Boost your brain with TCM

Global Times – Metro Beijing - - TWO CENTS - By David Drake­ford

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.

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