Food Therapy in Chinese Medicine

If you’re looking for a diet that boosts your energy levels, smooth digestion and harmonize with the seasons, consider turning to whole food therapy. Daoist practitioners and healers in the eastern arts used a wide array of different techniques to cultivate qi, including diet. Alongside exercise, meditation and healing techniques like acupressure, a qi-enhancing diet can promote excellent health, improve your athletic performance and extend your longevity.

Humans live in a constant state of change. From the turning of the seasons to the daily fluctuations of emotions to our chaotic thoughts and not to mention our sleep cycle, an individual is never the same from moment to moment. A qi diet uses food to correct trends of imbalances that arise from the changes in our environment as well as predispositions. In harmonizing the shifting conditions, your diet can minimize the impact on your health and derive qi from food more efficiently. In general, the more pure your food is the better quality your energy.

It's no secret that qi and emotional states are integrally linked. A happy chicken carries a higher quality vibration in its tissues than a depressed chicken. Consuming higher quality foods, from a Daoist perspective, will also assist in raising the emotional state and clearing energetic pathogens that have accumulated through certain traumas. Emphasize fresh, locally grown and seasonal foods since the qi they contain is best suited to where you live. 

Food Types

Traditional Chinese medicine, or TCM, classifies foods according to the energy they carry. The most important criteria are the thermal quality of food and its flavor. Food can be hot, warm, neutral, cool or cold. These categories don’t correspond to physical temperature, but rather the energetic quality of the food. Chinese cuisine identifies five different flavors: sweet, spicy, sour, bitter and salty. Each flavor resonates with a different organ system in the body: for example, spicy foods enhance the fiery energy of the heart.

TCM views food as medicine. Just as your prescription medication might not work for someone else or could be harmful, your ideal food combination will not work for everyone. People with yang qi deficiency for example, might have a pale face, breathlessness and cold extremities. Of course, you can imagine they'd benefit from eating warming foods. Foods like ginger, sweet brown rice, pumpkin and chicken would be suitable for somone with sucha  deficiency. However,  yin qi deficient people might feel warm in the afternoons and suffer night sweats. To correct this imbalance, cooling foods may be in order. Foods like: tofu, mushrooms, lemons, raspberries or duck.

Herbs & Exercise 

While food is a major part of qi cultivation, there are other ways to enhance qi. Chinese herbal medicine can fine tune your energy in ways that diet alone cannot. Additionally, Daoist exercises like Taiji and QiGong meditation cultivate the skill of drawing qi from your environment and the food you eat as well as more efficiently circulating qi throughout your body. Pairing the appropriate herbs with the correct diet while maintaining a regular physical practice is considered ideal and are thought to yield the most powerful results in balancing qi and achieving better health. 

For more information, consider consulting "Healing With Whole Foods" by Paul Pitchford


Kimberly McNeil