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Complete Book of Chinese Health & Healing, The

by: Daniel Reid

Boston MA: Shambhala Publications 1994, $27.50, Hardbound
ISBN: 0-87773-929-3

Reviewed by: Susan Asanovic
Spring Volume: 1996 Issue: 3(1) page(s): 17 and 19

This latest book by the author of Chinese Herbal Medicine and The Tao of Health, Sex and Longevity may not be what you expect. Many of the chapters may disorient, shock, surprise, or perhaps even fascinate. As a food professional, interested in health and healing with Chinese food and herbs, I found too much non-culinary material. And even for those interested in other aspects of the Taoist philosophy, there may be too many unrelated topics. I am always wary of books proclaiming to be complete. A lot of text does not mean that it is complete; such may be the case here.

In the preface, Reid, who writes from Thailand, admits that all programmes (sic) and practices recommended in the text are based on his own personal experience. This largely subjective approach leaves me wondering how much of the material is 'Chinese' credible. To his credit, the research was done on primary sources and translations from the Chinese are his own interpretation.

The most approachable chapters cover the key concepts of Chinese medical theory - the Tao of Health - and my favorite, therapeutic food recipes and herbal tonics. But even here Mr. Reid brings in such Western digestive remedies as Benedictine, Fernet Branca, and Angostura bitters; items ancient Taoists did not know about. According to Reid, other herbal supplements highly favored by Taoists, including garlic, burdock, scullcap, liquorice, wormwood, and dandelion, are commonly used in Western folk medicine. For an in-depth look at specific herbs and practices of herbal medicine, I learned more from and still do prefer his Chinese Herbal Medicine (Shambala, 1987), which limited healing to strictly Chinese traditions.

In this volume, most useful from a food and healing perspective, are the discussions of Chinese patent medicines and herbal formulae, both those imported from China and those manufactured domestically. The formulations from American companies may offer a higher assurance of safety and quality.

Taoist studies of health and longevity go back five thousand years, states Reid; and the 'Three Treasures' are essence or jing, energy or qi, and spirit or shen. Most of the text discusses different aspects of this theory. However, to my Western mind, phrases such as: "... the lower Elixir Field is filling...energy is ready to enter (and) ...in the Microcosmic Orbit..." become almost comical, and I spare you the 'Gurgling Abdomen.' Presumably it sounds better in Chinese. Let me advise that for those who enjoy this style, this book could be a treasure.

Nootropic drugs, GH 3, KH 3, astrology, electromagnetic therapy, and alternative treatments for AIDS and cancer just seem out of place in this book. Although drawings of how to practice Qi and the skill of energy control, may be relevant, I draw the line at those depicting ovary and testicle massages.

Allow me to call your attention the excellent charts on yin and yang foods, and on acid/alkali foods, and yes, there are the wanted recipes such as: Pearl Barley and Brown Rice Porridge (skip the raw eggs) and Wolfberry Stew and Ginseng Chicken. The latter one is adapted, written in this magazine's style, and included below.
Chinese Wolfberry Stew
15 to 20 dried Shiitake mushrooms
2 pounds fresh beef or tender lamb
3 to 4 Tablespoons oil
1 cup rice wine or dry sherry
1 ounce Chinese wolfberries (Lycium chinensis)
dash or splash of sea salt, pepper and sesame oil
1. Soak mushrooms in hot water for about twenty minutes, drain and reserve the water.
2. Cut meat into one-inch pieces and brown in one tablespoon of pre-heated oil for one minute. Do this in three or four batches using fresh oil each time. 3. Put mushrooms, meat, wine and wolfberries in a heavy pot with two and one-half cups of water. Bring to the boil, quickly lower the heat, cover, and simmer for two hours.
4. Into individual serving bowls, put a little salt, pepper, and a few drops of sesame oil. Ladle the stew on top, stir and serve.

Note: If using lamb, the author suggests blanching in boiling water for half minute after frying, then draining the lamb.

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