Hi everybody! Gilah here. Today I want to introduce you to “The Energetics of Food and Herbs”.
As you know, two of our paths to getting GraceFull deal with Seasonal Cooking and Herbal Remedies. We will gently introduce these two topics and show you a few easy ways to incorporate these wellness tools into your daily life. I believe it is so important for us to relearn how to treat the whole body, with whole foods and whole herbs, and to re-establish the natural, cherished relationship with between people, plants and planet that has been ongoing since the dawn of humanity. So, I’m going to make this as easy to digest as possible.
Let’s dive right in…
To understand how food and herbs work in the body, we need to know more than their biochemical properties and physiological actions. We need an appreciation of their bio-energetic profile, or energetics, and how this matches up with what is going on energetically throughout our body-minds at the time we consume them.
Knowledge of the energetic properties of foods and herbs has been an essential foundation of traditional medicine worldwide for thousands of years. Energetics are based on the four primary Elements of Nature, (Earth, Wind, Air and Fire). Energetics is a model, as well as a language, to describe how everything in Nature functions including herbs, food, and us human beings as well.
As opposed to the mechanistic, compartmentalized, data driven model prevalent in modern medicine, in which one treatment is supposed to fit all, energetics-based models of healing share a lifeforce promoting, integrative, preventative focus that is both personalized and self-empowering. The whole person is taken into consideration—body, emotions, mindset and spirituality all have a role in the energetics models of wellness, along with the inborn constitution or make-up of that individual.
Whether we’re talking about Traditional Chinese medicine, aka TCM, or Ayurveda or Native American medicine, the medicine of the Ancient Greeks and Romans, or the practice of Traditional Western Herbalism, all of the world’s great systems of medicine are based on energetics, which gives us a common language to understand them, their similarities and differences.
Thus, energetics begin with a holistic understanding that Nature’s life force energy flows through every living creature and the inorganic world too. So, there are common principles, patterns and energies corresponding to the Elements of Nature that affect every aspect of life on earth.
The Five Elemental Energies of TCM or “5 Elements” comprise a comprehensive framework that illustrates the flow of the primary natural energies of yin and yang through the cyclical changes and laws of nature, as manifested throughout all of life on earth. The 5 Elements are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water.
Each is associated with a season, a climate, body organs, fluids and tissues, a color, taste, smell, sound, emotion, global direction, as well as very particular foods and herbs. Each organ or tissue has a specific climate and emotion which can weaken it and make it most vulnerable.
Ayurveda is based on its own 5 Elements of nature, Earth, Water, Air, Fire and Ether.
The Native American medicine wheel is based on the Four Directions, each corresponding to the primal elements. The Greeks had the Four Humors, and Traditional Western Herbalism utilizes 6 Tissue States that are specific energetic patterns.
What makes all these systems work, is the understanding that when we identify the energetics or basic bio-energy patterns of a particular person…at a particular season… we can match their physical, mental, and spiritual bio-energies to appropriate food and/or herbal medicine, which have their own energetics. Using this system of energetics provides a multi-dimensional guide to recognize where imbalances in body, mind, emotions and spirit lie, thus offering specific and personalized perspectives on how to rebalance them.
I’ll bet a lot of you have heard about the Ayurvedic Doshas, right? They are 3 bio-energy archetypes that express particular blends of physical, emotional and psycho-spiritual characteristics. But did you know that the Doshas are unique combinations of the natural, primal elements Earth, Water, Air, Fire and Ether?
- Kapha dosha is a combination of Earth + Water…so it’s a heavy, juicy, stable energy… a springtime energy
- Pitta dosha is mostly Fire with just a little bit of water…so it’s a hot, dry, labile energy…a summer energy
- Vata dosha is a combination of Ether + Air… so it’s a cool, dry, moving energy, like autumn
If you find this interesting, by the way, there are so many wonderful resources for TCM or Ayurveda. But for this program, I want to simplify this notion of energetics, so you can use it right away. You can use a very simple energetics system to help you choose foods, herbs and healing practices for yourself without any advanced training at all!
The 3 questions you need to ask yourself are:
- What are the seasonal energies that might be influencing me right now?
Are they hot or cold? Moist or dry? Heavy or Light? Moving or Stable?
- What condition or imbalance am I experiencing right now?
Is it hot or cold? Moist or dry? Heavy or Light? Moving or Stable?
- What food, herbs, activities and/or practices have the balancing bio-energies or energetics that could restore me to balance?
Foods and herbs can be:
- stimulating/calming, which is another way express moving or stabilizing
I’d dare to say these same energetic qualities could be applied to activities, practices and relationships.
Most importantly, I would say that health is achieved when we attune our unique personal energetics and rhythms with the energetics and biorhythms of Nature.
That is why we want to be so mindful of the seasonal energies. Then, we can layer on what we know from other health models.
So how does this work?
For example, if I find myself on a cool, lush, and rainy day in Spring, I might want to eat some nourishing warm but light soup, cooked with verdant Spring greens and some warming ginger. And that’s exactly the recipe we have for the first month of Spring!
Being a Kapha type myself, I tend toward cold, boggy conditions like congestion, allergies, weight gain, which gets exacerbated by moist, damp, heavy Springtime, so I probably want to toss in some cayenne pepper to heat things up a bit, and get my circulation moving. If I feel a cold coming on, I might cook that soup with some extra onions, garlic, or some shitaki mushroom, turmeric and astragalus, to boost my immunity. I might even stir in a little miso at the end for an added boost.
I’m certainly going to keep my throat warm, and I’m going to lighten my activities, rest as much as possible and maybe watch an uplifting movie. That will keep my healthy Kapha love and compassion from sliding into an unbalanced Kapha energy of lethargy or low spirits.
Let’s look just a bit of energetics each season. These, of course, are general principles, and depend upon where you live. Have a look at “The Mandala of the Seasons” in the *START Here* section for a visual, as well as “Eating with the Seasons by Balancing Energetics” in this section. You will get some tips on foods and herbs that are good to increase each season, as well the physical challenges and emotional balances/imbalances of each season.
- Spring season starts cool and then warms a bit, and is moist, heavy – the season of growth and rebirthing.
- Summer is hot, dry and light – the season of flourishing.
- Autumn is cooling down, dry, light – think leaves sailing on the wind. It’s the season of harvesting and gathering.
- Winter is cold, damp, heavy– the season of hunkering down and resting.
So, now you have a little glimpse of how the energetics of food, herbs and even activities or practices can be personalized to match your energetics as an individual. And in times of illness or imbalance, these approaches are designed treat you, the person, not the disease, by engaging the seasonal energies along with your individualized energetics, to determine the food or herbs that will rebalance and nourish. Far beyond the science of nutrients, there is a magnificent and magical overarching healing lifeforce energy embodied in Nature, that becomes a part of us when we enjoy whole, fresh, seasonal foods and healing herbs.
Each month there is a recipe and an herbal remedy to try, that is geared toward the energetics of each season, and each month within that season. Check them out, and let us know what you think, or show us a picture on Facebook. We hope you have some fun in your kitchen!