Can herbs help to support you staying on a healthy diet? – Elwin Robinson

Recently there’s been a lot of debate within the raw food community itself about whether a raw or vegan diet is actually even healthy or not. So where does that leave you? Don’t give up in despair, over the next few weeks I’m going to be getting back to basics with you about what’s really important, and it may not be what you’re expecting.

So is there any truth to the rumours that a raw vegan diet may not be so optimal after all? There are certainly some nutrients that can be low or missing from a vegan diet, leaving you feeling less than optimally healthy, as Shazzie documented so well in Evie’s Kitchen

As well as a deficiency in particular nutrients, there is another common objection to a raw vegan diet that I’m asked about a lot: the Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) approach to health and healing both don’t advocate a raw vegan diet, in fact they advise against it. This is especially true for TCM, which is keen on warm food and lots of animal food. And these approaches have been successfully healing people for thousands of years. I’m often asked how I, as a chinese tonic herbalist, can support a diet which the system I use so successfully says is a bad idea?

Firstly, I would draw a distinction between what I do, as a Taoist practitioner, and TCM, which, like all systems that have not changed fundamental principles for thousands of years, can be a little out of date. I’ll write more on why our needs have changed so much, especially over the last few centuries, in my next Passion article.

It’s important to realise that what was once helpful and accurate won’t always necessarily stay that way, as things change. Understanding that things change, and learning to adapt to these changes, is essential for any Taoist and, in fact, according to evolutionary theory, essential to any organism that wants to survive and thrive. Being able to adapt is largely a function of having strong Kidneys

However, if you wish to stay open minded, the question remains: is there any validity to the objections against a raw vegan diet? The answer is: yes, definitely, and the issues these millennia old systems point to are important to be aware of and address if you want to make a raw vegan diet work long term.

The most obvious energy polarity which is commonly discussed in the raw food community is that raw food tends to be very Yin, i.e. cooling and wet. So the advice generally given is to eat more heating foods like chilli and ginger to balance this out. This approach can be problematic however, as it’s based on an oversimplification.

In my experience, most people who are drawn to raw food are drawn to them because they have an excess of heat, at least in the core organs of the body, specifically in the heart, liver and brain. This can be the case even if you are cold all the time. The challenge may not be that you are energetically cold, especially if you’re drawn to raw foods. The issue is probably that all the heat is trapped in the core of your body, and isn’t circulating as it should. This is really down to the liver not doing its job properly, and to a certain degree the thyroid being imbalanced too, which can happen easily if the liver organ system is not processing the toxicity within you quickly enough to stop it building up.

In this case, if anything, foods that heat the heart, like ginger, chilli, ginseng and cacao, will actually make things worse. A better idea is to cool the heart with a blend like my Serenity , and to slowly Cleanse the liver and then the whole body, at a rate that isn’t overwhelming to the eliminative organs.

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