Traditionally, end of year (Dec) and beginning of year (Jan / early Feb) is one the best times to take tonic herbs and supplements because of the cooler weather we are having. If you are planning to take any herbal supplements or herbs such as cordyceps (冬虫夏草), ginseng (参类) or other tonic products, do take note of the following points so that the products you consume will give you the most nourishing benefits.
Avoid taking tonic if you have cold/flu symptoms.
I believe this is the most obvious thing that many people know. But you may not know what are the symptoms to look our for. As long as you are afraid of cold / wind, you should not take tonic until your body recovers. You should also avoid taking tonic if you have fever, sore throat or body ache due to cold/flu.
The reason why a person should not take tonic when he/she has these symptoms is because when a person develops such symptom, it means that person has 邪气 (bad qi) inside the body. If you take tonic now, then it will become the situation “闭门留寇”. It means you are shutting the exits in your body with the bad qi inside. If one has bad qi, the right approach is to either get rid of the bad qi or strengthen your good qi (depends on your body constitute) to overcome the bad qi. Only after you fully recovers, then you are more suitable to take the tonic.
Do not take tonic together with radish!
You may have heard this from the elderly that don’t eat ginseng with radish as it will destroy the nourish effects. It is true because tonic products such as ginseng mainly helps to 补气 (supplement good qi) but radish has a property of 破气 (break qi). Hence, if you take tonic products with radish, there won’t be any beneficial effects due the the clashing of the properties.
On a side note, some people say do not take radish with ANY TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) but this is not true. You can consume radish with other TCM herbs as long as the herbs do not have any 补 (tonic) property. For example, you can still drink chrysanthemum and most cooling tea because these herbs only have cooling effects (清热) rather than tonic (补气 ) effect.
You can supplement tonic with 理气药 (herbs that harmonize qi) for greater effects.
In TCM, your body will absorb the most of the tonic when you have a good spleen (脾) and digestion. If your spleen is weak, most of the tonic won’t be absorbed. On top of that, it is easier for the qi to stagnate in your body if your spleen is weak. Hence, to minimize this from happening, you can take some mandarin orange peel (陈皮) after taking tonic. These orange peel can be easily purchased at any local TCM store such as Hock Hua tonic stores (Singapore ).
The main property of mandarin orange peel is 理气 (harmonize qi), and this will make any stagnate qi in your body to flow and thus, making the tonic effect work for your body.
These are some of the things I learn in my Chinese Dietitian course over the past 1.5 years. I will be sharing more tips in future in my blog. Do let me know if there’s something you want to ask or find out and I’ll help to clarify them (with the help of my teachers if need be)!
Have a great 2018!