Atractylodes Rhizome

Atractylodes Rhizome

According to Chinese medicine, we are now in peak Spleen time. This is the time of year, often referred to as Indian summer, when the days are warm, dry and still. There is an air of solidity and gravity, as if the world finally decided to slow down, relax, and enjoy the fruit of all its labours. It is a time of pause and reflection before the world subtly tilts on its axis and we are nudged into autumn.

If you have a weak Spleen, this is when it would be most advantageous to strengthen it, as Spleen tonics have their most powerful effect. And atractylodes rhizome, our herb of the month, would be a great herb of choice for that purpose.

You may have noticed that I have been capitalizing the world ‘Spleen’ so far in this article. This is because the Spleen, as described in Chinese medicine is quite different from the spleen in Western medicine. In Western medicine, the spleen is a mostly useless organ, which has some ability to filter blood and buffer the immune system. However, in Chinese medicine, the Spleen includes the functions of the pancreas and is considered a major organ for digestion, as well as for the strength of your immune system and the generation of Qi for your entire body.

So, what are some signs that your Spleen may be weak and in need of strengthening? You would tend to feel fatigued often. This fatigue is often not just a feeling of tiredness, but also of heaviness, like you are dragging the world behind you. Your appetite may be low and you might experience bloating afterwards. When you eat, your food may not be digested well and you can still see bits of it in your stool, which may tend towards diarrhea. If you don’t have diarrhea, your stool may be “sticky”. (You need to wipe a lot, and there may be a smear in your toilet after you flush. Sorry for the graphic images!) Your immune system will tend to be weak, so you will catch colds and flus easily. You may also tend towards anemia, or have low blood volume.

These are the kinds of health conditions that are not severe enough to contact a doctor, but if you have them, you definitely don’t feel well. If you were to contact a doctor, he would also have little ability to help you. There are very few Western herbs that might nudge your Spleen in the right direction. But this particular area of personal health, is where Chinese medicine really shines. The Chinese herbal pharmacopia includes at least a dozen herbs that can be used to strengthen Spleen functioning, and actractylodes root, the herb we’re focusing on this month, is one of them.

Atractylodes root is warming and drying, the perfect combination of properties to stabilize an organ which tends towards cold and dampness. It is used to strengthen digestion, resolve diarrhea, improve appetite, reduce fatigue, and dispel edema. It can even be used to help prevent miscarriage, particularly for women who feel a draggy sensation in their pregnancy, or who tend towards unexplained bleeding. Atractylodes rhizome will give your body strength and support as you carry your baby to term.

Unfortunately, warming and drying herbs like atractylodes can tend to cause “heat” to develop in your body. This is why they are best combined with more cooling herbs to balance their effects. This will allow you to take them long term with fewer side effects. Our Chinese Bitters tincture contains atractylodes rhizome, and its function there is to add support to your spleen while you open up the ducts of your liver to remove any heat or stagnation there. Atractylodes root is also in our Meta Plus tincture, where it is used to more directly strengthen the Spleen. Here, it is paired with more cooling herbs, such as the neutral poria mushroom, and the cooling scutellaria root and cassia seeds to balance its warming and drying nature.

Do you think atractylodes rhizome might be right for you? Consider trying either of the above two tinctures, prepared with care at our Toronto facility. And if not, be sure to bask in the warm, dry energy of Spleen time before the cold and dampness of winter sets in. May you experience peace as summer slowly winds itself down.

The Waayyy Behind Book Club – July 2022

Welcome to the second edition of the Waayyy Behind Book Club, where I talk about the books I’ve been reading this month, and encourage your feedback. I didn’t read quite as many this month, as some of them were really long! It took me awhile to finish them.

First on our list this month is The Good German by Dennis Bock. This was an alternate history, where one of those many attempts to assassinate Hitler actually succeeded! Contrary to what you might expect, Hitler’s death did not end the war, though. In this version of history, Herman Goring takes control of the country after Hitler is killed, and Germany actually wins! What does this mean for the US and Canada, or for the rest of Europe for that matter? It was an interesting exercise in speculative history. A little dark for my taste.

The second book this month is When the Body Says ‘No’, by Gabor Mate. I’ve been interested in ways to overcome emotional trauma ever since I watched the film The Wisdom of Trauma about a year ago. This was a compassionate and thought-provoking movie based on Gabor Mate’s work, and really opened my eyes to how prevalent trauma is, and what we might do to heal it. Here is a link to the movie trailer, if you’re interested: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=70HNmSsJvVU. The book did not disappoint. If you’re at all interested in how our emotions and core beliefs might contribute to illnesses like cancer, ALS, and MS, among others, this book is a gem.

Our final book this month is Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. There’s a reason why I named this book club the Waayyy Behind Book Club ! This book was originally published in 1989. So many people have recommended this book to me over the years that I’ve simply lost count. I finally added it to my reading list so I wouldn’t put off reading it any longer.

You get hooked into this story right from the beginning, when you are drawn into a small town where an unjust execution is taking place. It’s an spell-binding scene. The book is set in medieval UK, and is essentially about the building of a cathedral. The characters are well-drawn and likeable – they’d have to be for you to stick with them for the length of this book (1,008 pages)! The story continues through a couple of generations before the cathedral is finally built.

The book was so popular that there are now two sequels, and a prequel. I think I might take a break from the Pillars world for a little while before embarking on any of those! I can see why so many people love the book, though. I grew to love so many of the characters. They were drawn so realistically, I felt like I actually knew them.

If you’ve already read some of these books, or if you want to read any of these books, let me know. I’d love to hear what you think of them.