THE plum rain (mei yu) season arrives in Shanghai when plums get mature in the region south of the Yangtze River — hence the name.
Appreciating mature plums in rain may sound romantic, but the monsoon weather is hot, wet and muggy.
Characterized by high temperature, frequent rain and high humidity, plum rain is annoying to most residents here as it not only encourages bacteria growth, but also triggers various ailments including poor digestion, aggravated eczema and risk of cardiovascular disease relapse.
Pathogenic dampness is a big enemy to the spleen (digestive system), which operates best in a “dry” environment, says Dr Liu Wen, chief physician of Longhua Hospital attached to Shanghai University of TCM.
The spleen, according to TCM, is responsible for digesting and transporting nutrition to all organs and supporting water metabolism within the body.
With pathogenic dampness invading, the normal transportation and nutrition and water is damaged, which may lead to indigestion problems like abdominal distension, poor appetite and diarrhea that causes fluid loss and exhaustion. People may also suffer fatigue that’s hard to relieve.
“Though most people will feel discomfort in the season, they do not necessarily all suffer that much,” says Dr Liu. “Some people may naturally get over it within days when they get adapted, but it may stay as a problem for the weak.”
For those who may be vulnerable, Dr Liu strongly advises a plain and clean diet. Do not eat too much greasy, spicy, fried or sweet foods, lest they burden the already weak digestive system.
Those suffering heart conditions and high blood pressure should also be alert in the season characterized by low atmospheric pressure. Heavy perspiration and fluid loss can cause blood to thicken. In extreme cases this can cause heart and brain seizures. Keep hydrated and drink plenty of water.
Continuous rain, of course, is always bad news for rheumatism sufferers. Eczema and other skin conditions may be aggravated or recur. Try to keep hands, feet and joints dry.
Foods that helps benefit spleen and dispel pathogenic dampness can help relieve the discomfort in the season. They include yams, pearl barley, white gourd, white radishes, tomatoes, dried purple seaweed and kelp.
Herbs like eupatorium, watermelon rind and dendrobe may also help.
Apart from that, getting a good night’s rest, maintaining a good mood and taking appropriate exercise are always recommended, whatever the season, to maintain health and the immune system.
Lotus leaf and tuckahoe congee
Ingredients: One piece of lotus leaf (dry or fresh), tuckahoe (50g), rice (100g)
1. Cook soup with the lotus leaf, and filter the soup.
2. Cook congee with the filtered soup, tuckahoe and rice.
3. Add a little sugar to sweeten.
Benefits: Helps dispel pathogenic heat and dampness, soothes nerves, ceases diarrhea, and relieves cardiovascular problems.
Pearl barley and red bean soup
Ingredients: Pearl barley (15g), red bean (15g), rice (100g)
1. Soak the pearl barley and red beans for two hours.
2. Put all the ingredients in an electric cooker with water and bring it to boiling.
3. Keep cooking for another two hours after the boiling.
4. Add some rock sugar to sweeten.
5. Drink once or twice daily.
Benefits: Helps dispel pathogenic dampness, benefits the digestive system, promotes urination, relieves edema, and benefits the heart.
Purple sweet potato, lily’s root and white fungus soup
Ingredients: One purple sweet potato, fresh lily’s roots (15g), white fungus (15g), rock sugar as needed
1. Soak the white fungus with cold water for one hour, and tear them into small pieces.
2. Peel and chop the purple sweet potato into small pieces.
3. Put the white fungus in an earthen pot with water.
4. Bring it to a quick boil and turn to gentle heat. Simmer for about one and a half hours.
5. Add the purple sweet potato and lily’s roots in for about 5-10 minutes. Add rock sugar to sweeten.
6. Drink once or twice daily.
Benefits: Helps dispel pathogenic heat, nourishes lungs, soothes nerves, and benefits heart. It can help relieve problems like sleeplessness, poor appetite, fatigue, sore throat and continuous thirst.
(Note: It is advised that those suffering indigestion already skip the purple sweet potato.)
Pearl barley and yam congee
Ingredients: Pearl barley (10g), yam (10g), rice (100g)
1. Wash the ingredients; soak pearl barley for 20 minutes.
2. Chop the yam.
3. Make congee with the ingredients in an electric cooker.
4. Eat once or twice daily.
Benefits: Dispels dampness, benefits the spleen, improves appetite.