Mustard Plaster

This remedy is great for breaking up congestion in the chest. It can also be used for arthritic joints (ones that are not hot and inflamed), for backache, or to improve circulation.

You will need:

  • 1 tablespoon of mustard powder (do not use the prepared condiment-style mustard)
  • 4 tablespoons of flour for an adult, 8 tablespoons for a child and 12 tablespoons for an infant
  • Vaseline
  • Two pieces of flannel, each cut to measure about 8 x4 inches

Mix the mustard powder and the flour (using the appropriate proportions regarding age) and add enough water to make a paste that is thin enough to spread. Spread the mixture on one of the pieces of flannel, leaving a margin on all sides. Using the other piece of flannel, make a ‘sandwich’ with the mustard mixture contained in the middle.

Put a layer of vaseline on the middle of the chest, over the sternum (breastbone). Put the plaster on top of the vaselined area. Do not put anything heavy or hot on top of the plaster. Leave the plaster on the chest until the plaster gets cool. Remove the plaster if the skin gets irritated, or if a rash appears. A mustard plaster can be used several times a day. After removing the plaster and the vaseline cover, keep the chest covered to prevent chills.

If this remedy does not seem strong enough, you may omit the flour and just make a paste with mustard powder and water. However, it is imperative that the chest has an ample covering of vaseline in order to prevent burns!!!

IMPORTANT: Do not use this second method on children!

Sesame Oil Massage

This tones and moistens the skin and keeps the muscles warm. It is very beneficial for people (such as the elderly) with very dry and fragile skin.

Approximately 1-2 minutes

You will need:

  • tablespoons of sesame oil
  • an old towel

There are three possible ways to heat the oil:

  1. Put the oil in a small plastic or glass cup and place that cup in a bowl of very hot water until the oil is skin temperature.
  2. Put the oil in a glass container and microwave it for about 10-15 seconds, or until skin temperature. Very carefully test a small amount to make sure it is not too hot.
  3. Heat the oil in a ceramic aromatherapy vessel that uses a candle in the bottom as a heat source. Again, use caution, and heat the oil no hotter than skin temperature.

Once the oil is warm, put your towel on the edge of the tub so that you have a soft place to sit while you apply the oil. Be sure the towel is secure and cannot slip. Alternately, you can sit on a non-skid plastic stool which has been placed in the bathtub or shower. If neither of these options is feasible, try placing a sheet of plastic on the floor underneath the location where you will be doing the massage.

Begin by applying about a tablespoon of oil to the head, and then massaging the oil into the scalp with a circular motion, using the palms of your hands. Continue massaging the face, ears, temples, and then the neck area, using both the palms of the hands and the fingers.

Concentrate on oiling the head (scalp, neck, temples and face) and the feet (be sure to get between the toes) using one tablespoon of oil for each. Use the remaining oil for massaging the feet, being sure to massage between the toes.

If you like, bathe or shower with warm (not hot) water. Shampoo the hair. Dry off vigorously with your towel. Pitta types (ruddy complected, strong digestive fire, assertive people) can substitute sesame oil mixed with coconut oil, especially in the summer.

Sesame Oil Massage (more extensive)

This tones and moistens the skin and keeps the muscles warm. It is very beneficial for people (such as the elderly) with very dry and fragile skin.

Approximately 5-10 minutes

You will need:

  • 1 cup of refined sesame oil from health food store
  • an old towel

There are three possible ways to heat the oil:

  1. Put the oil in a small plastic or glass cup and place that cup in a bowl of very hot water until the oil is skin temperature.
  2. Put the oil in a glass container and microwave it for about 10-15 seconds, or until skin temperature. Very carefully test a small amount to make sure it is not too hot.
  3. Heat the oil in a ceramic aromatherapy vessel that uses a candle in the bottom as a heat source. Again, use caution, and heat the oil no hotter than skin temperature.

Once the oil is warm, put your towel on the edge of the tub so that you have a soft place to sit while you apply the oil. Be sure the towel is secure and cannot slip. Alternately, you can sit on a non-skid plastic stool which has been placed in the bathtub or shower. If neither of these options is feasible, try placing a sheet of plastic on the floor underneath the location where you will be doing the massage.

Begin by applying about a tablespoon of oil to the head, and then massaging the oil into the scalp with a circular motion, using the palms of your hands. Continue massaging the face, ears, temples, and then the neck area, using both the palms of the hands and the fingers.

Use a circular motion to massage the shoulders and elbows. Use long strokes on the upper and lower arms. On the chest and abdomen, use large circular motions, and work in a clockwise direction. Move your hands up and down, in straight strokes, on the sternum (breastbone). Reach your back as best you can, using up and down strokes.

Use vigorous strokes on the legs, massaging them as you did the arms. Use the remaining oil for massaging the feet, being sure to massage between the toes. Bathe or shower with warm (not hot) water. shampoo the hair. You may choose to not use soap except for the axilla (arm pits) and genital areas. Dry off vigorously with your towel. Pitta types (ruddy complected, strong digestive fire, assertive people) can substitute sesame oil mixed with coconut oil, especially in the summer.

Kuzu

Kuzu root is cool and sweet energetically, and acts on the stomach and large intestine. Thus, it is great for diarrhea. You can try any of the following recipes, but note that the last recipe is for more acute conditions. These teas are good for balancing acidity, for treating ulcers, gastritis, colds, intestinal flu, and sore throats, and for restoring the appetite. They are also helpful for relaxing aching muscles, soothing hot skin eruptions, and easing toothaches.

Recipes:

Kuzu Ginger Tea (the best one for sore throats)

  • 1 tsp. of kuzu
  • 1/2 cup water (4 oz.)
  • 1 pinch of freshly grated ginger

Dissolve the kuzu in 1 tsp. of cold water to make a thick paste. Add the remaining water slowly. Place over low heat, simmer until the liquid is clear, then remove from heat immediately. Stir in the ginger and sip while warm.

Kuzu-Soya Tea

  • 1 tsp. of kuzu
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 dash of soya sauce, such as tamari

Dissolve the kuzu in one tsp. of cold water and make a paste. Slowly add the remaining water, then place over low heat and simmer until the liquid is clear. Remove from the heat immediately, and add a dash of soya. Let the tea cool slightly, and then drink it all at once.

Kuzu Tea For Acute Conditions

  • 1 umeboshi plum
  • 1 dash of ginger
  • 1 tbsp. soya sauce
  • 1 rounded tbsp/ kuzu
  • 1 cup of bancha tea

Dissolve the kuzu in a little bancha tea. Heat the rest of the tea and add the dissolved kuzu. Leave the mixture on low heat until it starts to simmer and becomes clear, which should take just a few seconds. Add an ume plum (or ume plum paste), soya sauce, and ginger juice. Stir over low heat 2-3 minutes. Drink the tea hot, on an empty stomach. Do not eat for an hour afterwards.

Ginger Compresses and Soaks

Use these mixtures for joint problems, including arthritis, gout, bursitis, muscle contractions, sprains, musculus-skeletal cramps, bone spurs, localized pain, and inflammation. Ginger compresses or soaks can also be helpful for headaches, earaches, dandruff, skin problems, and bronchitis. In general, they will will help to draw out toxins and stimulate circulation. The treatment is cumulative in its effect, and treatment must be continued at least 2 times a day for the entire time prescribed.

You will need:

  • 2-4 tbsp. fresh ginger, peeled and grated, to 1 quart of water;
  • or, 2 tbsp. ginger root powder to 1 quart of water.

Place the ginger in a pot, and pour boiling water over the ginger. Steep the mixture for 15 minutes. You can also place the grated ginger in a cloth bag, tie the bag off at the top and place it in the hot water, leaving the ginger bag in the water until the water turns yellow. Then, squeeze the bag to express the remaining ginger liquid. Do not boil the mixture after the ginger has been added, as you will lose the valuable oils from the ginger. Use the mixture at as hot a temperature as you can stand without burning yourself. Use caution and common sense, and avoid temperatures that are too hot for comfort and safety.

Compresses:

Dip a piece of flannel, terry, or other heavy cloth into the hot solution. When the saturated cloth is cool enough, wring out the excess liquid and apply the compress to the area to be treated. You can cover the compress with a thin towel and a piece of plastic,or use a hot water bottle to keep it warm longer. Repeat the process until the skin holds a bright red color, or the mixture becomes cool. You can repeat this process 3-4 times a day, using fresh ginger each time.

Ginger soak for feet, ankles, hands, and wrists:

Pour the solution (see above) into a container or bathtub. If you have a heart condition please consult with your physician before using the ginger bath! Soak until the water cools and/or the skin is bright red in color. Be careful not to burn yourself. The same solution can be reheated and used one more time. The application should remain effective for 30 minutes after use (the area treated should still feel hot and ‘gingery’).

Dry Brush Massage

Dry brush massage is very popular in Asian countries. The underlying premise is that we have defensive energy or ‘chi’ just under our skin; the chi becomes stimulated with brushing. This energy, termed ‘wei chi’ in Chinese medicine, is responsible for helping us fight off colds and flu. Dry brush massage can be self-administered, or given by a helper. All you need is a stiff loofah sponge or brush.

Using circular or ‘creeping’ motions, work over the surface of the entire body, varying the pressure and speed according to the tenderness of the skin. This can be done before one takes a shower or bath, or on towel dried skin after one finishes bathing, because the sponge or brush will not maintain its stiffness once it becomes damp.

Western traditions that use dry brushing instruct one to always brush on the body towards the heart. In Asian medicine, however, it is advised to brush following the paths of the meridians. If you do not know the paths of the meridians, use the former technique. Try doing this regularly, especially during the winter months, and see if you can tell a difference in your immune system.

Dry brush massage is also used for tics, various neurological problems, anxiety, and aches and pains (especially those involving the back and neck).

Castor Oil Packs

Uses: Castor oil packs are very useful because they increase circulation and promote both healing of the tissues and elimination of toxins. Thus, they are used for:

  • inflamed or swollen joints, tendonitis, bursitis, and muscle strains
  • liver detoxification (use over the upper right abdomen, including the lower rib cage area)
  • constipation or other digestive disorders (see below)
  • improving lymphatic drainage

There are a few simple precautions to be followed when using castor oil packs. It is essential that you read the precautions below before proceeding.

Caution – do not use castor oil packs in the following situations:

  • orally (do not swallow; do not put in or near the mouth)
  • if you are showing symptoms of appendicitis, such as pain in the lower right abdomen, fever and perhaps nausea
  • on open wounds
  • if there is a possibility you could be pregnant, or if you are nursing

 

You will need:

  • Castor oil (from the health food store)
  • Several pieces of flannel or wool, slightly larger than the body area to be covered
  • A piece of plastic slightly larger than the flannel, and old clothes or sheets (castor oil does stain)
  • A hot water bottle or microwavable hot pack or heating pad.

Pour the castor oil on the flannel, saturating an area large enough to cover the area which you will be treating. Then, place the flannel over the affected body part and cover it with plastic. Place the heat source over the pack, and leave both in place for up to 1-2 hours. When you remove the pack, you can rinse off your skin with warm water and soap, or with baking soda if necessary. The pack can be reused 25-30 times if stored correctly. Between uses, keep the pack in a covered container in the refrigerator. Repeat the castor oil pack for 3- 7 days depending on the condition. Consult a medical practitioner prior to use, especially for symptoms including but not limited to: abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, and excessive vaginal bleeding.

Amazing Medicine Soup

This recipe is a wonderful way to ward off a cold or flu, if used when one is first exposed to cold and wind. I learned of its incredible effects after being in Washington, D.C. with my tai chi teacher, Charles Yang, some years ago. We were waiting to take the subway, and our train was delayed. Meanwhile, we were waiting out in January’s bitter cold for almost an hour. By the time I got home, I had chills and a fever, and knew I was getting sick. There just happened to be an Asian grocery store close by, and Charles went over to find fermented black beans and the other ingredients necessary to make the soup. In the morning, I was as good as new, and ready to see more of our capital! It is good to keep the fermented beans on hand just in case.

Cold and/or flu is considered very yin. This soup is salty and yang; thus, the soup balances the yin and yang in the body.

Recipe:

  • a handful of fermented black beans (roughly a half cup)
  • two cups of water
  • an inch of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced in small pieces
  • the bulb of a scallion-cut into pieces

Bring the water to a boil and add all the ingredients. Simmer for a few minutes. Decant the liquid, and sip the soup until gone. One can use the solid ingredients again by adding more water to the solids which are left after decanting , and then repeating the technique. The soup can be taken twice a day for a couple of days until the symptoms are gone.

IMPORTANT: The soup is quite salty, and thus may not be appropriate for people on low salt diets.

Moxabustion

Moxabustion is an Asian medical technique that consists of burning moxa (common mugwort or artemesia vulgaris) close to the skin, usually over specific acupuncture points. Whereas acupuncture needles regulate qi, moxa warms the points and gives qi. It is used extensively to eliminate cold and dampness, stimulate the immune system, and provide comfort for sprains, strains and other body traumas. The beauty of moxa is that it tends to penetrate deeply into the body. Patients are often involved in their own healing by using moxa at home between their acupuncture treatments. Moxa comes in many forms, but for home use it is used in the form of a stick: either a 6 inch ‘cigar’, or a thinner ‘cigarette.’

You will need:

  • a moxa stick
  • a well venilated room, preferably with an exhaust fan
  • an ash tray to flick the ashes into

Always use caution and common sense to prevent any chance of burns.

 

To use: Remove the outer wrapper of the cigar (the cigarettes usually do not have one). Make sure all clothing is removed from the area being treated. Hold the moxa stick about 1 inch away from the area to be treated. The distance will vary with the freshness of the stick and the patient’s heat tolerance. Move the stick back and forth slightly over the area being treated, increasing the distance from the skin when the heat gets too intense. The normal time frame is about 10 minutes per treatment. The skin over the area treated should have a rosy color. Again, use caution to prevent blisters and burns.

If instructed to use moxa on larger areas such as the abdomen, you may want to lie on the floor in the bathroom with the exhaust fan on. Make sure that your head is propped up so that you can see what you are doing very clearly. Move the moxa stick around the designated treatment area in a circular motion, covering a lot of area at a time.

Another method is to use a pecking motion with the stick. This is good for stimulating a particular acupuncture point, as designated by your acupuncturist. Do not run the stick under water to extinguish it! Instead, to be sure it is extinguished, twist the stick into a fire proof container such as a pyrex bowl or a jar that contains rice. You may also use a small-holed candle holder that fits over the end of the stick to snuff the stick out.

Moxa Uses:

  • Lower back for low back pain, menstrual pain, bladder infections, vaginal infections, and diarrhea.
  • Over the joints for local pain and swelling, cold arthritis (no redness or swelling) , aches or pains, local injuries, and coldness.
  • Over the chest for lung congestion, bronchitis, cough, colds, flu, allergies, asthma or other lung complaints.
  • Over the upper abdomen for problems such as poor digestion, gas, bloating, nausea or vomiting. Do not use over the liver as the liver often holds too much heat all ready.
  • Over the middle abdomen for gas, bloating, poor digestion, weaknes, and low energy.
  • Over the lower abdomen for menstrual cramps, bladder infections (without the presence of blood), frequent urination, night time urinaton, weakness, leukorrhea, prostate problems, gas, bloating, diarrhea, decreased energy, body coldness, and poor circulation.
  • Over the upper back for all the conditions listed for upper chest, but without the possible irritation due to inhaling smoke.
  • Over the middle back for kidney and bladder disorders, frequent and night-time urination, low back pain, bone and disc problems, knee and joint problems, hair loss, poor circulation and low immunity, coldness, weakness, and low energy. Treating this area is an excellent way to raise energy levels and disease resistance. It benefits all the internal organs, helps to ease any chronic diseases, and is
    especially good for vegetarians who often become depleted.

Cautions: Be careful not to blister or burn yourself or others. If you create a blister, do not open it. Let the fluid absorb. Should a larger blister open, dress it with a sterile bandage. Due to its intense penetration, do not use moxa over the liver, which is often too hot already. Do not use moxa where there is inflammation or infection, over mucous membranes, on the face, or on any numb area. Also, to avoid burns, do not use moxa on a person who has limited abilities to feel heat.

Albi Plaster

This is a natural remedy used in Hawaii, Japan, and, Puerto Rico. It has a drawing quality, and is used to pull out toxins. Traditionally, an albi plaster is used for dissolving hardened tumors and lymphatic swellings; however, it can be used to treat any kind of inflammation, including conjunctivitis (do not get the paste into the eyes), strains and sprains, and edema. For problems with the ears, use the plaster behind the ear. If used continuously, it will draw out poisonous wastes stored in the body’s cells.

You will need:

  • 50% freshly grated taro root (or albi powder-see below)
  • 5% grated ginger (or ground, dried ginger)
  • 45% wheat flour (white flour is the best for plasters because it is the most glutinous)

Remove the skin from the taro root and then grate the root. Mix (using the percentages listed above) the grated taro root, the ginger, and the wheat flour with a little water. Mix thoroughly; the consistency should be that of an easily spreadable paste.

Apply the mixture to the affected area, to a thickness between 1/4 – 1/2 inch.

Use a flannel cloth to hold the Albi mixture over the affected area. Keep the plaster in place with gauze wrap or other appropriate type of cloth or bandage. A ginger compress can be worn before or after the albi plaster to increase its effectiveness. Wear the plaster for 4-5 hours. The first time you use it, change the plaster after 2 hours. It is best to keep it on day and night. During night-time use, you can leave it on up to, but not more than, 12 hours.

Should the plaster cause a skin irritation, cover the inflamed area with sesame oil before applying any further plasters.

Taro root can be found locally at Wild Oats stores, or possibly at local oriental grocery stores.