Walnuts and Your Brain

Many people like to add walnuts to food for zest and a little crunchy kick, but walnuts are much more than a flavor additive, Walnuts are are full of healthy properties.  They have been used in Asia as an overall health tonic and brain booster for years. Let’s take a nutty look at walnuts.    

Walnuts, aka Hu Tao Ren in Chinese medicine, are used as a herbal remedy. They quality, temperature, flavor and color of a food is observed to uncover certain elements  beneficial to those needing to balance those qualities in their body. For example, walnuts are classified as “warming”. Warming foods tend to improve circulation and raise the yang qi.  Yang is energetic, bright, outward, hot and moving (as opposed to yin, which is inward, dark, still, cool and moist). Warming food is used in cold conditions; ex) if your stomach is cold from an overabundance of cool foods, you may have digestive issues like gas and bloating due to slower digestion. In addition, the walnut is lubricating, moist and a bit greasy. This is helpful for lubricating intestines and aiding digestion and constipation.

In Chinese medicine, the element of the food goes to certain organs and is beneficial for them.  Walnuts are said to benefit  lungs, large intestine and kidneys specifically. Walnuts strengthen lungs to help chronic cough, asthma and skin conditions (connected to lung, according to Chinese medical principles). Walnuts also are a kidney tonic,:  they help urination, are believed to influence libido, fertility, the back, knees and the aging process. A 2012 study in Asia showed males who consumed walnuts experienced improved sperm quality. In addition, walnuts are used for insomnia because they elevate serotonin levels promoting  feelings of well being.  This improves sleep. Finally, in looking at food as medicine, foods that resemble a body part often treat that organ. What does the walnut resemble? Two lobes of the brain, the left and right hemispheres It is commonly known walnuts are an excellent brain food.    

Walnuts have been shown to have high levels of Omega-3, an essential fatty acid that helps brain and heart function. Walnuts are anti-inflammatory and have antioxidants.  Recent research has shown they may have anti-cancer properties and help diabetes due to beneficial fats. They also have vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant, minerals and B vitamins. They give a feeling of being full which aids in weight loss.   

It should be noted that in Chinese medicine, most food recommended for health is used in a formula unique for you and an overall treatment plan is created. Walnuts are not a panacea for health care, and it’s best not to self-diagnose; instead, visit an acupuncture provider to get a thorough diagnosis and a balanced formula specific to you.

Walnuts are not recommended in cases of fever, diarrhea or allergic reaction to nuts. If you are generally healthy and want a nice tonic, add a nice handful of nuts to not only perk up your food but also your body.

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