifying substances, and you should probably be able to find organic mushrooms in the market, especially here in the foodie paradise of California.
If you definitely want to use herbs, you could use granule herbs. These have already been processed and cooked and therefore have another level of safety added to them. However raw herbs are still the strongest, and if you want to use them I recommend soaking them first in cold water for about a half hour and then pouring off the soak water before covering with more cold water and cooking as usual.
Water is one of the best natural purifiers and can draw out a lot of toxicity. Incidentally you can do the same thing with fruits and vegetables - their cells are still exchanging gas with the outside environment after they have been picked, and if you soak them in water for an hour or so you can draw out a lot of pesticides.
High-quality raw herbs free of pesticides and sulfur can be ordered from Fat Turtle Herb Company. Amazon herbs from the rain forest can be ordered from Becky Lee Maher.