Balancing act

Traditional medicine is all about balance: using ‘hot’ herbs to warm up a cold constitution, ‘colder’ ones to ease hot states like inflammation, acute illness, high blood pressure and so on. It sounds simplistic, but you find the same logic in all the ancient healing systems of the world: look for the patterns, see which plant will counteract which problem.
Sometimes it’s obvious whether a herb is hot or cold; no-one would be in two minds about capsicum, ginger or horseradish, for example, just as no-one would classify lettuce or cucumber as hot foods. Sometimes you judge by effects. The warming aromatic herbs tend to improve digestion and help the circulation, whereas bitter herbs cool you down inside, and help ease hot flushes and acute episodes of eczema. And sometimes, of course, it’s not so simple, but the old systems, whether you prefer the Chinese, Ayurvedic, Western or some other way, still provide a solid basis for understanding the way herbs work.


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