A number of Taiwanese have told me that certain foods are to be avoided or eaten in moderation, such as lychee. The reason is they make you “heated”. What exactly does that mean, or is it a lousy translation?
Dunno. But I hear mango is another.
The cool ones are watermelon, apple, and pear. I believe.
I think the heated ones are the pulpier ones rather than the lighter, watery ones. Lichees are very sweet and gobby. Don’t like em.
There’s another thing about lichees and longans that Watersheds girl Andy told me, and that is that lichee people are different from longan people. Must be something like the bloodtype phenomenon…
But Taiwanese have all kinds of strange food superstitions/old wives tales.
When I’d broke my leg years ago, my mother-in-law told me not to eat peanuts or shell fish as the bone wouldn’t knit well. I didn’t, and the bone never did knit that well anyway!
That’s a big question.
Traditional oriental medical theories use concepts such as ‘heat’, ‘cold’, ‘dampness’ and ‘dryness’ to describe what’s going on in the body and the effect that outside influences such as food and weather have on the body. ‘Heat’ in itself is not a bad thing but the body should be in a state of balance; not too hot, not too cold etc.
Certain manifestations of too much ‘heat’, such as a fever, are easily seen as such - the body temperature is raised. Others, such as some acne or rashes are less intuitive to us, unaccustomed as we are to thinking in the oriental medical paradigm.
To make things more complicated, symptoms such as acne in two people which might appear the same to a western doctor could well be described as originating from differing internal causes by an oriental medical practitioner.
In addition, there is not only one kind of ‘heat’; it can be subclassified e.g. dry heat, damp heat, rising heat, falling heat etc., all based on Chinese and other Asian medical practitioners’ observations of the body over thousands of years.
Happily, the main point is balance. Not too much of any one type of energy be it heating, cooling etc. If you eat a generally balanced diet with more warming soups etc in the winter, wear appropriate clothing and take some moderate exercise, your body is likely to be able to balance itself. (Plus, as any Chinese doctor will tell you, avoid ice cold drinks and food - not that one or two a week will hurt you, but a lot every day could upset things).
That’s why your friends tell you these things; in the interest of maintaining the energetic balance in your body.
If you are interested in learning more about the traditional Chinese medical paradigm I recommend reading “Chinese Medicine: The Web That Has No Weaver” by Ted Kaptchuck.
Have you ever had a look at any of the famous Chinese medical texts? I’ve looked at Ming and Qing dynasty works for insights into how Chinese classified wildlife. Complete voodoo! Even Taiwanese researchers make fun of this hot/cold b%llsh@t.
I don’t want to get into too much of a discussion on this as it’s not worth it.
Traditional Chinese medicine is based on that most crucial of scientific methods; observation of real-life data. While western medicine has been doing this over a few hundred years, Chinese medicine has a couple of thousand. (Having said that, it’s quite clear that western medicine is better for many acute illnesses or types of trauma; and in other cases such as cancer, Chinese and western treatments can effectively be used alongside each other).
Whereas western medicine sometimes seems to create theories first and then apply them to the body, Chinese medicine looks at diseases or imbalances and their effective treatments and then describes that. Words such as ‘heat’ and ‘cold’ are not so very important; they are just convenient labels for energy patterns or imbalances.
Of course there is a large and growing body of scientific research showing the effectiveness of certain TCM interventions such as herbal medicine for skin problems or acupuncture for anesthesia.
What is perhaps more important than your ‘belief’ or not in TCM is your willingness to study it from its own side. As you seem to be some kind of scholar or writer, perhaps with an interest in anthropology, you should know how important it is to look at cultural phenomena within their proper context, according to their own values. This doesn’t mean that you should abandon your own judgement, but perhaps that you should be able to put it on one side for a certain period while observing, before exercising your judgment in a more informed way afterwards. You should also know that any attempt to look at a root text such as the Chinese medical classics is a pointless waste of time unless they are accompanied by a commentary written by someone within that tradition who fully understands the significance of the texts within their wider context. I don’t know what books you were looking at but I suspect that you took rather literally things that were supposed to be symbolic or metaphorical in some way.
What bothers me about yours and others’ reactions to TCM is not your belief or not in it (after all, it is not a matter of ghosts and gods but rather an in-depth description of observed phenomena) but your unwillingness to engage with it in a respectful and scholarly manner. How can you be so naive as to dismiss in an instant the sincere and hard work of centuries? I am not a Christian but I respect Christians and I am willing to engage with their beliefs and study Christian theology with some empathy and respect for what it looks like from the inside. In the same way I have great respect for researchers within the western medical paradigm and believe that a lot of great advances have been made in the last century. (There are a surprising number of western-medically- trained doctors who use some aspects of TCM in their practice, by the way).
As a sidenote, it is worth reflecting how subjective supposedly objective western researchers and scholars and their work can be; the social anthropologist Mary Douglas has looked into this it some depth. An anecdote vaguely related to this is that my friend’s cousin is a research biologist. Every summer she and her colleagues go up to the north-east coast of the USA to do field work. In the little town where they stay there is a ‘lucky’ statue in the town square. One by one, upon arrival, the scientists look round surreptitiously to check that none of their colleagues is watching, then touch the statue. Unfortunately for them, my friend’s cousin happened to see them. (She always touches the statue as well).
Try reading the Kaptchuck book and then come back and discuss some more if you like.
I don’t know all the scientific explanation for “hot” and “cold” foods, but people in Asia generally know them by “gut” feeling. Another kind of “hot” food would be goat meat, shellfish and durian . Watermelons are “cold” so are cucumbers.
What I know is that if you eat goat meat or shellfish in excess, you get too much sexual heat, that’s why you should eat them in moderation – unless of course sexual heat is what you’re after in the first place.
Another kind of heat effects your insides, what the Indonesians call “panas dalam” (inner heat). It could cause mouth ulcers, dryness in the throat, etc.
I’ve been told that lychees and durian are very “hot.” I don’t know one way or another, but I do know that when I eat too much of either, I get messy and spontaneous nose-bleeds.
However, my love both those fuits is far stronger than my distaste of nosebleeds, so I just make sure I have plenty of kleenex on hand when I’m on a lychee binge.
As for lychee and longan people, I love lychees but despise longans, so maybe there’s something in it.
Traditional Chinese medicine is based on that most crucial of scientific methods; observation of real-life data. While western medicine has been doing this over a few hundred years, Chinese medicine has a couple of thousand. [/quote]
Uhhh…right. And they’re doing a GREAT job over at Ho Ping Hospital, aren’t they? The Romans would have handled SARS better than it’s being done either here or across the creek.
I suggest you go back and take alook at some of the Greco-Roman medical texts writen 2,000+ years ago.
"Ancient Roman medicine was, surprisingly, incredibly similar to
that of the late nineteenth century. Like the modern medical practice, Ancient Roman medicine was split among different specialties, such as internists, ophthalmologists, and urologists. All surgical tasks were only preformed by appropriate specialists. Surgeons used practically the same tools as American doctors did only one hundred years ago. An Ancient Roman doctor
But the Ho Ping is a western-style hospital, not a TCM one.
Anyway…eating too many mangoes makes your skin itch. Try it.
But who’s it staffed by?
Mangoes, ice, rum and a blender. Yum!
Blueface, you raise some good points. Firstly, you’ll find that many western-style doctors here regard traditional medicine as just so much hocus-pocus. Lack of understanding and the abundance of quacks contributes to this. Western attitudes towards traditional Chinese medicine tend towards polar extremes; one is that it’s all nonsense; the other is that it’s much better than western medicine in all cases and that every Chinese person can somehow mystically practice Chinese medicine or something like that. To a large degree (in Taiwan, I suspect in mainland China as well) popular knowledge is and always has been at the level of folk medicine. That’s great if some useful knowledge filters down from really great scholar/practitioners, less good where people lack the background knowledge and analytical ability to realise that something like the current pineapple craze for SARS prevention is nonsense.
Secondly, your point about Greek and Roman medicine is valid and useful. They actually have many similarities to Chinese traditional medicine. You point out that the Romans didn’t really understand germs but that they knew how to kill them. I’ve heard that the Greeks at least had a concept of different kinds of energy, which would later be called ‘humours’ among alchemists, in the body, similar to the TCM concepts of hot, dry, rising etc. I suggest that maybe the Romans didn’t understand germs in the way western science does but that their own medical paradigm was still sophisticated and functional (I’ll have to thoroughly read those useful links you posted to get some kind of idea on this). Both TCM and Greco-Roman medicine were developed out of practical experiences; the theory followed the observation. Both developed in societies with strong organisational and governmental structures and sophisticated educational systems. The lack of such structures and systems may well have been what prevented other folk medicines from becoming comprehensive and fully developed.
So yes, ‘western’ medicine in the strict sense of the word was also highly developed 2 thousand years ago. But by the time that modern science started to emerge the Greek and Roman medical heritage had practically disappeared and doctors were feared and distrusted. As you quote, many things such as germ prevention had to be “reinvented”. What happened inbetween? Of course, the Greek and Roman empires had disappeared. The golden age of Arabic science, another situation of sophisticated scientific and medical knowledge, had come and gone. What remained were traces of the old systems, totemised, mysticised and decontextualised to the extent that they really were the hocus-pocus that modern science despised. An excellent account of this period can be found in Keith Thomas’s ‘Religion and the decline of magic: studies in popular beliefs in sixteenth and seventeenth century England’. As modern science was formed in opposition to this mess, it is not surprising that western attitudes (including those educated in western scientific contexts) to other systems tend towards suspicion and/or naivete.
Interestingly, another complex and developed medical system, the Tibetan one, was formulated largely as a result of meetings with top doctors in the Greek, Chinese and Indian systems. A warning, however; it is easy to read a little about Tibetan medicine and be either put-off or over-enthralled by accounts of divination or spirits. To understand this in context it is necessary to have some down-to-earth practical knowledge of the Buddhist dharma in Tibet, something which is currently rather lacking despite the plethora of sensational books available which claim to reveal hidden secrets etc., and the many spurious and self-appointed masters. One form of this contextualisation is to realise that some of what is talked about in such language as ‘spirits’ would be described by western scientists as environmental or other causes of disease. With this caveat in mind, I cautiously recommend Dr Yeshi Donden’s ‘Health Through Balance: an Introduction to Tibetan Medicine’ to those who would like to know more.