Everyone has heard the old folk remedy, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Apples are used as part of Chinese food therapy, just as many foods are depending upon what condition is being treated. After reading this post, you’ll have even more motivation to eat some apples, especially when you know when to use apples for the best therapeutic results.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and macrobiotics, foods and herbal medicines impart a particular effect, depending on it’s flavor, nature, and actions.
Apples have a slightly sweet and sour flavor, and a cooling nature. According to The Tao of Nutrition, by Mashing Ni, Ph.D, the actions of apples “strengthens heart, tonifies chi (qi), quenches thirst, promotes body fluids, lubricates lungs, resolves mucus.” Because of these actions, apples can be used for dry conditions, including dry throat, dry cough, dry constipation, and dehydration, along with hypertension, and general cleansing.
Dry skin is also a reflection of a lung yin deficiency. In Chinese medicine, the lungs govern the skin through respiration and opening and closing of pores. When the lungs are obstructed from ventilating the qi out to the surface of the body, the skin becomes dry. Phlegm is one of the main obstructions, along with fire which can occur from over eating dry, rich, and spicy foods, or from an exogenous pathogen and high fever.
A lung yin deficiency can impact the immune system, leaving one susceptible to colds and flus, bronchitis, and asthma. And since the large intestine is the paired organ with the lungs, dryness can also cause constipation.
While a great soup, like the Miso Soup with Shredded Daikon & Carrot is excellent for helping dispel excess phlegm and mucus, or a chicken soup or Beef Vegetable Soup with Barley as discussed in the previous post can also be good for leaching out excess dampness, and fortifying the qi, or vital energy, cooked apples are good for generating body fluids, and moistening dryness.
Apples are also very cleansing. The sour flavor means apples have an affinity for the liver. If you are feeling run down, and don’t have a big appetite, you may enjoy just cooking up chopped apples in a little water to eat throughout the day.
Pears are also good for moistening dryness, and ongoing dry coughs. Feel free to make this from a blend of both. The apples, or pears can be cored, and steamed or poached as well. Add a tad of cinnamon if you are chilled.
I have a Gingered Pears recipe in Basic Macrobiotics Menus & Recipes I love to make as topping for Whole Grain Pancakes. (I have pancake recipes in each of my books!) You can make it similar to the Cooked Apples below, adding some raisins, and fresh grated and squeezed ginger juice, along with any other desired spices such as a pinch each of sea salt and pepper, cardamom (a neutral spice which is good for regulating digestion), or a pinch of nutmeg or clove.
- 4 apples ~ choose more tart for generating body fluids, and cleansing
- A bit of water
- .5 tsp. sea salt
- Handful of raisins or dried cranberries
- Pinch of ground clove
Chop apples, and place in a pot. Add just enough water to cover the bottom of the pot to prevent scorching. This will also make a nice juice to drink. Add the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until the apples are soft, about 15-20 minutes.
Oat, Barley, & Rye (or Whole Wheat) Porridge (This is the amount I make for the two of us)
- 1-1.5 cup rolled oats (do not use quick or instant oats, they are too refined)
- 1/2 cup each of barley flakes, and rye or whole wheat flakes
- Handful of raisins
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- 5 cups water
- 1 tsp. sea salt
Place ingredients in a pot. Bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat, and cook on low until water is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat, but leave lid on a couple more minutes. When ready, stir entire porridge with a rice paddy. Letting is sit a couple minutes covered, but off the heat helps to unstick the grain from the bottom of the pot.)
Serve with some of the cooked apples and juice on top.
Baked Apple Oatmeal
The ingredients and prep are nearly the same, only it’s combined together and baked for a fun breakfast. While baking as a cooking method draws out moisture, and can be a bit more drying, layering the oats on the apples keeps it moist, just more firmed up then eating it as a porridge. Whether or not you are treating a dry cough or other dry condition, this is a satisfying breakfast. And you’ll have more than your apple-a-day quota to keep the doctors away!
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1/2 cup each rolled barley and whole wheat or rye flakes, or all barley
- 1/4 cup ground almonds, or 1-2 tbsp. ground flax
- 1/4 cup (or up to 1/2 cup) chopped walnuts
- Handful of raisins
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- Pinch of cinnamon, optional
- 4-4.5 cups water
- Cooked Apples (above)
Preheat oven to 375º
Method 1: Place everything in a pot, bring to a boil, cover and cook until liquid has absorbed. Meanwhile prepare Cooked Apples recipe, above. When ready, lightly spray an 8×8 baking dish. Strain apples, reserving juice. Place apples in the bottom of the dish. Add oat mixture on top. If desired, drizzle a bit of the juice across the top. Bake uncovered for about 30 minutes, until the top is nice and firm, and just lightly browned.
Cut into 6 pieces, and serve. To boost the protein, blend the apple juice with a vanilla pea protein powder, along with a little ground flax seed for a nice thick sauce to pour on top.
Method 2: Boil the water. Place the rest of the ingredients in a heat proof bowl, or a pot. Pour boiling water on top. Cover, and let sit, or simmer on low until the water is absorbed. Proceed as above.
In Chinese Dietary Therapy, by Liu Jilin, recommendations for cough are to “have food with a light flavor or food that will help dissolve Phlegm and arrest coughing.” If there are cold symptoms with a cough, add ginger or cinnamon, or spicy greens like mustard greens. If there is heat, chrysanthemum tea is excellent. These beautiful blossoms make a nice light tea, good sweetened with honey through the summer to prevent lung dryness and heat in the lungs.
Other foods include bok choy, cabbages, turnips, and persimmons. Cabbage can be cooked and puréed and consumed as a soup, juiced, or steamed until soft.
If there is an ongoing pattern of deficiency, lily bulb (this is a granulated version we have at our clinic which is easy to make in a little boiling water), loquats, oranges, pears, walnuts and honey. These foods will help moisten the lungs, and nourish the Yin.
I think my Baked Apple Oatmeal with walnuts is just what the doctor ordered!
Taking the wrong herbs for your condition can possibly make things worse. Generally speaking, food therapy is a safe approach to healing. When in doubt, eat lightly, and load up on teas and soups, and warm, soft cooked vegetables, like cabbage which is very soothing to the lungs and stomach (see the next post), and other potassium-rich foods.