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TCM Take on Fat: Vent Your Spleen
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If you want to fight fat the TCM way, you should eat foods to promote a healthy spleen — like Chinese pearl barley, known as Job's tears — and drink lots of Pu'er tea. Both are also diuretics.

A sun top, miniskirt and high-heel sandals - that's the outfit that catches men's attention and other girls' envy on the streets in summer. In order to show off their figures in skimpy clothes, girls started their weight-loss battles months ago, but it's never too late to lose weight.

Drinking slimming tea (a laxative), staying on a diet, and going to the gym frequently are widely used weight-loss methods. But eating certain foods or being pierced by fine silver needles may also help you to get rid of excessive weight.

Most people believe that obesity results from eating too much, which is certainly true in most cases. But it fails to explain why some people gain weight even though they eat little and drink lots of water while others keep slim though they eat a big dinner every day.

"It is not simply the case that the more you eat, the more weight you gain," says Dr Zhang Zhongyi, deputy director of the Acupuncture Department of Yueyang Western and Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital. "Whether your stomach and spleen work well plays a much more important role."

According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the spleen, together with the stomach, digest and absorb nutrients (the spleen function in TCM differs from that in Western medicine). TCM holds that the spleen is responsible for sending the nutrients from the stomach to all the organs, and also for expelling excessive body fluid. If the spleen doesn't function well, excessive body fluid will collect and turn into fat.

Fat not only collects on muscles, destroying a nice figure, but also on organs and in the blood, which can cause health problems.

Fatty liver is common among fat people and can lead to cirrhosis if patients fail to correct their diet. Links are also found between obesity and the "three highs" (hypertension, high blood cholesterol and high blood sugar), which may contribute to cerebral vascular disease.

"The function of the organs, including the spleen, declines with aging. That's why most middle-aged and old people find themselves gaining weight easily," says Dr Zhang. "As for young people, unhealthy eating habits may cause malfunction of the stomach and spleen and leads to fat collection."

Not eating regular meals, but having continuous between-meal nibbles, according to Dr Zhang, is a bad diet habit that causes a weight problem among many young ladies. Besides, sitting all day long and not getting regular physical exercise can also lead to body fluid accumulation, which is typical among office ladies.

Dr Zhang suggests taking a five- to 10-minute break every hour, relaxing, doing some exercises and eating foods that are good for the spleen and are diuretics as well, such as Pu'er tea.

If these methods can't help you reach your ideal figure, you may try acupuncture therapy. It will help improve the function of stomach and spleen, and reduce the appetite by piercing fine needles into certain acupoints.

"Acupuncture works well in reducing excessive weight, yet doesn't seem so effective when girls of normal weight insist on losing more," says Dr Zhang, "especially when some girls only want their legs slimmer."

Dr Zhang says that generally the normal weight for a man is his height minus 100, while that for a woman is her height minus 105. People weighing five kilograms more or less are all within the normal range.

The ingredients listed in the recipes below are available at major supermarkets, such as Carrefour, City Market, Hualian Supermarket and Lianhua.

One of the dishes should be eaten once a day.

Herbal teas

Chen Pi tea (Tangerine peel)

Portion: 4 grams chen pi

Function: Improves spleen and liver function; expels toxins and fluids (diuretic).



Pu'er tea

Portion: 10 grams Pu'er tea

Function: Aids digestion, expels fat, diuretic, laxative.





Foods to help you lose weight

Yi Mi (Job's tears) congee

Ingredients: Job's tears (30g), sugar

Function: Improves the function of the spleen and expels excessive body fluid (diuretic), thus aiding to weight loss and relieving swelling. It helps reduce hypertension and lower blood sugar. Also known as coix seed or Chinese pearl barley, it tastes like barley.


1. Put Job's tears into a saucepan, bring quickly to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer for 30 minutes until Job's tears become soft.

2. Add sugar and stir.

Dried shrimp and white gourd soup

Ingredients: Dried shrimp (15g), white gourd (400g), lard (25g), green onion (8g), salt, gourmet powder, and sesame oil

Function: Expels excessive body fluid (diuretic), thus promoting weight loss and relieving swelling. It also helps expel toxins and phlegm.

Effect is best if prepared with only 30g white gourd with peel and drink as tea several times a day.


1. Wash the dried shrimp, and soak it in warm water. Peel the white gourd, and chop it into slices.

2. Boil the water in saucepan, and then add white gourd, dried shrimp and salt. Wait 8-10 minutes, then add green onion, gourmet powder and sesame oil.

(Shanghai Daily August 15, 2007)

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