Eastern Promises

In China, the secrets of dealing with stress, sickness and aging draw from a 5000 year-old tradition. Here’s an A to Z guide on how they do it.


There are roughly 365 [tag]acupuncture[/tag] points along the body’s main energy channels which can be activated to release blocked qi (energy flow). Activation is done through the almost painless prick of needles, with the intensity of an ant bite. A low electric current is released via the needles to boost the therapy’s efficiency. Although acupressure isn’t a cure-all, it is believed to help stress, migraine, constipation, insomnia and even lift sagging skin and delay the formation of wrinkles.

Bird’s nest

Sea swallows use their saliva as a substitute for twigs and leaves, creating an edible bird’s nest used as a medicinal ingredient to strengthen the lungs and treat chronic bronchitis. It is best taken boiled as a soup or stewed with sugar and almonds.


Bloating, indigestion, constipation, cellulite, water retention, dark eye circles and dehydrated skin are signs of toxic build-up. While the liver, kidney, lymphatic system, skin and bowels help the body spring clean itself, you can also help by drinking cleansing teas containing ginseng or chrysanthemum.
Dong Quai

Well-known as a blood detoxifier, this Chinese herb helps regulate the menstrual cycle, relieve cramps, replenish a woman’s hormones and abate menopause-related hot flushes. This made-for-women Chinese herb can be eaten raw but is usually cooked with chicken or added into soup and drunk as a tea.

Energy boosters

If you’re feeling tired all the time, it could be any of these reasons – stress, insufficient sleep, poor diet or lack of exercise. The ancient Chinese equate breathing with energy. When breathing is done correctly – breathe in, tummy out, breathe out, tummy in – slowly and deeply, it regulates the heartbeat and brings down blood pressure. Just 10 to 15 minutes of deep breathing everyday can help boost your energy level.

Overeating or loading the body with sugar causes your energy level to soar only to come plummeting down later. It’s better to eat regularly throughout the day, munching on green vegetables, fruits, seeds and nuts and lean meats to keep your energy levels high.


Salty foods benefit the kidneys, pungent foods help the lungs (think wasabi for your stuffed nose), sweet foods profit the spleen, bitter foods are good for the heart and sour foods help the liver. Each flavour benefits an exact organ but eating too much of any flavour may harm another organ, so take everything in moderation.


Forget coffee. If you need a wake-me-up drink, have some ginseng tea. A pungent herb, Chinese or Korean [tag]ginseng[/tag] helps invigorate the body, treat insomnia and fight fatigue. Herbs are best taken on an empty stomach one hour before meals to maximise absorption.


Sweet herbs such as cinnamon and ginseng help to increase energy levels and soothe an upset stomach. Salty herbs like seaweed are diuretic and help cure constipation. Lemon and orange peels are sour herbs that stimulate digestion while bitter herbs like rhubarb are good blood cleansers.

Itchy scalp

A dirty scalp is an itchy scalp. Shampoo and condition your hair daily if you don’t want your hair to go limp and flaky. A combination of witch hazel, mouthwash and vodka massaged into the scalp before shampoo helps to soothe the itchiness and leave the scalp feeling mint-fresh.

Jet black hair

Enjoy your best hair days in your twenties because the moment you hit your 40s, your hair becomes weaker and more prone to greying. The secret to healthy hair is to nourish the roots and follicles and regulate blood circulation in the scalp. Substitute caffeine, which dehydrates hair with water. Make your own deep-conditioning mask from a concoction of eggs, avocado, olive oil and water.

Keep it simple

The entire basis of [tag]Traditional Chinese Medicine[/tag] is balance. Yin and yang is the art of balance. When there is balance, qi flows without interruptions nourishing the entire body with good health. The five elements – wood, fire, earth, metal and water – need to be in balance to maintain harmony within the body. Women need to find that balance between work and family so that stress becomes controllable and life more productive.

Liver detox

The liver is one of the five organs that help to eliminate toxins. Neglecting the liver will result in indigestion, bloating and a white, furry tongue when you wake up from sleep. You can conduct a liver flush in the comforts of home by downing a liquid concoction of virgin olive oil, lemon juice, Epsom salts and water throughout the day. If that sounds hard to swallow, try blending carrot, beetroot and celery to create a potent tonic that will wash out the toxins from your liver.


Menopause, translated as hot flushes, osteoporosis and reduced oestrogen marks the end of menstruation. While acupuncture does relieve hot flushes and headaches, the goal is increase the production of the hormone oestrogen by eating a diet filled with tofu, soybeans and linseed oil. Consume fruits, nuts, vegetables, grains and seeds to nourish the kidneys and you’ll be less likely to be affected by menopausal symptoms.


Big, healthy lunulae (the crescent shape at base of nail) is a good sign. Small lunulae supposedly means a weak person in need of warming yang foods. If the lunulae are too big, it’s a sign of excess yang energy. Drink up as our nails are made up of 16% water and fill up on calcium-rich foods like sardines and soya beans.

Oily skin

[tag]Stress[/tag] starves the skin of good qi but massaging essential oils into the skin is supposed to help stimulate the flow of qi. To soothe overactive pores, apply calming essential oils like ylang ylang, lavender and geranium on oily skin. Ginseng can be drunk as a tea to detoxify the body or applied on blemishes triggered by heatiness.

Premenstrual tension

To ensure a smooth and pain-free menstruation cycle, the goal is to make sure blood and qi flow is smooth. Before menstruation, keep away from sweet, salty and processed foods. During menstruation, take dong quai to cleanse the system. Post-menstruation, strengthen the uterus with bai shao. Acupuncture also helps to regulate blood and ensure a painless cycle. Try to eat warm, cooked foods and potassium-rich foods like watercress, tomatoes, bananas and watermelon to prevent fluid retention.

Qi Gong

Like yoga, [tag]qi gong[/tag] is based on movements learnt from observing animals. Practiced to relieve chronic pain, qi gong is also believed to help lower blood pressure, improve posture and flexibility and strengthen one’s immunity. The slow, therapeutic movements promote the circulation of qi to enhance blood circulation and detoxify the system.


A skilled reflexologist can activate the body’s natural healing process in the kidney, stomach, liver, spleen, gallbladder and bladder by applying pressure to the reflex points on the soles of the feet. The same person can tell whether you suffer from back pain, headache, low blood pressure and the like by identifying the organs and glands that correspond with the blockage felt on the soles of your feet.


[tag]Shiatsu[/tag] is like acupuncture but without the needles. There is, however, some degree of pain as the thumb, knuckles, palm and elbow work their way down the body’s energy channels to activate the body’s natural healing process. It is popularly used to relieve back, neck, shoulder and arthritis pain, stress, insomnia and digestive problems.

Tui Na

Tui Na is a Chinese form of massage which involves putting pressure on the points along the meridian to relieve pain in the lower back and neck and improve circulation to treat headaches, insomnia and indigestion.

Useful information

Avoid iron or metal containers to keep Chinese herbs as they may change the therapeutic properties of herbs. Instead, use glass or ceramic containers. Soak herbs for 15 minutes before boiling them in water. Don’t boil them more than 20 minutes and drink immediately whenever possible.

Very important remedies

Soothe a sore throat with liquorice and an upset stomach with chamomile. Chamomile also helps to speed up the healing process. Lee Jok-Keng, a traditional Chinese medicine herbalist, recommends using tumeric to deep cleanse skin and Chinese wolfberries to break down stubborn fat. If you have irregular menses, Pak Chan Tong (Eight Treasures Soup) is a tried and tested remedy that boosts blood flow and vitality.


Containing more vitamin C than oranges, [tag]wolfberries[/tag] are good for the eyes. These sweet, tiny orange-red berries also help to moisturise dry skin by promoting good qi and treat anaemia by nourishing the blood.

X-tra advice

Don’t stay sad. If your grief stays unresolved, it can harm the lungs and large intestines causing you even more grief. Constipation and shallow breathing are symptoms of worry. Constant worry leads to depression and obsessive compulsive behaviour while fear can cause kidney stones and bladder problems.

Yin and Yang

[tag]Yin and yang[/tag] are opposites that attract. One cannot exist with the other and as with everything, must be balanced to create equilibrium. Foods that are yin are cool and calming like apples, bananas, broccoli, lettuce, spinach and yoghurt. Foods that are yang are warm and stimulating like capsicum, cashewnuts, chocolate, lime and prawns.

Yin foods help to soothe and de-stress the organs if there is excess yang but eating too much of these cooling foods can cause colds and coughs. In the same way, heaty yang foods can charge up a tired and sluggish body but overeating yang food cause heatiness. Foods that are fried, roasted and grilled become more yang in nature but boiling, stewing and steaming makes them more yin.


After midnight, the body settles into a calm yin phase preparing it for rest and repair. Early in the morning, the body is charged with yang qi priming the body for exercise. That’s why early to bed – 10pm – and early to rise – 6am – is the formula for a healthy body. Waking up between 3am to 5am points to weak lungs or a cough problem while rising between 5am to 7am is an indication of kidney deficiency.



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