A guide to cooling the body (from the inside out)

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A heat wave has gripped the nation; thankfully, Vietnam's plentiful herbs provide a means of beating the heat


Vietnam's plentiful herbs provide a means of beating excessive heat affecting different organs like heart, small and large intestines, stomach, spleen, and lungs

Herbalist Dinh Cong Bay, general secretary of Ho Chi Minh City's Medicinal Materials Association, says that the effects of hot weather can be exacerbated by high internal heat.

Excessive body heat is ascribed to "Yin injuries" in the body a deficiency of elements like blood and body fluids.

When these yin elements become weak or deficient, they cause deficiencies in the internal organs, which drive up one's internal body temperature. Fever, vomiting or dehydration brought on by a protein-rich, spicy, salty or sugary diet may exacerbate these deficiencies.

Eastern medicine also attributes yin deficiencies to mental factors. Anger is believed to hurt the liver, extreme happiness is believed to hurt the heart, worrying harms the stomach; fear harms the kidneys.

For this reason, traditional medicine holds that stress, anger and sadness all give rise to excessive heat in the body.

Herbs can help

According to physician Dinh Cong Bay, people should not decide what herbs to use themselves when they feel excessive heat in their body. They should submit to examinations by doctors or traditional physicians.

"There are different herbs for different problems caused by excessive heat in different organs," Bay said. "Choosing the right kinds of herbs solves the problems better."

Below are herbs for different organs:

Heat in the liver and bile

Patients exhibiting signs of annoyance, irritation, red eyes, pain in the ribs and constipation can drink tea derived from the following herbs to relieve their symptoms: centella asiatica (Pennywort), polygonum aviculare, adenosma glutinosum, gardenia jasminoides ellis, chrysanthemum japonicum and Japanese honeysuckle.

Tea brewed with 8-16 grams of Japanese honeysuckle can help cool the body and has been used to treat prickly heat and heat rash caused by excessive heat in the liver and bile.

Pennywort grows wild in Vietnam and can be found around farms and gardens. It is good to drink juice derived from 30-50g of pennywort, every day.

Excessive heat in the heart and small intestine

Heat affecting the above organs may bring on thirst, dry mouth, a red tongue, and insomnia. It is advisable to use herbs like lotus leaves, bamboo leaves, lilies, aloe vera, bitter gourd, telosma cordata flowers, hibiscus flowers, red beans or coconut milk. They help calm the nerves, produce more urine and improve sleep.

A bitter tea of lotus leaves may have a cooling effect that can help lower internal heat, calm the nerves which cause irritation and loss of sleep. Boil 8-16g of dry lotus leaves into a tea and drink every day.

Excessive heat in the stomach and spleen

Excessive heat in the spleen and stomach may cause fatigue, dry mouth and thirst, muscle pain and constipation. Patients can use helpful herbs like pueraria thomsoni benth, rhizoma dioscoreae, saccharum sinensis roxb, houttuynia cordata thumb, portulaca oleracea, soybean milk, and different kinds of beans like tofu, green lentils and water chestnut powder.

Juice derived from 100-150 ml of sugar cane and saccharum sinensis roxb may help alleviate these symptoms. So can a tea brewed with 20-40g of fresh houttuynia cordata thumb or 10-12g of dry houttuynia cordata thumb.

Extreme heat in the lungs and large intestine

Traditional medicine holds that excessive heat in either of these organs may bring on pimples and kidney stones. Black beans, plantago, imperata cylindrica, corn silk, pachyrhizus erosus, coix lachryma jobi, red bean, water spinach, auricularia auricular and wax gourd are all believed to have a cooling effect on the body and improve urination.

People may eat wax gourd as soup or drink as tea to alleviate pimples.

To cool the lungs and large intestine, consider brewing tea with haemodoraceae, cactus flowers, aloe vera, dragon fruit, gracilaria, glycyrrhiza uralensis, mint, momordica grosvenori swingle. Drinking tea made from 10-16g of momordica grosvenori swingle, every day, can help cool the lungs and large intestine.

Thanh Nien News (The story can be found in the June 8th issue of our print edition, Vietweek)

BOX: MOUTH SORES, A HEAT-RELATED AILMENT

Hot weather makes people tired, lose their appetite, and vulnerable to heat-related sicknesses like "overheating" in the mouth, traditional physician Quoc Trung says.

The most common symptom of heat an eastern concept which says some foods can be "hot" or "cold" is the appearance of small vesicles which, when broken, leave canker sores in the mouth.

A canker sore may measure two to ten millimeters across and is yellow-white with a bright red surrounding.

Canker sores usually appear on the cheeks, gums, or tongue, and are irritable and painful when we speak or eat.

In serious cases they swell and hurt badly, or even cause a temperature, buboes (swelling of lymph nodes) in the jaw, and digestive disorders.

The sores usually disappear after a week or two even without treatment, but they are very likely to reappear periodically and become chronic.

Western medicine attributes canker sores to a lack of vitamins C, PP, B6, and B2, zinc, and folic acid due to endocrine disorders during menstruation, pregnancy, menopause, or digestive disorders, bacterial infection in the mouth, and injury on the inside of the cheeks.

Eastern medicine attributes it to toxins, heating in the heart, liver, kidneys, and, especially, the stomach, due to certain foods we eat.

Treatment and prevention

The condition may be serious but it is incurable for some people, appears again and again, and is rather irritating.

It is advisable to find the cause of canker sores so that appropriate treatment can be given to cure them.

If it is caused by food, it is necessary to change and eat some vegetables to add micronutrients and vitamins like C, PP and B2, and avoid chili, ginger, and garlic. It is also a good way to prevent a recurrence of the disease.

To prevent overheating in summer, it is important to avoid eating stimulants and spicy substances, and include more "cool" vegetables and fruits like cucumber, centella, wax gourd, bitter melon, and basella alba. It is also important to brush the teeth daily, at least twice a day, after getting up and before bedtime.

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