Tuesday, June 24, 2008

...anti-aging properties?

I've noticed so many things are touted as having anti-aging properties. I just put together a booklet on goji berries -it is free and available at our office - and a lot of information about goji berries mentions anti-aging properties. People even talk about acupuncture as having anti-aging effects (what's so bad about aging, anyway?!) So I thought I'd talk about it here, and a little on what is meant by that.

First...aging. Really nothing wrong with that! It's happening to everyone, every moment of the day and night. People often come in with symptoms and explain that it's just "aging", even their doctors tell them that (as in, "there's nothing you can do about that back pain (or whatever), it's just your age..."), and they honestly don't expect that their symptoms could possible go away. But if age actually caused symptoms, then everyone who reached a certain age would have those symptoms. And there are people who live actively and healthfully into their eighties, nineties and beyond (I love Helen and Scott Nearing's books on The Good Life, about their homesteading life in Vermont and Maine.) So, it's not aging, per se, it's a particular person's body being unable to keep up with the waste-clearing and repairing that is necessary for optimum health and well-being.

This happens for many reasons: not enough rest, improper diet, excessive manual or mental work, emotional and psychic/mental trauma, etc. Toxins build up in the tissues and organs and over time we have signs and symptoms that are chalked up to "aging."

So why, then, would an herb like Goji berries, (gou zi zi in Chinese)or acupuncture treatments, or a raw foods diet be helpful in reversing these symptoms? Because they support bringing the body to balance, allowing the body to rest, energize and clear out the toxins and regenerate itself.

The herb gou qi zi (goji berries) supports the liver and kidneys. In Chinese medicine, the liver and kidneys help cleanse toxins from the body and the kidneys are the root of all the body's yin and yang (it's root energy, or qi.) As the kidney energy gets depleted, we get signs that we correlate with aging: sore back and knees, arthritis, eye/vision problems, ear/hearing problems, memory loss, fatigue, menopausal symptoms, insomnia, drying of body fluids, ringing in the ears, gray hair. Sometimes these symptoms come when we are still relatively young, in our twenties, thirties or forties, people come in with "early menopause" or premature graying of the hair. That could be because constitutionally our kidney energy is weaker (so supporting it with nourishing food, acupuncture, herbs and proper lifestyle will be incredibly helpful), or our lifestyle is depleting the energy.

What is very interesting to me - and a lost concept in our culture - is the concept in Chinese medicine that when we age our physical energy may get depleted, but the spiritual energy of the kidneys increases, and the spiritual energy of the kidneys is wisdom. That is why in traditional cultures people often show great respect for our elders, though in this culture, since that spiritual aspect is lost, when our physical vitality decreases our worth is thought to decrease as well (thus the emphasis on "anti-aging" products.)

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, if you hear or read about something with "anti-aging" properties, it usually means it is supportive to the kidney energy: and will often help strengthen the back and knees, will help the functions of the ears and eyes, help energy and memory, will support the body enough that the hair will be nourished, ending hair loss and premature graying of the hair, etc.

In fact, gou qi zi, or goji berries, which are known to be incredibly beneficial to the eyes, are found to be very high in the bioflavanoid zeaxanthin, which is crucial to the good health of the eyes. Goji berries are high in anti-oxidants, vitamins A, C and many B complex vitamins, and contain 19 amino acids (the building blocks of protein), including all eight essential amino acids. Goji berries are actually 10% protein.

All this information (and more) is in the booklet: Goji Berries, Chinese Herb and Superfood, along with great recipes and recipe ideas for using goji berries. (The booklet is free and available at The Birch Center.) Now at the Birch Center we carry raw organic goji berries, as well as handmade goji berry treats such as the Superfood Trail Mix and Goji-Date-Nut balls, (both recipes are also in the booklet.)

We hope to see you soon, and that you are having a great summer! If you can't get to the Birch Center but would like a booklet, you can email us at birchcenter@yahoo.com, but we should also have it available as a free download soon. And of course, I will let you know as soon as the complete book on Goji berries - full of amazing recipes - is finished and available!


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