Tag Archives: TCM

Traditional Chinese Medicine referring to herbs and their uses in treating medical conditions but no advise given regarding specific treatment ie dosage or preparations to be used.


Last month I had my usual trip to the Friday market at Brantôme, a small picturesque town in the Perigord , a chance to pick up on the local gossip and see what’s in season.


The gossip first; Olivier from Café Co’Thé on ‘Rue Victor Hugo’ was on the French version of Mastermind and he did very well but didn’t get through to the third round. Needless to say his questions were on coffee! There have been a few major changes in that the pharmacist has moved over the bridge and their old shop has been taken over by the cafe owners next to the newsagent on Puy Joli and as they have createneated a large terrace( and who gave permission for that!)  the stall selling greengrocerie has had to move opposite the new cafe as the pitch has been taken over by the terrace. Moreover, the fishmonger’s van has had to relocate up the road on the main bridge! Then a few progress reports of new illnesses and deaths in the past month, what events are coming up such as ‘ the Charente Weavers festival’ in Varaignes, the home of the slipper ( Pantoufle) and what concerts or Art exhibitions are coming up at the Abbey or nearby and not forgetting the progress of the garden and the weather almost all in the same breath! This is what markets are about and happen the World over – it could even  be Saturday morning in West Ealing or chatting on Pitshanger Lane.

Before meeting up for coffee a view around the many stalls containing foodstuffs, mostly locally resourced, homemade wooden items, soaps and jewellry aswell as random Morrocan , Peruvian stalls that find their way to Brantôme. The seasonal item that is most noticeable are  local strawberries including ‘Fraises de Bois’,  strawberries diligently gathered in the wild. Also, as always is the Asparagus which always appears at this time and has a very short season. Their are the familiar green asparagus but more popular in this region is the white or purple Charentais asparagus. Fresh asparagus is usually only available in French markets in May and June and stalls sell out very quickly.  White asparagus is derived from the same varieties as green asparagus, however its growing method separates it from other varieties; while being cultivated, it has never seen the light of day: soil is mounded over the asparagus plants to prevent the sun’s rays from producing chlorophyll as they grow. Hence,it matures without colour, making it the albino version of asparagus. When the slightest sight of a tip protrudes from the earth, the plant is picked.
Ideal White asparagus spears are pearly white, thick and rounded, about 6 to 8 inches in length with Christmas tree shaped crowns. Their flavor is mild, slightly herbaceous, earthy and nutty with notes of artichoke and fresh White corn. I have to say I prefer the green variety.
As it hasn’t received the nutritional elements of light, white asparagus is more brittle than green asparagus and must be used soon after harvest or the spears quickly turn fibrous and bitter, rendering them inedible. White salad asparagus are tender and sweet, and can be eaten raw or cooked. Sauté chopped white asparagus with shrimp or scallops, or cook quickly in brown butter and serve as a side.

An easy way to cook green asparagus is first break the stems where it breaks naturally to get rid of the less tender part then lie them in a pan or tray covered with water, bring the water to the boil and then turn the heat off and leave for 5 mins. Serve with butter or Hollandaise sauce on their own or an accompaniment with poached salmon.


The same evening we went to the local restaurant for supper and we were interested to note that our amuse-bouche ( pre-meal taster) was garnished with wild asparagus which was foraged in the local vicinity. I managed to discover the source in the next village and imagined Primitive Man ( a known resident of the Dronne valley) probably fed on this delicacy.


The Egyptians, Greeks and Romans valued asparagus for its medicinal value in addition to enjoying it as a food. The second century physician Galen attributed cleansing and healing properties to asparagus.

Asparagus can neutralize ammonia, protect small blood vessels, act as a diuretic… plus its fiber is a natural laxative.

Modern studies show the ancients were right to place high value on asparagus. By eating only a few calories you benefit from many nutrients.

It’s loaded with nutrients: Asparagus is a very good source of  fibre, folate, vitamins A, C, E and K, as well as chromium, a trace mineral that enhances the ability of insulin to transport glucose from the bloodstream into cells.
This herbaceous plant—along with avocado, kale and Brussels sprouts is a particularly rich source of glutathione, a detoxifying compound that helps break down carcinogens and other harmful compounds like free radicals.

This is why eating asparagus may help protect against and fight certain forms of cancer, such as bone, breast, colon, larynx and lung cancers.
Asparagus is packed with antioxidants, ranking among the top fruits and vegetables for its ability to neutralize cell-damaging free radicals. This, according to preliminary research, may help slow the aging process.

The asparagus tuber is used in Chinese medicine, known as Tian Men Dong and tonifies the Yin especially the lung and kidney Yin which are affected in debilitating illnesses such as cancer.

This is an an important ingredient of the formula Káng Ái Fāng (C82) which when I have noticed when  administered with Western medicine: the patients seem to respond better and become less debilitated and recover from the ill effects quicker. Most oncologists are not averse to supporting the use of this medication.

image     image

Lung Yin deficiency manifests itself by  a dry cough, loss of voice, thirst, dry throat, dry skin, sometimes spitting up thick sputum.  When advanced, can become Lung Consumption: chronic cough, low-grade afternoon fever, nightsweat, hemoptysis, thin, rapid pulse.

The kidney Yin deficiency occurs in most debilitating chronic illnesses and in Chinese medicine is considered part of the ageing process. It is manifest by symptoms such as dizziness, tinnitus, weak lower back and legs, warm palms and soles, afternoon low-grade fever, diminished sexual function, scanty and dark urine, red-dry tongue, thin pulse without strength.  Kidney yin fails to nourish Liver yin, which can lead to Kidney+Liver yin Deficiency.

In Chinese Medicine the relationship between the Liver and the Kidneys is of considerable clinical significance as it is based on the mutual exchange between blood and essence and is particularly important in gynaecology. Essence ( oversimplified) is a term in Chinese medicine to describe vital substances which are inherited and acquired and determines our basic constitutional strength and resistance to exterior pathogens. When the Essence is deficient it affects growth, development,  fertility and our ability to fight disease of body and mind.

I find that TCM for me gives some explanation to the mysteries of medicine, chronic illnesses and ageing and why we eat certain foods and understanding more about asparagus is a good example of that!


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Tomorrow  is St Valentine’s Day a time to show affection for someone often in a secretive way by card or a secret message and portrayed by the symbol of the heart or by passing time with someone special.
The story of Saint Valentine of Rome states that he was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire. According to legend, during his imprisonment, he healed the daughter of his jailer, Asterius and to show his silent love for her, before his execution he wrote her a letter signed “Your Valentine” as a farewell.

During my studies of Traditional Chinese medicine based on teachings passed down over thousands of years the symptoms of heart imbalance include palpitations, shortness of breath, sweating easily, mental restlessness, insomnia, forgetfulness, chest pain, tongue pain, and burning urine. Hence, in order to prevent heart disease it is important to look after your emotional health, mental function, memory, and spirituality (in the sense of being at ease with oneself) as well as maintaining a good lifestyle.
The role of the heart (xin), known in traditional Chinese physiology as the ruler of the other organs, has exceptional importance. Its function in traditional Chinese medicine parallels its Western anatomic function of pumping blood throughout the body to maintain life.

There are many different terms used in Chinese to signify the psyche or mind, but in medical literature words that include Spirit (or Shen) is commonly used. In a similar way the prefix ‘psycho’ is used in western medical terms. It refers to our physiological vitality as well as consciousness, and the function of thinking and feeling. This ‘spirit of mind’ is said to reside in the Heart and its outward manifestation are our emotions. Hence, the concept of Spirit or Shen in Chinese Medicine is not ‘spiritual’ in any conventional religious sense. Psychological diseases are seen as pathological abnormalities of the Shen, which reside in the Heart. The channels of energy for different organs are known as Meridians.
Heart meridianThe Heart Meridian starts from the heart, and divides into three branches. One of these branches emerges under the arm and runs along the inner side of the forearm, elbow and upper arm. It then crosses the inner side of the wrist and palm and ends at the inside tip of the little finger.  Along the Meridian at the wrist is an acupuncture point known the Shen Men and this a well known point to use for calming the mind. There is another Shen Men point on the upper earlobe also used to calm the mind. I noticed that both Princess Diana and Cherie Blair had Chinese herbs applied in these points when they were going through personal stresses. I frequently use this acupuncture point for anyone suffering stress or anxiety and to help people attempting to quit smoking with good effect.
Heart pinyinThe Chinese view of the Heart is more than just a pump to move blood. The Chinese pinyin character of the Heart not only reflects the physical shape of the Heart, but also that it is a bowl or receptacle that communicates and governs the body, bringing animation to life and a ‘joie de vivre’. The Heart is the reason why we have to go and see wonderful scenery, be well rested, have good food and drink, in order that life is more refined.
However, the key to this radiating Shen is that it comes from a space or void that is the receptacle of the Heart. To achieve this space the Heart must be calm, tranquil and peaceful so the communication of Shen is not blocked or obstructed.

The flow of energy or Qi, as it is described in Chinese Medicine, ensures that the joy of living is felt. If we pursue our Western lifestyle of being constantly ‘on the go’, striving for more possessions, more knowledge, constantly stimulating our senses, we are filling up our Heart receptacle, which is then blocking the free communication, and movement of our Shen and making us vulnerable to disease and psychological disorders.

The Heart oversees the functioning of the body so that happiness or unhappiness, illness or health, longevity or premature death all depend on the Heart.

That is an Eastern perception but when I reviewed the empirical research of Friedman & Rosenman (1959) (both cardiologists) there seemed to be some remarkable similarities!
They found that people with type A personality run a higher risk of heart disease and high blood pressure than type Bs.
Their theory was based on an observation of the patients with heart conditions in their waiting room.

Unlike most patients, who wait patiently, some people seemed unable to sit in their seats for long and wore out the chairs. They tended to sit on the edge of the seat and leaped up frequently.

What was unusual was that the chairs were worn down on the front edges of the seats and armrests instead of on the back areas, which would have been more typical. They were as tense as racehorses at the gate. The two doctors labeled this behavior type A personality.
They conducted a longitudinal study to test their hypothesis, in which 3200 middle aged managers and executives (all men) were given questionnaires over a eight and a half year duration.

Examples of questions asked by Friedman & Rosenman:

• Do you feel guilty if you use spare time to relax?

• Do you need to win in order to derive enjoyment from games and sports?

• Do you generally move, walk and eat rapidly?

• Do you often try to do more than one thing at a time?
From their responses, and from their manner, each participant was put into one of three groups:

Type A behavior: competitive, ambitious, impatient, aggressive, fast talking.

Type B behavior: relaxed, non-competitive.

Type C behavior: ‘nice,’ hard working but become apathetic when faced with stress
Type A personality
Eight years later 257 of the participants had developed coronary heart disease. By the end of the study 70% of the men who had developed coronary heart disease (CHD) were type A personalities.

The behavior type A personality types makes them more prone to stress-related illnesses such as CHD, raised blood pressure etc.

Despite this study having been carried out in the 1950’s and with limitations it still seems to be upheld.
It is not surprising there is such an increase in meditation, mindfulness and yoga amongst those experiencing stress. Research has shown that by participating in regular yoga and /or meditation there is a significant decrease in blood pressure.

Look after your heart and the hearts of those around you by having a calm, peaceful and happy day.

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Posted by on February 13, 2014 in Training and Advice


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Yesterday I attended the funeral of someone who has been a source of great inspiration to me in studying Chinese Medicine and the culture behind it and as a result it has deepened my understanding of the human body and Medicine from a completely different perspective.
I was able to visit China with him and experience acupuncture and Chinese medicine as practised in a General Hospital in a China. He facilitated my completion of a diploma in Chinese herbs and acupuncture as approved by the University of Beijing.

His lectures were animated, frequently amusing as he shared his knowledge with great enthusiasm and passion. He treated everyone in the same manner and it was difficult to know if he was introducing you to a patient, fellow student or visiting professor! On one occasion he introduced me to the Dalai Lama when I was in the middle of buying needles in the clinic as apparently he had asked him to pop in to the clinic in Camden whilst he was in London.

On many occasions we have not only talked about medicine but shared the things that make us really appreciate our health and enrich our lives: art and culture; music and poetry; food and song as he felt that these are the things that can bring cultures closer together and lead to fruitful integration.

He worked passionately with boundless energy aiming to integrate Eastern and Western medicine for over four decades. Professor Mei was actively involved in many leading academic and clinical institutions in developing a global integrative model for medicine. His passion inspired his vision for a globalised medicine that cares for humanity and a new paradigm of medicine and health.
He revolutionised modern Chinese medicine through his invention of the world’s first disposable acupuncture needle and designed the earliest range of micro-processor electro acupuncture and TENS apparatuses. He also pioneered the systematic approach to Chinese herbal medicine by developing the TCM Classic range of capsulated Chinese herbal extracts.

As you can see I am only one of many who have been inspired by his contribution to medicine

When he wrote this letter last month little did anyone know that he would pass away so suddenly and not be able to share the Chinese New Year of human enlightenment on February 1st 2014. However, many of us reading this letter including his family feel that they must be energised by the work he has done and to continue with the same fervour.

Farewell 2013, Welcome to the Year of the Wooden Horse!
Many of us may have experienced a year of change caused by the dynamics of the Black Water Snake. As 2013 is drawing to a close we look forward to the year of the Wooden Horse that will set the milestone for the next decade to come. According to the Chinese zodiac, this is the energetic cycle of Qi that will manifest itself in a qualitative manner that will influence our health, personal relationships as well as the social and natural phenomena. All the knowledge of the human race will be needed to help us move towards the next horizon in enlightenment.

At this defining moment in history, science and philosophy will engage in a dialogue that will shape our future reality. This may be a sober thought for the new year festivities, but I myself am looking forward to the burst of new energy and to share with you the hope and the excitement of the arrival of a new axial age.

Let’s enjoy this moment of festivities with the tea of life and the wine of wisdom. The Chinese Taoist notion of “wu wei er wei zi (无为而为之)” which means “doing as if you are not doing” is a pearl of wisdom for this moment. As the natural environment is being increasingly damaged by our deterministic actions, we need to learn to act within the ways of nature, rather than recklessly changing it according to our own image. Ceaseless economic growth should be in tune with the ecology of our earth. To me, meaningful living is to be at one with nature.

Goethe once said “The soul that sees beauty may sometimes walk alone.” This brings me to an important principle in Chinese medicine regarding the ‘heart’ in relation to the mind and body. In many ways we are all artists in life. As we cultivate our heart to achieve clarity of mind we may be feeling alone. But are we really alone? The heart is not only affecting our physical wellbeing but is also affecting our relationship with our surroundings. Our relationship with nature, our loved ones and society at large are all affected by our actions stemming from our hearts and minds.

I mention this because I think by cultivating our heart we can get ourselves ready for the next stage of human enlightenment. A human being with a noble heart, in a noble society, will not need the strict governance that the law makers are endlessly fabricating in modern times. We will then be free, harmonious and engaging in the essence of living.

At this celebratory moment I wish you peace and happiness in your heart.

Man Fong Mei

at the AcuMedic Forum, London


老子云“无为而无不为”和孔子说“无为而 治”,都表达了一种“无为而为之”的境界,即强调凡事顺其自然,不多一分亦不少一分,力求平衡! 中国人的哲学智慧是人生不是什么都不做,而是做出来的东西不违反自然规律。

回到工作的层面,中医的养生之道核心是鼓励养心,中医的“精气神”概念值得我们进一步思考,这也适用于治疗当前社会的某些病态 现象。养心不但促进个人健康,治疗疾病,也令社会和谐,给人类发展带来新的生机。

辞旧迎新之际,来共同思考一下自己的行为和价值观是否传承了古代圣贤的智慧,以平衡现代消费主义的影响。谨祝各位身心愉快!马 到成功!




He finished the letter with this poem he wrote which I found very appropriate and was reproduced on a bookmark and given to everyone who attended the funeral. He was an artist, poet, philosopher, physicist and Chinese physician.
The bookmark also had a drawing of plum blossom….
The Chinese word for plum blossom is known as the meihua (梅花) : you may be familiar with drawings of these in Chinese paintings. Mei is Chinese for plum.
Plum blossom
The Moment

This is the moment

I am in your presence

You are in my presence

Together we sip our tea of life

This is the moment

Together we indulge our imagination

The sweet memory of the past

The excitement for the future

The hope we share

In this winter air

Our presence together,

In celebration.

Prof. Man Fong Mei

5 December 2013


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Posted by on January 24, 2014 in Training and Advice


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Many people will have had an enjoyable festive break but others it will have been a stressful time. For many a festive drink of alcohol and eating rich food will have made the occasion more enjoyable for others it will have caused an aftermath of misery.

The great thing about the start of a New Year it’s a chance to reflect of the what’s good and what’s bad about your life and stick with what’s good and try to change what’s bad.
A chance to improve our lifestyle, our living conditions, our friendships and our relationships as well as our sense of purpose.

Banksy put up four new pieces in London two years ago. One on the side of National Gallery, one in Bell Lane near Liverpool St. Station, one on Wapping High Street – all which were buffed/removed very quickly indeed, but give the message….

Banksy lifestyle

Perhaps one answer to many of your problems could be to

What does the liver do?
Your liver is the biggest organ inside your body and does hundreds of essential jobs.

  • Fighting infection and disease
  • Destroying poisons and drugs (including alcohol)
  • Cleaning the blood
  • Controlling the amount of cholesterol
  • Processing food once it has been digested

watch this video found on the website
Liver factory

Liver Health from TCM Perspective
Liver Chinese Since I have studied Traditional Chinese Medicine I have been fascinated how this completes the effects of disease and how the major organs effect the rest of the body and the mind.

The Liver(Chinese: 肝; pinyin: gān)
The Liver in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a very important organ. The Liver in TCM has very different functions than the liver in western medicine. In western medicine, some of the functions are to produce certain proteins for blood plasma, regulate blood clotting and resist infections by producing immune factors and removing bacteria from the blood stream. In Chinese medicine, the liver has 6 main functions and they are as follows:
• Regulate Qi (energy)
• Open in eyes
• Stores blood
• Controls tendons and sinews
• Manifests in nails
• Houses ethereal soul
This prime aspect of the liver can have great affect on three aspects of the body: the emotions, digestion, and the free flow of blood.
1) Strongly effects emotions
If Liver function is normal, people will have smooth flowing emotional states favoring happiness. If the flow of Qi is stagnated or stuck, they will experience frustration, depression, irritability or anger. Various pre-menstrual syndrome symptoms will also arise such as irregular or painful periods, mood swings and breast tenderness.
The Liver is the organ system most affected by suppressed emotions. Therefore not dealing with your triggers and emotions for a long time can lead to “Liver Qi Stagnation” and eventually pathologies of other body organs.
2) Affects the digestion of food
If the Qi is not flowing smoothly (i.e. from emotions), the digestion system will have trouble performing their functions. If the Liver Qi is stagnated it can affect the Stomach causing nausea, vomiting and belching. It can also affect the Spleen and cause diarrhea.
3) Blood Flow
The relationship between blood and qi (energy) is very close and they always move together. The blood cannot go where the qi does not. If the free flow of the qi is stagnated by the liver, the blood will stagnate as well. The stagnation of liver qi will still cause stagnation of blood, which will lead to the gynecological symptoms.
I remember a patient coming to the surgery with very sore eyes which she was causing her great distress. On examination there was no obvious problem and as a Western doctor I could offer no treatment. I decided to take a TCM history and as her eyes were the problem I focused on symptoms and examination accordingly. When I asked her about her menstruation she claimed she was late but definitely not pregnant, she had no appetite and had a dull ache in her upper abdomen and chest. Then I asked her about her emotions and she changed from a softly spoken, refined young women and started to cry and become very angry. Eventually she related the story of how she worked in a small boutique and there had been a robbery and she had been held a gunpoint and although she was not hurt she was extremely angry that her boss was not installing a panic alarm and safety catch on the door.

TongueI examined her tongue and pulse (important features of a TCM examination) and diagnosed Liver Qi stagnation with fire due to the symptoms she presented and her red tip and sides of tongue as well as a wiry pulse.
The treatment for her eyes was to deal with her anger by getting her work situation sorted out as this from a TCM perspective was causing her medical problems.

If you imagine someone having over indulged alcohol with their red eyes, emotionally labile, irritability, altered appetite and aching joints, staggering gait and poor sexual function – TCM will account for these features.

Liver disease is the fifth biggest – and fastest-growing – killer in the UK but a lack of obvious symptoms means it can be diagnosed at a late stage.
It works hard and can take a lot of abuse, but it is like an elastic band – it can only stretch so far before it breaks.

There are 3 main threats to the Liver

    • Alcohol
    • Fatty diet
    • viral Hepatitis


Andrew Langford, chief executive of the British Liver Trust, said: “Overindulging in fatty food too frequently, having an alcoholic drink every night and not making time for regular exercise are major contributing factors for liver disease.

“To repair the liver and keep it healthy, people need to take at least two to three imageconsecutive days off alcohol every week, and drink within the recommended limits at other times, affecting a permanent lifestyle change.”
Only you know yourself if you can limit your drinking and it well established that some people are unable to do and need to abstain completely.

A long established organisation who can help called Alcoholics Anonymous is a group of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism.

The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for AA membership; they are self-supporting through their own contributions.
More information can be obtained on their website including the helpline and email address:-

If you are effected by someone else, a friend or relative who are drinking and need to share this with others in a similar situation the following website may be helpful:-

The daily papers have been focussing on alcohol and the fact that it has become as great a problem amongst women as men and all of its terrible effects and there is even an App to track your drinking and give you feedback. The NHS choices website will give you all this information as well as how to cope with a hangover and how many units are safe to drink each week.

There are two Charities that are promoting a dry January in an attempt to encourage those people, who feel that their drinking has got out of hand, to stop and think about the effects of their drinking and by taking on the challenge, lose a few pounds while saving money. Moreover, with no hangovers you can find time and energy you never knew you had, and discover how your skin will look nicer too. Get some support and encouragement from the following websites:-

By giving it a get thinking about your drinking and prove to yourself that you can say no to a tipple or two. Thousands of people took up the challenge last year and most decided to cut down for good as a result. Take a look at the website it gives recipes for mocktails and what to do when you fancy a drink!

Cancer research

Become a Dryathlete™ and give up alcohol for January. Clear your head, feel fitter, save money and raise funds to help beat cancer sooner.


Many people don’t appreciate that unhealthy eating leading to Obesity and diabetes which leads to fatty liver disease.
Figures from the charity show that a third of people in the UK with liver disease have obesity-related non alcoholic fatty liver disease.
The condition is behind a growing number of liver transplants and the problem is expected to get worse as obesity continues to rise.
Every time doctors get together to discuss Type 2 Diabetic who not well controlled and needing to start insulin the same advise from the diabetologists a is always:-
Diet lifestyle


I have seen first hand on many occasions how a diabetic that follows this advise can come off ALL medical treatment……

I blogged about this several months ago

There are several viruses that cause hepatitis. The common ones are hepatitis A, B and C. Most people recover from hepatitis A with no lasting liver damage, but hepatitis B and C can cause long term liver disease and even liver cancer.

Hepatitis A is passed out in the bowel motions of an infected person, and is passed from person to person by eating food or drinking water contaminated with the virus due to poor hygiene standards . Most people feel better within a few weeks. The illness can be more severe in those who are old or who have other underlying conditions.
How to look after your liver.
There are vaccines available to protect against hepatitis A. Vaccination is recommended if you are travelling abroad outside Europe and the US, but you should also speak to your GP if you think you might be at risk because of your job or your lifestyle.

Both hepatitis B and C are easy to catch through blood to blood contact and very hard to get rid of. Even a tiny amount of dried blood – too small to be visible to the naked eye – is enough to pass on the infection if it gets into your blood stream.

This could be from sharing contaminated:

  • equipment for injecting drugs (including steroids)
  • tattoo, accupuncture or body piercing equipment
  • medical or dental equipment
  • razors, clippers, or toothbrushes
  • through an open cut or wound.

Sex and passing the virus from mother to baby at birth, are also high risk factors for hepatitis B.

There are few symptoms of hepatitis B and C and people can be infected for many years without knowing, during which time liver damage can occur. An estimated five out of every six people with chronic hepatitis C are unaware of their infection.

imageYou only have one liver, it’s important to know how to look after it!

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Posted by on January 1, 2014 in Training and Advice


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” Le plateau des fruits de mer” can be essential to a French Christmas and New Year as it is to balmy summer days by the sea. The fact that it may well be served in a grotesque imageceramic boat is neither here nor there. Christmas Eve often means the gathering of several generations of a family sitting round a table covered in white linen, or even white paper, upon which are displayed the elevated trays of the freshest seafood of many types of shellfish preferably with lobster and crab and most certainly with a generous number of oysters. They tackle this feast with an arrangement of eating instruments and consider it a harmonious, pleasurable shared experience. This may be repeated during the Summer months but imageChristmas is a time when fishmongers are selling custom made platters in abundance.
At the very least everyone will be buying oysters by the box or at least a dozen from supermarkets stacked with boxes of oysters transported from the coasts of Brittany or imageNormandy. Alternately corners of the streets or outside small greengrocers there are small pop up stalls selling oysters which are graded by size numero zero (the largest) to numero 5 (smallest for garnish) and most people buying numero 3 or 4 but families buying boxes or 2 dozen. They are enjoyed as a starter for the Christmas meal with a glass of Champagne.

My personal introduction to oysters was when I was in my late teens when I was hiking through Northern France with a group of English and French students. We had met in the West coast of Ireland the year before in an International camp and it was evident at that time that the French boys were skilled at collecting shellfish and knew how to serve them. When we met them in France we camped in the grounds of various farms and were introduced to the delicacies of local delicious French soft cheeses,Crêpes aswell as cider and Calvados. The imagelast visit was to the home of Alain who was about to join the French Navy for his National service. He happily took us out in his boat and after a coastal trip then moored in a small cove and told us wanted to give us a surprise. The next thing this swarthy French young man dived off the boat armed with a knife. He soon returned with a bag of oysters he had harvested deftly from the rock something he had being doing for several years. He then prepared them by prising open their shell and demonstrating swallowing them whole . Under the circumstances I found no difficulty in acquiring the taste instantly. I have to say at that time I was not aware they are considered to have Aphrodisiac properties!
Like so many foods, oysters are an acquired taste. The thought of eating them raw remains deeply repellent to some, though if you enjoy other seafood there should be little difficulty in getting to grips with them. While Jonathan Swift once remarked that “he was a bold man that first ate an oyster”, the slithery beauty of a fresh oyster is a unique taste most definitely worth acquiring! Many discover a lifelong enthusiasm and will choose oysters in preference to any other item on a restaurant menu. I include myself in that category.
Hence, since 1989 when I have been frequently visiting France I have very rarely missed having oysters for Christmas and with a glass of Champagne.
When I drink a glass of champagne I always think of miners trapped underground, when I worked in a Welsh Mining valley I was told on good account that on occasions when miners were trapped a tube was introduced into the cavity where they were stranded and champagne was delivered as those above ground believed it was good nourishment. Interestingly, in April 2007, the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry published the results of a recent joint study by the University of Reading and University of Cagliari that showed moderate consumptions of Champagne may help the brain cope with the trauma of stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.

Oysters do have health benefits. Don’t worry if you chip some of the shell when preparing the oysters as the shell is a Chinese Herb known Mu Li is also named Concha Ostreae, 牡蛎Concha Ostreae) and is used to treat menopausal symptoms and “calms the spirit”, treating anxiety.
The oysters themselves as well as being rich in protein, they are also low in fat and in calories. They contain significant amounts of zinc, calcium, iron, iodine, copper, magnesium and selenium. Legendary properties have also been attributed: it is believed by some that oysters are the Viagra of the sea. A team of American and Italian researchers analyzed bivalves and found they were rich in amino acids that trigger increased levels of sex hormones. Their high zinc content aids the production of testosterone.
Oysters themselves can and do change gender several times during their lives!



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Posted by on December 24, 2013 in Anecdotes...little stories


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Pumpkins and Chrysanthamums

This past week the villages and towns in France in the grocery shops, florists, the supermarket car parks, village squares pop up stalls are adorned with potted Chrysanthamums in a rainbow of colours.
They are being purchased by passers-by and local people to be transported to graves of family and friends. Temporary plastic tents have been erected over the past week to preserve these important floral gifts. These special flowers represent the memory and respect for the loved ones who have died. ” La Toussaint is closely related to the Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and Chrysanthamums in Latin cultures symbolises death.
I recall the anxiety and distress on my Francophile husband’s face when a floral gift from well wishers in the form of a large floral display of crysanthamums arrived as he came around from major surgery in the days, when flowers were common place on a hospital ward and he whispered “please take those away, I am not dead yet”

Today these flowers along with jarred lighted candles find there way to the cemeteries transforming these cold,grey,silent cities into a blaze of colour and a hive of activity.


Despite being a secular country there is celebration on All Saints’ Day, or La Toussaint,which is a Christian day of remembrance of all saints and martyrs, including those saints who don’t have a feast day named after them. It is also known as All Hallows Day and The Feast of All Saints and is celebrated every year on 1 November. All Saints’ Day actually begins at sundown on the evening before – Hallowe’en, or All Hallow’s Eve. It is followed by All Souls’ Day on 2 November.
All Saints’ Day is a public holiday in France with government offices, banks, shops and schools closed. Many people attend church services to celebrate This day.
All Saints’ Day is also an opportunity for many people to spend time with family members and close friends. This holiday falls during the autumn school holidays, it is a popular time for families to take a short vacation or to visit relatives living in other areas.

Following my interest in Traditional Chinese Medicine(TCM) Chrysanthamum was a herb I studied the use of of its own or in a formula with other herbs.

Chrysanthemum flower as a medicinal herb was first mentioned in the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing, and has been cultivated by the Chinese for over 3,000 years. The medicinal plant from China is sometimes referred to as Chrysanthemum sinensis, but most modern Chinese material medica texts now classify it as Chrysanthemum moriflolium, the common garden mum or “florist’s chrysanthemum”. All Chrysanthemum flowers can be used medicinally, though in China, those grown in Anhui province are considered to be the best quality.
The Chinese herb usually the white crysanthamum flower (Ju Hua (菊花))
main functions are to:-

  • Dispel wind, clear heat – for early stage wind-heat such as colds with fever, headache and red eyes
  • Cool the Liver, clear and brighten the eyes – for eyes that are red, dry, swollen and painful
  • Calm the Liver, extinguish wind, descend Liver yang – in cases of headache and dizziness, or high blood pressure.

The white flowering mums are reported to be higher in flavinoid glycosides and additional active ingredients. Traditionally the white flowers are said to be stronger at calming the Liver and clearing the eyes, while the yellow flowers are stronger at dispelling wind-heat and draining heat toxin.
It is an ideal tea to have at the end of a stressful day and the
benefits of long-term consumption of Chrysanthemum tea have been recognized throughout the history of Chinese medicine.
It is said to prevent ageing and to be a favorite of Taoists and poets, though the benefits are achieved only with drinking the tea over a long period of time. In the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing, it says, “taken over a long time it facilitates the qi and blood, lightens the body and prevents ageing.” Chen Shi-Dou explains: “Sweet Ju Hua is light and clear in flavor and nature, and its effect is particularly leisurely, it must be taken over a long time before it starts to take effect, one cannot just take more to try for earlier results.”
Probably the most common combination is with Gou Qi Zi (Goji berries), which nourishes the Liver and Kidney yin, benefits the essence and brightens the eyes. Together, Ju Hua and Gou Qi Zi make a tasty tea that treats dizziness, eyestrain, improves vision, and soothes the eyes.
In a cup, add hot water to about 5 grams of Ju Hua, and 5 grams of Gou Qi Zi. Cover and steep for five or more minutes. The tea is visually beautiful and tastes nice as well.

I enjoy a mixture of camomile and chrysanthemum tea at night and this combination calms and relaxes the muscles I can recommend this as a pleasant nightcap!

Alongside the Chrysanthamums piled up are the abundance of pumpkins waiting to be made into soup and pies. These grow in abundance in this part of France and now ripe and ready for consumption.
Pumpkin refers to certain types of squash, most commonly those of Cucurbita pepo, that are round, with smooth, slightly ribbed skin and deep yellow to orange coloration.
They are thought to have originated in North America and the oldest evidence, pumpkin-related seeds dating between 7000 and 5500 BC, were found in Mexico.
It is a very low calorie vegetable, 100 g fruit provides just 26 calories and contains no saturated fats or cholesterol; however, it is rich in dietary fiber, anti-oxidants, minerals, vitamins. The vegetable is one of the food items recommended by dieticians in cholesterol controlling and weight reduction programs.

Pumpkin is a storehouse of many anti-oxidant vitamins such as vitamin-A, vitamin-C and vitamin-E.

With 7384 mg per 100 g, it is one of the vegetables in the Cucurbitaceae family featuring highest levels of vitamin-A, providing about 246% of RDA. Vitamin A is a powerful natural anti-oxidant and is required by the body for maintaining the integrity of skin and mucus membranes. It is also an essential vitamin for good visual sight. Research studies suggest that natural foods rich in vitamin A help a body protects against lung and oral cavity cancers.

It is an excellent source of many natural poly-phenolic flavonoid compounds such as α, ß carotenes, cryptoxanthin, lutein and zea-xanthin. Carotenes convert into vitamin A inside the body.

Zea-xanthin is a natural anti-oxidant which has UV (ultra-violet) rays filtering actions in the macula lutea in retina of the eyes. helping to protect from “age-related macular disease” (ARMD) in the elderly.

The fruit is a good source of B-complex group of vitamins like folates, niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin and pantothenic acid.

It is also rich source of minerals like copper, calcium, potassium and phosphorus.

Pumpkin seeds indeed are an excellent source of dietary fiber and mono-unsaturated fatty acids, which are good for heart health. In addition, the seeds are concentrated sources of protein, minerals and health-benefiting vitamins. For instance, 100 g of pumpkin seeds provide 559 calories, 30 g of protein, 110% RDA of iron, 4987 mg of niacin (31% RDA), selenium (17% of RDA), zinc (71%) etc., but no cholesterol. Further, the seeds are an excellent source of health promoting amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan is converted to GABA in the brain.


It is so easy to use simply cut up, boil with seasoning and garlic, then mash and enjoy as a soup.

Have a memorable Halloween / All Saints Day (La Toussaint) ……..

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Posted by on October 31, 2013 in Training and Advice


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Apricots – Xing Ren

Tián Xìng Rén
The apricot, Prunus armeniaca, is a species of Prunus, classified with the plum in the subgenus Prunus. The native range is somewhat uncertain due to its extensive prehistoric cultivation. Apricots are originally from China but arrived in Europe via Armenia, which is why the scientific name is Prunus armeniaca

This week the apricots arrived in the market and as I arrived at the usual stall, the middle-aged stall-holder with a deep voice muttered audibly a string of words that I had not since I was a teenager on an exchange in France. She weighed out 2kg taking out a handful as she took them from the scales and putting a few back to look generous (I smiled as it was a trick I was taught when I worked for Elsie at the greengrocers as a teenager!) I was going to eat some fresh and to dehydrate some to use as snacks and in stews(tajines) desserts and maybe consider making jam to have with a morning croissant.
Summer has definitely arrived the stalls are laden with strawberries and now the apricots have arrived. Apricots are those beautifully golden orange coloured fruits with velvety skin and flesh, not too juicy but definitely smooth and sweet. Some describe their flavour as almost musky, with a faint tartness that lies somewhere between a peach and a plum.
The high beta-carotene content of apricots makes them important heart health foods. Beta-carotene helps protect LDL cholesterol from oxidation, which may help prevent heart disease.
Apricots contain nutrients such as vitamin A that promote good vision. Vitamin A, a powerful antioxidant, quenches free radical damage to cells and tissues. Free radical damage can injure the eyes’ lenses.
As a child, I remember being told to eat carrots so that you could see in the dark but as an adult, it looks like fruit is even more important for keeping your sight. Data reported in a study published in the Archives of Opthamology indicates that eating 3 or more servings of fruit per day may lower your risk of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), the primary cause of vision loss in older adults, by 36%, compared to persons who consume less than 1.5 servings of fruit daily
In this study, which involved over 100,000 women and men, researchers evaluated theeffect of study participants’ consumption of fruits; vegetables; the antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E; and carotenoids on the development of early ARMD or neovascular ARMD, a more severe form of the illness associated with vision loss. Food intake information was collected periodically for up to 18 years for women and 12 years for men.
While, surprisingly, intakes of vegetables, antioxidant vitamins and carotenoids were not strongly related to incidence of either form of ARMD, fruit intake was definitely protective against the severe form of this vision-destroying disease.
When I am making jam or making a dessert using fresh apricots I always crack a few of the stones to add the seeds as my mother did.


Having completed my Diploma in Chinese Herbs I recall learning about the apricot kernel/seed Xing Ren which is used for a cough with yellow sputum, low grade fever and sore eyes associated with the common cold but it is only used in small quantities as it is toxic in large amounts(must be avoided in children and pregnant or breast feeding women) and usually used as part of a mixture of herbs (Sang Yu Jin)
It also has anti-bacterial properties and in Chinese terms it expels the wind / heat invading the lung from the exterior (ie treats a cough caused by a virus or bacteria but mild with no systemic affects including high fever)
Xing Ren stops the cough by directing the lung Qi downwards.
My experience of prescribing this formula has shown it to effective in treating upper respiratory tract symptoms but it must be obtained from a reputable Chinese pharmacy.
There have been claims the seeds can be used in anti-cancer treatment.
Apricot seeds contain amygdalin, Vitamin B17 a naturally-occurring substance found mainly in the kernels of apricots, peaches, and almonds. Amygdalin is promoted as a cancer treatment by alternative physicians but there has been insufficient evidence to use it for treatment and no more than 2 seeds/day should be consumed as more could be seriously toxic.

Posted by Dr Bayer


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