Whether you’re eating baked beans at a picnic, topping your salad with garbanzo beans or having refried beans alongside your burrito, you’re promoting good health. That’s because beans are a good source of dietary fiber and B vitamins, and when combined with whole grains, such as brown rice, they form a complete protein. Beans can also help lower your cholesterol, lower your blood sugar and support healthy gut bacteria. In addition to being nutritional powerhouses, beans are also used in Chinese herbal medicine.
Bean-based herbs have a variety of actions and the decision of which herb to use in a formula can be nuanced. One of the common reasons to use one of these herbs is to treat a condition called Summerheat. If you’ve ever spent too much time sweating outside on a hot and humid day, you may have begun to feel kind of washed out. This blah feeling may come with a rise in internal temperature, thirst, a dry mouth, a loss of appetite and other digestive issues. In Chinese medicine, this is called Summerheat. In Chinese medicine, herbs made from beans treat Summerheat, but each in slightly different ways:
- Mung beans, or Lu Dou is a go to herb for treating Summerheat. It’s often the first choice in treating Summerheat, especially if the primary symptom is thirst. Lu Dou is boiled into a broth or a tea to not only treat, but also to prevent the symptoms of Summerheat. In addition, Lu Dou can be included in formulas to treat lingering symptoms after a fever, such as irritability, insomnia and chest tightness.
- Hyacinth bean is Bai Bian Dou in Chinese medicine, which translates into flat bean. This herb also treats Summerheat, but is best used when the heat and humidity has affected your digestion. It’s used in formulas to treat diarrhea, vomiting and loss of appetite due to the heat. In addition, Hyacinth bean can support your digestion in general, helping to quell chronic diarrhea, restore a poor appetite and calm a rumbling unsettled stomach. In some cases, this herb may also be added to formulas to treat certain types of vaginal discharge, such as yeast overgrowth. As an aside, if you plant a Hyacinth bean in the spring, it will grow into a beautiful creeping vine with vivid purple flowers that bloom throughout the summer.
- Da Dou Juan or Huang is an herb made from soybean sprouts. It helps to clear Summerheat, especially when the humidity has made you feel heavy and fatigued, a condition called dampness in Chinese medicine. Da Dou Juan is also used in the early stages of a fever or the flu to alleviate achy joints and the feeling of damp heaviness.
Two other herbs in the Chinese formulary are made from beans, but don’t necessarily treat Summerheat. They include:
- Dan Dou Chi, which is prepared soybean, is used in formulas to treat the early stages of a cold or flu. This action is called releasing the exterior because during the first days of a mild illness, the symptoms are very superficial and often easily treated. Dan Dou Chi is made by steaming the soybeans with other herbs that have similar properties and then fermenting them.
- Chi Xiao Dou is Aduki bean. This is a downward draining herb to clear heat and excess fluids (dampness) from your body. Chi Xiao Dou is included in formulas that treat edema, bladder issues and something called Leg Qi. Leg Qi is a condition of hot, red and swollen lower legs and feet, which can be caused by circulation problems, heart failure, being overweight, inactivity and prolonged sitting or standing. This herb also helps to promote circulation to reduce edema, sores and infections in your feet and lower legs as a result of diabetes.
You may think that all beans are pretty much alike and that they’re only good for eating. However, in Chinese herbal medicine, there are a number of herbs made from beans, and choosing the appropriate herb to use takes knowledge and training. At BodaHealth, our practitioners are not only fully trained in herbal medicine, but they have a great deal of experience. If you’d like more information or want to find out if Chinese herbs can help you, don’t hesitate to give us a call. We’d be happy to tell you more!
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Dr. Jeda Boughton is a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Registered Acupuncturist in Vancouver. She is also a Registered Herbologist and the founder of BodaHealth.