As we age, it is imperative that we stay active. But when aches and pains start to impede our ability to move freely, this can cause us to inadvertently slow down and suffer. Aging is not something we can stop, but we can make it as seamless as possible to transition into older age. By offering our older selves consistent care and support, we can reduce the strain on our bodies through various practices and procedures. In this way, we take an active role in aging and in pain management to not only maintain, but to improve, quality of life in the present and future.
Chinese Herbal Medicine and Living A Long Life
Chinese Medicine has a long history of focus on longevity. From early emperors, to barefoot doctors treating in remote villages, Chinese medicine has incorporated the idea of promoting a long-lasting livelihood. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the basis of all health and longevity is stored in the Jing, also known as the Essence. The Jing is located between the kidneys and provides the foundation for all healing, nourishment and development within the body. Jing is a substance that we are born with, and can support, but cannot ever completely restore. Though, this does not mean we should overlook the care and concern for keeping our Jing as supple and prolific as possible. Maintaining Jing is a primary focus for people who want to avoid the burnout and adrenal fatigue that is so common in our current society. Instead of succumbing to pressures of the politics of the present, we can focus our energies on rehabilitation and maintenance of our Essence.
Some ways to nourish and preserve our Jing include:
- Practice natural, slow and steady movements. This could mean going to the gym daily, if that feels supportive for your body. But it could also mean working outside in the sunshine and tending to the garden. It could mean taking a stroll with a friend, or meeting for an active day of adventures. Movement is one of the essential aspects of Chinese Medicine. Qi Gong and Tai Chi are movement practices that honor the elements of nature that are foundational to Daoism. These practices encourage perspective of the self within the longer cycles of life and within the cosmos. Thus, participating in these practices may not only reduce physical pains of aging, but can bring presence to the aging process.
- Staying hydrated is imperative at all ages. Dehydration of the body quickly leads to degradation. In Chinese Medicine, the Yin is the substance that, with support of the Jing, nourishes and moistens the body. Consuming foods and herbs that are Yin-nourishing can have a great impact on the vigor and vitality of the aged. Yin substances keep the joints and organs lubricated and nourished. To bolster yin, eat fruits including cucumber, peas, potatoes, seaweed, yams and more. Cooling and watery foods like lettuces, cucumbers, sprouts, melons, celery and fish can all relieve heat in the body and support Yin. Incorporating herbal medicine is another way to support this vital substance. Herbs such as valerian, lemon balm, chamomile, jujube and Schisandra are all wonderful yin tonics. A potent herbal wine can also be consumed to increase longevity by strengthening the liver and kidneys, strengthening bone and connective tissue, improving circulation and other benefits.
- Adaptogens are another important support system in herbal Chinese Medicine. Adaptogens offer mechanisms by which the body can be balanced into its most efficient medicine. One of the most prized adaptogens in Chinese Medicine is the cordyceps mushroom. This mushroom supports the lung and kidneys and can bolster the Qi. As an adaptogen, cordyceps has the ability to work as a yin or yang tonic, and will do so as needed in the body. In a sense, cordyceps has an innate intelligence and ability to know what our body lacks or has in excess at any moment. This is the incredible gift of the natural world we are a part of. A deeply nourishing soup of cordyceps and abalone is a wonderful way to support the Jing. Adaptogenic herbs, such as astragalus, can also be added to traditional broths and soups for extra energy.
- Sometimes, many years of a poor diet can rob the body of essential nutrients that keep the body strong and able to quickly heal from injury. Applying topical herbal liniments called Dit Da Jow to painful spots of degeneration or to chronic injuries can be especially rejuvenating to the aging body. Ancestors Advanced is a particularly powerful Dit Da Jow for relieving arthritis pain. It is also great for conditioning and maintaining strength in areas that sustain the greatest wear and tear over time. This formula works by improving circulation and supporting the body’s natural bone and joint strengthening process.
Bringing Balance Back to the Body
These are only a few ways to reduce the aches and pains of aging, while also nourishing the body, mind and spirit from within. A trained herbalist can provide more specific suggestions for an individual’s needs and nature. Herbal medicine, over time, has had an incredible impact on the health and longevity of many people, from ancient to modern times. Modern medicine may often overlook the abundance of nature that is available to support us from all angles, but traditional herbalists hold true to the vision of a long and prosperous life lived in alignment with nature.