How did you first start your journey in Traditional Chinese Medicine?
I started focusing on TCM after years of studying and working with biomedical nutrition and healthcare. I found many aspects of western medicine and “healthy diets” not making sense (nonetheless, I also fully acknowledge that western medicine is amazing and life-saving in so many ways). I wanted to seek another answer, one that is more holistic and natural. So I started looking in TCM, since I am Chinese. I was immediately drawn to it as if it is my calling. I find it an intuitive, effective, and poetic medicine that truly cares about one’s well being.
When did you start to regard food as medicine?
I had a lot of health issues when I first came to the U.S. at the age of 16. Changing the way I ate truly changed my life, both physically and emotionally. I learned first-hand that food can be a poison, and more importantly, a powerful medicine. I was sold right away after seeing my body change, so I decided to learn how to motivate others to do so as well.
How did your love and passion of cooking begin?
I grew up in Shanghai with my grandparents who are great cooks! My childhood memories are centered around preparing food with them. I guess my passion and love for cooking was unconsciously brewing at that time!
Did you grow up with holistic medicine and formulas in your household?
Not really. However, TCM is really in most Chinese households’ everyday life. We put goji berries in our tea, bone broth is a weekly (sometimes even daily) item on the table, and eat seasonal foods most of the time. My grandparents always do daily self-massage to activate their Qi.
Your platform, Five Seasons TCM, is a wonderful education tool and resource. What prompted you to create it?
As a chef, nutritionist, practitioner, and a Chinese individual, it is my passion and mission to share my understanding and perspective of TCM foods and nutrition. Five Seasons is a place for education. It is a place to explore a better way of eating. It is a place to learn to understand our unique bodies in a holistic, flexible, and loving way that I think is lacking nowadays.
What is one of the most important lessons you have learned in your journey of TCM?
Understanding your own body and following natural patterns is the most important thing. It is important to get our brains outside of the box set out by wellness trends and popular diets. That’s why I developed a body constitution quiz and seasonal eating guidelines on Five Seasons TCM.
We are increasingly focused on our health and wellness– what does the future of wellness look like to you?
Individualized! It has to be.
What have been some of the challenges you have faced as a TCM practitioner in America?
The most difficult part is to explain it in a way that people who do not have a Chinese background or cultural understanding are able to comprehend. TCM works on a completely different philosophy and language from western biomedicine. Even when everything is translated in English, the meaning underneath usually does not carry. Also, most TCM info, products, herbal stores are very old-school. I think that deters many people as well. I’ve been trying to change this situation by presenting TCM in a different, international, modern way.
For those that are starting their health journey, what are some beginner steps they can take?
1) See a practitioner to experience TCM first hand. It can be cupping, acupuncture, herbal medicine…
2) Educate yourself with books, the Internet, and bloggers. I have a TCM nutrition 101 course to help you 🙂
3) Experiment on your own. TCM can be a free medicine that can be easily incorporated into your daily life. Start from self-massage and making medicinal foods!
Yao shan is a founding principle of your work. Would you explain what it means to our readers?
It is using food as medicine, both to prevent and treat illnesses. I’ve written a basic 101 of Yao Shan on my site here.
Do you find yourself drawn to the same ingredients time after time? If so, which ones?
I do have some favorites! Goji, chrysanthemum, cordydeps, reishi, osmanthus, rose, yi ren, dang gui, sha shen are my favorites I think.
What are some recipes that you are reliant on during winter?
Mushroom porridge is a must: https://www.fiveseasonstcm.com/porridge/non-dairy-creamy-mushroom-congee
And a live for nights with this TCM inspired mulled wine: https://www.fiveseasonstcm.com/beverage/blog-post-title-one-mz9jn
Which ingredients do you rely on most to ensure a healthy immune system?
Reishi, astragalus, ginger, American ginseng, honeysuckle.
Where have you been finding your inspiration at the moment?
You have radiant skin! Do you have a skincare routine?
Thank you! Nothing special. I wash my face with organic soap made with clean ingredients (sometimes with rice water if I have it on hand), put on toner, eye cream, and lotion. That’s it! I use @5yina products that are based on TCM daily. Once or twice a week, I do a face mask. And 1-2 minute of face massage daily! Here is an example of face massage.
Balance is an unachievable concept– how do you deal with the overwhelming days?
I do not agree that balance is an unachievable concept. Overwhelming days are part of our balance. Balance is a moving equilibrium and actually it is the key of optimal health in TCM. When I’m overwhelmed, I step back to see the problem in different perspectives. I read buddhist philosophy (hugely helpful!). I make art. I hug my friends. I massage myself. I tell my significant other that I am overwhelmed. We have the power to turn overwhelming feelings into positive, motivating ones.
Do you have any advice for aspiring female entrepreneurs?
Use the power of social media.
What is the most meaningful aspect of your job?
Bring TCM foods and wellness traditionals into more people’s lives and encourage them to be more aware of their own bodies.