What is a Qi Tonic?
The following is an excerpt from the book “Healing with Whole Foods; Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition” by Paul Pitchford
(Highly recommend this book as a foundation for understanding the connection between our body and food. I read this ~600 page textbook cover to cover, as it was super engaging and easy to read, and it changed my life)
“A major functional concept from traditional Chinese medicine is Qi (pronounced “chee” and sometimes spelled chi). Qi is similar to the term prana (life force) of India and is known as ki in Japan. A vital essence found in all things, qi has aspects of both matter and energy. We will refer primarily to its expression as energy, keeping in mind that energy and matter are convertible into one another. The theories of modern physics showing matter and energy to be alternate descriptions of one reality are very much in accord with the concept of qi and other facets of Eastern philosophy.
The qi concept gives us a measure for the vitality of the person, object, or state. If the qi of a certain food is of good quality, then the food will taste better and impart more qi to the individual who consumes it. In a person, good qi is manifested as an ability to accomplish things, lack of obstruction in the body, better functioning of the internal organs, and so on. To further understand qi, which itself is a yang quality, it is helpful to understand its yin counterpart- blood. Blood is yin and the “mother of qi”, since the nutrients in blood support and nurture qi. At the same time, qi leads and directs the blood. Furthermore, digestive and circulative qi must be sufficient in order for the blood to be formed and circulate. [The quality of your blood and your qi are interrelated]
Whatever manifests in a person does so with that type of qi. Someone who is graceful, for instance, has harmonious qi; weak people lack qi; those who are strong have abundant qi; people with pure, clear minds have “refined” as opposed to “confused” qi. Thus, qi is not only the energy behind these states of being but the intrinsic energy/substance of these states. The qi concept, then, provides a way to describe every aspect of life.
From a therapeutic standpoint, there are several functional aspects of qi. It is warming and is the source of all movement; it protects the body, flows through the acupuncture channels [subtle channels of energy within the body], and maintains the activity of the body systems and organs. Sources of qi in the body are three-fold: 1.) from food; 2.) from the air we breathe; and 3.) from the essence of the kidneys, some part of which we are born with.
How well we utilize qi from these sources depends on how we live and on our attitudes. Qi is also transferred between people in interactions of every kind. The qi of the cook permeates the food. Exercise, herbal therapy, acupuncture, and awareness practices such as meditation are traditional ways of clearing obstructions and maximizing qi flow.
Qi that stagnates causes accumulations resulting in obesity, tumors, cysts, cancers, and the multitude of viral and yeast-related diseases that plague those with sedentary lives and refined, rich diets.
Qi is, very simply put, the energy that moves through life. Your life, your plant’s life, your dog’s life…all of life is animated by qi. In animals, humans included, that qi is born of and moves via blood. In your plant, qi is born of and moves via chlorophyll. Think of the relationship like this: You’re on an inner tube floating down a natural river. Your blood is like the water in the river and qi is the force that moves the water. The water can be weak, strong, blocked, refined, graceful, harmonious, erratic, stagnant, etc. This is a result of the quality of qi! Now, it’s also important to note that the quality of the water can be murky, clear, dirty, clean, salty, fresh, full of trash, pristine, and so on. Qi can influence the quality of this water to a certain extent, for example, if the water is full of algae, impure smells, and bugs, the qi of the water is likely stagnant. If the qi somehow gained strength and started rushing the water, much of these impurities would naturally cease as they can’t live in this type of environment.
This analogy can be directly translated to our bodies. The quality of our water (blood) is influenced by our nutrition. The quality, flow, and availability of our qi is the result of a number of factors including exercise habits, lifestyle habits, thought patterns, emotions, diet, trauma, environment, and connection to the spirit. And the best news is as long as you are alive, no matter how weak, hopeless, unhealthy, or otherwise out of balance one may be, they still have blood and qi that can be purified and animated, respectively!
How does Chaga fit into all of this? Chaga is incredibly nutritive, containing over 215 vitamins, mineral, and phytonutrients. Imagine how that dense nutrition nourishes the blood. This is important because as we learned, the quality of our blood is the foundation to our health. Along with Chaga being a blood purifier, it replenishes, revitalizes, and protects the qi. Chaga is a primary ally in supplementing the "wei qi" or "surface defense qi," in defending the immune system from external pathogenic influences such as environmental toxins, and drastic weather fluctuations. The wei qi regulates the body’s ability to appropriately open and close the pores in order to close the body off from pathogens while still being able to vent heat. *The difference between two individuals exposed to the same pathogenic influence and one becoming sick is the integrity of their wei qi.*
Qi can be depleted through excessive work, stress, or lack of sleep. Over a period of time this eventually leads to what the ancient Chinese refer to as "blood deficiency". By the time illness progresses to this stage the "jing" or "primordial essence energy" of the kidneys is drawn from and the individual begins to show signs of extreme depletion. This avoidable cascade of physical degeneration starts with the qi and can be prevented through consumption of powerful qi tonics such as Chaga.
There you have it! Chaga as a qi tonic in a nutshell. As always, we wish the highest blessings for you and your well-being so that you can continue to shine your beautiful expression of light into the world. Hari Om!