Nutritional health and a plant-based diet are intimately related. A nutritional approach in TCM takes into account the nature of every substance ingested as a critical component to its health benefit. The effect varies depending on the health and condition of the individual.

The time honored tradition of combining herbs and foods takes these factors into account, and will vary dependent on regional varieties of foods and herbs, as well as the cultural context that informs their use.


The evolution of modern western European food culture places great emphasis on the content of vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats, and carbohydrates in food. The Chinese Medical cultural context will also place importance on how the food makes us feel.


Two primary factors we want to influence in the body are temperature and moisture.


All plants, herbs, meats, grains, etc. have the ability to moderate the dynamics of temperature and moisture levels in the human body. The principal of balance between opposites applies here. 


If the body is too damp, we select foods to dry out.

If the body is too dry and parched, we select foods to moisten.

If the body is too hot, we select foods to cool it down.

If t he body is too cool, we select foods to warm it up.


The most important quality influencing a food’s affect on temperature and moisture in the body is the “flavor” of the food.


There are five main flavor categories in classical Chinese medicine:

  • Pungent/Spicy – This taste is generally warming to the body and is associated with increasing immunity and decreasing unhealthy bacteria levels.

    • Examples: arugula, ginger, chives, garlic, chili pepper, cilantro, mustard greens.


  • Sweet – This flavor is considered nourishing and moistening to the body and is good to increase the body size

    • Examples: cane sugar, asparagus, sweet potato, carrot, honey, spinach, squash.


  • Sour – The sour taste is considered cooling and moistening to the body, mostly by astringing and containing body fluids

    • Examples: citrus, green apple, dandelion greens, sauerkraut, tomato, apricot.


  • Bitter, Bland – both these flavors are said to have a draining/drying and cooling effect, often reducing the body size and supporting weight loss.

    • Examples of bitter: romaine heart, kale, cranberry, cocoa, green tea, buckwheat.

    • Examples of bland: oats, rice, barley, eggplant, river fish, green beans, bok choy.


  • Salty – The salty flavor is softening and moistening to the body.

    • Examples: Seafood, including seaweeds, black beans, pork, cherries.


Adjusting temperature and moisture levels in the body can be accomplished by incorporating the appropriate food flavors into your daily diet.

Balancing Temperature:

  • To cool the body down: Select sour flavored foods..

  • To warm the body: Use pungent, spicy, and sweet foods.


Balancing Moisture:

  • To dry a moist, mucus filled body: Use bitter and bland foods.

  • To moisten dryness: Eat sweet and salty foods.

In addition to learning and incorporating food flavors to match your needs, Chinese medicine dietary principles are dependent on utilizing local and regional foods as primary to supporting the health of the animals, including humans, in those particular ecosystems.


Along those lines, we at Four Corners Chinese Medicine support local food producers and recommend eating locally sourced foods whenever possible.

We are proud to offer local preserves from Apple Blossom Orchard of Hermosa, CO in our office.

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Apple Blossom Orchard practices chemical free, pesticide free, and herbicide free growing practices. Our fruit trees are fertilized by free ranging chickens, irrigated by Hermosa creek water, and self composting. The vegetable gardens are enriched with on-site compost, and no artificial insecticides, herbicides, or fertilizers are used.