Category Archives: Wellness

Five Elements Tea Blends

The Five Element tea blends were created to accompany you on the question of who you are right now. The five elements, like yin and yang, are always in flux, one changing into the other, and giving rise to a third. For instance, if you’re just out of a demanding school program and raring to go make a mark on the world, you might be in a wood phase. Just had a baby? Maybe you feel very earthy, mothering and nurturing? As your life changes, you’ll have different core motivations and different needs, but some core challenges will remain the same.
The Five Element tea blends are just a fun reminder, a way of grounding you into a particular experience. Do you want some help on deciding which element is strongest, or are you curious about a friend or colleague? Just click on the quiz I designed. The answers appear at the end.



In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Damp and Phlegm are on a continuum Think of Damp as a mild spring day with an overcast sky. Think of Phlegm as thick fog.

Damp and Phlegm are excesses that have root causes. Either the cause is a weakness of the digestive system (Spleen Qi deficiency) or the condition is caused by too much of the wrong type of food.

When Damp assumes substance it becomes Phlegm. Usually that means something like extra pounds, thick drainage, or even soft nodules. In rare cases, the Phlegm can be invisible. Those people will have problems apprehending the world clearly. They can have difficulty concentrating, or in extreme cases, psychiatric problems.

Overweight people often skip breakfast, because they aren’t hungry. They may even feel slightly nauseated. The phlegm obstructs the natural hunger response.

Begin by reading the dietary recommendations listed for Spleen Qi deficiency, including breakfast suggestions. Please do not eat yogurt or cheese for breakfast.

Green tea can help with the muzzy-headed feeling.

Foods to be Avoided:

Avoid dairy, including milk. If you must have some cheese, then have a bit of goats-milk cheese or feta. Unfortunately, soy products and soy milk, as well as peanuts, also make Damp worse. Use grain such amaranth, or cooked lentils, to meet your protein requirements. Seeds can also be combined with vegetables to add protein. For instance, add sunflower seeds to salads and Muesli. If you eat meat or chicken, avoid fatty cuts and remove the skin. Butter and most oils should also be eliminated.

Refined sugar destabilizes the blood-sugar levels, making us hungry, which makes us eat again. Try to save refined sugar for an occasional treat.

Foods with Diuretic Properties

Alfalfa, parsley, radishes, celery, carrots, cabbage, cucumber, lettuce, and kelp all drain damp, through their diuretic properties.

If the damp has already progressed to phlegm, don’t expect instantaneous results. TCM herbal therapy can be helpful, when used over a period of time, in conjunction with life style changes. Phlegm will make you feel lethargic, and your limbs might feel heavy, but exercise is a must.


Empty Heat

Empty Heat (Yin deficiency)

To understand the concept of Empty Heat, you first have to understand the concept of Yin. Yin is deep, earthy, and moist. In Chinese medicine, Yin describes the fluid, and substantial aspects of our bodies. As we age, our Yin decreases. When our Yin is insufficient to balance our Yang, the Yang heat-generating aspects of our body predominate. This can account for symptoms such as night-sweats or restlessness.

The recommended diet consists of 5% white meat such as poultry or fish, 30% cooked vegetables, 40% grains, 20% fruit and salad, and 5% milk products. If you tolerate dairy well, you can try a bit more,


  1. Food preparation is important. Steaming foods, or making stews, is the best method. Steamed vegetables can also be mixed into raw salads, and Muesli can be made with raw, grated fruit.
  2. Some Yin-nourishing foods are honey (a small amount), walnuts, black sesame, tofu, seafood, and berries.
  3. Black tea, and especially coffee, should be avoided. Don’t drink more than a cup or two of green tea. If you feel dry, pear juice is moistening. Grape juice, fruit tea, or yoghurt drinks like Lassi are good.
  4. For night sweats and sleeping problems, you can prepare wheat water. Use two tablespoons wheat berries and cook them in ½ a Liter of water for 20 minutes. Sieve and drink cool.
  5. Exercising excessively to stay very thin contributes to Yin deficiency, as does sleeping too little. Contemplative exercises such as yoga or tai-chi are suggested instead.

Blood Deficiency

Qi and/or Blood deficiency

Without a list of symptoms, it’s sometimes hard for the practitioner to distinguish between Qi and Blood deficiency. Women tend towards Blood-Deficiency. In Western Medicine, an actual blood deficiency is known as anemia. Though the TCM term Blood Deficiency includes this, it expands on the concept, to include other maladies.

The suggested diet consists of 5% meat, 30% cooked vegetables, 40% grains, 10% milk products, and 15% fruit and salads.


  • An exclusively vegetarian die is not recommended for Blood deficiency. If you would like to avoid meat and fish because of moral reasons, eggs, seitan, and tofu are important elements of the diet. If you don’t wish to get a TCM herbal formula, preparations such as Floradex can be helpful.
  • Eat lots of dark green vegetables such as chard and spinach. Eat red and purple fruits and vegetables such as red cabbage, beets, blackberries, and red grapes.
  • Meat should be prepared in such a way as to be easily digestible. More than 50 to 70 grams at one time can be too much for your digestion. Marinades such as apple cider vinegar (diluted 1:2 with water), tomato juice, wine, or lemon juice help break down the protein chains for better assimilation.
  • Heavy menses are often the cause of Blood deficiency. If you want to avoid the Pill and other pharmaceuticals, acupuncture and herbs can be helpful.

Spleen Qi Deficiency

Spleen Qi Deficiency

Spleen Qi deficiency? Sounds pretty strange. The spleen is one the left side of the body, and sequesters red blood cells.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the term “Spleen Qi deficiency” is synonymous with digestive difficulties. In addition to our ancestral energy, which can be understood as “DNA”, we have only two sources available for energy—air and food.

If our digestive capacity is impaired, chances are good we’ll feel foggy-headed and tired.

With this diagnosis, it’s important to watch one’s eating habits.

  • Warm Breakfast: Warm breakfasts are recommended. That does not mean a cinnamon sticky bun right from the microwave! Rice or millet cooked with a stewed apple, some raisins, nuts and cinnamon can be warmed and eaten. Warm, slightly sweetened polenta with stewed fruits is another alternative.
  • Drink warm or room-temperature drinks. Ginger tea is very good for this condition, especially when prepared with fresh ginger.
  • Especially avoid ice-cream or cold beer. Be careful with excessive sweets.







The Wood type is associated with spring and the time when  vegetation begins to grow. As a Wood type, you’re concerned with boundaries and structure. The boundaries are there to guide you on your journey, because you’re always off on a new quest. (I understand the Wood types quite well). You’re linear, motivated. and hard-working. Your challenge comes when the boundaries become stifling, and the structure you’ve built doesn’t take you where you want to go. Frustration and anger are things that Wood Elements frequently struggle with

You can recognize a Wood type by their intense gaze, tense muscles, and tight jaws. They can appear impatient. Health challenges include digestive problems and headaches.

The Five Elements tea blend contains green tea, for concentration, licorice, known as gan cao in Chinese Medicine, and used to relax and smooth tight muscles. Fennel and orange peel support digestion, especially if you’ve just gulped your food, as Wood types tend to do. (Please note this is not a medicinal tea, just an herbal blend to remind you to relax, even as you work.) The orange peel and lemon grass add a refreshing, slightly sour, note. The taste associated with the Wood Element is sour.

Below an exercise adapted from the book Transforming Your Dragons. Because a balanced Wood type can visualize the future so clearly, they often live in their future goals, rather than the present. Planning and organizing are good traits, but taken in the extreme, they leave you addicted to busyness.

Try this:

Have some unstructured time. This means you have a period, anywhere from five minutes to a few hours, where you do not have a plan for what you are doing. You might find yourself gathering material in anticipation of this: newspapers you haven’t read, mending you need to do.

Don’t. When the period arises, just let yourself be. You might just sit and think somewhere quiet outside, go for a walk, or listen to some music.

The Wood Type: Born to lead

Ms. Hillary Rodham Clinton




The Water Type


Like the Wood type, Water types can be very determined and strong. But while Wood is all flash and dash, impatient to get to the goal, and never satisfied, a Water type moves forward very carefully. The Water type is inherently suspicious, and will ask the same question different ways to make sure he gets to the same conclusion.

Their deliberate, calm manner and assurance can conceal anxieties and irrational fears. While Earth Types may worry about the welfare of others, the Water type is concerned about danger. The fear they experience may be almost paralyzing, and extreme cases, Water types will have a stillness about them, and a monotonous, hushing voice, that suggests they wish to escape notice. Nevertheless, they have strong will-power and endurance, and usually get what they want.

A Water type will not seek out a direct confrontation. It would be more their way to be passive, and elusive. They’re comfortable working alone, and though they can work very hard, they need times of replenishment and withdrawal. Unlike the Metal Type that is drawn towards detail and complexity, the Water Type is engaged by the purity of simplicity.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Kidney and Bladder meridians are associated with the Water Element, and Water types may experience problems with their lower back, knees, or bones in general.

The TCM Bladder meridian follows all along the spine before it descends down the back of the legs, and ends at the little toe.

The following exercise was adapted from Pamela Ferguson’s book, “The Self-Shiatsu Handbook.” You can work along the Bladder meridian with your knuckles while standing, going all the way down to your sacrum. Even better is the position known as the Child’s Pose, in yoga. Your back will be naturally relaxed in this position, allowing you to work deeper.

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Water Type people:

Quiet but charismatic, the enigma of the water type: Liam Neeson