Diet, food, health, herbal medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Tea and you: brewing it, enjoying it & getting the health benefits

tea oolong cup
A delicious oolong tea known as Big Red Robe from the MayKing Tea range.

I really love tea so it’s no surprise that I snapped up an opportunity to do a tea appreciation course through Bright Learning with tea educator and enthusiast, May King Tsang (founder of MayKing Tea). With British Chinese heritage, May King brought the traditional English white and two sugar lovers and the green tea purists together giving us a lesson in making good tea (from picking the tea leaves, brewing them well and then appreciating them) as well as teaching us about some of the styles of tea, their flavour characteristics, health benefits, some tea-tech-talk, all while we enjoyed several cups of very tasty, good quality, loose leaf tea.

Here’s 10 things you may or may not know to ponder while you sip your cup of tea:

  1. Tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant with Chinese and Indian varietals. Herbals (eg. chamomile and peppermint) and rooibos are technically not tea as they come from different plants and are more correctly known as infusions, although we all call them teas anyway due to the preparation method.
  2. There are six types of tea: white, green, yellow, oolong, black and pu-erh. They are all made with the same tea plant but the leaves that are used, oxidisation and processing methods vary for each one. White and green teas are less oxidised than black teas are. White teas are made with just the bud and two first leaves from the branch. As tea leaves are oxidised they become sweeter (although this is only to a point and then they are more bittersweet like dark chocolate).

    MayKing Tea's delicate, white tea called 'white peony'.
    MayKing Tea’s delicate, white tea called ‘white peony’.
  3. Antioxidants are not only found in white and green teas. All tea leaves contain antioxidants and the content is much of a muchness between the six types of tea, so drink the type of tea you like best.
  4. Tea leaves do contain more caffeine than coffee beans per gram of raw material. However less tea leaves are used in making a cup of tea so there is actually less caffeine in a cup of tea than a cup of coffeeBlack tea does contain the most caffeine of the tea types, there is less in green tea and less again in most white tea. A type of white tea known as ‘silver needle’ contains a high level of caffeine as it is made with only the bud at the tip of the tea plant branch, and caffeine is more highly concentrated in these leaves. A Japanese style of tea known as matcha also has a high level of caffeine. Caffeine gives tea a ‘Yang’ property and l-theanine gives tea it’s ‘Yin’ relaxing, mood-enhancing property. This is why Asian and British cultures consider most problems can be fixed with a “nice sit down and a good cup of tea.” Choose the type of tea that you need according to your taste, mood, energy and the time of day.
  5. Tea can be flavoured by having herbs added to it (think Moroccan Mint green tea – which is actually a traditional Chinese blend that traveled with the spice trade). Tea leaves can also be flavoured by having herbs placed with the fresh pickings and infused under the sun for several days, the herbs are then removed so your brew is only made with the flavoured tea leaves. Some highly valued jasmine green teas are made this way. Some teas are ‘enhanced’ with artificial flavours so make sure to read the labels.

    MayKing Tea's osmanthus oolong tea. I loved this one, it reminded of my boat trip down the Li River in Guangxi.
    MayKing Tea’s osmanthus oolong tea. I loved this one, it reminded of my boat trip down the Li River in Guangxi.
  6. The water temperature required varies depending on the type of tea you are making. And you don’t need a fancy kettle or thermometer to measure this. Use fresh water (pH 7 is ideal) in the kettle each time and study the bubbles in the water level gauge to get the right temperature for the leaves you are using. Generally white and green teas need cooler water (70-80°C) and oolong, black and herbals need hotter water (around 90°C+). Here’s a guide to the temperature and bubble size to expect for each type of tea.
  7. Tea bags don’t contain the ‘sweepings from the factory floor’ but they aren’t usually made with excellent quality tea leaves either. Tea quality is best judged by examining the tea leaf itself so this is a reason to buy loose leaf tea. Also the more times a tea leaf has been cut, the darker your brew will be. The new triangular shape tea bags doing the rounds now often do contain better quality leaves than regular tea bags however they are usually made from a ‘plastic silken gauze’ which doesn’t biodegrade well, so not an environmentally friendly choice.
  8. You can leave your tea leaves to infuse in a white or green tea for about 3 minutes. Black and oolong teas can stay in contact with the leaves for as long as you like. The infuser size is considered to best if smaller for black teas and larger for green teas.
  9. Medicinally, in Chinese medicine, we consider that tea is slightly bitter-sweet, cooling to the body and benefits the Heart, Liver, Stomach, Bladder and Large Intestine channels. White and green teas are the most cooling and black teas are warmer. Tea is considered to be useful taken at the start of a ‘hot’ common cold, to assist in the digestion of heavy, rich and fatty foods, for scanty urination or taken as a strong brew for diarrhoea.
  10. It is considered that in brewing your cup of tea a process termed the ‘agony of the leaf‘ occurs: there will be a ‘tumble between the leaf and the water’ to produce that wonderful ‘liquor’ we know as tea.

    A delicious cup of osmanthus oolong tea.
    A delicious cup of osmanthus oolong tea.

Here’s more on tea and happiness, how to make corn silk ‘tea’ infusion and how to make chai.

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.

Diet, food, health

The single biggest dietary factor for reducing your risk of most chronic diseases is…

catalyst gut reactionGo on, guess?

We should eat more protein, paleo-style? We need to quit sugar? We need more ‘good’ fats or less ‘bad’ fats?

The answer to this question was explored on the last two week’s of ABC TV’s Catalyst program – Gut Reaction. (And although its a simplistic question, the research supporting the answer is worth paying attention to.)

The researchers explored how our diets are related to the state of our gastrointestinal health (in particular, microbes) and the impact this has on our overall health including our risk of diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

The findings were actually completely unsexy and unsensational. Sad news for the diet and processed food industries.

The single biggest thing you can do with your diet to reduce your risk of these major chronic diseases is to eat more…. FIBRE!

Told you it wasn’t sexy.  It’s just common sense. But it’s nice to have some of the biochemistry to back up how the bacteria in our gut rely on a fibre rich diet to improve our immune systems which brings a myriad of other health promoting effects.

The good news is that eating more fibre is simple and easy, unlike trying to follow most fad diets.

As you know, I bang on a bit about eating a diet mainly comprised of plant foods in their whole, unprocessed (within reason) form – eg. not out of a box or a plastic packet. These new finding support this age old idea.

Do you know there are six different types of fibre? We should aim to include all of these in our diet regularly, if not daily:

  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Raw salad vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Legumes and pulses
  • Nuts and seeds

I recommend flicking over to Catalyst and watching Part 1 and Part 2 of Gut Reaction.  They give some excellent examples of how hormones including insulin change drastically depending on the level of fibre in your diet.

Here’s some other sensible ideas on diet and getting more vegetables in your diet.

Have you got a favourite way of increasing fibre in your diet or some excellent fibre-rich recipes? Share them in the comments.

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

Diet, food, health

How to eat more local, seasonal vegies each week: Food Connect

Today's vegie bounty from the Food Connect box.
Today’s vegie bounty from the Food Connect box: celery, potatoes (Dutch Cream), pumpkin (Jap), sweet potatoes, tomatoes, chillies, Chinese greens, broccoli, lettuce, baby spinach, dill and radishes.

As an acupuncturist who aims to improve the overall health of each and every one of my patients, if there is one general piece of lifestyle advice that I could give nearly everyone it would be:

Eat more whole foods, particularly vegetables.

How many serves of vegetables should you aim for in a day?

Five serves per day. “What is a serve?” I hear you ask. Check out these guidelines. Generally, a cup of raw or a 1/2 cup of cooked vegetables is 1 serve. You’ll most likely need to spread them over at least 2-3 meals. (It’s okay to exceed your vegie intake but don’t exceed your fruit intake of two serves/day due to the sugar content.)

Don’t forget that some fresh produce is best eaten organic or chemical free. What are the dirty dozen?

How can you eat this many chemical-free vegies easily?

Let me tell you a story…

Once upon a time, many years ago, I was at a Mind Body Spirit Festival. A man walked around giving out organic carrots for people to taste. The carrot was deliciously sweet to taste. The man was Robert Pekin – the brains behind Food Connect. He gave me a brochure about his Community Supported Agriculture program he was about to start. I became a subscriber as soon as they opened and continued my subscription for years. Something happened and I got out of sync. I’m so glad that I am once again a subscriber and picked up my second box today.

Here’s why I love Food Connect:

  • You can purchase a vegie, fruit or fruit and veg box in different sizes from Food Connect.
  • If you don’t want a box, you can select your own foods from their extensive list. See here.
  • They also sell breads, flours (including brown rice flour), sauces, honey, eggs and lots more.
  • If you don’t want to order every week, you don’t have to. Or if you do, you can set up a standard order.
  • The produce is sourced locally within 400km of Brisbane and is either chemical free, bio-dynamic or organic.
  • The produce is in season, unlike many of the offerings in our big supermarkets.
  • You support local farmers and get to know a little about their farms. They are featured in the newsletter in each box and you can also do farm tours.
  • You choose which ‘City Cousin‘ you will pick your order up from. These wonderful people are found in every few suburbs.
  • It’s not that expensive. The box featured above and below cost $44. I’ve found this reduces my weekly food bill by not needing to visit the shops most days.
What a small vegie box might look like.
What a small vegie box might look like.

The produce in the box I picked up today had traveled only 184km. This would not be the case if I had bought the same items in a major supermarket.

Having a weekly order of vegies each week will increase your vegie intake easily. You will need to eat through them before the next order is due. It also saves you having to do day-to-day grocery shops. If your fridge and pantry are stocked with fresh vegetables already you will be more likely to eat them.

Tonight I turned my vegies into this delicious tofu and vegie curry:

Food connect curry

So make the commitment to increase your vegetable intake. If it’s not through a scheme like Food Connect, regularly visit farmers’ markets for your groceries or even grow your own fresh produce!

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.

 

 

Diet, food, health, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Our changing diet: what Paleolithic man can teach us. (And it may not be what you think.)

I’m once again lecturing my favourite subject, Chinese dietetics, at Endeavour College of Natural Health this semester. And this has inspired me to write about dietary change for our change-themed Health and Happiness Collective blog hop.

Chinese dietetics is all about the joy of food! And how we can use it for healing according to Chinese Medicine principles. I love that last year some students with no interest in cooking were actually inspired to start cooking at home. That is a win for mankind in my books!

This semester I kicked off Lecture One with this TEDx video: “Debunking The Paleo Diet” by Christina Warrina, an archaeological scientist.

Now, I didn’t show it to them because I’m anti-Paleo Diet – because I’m not. I know many people who love living by the principles of The Paleo Diet and feel well doing so. I showed it to them because it gives an excellent history of our diet as we know it today compared with what Paleolithic man actually ate, (and yes, it does differ from the historical reasoning that is often quoted for The Paleo Diet). This talk does explore how Paleolithic Man may have actually eaten and gives us an idea of how we might eat if we had never had our ideas of food skewed by the low fat movement or the soup diet or whatever is being pushed by a celebrity to lose her ‘baby weight’ in New Idea.

Christina tells us that we simply could not eat what Paleolithic man ate in this day and age. Our foods have changed too much! We now have an abundance of foods Paleolithic man never had access to (because a lot of our foods have been developed into what we know them as now – she gives examples of carrots, broccoli and almonds – foods that just did not exist in Paleolithic times.) This is not necessarily a bad thing, it is a necessity to feed a highly populated planet and sure does provide us with variety and plenty.

We can take some excellent lessons for our diet today based on how Paleolithic man did eat:

  • Locally – Paleolithic man ate what was available when it was available. He/she ate locally. These days we can buy our foods from local farmers markets or wonderful co-ops like Food Connect.
  • Seasonally – There was no one Paleolithic Diet. It really varied depending on what was available in the region where they lived. In very cold climates diets contained more animal products and in the tropics plant foods formed the majority of the diet. Eating locally and seasonally also means that the foods you are eating are most likely more suitable for the climate that you are in. Warming foods in cold weather and cooler foods in warmer environments. The diet also changed with the seasons and food availability.
  • Fresh – Food was eaten fresh as it was available. This is a good lesson to us – fresh is best! Where possible choose fresh foods over their canned and heavily preserved counterparts.
  • Whole foods – Paleolithic man simply had to eat foods as they came. When eating meat they ate the whole animal including organs and marrow. Food processing was minimal as it was a manual process, although they had very simplistic tools for grinding grains and legumes. But we certainly aren’t talking about making white flour or tropical fruit juice here.
  • Less sugar – It really was impossible to eat the kind of sugar quantities that we eat now back in Paleolithic times. While I am not saying we need to quit sugar, rather just reducing our sugar intake to a minimal amount.

These principles underlie all good healthy diet systems. And Chinese dietetics is no different. In addition to the above, our system also pays close attention to food flavours, thermal energies and the organs the foods benefit in order to achieve a Yin/Yang balance in the body- but this is a topic for another time.

Since Paleolithic times our diets have changed regularly in accordance with nature (famines/extreme environmental conditions), war times, economic conditions, fashion and influence from the nutritional thinking of the day (eg. butter was good, then it was bad, now it is good again). We even eat quite differently now to the way in which our grandparents ate.

But it really all comes back to the five points above. No matter which diet you follow, those lessons from Paleolithic man are likely to lead to a wholesome diet and a healthier you!

And as a last thought, I wanted to leave you with this gorgeous little animated video on the topic of change in food production with Willie Nelson doing a cover of Cold Play’s Back to the start. (Two videos in one post? Crazy!)

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.

aromatherapy, beauty, health

Change: what you need to know about your skincare

The first of The Health & Happiness Collective has written on our topic, ‘Change’.

Ananda, a brilliant naturopath and fellow lecturer at Endeavour College of Natural Health, has written about her passion for natural skin care. Why is natural skin care better? And why should you change your skin care?

Ananda sums this up beautifully. Which is ideal when we are talking skin care and aesthetics. But don’t forget that your skin reflects your health and what you place on your skin can affect your health.

And I have to agree completely with Ananda, changing my skincare (and makeup) over to natural products has not only been beneficial to my skin but is also far more luxurious given the delightfully aromatic natural extracts and essential oils they contain.

Check out her must-read blog with five reasons to change your skincare here.

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.

health, martial arts, massage, mental health, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Have you ever been in a float tank?

Floating on the Red Sea

I’ve always been curious about float tanks. But it wasn’t until last week that I actually took the… plunge.

After getting back into cycling, hiking and karate training for the year, my body has been a little achy and tight. My massage therapist told me, “you know what you need? A float. Go on, ring up now!” Well, there’s nothing like the power of now. So I called the place she recommended. They’d moved. But I tracked them down and was booked in for my first float two hours later.

Prior to taking the float I chatted to a friend online. “What about claustrophobia?” we wondered. “Can you leave the lid open?” I also wondered how clean the float tank would be and what the hygiene standards were like.

Well. When I arrived at the float centre I was asked to shower and shampoo my hair before getting into the tank (towels and shampoo were provided). The float tank was heated to luke warm temperature, so a shower cooler than skin temperature is recommended before you jump into the tank. I thought I’d get cold in the tank (as I’m a bit of a cold frog) but I had no problem with the temperature at all – I was completely comfortable. And yes, you can leave the lid ajar if you wish. I had my eyes closed and was perfectly happy to close the lid completely. You are also given ear plugs to prevent the water filling up your ear canals. And soft relaxation music plays for the first 20 minutes of your session.

The tank looked very clean and the water was crystal clear. The water has had 350 kilograms of epsom salts dissolved into it. Okay, so that’s a tad more than the 1-2 cups I’d normally use in the bath. This strong epsom salts solution makes you float – just as you would in the Red Sea. The massage therapist had warned me not to hold my head up, “your head won’t sink – make sure that you completely relax your neck – you won’t drown.” And she was right. It was great advice. In fact, I relaxed so much I fell asleep while floating in the heavily mineralised water. It wasn’t until the relaxation music that is played in the last ten minutes of your one hour session came on that I woke up.

After showering the salts away and drying off, I experienced a deep sense of relaxation. I don’t think I would have been in a position to operate heavy machinery or rely on any sharp mental function that afternoon. I also slept very well that night. And yes, my tight (just about rock-hard) neck and shoulders were looser, allowing my massage therapist to work deeper on me in my next treatment.

In Chinese medicine this translates to my Shen (spirit) being calmed, the excess Yang had descended and the Qi was flowing smoothly in the channels. And in fact, salt is used in our medicine for its softening, loosening, cooling and downbearing actions. Makes sense.

If you’re in need of some relaxation or a good night’s sleep a float session might be just up your alley. Combine it with some acupuncture and/or massage and you would surely be taken off to a soft, white, floaty, cloud heaven.

Are you a float tank enthusiast?

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

acupuncture, Diet, emotional health, exercise, food, food allergy, health, herbal medicine, martial arts, mental health, motivational, recipe, Traditional Chinese Medicine

A gift for you and a gift for me.

Yin Yang birthday cake
A very decadent (and appropriate) birthday cake my sister once made me. We are a family of baked good lovers!

It’s my birthday today. Yes, I’m part of the Christmas Eve birthday club. The day has it’s pros and cons but it’s mine and I’m a very proud late-December Capricorn.

There’s something about an approaching birthday that makes me do a stock take of the past year and a look towards the coming year, so I’ve done a big clean out and made room for the new by giving the old away. Let’s just say the charity bin is several bags richer of some lovely threads that I just don’t wear anymore. May they make someone else happy.

I’ve also been absolutely spoiled rotten by friends and family today (and in the days leading up today). What a bunch of generous, talented and loving souls I am honoured to be surrounded by.

Thank you all.

paeony pillow cases

I also had to share this gift with you. An amazing friend screen printed these pillow cases with my new clinic branding – gorgeous huh? I am so grateful to have friends, family and patients who support me so well in my healing work.

Now, I wanted to share another gift with all of you too. It’s the top ten list of articles by views on my blog this year. The Wellness Ninja has tripled it’s readership this year – thank you so much! So here is the best of 2013’s blog posts for you to devour over the break in case you missed any!

Please enjoy them. And may you enjoy this festive season with your friends and family.

  1. Nourishing the blood with Traditional Chinese Medicine and wholefoods
  2. Five Chinese Medicine tips to soothe a sore throat
  3. Gluten and dairy-free fruit and nut slice
  4. It’s time for a detox – Traditional Chinese Medicine style
  5. Bruise remedies for martial artists, athletes and the accident prone
  6. Three herbs a Jedi Knight may be prescribed to develop the Force within
  7. Vegetarian quiche: a tasty gluten and dairy-free recipe
  8. The acupuncturist and the broken heart
  9. Delicious vegetarian nachos (gluten and dairy free)
  10. Five natural medicine tips for surviving the exam period

And also have you downloaded your free Herbs, health and acupressure ebook yet?

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.