Do’s and don’ts in food combination and preparation

Being an unscholarly translation of chapter 24 of Essentials from the Golden Cabinet (Jin gui yao lue) by Zhang Zhong-Jing, a 1,700 year old text.

Foods and drinks sustain our lives. Their flavors and the way they are prepared are very important. If foods are combined and prepared in a harmonious way, they promote health. They can even cure diseases. But if they are not, they can cause harm, and even lead to diseases. Not that the foods themselves cause disease, but some foods and cooking methods are incompatible with each other. Let’ say we cooked an herbal decoction of an antidote for poisoning. It should not be taken hot, because heat aggravates toxic reactions. An antidote should always be taken cold to have the desired effect.

Here are some do’s and don’ts that involve interactions between organ diseases, flavors, seasons, and the consumption of organ meats:

  • Avoid hot and spicy if one has a liver disease
  • Avoid salty if one has a heart disease
  • Avoid sour if one has a spleen disease
  • Avoid bitter if one has a lung disease
  • Avoid sweet if one has a kidney disease
  • Do not eat liver organ meat in spring
  • Do not eat heart in summer
  • Do not eat lung in autumn
  • Do not eat kidney in winter
  • Do not eat spleen in any season

Why should we avoid liver meat in spring? The reason is this: Liver qi is exuberant in spring; exuberant liver qi depletes spleen qi. Eating liver meat further strengthens the liver, which then exhausts the spleen to cause great harm. Further, introducing the dead qi of liver organ meat into the body when its liver qi is exuberant may injure the hun, the spiritual aspect of the liver. On the other hand, in the other seasons, when liver qi is not exuberant, eating liver meat will strengthen a weak liver. It will be the proper thing to do. The same rule applies to the other organs.

– to be continued

About Lok-Kwan

Lok-Kwan is a Licensed Acupuncturist in the state of Illinois. He is a board-certified acupuncturist and herbalist. He sees patients and teaches qigong in Chicago and Wilmette. Visit his website
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