Tastes of Summer

Tastes of Summer:

Red currants.
Red currants.

All summer I have wanted to post about the great fruit and vegetables that my garden is providing. Now summer is almost over and autumn is knocking on our door so I’ll have to hurry to get in at least one or two of my favorites.  Ok, so this isn’t Tibetan medicine per se.  It is more like favorite summertime cooking projects in the guise of Tibetan medicine, but it is fun to look at what nature provides for us and how it fits into Tibetan medicine seasonal, dietary guidelines.

In many parts of the world the summer is monsoon time when the earth is made moist and wet by plentiful rain.  As the earth is cooled and vapor rises, the quality of drinking water often becomes dirtier (remember that the main medical texts were written before modern water systems.) The poor quality of the water plus the change in temperature tends to weaken our digestion so the Tibetan medicine recommendation is to eat foods that are sweet, sour and salty, plus light, warm and oily. These tastes are considered the most nutritious of the six tastes and balance our bodies and support our digestion during the summer season.

Luckily for us these are just the kind of foods that nature provides.  My new favorite jam,  which I discovered accidentally trying to figure out what to do the rest of my red currants, is a combination of gooseberry and red currant.

IMG_7747  If you have these berries in your garden or see them at market they are terrific paired together and boiled with some sugar until just thick enough.  I used about 3 cups of berries and 1 cup of sugar or honey and no pectin.  There is enough pectin in the skin of the fruit, just let it simmer and stir for about 15 minutes.  Honestly, these are ballpark figures so feel free to experiment.  This jam is wonderful!  Sweet, sour and full of flavor!  Great spread on toast, or if you want to add the ‘oily’ quality of milk then mix it with yoghurt.

Red currant/gooseberry jam.
Red currant/gooseberry jam.

Bone Broth:

Bone broth is an excellent source of easily digested and assimilated minerals and nutrients, and healthy fats. Its high in calcium, iron, and especially nourishing for pregnant, postpartum and nursing women, menstruating women, anyone recovering from blood loss or surgery, people with degenerative bone loss or healing broken bones, for any rLung (wind) imbalance, and anyone with a condition that saps strength and leaves them needing an easy, readily available source of rich nutrients. It’s food medicine, so it can also be enjoyed by whoever enjoys it!

Get a few organic (local is best) beef bones from the butcher.  If they have sacrum, scapula, or hip bones, those are ideal, but thigh bones or whatever they have will do just fine.  Put them in a big pot on high heat and sear them for a couple minutes on each side (this improves flavor).  Fill the pot with lots of water (4+ quarts), put in a generous amount of sea salt (start with a small palm-ful and taste for saltiness an hour or so into cooking), and whatever spices you wish to use.  Some options are a little black pepper, a little ginger, long pepper (aka pipi ling), nutmeg, cardamom, black cardamom, onion, and garlic.  Stay away from capsicums (chilies) and too much black pepper or ginger, and don’t use other veggies – this is a delicious broth, but not a soup.  Bring it all to a boil, covered, then turn it down to a slow simmer and let it cook, partially covered, for 3-6 hours.  If any scum forms on the top, skim it off and throw it away.  It will reduce down quite a bit. When its looking and smelling done, strain it and reserve the liquid, discarding the solids.  The bones will be hollow and empty of their marrow now.  There will be a layer of fat on the top of the strained broth.  You can skim some of this off if you wish, but do leave some as well, since that contains lots of healthy marrow and is part of the medicine we want.  Taste for salt and add it as needed.  It should taste delicious, and feel deeply nourishing in your body.  You can fill a few yogurt containers almost full, leave room for the broth to expand, and freeze them for drinking throughout the week (they’ll last for a few months in the freezer).  The broth will keep for no more than a few days in the fridge, so do freeze whatever you won’t drink in a few days.


Thank you to all the lovely people who attended the discussion on Insomnia at the Rubin Museum on Wednesday.  It made me realize that this is a huge concern for many people and I know that lack of sleep can really affect quality of life.  There was only time to have three people come on stage to ask questions and then I only had about 15 or 20 minutes with each person.  If I were seeing someone in my office I would have more time to question, examine and prescribe a more thorough treatment protocol.  There was so much more to say about this subject but I hope that this discussion helped both to demystify Tibetan Medicine and to provide a few common sense suggestions for dealing with insomnia.

One member of the audience inquired about sleep apnea and I didn’t have a chance to address that so I thought I would say a bit more now.  In general there are two types of sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.  Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the breathing passage is obstructed and often happens in people who are overweight but can also occur in children with enlarged tonsils or adenoids.  Less is known about central sleep apnea but for some reason there is an interruption in the message from the brain to breath.

According to Tibetan medicine the most common reasons for insomnia are an excess or disturbance of rlung or mkrispa, however obstructive sleep apnea is most likely due to excess badkan (phlegm).  Normally in Tibetan medicine we don’t think of badkan as causing insomnia because people with excess badkan usually tend to be very heavy sleepers, however, it does happen that the extra weight and tissue can cause obstructive sleep apnea.  When we treat excess badkan, in general we treat it with the tastes of hot, rough, and astringent. So this would include spicy foods, lentils, buckwheat, fish, hot water, fresh cooked vegetables, warming spices and herbs such as black pepper, long pepper, ginger, and small amounts of good quality alcohol.  Foods to avoid are oily, sweet, heavy and cool, as well as food that is too old and has sat in the fridge for too long, or spoiled food. This would include too much raw foods or salads (some are fine), pork (which is cool-natured and heavy), greasy foods, and cold foods and drink, such as ice cream and sodas. These foods are considered difficult to digest and damage the digestive heat.

Also it is recommended to keep food portions small and to engage in regular daily exercise.  This helps to maintain digestive heat and metabolism so that the food we do eat gets metabolized properly and serves to nourish us rather than producing extra weight.  Avoid sleeping in the daytime, as well as cool, damp places and sitting or lying for long periods on cold ground but rather be in warm, dry places.  All of these foods and behaviors will help to alleviate badkan symptoms, will often help to reduce weight and excess tissue, and thereby alleviate obstructive sleep apnea.

As far as central sleep apnea, from a Tibetan perspective breathing problems can also be due to a disturbance of one of the 5 types of rlung, possibly the Srog-‘dzin (life-sustaining rlung) or the Gyen-rgyu (upward moving) rlung.  The Srog-‘dzin rlung is located in the brain and its functions are: swallowing food, inhalation and spitting, burping and sneezing, clearing the senses and intellect, and steadying the mind.  The Gyen-rgyu (upward moving) rlung is located in the chest and its functions are responsible for speech, bodily vigor and health, giving luster to the skin, and mental exertion. As the name suggests it moves upwards from the chest into the head.  A thorough examination would help to determine whether or not this was the cause.  A disturbance of either of these two types of rlung could cause a central sleep apnea and would be treated with a combination of herbs and external treatments such as horme.

Hopefully this short essay offers some suggestions for those suffering from sleep apnea.


Last week my daughter commented on her friend’s lustrous, silky hair and asked her what she used.  The answer surprised her and me also.  This kind of sounds like one of those ads that you might see in the sidebar of facebook but in this case the product really is available in your local grocery store and is not expensive.   It is unusual though.  Her friend said that she uses lard on her hair.  Yes, I know, the thought of putting rendered pig fat on my hair seemed really quite unpleasant, but I kept hearing  about how beautiful, shiny and soft her friend’s hair looked, so I thought I’d give it a try.

We happened to have very high quality lard in our refrigerator that came from a friend’s farm where they had raised their own pigs organically and rendered the fat themselves.  Even though it had been sitting in our fridge for over two years, when I opened it it was a beautiful white, with no smell at all and a creamy consistency.  At this point you might be wondering why I would keep lard in my fridge for two years. The original intent was to make a special salve for burns with it.  In Tibetan Medicine, pig fat is one of the best things to use on human skin and is especially recommended for healing burns and skin diseases.  It is readily absorbed and considered very nutritive. However, I wasn’t able to get all the ingredients I wanted so it just sat there until I took it out to put in my hair.  Knowing how well regarded it is in the Tibetan Medicine tradition for human skin it made sense that it could also be good for hair.

I rubbed about 1 tablespoon of lard into my hands and then worked it through my hair, making sure I got the ends.  You might need a bit more as I learned later that it should also be massaged into the scalp which makes sense.  Then I just left it for about 30-45 minutes and then washed my hair the way I normally do. If the weather were warmer I would have sat out in the sun too to help it absorb.  After I washed and dried it it felt very heavy and silky.  The next day my husband (who doesn’t even notice when I get 3” cut) stroked my hair and asked me if I had done something different with my hair because it felt so nice.  He loved it!  Now he affectionately calls me, Lard Head.

I am definitely going to make this a part of hair maintenance.  Using it every shampoo is probably not going to happen, but maybe once or twice a month.  After doing this I also found this interesting blog about lard as a Winter super food.



Join us in a Community Spring Cleanse! ~April 13-19, 2014~

Cleansing is an excellent way to rid your body of any excess oils, toxins, wastes and fluids that have accumulated over the winter months. Clearing out is like a re-set for the body and mind, which then allows us to build back up with the nutrient dense, healthy substances we want for an energetic return to light. Spring is a time of rejuvenation and new growth, and cleansing the body provides a clear palette for this natural activation of elements. Doing a Spring cleanse is akin to a big Spring cleaning of your home ~ it takes time, hard work and dedication but when you awaken to a sparkling clean environment everything feels better, and its always worth it!

You’re welcome to join us from April 13-19, for added support and community, or you can choose your own dates to cleanse and use this regimen whenever it works for you. For those of you who would like a simple approach, we’re offering a 7-day cleanse package for $35 that includes: 3 oz of Warming Digestive herbal tea blend, 2 oz of Detoxifying herbal tea blend, 4 fl. oz of organic ghee, 3 oz of kitchari spice blend, and 7 days each of the two Tibetan herbal formulas we recommend. We have a limited supply available, so if you would like to purchase one, please contact us soon.

This cleanse is based on Tibetan medical principles of health and balance, and is designed to be beneficial for people of all constitution types. Cleansing should be done by generally healthy people as a means to support well-being. *It is NOT APPROPRIATE for those with: chronic weakness or a wasting illness, young children, women who are pregnant, breastfeeding OR menstruating, people who are under weight, or women with amenorrhea.

The Cleansing Routine: Lifestyle

Follow these bcud len (pronounced choo len – means rejuvination) guidelines for proper digestion. Eat three small meals a day at about the same times, eat lighter in the morning and evening than in the afternoon, and eat in a quiet, pleasant atmosphere. Since the weather is still cool eat mainly cooked vegetables or fruits, and warm soups. On warm days a smoothie with fruit or a fresh vegetable juice is okay.

The first step is to cut out all junk food, food additives, snacks, desserts, leftovers, canned foods, processed foods and salty foods. The idea is to eat fresh foods freshly prepared and to keep meals very simple. Decrease the size and frequency of meals, and be sure to slow down and chew your food thoroughly.  It is important to also remove alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine when possible.  If you consume caffeinated teas or coffee, you will want to reduce and switch to decaf or remove them from your diet all together.  For addicted coffee drinkers, dandelion tea is a great herbal substitute and well known for it’s sweet bitter flavor.

Drink plenty of liquids, especially warm or hot water, herbal teas, kanjees and lemon water. Along with small meals this helps to keep your digestion moving.

Get lots of rest. Sleep is important any time of year, but especially during purification, when your body needs the quiet time to cleanse itself and recharge. Go to bed early and rise early. Avoid long naps during the day.

Meditate and relax everyday, even if you can find only a few minutes here and there for peace and quiet. Prioritize this during the cleanse – treat relaxation as part of your cleansing regimen. Stress contributes to disrupted digestion, and meditation can help reduce stress levels.

Take baths, Epsom salt or herbal foot baths and/or showers daily. Scrub your body with a washcloth or loofa while in the bath or shower. This helps the body detoxify from the outside too, sloughing off dead skin, increasing circulation, and eliminating any sweat and oils that may have been exuded.

Exercise, done everyday, is important. Exercise early in the morning. Walking is excellent exercise for all body types. Practice deep breathing to draw in oxygen and cleanse the air channels of the body.

Daily self-massage with oil (almond, sesame, olive oils and ghee are all good options) is wonderful and helps loosen toxins deeply embedded in body tissues for ease of elimination.

Regular elimination is critical. Empty your bowel and bladder regularly to flush the toxins that have been loosened or released from the tissues, joints and organs out of the body before they get back into circulation.

A sample cleansing day:

First thing in the morning take Shi Je 6 with a cup of warm/hot boiled water.

Breakfast: A small bowl of cooked buckwheat with apple sauce, or white rice porridge with cardamom and dates, or kitchari.
One or two cups of warming, digestive tea blend.

Mid-morning: One or two cups of Warming Digestive tea blend, lemon water, or plain boiled water.

Lunch: Kitchari (recipe below) cooked or served with vegetables on the side. One or two cups of Detox tea blend.

Mid-afternoon: Detox tea blend, lemon water, or boiled water.

Dinner: A light vegetable soup or smaller amount of kitchari, and steamed vegetables such as (cabbage, zucchini, green beans, celery, artichokes) these can be served with lemon and a little Bragg’s, tamari or sea salt. Drink Warming Digestive, Detox tea blend, lemon water or warm boiled water. Cooked pears or apples for dessert (if desired).
*You can include bone broth (recipe below) with dinner or in the evening, especially if you’re feeling weak, shaky, having trouble sleeping, or tend to need a lot of meat in your diet.
1 or 2 hrs
before bed: Hot milk whipped with ghee, a pinch of cardamom, nutmeg and a little honey. *Note, begin with 2 tsp of ghee on Days 1 & 2, increase to 3 tsp of ghee on Day 3, 4 tsp of ghee on Day 4, and then reduce back down to 2 tsp of ghee for Days 5-7.

Remember that this is a sample cleansing day. Every day should include the morning herbs, plenty of the herbal teas and other liquids, and the evening hot milk with ghee, but the meals can vary. We will be offering other meal ideas on Facebook during the week, but you can always make up your own with a combination of quinoa, millet, basmati rice and moong, french, red or brown lentils. Include lots of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet. Barley water or rice kanjee, made by cooking a small amount of grain with a large quantity of water (1/2 cup to 10 cups) are also wonderful cleansers of the digestive system and the urinary tract. Greens, daikon radish, bitter gourd, cabbage and celery are examples of cleansing vegetables. Cooked apples and pears are a great way to get elimination going in the morning. Prunes, pineapple, papaya and pomegranate are other fruits that aid digestion and cleansing. Herbs such as cilantro, mint, fresh ginger and lemon are also helpful for cleansing and purifying the digestive system.
Cook with digestion-enhancing, detoxifying spices such as turmeric, cumin, coriander, clove, ajwon (onion seed), fenugreek, dried or fresh ginger, cinnamon and fennel.

For a 7-day regimen, take a laxative (castor oil) on Day 5 to really cleanse the digestive system. Depending on how readily your body responds to laxatives, you may need to take more or less of the castor oil. Begin by taking it first thing in the morning on an empty stomach with hot boiled water (or a small amount of fresh juice for palatability), and take dosages according to the bottle. Since we won’t able to monitor you individually, finding the correct dosage for your body will be up to you. It can take 2-6 hours to feel the full laxative effect of the castor oil, but remember that you made need to take more than 1 dose (waiting 1-2 hours after the first dose should give you an indication of whether its working or whether you would benefit from another dose). This laxative day should be even more restful, as it can be quite exhausting to the system to eliminate so completely. It’s especially important to stay hydrated on this day! Drink lots of fluids! Eat much smaller amounts, or choose to consume only liquids such as herbal teas, vegetable broth, fresh juices, and bone broth. This should be followed by taking a Tibetan herbal formula in the evening (Ba Sam sMan Mar) for 7 days (the last 2 of your cleanse and another 5 afterwards) to help build back your strength and rejuvenate your being.

Kitchari recipe:

¼ cup of organic basmati rice
1/8 cup of yellow mung dahl
2 cups of water
1 teaspoon of ghee
1 ¼ teaspoon of powdered herb blend (coriander, cumin, turmeric, fennel, ginger)
1 teaspoon of fresh chopped cilantro (optional)
½ teaspoon of salt

Combine rice and mung dahl in a small pot. Wash rice and dahl well by covering with water, swirling, and draining. In a separate pan, heat ghee.
Add the spices to the hot ghee and sauté briefly, about 30 seconds or until lightly browned and aromatic. Add the sautéed ghee and spices to the rice and dahl.

Add water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and continue to cook for about 1 hour. Cook longer for a thicker consistency. Can use rice cooker instead.

Remove the rice and dahl from heat. Add salt and mix well. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

You may add light, well-cooked vegetables in the kitchari or on the side as desired.

Although everyone has all three nyespa: rLung, Tripa, and Badkan, we each have an individual constitution with one or two nyespa being predominant. To get an idea of your personal constitution, schedule an appointment for a consultation or take this Tibetan medicine questionnaire (note – this will give you an idea, but to accurately determine your constitution, its best to have a full intake and receive an experienced opinion). If your constitution indicates two or three nyespa as predominant, you can use your own judgement and intuition when choosing what fruits and vegetables to include and avoid during your cleanse.

Fruits and Vegetables to complement your constitution:

rLung – (cool/wind)

Fruits – Avocado, berries, fresh figs, grapefruit, kiwi, lemons, mango, oranges, papaya, peaches, pineapple, plums, strawberries. Sweet fruits are balancing. No dried fruits.

Vegetables – Artichoke, asparagus, beets, carrots, green beans, leeks, mustard greens, okra, onion, parsnip, squash, watercress, zucchini. Cooked vegetables are most balancing. Avoid raw vegetables.

Tripa – (heat/bile)

Fruits – Apples, avocado, berries, dates, melons, pears, pineapples, plums, pomegranate, and watermelon. Sweet fruits are balancing. Sour fruits are aggravating.

Vegetables – Artichoke, asparagus, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, cucumber, celery, dandelion greens, green beans, leafy greens, kale, okra, parsley, parsnip, peas, squash, sprouts, zucchini. Sweet and bitter vegetables are balancing.

Badkan – (cool/heavy/phlegmatic)

Fruits – Apples, cherries, cranberries, mango, peaches, pears, pomegranate, and prunes are balancing. Sweet fruits such as bananas and dates are aggravating, as are sour fruits such as lemons, sour oranges and grapefruit.

Vegetables – Asparagus, beets, beet greens, bell pepper, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, green beans, horseradish, leafy greens, kale, leeks, okra, onions, parsley, peas, peppers, sprouts, turnips, watercress. Pungent and bitter vegetables are balancing, cooked is preferable. Sweet, juicy vegetables are aggravating.



In order to explain seasonal behavior I would like to explain briefly what happens during the Winter. During winter, the sun moves South and the whole outer environment becomes colder. This cold causes the pores to close and our inner heat is ignited by wind and becomes stronger. If we eat too little food at this time our bodily constituents will diminish. Dietary recommendations for the winter are to eat the first three of the six tastes; sweet, sour, and salty. These tastes are the most nutritional of the six tastes and they help to maintain our bodily strength. The qualities of the moon and the earth increase at this time, including the qualities of cool, damp, smooth, heavy, etc. Over the winter these qualities cause an accumulation of phlegm in our bodies.

As the outer world heats up in the late Spring, this phelgm begins to melt. The digestive heat is weakened and phlegm begins to manifest. For this reason in Spring it is best to use the last three of the six tastes (bitter, hot/spicy, astringent). This includes bitter greens such as dandelion greens, broccoli rabe, radicchio, and spicy watercress. It is also suggested that we eat food that is dry light, and rough such as aged barley, puffed grains, lentils, beans, honey, and buckwheat, and drink hot boiled water, ginger tea, and tea with black pepper. The Spring is an especially good time for regular aerobic exercise to increase the metabolic heat. And using exfoliants on the skin is also prescribed. These foods and behaviors help to rid the body of excess phlegm.

The Spring is also a good time to do a complete dietary cleanse to help the body expel accumulated mucous from Winter. A cleanse can be anywhere from 3 days to several weeks, but most people choose to do something in between. In Tibetan medicine this is called bCud Len (pronounced Choo Len) and involves both cleansing with diet, herbs and laxatives and then building up the body using herbs and certain foods that are chosen depending on ones constitutional type. bCud Len protects our digestive heat thus keeping our metabolism strong and enables our body to fully absorb the nutrition in food and separate out the waste. bCud Len is recommended as a rejuvenation practice ideally done once a year to prolong life and maintain good health.

Happy Spring Cleaning!

© 2014 Anasuya & Mira Weil