In this article, I want to share the principle of why some foods are suitable for some people and not others due to their own body’s constitution. First of all I would like to discuss one of my clinic cases to help you understand.
One day in the summer, a lady came to see me about her flu and cold. She mentioned that she suffered the flu and cold for almost 4 weeks. She had the following symptoms; sneezing, runny nose, headache, sore throat, and a cough. One of her friends suggested that she eat garlic, as it had helped her get over her cold and flu. However, my patient had been taking garlic for three weeks with the symptoms getting worse and worse. Along with the cough, there was also yellow thick phlegm. After finding this information, I checked her tongue and pulse, asked further questions and finally I told her that she suffered from the flu due to pathogenic wind and heat. This type of flu may be a result in your body having lots of heat which damages the lung and throat – which is the cause of the symptoms mentioned above. The garlic she was taking was making the symptoms worse due to garlic having hot characteristics further adding extra heat on top of her already ‘heated’ body. This is why the flu was long-lasting and became worse. I suggested that she stopped eating garlic for three weeks and I gave her treatment as well as Chinese herbal tablets to fix the causes of her symptoms. After one week, my patient had recovered completely.
For the rest of the article, I would like the share the knowledge of garlic to help you understand when or who is suitable for eating garlic.
1. The effects of garlic
The characteristic of garlic is warm, with a spicy taste. It acts on the stomach, spleen and lung channels after eating and has its main effects on these organs. Garlic helps in clearing toxins and also prevents toxins attacking the body externally. Because of this property in clearing and preventing toxins, garlic is known to increase the body’s immune system. Garlic can increase the body’s immune system by two ways.
i) Can Increase Immune System for Digestive System:
Chinese medicine considers there to be two major pathways pathogens enter the body; Firstly, one way is through the mouth and is associated with eating or drinking the ‘germs’. Especially during the hot parts of the day when we eat raw or non-fresh foods, these pathogens have a perfect environment to live and once they are eaten they effect the digestive system. This may result in stomach pain, diarrhea, or vomiting. I suggest that during cooking, adding whole or chopped garlic with your foods will help to increase the digestive systems immune system. Many traditional dishes use garlic especially in the summer for this very reason. Below I will recommend two dishes which you can use.
An ancient Chinese medicine book called Ben Cao Gang Mu mentions that garlic can help to digest meat. So when you cool meat with some garlic it will help to reduce food stagnation in the digestive system after eating.
ii) Increasing the Immune System for the Lungs:
The other pathway in which pathogens can enter the body and cause damaging effects are through respiration and skin contact. Garlic has the ability to increase the lung immune system and help clear the airway. As the characteristics of garlic are warm and spicy, they are extremely beneficial for winter when flu’s and colds are abundant as it can expel wind and cold from the body. The symptoms of the winter flu and cold are; sneezing and blocked nose, head ache, no perspiration, feel cold, aching body, may have sore throat. (In hot summer or damp heat whether, garlic may not have such beneficial effects like they do in winter due to the characteristics such as the case mentioned before).
iii) Garlic can balance food:
Traditional Chinese cooking uses garlic to balance food, by mixing its warm characteristics with those of cold characteristic foods. This helps to protect the digestive system and balance the body’s yin and yang. For example, cooking garlic with eggplant or cucumber (cold/cooling foods) can help to neutralize the dish and bring balance to the body.
Generally, if you are cooking, add a little amount of garlic into your food as it will be helpful through all seasons.
I recommend a popular dish that is a very delicious dish and is very popular in Beijing during the summer.
i) Fried eggplant with garlic
1 eggplant chopped into 1cm cubes and placed in boiling water until it is soft. Remove the eggplant at this stage as it is ready to be fried.
Half of a whole garlic (approximately 5 cloves) and chop it into small pieces.
Warming 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a fry pan and add the garlic for 1 minute and then add eggplant.
Add some salt or soy sauce for taste.
Fry for 3 minutes and it is ready to eat.
ii) Cucumber Salad with Garlic
1/2 Cucumber chopped
3 Cloves of Garlic chopped into very small pieces
-Mix with a pinch of salt and soy sauce.
Effects of the Dish: Clears the body heat and helps bowel movement.
iii) Soy Sauce Pork with Garlic
500g of pork, boiled until well cooked then chopped into pieces
5 cloves of garlic chopped into very small pieces
– Once meat is cooked, mix pork pieces with chopped garlic, soy sauce, 2 tsp olive oil and a pinch a salt.
It is a very delicious and simple Traditional dish in summer in Beijing.
The people with the following conditions should eat less or avoid eating garlic;
i) Those with a body constitution of heat or has a fever, sore throat, cough with yellow phlegm, constipation, yellow urine with strong smell. Or you can eat less garlic with cooling foods as we mentioned above.
ii) It is also not suitable with those who have ulcers in the stomach, intestines or mouth, heart burn and those with lots of rashes on the skin.
iii) If you are unsure whether you should eat garlic, please see your experienced TCM practitioner.