Happy, Healthy Holidays by Letha Hadady

by Letha Hadady, D.Ac.

    Do you feel low during the holidays as reduced sunshine and shorter days zip by? It may be a joy to be with friends and family, but celebrations create their own problems. You will be eating unusual combinations of rich foods. You may stack one heavy meal on top of another as you celebrate with friends. Cold weather may upset digestion and circulation and increase pains. Fatigue may make it difficult to take a deep breath and relax. Greeting people you have not seen in a while may stir up emotions. You may feel anxious. Emotions may be stuck in the chest, stomach, or make you ache all over. These are everyday challenges that do not necessary lead to illness.

    Traditional Chinese medicine has long treated the energetic symptoms of depression, including fatigue, poor digestion, and weakened immunity. You may not be able to go home for the holidays, you may not want to--but healing foods and Chinese herbs boost morale, endurance, immunity. Because Chinese herbs are accepted by the body as foods instead of drugs, there are few side-effects. The herbs are formulated to create an internal state of balance.

    Chinese herbs are easy to use. Sophisticated diagnostic techniques are often unnecessary because you know when you feel upset. A laboratory test need not prove it. A homeopath may ask questions in order to ascertain which of the 400 types of grief described in a homeopathic materia medica you may have. But, for the most part, you already know how, when, and where you feel low.

    Depression may be aggravated by outside events. Barron's called the 1990's the "decade of depression." They were referring to the fact that between 1991 and 2001, the global sales of antidepression drugs rose 10 fold to over $11 billion, making them the drug industry's chief profit driver. Since 2001, we have had additional health issues to consider. The response by conventional medicine was more expensive drugs. When Eli Lilly's Prozac lost its patent protection, buyers rushed for less expensive generic knockoffs. To win back that market, Lilly diversified with Prozac for dogs and peppermint Prozac for kids! You'd think that improving diet and more time spent petting kids and dogs would also have beneficial effects!

    Sometimes depression is normal and healthy. In a 1621 treatise, "The Anatomy of Melancholy" 17th century English clergyman Robert Burton listed more five hundred causes for depression, including sorrow, fear, a bad marriage and death of a friend. Depression is the natural outcome of having feelings. Often we need to admit discomfort in order to change our lifestyle. A mind drug, or another heavy-handed approach, can lead to side effects. Based on research done on blood-pressure lowering drugs, during the 1980's the first antidepression drugs were invented. Tricyclic drugs boost neurotransmitters (chemicals) in the brain restoring proper mental functioning and moods. However, side-effects included fainting and death from accidental overdose. Clinicians still do not understand how these brain chemical drugs work. Weight gain and sexual dysfunction, among the common side-effects, are also cause for depression.

How do you feel when depressed?

  • tired, weak
  • sad
  • low energy
  • aches and pains
  • poor digestion
  • impaired concentration
  • poor sleep patterns
  • unable to move forward


    According to traditional Chinese medicine, depression is the result of poor vitality, improper digestion, inadequate circulation sometimes with an irregular heart beat, and possibly a hormonal imbalance. Because there are so many discomforts associated with depression, Chinese herbal doctors often treat its effects without trying to affect brain chemicals. Even if we can heal the brain to allow for its normal functioning, life complicates things. To make progress, we need courage to move forward with grace, dignity, and self-respect. Everyday needs such as eating and sleeping have to be met so that the entire person--not just the brain--can benefit.
Digestion and Mood

    If it is difficult for you to digest your meals, it may be difficult to digest your life: You may remain tired or have lack-luster energy no matter how great your healthfoods are. Digestion is the key to vitality and beauty. If digestion suffers, foods are wasted. We remain weak, spacy, and undernourished.

    Your digestive center is also your emotional center. Have you noticed that sometimes you feel as though you cannot stomach a problem, digest a situation, or deal with someone's garbage?  Do you feel fed-up? Your digestion may not be able to handle your work load or life style. A digestive remedy can help to maintain a stable blood sugar level and therefore, improve mental clarity and reduce addictive food cravings.

    Chinese digestive pills treat a variety of comfort issues, including blood sugar swings from an over-sensitized pancreas and an irritated liver. The pills aim to restore digestive harmony and improve absorption. That tends to even out emotions.

Healing that "Off-Center" Feeling

    Happy Tummy Pills, a popular Chinese digestive remedy combines safe herbs for indigestion, bloating, low vitality, food allergies, sinus congestion, chest discomfort from irregular heartbeat, hiatal hernia (pain under the ribs) and acid reflux. Its digestive herbs help to prevent hypoglycemia spaciness for people who are too busy, tired, or distracted to eat properly. The formula includes ginger, mint, bupleurum, three blood enhancing herbs--atractylodes, tang kuei, and peonia, and fu ling, a diuretic recommended for sluggishness, water retention, and lower abdomen discomfort.
    Ginger and mint warm the tummy. Ginger settles the stomach and normalizes appetite. Mint soothes spasms. The blood-enhancing herbs do not contain iron but increase the body's ability for digestion and blood production. They are often recommended for women who have PMS, mood  swings, or digestive bloating. However, the remedy can be used by anyone. It works fine for hard to digest meals, tense meetings, and chest and abdominal discomforts.

    An effective dose is the number of pills needed to create comfort with meals (even if you do not eat) several times daily. Since the ingredients are digestive herbs such as those you might add to a soup stock, the number of pills is like a handful of herbs. For example 6-10 pills three times daily. If you are extremely sensitive, start with 2 -3 pills at a time. If the tongue is pale and scalloped, indicating low vitality and blood sugar (hypoglycemia), the dose can be increased.

Healing that "Weak and Weepy" Feeling

    Traditional Chinese medicine treats poor concentration, mental instability, and impaired sleep with deeply nourishing herbs. When our basic needs are met, life can impose its demands: We are free to enjoy the holidays or any sort of stress. How do you feel stress? Let's consider:

When do you feel most vulnerable?

  • when you are tired
  • during PMS
  • after your period
  • if you have not eaten
  • after an illness
  • after an argument
  • at night after work
  • after hearing bad news
  • when dealing with a new situation or people
  • when I cannot sleep well enough


    It is normal to feel vulnerable when tired. You feel out of step with everyone else. Take a while to rest and regroup. If you checked issues concerning PMS and menstruation, you may benefit from blood-enhancing herbs in order to make menstruation adequate and comfortable. Even if you do not have a period, blood-enhancing herbs are vital for internal organs and are beautifying. Our blood is the source of nutrients for healthy skin, hair, nails, bones, muscles, and nerves.

    Many people feel drained from overwork or when dealing with new people and situations. They need physical and emotional slack so they can stretch and become more than usual--a bigger person. Having extra vitality (also called Qi) from Chinese tonic herbs helps us to deal with any thing that comes along. You can feel capable of dealing with bad news and tough situations when you have extra vitality from energy tonics and resilience from blood tonics. That is why most top quality Chinese anti-stress formulas contain both herbs that build vitality (Qi) and blood.

    Chinese energy tonics such as several forms of ginseng and astragalus combined with blood-enhancing herbs such as tang kuei and rehmannia, which lowers blood sugar in diabetes, maintain a high level of wellness. They create normalcy for body and mind. Qi tonics increase drive and enthusiasm. Blood tonics let us rest and rejuvenate.

    Astragalus, a root in the vetch family, is a high quality tonic and known cancer-preventing herb recommended for fatigue, weak legs, and abnormal sweating. For example, some people, when weak and tired, break out in a sweat for no good reason. That is called spontaneous sweating. Astragalus raises immunity, energy, increases T cells and stops abnormal (spontaneous) sweating. It tastes mildly sweet when cooked in a soup stock.

Astragalus Plus

    Astragalus Plus pills contain astragalus to improve vitality, blood enhancing herbs to relax tense muscles, and cinnamon to warm circulation. In China, this formula is recommended for irregular appetite, chronic fatigue, facial pallor, and weakness or sadness following overwork, an illness, or childbirth. Cinnamon is a good herb for cold weather or winter because it reverses hypothermia, chills, weakness, menstrual cramps, and stiffness from cold. The formula's main ingredients are energy tonics including astragalus and codonopsis, a form of ginseng recommended for weakness and chronic conditions such as diarrhea or prolapsed organs. Also included are blood tonics for health and beauty, including tang kuei and rehmannia. Peonia is included to soothe the nerves.

    This formula works for both men and women. It may feel best for reversing weakness, chills, vulnerability, and low enthusiasm resulting from overwork, blood-loss, and illness. Try it when you feel drained. If such an energy tonic makes you feel irritable, insomniac, or constipated, you may need a more cooling, moistening tonic or you may need to reduce the dose.

    When trying a new herbal formula, I always smell it first. I connect with the herbs subtle energy and let the aroma make me feel better, calmer, and stronger. A typical recommended dose for an energy tonic such as those mentioned in this column is 6 -10 pills once to three times daily as needed. But you will be able to judge the best dose for yourself. After all, you are unique. Your requirements are special and concerning your vitality you know best.



Chinese Herbal Medicine

Both herbal pills, Happy Tummy and Astragalus Plus are
now available for purchase on ChinaSprout.com. Click on
the button below to order yours now!