Boost your brain with TCM
The world of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is full of weird and wonderful concepts. You may have heard that your body has “inner heat,” “meridians,” and a “flow of qi” – ideas that can leave many Westerners scratching their heads in confusion or even outright disbelief.
That’s not to say that the colorful potions and poultices that line a TCM pharmacy are less useful than boxes of patented pills. They just occupy a different position within the paradigm of Asian medicinal taxonomy.
Rhodiola for instance, a herb that is thought to work on the lung and heart meridians in TCM, is termed an adaptogen in Western medicine, which means it helps your body “adapt” to stress and environmental damage. It’s also considered quite trendy among nootropics users. “Nootropics” or “smart drugs” contain brainboosting chemicals and herbs that improve your memory, stimulate your creative juices or just put a swing in your step. I admit my brain sometimes needs a pick-me-up!
I turned to Reddit user group “r/Nootropics” to learn more. Some curious plants caught my eye, including the flower and bark of the pink silk tree. I then headed to my local pharmacy and was pleased to find that they had everything I wanted, from the wonderfully named silk tree to saffron and Rhodiola. Photos of a young Chinese woman weighing out my purchases on old-fashioned scales and then bashing them to pieces with a mortar and pestle against a backdrop of countless mysterious drawers got quite a few envious responses on Reddit.
The next day, I sipped in anticipation a cup of my new tea. I wasn’t immediately transformed into genius, but I didn’t fall asleep until 2 am, so I now use it in smaller doses and as an occasional replacement for coffee, the world’s most popular nootropic.
If you prefer mushrooms to bitter teas, China is a veritable paradise. My local pharmacy has granules of “monkey head fungus” (lion’s mane in English) in stock to aid digestion, but as the Chinese saying goes, “He that takes medicine and neglects diet wastes the skills of the physician.” So, I went to the supermarket and bought some and fried it with butter and garlic. I can’t help thinking that soon it will be trendy in Beijing to eat food for both physical and mental health.