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Tea time.

Photo by r. nial bradshaw [flickr.com/zionfiction] under CC BY 2.0

In terms of beverages besides water, the two that I’ve had an affinity for since quite some time are Earl Grey tea and gin. Maybe I have some British DNA. But, in any case, I appreciate both not only for their effect but also their flavor.

Of note, Earl Grey tea contains the essential oil of bergamot. In Chinese medicine, bergamot oil helps move liver qi and thus, calms the sympathetic nervous system. The essential oil itself may be used as aromatherapy for relaxation. However, neither the tea nor the essential oil should be considered a prelude to sleep time. While bergamot relaxes the nerves, it also aromatically enlivens the senses. Besides, Earl Grey tea has caffeine.

Of second note, the primary botanical in traditional (i.e. London Dry) gin is juniper berry. Juniper has a storied history of medicinal use that led up to gin’s precursor, 16th century Dutch “genever”—distilled malt wine flavored with juniper.

In addition to juniper, gin typically has several other botanicals—the variations of which are infinite. Each distillery creates their own blend; but there are staples, including various citrus rinds (all in the same family as bergamot, i.e. Rutaceae). Some of the commonly used ingredients are also used in Chinese medicine: angelica root, licorice root and cassia bark (cinnamon).

However, none of this is a recommendation to drink alcohol. The gin is a tangential thought, being one of my tastes that also has a minor connection to medical history and Chinese medicine.

This is really about tea, and its effect on the body. In Chinese medicine, green tea is considered to have a cooling effect on the body whereas black tea has a warming effect. Both effects are [click to continue…]


On Zika and Salivating over Health

Millennium Park, Chicago

Crown Fountain, Millennium Park. Photo by Teacher Traveler [flickr.com/funfotofolio] under CC BY-SA 2.0

As the 2016 Rio Olympics approaches, I am reminded of saliva. This is for several reasons. Firstly, saliva has played a minor role in recent news on the outbreak of the Zika virus in Brazil. Though the outbreak started a year ago, health concerns about transmission are still highly relevant.

Secondly, in 2008, China campaigned to stop public spitting in Beijing prior to its hosting of the Olympics in order to varnish public opinion of its hygiene. But a similar campaign was initiated throughout China even earlier, in 2003, to curb spitting in an effort to counter the SARS epidemic. (China’s cultural habit of spitting may be from a lack of shyness about bodily functions—spitting being a natural way to expel phlegm.)

The Relation between Saliva and Zika

Regarding the Zika virus, there are mixed views on the risk of transmission through saliva. The virologist who was one of two to identify the first case in Brazil said [click to continue…]