Ramen is a popular Japanese noodle and soup dish. The traditional Japanese style usually has a fish or miso broth soup and is topped with pork. Today ramen is arguably one of Japan’s most popular foods, with Tokyo alone containing around 5,000 ramen shops, and more than 24,000 ramen shops across Japan. Tsuta, a ramen restaurant in Tokyo’s Sugamo district, received a Michelin star in December 2015 When I was in China, I ate a lot of Gong Bao Ji Ding, also known as chicken and peanuts. This is known as Kung Po chicken. It is a hot Szechuan dish containing chicken, peanuts, chillies and szechuan pepper. Szechuan peppercorns aren’t spicy hot. The “peppercorns” are the dried berries of the Chinese prickly ash bush. Instead of being hot like chilli, they are more numbing and tingly on the tongue. They give a dish the typical Szechuan taste. This version of Ramen with Chicken and Peanuts is a fusion of Japanese and Chinese cuisine. It is fairly quick and easy to make and is very tasty.
Sliced roast chicken breast Peanuts Teaspoon of smooth peanut butter 1 x hard boiled egg per person Wheat noodles Pak Choi or Chinese Cabbage Red Pepper Shitake and button mushrooms Green beans Toasted sesame oil Soy sauce Szechuan pepper Chilli flakes
Chicken carcass 5 cups of water Salt and pepper Bay leaf Toppings: Spring onions diced Toasted seaweed Pickeled ginger Gomasio/ ground toasted sesame seeds and salt
To cook Ramen with chicken and peanuts:
Make the stock by boiling the chicken carcass with the water and seasoning for an hour or pressure cook for half an hour. Drain when done. Prepare the stock with chicken stock (aprox. 1/1/2 cups per person), ginger and soy sauce. Add chilli to taste and simmer for 10- 15 minutes. Hard boil the eggs for 10 minutes and allow to cool.
Heat some toasted sesame oil in a wok. When hot add chilli flakes, peanut butter and szechuan pepper. Fry the peanuts for a few minutes first, then add the chicken breast slices and fry until heated through and take off the heat.
Clean the wok and stir fry the red pepper, mushrooms, green beans and pak choi with grated ginger. Add chilli sauce and soy sauce at the end and fry for another minute.
Ramen is made with either rice or wheat noodles. Cook the noodles according to the instructions. Different noodles require different cooking times according to thickness etc. Place the noodles in a ramen bowl, add the chichen and peanuts and stirfried veg. Arrange the hardboiled egg pieces to one side.
First up, this article isn’t a remedy or cure for Covid 19. It’s about the oriental method of viewing and strengthening the immune system as well as a way to continue training when it isn’t possible to attend classes. By Oriental Philosophy, I refer to Taoist and Buddhist philosophy. The oriental people, especially Chinese and Japanese, have a long history of dealing with disease, plague, pestilence, climate change, war, famine, floods, bandits etc. They have applied their philosophy and strategy sucessfully over the millennia to great success. In traditional cultures it was, and still is, important to be healthy. If you couldn’t work you didn’t eat, your health deteriorated and your situation disimproved in a downward spiral.
From a Five Element (Wu Xing) perspective, the immune system includes: Lungs (metal) – breathing, Stomach/Spleen (earth) – digestion, Heart (fire) – sleep, Liver (wood) – release of energy, Kidneys (water) – constitutional strength.
What can improve the immune system
Things which are important to improve the immune system include healthy diet, good quality sleep, minimise stress, exercise etc.
Diet and sleep are the two biggest factors we need to consider when talking of boosting the immune system as well as improving energy generally. In oriental philosophy a healthy immune system is synonomous with good healthy Qi/Ki.
Eating a balanced diet with all the essential nutrients and vitamins we need to be in top condition is important. Consider the amount of activity you are doing, time of year etc. When engaged in more physical activity, eat a more protein based diet. When engaged in more internal work/sedentary activiy, eat more carbohydrates and vegetables. In winter eat more warming foods; in summer, eat more cooling foods. We also consider eating at regular times, not eating too fast, chewing our food well, and allowing time for digestion are all important. Of course, give up eating sugar.
Sleep is another factor which is an indicator of your health and the state of your immune system. By good sleep I don’t mean crashing out for 7-8 hours and waking up feeling like you were dragged backwards through a bush. To sleep well, you should, ideally, wake up feeling refreshed and ready to face the day. Waking up in the same position without remembering anything of your sleep probably indicates that you are exhausted and need to rest more. Dreaming good quality dreams (not the exhausting or consuming type) is usually an indicator of good health.
Exercise is important to boost the immune system.
Exercise is important for developing the immune system, as well as mindfulness meditation and breathing exercises.
Exercises can be put in two types, aerobic exercises and internal exercises like Qigong.
Applying Taoist strategy, when exercising it is important not to deplete the body. If we are training for a marathon or preparing for a grading test, it is important to train to depletion. However, when training to boost the immune system, our goal is to increase the amount and availability of Qi/Ki in our bodies, so we would train at a moderate level. When finished our training we should feel “energised.”
Aerobic exercises are important for building up cardiovascular strength and improving the lung capacity. Examples are walking, jogging, cycling and swimming, especially in the sea. Cold showers are good if you can’t get to the sea. For Aikido practitioners, doing sword cuts at a moderate pace for 20-30 minutes is a good daily workout. It usually takes me 3-4 minutes to do 100 cuts, aim for 500-900. Include breathing practice in this, inhale as you cut up and exhale as you cut down. Inhale may be shorter than exhale. Each breath will be of different length, so let the body movement follow the breath rather than the other way round. Don’t forget mindfulness, the mind follows what you are doing.
Internal exercises include Qigong and breathing exercises.
Qigong breathing exercises work on building up the lung capacity. Lowering the diaphragm muscle when inhaling and exhaling, as well as working the shoulder joints and muscles on the upper back, facilitates the exchange of air in the lungs and allows for greater oxygen extraction from the air. This also releases endorphins which calm the mind and relieve stress. Qigong also works on calming the mind, so deals with stress, which will deplete the Qi/Ki in our bodies. Follow along with this example:
Stretching is another important tool for optimal health. I recommend the book Aikido Preparatory Exercises by Morito Suganuma.
Another book I refer to is Buddhist Yoga by Rev. Kanjitsu Iijima.
How often to train?
Frequency is also important, every day is best, forty minutes to two hours is good if you have the time. Remember, don’t rush, take your time and practice mindfully. If, like me, you have more stuff to practice than time allows, it’s important to make a list so you get everything covered over the course of a week or month. Varying your routine is important because it keeps you more focused; doing the same old stuff day in and day out in the same way leads to boredom and maybe giving up. From a mindfulness perspective you may be focusing on the destination (getting it over with) rather than letting the process unfold. As Lao Tzu said; “A good traveller has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.”
Another important aspect is rest. Balance activity with rest. As in music, the silence between notes is just as important as the melody. Listen to your body and take note of biorhythms. If it’s a good day and you feel great, do more. Whereas, if you feel a little tired, do less. Vary the intensity and speed of practice depending on how you feel. Don’t be too fixed on schedules or agendas, but beware of laziness as an excuse. Examples of restful activity include lying on the floor after stretching and completely letting go, watching clouds float by, watching the waves on the beach or watching ripples or reflections on water. Which brings us on to Wu Wei.
What is Wu Wei?
Wu Wei means something like “non-doing” or “non-action.” A better way to think of it, however, is as a paradoxical “Action of non-action.” This concept is key to the noblest kind of action according to the philosophy of Taoism, and is at the heart of what it means to follow Tao or The Way. According to the central text of Taoism, the Tao Te Ching: “The Way never acts yet nothing is left undone”. This is the paradox of Wu Wei. It doesn’t mean not acting, it means “effortless action” or “actionless action”. It means being at peace while engaged in the most frenetic tasks so that one can carry these out with maximum skill and efficiency. Something of the meaning of Wu Wei is captured when we talk of being “in the zone” – at one with what we are doing, in a state of profound concentration and flow.
History of Chinese Herbal Medicine in treatmentof colds and flu
Chinese herbal medicine has a long history of treating colds, flu and viruses. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) uses scientific principles when approaching this issue. That is, a hypothesis is proposed and the practitioner sets out to either prove the hypothesis or disprove it. This has been done for centuries and is effective. I began to apply this approach 18 years ago when I had a bad flu. I haven’t had a dose of flu since, despite being in situations where I was at risk; for example, being in the same room with infected patients for an hour or more and not catching it. I have other examples too, so I know it works for me.
To apply this method we need to know certain things. TCM theory is quite complex, so I will only use everyday language. We need to know what the immune system means in oriental philosophy and what to do to boost it. We also need to know how colds, flu and viruses enter the body and how they develop. Then we need to have a strategy to deal with it. Having a strategy is important, if we are aware of a possibility or outcome, we are more likely to achieve that goal. So, we need to know, for example, that it is possible to get through a year without getting a cold or flu episode.
At any time, we need to know the strength of our immune system versus the strength of the pathogen.
What is The Immune System in TCM
The immune system is the working together of all systems in the body at peak efficiency. Before we start to boost the immune system, we need to evaluate where we are currently. If we have a compromised immune system from a chronic illness, for example, we would have a longer way to go than someone with good health. We would also ask how many, if any, colds or flu episodes we get each year. The more compromised we are the longer it will take to get through a year without any episodes. Strategically speaking, we need to clear the body of any infections we have before we can boost the immune system. If we get an infection, all the resources of the immune system go towards fighting the infection. An analogy I use is that it’s like saving. First you need to clear debts before you can start saving; if a crisis develops you need to spend to get over the crisis before we can build up reserves again. Assuming you are in good health, you can ask yourself at any time “how do I feel now?” This is a good indicator of your immune system. Only you can answer that question honestly to yourself.
Everybody is affected by biorhythms. We feel differently depending on our work, sleep patterns, diet, stress, phases of the moon etc. If you feel less than 100%, your immune system will be temporarily lowered. Too much alcohol will temporarily lower the immune system, so drink less, especially if you feel low already, or are planning to meet people the next day. Working too hard or long hours etc., will deplete the body of reserves of energy. When we feel low, tired, etc., we are at risk of infection. This can be temporary, when we are in good health we bounce back. The other factor is the strength of the pathogen. When we feel 100% and are faced with a mild pathogen, our immune system may fight it off without it taking hold in the body. On the other hand, if we are facing a very strong virus, no matter how strong our immune system, we may become infected. Conversely, no matter how depleted you are, if you don’t encounter a virus you won’t be infected, hence the necessity of cocooning.
What to do to treat colds and flu?
The next part of the equation is what are you going to do about it. To use the strategy of TCM, we need to know the theory of how colds, flu and viruses enter the body and how herbal medicine works. The best situation is not to be exposed in the first place. The second best time to treat is when we are exposed and have no symptoms yet. We can also take a herbal medicine formula as prevention. To do this effectively, we need to have a formula in our possession as you need to take it straight away.
The first signs are feeling off colour, muzzy feeling in the head, tickle in the throat, chills etc. Chinese Herbal Medicine will also work when we show first symptoms, but the virus hasn’t developed further. This is when Chinese Herbal Medicine works best; as a prevention, and in the early stages. When we have full symptoms, we still treat, but our aim then is to lessen the symptoms and shorten the duration of the illness. If in doubt act sooner, especially when strong viruses are around or you are unsure of the strength of your immune system.
Chinese Herbal Medicine has many formulae to treat colds, flu and viruses. I will talk about one which I use frequently for prevention and treatment of colds, flu and viruses.
Yin Qiao San/Honeysuckle and Forsythia Powder. This formula is good for prevention of infections like colds and flu and also for treating infections. Yin Qiao treats symptoms of colds and flu – aches and pains, sore throat, cough, runny nose and fever. Whenever I took this formula and took my temperature, it went down by 2 degrees and stayed down for 4 hours. This is significant in breaking a fever. So, taking a dose every 4 hours is important. Do this until the fever has broken. If you reduce the dose and symptoms return, go back to the full dose.
Yin Qiao San is available in a lot of places online. However, it would be best to get it from a TCM practitioner. TCM practitioners will use high quality herbs grown and produced using ethical guidelines and GMP standards. Herbal granules are used which are mixed with warm water, taken on an empty stomach to facilitate absorption.
How to Take Yin Qiao San/Honeysuckle and Forsythia Powder.
As a prevention, take a half spoonful powder in warm water on an empty stomach. Take this twice a a day.
If you have a compromised immune system due to a chronic illness, or other risk factors: elderly, obese, high blood pressure, for example, take a full dose, 1 teaspoonful of powder, twice a day on an empty stomach.
When you are going to be in a crowded space, travelling, or any space with recirculated air, take a full dose twice a day as a precaution.
If symptoms develop, or you are sharing a space with an infected person, take a full dose every 4 hours.
Chinese herbal medicine has a long history of treating Colds, Flu and viruses. Traditional Chinese Medicine uses scientific principles when approaching this issue. That is, a hypothesis is proposed and the practitioner sets out to either prove the hypothesis or disprove it. This has been done for centuries and is effective. I began to apply this approach 18 years ago when I had a bad flu. I haven’t had a dose of flu since, despite being in situations where I was at risk; for example, being in the same room as an infected patient for an hour and not catching it. I have other examples too, so I know it works for me.
To apply this method we need to know certain things. TCM theory is quite complex, so I will only use everyday language. First we need to know how colds, flu and viruses enter the body and how they develop. Then we need to have a strategy to deal with it.
At any time, we need to know the strength of our immune system versus the strength of the pathogen.
The immune system is the working together of all systems in the body at peak efficiency. So, you can ask yourself at any time “how do I feel now?” Everybody is affected by biorhythms. We feel differently depending on our work, sleep patterns, diet, stress etc. Too much alcohol will temporarily lower the immune system, so drink less, especially if you feel low already. When we feel we are not at 100%, our immune system may be temporarily lowered. When we feel low, tired, etc., we are at risk of infection. The other factor is the strength of the pathogen. When we feel 100% and are faced with a mild pathogen, our immune system may fight it off without it taking hold in the body. On the other hand, if we are facing a very strong virus, no matter how strong our immune system, we may become infected.
The next part of the equation is what are you going to do about it. To use the strategy of TCM, we need to know the theory of how colds, flu and viruses enter the body and how herbal medicine works. The best time to treat is when we are exposed and have no symptoms yet. We can also take a herbal medicine formula as prevention. To do this effectively, we need to have a formula in our possession as you need to take it straight away. Chinese Herbal Medicine will also work when we show first symptoms, but the virus hasn’t developed further. This is when Chinese Herbal Medicine works best, as a prevention, and in the early stages. When we have full symptoms, we still treat, but our aim then is to lessen the symptoms and shorten the duration of the illness.
Chinese Herbal Medicine has many formulae to treat colds, flu and viruses. I will talk about one which I use frequently for prevention and treatment of colds, flu and viruses.
Yin Qiao San/Honeysuckle and Forsythia Powder. This formula is good for prevention of infections and also for treating infections. Yin Qiao treats symptoms of colds and flu – aches and pains, sore throat, cough, runny nose and fever. Whenever I took this formula and took my temperature, it went down by 2 degrees and stayed down for 4 hours. This is significant in breaking a fever. So, taking a dose every 4 hours is important. Do this until the fever has broken. If you reduce the dose and symptoms return, go back to the full dose.
Yin Qiao San is available in a lot of places online. However, it would be best to get it from a TCM practitioner. TCM practitioners will use high quality herbs grown and produced using ethical guidelines and GMP standards. Herbal granules are used.
How to Take Yin Qiao San/Honeysuckle and Forsythia Powder.
As a prevention, take a half spoonful powder in warm water on an empty stomach. Take this twice a a day.
If you have a compromised immune system due to a chronic illness, or other risk factors: elderly, obese, high blood pressure, for example. Take a full dose, 1 teaspoonful of powder, twice a day on an empty stomach.
If you are going to be in a crowded space, travelling, or any space with recirculated air, take a full dose twice a day as a precaution.
If symptoms develop, or you are sharing a space with an infected person, take a full dose every 4 hours.
Qigong is a mind/body exercise, meditation in motion. Qigong is not only what you do, but also how you do it. To improve the immune system these exercises need to be performed at least once a day. I will upload more videos soon, keep posted.
From a natural health perspective, it would be best to maintain optimal health and not have a need to detox in the first place. That is not always possible, so we need to detox our bodies to maintain optimal health. New year is a good time to do this. Detoxing means to remove poisons or toxins. Our bodies have natural waste management system, waste is eliminated via out breath, urine, sweat and faeces. We filter the air we breathe, and the food and drink we consume, and anything we absorb through our skin. Our blood circulation, digestive tract, liver, kidneys and lungs operate efficiently and effectively in the right conditions.
The problems arise when we overload. For example, drinking coffee and alcohol every day, breathing polluted lead laden air, eating processed foods full of additives and sugars. Also, overeating and not getting enough sleep, feeling stressed and upset, partying hard or often add to the situation. These all exhaust our bodies and gradually their ability to eliminate wastes diminishes and toxins build up. We cease to thrive.
The answer may lay in a Detox. ‘Detox diets” can be severe, eating only raw foods or fasting, taking purgatives and colonics. This can be OK if you are strong but it can drain and exhaust softer constitutions. Detoxing to invigorate and tonify must be appropriate to the individual. It is much kinder and more natural to support our constitutions by working in harmony with what each person’s needs. A gradual detox will be as effective and a lot kinder then extreme changes in diet. Sudden withdrawal from toxins such as sugars, coffee and alcohol can cause great discomfort with headaches, mood swings and cravings.
Cleansing Creates Well-Being
Our body is automatically programmed to cleanse itself daily. However, with our fast-paced modern lifestyle and exposure to an increasing number of harmful and toxic substances, our body’s natural cleansing ability has become overworked and compromised.
Many signs and symptoms attributed to stress are now being linked to exposure from harmful substances such as PCBs, pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, growth hormones, and mercury in food and liquids as well as dioxins in the air.
These substances most notably affect the healthy functioning of the liver and immune system. Common symptoms include:
Fatigue, anxiety and depression
Allergies and frequent infections
Unexpected weight gain
Difficulty focusing and memory loss
Skin rashes and acne
Recurrent yeast infections
Harmful and toxic substances from our chemically laden food and polluted environment have also become implicated as a leading cause of many serious illnesses.
To counter this growing situation, TCM doctors have developed a Cleansing and Detoxification Program that is unique and highly useful in ridding the body of many harmful and toxic substances.
Acupuncture stimulates neurological, immunological, and endocrine responses beneficial to tissue cleansing and cell rejuvenation. It also stimulates the release of endorphins that reduce the pain and discomfort sometimes experienced when detoxifying and withdrawing from addictive substances such as alcohol, caffeine, drugs, nicotine and sugar. Blog on acupuncture: https://www.acupuncturecork.com/what-to-expect-during-an-acupuncture-appointment/
Chinese Herbal Medicine
The proprietary herbal formulations focus on drawing the toxins directly out of the body through increased sweating, urination, and bowel movements. Some of the herbs directly support the filtering function of the liver and assist it in cleansing and promoting cell repair and cell regeneration.
Far-Infrared Heat Therapy
The heat and deep vibratory action of the far-infrared energy promotes the release of toxins through increased circulation and through sweating. The far-infrared heat lamp differs from the conventional sauna in its ability to penetrate deeply beneath the superficial layers of the skin. Studies show that the infrared light waves help to rid the body of toxins that are stored beyond the superficial layers of the skin. The excreted toxins include: cholesterol, fat soluble toxins, toxic heavy metals (such as mercury and aluminum), sulfuric acid, sodium, ammonia and uric acid. The unusually high concentration of heavy metals and other fat-soluble toxins is not found in the sweat from normal exercise or a regular sauna.
Toxins often accumulate in the connective tissues creating blockages and impeding blood and fluid circulation. Tuina massage consists of special massage techniques, lymphatic drainage, joint rotations, and cupping. The strong suction action of the cupping stimulates blood and lymphatic fluid to flow near the skin’s surface and to key areas of the body for easy and direct release of toxins.
Regular exercise is important for health. Exercises like walking, especially in nature and parks, is important for cardiovascular fitness as well as enjoying being in nature. Tai Chi is a very relaxing routine which exercises the body and calms the mind. So, it is very good for coping with stress as well as stopping stress from getting out of control. See these exercises as developing “me time”, rather than a chore which must be completed to get to a goal. https://www.facebook.com/TaiChiCorkDavidHankey/
Chi Kung Energy Therapy
When undergoing an internal cleanse it’s important to work with dealing with stress as well as the needs of the body. Chi Kung is a Chinese medical energy therapy in the holistic tradition. Chi Kung is a light touch healing technique that serves as the foundation of the practices of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine. A Chi Kung practitioner will use their hands and body to sense areas of improper blood and energy flow. They will make subtle adjustments to encourage your physical organs to cleanse themselves and your emotions to release their excesses as well. Chi Kung is also a set of mind/body exercises which help with stress. Blog on Qigong: https://www.acupuncturecork.com/medical-qigong-to-improve-health-and-immune-system/
The liver’s function in TCM
The liver regulates the body as well as the emotions. The liver regulates Chi, the vital energy that sustains life, and stores blood, which carries Chi around the body and supports the functioning of our organs, limbs and tissues. While you’re awake, the liver supplies blood to the muscles. During sleep, blood returns to the liver to be cleansed.
Ginger: This yang (warming food) nourishes blood, improves circulation, and has antibiotic and antibacterial effects that can help your body cleanse toxins and fight pathogens. You can easily add a few slivers of freshly sliced ginger to teas, porridge and soups.
Turmeric: This pungent spice decongests the liver, clears heat from the body, and improves the flow of Chi and blood. Add a dash of turmeric to a bowl of soup or a rice dish, or brew it directly to drink. Turmeric powder is also present in many Indian curry recipes.
Dandelion root: A cleansing, detoxifying herb that cools the blood and nourishes the liver. Springtime is the ideal time to drink dandelion tea. Not only are dandelions in flower during this season, but spring is associated with wood, the element of the liver.
Magnolia berry (wu wei zi): The magnolia berry has anti-inflammatory properties and is known to nourish and protect the liver. Brew it as a tea and drink a cup per day.
Goji Berries: As well as detoxing, it is important to add some tonic herbs and suppliments. Goji berries are high antioxidant potential fruits which alleviate oxidative stress to confer many health protective benefits, such as preventing free radicals from damaging DNA, lipids, and proteins.
Dark Chocolate: Dark chocolate is high in magnesium, which is needed by the liver. Magnesium deficiency symptoms include
Aches and pains.
Irregular sleep patterns and insomnia.
Dark Chocolate is also in high in iron, copper and manganese and contains prebiotic fibre that feeds your healthy gut bacteria.
Detox Nutritional Protocol
Nutritional therapy plays a distinct and essential role in the detox program. The aim includes selected foods that cleanse the liver and intestinal tract and provide key nutrients such as all the vitamins and minerals necessary for optimal health.
From the Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective each person is different with different needs, there are some basic steps that will help everybody:
Eat organic, fresh food.
Eat slowly. This helps the digestive system to absorb food better and convert it to usable energy.
Have a vegetarian day each week.
Drink water each morning.
Massage the abdomen each morning in a clockwise direction, up the right side and down the left, the direction that food takes. Ten minutes massage each morning helps with elimination and promotes healthy gut metabolism.
Take at least four consecutive days every week where you do not drink alcohol.
Reduce sugars and avoid junk foods and late night eating.
Spend time outside every day.
Exercise, meditate or take up an exercise system like Tai Chi which helps reduce stress and promote well-being.
Stop drinking coffee and tea.
Sleep better and for longer.
Consider using natural cleaning products and cosmetics.
Switch off mobile phones at night.
If you follow these steps, your toxic load and stress levels will drop quickly. This allows the organs to function effectively eliminating waste products and conveying nourishment to every cell. Sadly after years of neglect, it can be hard to return to normal function levels, and imbalances persist. This is when acupuncture and herbs are very helpful. Acupuncture regulates the internal homeostasis which means it gets everything working properly, it is like tuning and servicing a complex machine. Herbs support this function.
A course of treatment and dietary advice from a TCM practitioner will ensure that your detox is effective. Regular visits will help you to stay on course and keep organs functioning well. When we feel well and happy cravings for toxic foods and lifestyle diminish. It is misguided to harshly detox and then return to old habits. Far better to live well most of the time with the occasional indiscretion. Your body will cope perfectly with that when it is all tuned up.
Contact David Hankey for more details or to make an appointment for any of the above treatments, or for details of my Tai Chi and Chi Kung classes.
DAVID HANKEY has been practicing Qi Gong, Aikido and Zen meditation for more than 35 years. He has been teaching for more than 30 years. David has taught in Ireland as well as China. He also received private instruction in Qi Gong from his teacher Prof. Wu Tian Cheng. David is a student of Wudang Europa with Taoist Master Tian Liyang. David studied Zen meditation with Zen Master Hogen Yamahata of Chogenji Temple, Japan, and Aikido with Shihan John Rogers. In addition, David is a practitioner of Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Medicine, Shiatsu and Tuina. Learn More
Autumn is here and with it comes many vegetables and fruits suitable for eating at this time of year. Pumpkin is delicious, versatile and easy to add to your diet. Its seeds are also edible and highly nutritious when roasted or stir fried.
Its sweet flavor makes it a popular ingredient in dishes like custards, pies and pancakes. However, it works just as well in savory dishes such as roasted vegetables, soups and stews.
Pumpkins have a very tough skin,
so it requires some effort to slice. Once you cut it, scoop out the seeds and
any stringy parts, then slice the pumpkin into wedges.
The seeds are also edible and
packed with nutrients which offer many other benefits.
Pumpkin is rich in vitamins, especially vitamin A. It also
contains many minerals as well as being low in calories. Vitamin A is also
important for eyesight and sight loss.
Pumpkin contains many antioxidants which protect your body
against free radicals. Free radicals are linked to
aging and a host of diseases.
Pumpkin is high in vitamins
A and C, which can help boost the immune system. It also has vitamin E, iron
and folate which strengthen the immunity.
This vegetarian dish, which
is healthy and nutritious, has a Moroccan influence with the addition of Ras el
Literally translated as “head of shop,” The Arabic phrase ras el hanout really means “top shelf.” Legend has it this Moroccan spice blend was created by North African Berber spice dealers who would mix together the best of what they had on offer, thus creating a heady, aromatic signature blend-sometimes 50 individual spices.
Ingredients and preparation:
Carrots x 2
Onions x 2
Cut the above ingredients into cubes
and place in an ovenproof dish. Mix in:
Ras el hanout x 2-3 teaspoons
Place in a pre-heated oven 180 degrees
for 40 min, turn once.
Handful of raisins
3 cups vegetable stock
Ras el hanout x 1-2 teaspoons
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon paprika
Stir, 15 minutes more in oven as
1 cup/150g for 2 people
1 cup vegetable stock
Pinch of saffron
Let the grain absorb the stock for
about half an hour. Steam the couscous grain for 15-20 minutes
Thai Pumpkin Soup is a healthy and nutritious dish which is easily prepared. It freezes well, so once made it can easily be thawed and ready to eat.
Eating pumpkin is good for the heart. The fiber, potassium, and vitamin C content in pumpkin all support heart health. Studies suggest that consuming enough potassium may be almost as important as decreasing sodium intake for the treatment of hypertension, or high blood pressure.
Protect Your Sight
The bright orange color of pumpkin comes from its rich supply of beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A. This essential vitamin promotes eye health, and just a single cup of pumpkin provides over 200% of the recommended daily value of vitamin A. In addition, pumpkin is a great source of antioxidants, which have been suggested to help prevent cataracts and slow the development of macular degeneration.
Pumpkins are ready to harvest and eat in Autumn. The beginning of autumn is often also the start of cold and flu season. Help guard against sickness with a regular serving of pumpkin soup. Its high vitamin A content may help the body resist infections and viruses. If you do catch a cold, pumpkin can help you recover faster, thanks to its high vitamin C content.
Help Avoid Mineral & Nutrient Deficiency
Magnesium is a vital component to more than 600 chemical reactions in the body, including controlling blood pressure, regulating blood sugar levels, reducing the risk of heart disease and much more. Magnesium is also necessary for healthy menstruation. Yet, the vast majority of adults are deficient in this essential mineral. Pumpkin seeds are a great natural source of magnesium, and are easy to prepare. Save the seeds when preparing the soup. Simply spread them on a sheet, sprinkle with salt, and bake at 180 degrees C. Roast until toasted, about 25 minutes. Pumpkin seeds are also a good source of other nutrients, including manganese, copper, protein, and many anti-oxidants.
Support Weight Loss Efforts
Pumpkin contains lots of fiber, which is known to help slow digestion and promote satiety, keeping you feeling fuller longer. In addition, it is also a great low-calorie food, with just about 50 calories per serving.
Promote Younger-Looking Skin
When consumed, the high beta-carotene content in pumpkin helps protect the skin from the sun’s wrinkle-causing UV rays.
So, take advantage of this awesome fruit. Yes, technically it is a fruit, any time of the year!
Thai Pumpkin Soup Recipe
1.5 Kg. pumpkin or Butternut Squash, I use both
8 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
400 ml. coconut milk
1 tsp. Thai 7 Spice
1/3 tsp Dried Cumin
1/3 tsp. Dried Coriander
1/3 tsp. Chilli Flakes
Pinch of Chipotle Flakes
Toasted Sesame Oil or Vegetable oil for sautéing
Garnish: Fresh Coriander and Black Pepper
Pressure cook some chicken bones with 8 cups of water, a Bay Leaf, salt and pepper to taste. Takes about 30 minutes. Alternatively, used a chicken stock cube or vegetable stock cube.
Dice the onion and ginger and sauté in a large pot with some Toasted Sesame Oil along with the spices. Deseed the pumpkin and remove the skin. Cut into cubes and add to the pot along with the stock. Brin to the boil and simmer for about 20 minutes. Blend the soup into a fine puree and add the coconut milk. Cook for another 5 minutes and add salt and pepper to taste.
Garnish with fresh coriander and black pepper and some Lime Zest.
It freezes well, and can be put in tubs and frozen.
Insomnia includes inability to fall asleep, waking up at night, restless sleep. Also included, waking up early and dream disturbed sleep as well as being unrefreshed by sleep. Sleep is vital to us as it is the way the body and mind to restore and refresh itself. Sleep helps to restore the immune, nervous, skeletal, and muscular systems. These are vital processes that maintain mood, memory, and cognitive function, and also plays a large role in the function of the endocrine and immune system. In TCM terms, good quality sleep as well as a properly functioning digestive system is the way to restore Qi. Insomnia can be caused by psychiatric and medical conditions, unhealthy sleep habits, specific substances, and/or certain biological factors. It’s important to first understand what could be causing your sleep difficulties.
What are the Medical Causes of Insomnia?
There are many medical conditions (some mild and others more serious) that can lead to sleeplessness. In some cases, a medical condition itself can be the cause. While in other cases, symptoms of the condition cause discomfort that can make it difficult for a person to sleep.
Examples of medical conditions that can cause insomnia are:
Gastrointestinal problems such as reflux
Endocrine problems such as hyperthyroidism
Neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease
Low back pain
Medications such as those taken for the common cold and nasal allergies, high blood pressure, heart disease, thyroid disease, birth control, asthma, and depression can also cause insomnia.
In addition, insomnia may be a symptom of underlying sleep disorders. For example, restless legs syndrome-a neurological condition in which a person has an uncomfortable sensation of needing to move his or her legs-can lead to insomnia. Sleep apnea is another sleep disorder linked to insomnia. With sleep apnea, a person’s airway becomes partially or completely obstructed during sleep, leading to pauses in breathing and a drop in oxygen levels. This causes a person to wake up briefly but repeatedly throughout the night. People with sleep apnea sometimes report experiencing insomnia.
If you have trouble sleeping on a regular basis, it’s a good idea to review your health as a whole and think about whether any underlying medical issues or sleep disorders could be contributing to your sleep problems. In some cases, there are simple steps that can be taken to improve sleep. Like avoiding bright lighting while winding down and trying to limit possible distractions, such as a TV, computer, or pets. Some people experience insomnia when light levels in the bedroom are too high, especially during the period of the full moon. In that case installing black out blinds can help. You should not simply accept poor sleep as a way of life.
Is there a link between Insomnia & Depression?
Insomnia can be caused by psychiatric conditions such as depression. Psychological struggles can make it hard to sleep. Insomnia itself can bring on changes in mood, and shifts in hormones and physiology can lead to both psychiatric issues and sleep issues at the same time.
Sleep problems may represent a symptom of depression, and the risk of severe insomnia is much higher in patients with major depressive disorders. Studies show that insomnia can also trigger or worsen depression.
It’s important to know that symptoms of depression, such as low energy, loss of interest or motivation, feelings of sadness or hopelessness, and insomnia can be linked, and one can make the other worse. The good news is that both are treatable with acupuncture and herbal medicine regardless of which came first. Exercise systems like Qigong are a mind/body exercise system and can help with insomnia.
What about Insomnia & Anxiety?
Most adults have had some trouble sleeping because they feel worried or nervous, but for some it’s a pattern that interferes with sleep on a regular basis. Anxiety symptoms that can lead to insomnia include:
Getting caught up in thoughts about past events
Excessive worrying about future events
Feeling overwhelmed by responsibilities
A general feeling of being revved up or overstimulated
It’s not hard to see why these symptoms of general anxiety can make it difficult to sleep. Anxiety may be associated with onset insomnia (trouble falling asleep), or maintenance insomnia (waking up during the night and not being able to return to sleep). In either case, the quiet and inactivity of the night often brings on stressful thoughts or even fears that keep a person awake.
Increasing work loads can lead to insomnia as the mind begins to process the days work during sleep leading to wakefulness.
Insomnia & Lifestyle
Insomnia can be triggered or perpetuated by your behaviors and sleep patterns. Unhealthy lifestyles and sleep habits can create insomnia on their own (without any underlying psychiatric or medical problem), or they can make insomnia caused by another problem worse.
Examples of how specific lifestyles and sleep habits can lead to insomnia are:
You work at home in the evenings. This can make it hard to unwind, and it can also make you feel preoccupied when it comes time to sleep. The light from your computer could also make your brain more alert.
You take naps (even if they are short) in the afternoon. Short naps can be helpful for some people, but for others they make it difficult to fall asleep at night.
You sometimes sleep in later to make up for lost sleep. This can confuse your body’s clock and make it difficult to fall asleep again the following night.
You are a shift worker (meaning that you work irregular hours). Non-traditional hours can confuse your body’s clock, especially if you are trying to sleep during the day, or if your schedule changes periodically.
Simple problem gets worse
Some cases of insomnia start out with an acute episode but turn into a longer-term problem. For example, let’s say a person can’t sleep for a night or two after receiving bad news. In this case, if the person starts to adopt unhealthy sleep habits such as getting up in the middle of the night to work, or drinking alcohol before bed to compensate. The insomnia can continue and potentially turn into a more serious problem. Instead of passing, it can become chronic.
Once this happens, worry and thoughts such as, “I’ll never sleep,” become associated with bedtime, and every time the person can’t sleep, it reinforces the pattern.
This is why it’s important to address insomnia instead of letting it become the norm.
How Much Sleep Do You Need?
This varies from person to person. Some people need as little as 4-5 hours of sleep a night while others need 9-10 to function normally. As a general rule look to how much sleep you used to have in the past.
Can Insomnia be linked to certain Foods?
Certain substances and activities, including eating patterns, can contribute to insomnia. If you can’t sleep, review the following lifestyle factors to see if one or more could be affecting you:
Alcohol is a sedative. It can make you fall asleep initially, but may disrupt your sleep later in the night.
Caffeine is a stimulant. Most people understand the alerting power of caffeine and use it in the morning to help them start the day and feel productive. Caffeine in moderation is fine for most people, but excessive caffeine can cause insomnia. Caffeine can stay in your system for as long as eight hours, so the effects are long lasting. If you have insomnia, do not consume food or drinks with caffeine too close to bedtime.
Nicotine is also a stimulant and can cause insomnia. Smoking cigarettes or tobacco products close to bedtime can make it hard to fall asleep and to sleep well through the night. Smoking is damaging to your health. If you smoke, you should stop.
Heavy meals close to bedtime can disrupt your sleep. The best practice is to eat lightly before bedtime. When you eat too much in the evening, it can cause discomfort and make it hard for your body to settle and relax. Spicy foods can also cause heartburn and interfere with your sleep.
Insomnia & The Brain
In some cases, insomnia may be caused by certain neurotransmitters in the brain that are known to be involved with sleep and wakefulness.
There are many possible chemical interactions in the brain that could interfere with sleep and may explain why some people are biologically prone to insomnia and seem to struggle with sleep for many years without any identifiable cause—even when they follow healthy sleep advice.
How can TCM help?
A customised combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbal formulas can offer fast and lasting results.
Acupuncture – A TCM practitioner would select specific acupoints depending on the type of disharmony and use stimulating hand techniques to stimulate Qi.
Herbal Medicine –Chinese herbs for insomnia are a very effective treatment for insomnia.
Gui pi wan, for example, is herbal formula in pill form is particularly effective for overworked patients especially if they have digestive issues.
Suan Zao Ren/Sour Jujube Seeds is a herb, which when included in a formula, will help with insomnia, palpitations, anxiety as well as night sweats. Jujubes contain a wide array of different trace elements, including magnesium, potassium, copper, niacin, calcium, manganese, phosphorus, and iron. They contain 20 times more vitamin C than any citrus fruit, strengthening the immune system and fighting infections, which may be why they’ve been used medicinally for millennia in many cultures, as a tea for sore throat, for example.
Medical studies have found that jujube fruits and extracts have the capacity help lower blood pressure, reverse liver disease, treat anemia, and inhibit the growth of tumor cells that can lead to leukemia. Jujube extracts are also used in skin care products used to diminish wrinkles, relieve dry skin, and treat sunburn pain.
Get Enough Sleep
Getting enough sleep is one of the best things we can do for good health. If you find yourself short of sleep, TCM can help trace the roots of your insomnia and design an effective treatment for you. In TCM, there is no one solution which cures all for everyone. Rather, each patient receives an individualised formula for them to address the symptoms presented. There are a variety of herbal formulae that have been shown to help those with insomnia, that is, to sleep more deeply and achieve a full night’s sleep and wake up refreshed. Pairing a herbal formula with regular acupuncture treatments helps. Also, mindfulness exercises/Qigong, will help. As a result, TCM can be used to improve the quality of sleep without the sluggish side effects of sleeping tablets.
To make an appointment with David Hankey, call Acupuncture Cork on 087 2744735, or email: email@example.com
Tuesdays in The Quaker Meeting Hall, Summerhill South, Cork. Thursday morning outdoor class in Parkowen, off Quaker Road from 11-12.30.
Tel or Text: 087 2744 735 to book a place.
Classes will consist of:
Wudang Taoist Tai Chi 64 Postures – as practiced by Taoists in the Wudang Mountains
Wild Goose Qi Gong 64 Postures moving style
18 Postures Tai Chi Qi Gonq/Shibashi
Ba Duan Jin/8 Pieces of Brocade.
Zhan Zhuang – Standing Postures/13 Pillars of Taoist Qi Gong
Push Hands – 2 person forms
Taoist and Zen meditation
Classes will be limited to 9 people, so please book early.
DAVID HANKEY has been practicing Qi Gong, Aikido and Zen meditation for more than 30 years. He has been practicing Tai Chi for more than 25 years and has been teaching for more than 25 years. David has taught in Ireland as well as China. He also received private instruction in Qi Gong from his teacher Prof. Wu Tian Cheng. David is a student of Wudang Europa with Taoist Master Tian Liyang. In addition, David is a practitioner of Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Medicine, Shiatsu and Tuina
Tel : 087 2744 735 for details of classes
Wudang Internal Arts
The Wudang Mountains in Hubei, China, are the location of many Taoist monasteries and temples. Taoism focuses on the spiritual aspect of being. The objective of people on the Taoist path is living a long and meaningful life by living in harmony with nature. This can be symbolised as a circle which has no beginning and no end. The aim of the practitioner is to find the still spot within the circle.
Taoist Tai Chi
Tai Chi Chuan is an ancient system of physical exercise that promotes total health: emotional, mental and spiritual. Unlike exercises that use exertion and force to build muscular strength, a strength that inevitably deteriorates with age, the gentle and flowing, yet rigorous, movements of Tai Chi focus on relaxing and straightening the body.
Wudang Tai Chi is a 64 posture form developed by the monks in the Wudang Mountains and is based on the original form of Zhang Sanfeng.
Taoist Qi Gong/Chi Kung
Qi Gong is a traditional system of health exercises where the practitioner focuses on three things – posture, breathing and calming the mind. So, we could say that Qi Gong explores the mind-body relationship. Qi means “life-force energy” and Gong means “skill”, so Qi Gong is the skilled practice of gathering, circulating, and applying life-force energy. “Wild Goose” Qi Gong is a set of 64 movements which blend together.
What are its benefits?
After some practice, students will find their Qi or internal energy flowing and will begin to feel more relaxed.
The practice takes time, so you need to give it time. It takes about a year to learn the full Tai Chi form, on the basis of one class a week and practicing every day for about 15 minutes. As Tai Chi embraces many aspects of movement and stillness, it can be practiced by any age group. Consistent daily practice promotes relaxation, concentration and increased vitality due to improved circulatory and respiratory functions.
Classes, which typically last 60-90 minutes, begin with a series of breathing exercises and move on to slow and precise body movements or “forms” that may take up to twenty minutes to perform.
The first principle of Tai Chi is relaxation, without which there is no Tai Chi; the whole body must be relaxed, loose and open, so that the Chi/Energy can pass through without blockage. Later on in our study, as we begin to relax we realise that relaxation is not simply becoming limp, there should be a quality of vitality about it. Building on that foundation, the practitioner will feel the difference between going limp, which is lifeless, and the relaxation of a cat, which is completely vital and alert. Tai Chi master Cheng Man-Ch’ing described it as like a bale of cotton: soft, but the more compressed it is, the firmer and more substantial it becomes.
Ramen is another quick and nutritious dish which is fairly easy to prepare and make. What gives it the Japanese flavour is the inclusion of miso/soybean paste, seaweed, and gomashio/roasted sesame seed and salt.
Eating seaweed is good for you, so good, in fact, that seaweed might soon be an ingredient in functional foods – to make white bread. Seaweed is high in fibre. Scientists at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne have researched alginate, and found that it can strengthen gut mucus (which protects the gut wall), slow down digestion (so you feel fuller for longer) and make food release its energy more slowly. A Japanese study showed that high seaweed intake increases the good bacteria in the gut. The enzymes in kombu/kelp, which you can add in dried form to soups and stews, help pre-digest pulses, which in turn reduces wind. Seaweed may also improve heart health and is also good for detoxing. Seaweed is very high in lignans – these are plant substances that become phytoestrogens in the body, which help to block the chemical oestrogens that can predispose people to cancers such as breast cancer.
Sesame seeds add a nutty taste and a delicate, almost invisible, crunch to many Asian dishes. They are also the main ingredients in tahini (sesame seed paste) and the wonderful Middle Eastern sweet call halvah. Not only are sesame seeds an excellent source of copper and a very good source of manganese, but they are also a good source of calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, vitamin B1, zinc, molybdenum, selenium, and dietary fibre.
Miso means ‘fermented beans’ in Japanese. In Japan, people begin their day with a bowl of miso soup, believed to stimulate digestion and energise the body. A traditional ingredient in Japanese and Chinese diets (hoisin sauce), miso paste is made from fermented soybeans and grains and contains millions of beneficial bacteria. The protein-rich paste is highly popular as it provides an instant flavour foundation. It adds the fifth taste, known as ‘umami’, to all sorts of dishes including soups/broths, salad dressings, vegetables, stews, glazes, and marinades.
Miso is rich in essential minerals and a good source of various B vitamins, vitamins E, K and folic acid. As a fermented food, miso provides the gut with beneficial bacteria that help us to stay healthy, vibrant and happy; good gut health is known to be linked to our overall mental and physical wellness. Miso is a live culture, especially the ones sold in health food shops. There are different flavours of miso, I like to use mugi/barley miso as it is particularly suited to a northern European climate.
Ramen is a broth based dish with noodles, meat, hard boiled eggs, stir fried vegetables, garnished with spring onions, toasted seaweed and Goma Shio/toasted sesame seed and salt. Ramen contains 3 protein sources, so it is very good to keep out the cold.
Preparation takes about 10 minutes and the cooking another 10 minutes.
100g. noodles per person Wheat or rice noodles are fine. I prefer rice noodles for broth dishes and wheat noodles for fried dishes.
100g. sliced beef steak per person
1 Hard-boiled egg per person
Chinese cabbage or Pak Choi
Mange tout, sugar snap peas or French beans
1-2 Garlic cloves
Ginger about 3-4 cm
Thai 5 spice powder
Toasted Sesame Oil
Vegetable stock cube
Miso paste, about a teaspoon full
This doesn’t take a lot of time to prepare, and the cooking time is not that long either.
Put the eggs in cold water, bring to boil and simmer for 8 minutes. While this is happening you can do the rest of the preparation.
For the Ramen broth, put some toasted sesame oil in a saucepan along with some garlic and grated ginger. Saute for a few minutes and add hot water and bring to a simmer. Amount of water depends on the number of portions you are making, about 100 ml. per serving. Add the 5 spice, stock cube, soy sauce, chilli sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Simmer for 5 minutes until the stock cube is dissolved.
Marinade for meat:
Thinly slice the beef and place in a bowl. Slicing thinly will maximize the surface area to catch more flavor as well as ensuring a quick frying time. Add a clove of garlic, the rest of the grated ginger, soy sauce, toasted sesame oil to taste, chilli sauce to taste and a few drops of rice wine. Allow to marinade until ready to start cooking.
To make Goma Shio, add 6 tablespoons of sesame seeds to a dry frying pan and slowly roast until they are brown and starting to pop. Add 1 tablespoon of sea salt to the pan and roast for another minute or so. Combine these ingredients in a mortar and grind them together until they are fairly fine. This is enough Goma Shio to last for a while and can be stored in a jar or spice pot.
Take a half sheet of Nori Seaweed and slowly roast in a dry pan until crispy. This takes about a minute. Rub the toasted seaweed between your hands to make small flakes.
Slice the spring onions.
Bring some water to the boil, add the noodles and cook until done. Fry the beef in a hot wok until it starts to turn brown. Add the chopped pepper, Chinese cabbage and beans/peas and cook until done, another couple of minutes depending on the temperature of the wok. Some people don’t like raw spring onions, in that case add them to the wok for frying.
Heat up the broth. Add the miso paste. Make sure the broth is not boiling. Miso is a live culture so boiling would kill it.
Peel the eggs and cut in half.
Drain the noodles and place them in a serving bowl. Arrange the meat and vegetables to one side and the hard-boiled egg on the other. Cover with the broth. Garnish with the spring onions, toasted seaweed and gomashio.