That Tastes Acrid

Welcome back, dear reader! Last post we discussed several overarching concepts and qualities of Chinese herbal medicine. We made a quick touch on the subject of flavor and nature, which are some of the parameters that are utilized to categorize and quantify herbs.

Here we take our first steps into a specific discussion of these individual qualities and what these qualities imply.

The first of the five main flavors are “Acrid”. Acrid flavors are also sometimes called: pungent, aromatic, or spicy. Think of the spiciness of a pepper, or the fragrant aspect of a rose and you’ll be on the right track. In traditional Chinese medical theory, as put forth in the HuangDi NeiJing (黄帝内经), the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, Acrid flavors disperse. Again, acrid or spicy flavors will disperse.

In the off chance that you are scratching your head wondering what that means, well, it is truly very simple. Envision a time when you had a head-cold where your sinuses were congested and you couldn’t breathe through your nose. How many times in those situations have you taken a bite of something spicy like wasabi or a spicy soup, and found that your sinuses started to clear? Or even if you weren’t sick, you started eating something spicy and had to blow your nose? This is a simple and direct representation of the action of spicy flavors dispersing.

This opens up quite a vast discussion of the instances in which the action of dispersing would be therapeutic!

You see, in Traditional Chinese Medical Physiology there is a substance called Qì (pronounced Chi) which permeates and spreads throughout the entire body. (As well as through the entire universe at large, but that’s another discussion). The area by which this Qì moves is through what’s called the Jīng Luò or channels. Think of it like this, the Qì is a car, the Jīng Luò are the highways. Simple right? Well as we all know, traffic sucks. Sitting in a car that is stuck on the highway tends to make many people frustrated and uncomfortable (or is it just me?). This is exactly akin the primary pathology that can be seen with Qì, namely Qì stagnation. So…. if acrid flavors disperse, then it seems that it would be useful to use in uncomplicated situations of Qì stagnation, right? Exactly! There are myriad other permutations, variances, and adaptations that could be discussed, but that is the essence of Acrid flavors. If you, dear reader, are fond of cooking think of the vastly different ways that you use an egg… It’s a simple egg, but the number of different techniques that can be done through the use of an egg is a similar situation.

A few simple examples of acrid or aromatic herbs would be, cinnamon, pepper, lavender, mint, and ginger. Certain general ailments that might warrant the use of these flavors would be a head cold, sinus congestion, general aches and pains, and irritability.

Stay tuned for the details in the next blog post! In which we will delve into a discussion of sweet flavors and their therapeutic value.

Don’t be shy about calling our office at 781-829-9355 and I, Dr. Greene, will be happy to answer any of your questions.