In the realm of the energetics of food and natural medicines a common denominator connecting traditional systems of medicine is the classification of foods and natural medicines by their energetic attributes. Simple concepts such as heat, cold, dryness, and moisture are utilized and correlate intimately with the tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, spicy, pungent, and salty.
These energetic concepts correspond with all body parts and organs, all bodily functions, diseases and ailments, emotions, and mental health. These terms can indicate a very literal meaning, but largely are symbolic of more vast concepts.
- Hot/Warm = raising of body temperature, fast actions, inflammation, catabolic processes etc.
- Cold/Cool = cooling of body temperature, slowing things down, anti-inflammation, anabolic processes etc.
- Wet = hydrating, lubricating, nourishing etc.
- Dry = drying, astringent, cleansing etc.
SYMPATHY VS ANTIPATHY
The energetics of food and natural medicines can be used sympathetically and antipathetically. This is to improve health, homeostasis, and act preventatively.
Antipathetic treatment consists of using opposing energetic values in order to restore balance. Hot symptoms treated with cooling substances, dry with wet etc. The aim here is not to be extreme, but to accurately gauge the severity of the energetic presentation of symptoms.
With this approach, balance is achieved without going too far to either end of the energetic spectrum involved. For instance, mild heat symptoms can be resolved with cooling but not cold treatments etc.
Here are examples of antipathetic treatment strategy:
- “Hot” acute swelling from an injury can be treated with “cooling” anti-inflammatory herbs.
- “Cold” stagnant digestion can be alleviated by carminative, warming and pungent spices.
- “Hot” anger aggravates the liver, cleared by hepatic and nervine bitter herbs and food.
- “Dry” dehydration is alleviated by the “moist” nature of demulcent herbs and foods.
Homeopathic and other specialized types of extracts can be applied as a sympathetic treatment, such as the case of an allergen being used to treat an allergy.
Examples of this include using pollen to treat a pollen allergy, or bee venom to treat a bee sting allergy. Regarding sympathetic treatment, spagyric essences and homeopathic dilutions of spagyric tinctures can be employed.
Other examples of sympathetic treatment include:
- Using something hot to release heat: Cayenne pepper to cause sweating, which cools the body.
- Using something cold to warm a cold constitution: Cold water causing the blood to heat up in response, thereby raising body temperature.
Rather than a linear spectrum, these energetic concepts are truly circular, one polarity leading into the next. This helps the understanding of how both sympathetic and antipathetic treatment strategy can be used to achieve balance.
THE TASTES OF HERBS AND FOODS
As mentioned, the tastes are intimately involved with the energetics of foods and herbs. Tastes are a key and obvious indicator of overall energetic values.
- Sour= astringent and stimulating, moves energy, aids digestion, most often cool and dry. Examples: Lemon, Rosehips.
- Bitter= astringent and cleansing, stimulates digestion, most often cool and dry. Examples: Dandelion, Gentian.
- Sweet= moist and nourishing, tonifying, immunomodulating, most often neutral to slightly warm and wet. Examples: Astragalus, Shatavari.
- Salty= astringent, micro-nutritionally rich, cool and dry. Examples: Nettle, Kelp.
- Pungent= stimulating and strongly aromatic, clears stagnation/blockages in the digestive and respiratory systems, most often warm/hot and dry. Examples: Garlic, Cannabis.
- Spicy= stimulating, moves energy in the cardiovascular, respiratory and digestive systems, warm/hot and drying. Examples: Black Pepper, Cayenne.
- Acrid= irritating or tingly sensation in the mouth, effects the nervous system (analgesic/antispasmodic), a range of hot to cold, usually drying. Examples: Lobelia, Black Cohosh.
THE SIX TISSUE STATES
Although simple at first glance, the fundamental concepts of traditional energetics of food and medicine delve deeply into the complex nuances of health. They are now reclaiming their rightful place in harmony with modern perspectives and sciences.
A recent interpretation using modern terminology is the “six tissue states” system, which focuses on metabolism, fluids, and tone as follows:
- Metabolism is measured as hot or cold, meaning underactive or overactive.
- Fluids are damp or dry, meaning excessive or deficient.
- Tone is tense or relaxed, meaning spastic or atonic.
Armed with the basic principles of energetics, we are much more apt to program our diet and medicine in a personalized way. Often people wonder, why does this herb work for a condition in one person and not in another?
This discrepancy can often be boiled down to the unique energetic blueprint of everyone. A flu virus for example, can present in a wide variety of symptoms, depending upon the energetic architecture of its “host”.
There is no one size fits all; treat the person, not the disease!