By Joel Kuperman, LAc and graduate of Midwest College of Oriental Medicine for Acupuncture Today, (published with permission from the author)
When you’re out of Essence, you’re out of life. That’s what is written in the Traditional Chinese Medicine classics. When you’re born you have the gift from your parents of Yuan Qi and Essence. Depending on if they were healthy, or not, your parents’ contributions will denote the length of your life span and the quality of your health. What if you could change the odds on that little equation?
According to Giovanni Maciocia, in his renowned text The Foundations of Chinese Medicine, it does a lot. Essence is responsible for growth, reproduction, and development and is the basis of kidney qi, the producer of marrow, the basis for the three treasures (Jing-Qi-Shen) and the basis for constitutional strength. From the classic text Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion, “Essence is the material base of the human body and of many of its functional activities.” Think of the body systems such as immune, cardiovascular, nervous, gastric, and others.
Let’s think about this for a minute. Historically, we have an invisible substance known for thousands of years to influence how the body functions on many levels. Known to deplete with the passage of time and known to be somewhat replenishable. A substance so powerful that it directly influences the root of qi in the kidney from which all qi flows. A substance so powerful it directly affects the body whole, Shen, and life itself. That’s impressive. Without essence, death becomes imminent.
What if you knew of a way to consistently replenish your Essence, thus insuring a longer and healthier life? What if the way to do this could be found in almost any health or nutritional food store? What if you could, just say, buy a “bottle-o-Jing” or two? Sounds too good to be true, but actually, you can. You see, a strong correlation of functionality suggests that Essence or Jing may in fact be the same substance as the enzymes that we are born with. And remarkably, like Essence, enzymes are produced and replenished in our own bodies through the consumption of food.
Enzymes are responsible for every chemical reaction in the body. These include growth, reproduction, development and the well being of the entire body and all of its systems, particularly the immune system. Sound familiar? Like Essence, it is thought that enzymes produced primarily by the pancreas are diminishable over the course of our lifetime. Like essence, enzyme stores may be added to through the consumption of foods that contain them. These are primarily fresh fruits and vegetables. It should be noted that when cooked food reaches a temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit, all enzyme content is destroyed. The similarities between the two, Essence and enzymes are too strong and too many to be chance coincidence. So how do we maximize their use?
The digestive enzymatic process actually begins with the thought of eating; this begins the production of enzymes. Amylase secreted in the mouth begins to turn carbohydrates into a softer form. When we consume food and it is received in the stomach, some base enzyme activity takes place there to help break down the component structure of what we ate. While this is occurring, the pancreas is secreting enzymes into the small intestine to assist in the further breakdown of the food and assimilation of nutrients. Protease to digest proteins, amylase for carbohydrate breakdown and lipase for the breakdown of fats or lipids is in full swing. Full swing, that is, based upon the ability of the pancreas to produce and secrete.
Directly tied to this is the quality of the enzymes produced in the body. I believe that the low quality of food consumed produces low quality enzymes or you may also think that this same low quality food contributes to depleted Essence. You see more than the digestive process is involved, much more.
Enzymes play a role in every chemical reaction in the body. In their classic book on the therapeutic use of oral enzymes, Medical Doctors, DA, Lopez, RM, Williams, and K. Miehlke, state “It could have been the Chinese who first noted this life force.” They also state “They are the Fountain of Life. If something like this exists, you ought to know about it. Everyone should know about it.”
When enzymes are not being used in the digestive process, they are busily working throughout the body, speeding chemical transformations and assisting in the transport and transformation of chemicals through various body systems. You may think of this transport and transformation in terms related to the spleen’s function in TCM. They also perform a task that is simply mind blowing in its elegance. They circulate in the bloodstream, Ying (Nutrient) qi, and they clear out partially broken down proteins, damaged cells, viruses, and bacteria. I believe it is this same circulating debris that lodges in the nooks and crannies of joints and tissues that begins the inflammatory process when enzyme or Essence is low and not functioning correctly.
So, if your enzyme level is low (think essence) then the body cannot heal itself as it should. Inflammation triggers the immune response and immune complexes then begin to attack the debris and surrounding tissues. This is the beginning point for many auto-immune diseases. From these dysfunctions, other body systems are affected, causing a cascade of symptoms that we see too often in our clinics. We have all seen the multiple- malady patients who are overweight, diabetic, have high blood pressure, edema, and congestive heart failure along with their achy joints. So what can we do, how do we help? TCM is powerful, our herbal remedies are second to none, our acupuncture highly adept at manipulating energy, but we need more; something is missing from the equation, something readily at hand and as powerful a healer as our TCM modalities.
The therapeutic use of enzymes is well documented and practiced in many areas of the world outside of the United States. In the early 1900s Dr. James Beard utilized enzymes to destroy cancer cells. He noted that the cancer cells bore a striking resemblance to cells of the Trophoblast of the developing fetus. His use of enzymes altered and stopped the growth of these cells. They have been used for close to 100 years to reduce inflammation, repair immune system functionality, and improve digestive (Spleen and Stomach) health; which is key to all health ,and production of qi.
There is a critical factor in their use when therapeutically ingested as supplements which is often overlooked. It works this way; when we consume food and it is received in the stomach, supplemental digestive enzymes should also be taken at that time, with the first bite of food. The additional added enzymes will signal the pancreas that it can lighten production. This allows the nonutilized pancreatic enzymes to be redeployed into the blood system for other bodily needs. A few hours after the meal is finished, the enzymes should be taken again. This second “hit” goes directly into the bloodstream for a therapeutic systemic affect. The second hit is key. Depending on the enzyme product selected, a consumption of 15-20 tablets per day would be the norm. Additionally, the ingestion of raw fresh organic fruits and vegetables should be included as a staple part of the diet. Again, cooking destroys enzymes. In our culture and most others, cooking is the norm. Sure, we may grab an apple or a banana here and there, but, that is simply not enough.
The correlations between Essence and enzymes are strong and they are strikingly similar in their descriptions and effects. As Dr. Edward Howell said in his now classic work, Enzyme Nutrition, the Food Enzyme Concept, “The life principle or activity factor of the enzyme has never been synthesized.” I invite you to do some comparisons yourself and see if what I’m saying makes sense from both a TCM and western perspective. With all the challenges we face in treatment, we need all of the tools available to us to be as effective as we can in our efforts. The uses of digestive and systemic enzymes are a powerful tool that I encourage you to evaluate and adopt in your practice. Sooner is better than later. After all, Jing is running out.
- Foreign Language Press Beijing, Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion, pg. 35, Revised edition, 2009
- Howard Loomis D.C., Enzyme Nutrition, the Food Enzyme Concept, pg. 5, Avery Publishing Group, 1985
- D.A. Lopez, M.D., R.M. Williams, M.D., K. Miehlke, M.D., Enzymes, the Fountain of Life, pg. 52, 1994, Neville Press
- D.A. Lopez, M.D., R.M. Williams, M.D., K. Miehlke, M.D., Enzymes, the Fountain of Life pg. 47 1994, Neville Press
- Dr. John Beard D. Sc The enzyme Treatment of cancer, 1911 page number unavailable
- Dr. Edward Howell M.D. Enzyme Nutrition, The Food Enzyme Concept, pg 2, Avery Publishing Group, 1985
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