by Gregory Carey, L.Ac.
In Western Culture, we may not pay much attention to incorporating different food flavors into our daily meals. Whatever is fast and easy is the order of the day when it comes to busy households. Traditional food preparation methods, on the other hand, took time and considered different flavors. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, flavors impact our Internal Organs differently and can even have a medicinal and therapeutic effect when utilized purposefully. This article is going to focus on the Sour flavor and includes a Clinical Case Study which resolved a stubborn symptom of the Dermatological Disease, Lichen Planopilaris.
Before we discuss the Sour Flavor further, we shall touch upon the Internal Organ that the Sour Flavor most impacts: The Liver. In Chinese Medicine, the Liver is the Body’s Regulator, overseeing all of the Body’s diverse processes. The Liver Organ is tasked with the smooth flow of energy and blood throughout the Body. The Liver is powerful, associated with outward growth – giving us the power to go forward through life by means of effective action. The Liver stores, maintains and cleanses our blood, regenerating while we sleep and rest. The Liver is a source of our Stamina- so we should take care of it!
Some methods to take care of our Liver and to ensure its proper function and vitality include regular physical activity, a balanced diet rich in green vegetables, and incorporation of the Sour Flavor into our diets. In Chinese Medicine, the Sour flavor is astringent- having the function of preserving body fluid or moisture. The Internal Organ that the Sour flavor influences is the Liver/ Gallbladder system. Sour flavors may also be “cleansing” by promoting routine Liver function and circulation. Some examples of Sour foods are: Salt pickles (sauerkraut/ cabbage), Plain/ low sugar yogurts, Citrus fruits and Vinegars in cooking. Pro Tip: We particularly recommend the brand: Hawthorne Valley Sauerkraut (look for it in Whole Foods).
A Sign that your Liver Organ is stressed and not functioning smoothly is that you will feel irritable, agitated or angry. Women who are experiencing Pre Menstrual Symptoms may fit the common picture. If you’re a woman who has experienced PMS symptoms- ask yourself- have you craved Sour flavors to soothe your symptoms? It’s no coincidence! The Liver organ dominates the Menstrual cycle and many women will crave Pickles or sour foods just prior to or during menstruation to help their body function optimally.
Now for a Clinical Case Study: An elderly woman presented to Old Bridge Acupuncture & Wellness with a difficult diagnosis: Lichen Planopilaris. Lichen Planopilaris is an inflammatory skin disease most commonly found in post Menopausal women. Symptoms include progressive inflammation of the scalp and hair follicles, producing scarring, permanent hair loss and severe itching. The patient had previously been to “top Dermatologists who specialized in Lichen Planopilaris” at a University Hospital. They could only offer her temporary relief with high dose oral steroids and local steroid treatments.
The patient decided to come off her steroid therapy, but when she did, her Scalp’s terrible itching resumed. Desperate, she turned to Chinese Medicine for help. Since she was already on a number of other Pharmaceuticals for pre-existing conditions, Oral herbal medicine was not an option. So Old Bridge Acupuncture & Wellness came up with an elegant treatment: Utilize the Power of Sour to regulate her skin. In Chinese medicine, the Liver organ regulates the Interstices- the pathway of flow of body fluids, energy and blood. They connect the superficial layers of the body with the Internal Organs. The interstices nourish and warm the skin and muscles.
The Chinese Medicine treatment protocol for the Lichen Planopilaris case called for 1 tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar, 2-4 times per day, as needed and to tolerance. Results: The patient reported a DRAMATIC DECREASE in her severe scalp itching- without the need for topical or internal steroids! When she stopped her Apple Cider Vinegar regimen, her scalp started to itch again- so she stayed on it. A big win for Old Bridge Acupuncture and the Power of Sour!
Gregory Carey MAcOM, O.M., L.Ac. is the founder of Old Bridge Acupuncture & Wellness. For more information or a free 10 minute consultation call 732.952.5944.