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The Three Brothers

I love this story as it exemplifies how we should view traditional Chinese medicine and the part it plays in the healthcare of oriental peoples for over 4,000 years.

There was a famous Chinese doctor, who lived some 4,000 years ago. He was celebrated for his skills and knowledge of medicine and his ability to heal even the most fatal disease. He cured the emperor’s son who was believed dead, in a miraculous exhibition of his skills. The emperor asked why he was so much better than is two brothers, who were also doctors.

He replied, my first brother heals sickness before it even develops, so his methods and skills appear unseen and he is known only within our village. His practice involves giving advice on food, exercise and lifestyle to keep his patients well. My second brother deals with illnesses while they are chronic or minor, preventing sickness from getting worse and returning the body to health. He cares for his patients through acupuncture and herbs to rebalance them back to good health when they become ill. I treat diseases when they threaten to destroy the person. This requires several medicines, skill and knowledge in their use. For this reason my name has become famous throughout the kingdom, yet I am simply a surgeon who is called upon when all else fails. My first brother has the knowledge to deal with illness before they arise and my second brother is able to treat them at an early stage and prevent them getting worse. Though my fame has spread throughout the land, their knowledge is greater.

The first two brothers is how traditional Chinese medicine works with preventative dietary and lifestyle advice, acupuncture and herbs. The third brother who was the surgeon is how modern western medicine works. Today we need to have all disciplines available to holistically treat the various health disharmonies in people’s lives. Keeping healthy is surely one of the most important elements of a happy life. Before a person becomes ill, we need to treat with appropriate diet, exercise and lifestyle. When a person becomes ill, we need to treat with acupuncture and herbs first and only when these methods are not enough, we should use western medicine which includes surgery and powerful drugs with their equally powerful and harmful side effects.

James O’Sullivan - that's me, a people friendly practitioner and lecturer of Integrated Medicine, serving my patients, my students and the public with the positive benefits of both Conventional Western Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine.
It's a wonderful life
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to diagnose or assess. The information provided is not to be considered a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care practitioner.
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Qi Deficiency

Qi – The Vitality of Life

Chinese philosophers and thinkers of all times, have engaged with the concept of Qi, right from the beginning of Chinese civilisation up to our modern times. It is the vital energy that circulates throughout the universe. It fills the air we breathe, it’s the constituent parts and nutrients contained in the food we eat. It is the life that starts the heart beating and our first breath after leaving our mother’s womb.

It is excellently described in the Chinese symbol for Qi (vapour, steam, & rice), illustrating that Qi can be as rarefied and immaterial as vapour, and as dense and material as rice. It also signifies that Qi is a subtle substance (vapour, steam) deriving from a coarse material (rice) just as steam is produced by cooking rice.

The translation into any other language from Chinese proves a difficult task and many different translations have been proposed, none of which gives even an approximation of the essence of Qi exactly.  It has been translated as “energy”, “vitality”, “ether”, “matter-energy”, “vital force”, “life force”, “vital power” among more.  The reason it is so difficult to translate the word “Qi” correctly, lies  in the particular fluid nature whereby Qi can manifest differently and be different things in different situations.


In traditional Chinese medicine when Qi is out of balance, the clinical manifestations of its four basic disharmonies are many. It is important to note that the clinical manifestations mentioned here are a complete picture of most of the manifestations recorded and that in real life someone may experience only some or more of these manifestation. This short article could never convey a complete description of Qi in medical terms.

The clinical manifestations of a Qi Deficiency may include all or some of the following:

Fatigue, Tiredness, exhaustion, muscle weakness, general weakness, lack of energy, apathy, poor concentration, lack of appetite, profuse perspiration, spontaneous sweating or sweating on light exercise like just walking a short distance, loose stools, lethargy, disillusionment, dislike to speak, and all these manifestations may be made worse on exertion or with exercise. It is not necessary for someone to experience all these manifestations. When diagnosing according to Traditional Chinese Medical theory, it cannot be over emphasised the importance of a holistic clinical picture, which includes all symptoms and signs of disharmony.

Causes of Qi deficiency

This syndrome often results from excess mental work, often in highly organised people.

overwork, excessive exercise, lack of good nutrition usually due to lack of optimum nutritional knowledge. A sedentary lifestyle can also contribute to a Qi deficiency.

Treatment of Qi Disharmony

Treating any Qi disharmony requires a complete history taking with analysis to diagnose which disharmony the person is suffering from. If you experience any of the above symptoms over a long period of time, I would recommend seeking out a competent practitioner or you may consult myself online by completing my extensive 350 question consultation form. When a diagnosis is achieved, the next step is to formulate a treatment protocol which usually involves some acupuncture points that can be stimulated by acupressure with herbal and dietary advice.

Foods to Nourish Qi

Where possible, try to eat lightly cooked, fresh, local, seasonal produce. The emphasis is on complex carbohydrates in vegetables and unrefined grains and eating small frequent meals.

The following foods are considered excellent foods to strengthen Qi.

Beans/grains/pulses Chickpeas, lentils, wheat bran, millet, quinoa, rice,
Vegetables Asparagus, Carrot, button mushroom, cabbage, eggplant, peas, potato, pumpkin, shiitake mushroom, squash, sweet potato, tomato, yam, garlic,
Fruit Apple, Coconut, Cherry, Dates, Figs, Grape,
Bean Products Tofu
Nuts and seeds Almond, black sesame seeds, coconut (meat)
Fish Eel, herring, mackerel, mussel, octopus, oyster, sturgeon, tuna, trout
Meat Beef, chicken, chicken liver, duck, goose, ham, lamb, pheasant, quail, venison
Dairy Chicken egg, milk,
Herbs and spices Bay leaves, liquorices
Condiments Barley malt, honey, molasses, rice syrup
Supplements Algae, ginseng (American, Chinese, and Korean), pollen, royal jelly


What to Avoid

  • Avoid or at least moderate use of the microwave and processed foods.
  • Avoid all cold or raw foods (particularly citrus and sprouts)
  • Avoid fried greasy foods
  • Avoid processed sugars, large meals and rich foods.
  • Moderate your dairy intake

Other ways to Nourish Qi

  • Relaxation.
  • Mindfulness Meditation.
  • Moderate exercise.
  • Breathing (deep) fresh clean air.
  • Life-affirming activities.
  • Maintaining a positive attitude.
  • Spending time in nature or natural environment.
  • Tai chi / Qi gong.

James O’Sullivan - that's me, a people friendly practitioner and lecturer of Integrated Medicine, serving my patients, my students and the public with the positive benefits of both Conventional Western Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine. It's a wonderful life
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to diagnose or assess. The information provided is not to be considered a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care practitioner.
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Treating Yang Deficiency

You may suffer one of more of the above. If in doubt see a practitioner.

Ancient Chinese people were greatly interested in the relationships and patterns that occurred in nature. Instead of studying situations and things in isolation, they viewed the world as a harmonious and holistic entity. In their eyes, no single being or form could exist unless it was seen in relation to its surrounding environment. By simplifying these relationships, they tried to explain complicated phenomena in the universe.

Yang is the energy that is responsible for warming and activating bodily functions. When Yang is in decline or deficient you feel cold and your body begins to slow down, displaying signs of under activity. There are a number of simple methods to tonify Yang.

Clinical pIcture: Deficient Yang syndrome is manifested as aversion to cold, cold extremities, soreness and weakness or cold pain in the lower back and knees, impotence, spermatorrhea, sterility, watery leukorrhea, enuresis, pale, wet and swollen tongue coating, deep slow, weak, pulse, wheezing and diarrhea (without odour).

Foods that benefit Yang, with the greatest tonics in bold:

Animal protein: Lamb, Venison, Kidneys (both beef and lamb), Chicken,
Lobster, Mussel, Prawn, Shrimp, Trout, Anchovy,
Grains: Quinoa, sweet (glutinous) rice, wheat germ
Vegetables: Leek, mustard greens, onion, radish, scallion, squash, sweet potato, turnip, watercress
Fruits: Raspberry, Cherry, Lychee, Logan berry, Peach, Strawberry
Nuts and seeds: ChestnutsPistachio nuts, Walnuts, Pine Nuts,
Herbs/other: Basil, Clove, Black pepper, Chive seed, Rosemary, Fennel seed, Fenugreek seed, Horseradish, Caper, Cayenne, Cinnamon bark, Dill seed, Garlic, Ginger, Nutmeg, Peppermint, Sage, Savory, Spearmint, Star anise, Turmeric, Thyme, White Pepper
Beverages: Jasmine tea, Chai tea,

Every day western foods examples that can be used to Tonify Yang

  • Mussels cooked with a little garlic
  • Roast chicken with sage and thyme
  • Roasted vegetables with and rosemary
  • Rice porridge with cinnamon, nutmeg and a little brown sugar
  • Leek and potato soup with black pepper
  • Or by adding any of the many spices as listed above to dishes when cooking.

Foods to avoid. If you are experiencing Yang deficiency then it is important to avoid foods that will further deplete your body’s Yang energy. Cold food and liquids fall into this category. Here ‘cold foods’ refers not only to those directly taken from the fridge but also to raw foods, as these require extra energy for digestion compared to pre-cooked foods. This may mean choosing a pasta salad over a green salad or switching from muesli to oat porridge for breakfast.

It is important to remember that we can change the “nature” of food to warming foods by cooking or warming them. This will preserve their energetic and nutrient value, while increasing their Yang nature, therefore soups, porridge and slow roasted foods show become the dishes of choice for those with a Yang deficiency. The herbs and spices mentioned above are warming and as such in small amounts encourage digestion and circulation throughout the body. While it may seem reasonable to achieve an improved warming effect by using the stronger spices such as black pepper liberally, care needs to be taken as these can be used to excess, inducing sweating which in fact actually has a cooling drying effect on the body.

Herbs That Tonify Yang

In general, herbs that tonify Yang are warm and dry in nature.  They can injure Yin and give rise to fire, so they are contraindicated for a person with deficient Yin and excessive fire syndrome.

Recipes that Tonify Yang


Incomplete – Come back for more later………..

James O’Sullivan - that's me, a people friendly practitioner and lecturer of Integrated Medicine, serving my patients, my students and the public with the positive benefits of both Conventional Western Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine. It's a wonderful life
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to diagnose or assess. The information provided is not to be considered a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care practitioner.
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Yin Deficiency

What is Yin?

Yin is the opposite and yet complimentary partner Yang. The theory of Yin Yang is a very important concept in Chinese medicine. When we look at the classic Yin Yang or Tai Ji symbol, it depicts a balance between Black and White. Yin, represented by black, includes the characteristics of night, shadows, anything damp or wet, it is dense and cold. Yang represented by white, includes the characteristics of sunlight, daytime, warmth, dryness, energetic substances. It is at one understanding very simple yet at another interpretation, one of the most complex academic theories in Chinese medicine. Yin and yang are complementary and cannot exist without each other. They are constantly changing into each other.

Generally speaking, in our bodies, Yin is the deepest aspect of our body. Yin is considered the foundation of blood or deeper body substance that creates blood. All of the organs are separated into Yin and Yang organs. Our Yin organs are the more dense, solid organs, such as the liver, kidneys, heart, lungs, spleen. The Yang organs are considered hollow; such as the small intestine, large intestine, bladder, and gallbladder. Yin is influenced by time of day, with twilight and night time being considered a Yin time. Sleep is a yin activity.

When the Yin of your body is healthy, your energy cycles are in perfect balance throughout the day. Your sleep is peaceful, for approximately eight hours a night. You will have adequate energy to complete your work. The Yin, like your blood, will help anchor your emotions, and it will be easy to manage stressful environments, demanding jobs, etc without feeling triggered into a stress response.

Signs and Symptoms of Yin Deficiency

  • Spontaneous afternoon sweats
  • Night sweats
  • Hot flashes (Flushes)–especially in the afternoon and evening
  • Five palm Heat— meaning the palms of your hands, soles of your feet, or all of the above will feel hot periodically throughout the day. You may feel yourself having to kick your feet out from under the blankets throughout the night when this happens.
  • Difficulty staying asleep or frequent waking throughout the night
  • Dry hair, dry skin, dry mucus membranes
  • Fatigue — deeper than the blood deficiency fatigue
  • Frequent urination during the day
  • Frequent nocturnal urination

What causes Yin Deficiency?

Yin deficiency can occur for a wide variety of reasons. Living in a dry climate can slowly deplete Yin. Excessive sweating and exercise, stress, living in an extremely noisy environment, long periods of worry, and overconsumption of hot spices, caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes, other drugs, and refined foods, will also drain Yin.

Most chronic illnesses, autoimmune disorders, and wasting diseases will either start out with a Yin deficiency clinical picture or will develop Yin deficiency in conjunction with other symptoms. These cases are inherently more complicated and need supervision of a trained health care provider.

Yin represents the energy that is responsible for moistening and cooling bodily functions. When this energy is depleted your body begins to show signs of “heating up”. This is not a true heat but rather a lack of the moistening and cooling functions that are necessary to maintain a healthy balance. Foods to tonify Yin include;

Meat: Beef, duck, goose, pork, pork kidney, rabbit
Fish: Fish in general but especially clam, fresh water clam, crab, cuttlefish, oyster, octopus, sardine.
Grains:  Barley, millet
Legumes: Adzuki, black beans, black soya, kidney, lima, mung, Tofu
Vegetables:  Alfalfa sprout, artichoke, asparagus, kelp, mung bean sprout, pea, potato, seaweed, string bean, sweet potato, tomato, water chestnut, yam, zucchini
Fruits: Apple, apricot, avocado, banana, lemon, lime, mango, mulberry, pear, persimmon, pineapple, pomegranate, watermelon
Nuts and seeds: Coconut milk, sesame seed, black sesame seed, walnut
Dairy: Cheese, chicken egg, cows milk, duck egg
Oils: Honey, malt,
Herbs/other: Marjoram, nettle

Supplements: American ginseng, royal jelly

Foods especially useful to tonify Kidney Yin Deficiency.

Meat: Duck, pork kidney
Fish: Fresh water clam, oyster
Vegetables:  Alfalfa sprouts, asparagus, kelp, potato, seaweed, string bean, sweet potato, yam
Fruits: Lemon, lime, mulberry
Nuts and seeds: Black sesame seed
Dairy: Chicken egg

Examples of every day western foods that can be used to build yin

  • Fruit smoothies with honey and banana
  • Fruit salad made with the fruits listed above
  • Fish dishes with coconut milk
  • Omelettes with cheese
  • Asparagus and egg salads with sesame seeds
  • Tacos made with Kidney beans and topped with a small amount of cheese
  • Baked Potato stuffed with tofu with soya sauce and sesame seeds.
  • Pork and apple dishes
  • Miso soup with tofu and seaweed

Foods to avoid

It is important to ensure that stimulating foods are not being consumed, as these will only further depleate yin. Caffeine, alcohol, sugar and strong heating/ pungent spices all belong in this category. Note. Yin building foods like yin tonifing herbs have a tendency to be congest the spleen and promote stagnation if large amounts are consumed.

It is therefore important to consume small quantities frequently rather than large helpings irregularly.

Smiling Body recommendations:

You may enhance your daily health by taking our Chinese Herbal Homeopathic Remedy “Woman’s Precious”.

James O’Sullivan - that's me, a people friendly practitioner and lecturer of Integrated Medicine, serving my patients, my students and the public with the positive benefits of both Conventional Western Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine. It's a wonderful life
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to diagnose or assess. The information provided is not to be considered a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care practitioner.
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Blood Deficiency

Blood deficiency is a very common complaint presented in my clinic. It is associated with the Western diagnosis of anemia however this is not necessary to confirm a Blood Deficiency diagnosis and nor is it the only Western diagnosis where we see the condition. It usually affects women more that men but both are susceptible to this condition. It is important to spot the early signs or prevent this condition where possible because it can sometimes be difficult to treat effectively for long-term wellbeing. It’s not always as easy as taking a an iron tonic, as we have learned that a person who suffers Blood Deficiency is at an increased risk of reoccurrence.  Knowledge is the method of prevention as well as diagnosis.

Concept of Blood

In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the concept of blood is closely related to that of Western medicine except that it goes further to include functions such as tissue nourishment. Blood is also involved in mental processes, such as the dizziness experienced by suffers of anemia.

The TCM diagnosis of “blood deficiency” can often relate to iron deficiency anemia in Western medicine, however it’s important to say here that the concept and language of TCM is different where a patient can still be diagnosed with “blood deficiency” by Chinese medical standards even though testing may reveal normal blood iron level.

In the female menstrual cycle, blood plays an important part in nourishing the endometrium (uterine lining) and preparing it for embryo implantation. Hormonal fluctuations affects endometrial tissue as it approaches ovulation, estrogen production increases which in turn causes the lining of the uterus to proliferate and produce more blood vessels. This produces a rich uterine lining which creates a fertile ground for the new life to develop.  If uterine lining is too thin the process of conception becomes more difficult.  Uterine lining can be seen and measured via ultrasound and the thickness between 8 and 13 millimeters in the second part of the cycle (after ovulation) is generally considered normal.

What Causes Blood Deficiency?

Women are especially prone to blood deficiency especially if they have a history of a heavy menstrual flow.  It is important to replenish this excessive blood loss by eating blood nourishing according to TCM nutritional therapy and iron rich foods.  Insufficient nutritional protein intake is a very common contributing factor towards blood deficiency as well.  Active women, who experience heavy periods are advised to address their nutritional intake otherwise menstruation may stop causing amenorrhea. Vegans and vegetarians also run this risk.  According to TCM theory, over exercising tends to consume the blood which is why most professional athletes tend to stop menstruating.

Inability to absorb nutrients and gastrointestinal bleeding are important contributors to blood deficiency. If you experience digestive concerns it is important to tackle them before taking any blood tonic herbals which can be difficult to digest.  Worry, pensiveness, anxiety and over thinking can interact with the digestive process since the way we process our emotions is directly linked to the way we process our nutrients. That is why our gut has been referred to as our “second brain” and functional gastrointestinal disorders are closely linked to the amount of stress that we experience. Communication between the brain and digestion can be called that “Gut feeling” we all experience!

Other causes of Blood Deficiency include inherited tendencies (genetic issues), where mother or father were not in peak condition at conception and throughout the pregnancy.  Poor childhood diet or poor diet as an adult. Excessive blood loss while birthing a child, or due to an accident. Abnormal gut flora and parasites (flukes, pinworms, roundworms are most common).

Signs and Symptoms of Blood Deficiency

Typical signs and symptoms of blood deficiency include: A person may suffer one or more of these but not necessarily all of them.

  • History of irregular periods or heavy periods
  • Scanty, light and short menstrual bleeding
  • Amenorrhea (complete cessation of periods)
  • Fatigue especially during and after periods
  • Muscle cramps,
  • Dry eyes which may have floaters, blurred vision,
  • Dry skin, brittle nails, hair loss
  • Thin body constitution
  • Tingling and numbness in extremities, muscle tension
  • Tendency toward constipation and dry stools
  • Pale complexion, pale lips,
  • Easily startles, sense of not grounded,
  • Mental fatigue, Anxiety, Dizziness,
  • Tongue: Pale. Dry, Thin
  • Pulse: Weak, choppy, thready, fine, thin

Blood Deficiency Treatment

It may (will) be essential to change nutritional habits in order to treat Blood deficiency with taking blood building herbal tonics. To supplement blood with nutrition there are two general approaches:

  • Improving digestive function and absorption of nutrients
  • Add blood building foods.

General guidelines for improving overall digestive function include:

  • Remove processed and denatured foods from your diet
  • Reduce or completely avoid sugar
  • Include fresh vegetables on daily basis
  • Eat fruit when in season
  • Consume only best quality organic meats
  • Regularly consume fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, kefir, miso,
  • Drink only room temperature water and herbal tea,
  • Avoid fruit juices, coffee (especially decaf), sugary, energy drinks

It is especially important to include enough protein with every meal, supplement vitamin B12 as well as include cereal grasses like wheat grass and micro algae such as spirulina and chlorella.

To boost the amount of iron in your diet, try these foods:

    • Liver
  • Red meat
  • Blackstrap Molasses
  • Egg yolks
  • Dark, leafy greens (spinach, collards)
  • Dried fruit (prunes, raisins)
  • Iron-enriched cereals and grains (check the labels)
  • Mollusks (oysters, clams, scallops)
  • Turkey or chicken giblets
  • Beans, lentils, chick peas and soybeans
  • Artichokes

If you eat iron-rich foods along with foods that provide plenty of vitamin C, your body can better absorb the iron.

Chinese Nutritional Therapy

Traditional Chinese Medicine sees nutritional healing foods differently than Western nutritionists. For example an apple in Western nutrition contains 13 minerals, 14 vitamins and 386 phyto-nutrients where as in TCM an apple is cooling, sweet apples nourish the digestive process and sour apples sooth stress in the body. Both systems have gained their knowledge and understanding from extensive testing and empirical observation. There is no reason why we should not look at both excellent systems.

Traditional Chinese Medicine categorizes foods according to various

Foods that are specifically used to build blood include:

Animal protein:  chicken/beef liver, lamb, beef, chicken, turkey, gelatin, mussels, oysters, sardines, eggs
Grains: rice, oats, wheat, bran flakes, millet
Legumes: lentils, beans (black, kidney, navy, pinto), garbanzo beans, mung beans,
Vegetables: green leafy veggies (swiss chard, spinach, kale), beets, seaweed, sprouts, artichokes, mushrooms, cabbage, celery, watercress
Fruits: cherries, all berries (blackberry, raspberry…), grapes, dried apricots, dried figs, prunes
Nuts and seeds: almond, sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, cashew
Herbs/other: nettles, white peony root, angelica root, rhemannia root, royal jelly, mugwort, wheat grass, blackstrap molasses, spirulina,

General suggestions

  • Chew your food properly
  • Sit down when you eat and avoid watching TV, reading, talking on the phone while eating
  • Try to rest as much as possible during your period and keep you body well dressed and warm
  • Don’t exercise to the point of exhaustion
  • Use meditation or any other mind calming exercises that help you relax


James O’Sullivan - that's me, a people friendly practitioner and lecturer of Integrated Medicine, serving my patients, my students and the public with the positive benefits of both Conventional Western Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine. It's a wonderful life
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to diagnose or assess. The information provided is not to be considered a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care practitioner.
Please share! Help the word get out. Pin the graphic too.