The Not-So Starving Student—Four Things I Learned

From Traditional Chinese Medicine Tea Sampling

On my recent trip to Shanghai, I had the opportunity to partake in a traditional Chinese Medicine tea sampling experience that included sampling teas that catered to various bodily needs.  Unlike other tea sampling events, this one was also culturally enriching, as I learned about various tea mixtures, their histories, and the underlying principles of Chinese Medicine.

Seeking Balance

One of the most unique pieces of this experience included an introduction to types of teas and their medicinal properties.  One central focus of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is establishing a balance between the Yin and Yang properties.  For example, individuals who are more heavily exposed to a certain element such as dampness might seek to drink herbs with elements of dryness to help improve their health. (Tang et al., 2013) Based on this principle and individual needs, specific types of herbal teas can be prepared accordingly.  The idea of balance resonates with my personal philosophy in seeking balance in all aspects of life.  For example, in nutrition, seeking to eat portioned servings of protein, carbohydrates, and veggies can help restore our daily energy needs.

Every part of the body is connected

Taking part in the tea ceremony, the TCM expert spoke of connectivity in the body through an anatomical model of the body connected by pressure points.  The pressure points indicate that by injuring or disturbing the balance in one part will also influence other parts as well.  The phenomenon reminded me of a sternum injury from a tennis tournament that also caused a series of impacts on my breathing and heart rate.  Furthermore, this idea also highlights the interconnectivity between the mind and body and how mindfulness has played a key role in relaxation techniques, particularly for students who oftentimes experience a heightened level of stress.

Our bodies have the capacity to heal itself

Another central message I learned during the tea ceremony was the natural tendency for our bodies to heal themselves.  Occasionally while recovering from an illness I would feel an overwhelming impatience to recover and not give my body adequate time to heal.  Despite not possessing a detailed understanding of the immune system, traditional Chinese therapists emphasize the value of enabling the body to recover.  The purpose of certain herbs and practices such as acupuncture is to provoke the body’s ability to recover.

Multiple variables impact our health

Rather than using a one-size-fits-all approach to health, TCM values the individual’s unique response to various external elements.  Perhaps one way to view health is to think of the multiple root causes of an event rather than a single causation factor.  For example, poor health is a culmination of various root causes such as poor nutrition, lifestyle choices and external stressors.

Tang, Weici, and Gerhard Eisenbrand. Chinese drugs of plant origin: chemistry, pharmacology, and use in traditional and modern medicine. Springer Science & Business Media, 2013.