The information and remedies presented in this section are for educational purposes. Their aim is to acquaint the general public with simple, inexpensive, and easy-to-administer home remedies that have been traditionally used and are generally safe. They are meant to complement, not replace, the care and guidance of your physician or other medical professional. If you have any reason to suspect a serious illness or life-threatening disorder, or have had a serious accident, you are strongly advised to seek the advice of a qualified macrobiotic teacher and/or medical diagnosis and attention.
Preface: Ancient and Future Medicine by Alex Jack
Introduction: Healing with Balance by Edward Esko
Foreword: The Dance of Yin and Yang by Bettina Zumdick
Internal: Special Drinks & Dishes
Aduki Bean Tea
Ame (Sweet) Kuzu
Black Soybean Tea
Corn Silk Tea
Daikon Drink #1
Daikon Drink #2
Dried Daikon Tea
Genuine Brown Rice Cream
Grated Sour Apple
Large Intestine Drink
Leafy Greens Juice
Lotus Root Tea
Lotus Seed, Seaweed, and Onion Tea
Millet Squash Soup
Ransho (Raw Egg and Shoyu)
Sesame Seed Tea
Shiitake Mushroom Tea
Shoyu/Soy Sauce Bancha Tea
Sweet Vegetable Drink
External: Compresses, Plasters, and Other Applications
Brown Rice-Miso Plaster
Cabbage Leaf Plaster
Daikon Hip Bath
Ginger Body Scrub
Green Clay Plaster
Hot or Cold Water Compress
Leafy Greens Plaster
Lotus Root and Ginger Plaster
Pearl Barley/Barley Plaster
Rice Bran Plaster
Salt Hip Bath
Sesame Oil-Ginger Rub
Taro Potato Plaster
Willow Leaves Plaster
Ancient and Future Medicine
By Alex Jack
What is medicine? For too many people today, it is a prescriptive drug, scan, or other substance or procedure that entails significant risks as well as benefits. As Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary puts it, medicine is “a substance or preparation used in treating disease and that is usually in the form of a pill or liquid.”
This definition is much too narrow and restrictive. Actually, medicine comes from the Latin root “medi” meaning middle. Related terms include “medium,” “medial,” “median,” “mediator,” “medieval,” “intermediary,” and “Mediterranean.” Medicine is that which brings you back to center. It is what lies in the middle between opposites and bridges extremes. For some people, a hike in the woods is medicinal. For others, a swim in the sea grounds them. Medicine can be a soothing or restorative person, place, or thing. It can be reading an inspiring poem, dancing to your favorite music, or gazing at the stars.
Hippocrates used the term in this broader, deeper sense. Known as the Father of Medicine, he advised: “Let food be thy medicine and thy medicine be food.” Among all of the energies we are exposed to, daily food is the most consistent and enduring. Every day of our lives, we take in nourishment from what Homer, the epic poet, called “the grain-giving earth.” Everything has medicinal qualities. Traditional societies, including many Native American cultures, share a similar concept and regard plants, stones, birds, animals, and other natural phenomena as “good” or “bad” medicine. It all depends on the person and his or her unique character, needs, and situation.
The roots of macrobiotics also go back to ancient Greece. Hippocrates was the first to use the term “macrobios” to refer to longevity, and the concept quickly entered the common vocabulary to refer to healthy, long-lived individuals and societies. Comparable teachings
flourished in ancient China, India, Japan, the Middle East, Africa, and the Americas.
The contemporary macrobiotic community hearkens back to the use of diet and lifestyle to optimize health and well-being and to prevent and relieve sickness. The basic home remedies in this section are based on traditional preparations and techniques that have been used for thousands of years and modified for modern lifestyles. Compared to pharmaceuticals, scans, and other extreme substances and measures, they are simple, safe, inexpensive, and reliable. For the most part, the remedies in this book utilize ordinary, everyday foods that are used for cooking in the modern natural foods kitchen, including whole grains, beans, vegetables, fruits, seeds and nuts, seasonings, and condiments. They do not require a specialist to administer, and the cost is minimal. The per capita healthcare spending in the U.S today is $10,345 a year. The annual cost of macrobiotic remedies is a tiny fraction of this amount.
Traditional medicine was based on yin/yang thinking—or the balance of complementary opposites—and an energetic understanding of health and well-being. In balancing various conditions, substances were selected that had a complementary/opposite energy (for example, the use of plants to treat human beings). Moreover, foods that had a similar look, shape, or other feature often corresponded to a particular organ, system, or function. Thus for lung troubles, lotus root, which has the shape of the alveoli of the lungs, is recommended. For the pancreas, which has a rounder structure, cabbage and onions are beneficial. To repel worms in the intestines, which resemble the ancient ocean in which life began, a wormlike sea vegetable known as Corsican Tea was traditionally given.
Another yin/yang principle is to include a little of the opposite energy in a home remedy. Take a classroom of boys, for example. To stimulate them, the best way is to bring in a girl. Then everything is more highly charged. And vice versa with a group of girls. Introduce a boy and the whole dynamic changes. With special drinks, compresses, and plasters, a little of the opposite energy catalyzes and makes them more active. For example, a little grated ginger—which gives a yin, dispersing effect—may be added to Ume-Sho-Kuzu Tea, whose ingredients overall give a more yang, gathering effect.
The macrobiotic approach is safe and mild. The remedies in this book are divided into two broad categories: 1) special foods and drinks used internally and 2) compresses, poultices, and other applications applied externally. Both are recommended only for a short time—from 1–3 days in many cases, to 7–10 cases in others, to several months in just a few. Generally, it is more effective to stop a special drink or compress after a brief time and let the stimulated organs and functions adjust and recuperate before resuming the remedy. By that time, the condition usually improves, so you don’t need to take as much or as often. The rule of thumb is to use half as much the second time around—for example, every other day instead of daily, or ½ cup instead of a full cup. Overuse of remedies, like overeating, even of high quality organic, plant-based food, can be a cause of imbalance. After the remedies have performed their work, they should be discontinued.
Compared to changing our view of life, our environment, or our entire way of eating, home remedies offer a temporary, symptomatic approach to health and healing. They are effective in alleviating certain imbalances, but unless the underlying way of life is changed, symptoms will invariably return. Still, symptomatic treatments serve an important purpose, especially where pain is involved, and should not be underestimated. Please see our new companion books, Plant-Based Macrobiotics and Macrobiotic Wellness for the full scope and variety of the macrobiotic way of eating. Still, many remedies, such as the ginger compress, are so effective that anyone may benefit from their application. The experience of such a simple, powerful treatment can change a person’s way of thinking and stimulate them in a more holistic direction.
It is especially helpful to apply these methods when you have just started on the macrobiotic path, as the body’s eliminatory processes are more active at this time. In the beginning, as the body adjusts to whole, natural foods, it begins to eliminate excess. We call this process “discharging,” and in addition to normal eliminatory channels such as urination, bowel movement, perspiration, and respiration, excess may be discharged through fever, coughing, or other abnormal means. Some of the remedies serve to make the normal discharge process more comfortable or control its frequency and duration. But again be mindful. In the beginning, it may not be easy to distinguish a worsening condition from a discharge. Please seek the advice of an experienced macrobiotic counselor or medical professional for further guidance.
After changing to a more healthy way of life, stagnation from past imbalance may remain in the body. Some of the remedies in this section will help discharge deposits of old fat, protein, and minerals from previous hamburger, chicken, dairy, or sugar consumption. To erase the most harmful effects of heavy animal food intake takes only several months, but deep blockages may take several years. Don’t be concerned about the past or how long the transition may take. From the moment you change, regard yourself as completely healthy and whole and let nature take its course.
When preparing remedies, it is often best to take them on an empty stomach, such as mid-morning, mid-afternoon, or occasionally in the early morning before breakfast or in the early evening after dinner. It is best, however, not to eat or drink for about 3 hours before sleeping to allow for proper digestion.
The 75 home remedies in this section represent the core contents of a natural kitchen apothecary. For a more comprehensive approach, please see Michio Kushi’s The Macrobiotic Path to Total Health with detailed information on preventing and relieving over 200 conditions and Macrobiotic Home Remedies by Michio and Marc Van Cauwenberghe, M.D., a handbook with several hundred remedies.
Modern medicine has developed many wonderful applications and techniques. Macrobiotics is not opposed to these methods. But they often entail serious risks, as well as benefits, and may be expensive, harmful, ineffective, and require an expert to administer. In some cases, such technologies are helpful and even lifesaving. But the more invasive and dangerous ones should be used as a last resort, rather than the first line of defense, against disease.
The medicine of the future will be a combination of traditional energetic approaches and culinary methods and new techniques and contemporary applications that are developed to meet ever changing personal, social, and environmental needs. Together let us develop a new Medicine for Humanity to enable our species to create a bright, healthy, peaceful future for endless generations.
Healing with Balance
By Edward Esko
Macrobiotic healing is exceedingly simple, yet deep and profound. It is based on understanding the fundamental laws of nature. Every human being perceives this natural law through the innate capacities of instinct and intuition. The study and practice of macrobiotics attempts to bring this awareness to the surface and mobilize it on a practical day-to-day level. Let’s take some examples.
First let’s define what we mean by natural law. In macrobiotics, we refer to natural law as yin and yang, which are the primary forces of nature. Yin describes the energy of expansion found throughout the universe. On earth we experience it as an upward, outgoing, expanding force. Yang is the opposite. It describes the force of contraction that is everywhere in nature. We experience yang as a downward, incoming, and contracting force. Together these forces animate all motion and change. We can say that yin and yang describe the way that change changes.
The key to health and happiness lies in establishing proper balance between the two forces. We achieve this every day in our body activities—such as movement and rest—as well as in our daily selection and preparation of food. Foods are not solid and unchanging, but moving and changing forms of energy produced by our constantly changing environment. We take them in every day and use them to form our body structure and, especially when they are properly energized through cooking and fermentation, to provide the energy and movement needed for life.
Let’s now look at several external remedies to further understand how the principle of balance can help relieve symptoms. Fever is the overproduction of heat in the body. When properly managed, it serves to eliminate potentially harmful excess. In the macrobiotic view, fever can serve a beneficial purpose, and thus our remedies should enhance, rather than suppress, the process of discharge, while at the same time easing discomfort.
For this purpose, a cool vegetable plaster can be helpful, ideally prepared from foods found in the home. Tofu is the remedy of choice. It is cool, the opposite of hot; it is comprised mostly of water,
the opposite of fire; it comes from a plant (soybean) as opposed to the animal heat of fever; and it is rich in fats that readily absorb heat. Thus a cool tofu plaster is applied to the forehead to help draw fever out from the body. The tofu plaster aids the body’s discharge process rather than weakening or suppressing it, which is what happens when aspirin or other medication is taken, or if an ice-cold pack is applied to the head or body. A cool cabbage leaf plaster can also be used to relieve fever.
The macrobiotic approach to kidney stones offers another example, albeit one that utilizes the opposite energy dynamic. Unlike fever, which represents overactive and dispersed energy, a stone is an example of inert, crystalized, or frozen energy. So, rather than applying cold, we apply heat. Repeated hot towel compresses or a very hot ginger compresses have the effect of melting or dissolving the hardened deposit, thus facilitating its elimination from the body.
The same principles apply to remedies taken internally. So, returning to the example of fever, a food or beverage that facilitates opening of the peripheral capillaries, pores, and sweat glands allows excess heat to exit the body. To achieve this, highly pungent vegetables such as daikon radish and ginger root are quite effective. Grating the vegetables releases their dispersing energy. Serving them in the form of tea facilitates rapid absorption and action upon the blood vessels. This tea is known simply as “daikon tea for fever.” When combined with the tofu plaster, most fevers can be managed fairly simply. If taken in the evening, the fever will often “break” during the night. The person will sleep soundly and awake feeling cleansed, refreshed, and energized.
The warming and dispersing effects of daikon can also be used to melt and dissolve kidney stones. These forms of daikon tea include “carrot-daikon drink” and “dried daikon tea.” For kidney stone emergencies caused when a stone becomes blocked in the urinary tube, macrobiotics advises drinking large amounts of hot liquid, including hot bancha tea, lemon water, or hot apple juice to relax and open the tube and allow the stone to pass.
Of course, in medical emergencies, macrobiotics advises seeking the advice and care of a medical doctor. In a condition such as a sudden high fever caused by acute bacterial pneumonia, for example, the macrobiotic treatment of choice is a visit to the emergency room. Proper diet and remedies can be applied once the emergency has passed.
Fortunately, however, most common conditions can be managed through simple natural remedies, especially when a person eats a plant-based macrobiotic diet. Simple natural remedies are very helpful in raising children in a healthy natural way while avoiding the hazards of modern medical practice, including the overuse of antibiotics and other medications.
As simple and effective as these basic home remedies are, keep in mind that they are symptomatic. They are most effective when practiced against the backdrop of a plant-based macrobiotic diet, which enables one to avoid the cause of many common conditions, while correcting the underlying imbalances that lead to illness. I hope you find the remedies in this book useful in setting up your kitchen apothecary and in letting your food be your medicine.
By Bettina Zumdick
For many years I have been working with home remedies. Now after much first hand experience, I can truly appreciate their ingenuity. Home remedies are designed to make changes elegantly and easily in the body. At times, especially when we are impatient, remedies seem to work slowly. Nonetheless, they work steadily and deliberately with definite, positive results.
Unlike drugs and other more invasive applications, which may help erase symptoms, home remedies will be effective if appropriately chosen and used wisely. They will not hit you over the head to alleviate your headache. Unfortunately, drugs commonly lead to secondary problems and symptoms. Then another drug is prescribed to deal with the first drug. For example, a daily dose of aspirin may cause severe nausea, and then the anti-nausea medication may
induce muscle aches, and the muscle ache medication can induce another symptom, and so forth. As the English philosopher Francis Bacon quipped, “The remedy is worse than the disease.”
Natural home remedies are intended for use over short intervals to help adjust the body’s condition and bring it back into balance. They are not designed to replace a well-balanced holistic diet.
Let’s look at natural remedies a little more closely. If you have consumed too much ice cream over the summer and now you are suffering from coughs, congested lungs and sinus, weakened intestines, and frontal and side headaches, we need a remedy that will adjust this condition. Ice cream consists primarily of sugar and fat, with very little minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and other micronutrients that would keep the body in balance. Hence, any remedy we choose needs to supply a dose of minerals and antioxidants, as well as healthy gut bacteria that get depleted by eating too much sugar.
Sugar/fat combinations, as in ice cream, tend to travel upwards when metabolized and create stagnation in the upper part of the body. Thus to make balance, our remedy needs to discharge the excess in a downward direction, releasing excess via the urinary system and the intestines. However, if our body is used to consuming a lot of sugar, and very little minerals, fiber, etc., the remedy may not become effective unless we add a very small amount of an ingredient that has a similarly upward and relaxing effect like sugar.
While a remedy may largely supply the opposite tendency to offset the underlying condition, it will need to include a small amount of energy that is resonant and similar to the current state. This is a basic principle of culinary medicine and creating effective natural home remedies. They are devised like a logarithmic spiral: the greatest part of the remedy being diametrically opposite to the imbalanced condition of the body. Then a smaller part is similar or resonant, followed by an even smaller part opposite to the condition, and so forth.
This explains why in a remedy such as Shiitake Tea, we add a pinch of sea salt to several mushrooms to make balance. The shiitake are very yin and as the main ingredient of the drink serve to soothe, calm, and relax an overly yang condition. The salt is very yang, but serves as a catalyst to activate the yin. In the right proportion, the shiitake and salt are much more effective together than just the mushrooms alone. Such is the graceful dance of yin and yang in the preparation of natural home remedies and the start of the healing process.