In Chinese Herbal Medicine, many foods are included in the medicinal literature because of their health benefits. After thousands of years of observation and recorded experience, walnuts have been shown to have very specific therapeutic effects in the human body.
Chinese herbal medicine categorizes herbs based on their taste attribute. An herb can have a taste attribute of acrid, sweet, sour, bitter, salty, bland or astringent. Walnuts fall into the sweet category. Sweet herbs often have tonifying and harmonizing properties.
Chinese herbal medicine also categorizes herbs based on their thermal property. Thermal property describes the temperature of herbs. Herbs can be categorized as cold, cool, neutral, warm and hot. Walnuts fall into the warm category. Many Chinese classic texts state that “Cold diseases must be warmed, and hot diseases must be cooled.” Therefore, appropriate herbs (and foods) are chosen to treat disorders based on their thermal category. Cold herbs would be chosen to treat disorders characterized by heat, such as sore throat and fever. Warm, or hot herbs would be chosen to treat cold conditions such as cold extremities.
Based on their therapeutic effects, herbs are said to enter one or more of the energetic meridians of the body. Walnuts are said to enter the Kidney, Lung and Large Intestine.
Walnuts tonify the Kidney and replenish the Kidney Essence. Kidney Essence controls the growth of teeth and bones and is manifested on the hair. Essence is essential for normal brain development, sexual energy and fertility. Chinese culture deducted thousands of years ago that walnuts benefit the brain. One of the oldest principals of Chinese herbal medicine is that the shape, texture or color of a plant or natural substance may mimic certain parts of the body or attributes of certain diseases and therefore suggest a therapeutic correspondence. Look closely at a walnut half. How cerebral does it look to you?
Walnuts are known to enrich the sperm. Walnuts are an important herb to strengthen the bones. Walnuts are combined with other Kidney tonifying herbs to treat soreness and weakness of the lower back and knees. Walnuts are combined with herbs like he shou wu and dang gui to treat premature gray hair.
Walnuts are said to warm the Lung and stop wheezing. The Kidneys control the reception of the Qi of the air that is breathed in by the Lung. The Lungs send this energy down to the Kidney. When the Kidney cannot hold this Qi, it creates congestion in the chest. This is a frequent cause of chronic asthma, characterized by a weak cough that gets worse with exertion. Walnuts are the perfect herb to treat this cold-type asthma, because walnuts are warm and tonify both the Lung and the Kidney. To treat chronic cough, walnuts are served with honey, another herb in Chinese herbal medicine.
Walnuts moisten the Intestines to treat constipation that is caused by lack of Essence or Blood or both. This often occurs in the elderly or following a chronic illness.
Western medicine now knows that walnuts are a rich source of calcium and omega-3 fatty acids which make them useful in the treatment of osteo and rheumatoid arthrits, bronchial asthma and other degenerative conditions involving poor immunity. But Chinese medicine has known this for centuries.
About the Author: Joyce Marley is a licensed acupuncturist who provides acupuncture therapy in New Hartford, NY. She writes Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) health articles about acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine.