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I. Protecting the spleen and stomach | II. Nourishing the kidney and liver

Delay Physical Aging with Chinese Medicine

During middle age, physical deterioration such as diminished endurance, gray hair, loose teeth, weight gain, loss of muscle mass, decline in agility and increased susceptibility to health problems are already apparent. These changes often make us feel bad and keep us from fully enjoying life. Health maintenance then becomes a major concern. See "Introduction to Health Maintenance in Chinese Medicine".

According to TCM, body weight is closely associated with the spleen's transportation and transformation functions. Normal spleen functioning ensures blood and qi (vital energy) are abundant, and the body is muscular and healthy. If the spleen fails in its transportation function, it will lead to phlegm and dampness accumulating internally, finally becomes obesity. On the other hand, if the transformation function is improper, there is inadequate source of nourishment, the body will be underweight. Furthermore, agility and flexibility not only need strong muscles, but also depend on the coordination of bones, tendons and ligaments. Liver blood promotes flexible joints and kidney essence ensures a firm and straight body framework. As we grow older, decline in these three organs forces causes changes in the physical appearance of our bodies and limits the physical activities we can perform.

For physical fitness, TCM stresses protecting the spleen and stomach to ensure physical endurance as well as nourishing the kidney and liver for sustainable flexibility and mobility .

1. Protecting the spleen and stomach

Individuals tending to obesity should avoid greasy and sweet foods, and also control the amount of food consumption; this is said to prevent overloading of the spleen and stomach that will lead to dampness and phlegm accumulation. They should also maintain regular bowel habits, or enhance the frequency if necessary. Common ingredients for weight loss include tangerine peel, hawthorn fruits, cassia seed (cao jue ming), fleece flower root, Chinese rhubarb, lotus leaf and radish seed, the prescriptions usually based on syndrome differentiation. Massage along the Spleen Meridian and Stomach Meridian are beneficial. See article, "Obesity and Weight Loss".

Radish seeds
Coix seeds

Individuals who are underweight should have a more enriching and easily digested diet, pay attention to the dietary restraints and taboos. In order to prevent further disturbance of digestive functions, they should not eat too much raw, frozen food or foods with cold properties, and they should always keep the abdominal region warm as external coldness can easily induce diarrhea. Herbs for promoting digestive and absorption functions include pilose asiabell root (dang shen), largehead atractylodes root (bai shu), hyacinth bean, astragalus, Chinese yam and dates. Moxibustion using moxa sticks to heating acupoints like zhong wan, zu san li and qi hai help to enhance the digestive process.

Points for moxibustion

An individual with spleen weakness presents with a sallow face, poor appetite, bloating after meals, loose stools, flabby limbs, drooping eyelids, sagging body and loose skin. Remedies for fortifying the spleen and promoting qi (vital energy) production are necessary. Some enriching soft extracts or pill are recommended. Traditionally, people would consult a physician for a customized prescription. A considerable amount of ingredients (at least two months dosage) are prepared as a concentrated decoction, then further concentrated as a strained liquid, and finally cooked with the addition of honey to make into a syrup or gel-like extract. Alternately, just ground the ingredients and made into pills. They are taken regularly, in small amounts over a long period.

Prepare Solomon's seal rhizome (huang jing), poria, astragalus and angelica root (150g of each), and 450ml millet wine. Decoct the ingredients and make into a syrup; eat 1-2 tablespoons every day, twice a day.
Chinese yam (15g), black sesame (120g), rice (60g), milk (200ml), rose (3g) and rock sugar (120g). Stir-fry the black sesame, yam and rice over low heat for about 5 minutes; grind them with 1/4 cup of water and the milk in a blender or food processor. Pour the mixture, sugar, rose and add 1/2 cup of water into a saucepan, cook over medium heat for 10 minutes or until the mixture turns thick, stirring constantly to avoid burning. Take 50 ml of this delicious dessert each day.

2. Nourishing the kidney and liver

The liver stores blood and the kidneys store essence; the two organs are correlated with each other both in physiology and pathology. They are responsible for major aging signs like blurred version, diminished hearing, gray hair, joint stiffness, menstrual problems, clumsy movements, low hormone levels, fragile bones, shrinkage of the sexual organs, and an overall decrease in energy and vigor. Anti-aging remedies should always consider these two organs; the usual ingredients for tonifying include processed rhemannia rhizome (shu di), Chinese yam, wolfberry fruits, dodder seeds, flatstem asgragalus seed (sha yuan zi), acorus (chang pu), schisandra, deer horn, Solomon's seal rhizome (huang jing), walnut and cordyceps. The following are sample prescriptions:

Dodder seeds
Processed rhemannia rhizome
(shu di)
Solomon's seal rhizome
(huang jing)
Dodder seeds and cistanche (rou cong rong) (90g each), schisandra, Japanese teasel root (xu duan), Chinese senega (yuan zhi), cornus fruit (shan yu rou) and oriental water-plantain root (45g each), ledebouriella root (fang feng, 60g) and morinda root (30g). Grind into a powder, add honey and make into pills. Every morning before breakfast, take 30g with a small cup of wine or mild salty water. This helps promote physical vigor and vision.
Walnut (250g), psoralea, long yam (bi xia) and eucommia bark (120g each). Grind and make into pills. Take 50g, twice a day with a small cup of wine or mild salty water. This helps promote kidney qi and strengthen bones and tendons.
Poria (1500g) and white chrysanthemum (500g), grind to a powder and add some pine resin to make into pills. Each time take 10g, twice a day, with a small cup of wine. This improves skin texture, promotes hearing and vision and strengthens bone.

Some individuals develop dark age spots, purplish lips, nail deformity, dull complexion, blood vessel dilatation and excessive throat secretions. TCM regards these signs of aging as a state of blood stasis and an accumulation of phlegm; physicians will pinpoint these problems by activating blood flow and dissolving phlegm for a period of time. The following is a sample prescription: processed rhemannia rhizome (24g), cornus fruit (12g), Chinese yam (12g), peony tree root bark (9g), poria (9g), oriental water-plantain root (9g), monkshood (5g), cassia bark (5g), red sage root (10g), motherwort herb (10g), acorus (10g) and belvedere fruit (10g). Decoct and take once a day.

Eventually , engaging in an exercise program is crucial, even simple stretching or other traditional exercises. Exercise not just leads to fewer physical problems; it also provides more energy for accomplishing daily tasks.