In Preserving Health, Timing Is Everything

You probably have heard many times that “timing is everything.”  If you can get the best timing, you have a good chance of yielding twice the result with half the effort.

“Indeed, timing is one of the most important factors in preserving health,” TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) Practitioner said. “TCM observes and studies the laws and patterns of nature well and applies them to the human body. It regards the human body is a microcosm of the universal macrocosm. Therefore, in order to achieve healthiness, we shall follow the laws of the Universe.”

Here are some examples suggested by TCM Practitioner:

Best Timing For Exercising: Early Evening
“Since the readings of blood pressure in general are higher in the morning, while physical activity also makes blood pressure go up, the best timing for workout is in early evening, especially for people with high blood pressure,” TCM Practitioner said.

Although doing exercise in the morning for people who have normal blood pressure is totally fine, intense workouts can lead to fatigued during the day.  Workouts in the evening, on the other hand, provide a direct effect on getting a good night sleep. “It is because physical activity raises our body temperature above normal.  If we do exercise in the evening a few hours before bed, our body temperature will start dropping just as we are getting ready for bed.  This decrease in body temperature actually serves as a trigger that helps us fall into sleep,” TCM Practitioner said.

Best Timing For Eating Fruit: Between Meals
Different food categories depend upon different digestive secretions. For instance, while protein foods require protein splitting enzymes, carbohydrate foods need carbohydrate-splitting enzymes. As for fruit, not only its acids prevent carbohydrate digestion, but also produce a fermentation. That’s why we should avoid eating acid foods and carbohydrate foods at the same meal.

“The best timing to have fruit is between meals, say one hour before or after meal shall be fine,” TCM Practitioner said. “However, some fruits, like fresh pineapple, contain Proteolytic enzymes (proteases) that will hurt stomach wall when eaten with empty stomach. It should be eaten after meal.”

Best Timing For Having Shower: Before Bed
Warm water dilates blood vessels, allows more blood and oxygen flow into tight and stressed out muscles throughout the body. “Warm water releases muscle tension that keeps the body relaxed and comfortable, a feeling that tells the brain it’s time to start winding down and preparing for sleep,” TCM Practitioner said. “In addition, metabolic functions such as heart rate, breathing, and digestion will be slowed down caused by the drop in body temperature [after a warm shower], which helps initiate a sleepy and tired feeling.”

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Cold Started From Thick Socks?

There is a Chinese proverb saying that: “Cold starts from the feet.”  For this reason, covering the feet with thick socks seems is a usual practice for many people who hate “cold feet” in winter.  Contrary to popular belief, you may get the opposite result in doing so.

“The indoor temperatures are usually relatively high in winter.  If you wear thick socks or even with wool fleece boots, you likely to sweat.  When your sweat is absorbed by your socks and shoes and hasn’t evaporated promptly, once you step outside, your sweaty feet will get cold much more quickly since water has 25 times the thermal conductivity of air,” Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Practitioner said.

Thick socks, furthermore, may create another problem. “If your shoes weren’t bought for wearing thick socks, there will be a lot less room inside the shoes for blood to circulate,” TCM Practitioner warned.  “What happens is your compressed shoes actually prevent the free circulation of warming blood to the feet that causing them even colder!”

Despite the fact that your feet probably can’t get warm immediately when you put on a pair of normal thin socks in chilly winter, they will not be in danger of getting even colder later on induced by poor blood circulation.  The rule of thumb is your shoes should be a comfortable fit and your feet are uncompressed after you put your socks on.

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Hold Your Head High To Combat Night Coughs

You cough, cough, cough, and keep coughing….  You are so familiar with these coughs as they just follow a cold.  Indeed, cold is one of the most common causes of cough.

You also know that in order to combat the coughing, you need to drink plenty of fluids and get plenty of rest.  Unfortunately, when you go to bed, you can’t drink; then when you cough, you won’t be able to rest, so your coughing gets even worse.

“Coughing is our body’s response to an irritant,” explained Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Practitioner.  “In fact, on the mucous membrane in our airways, there are many many little sweepers—cilia—help clean the dust and microorganism that we breathe in.  When we have cold, the respiratory secretions, bacteria, and damaged white blood cells build up, which stimulate our mucous membrane and cause us to produce more coughs to clean the waste.”

Furthermore, when we are in sleeping position, the mucus from the nose and sinuses can drain down our throat and trigger coughs.  That’s why coughing gets worse at night time that compromises our sleep and prolongs the healing.

So, is there anything that we can do to mitigate our coughs during sleeping time besides taking medicine?

“Actually there is,” TCM Practitioner said.  “You can prop up on pillows or sleep on two to three pillows to help ease post-nasal drip, which reducing the need to clear your throat.”

However, we must pay attention to one important thing when we do so.  TCM Practitioner warned that we shouldn’t just lift up our head; our neck and back must also be raised all together in order not to hurt the spine.  We can simply sleep atop a slope created by several pillows, or use two pillows to create a “T” form to support our spine.

“After all, a “pillow slope” can not only ease night coughs, but also help relieve indigestion symptoms as it prevents stomach acid from ascending up into our esophagus, ” TCM Practitioner continued.

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Stay Comfier, Warmer, And Healthier In Two Thin Blankets

Since July 2010, the central and eastern equatorial Pacific has continued to cool with the sea surface temperatures getting cooler than normal (by 0.5 degree Celsius or more).  The latest forecasts by a good few climate models across the world suggest that the sea surface temperatures will stay below normal in the coming months and the situation will develop into a La Nina event by December.  Meaning? We are almost certainly going to have a wetter and colder winter (December to February), especially the Pacific Northwest.

Misfortunes never come singly—most fuel rates have risen, and people who use oil or propane to heat their homes will pay the most.  Therefore, for a less pricey winter, we must find ways to minimize the heating bills.  Tips like using a space heater in the room you are hanging out and keep your house cool is one of good practices.

As for slumber time, you can still have good nights sleep and save on your bills.

“Many people go to bed wrap themselves in a thick, heavy blanket.  Nonetheless, it never is as good as snuggling down under two thin blankets; they not only are lighter and comfier, but also warmer,” Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Practitioner said.

Since air is a poor conductor of heat energy, if you cuddle under two thin blankets, a layer of air will be formed between the two blankets, which can increase the effectiveness of thermal insulation.  As a matter of fact, even though the combined weight of two thin blankets are as same as a thick one, the former definitely will provide better thermal performance.

“In addition, if you constantly feel tired and have stiff limbs after night-long sleep but otherwise healthy, go check your blanket see if it is too thick and heavy,”  TCM Practitioner continued.  “If it is, replace it with two thin ones, or else, your health will be affected in a long run resulting from a poor circulation of blood and low-quality sleep.”

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A Glitch From Heart And Spleen: Aphthous Ulcer

Aphthous ulcers (canker sore) are little, yet they are powerful enough to spoil your mood.

Every time you eat, especially hot, sour, and spicy food; brush your teeth; or even talk to someone, the pain reminds you that happiness in itself cannot be granted, even the “little” ones.

According to Western Medicine, the causes of aphthous ulcers include impaired immune function, infections, nutritional deficiency, and Vitamin B Group insufficiency. In general, they can be healed in seven to 10 days.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), on the other hand, regards that our facial organs correspond with our internal organs.  Take tongue and mouth as examples; while the heart opens into the tongue, the spleen leads to the mouth, suggesting that tongue and mouth diseases are mostly related to heart and spleen.  In fact, the mouth as a whole is the sensory organ linked to the spleen and actually a branch of the spleen meridian extended to the bottom of the tongue.  As for the tongue, in particular the tip, is connected to the heart.

Having said that, when a TCM Practitioner makes a diagnosis of the disease, the first thing he/she needs to do is to determine whether the condition is “excess” or “deficiency” (Yin, Yang, External, Internal, Cold, Hot, Deficiency, and Excess all belong to the “Eight Principles”, one of the most important diagnostic systems in TCM.)

Although both are aphthous ulcers, the symptoms that patients experience are rather different.  “Excess-type aphthous ulcer is red in color and painful; it has swelling around the rim with yellow discharge.  In addition, patients usually are accompanied by bitter mouth, bad breath, constipation, swollen gums, etc,” TCM Practitioner said.  “This type of aphthous ulcer likely is induced by heart/spleen accumulated heat due to improper diet such as excessive spicy and deep-fried food, or staying up late.”

As for deficiency-type aphthous ulcer, it mostly is caused by a weak stomach and kidney function.  Despite the ulcer area has little pain and color, it persists for a long time and recurs constantly.  Sufferers generally are accompanied by loss of appetite, lack of energy, and insomnia.

“According to TCM, aphthous ulcer actually is an indicator that the environment in our body is imbalanced,” TCM Practitioner said.  “In TCM’s approach, in conjunction with medicating the ulcers, patient’s lifestyles and general constitution will be properly modulated (with herbal medicine and other treatments) as they are brought to light, so that the contributing factors of the problem can be diminished.”

There are two DIY home remedies, though, that can mitigate your aphthous ulcers.  Whether you prefer “salt” or “tea,” either one is simple and convenient.

Pour boiling water into a cup with five teaspoons of salt OR one teaspoon of black tea leaves.  Rinse your mouth with the water after it turns warm.  Twice per day, one in the morning and one at night.

“Both salt and tea can help reduce inflammation and kill bacteria; which are able to ease the pain of the ulcers and speed up wound healing,” TCM Practitioner continued.  “If the condition is more serious, rinse can be done a few more times a day.  However, if the ulcers show no sign of improvement over a week, one should go to seek medical treatment immediately as it might be a warning of mouth cancer.”

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Healthy Life In A Cool Lane

Those apples look fresh even though they have sat in the refrigerator for days.  Despite you can’t put your body in the fridge to keep yourself from aging like the apples, you still can practice one of the longevity lifestyles from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)—To preserve health with low-temperature environment.

Indeed, most of the long-lived people in the world live in the subfrigid zone such as Japan and North Europe. With population just more than five million, Georgia (a republic in Asia Minor on the Black Sea separated from Russia by the Caucasus Mountains) has over 2,000 centenarians.  Such phenomenon partly is contributed by the cool-climate living environment.  In fact, studies have shown that compared with the same species living in warmer climate, the cooler the temperature, the longer the lifespan animals inclined to have.

Nonetheless, to preserve health with low-temperature environment should not be interpreted as to lower human body’s temperature, but rather reduce the speed of cell metabolism so as to delay the aging.

“In addition to stressful living, lack of sleep and heavy diet also contribute to modern people’s ‘torrid life’,” TCM Practitioner said.  “In fact, many of them have syndrome of Yin (the energy being accumulated, assimilated and stored for later use) deficiency with internal heat that lead to illnesses.”

According to TCM, fall is just the best season to begin this healthy practice.  “Let me give you an analogy,” TCM Practitioner explained.  “What is the best time to water a dry plant?  If you do it at noon, much of the water will be vaporized; the most suitable timing is at dusk.  Similar to that, fall, when the Yin energy starts to accelerate, it also is the perfect season for us to exercise how to preserve health with low-temperature condition.”

However, as mentioned above, we can’t simply putting on less clothing and achieve the longevity.  Instead, we should pay attention to four aspects: Diet, environment, sleeping, and physical exercise.

First, cook with low temperature.  Low-temperature cooking not only can reduce the chance of carcinogens release when cooking with high heat, but also preserves the greatest amount possible nutrition in food.  Second, eat more food in “cool” nature.  Examples are animals with lower body temperature such as fish and shrimp; aquatic plants like rice, lotus root, and bamboo shoot; fungi that flourish in shady habitat; fruits ripe in winter such as mandarin and pear.  Third, always stop eating when you are 80% full.  In doing so, you reduce the total intake of calories and generate less heat.

Go get a “low-temperature” sleep.  It doesn’t mean you should throw away your blanket and turn the air conditioning up.  Our body temperature varies throughout the day.  While it starts to drop at 9 to 11pm and reaches its lowest at 1 to 3am, it begins to rise gradually at 8am and comes to its highest at 7 to 9pm.  “If we want to preserve health, we should be in bed sleeping when our body temperature is dropping.  The bottom line is don’t stay up late, not to mention all night,” TCM Practitioner said.  “In addition, sleep in a dark environment.  In fact, when sleeping with the lights on, our metabolism will be disturbed resulting from a higher body temperature.”

Surround yourself with greens.  Grow plants in your own home and workspace to lower the room temperature.  Also, use more furniture made from rattan, bamboo, and wood in cool color.  As for the lighting, switch off the overhead lights and turn on your task lighting such as bedside light, desk lamp, or floor lamp.  In this way, you not only reduce overall lighting demands by putting the light where it is needed and make your room cooler, you actually are saving energy and your electricity bill.

Physical Exercise
Move your body.  Do more slow exercises like Tai Chi, yoga, pilates… .  When our body overheats, the excess heat energy from the body will be used to evaporate the sweat.  Therefore, to use up that heat energy will cool our body down.  “Take a trip to the river, lake, woods, or mountain is another good idea to preserve your health,” TCM Practitioner said.  “Your body will benefit from absorbing the Yin energy released from the natural world.”

Nonetheless, we are once again reminded that preserving health with low temperature is a comprehensive approach and should not be simply regarded as cooling down our body.  According to TCM Practitioner, TWO mistakes that we should always not to fall into:

1. Wear fewer clothes than we need to.  In fact, we should put on appropriate clothing accordingly.

2. Consume icy drink / food.  TCM suggests that we should take icy drink / food as less as possible, preferring instead to consume meals that are close to our body temperature.

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Eight Principles: Cold VS Hot Syndrome

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), one of the most important diagnostic systems is “Eight Principles.”  They are Yin, Yang, external, internal, cold, hot, deficiency, and excess.  Although TCM Practitioners differentiate patients’ syndrome according to the Eight Principles, most of the illnesses are to be identified as cold or hot before the beginning of any treatment.

“In fact, the treatment approach for cold syndrome basically is contrary to that of hot syndrome,” TCM Practitioner said.  “A right treatment cannot be administered if the cold/hot principle is not figured out up front.”

As most of us know that the commonly accepted average core body temperature is 98.6 °F (37.0 °C).  But what makes us be able to keep a constant temperature?  The answer is our body fluid.  While “Yang Qi” (positive energy) inside our body keeps us warm, the main function of body fluid on the other hand is to moisten our overall body by lowering the temperature.  “When we have good health, our Yang Qi and body fluid can adjust with each other and maintain a steady body temperature,” TCM Practitioner said.  “Yet, if we get sick, our body will be incapable of achieving this balance.  As a result, syndromes of being too cold or too hot develop.

Take common cold as an example.  If you catch a common cold and have a pale complexion, cold limbs, diarrhea; and shiver continually, you likely have a cold-syndrome common cold.  However, if you have a common cold along with a high body heat, flushed face, thirst, and dry mouth, yours probably is a hot-syndrome common cold.  You yourself can tell even if you are not a TCM Practitioner.

“Basically, patient who has cold-syndrome common cold should be given treatment that helps warming his/her body up, whereas treatment that facilitates lowering body temperature will be administered to patients who have hot-syndrome common cold,” TCM Practitioner said.

So next time when you have a common cold, in addition to medicine, you know exactly whether you need an ice bag or a hot-water bottle.

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Fight Blood Deficiency; Still Love Vampires

First Twilight, then True Blood, The Vampire Diaries….  It seems that we simply are unable to satisfy the urge to welcome more and more of the blood-sucking immortals enter our world.

Fight Blood Deficiency; Still Love VampiresWhile hundreds of thousands of girls are obsessing with the bloodsuckers in a fantasy world, many of them suffer from anemia in reality.  In fact, up to 10% of people have anemia in the US alone, and the rates are even higher in other countries.  Due to regular menstrual bleeding, young women are twice as likely to have anemia than young men.

“In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), there is no such term of ‘anemia;’ it is called ‘blood deficiency’ instead and not very much identical,” TCM Practitioner said.  “TCM regards our heart to govern, liver to store, and spleen to unite the blood.  As a result, when we treat blood deficiency, patient’s heart, liver, and spleen are to be modulated all together.”

Generally, blood deficiency is classified as either chronic or acute.  It is not defined as a illness itself and may not be easy being identified by the sufferers.  Not sure if you have blood deficiency?  Read on the symptoms.

  • Dim skin color; pale lips and nails
  • Dizziness often occurs
  • Repeatedly have had palpitations recently
  • Poor sleep; frequent insomnia without cause or reason
  • Have numb limbs every so often
  • Light menstrual blood color and fewer in volume than usual

“If you find three or more symptoms from the list that match your condition, you likely have blood deficiency,” said TCM Practitioner.  “For women who have blood deficiency not only always feel tired, but also age faster and even have premature menopause.”

Therefore, blood enrichment becomes so important for women who want to keep in good health.  Below are some what you should do.  Relax, you can still be a fanatic of vampires.

Be Happy

“Many people aren’t aware that feeling unhappy actually can lead to blood loss,” TCM Practitioner said.  “It is because if you often in a sulk or lose temper, you will develop a stagnation of the liver-Qi that contributes to blood consumption.” Now you have one more good reason for developing a cheerful and optimistic attitude, and stay in a good mood.

Take Good Care Of Your Eyes

According to TCM, the blood of the liver specifically takes care of nourishing the eyes and tendons.  “If you overwork your eyes such as often staring at a computer screen for too long, your liver will be harmed and affects its function of storing blood and regulating the volume of blood in the whole body,” TCM Practitioner said.  “Make sure to take the time to look away from the screen every 10 minutes for just a few seconds, and rest your eyes by closing them for a minute every half hour or so.”

Eat Black Fungus

“Blood deficiency and high blood pressure absolutely can occur at the same time, especially for many middle-age women,” TCM Practitioner said.  “Luckily, there is a common and inexpensive food to combat both, and that is black fungus.”  According to TCM, black fungus is “neutral” in nature.  It can enrich blood and replenish “Qi” (essential energy), fight tired body and numb limbs.  On the other hand, it is able to lower blood viscosity and cholesterol, as well as to prevent arteriosclerosis.

Why not let this simple recipe—Stew Black Fungus Red Date (Dried Jujube) Soup—to do the dual duty for you?

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A Straw To Conquer Herbal Medicine Bitterness

If you ever visited a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Practitioner and also took the prescribed herbal medicine, you get the idea of what “bitterness” truly is!  In fact, many Westerners hesitate about TCM only because of the infamous inky black, extremely bitter medicine.

“Unfortunately, herbal medicine is one of the core elements of TCM that you hardly can avoid when receiving TCM treatment,” TCM Practitioner said.  “Fortunately, there is a way to minimize the bitterness.”

There are about 10,000 taste buds on our tongue.  While the sides of the tongue tend to be sensitive to sour and salty taste, and the tip of the tongue to sweet, the sensitivity to bitter taste is highest at the base.  The lesser the contacts between food and taste buds, the weaker the flavor of food you sense.

So, how to reduce the contacts between the herbal medicine and the taste buds?  The answer is to use a straw to drink the medicine.  “Stick the straw way down deep.  In doing so, the medicine can travel through from the cup to your throat without contacting too many taste buds.” TCM Practitioner said.

A Straw To Conquer Herbal Medicine BitternessNow you may ask how you are able to drink the medicine with a straw as the liquid is so hot.  “Well, you should know that when the temperature of food is close to that of our mouth (96.8-98.6 degree Fahrenheit / 36-37 degree Celsius), the sensitivity of our sense of taste is at its highest; whereas the sense will be less sensitive when food’s temperature is higher or lower than this level,” TCM Practitioner said.  “However, medicine with temperature higher than 100.4 degree Fahrenheit / 38 degree Celsius would be too hot to suck up; the best way is to wait until its temperature drops to between 68-86 degree Fahrenheit / 20-30 degree Celsius).”

No matter how much you hate bitterness, there is one worst thing that you should never do: To add sugar to your herbal medicine like you do to the coffee!  “This is because different flavor of herbal medicine produces different efficacy.  For instance, while medicine in bitter flavor drys dampness and purge fire; sweet, on the other hand, replenishes “Qi” (essential energy) and blood, and relieves pain,” TCM Practitioner explained.  “If sugar is added to the medicine, the property of the medicine will be altered.”

Furthermore, the chemical composition of herbal medicine is rather complicated.  When the protein and tannin that herbal medicine contains interact with the iron and calcium in sugar (especially brown sugar), a chemical reaction may occur, causing some effective components coagulate, and generating turbidity and precipitation.  As a result, not only the efficacy of the medicine is affected, it may also lead to diarrhea.

Last but not the least, some herbal medicines are administered to stimulate the release of secretion from digestive gland through the flavor of bitterness.  “The extremely bitter Rhizoma Coptidis, for example, is used for boosting the gastric secretion in order to invigorate the stomach,” TCM Practitioner said.  “If you add sugar in it, this function is destroyed and so is the treatment.”

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A Soak For Healthiness And Healing: Herbal Bath

As more and more people are pursuing a natural lifestyle, bath therapy (balneotherapy) is popularized in many parts of the world.  While bath therapy is incorporated into Natural Medicine today, it has existed in Chinese culture for thousands of years and been a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), called medicated bath or herbal bath.  In general, herbal bath can bring the results from cleaning the skin/getting rid of body odor, promoting blood circulation and metabolism, strengthening immune system, to preventing and healing illness.

A Soak For Healthiness And Healing: Herbal Bath“The components of an effective herbal bath comprise not only the right ingredient (herb), but also the right water temperature,” TCM Practitioner said.  “The liquid is absorbed through the bather’s skin and respiratory system and takes effect by activating the potential life functions in his/her body.”

Today, herbal baths are commonly suggested for conditions such as arthritis, fever, fungus infections, itchiness, pain, skin sores, wounds, and even beauty treatment.  And the choice of herbs would be based on individual condition.

In fact, you can try it at your own home.  Here are some formulas provided by TCM Practitioner.

For Improving Skin Texture

Ingredients: Ginger juice (1 ounce / 30 ml), vinegar (0.5 ounce / 15 ml), wine (1.7 ounces / 50 ml)

Method: Pour all ingredients into warm water (around 100 degree Fahrenheit / 38 degree Celsius) and soak for 30 minutes.

For Enhancing Blood Circulation And Promoting Metabolism

Ingredients: [For 10 times use] Pilose asiabell root (1.2 ounces / 35 grams), angelica root (1.2 ounces / 35 grams), safflower (4.2 ounces / 120 grams) and rose (4.2 ounces / 120 grams)

Method: Grind all the ingredients into a powder mixture.  Pour 1 ounce / 30 grams into warm water (keep the water temperature between 102.2 – 107.6 degree Fahrenheit / 39 – 42 degree Celsius) directly and soak for 20 minutes.  Take the bath daily, 10 times as one cycle.

For Easing Tiredness And Preventing Common Cold

Ingredients: Dried tangerine peel (1.4 ounces / 40 grams); fresh tangerine (4 pieces)

Method: Use a gauze bag stuffed with the dried tangerine peels and put into warm water (around 100 degree Fahrenheit / 38 degree Celsius).  Cut the fresh tangerines into slices (with skin) and also put into water.  Soak for 20 minutes.

For Treating Insomnia

Ingredients: Jasmine (0.5 ounce / 15 grams), rose (0.3 ounce / 9 grams), processed poria (0.5 ounce / 15 grams),  nutgrass (0.5 ounce / 15 grams).

Method: Grind all the ingredients and pour into warm water (keep the water temperature between 100 – 107.6 degree Fahrenheit / 38 – 42 degree Celsius) directly and soak for 30 minutes. It can calm the mind and smooth the flow of “Qi” (essential energy).

When having herbal bath at home, a rule of thumb is to set the water temperature between 98.6 – 107.6 degree Fahrenheit / 37 – 42 degree Celsius.  Steep in the water for not more than half hour while slightly rub the body surface, then rinse the body with clean water.  Drink a glass of water to replenish body fluid after a 30-minute rest.

“Herbal baths are easy to use and generally safe.  They don’t carry the impacts that oral medicines usually bring to the oral cavity, mucous membrane, digestive canal, and stomach; they also reduce liver’s burden of its detox system.  However, they are not suitable for children, the aged, and seriously ill people,” TCM Practitioner noted.  “Also, for person who has heart, kidney, or lung problems; or a tendency to bleed easily, he/she should consult a Practitioner first.”

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