Traditional chinese medicine herbs in glass jars.

Anti-Aging with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

Written by Chloe Weber, L.Ac, MSOM and Founder of Immortal Roots

 

As it turns out, aging is a universal aspect of the human experience. We all age.

As biohackers, we have all heard about the many ways that we can combat the aging process – such as red lights, HBOT, Biochargers and NanoVi’s. These are amazing and exciting innovations of technology, but it would be impossible to beat mother nature when it comes to ensuring health and vitality throughout your years.

Chinese medical practitioners have been looking to herbal medicine to combat the aging process for centuries and using the wisdom of our natural world to support our bodies and minds as time takes its toll.

One’s physical strength and vitality is derived from a careful balance of Yin and Yang within the body, as well as the dynamic interplay of one’s inherited Qi along with the Qi created through proper nutrition and digestion. As one ages, we see physical and cognitive decline, or as the ancient Chinese see it, the depletion of Yin, Yang and our inherited Qi (often referred to as “Jing” or “essence”). Chinese herbalists have studied the anti-aging functions of herbs for thousands of years, we like to think of them as the original biohackers.

Antique medical book showing kidneys.

According to Chinese medical theory, the kidneys are deeply intertwined with aging and vitality.

To be clear, when we talk about specific organs in Chinese medicine, we are really referring to the energetic actions, as well as the functions that we have attributed to each organ . In our system, the kidneys are involved with fertility and sexual function, and the storage and maintenance of our vital source qi that we inherited from our parents (often referred to as “jing” or “essence”), they correlate to bone and tooth stability and strength, as well as mental cognition, memory, and clarity of thought.

Kidney yin refers to the fluids of the body. Women tend to deplete their stores of yin around menopause. The lack of fluids creates heat in the body, causing hot flashes along with other signs of aging, like dryness of the skin and body, and softening of the muscles. We refer to this clinically as “Kidney yin deficiency” and it is a natural by-product of the aging process itself. Kidney yang, on the other hand, is correlated with action, vitality and sexual function. When it is low you may see issues in these areas as well as low back and knee pain (kidney yang is often correlated with testosterone).

Both Kidney yin and yang are crucial for wellness and longevity and in Chinese medicine the aging process is a direct correlation to the Kidneys and how they are functioning.

Male and female digestive tracts.

Essence, (the qi that is inherited from your parents) is another important aspect of aging in our system. In the classical text “Treatise of the Spleen and Stomach” by Li Dong Wan (circa 1249AD) states that while essence is essential for health, it is actually the energy created through proper digestion that allows for us to replenish and restore our essence, thereby increasing our vitality, and helping us fight the clock. It’s one of the reasons why we often add herbs that support digestion into formulas that focus on aging well. Many tonic herbs (herbs that nourish the body) have a cloying effect and may be difficult to digest properly, so by adding herbs that stimulate the digestive function, we are able to optimize the absorption of the herbs, helping our digestive system break them down, and making them more bioavailable.

In Chinese medicine, blocked or reduced blood flow is often correlated with stress, pain, numbness or tingling and weakness.

As we become less mobile, the flow of qi and blood throughout our bodies tends to slow down, causing stagnation. Some may correlate this with a slowed circulatory system, another pathology commonly seen in aging populations, and one that can cause a myriad of symptoms. Research shows that cerebral circulation is essential for cognitive function and helps protect from strokes and other neurological challenges associated with age, so we’ve added herbs that are used to enhance blood flow and circulation, helping you and your brain stay healthy as long as possible.

Many Chinese herbs have been researched for their abilities to reduce inflammation, promote anti‐oxidation, anti‐apoptosis, and autophagy. Other research shows that certain herbs (astragalus being one) can reduce inhibited apoptosis and senescence in mesenchymal stem cells . While we will dive into the research behind each of the herbs in this formula below, what is essential to understand about Chinese herbology is that the whole is greater than its parts.

There is strong research on the pharmacological actions of each herb, however, it is the combination of the herbs together into a well-balanced formula that makes it safe and effective.

Lastly, in today’s society, we are often praised for our ability to multitask. This over-glorification of being busy has led many of us to firing on all cylinders, a lack of focus and over-use of cognitive function, distraction from social media and mindless scrolling, and an inability to truly absorb nutrition or information. We are simply not getting sustenance from our lives, our communities, or our food, instead having to drain our internal resource bank (rather than replenish it), leading to a quicker consumption of our vital substances, and many of the health problems we are seeing today.

Beautiful happy girl with closed eyes practicing yoga in lotus position in bedroom in the morning.

From a Chinese Medical perspective, “biohacking” isn’t just about things that we can do or apply externally, or take in the form of supplements, herbs, or nutrition. It’s also about the habits we engage in, the material and content we consume, how we digest, process, and store emotions, and also the WAYS in which we choose to do these things.

The previously mentioned belief that our digestive fire is the key to a healthy life – the ability to transform the nutrients we ingest, and the experiences we have into usable nutrition for our bodies and mind is all regulated in our center. It’s what allows our clear yang to rise, and our digestive by-products to drain down for elimination. For these reasons, you will rarely see a Chinese Medical practitioner drinking ice water – cooling this fire through the consumption of cold liquids or uncooked, raw foods, means that we have to use our internal resources to “cook” our food, rev our metabolism, and heat our bodies back up, costing us valuable energy, and depleting our kidneys of their yin, yang, Qi, and Jing. Cold foods and water also restrict the free-flow of Qi, which is vital to delivering nutrients and energy to each and every organ and system in the body.

Fortunately, Chinese Medicine is also a foundational aspect in the emerging science of mindfulness, and has much to say about ways in which we can preserve, guard, supplement, and regulate our Jing, Yin, Yang, Qi, and Blood. In addition to herbal formulas, like Immortal All-Stars , that help assist with the variety of functions that our body must undertake to ensure optimal health, there are many ways that you can help keep your body in balance, preserve your vital substances, and live your best life for a long long time:

  • Pay attention to foods and flavors. Being conscious of varying your diet to fit a variety of nutritional needs means that we aren’t skewing our internal environment too heavily in one direction, or pulling resources from anywhere else.

  • Eat organic, non-processed foods as much as possible. Shop locally and eat seasonally to ensure maximum nutrient content of food, and prepare foods according to the season – like lightly steaming fresh vegetables in the Summer, and preparing soups and stews in the winter.

  • Be present at meals, taking time to slow down and savor, and allowing your body to send its blood flow, energy, and attention to your mid-section to complete the digestive task at hand. This is our pitch for taking an ACTUAL lunch break!

  • Don’t overeat. Paying attention to sensation with food, including bloating, gas, sour stomach, indigestion, heartburn, or heaviness can help you understand your body better, and what high-quality, clean-burning fuel can do for you. – Focus on getting quality sleep, proper sleep hygiene, and movement daily to help aid with digestion, flush out toxins, repair cells and replenish Qi and Blood, and to let the kidneys rest.

  • Minimize stressors, aggravations, and innervations in the form of direct Qi flow through moving exercises such as Tai-Qi, and mental exercises such as Qi-Gong

  • Drink black tea, such as Pu-erh tea to fortify the kidneys, help control inflammation, tonify Qi, and raise yang

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