As I've talked about throughout my recipes, the key principles of Chinese dietary therapy, particularly in keeping one's "Middle Burner" warm, holds the key to all thing in maintaining physical, mental and spiritual balance. During my travels through Asia, I'm always amazed by the degree to which people turn to the right flavor and "temperature" types in their food and ingredient selections to help maintain their health goals. This is particularly true for women, who stay clear of anything "cold" during the menstrual cycle to help offset the negative side effects of their monthly cycles (translation - no cold salads, pressed juices, and the like).
The Concept of "Cold" and Menstrual Pain
According to Chinese medicine theory, there can be many reasons for menstrual pain. One of the most common factors is “cold” (for an overview on the concept of cold in Chinese dietary therapy, read this article). In a pinch, when abdominal discomfort hits, many women in China might seek relief by heading first to their kitchen to brew a ginger tea, sweetened with brown sugar.
Ginger, an essential spice in Chinese cuisine and Chinese medicine, is also a wonderful “pungent, warming” herb (helping keep your stomach "warm"). Often times, doctors of Chinese medicine use this to warm the stomach and stop vomiting. Brown sugar, which is also considered “warming” from a Chinese medicine perspective, complements ginger by softening its spicy effects on the palate. The recipe below is my version of a well-known folk remedy from China for relieving menstrual cramping.
A Modern Twist on a Popular "Remedy" for Women in China
According to Chinese dietary therapy, because ginger tends to travel more to the upper and central abdomen, I have improved upon this home remedy by adding two more spices to bring warmth to the lower abdomen, the focus of the problem for many women during their cycles. First, I added cinnamon bark (you can simply use cinnamon), which is “hot and pungent” and travels to the “Blood” level as well, making it a powerful medicinal for moving one's blood, "dispersing cold", and relieving menstrual pain.
Next, we added fennel seeds, which have similar properties but relieve pain by working at the “Qi” level. Together, these two spices ensure that Qi and Blood begin to move again, clearing away the “blockages” that often cause pain during menstruation.
This tasty warm beverage may be an excellent way to survive the discomforts of your monthly cycle. If you don’t have all these ingredients in your pantry, feel free to substitute other spices. You might consider cloves which "warm the interior", dispel pain, and stop vomiting; nutmeg also warms the interior and moves Qi; cardamom transforms dampness and stops vomiting.
Lastly, for added relief, you could consider adding a packet of Emotional Balance (used widely for PMS related needs) or our Women’s Formula (supports cycle regularity) to this brew. Typically, doctors of Chinese medicine claim that menstrual cramping coming before or just as the period begins is caused by “excess.” Using Emotional Balance, which resolves Qi constraint, could give additional relief at this time.
Cramping that begins after the period starts (and usually is less intense) is generally due to “deficiency.” Adding a packet of Woman’s Formula, which supplements and gently moves blood, would be helpful in this situation. Its raspberry and black pepper flavoring will also blend nicely with the other spices in this warming beverage.
Frothy Chai Spiced Almond Milk
Serving size: About 2
Prep Time / Cook Time: 5 minutes / 15 minutes
10 Ounces Water
¼ Teaspoon Fennel Seed
2 Teaspoons Fresh Ginger Small Dice
10 Ounces Almond Milk
Dash or two Cinnamon
2 Teaspoons Brown Sugar
1 Packet DAO Labs Women’s Formula
1 Packet DAO Labs Emotional Balance
Toast fennel seeds very lightly in a sauce pan, crush in mortar and pestle and steep in simmering water along with the fresh ginger for about 5-10 minutes, strain and return to sauce pan.
In a separate saucepan, warm the almond milk with the cinnamon and brown sugar until the flavors have combined and blend on high for about 15-20 seconds to froth (Use any frothing device you have available). Combine the two mixtures and add one packet DAO Labs Women’s Formula, the effervescent herbs will bubble a little. Divide between two mugs and top each with a dash of ground cinnamon.
The recipes on The Way are intended as an East meets West look at food and its relationship to health and nutrition. Food is powerful, and every bite can either greatly benefit your system or effectively work against it. In Chinese Medicine, each grain, vegetable, meat, fruit, and spice has unique properties that can be harnessed to help us achieve and maintain balance in our bodies. Our recipes seek to incorporate some of the age-old principles of Chinese medicine into the culinary practices more familiar to the West.