Many people like to add walnuts to food to add some zest and a little crunchy kick, but walnuts are much more than a flavor additive, as they are chock full of healthy properties and have been used in Asia as an overall health tonic and brain booster for years. Let’s take a nutty look at walnuts.
Walnuts, otherwise known as Hu Tao Ren in Chinese medicine, are used as a kind of herbal remedy. In Chinese medicine, they look at the quality, temperature, flavor and color of a food to uncover certain elements that are beneficial to those who need to balance those qualities in their body. For example, the walnut is classified as “warming”. Warming foods tend to improve circulation and raise what is known as the yang qi. The yang is what is energetic, bright, outward, hot and moving (as opposed to yin, which is more inward, dark, still, cool and moist). Warming food is used in cold conditions; for example, if your stomach is cold from an overabundance of cool foods, you may have some digestive issues like gas and bloating due to slower digestion. In addition, the walnut is lubricating, moist and a bit greasy. This quality is helpful for lubricating the intestines and helping 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 the lungs, large intestine and the kidneys specifically. Walnuts strengthen the lungs to help chronic cough, asthma and skin conditions (which are connected to the lung, according the Chinese medical principles). Walnuts also are a kidney tonic and help urination; in addition, kidneys are said to influence libido, fertility, the back and knees and the aging process. Walnuts have been used to help libido and fertility, a 2012 study in Asia showed males who consumed walnuts had improved sperm quality. In addition, walnuts are used for insomnia. They help raise serotonin levels, which promote feelings of well being and help people sleep better. 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 hemisphere. It is commonly known that walnuts are an excellent brain food.
Walnuts have been shown to have high levels of Omega-3, which is an essential fatty acid that helps brain and heart function. Walnuts are anti-inflammatory, have antioxidants and recent research has shown they may have anti-cancer properties and help diabetes due to beneficial fats. In addition, they have vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant, minerals and B vitamins. Walnuts help digestion and give a feeling of being full, so they aid in weight loss.
It should be noted that in Chinese medicine, most food recommended for health is used in a formula that is 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 right for 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.
Rebecca M H Kitzerow is a Licensed Acupuncturist practicing in La Center, Washington. With over a decade of experience she has won 10 Nattie consumer choice awards from Natural Awakenings Magazine since 2014.