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Categories: Articles, Beverages, Food Education, Kidney Stones, Research Studies

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Kidney stones are common, painful and expensive to treat. It is estimated that about three people in every 100 in the UK will suffer from them.

And Koo Stark, former girlfriend of Prince Andrew and herself a sufferer, recently revealed in ‘Hello’ magazine that the condition will prevent her having the home birth she would have preferred for the baby she is carrying.

But according to a new report drinking plenty of coffee, tea, beer or wine could reduce the risk of getting a kidney stone while apple juice and grapefruit juice could, however, increase the risk.

The finding comes from a six-year survey of more than 45,000 American men, aged 40 to 75, by a team from the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, USA. The survey is part of a long-term study of cancer, heart and other diseases in which more than 50,000 health professionals are taking part.

Their drinking habits, with 21 different beverages from water to hard spirits, were compared with the development of 753 kidney stones among the men, none of whom had had one before.

After allowing for other effects, including other elements of the diet, the Harvard team put the decrease in risk at 10% for each 240ml (just over one and half cups) of coffee a day and 14% for tea. The same amount of beer (under half a pint) gave a reduced risk of 21% and of wine 39%. The risk increased by 35% for each 240ml of apple juice, and 37% for 240ml of grapefruit juice.

While the survey was on men over 40 who had not had a stone there was no reason to believe the findings would be any different for women, younger men or men who had already had kidney stones containing calcium oxalate.

The Harvard team suggest that caffeine interferes with the action of a urine-reducing hormone on the kidneys, while alcohol slows production of the hormone, resulting in more and weaker urine with less chance of crystals forming. More research is needed, they say.

Patients are usually advised to drink a lot to increase the volume of their urine, but this does not always work in preventing another stone. It would seem that what people drink could be as important as how much they drink.

Note to Editors:

Known medically as calculi, kidney stones may be formed due to an infection in the urinary tract or from an excess of salts in the bloodstream which crystallise in the urine. Stones which remain in the kidney may cause no discomfort but even a small stone on the move to the bladder can cause excruciating pain by tearing the lining of the urinary tract.

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photo by: Moyan_Brenn

Coffee: Chinese Medicine Perspective

Categories: Articles, Beverages, Eastern Nutrition

Coffee: Chinese Medicine Perspective

How should one of the most (if not the most) widely consumed decoction worldwide be evaluated from a traditional Chinese medicine perspective?

To discuss coffee’s classification into traditional Chinese medicine energetics I prefer to look at its actions and side effects. Increased alertness/energy, diuretic, diaphoretic, and purgative. The last three are easy to classify as drain dampness, resolve exterior and mild purgative. Classifying increased energy I think can mistakenly be classified as a Qi tonic. I mention mistakenly as I do not see coffee having any supplementing energies. If it were supplementing like Ren Shen or Huang Qi then I would expect over time that coffee would build your Qi and stamina. This is not the case. Once the effect of coffee wears off you are tired again and often more tired needing more coffee. I think coffee is borrowing from your jing and this is experienced as an increase in energy. Over time continuous coffee consumption will deplete your Jing and causes more fatigue. Bob Flaws explains how coffee can cause the stirring of ministerial fire giving you a sense of increased energy.

To Quote Bob Flaws: It is also possible for ministerial fire to stir frenetically simply due to too much stirring. This means mental-emotional, verbal, and/or physical stirring. All stirring or movement is the expression of the activity of yang qi, and all the yang qi of the body is rooted in the life gate fire. Stirring consumes yang qi at the same time as it transforms and consumes yin essence. In particular, stirring of heart and/or liver fire due to emotional stress, excitement and anger or the stirring of excessive sexual desire and activity may stir ministerial fire to flame upward and become hyperactive above. Last but not least, many so-called recreational drugs which are acrid, warm, up bearing, out-thrusting, and scattering may also cause upward stirring of ministerial fire. – This includes marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, opiods, and hallucinogens. It also includes coffee, alcohol, and tobacco.

Bob Flaws has referenced from somewhere that coffee is acrid, warm, up bearing, out-thrusting, and scattering. My question is how does this description explain the diuretic and purgative affect?

Coffee is acrid, warm, up bearing, out-thrusting, and scattering may also cause upward stirring of ministerial fire according to Bob Flaws. Knowing Bob, he came to this conclusion through detailed analysis and appropriate references to respected Chinese medicine sources and journals.

This description explains how it can give a sense of increased energy and act as a diaphoretic. Any comments how the traditional Chinese medicine classification of Coffee above explains the purgative and diuretic effect?

According to traditional Chinese medicine herbal theory, which channel(s) do(es) coffee have an affinity for? This is often a contentious subject within traditional Chinese medicine since many of the main effects of coffee are related to its ability to affect the mind (i.e. inducing wakefulness and insomnia, reducing anxiety, and enhancing cognition). And since, according to traditional Chinese medicine, the mind is housed in the heart, it may appear that coffee is primarily directed to the heart channel. However, it is in my opinion that the tropism of coffee is primarily the liver, secondarily for the heart, and kidneys. The five-element theory illustrates the effect that coffee has on these three channels/organs. The liver over taxes from its mother element, the kidneys. In turn, the liver generates excessively with its child element, the heart.

I agree that coffee’s flavor is predominantly acrid and that its energy is very warm. Acrid herbs that enter the Liver act to up bear (another example is chai hu). Chai hu is acrid and cool, and it up bears qi. Coffee is acrid and warm and seemingly up bears the yang. This up bearing of yang is transferred to the heart where it arouses the mind, which leads to wakefulness, or insomnia, etc.

It is difficult to fit coffee neatly into a Chinese herbal category. It appears that coffee regulates the qi, while at the same time warms the interior. Generally, acrid herbs for releasing the exterior have affinities for the lung (the most superficial organ), or the bladder (the most superficial channel, taiyang). Even though coffee is considered to possess diaphoretic and diuretic actions, I do not think coffee has affinities for either the lung or bladder, and therefore would not be a particularly effective herb for releasing the exterior. Nor does coffee conform to the downward draining purgatives and laxatives categories, despite promoting bowel movements.

The grounds for coffee’s diaphoretic, diuretic, and purgative actions are less orthodox. From extensive self-experimentation, I understand that the diaphoretic action of coffee is a property that relates to coffee overdose. That is, an excessive consumption of coffee brings about diaphoresis, along with a host of other adverse effects: jitters (stirring of liver wind), and anxiety (disturbed mind). Diaphoresis and anxiety occur when coffee’s dispersing action excessively diffuses heart qi. The diuretic and purgative actions for the most part stem from the over taxation of the kidney and less so from any direct action on the fu organs. This seems a reasonable explanation, since the kidney controls the lower two orifices (1).

A thorough TCM evaluation of coffee is available at:

(1) Maciocia, G., The Foundations of Chinese Medicine, Churchill Livingstone, 1998, pp. 98.

About the Author:

Ryan Mader practices Chinese medicine and acupuncture at Acubalance Wellness Centre in Vanocuver BC Canada. He writes regularly on a weblog about Chinese medicine and acupuncture related topics. More TCM info


The Magic of Yerba Mate

Categories: Articles

Walk anywhere in Argentina and you can’t help but notice stylish men and women toting, not Starbucks lattes or portable coffee mugs, but instead, fist-size gourds, piled high with loose tea, topped with hot water and served, filtered, with a metal straw. Yerba mate – it’s thick and sludge-like, bitter-tasting and quite frankly, in my first-timer opinion, not-so-delicious. Yet, it’s one of the most healthful, natural beverages on earth.

Very similar to coffee and tea, Yerba Mate has been used as a beverage since the time of the ancient Indians of Brazil and Paraguay and is considered a national drink in several South American countries. Consumed in moderation, it is widely considered a healthy alternative to caffeine and is considered safe by the FDA. However, unlike sugary energy drinks, tea or coffee, it offers you long-lasting energy, focus and alertness without the dreaded side-effects of caffeine.

Some benefits of Yerba Mate:

Helps Prevent Cancer
Mate contains polyphenols, powerful antioxidants that are considered to have anti-cancer effects in humans by strengthening our immune systems while preventing the damage done by free-radicals. In lab tests, the herb and its components protect our DNA from damage by reducing oxidative stress on heart and liver cells and have been shown to kill human liver cancer cells.

Boosts Energy
Great for those who love the energy-boosting effects of caffeine but don’t love the flip side – shakes, mood swings and eventual crash. Mate helps to eliminate fatigue, while stimulating mental and physical activity with little or no side-effects compared to caffeine.

Stimulates Digestion
That bitter taste does serve a greater a purpose. Users who drink mate after meals report less digestive problems.

Packed with Vitamins
The herb contains vitamins A, C, E, B1, B2, Niacin, B5 and complex minerals like Selenium, Calcium, Magnesium, Zinc, Phosphorus, Potassium, Magnesium, and Iron. Mate also contains Carotene, Fatty Acids, Flavonols, Polyphenols (like those found in red wine), Trace Minerals, 80% more antioxidants than green tea, and 15 Amino Acids.

Fights Disease
Yerba Mate also contains phytochemicals that have been found to stimulate the immune system and protect the body against disease. Yerba Mate health benefits have been documented by research such as being anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, increases fat burning, aids in weight loss, and can help the brain with mental clarity.