Sunday, February 16, 2014

Energetics and Doctrine of Signatures, Cabbage and Broccoli Health Benefits

One of the reasons I love Chinese Medicine is because it has a more holistic way of looking at health.
A few days ago I wrote a post on broccoli and cabbage and their beneficial effects on your health. As far as Western Medicine is concerned food is not all that related to health! Western Nutritional Studies would tell you that broccoli and cabbage are both a part of the cruciferous family and they have this and that amount of fiber, carbs and protein per serving and this and that amount of vitamins and minerals. Overall both have similar nutritional properties and you can substitute one for the other if you are looking to lose weight or improve your nutrient intake.

Now it doesn't take a genius to look at the two and notice that they are dramatically different in the way they look, smell and even taste. Chinese Medicine in its deeper way of looking at things will observe the energetics of food; are they warming or cooling,  contracting or expansive, yin or yang, with an upward or downward energy, inward or outward direction, which Body Meridian are they affecting, which organs are they going to work on and in which way? For example if the food affects the lungs is it going to moisten them or dry them out (i.e.phlegm).

You see why I love Chinese medicine? It gives me answers to questions about body and food energetics that I can't get from the modern dry scientific literature.
I like to look at things from a symbolic stand point. That's why Doctrine of Signatures is so dear to my heart. Unfortunately Doctrine of Signatures is incomplete. I would love to add to the list of foods covered by it.
It is so lovely when we have known and used a traditional folk remedy for generations and all of a sudden there is a new scientific study discovering and explaining why this remedy is so healing in such ways.
For example the walnut (looks like a human brain within a hard shell like the scull) always known to be beneficial for brain function is high in DHA which is so important to brain health and cognitive function, in addition if you slice a walnut across then it looks like a heart.

"Coincidentally" omega 3 fatty acids abundant in walnuts are heart healthy :)

I am sure there are a few more nutrients in walnuts we will discover in the next decade. Maybe some much more important than what we already know. 

In comparission walnuts in chinese medicine are tonifying, yang and sweet (one of the 5 flavors). They affect the Lungs and the Kidneys. They are prescribed to people with lower back and knee pain, impotence, sexual dysfunctions, infertility, frequent urination (all kidney related); as well as asthma. 
Reminds of 2 kidneys
(They Tonify the Kidneys and can help a weak back and achey knees with coldness, frequent urination.
Nourish the blood, Warm the lungs, help the kidneys grasp lung qi - chronic cough, wheezing.
Moisten the intestines - constipation in elderly patients.)
And BLACK foods and herbs in chinese medicine have an affinity to kidneys. No mistake there! 

In certain Islamic and Western Herbal traditions, in order to determine a plant's function we will observe the habitats of the herbs and plants, the way they grow, the conditions they grow in, the smell, color, shape and the taste. For example plants growing under the ground will affect the physical body and the lower part of the body. Plants growing in harsh conditions will strengthen our immune system and our ability to adapt to difficulties, stress (therefore they are called adaptogens)
Flowers and especially their energetic water imprint will affect our emotions and soul and so forth and so forth. 

After this extensive intro let me get to the point I was making! 
Brocoli and cabbage look different from one another (haha)..... ha yes took me only 5 paragraphs to come to that conclusion. Thank god I am not writing about psychology. Imagine if cabbage is so complex and complicated in my head what I will do to physics or astronomy for example........ 
So yes broccoli does look like the Lung Alveoli. And a compound in broccoli called sulforaphane is researched as a possible treatment for preventing or reducing infections in smokers and people with lung disease.

Broccoli in Chinese Medicine is used to improve vision. Now thanks to modern science we do know that Broccoli is high in Lutein a pigment in vegetables and fruits that can protect our vision. I can see some resemblance between the little branches of broccoli and the anatomy of the eye specifically the retinal blood vessels. 

Sulforaphane in broccoli is also known to block cartilage-destroying enzymes by intercepting a molecule that causes inflammation therefore preventing the onset and development of arthritis. Again I see a resemblance to joints in the branches and stalk of the vegetable. Do you?

On the other hand cabbage looks like a head and even resembles a brain. 

In chinese medicine it is used to clear "heat", lubricate the intestines and stop coughing.

Used for: constipation, whooping cough, hot flashes, common colds, frostbite.

Frostbite is obvious as the vegetable itself is a fall vegetable and has to resist frost itself.

Common cold usually affects the head.

New research is finding that cabbage has brain protective properties.

‘’Qian Jin Yao Fang Shi Zhi’’ a Traditional Chinese medicine book, says that eating cabbage often can strengthen the kidneys and brain!

Cabbage purifies the blood and clears toxins (free radicals and uric acid which is a major factor in developing  rheumatism, gout, arthritis, renal calculi, skin diseases, eczema etc.).  Cabbage, being rich in iodine and polyphenols- antioxidants such as anthocyanins(the pigment in blueberries), also helps in the proper functioning of the brain and the nervous system, as well as the endocrine glands. Bottom line CABBAGE is good for the brain and treatment of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.
(Red cabbage could cut Alzehimer's risk By Stephen Daniells, 10-Mar-2006
In a new study red cabbage was seen to reduce the build-up of certain plaques in the brain that could cause Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia that costs the UK an estimated £15 billion (€ 22 billion) every year.
"One ancient Traditional Chinese Medicine book called ‘’Ben Cao Shi Yi’’ records that cabbage clears the channels by removing toxins that may block the Qi and blood around the joints, strengthens and loosens joints." *


  1. Such an interesting post. Thank you. Western medicine should learn what's good about other cultures.

  2. Ali, could you possibly recommend any books on Chinese medicine?

    1. a great beginner book on nutrition is Paul Pitchford's HEALING WITH WHOLE FOODS. it is very well written and very informative <3

  3. Very informative post, Ali! Also another thing about cabbages... breastfeeding mothers are taught to put cabbage leaves on their breasts to relieve the swelling and pain that sometimes occurs when the breastmilk first comes in (I had nurses and lactation consultants giving me the same advice). They're not quite sure why it works, but it does!!

  4. the west has always looked down on the east when it comes to science/medicine, education and even yoga.
    no wonder insurance companies don't pay for traditional/herbal medicine. anyway ali this is very interesting especially
    the part about Doctrine of Signatures. i've never heard of it before. but it only makes sense. like cures like.
    and never doubt mother nature. it's the greatest force there is!

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