August 7th, 2017

Culinary Herbs & Your Health

We The Eaters offers a big, delicious welcome to Elizabeth Fellows, an Acupuncturist and Chinese Herbal Medicine practitioner based in the greater Washington, D.C. area. She founded Center Point Healing, a wellness center in 2006. Read more about Elizabeth below.

In Chinese Medicine Five-Element Theory, this time of year is sometimes referred to as late summer. In the mid-Atlantic, it’s a season of hot and humid weather. Late July and into August, my patients often start coming in expressing that they feel lethargic, their digestion is sluggish, their appetite is reduced and they don’t feel motivated to do anything. That’s because the predominant environmental force is dampness. We can feel the damp outside in the sticky, humid days… and the way we feel it inside our bodies manifests as that feeling of sluggishness and lack of motivation.

Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can certainly help you to move through this damp season with more ease. There are a few, simple dietary changes that can also be helpful. Incorporate these into your diet to enliven your Qi and blood and help you to feel more energetic.

Culinary herbs have strong flavors because of the active constituents they contain. Those active compounds usually have medicinal qualities. People have turned to herbs for centuries to aid digestion and treat many medical conditions. Chinese herbal medicine is just one of the systems that uses both medicinal and culinary herbs to support health.

In Chinese medical dietary theory, we use the five flavors to balance the system. The bitter taste counteracts dampness, so in this damp, sticky season, we want to get some bitter tastes into our diet on a daily basis, like chamomile, peppermint and dandelion. (On a side note, have you see the We The Eaters article on bitter greens?)

Bitter is a perfect counterpoint to the sweet foods that are starting to come into season now in the form of corn, melon and squashes. Warming herbs, including fresh ginger and garlic, are helpful to promote Qi circulation. In hot weather, you want to use the warming herbs with foods sparingly. For example, try drinking the digestive tonic below after a meal.

Herbs that are especially helpful for cutting through the damp are caraway, dill, basil, thyme and, again,  garlic. A wonderful salad you can make on a hot, humid day when you are feeling lethargic and overheated would incorporate parsley as your greens instead of lettuce. Add tomatoes and cucumber, with a garlicky olive oil dressing. The bitter flavor of the parsley and garlic help resolve dampness, while the tomato is sweet and cooling, and the cucumber both moistens and cools.

A wonderful digestive tonic can be made from the seeds of anise, caraway and fennel. Using a cloth tea bag or a tea strainer, put 1 teaspoon of each seed and steep in boiling water for about 5 minutes. This tea is great to drink after a meal to reduce indigestion. Although these spices are warming, they do help alleviate dampness and can help with bloating as well.

If we pay attention to what is happening in nature, we can get a lot of helpful information about health and wellness. Eating what is in season locally is a great way to do that. I encourage you to visit your local farmer’s market each week to see what foods are available, and to use those fruits, vegetables and herbs as a base for your weekly meals.


Meet Elizabeth Fellows

Elizabeth Fellows received her Masters of Acupuncture and a post-baccalaureate certificate in Chinese herbal medicine from the Maryland University of Integrative Health, formerly known as Tai Sophia Institute. She has also earned a certificate as a holistic health counselor form the Institute of Integrative Nutrition.

“I believe that when someone pursues their passion, they inspire others,” Elizabeth said of following this dream. “I know that I am right where I’m supposed to be, and that I have been blessed to be a vessel for healing. I do not attach any ego to that—it isn’t me personally creating the healing. I’m very clear that I facilitate the healing by establishing a rapport with my patients and being deeply interested in bearing witness to their lives and experiences.”

Since opening the practice in August 2006, Elizabeth has provided nearly 25,000 treatments to hundreds of patients and credits her success, in large part, to patient satisfaction. She describes the three pillars of the business as providing top-notch care, customer service and treating each patient with compassion and respect.

Looking back over the last ten years, Elizabeth reflects on her success.

“My greatest achievement is not one moment,” she said. “It is the accumulation of all of those moments of being with my patients through tears and laughter, deaths and births, cancer diagnoses and miraculous healings, and to feel that connection with each of them in each of those moments. My patients have taught me so much about being peaceful with whatever life happens to throw at me.”


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