A blog by request –
Just before the last holiday, I had several conversations with clients about alcohol.
There was the usual question, “I know, it’s bad.” Like so many other real foods and drinks it’s not bad, what we have to look at is your relationship to the food or drink. I reserve the term “bad” only for artificial foods and drinks. When I am talking about relationships to food I am looking at how much, how often and why you ingest a particular food or drink. However, this blog isn’t about alcoholism and other food and drink abuses, this is about understanding the energetics of alcohol which may help you make some better choices if you choose to partake. In several cases, I didn’t need to recommend the client not enjoy a little alcohol but with a little knowledge of their patterns and nature we selected alcohol that would be less aggravating to their system.
Alcohol, in its many forms, has long been a part of our lives and cultures. In some cultures, its an old and refined friend that echoes the foods and beliefs of the region and its peoples, in others, like the Native Americans, it may be relatively new. It’s been used for medicinal purposes and celebrations and, of course, it has been a cause of disease and abuse for some. So it makes sense for me to take a little time and talk about the energetics of alcohol.
Let’s look at the energetics of alcohol, shall we?
First, what are food energetics? From the rich theory and knowledge of Asian medicine (Chinese medicine) we get the very simple, yet profound concept that all food we ingest creates a post metabolic phenomenon in the body. We can look at these natures in broad categories.
Temperature – Do they heat, cool or maintain a neutral temperature?
Direction – Do they move the Qi inward (centering) , outward and upward (expanding), downward (grounding)?
Organ and Channel system entered – All foods influence one or more of the 12 organs and their channels. The 12 organs are the Lungs, Colon, Stomach, Spleen, Heart, Small Intestines, Bladder, Kidney, Pericardium, Triple Warmer, Gall Bladder and Liver.
Flavor – Each of the 5 Flavors also has specific influences on the body. Sweet affects the Earth element. Bitter influences the Fire element; sour the Wood element; salty the Water element and pungent influences the Metal element.
Action – Does is move stasis, drain dampness, moisten dryness, build Qi, Blood or Fluids, eliminate wind, calm shen….?
….okay, we have enough to start working with here….
Alcohol is hot in nature – It will influence the Liver and Gall Bladder. Those guys are under the rule of Wood element. Being that alcohol is hot, if you have heat as a pattern in your system be careful. Other organs that are affected by heat include the Lungs, Colon, Stomach, Heart, Small Intestines, Bladder, Pericardium, Triple Warmer. Organs can also be influenced by the flavor that directly goes to them. For example, bitter enters the Fire organs of Heart and Small Intestines. If you are too hot – your tongue will be red and possibly dry – choose a drink of a cooler nature like a crisp white wine or spritzer or something with mint.
The higher the alcohol content the hotter the nature – think of your whiskey and vodka which will be very hot compared to a rice wine or soju. Wines are cooler that hard liquor with red wine being warm than the whites or rosés. Beers are heavier in yeasts and therefore create more phlegm and dampness. The heavier stouts are more anchoring and build blood, while the light IPA’s are less heavy and cloying. A Bloody Mary with a spiced glass rim is going be more heating than a mint mojito – where the mint is cooling in nature.
Alcohol is sweet – Okay, not all of it tastes as sweet as a Madeira or liqueur which are very sweet, but all alcohol falls into the sweet class. From their its other flavors are defined by what was fermented or added as flavoring. Fruits will all be sweet, both if the ferment process or if it is added in later like a sangria. Spices or pungents run the range from hot (ginger, it hot and sweet) to cold (mint, is cold and sweet) – get it?
Alcohol moves stasis – It breaks through stagnation quickly which can be relaxing or create hyperactivity depending on your nature. However, it doesn’t remedy why the stasis is happening – which needs to be addressed. A little mulled red wine with spices can work wonders for cold, Blood deficient people in the winter. Occasionally I may recommend a client go relax with a good glass of wine and some chocolate. It’s about moderation and using tools appropriately.
Alcohol can aggravate wind – For interior wind patterns like epilepsy, tremors, strokes, and high blood pressure, alcohol can be dangerous. However, in some exterior wind invasion like the onset of a cold a hot toddy can help open the pores and ‘release to the exterior’ to push the pathogen out.
Do I recommend alcohol medicinally? Yes – if it is appropriate for the client’s pattern or isn’t contra-indicated (like in blood sugar issues) and they don’t have an abusive relationship with alcohol. Tinctures and bitters made with alcohol are wonderful ways to get herbs absorbed easily into the body.
That’s a broad look at alcohol’s energetic, which by no means does it cover all the subtleties and refinement that can come with understanding all forms and flavors of alcohol. Again, a word of caution if you struggle with alcoholism seek help and refrain from using alcohol. If your relationship to alcohol is one with good boundaries enjoy exploring a little.