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Jiaogulan: The Perfect Balance of Yin & Yang

June 14, 2018

Jiaogulan: The Perfect Balance of Yin & Yang

“Health is the natural result of maintaining a dynamic balance of yin and yang in our daily eating and lifestyle. An understanding of the laws that govern these two antagonistic, yet complementary tendencies can unlock the secrets of the human body and its relation to the surrounding environment.” ~Edward Esko (1)

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is among the greatest bodies of medical knowledge in the world, a system that the West has come to heavily draw from in the modern era. But not even TCM has accounted for jiaogulan until very recently.

In the book Jiaogulan: China’s “Immortality” Herb, the authors note that “an experienced TCM practitioner in China has analyzed jiaogulan and described its qualities in terms of traditional Chinese medicine, as ‘sweet, slightly bitter, neutral, warm, enhancing Yin and supporting Yang’”. (2)

The Yin and Yang

jiaogulan-in-tcm-yin-yang-symbolIn the classical pharmaecopia of TCM, foods and herbs are classified according to how “yin” or “yang” they are. Yin and yang are the two complementary forces operating in our bodies, in the world and throughout the greater universe.

According to TCM as well as the holistic Japanese system of macrobiotics, bringing these forces into proper balance within your body strengthens the Qi (pronounced chee), the vital energy that gives us life.

In order to achieve this balance, you would ideally enjoy a diet that is neither too “yin” nor too “yang”, but right in the middle.

The Importance of Balance

To appreciate jiaogulan’s unique status on the scale of yin & yang, it helps to understand first how popular foods are classified in this system. Yin is associated with femininity and a cooling, expansive energy. Examples of yin foods include soy products, most vegetables and fruits, cold drinks, and some meats like crab and duck.

On the other hand, yang signifies masculinity and a warming, constrictive energy. Chicken, beef, eggs, alcohol and foods high in fat and protein would all be classified as “yang”.

Health problems appear when we fall too far on one side of the spectrum, upsetting the sacred equilibrium.

Lessons from Macrobiotics

In the system of macrobiotics, a person reaches harmony by only eating foods that are a perfect balance of the two energies. This is why the macrobiotic diet is famously centered around whole grains, fermented foods and steamed vegetables, traditionally steering away from dairy, animal products and processed foods, which can be excessively “yin” or “yang”.

As jiaogulan is said to support both energies, it would fall directly in the center of the macrobiotics food chart, along with superstar veggies like kale, broccoli, cabbage and bok choy. This grouping is consistent with the benefits all of these wonderful greens have to offer.

Why Flavor Matters

According to the TCM practitioner in Jiaogulan: China’s “Immortality” Herb, jiaogulan is sweet, bitter, neutral and warm. You might be interested to know that this is far beyond just an aesthetic description of jiaogulan’s taste.

In TCM, foods are further classified as one of five flavors: sweet, bitter, sour, salty or spicy. Each of these flavors corresponds to the health of certain organs. (4)

As a “bitter” herb, jiaogulan promotes the health of the heart, a connection supported by clinical studies that we’ve explored in another article.

As a “sweet” herb, jiaogulan promotes the health of the stomach, the spleen and the digestive system. And because jiaogulan’s energy is “neutral”, it contains both yin and yang in equal measure. (5)

We need More Bitter Foods for Balance

If anyone ever poses you the riddle, “What’s both bitter and sweet, but never bittersweet?”, you’ll immediately know the answer!

The importance of bitter foods are being highlighted by today’s nutritionists and herbalists around the world. Bitter foods are known to activate enzyme production, stimulate digestive juices and detoxify the liver.

According to Marc David, author of Psychology of Eating,

In terms of dietary balance, most Westerners severely neglect the bitter flavor/taste element in favor of more appealing and ‘friendly’ choices like sweet or salty. However, this is inherently problematic as the bitter flavor is an essential component of maintaining balance and health. (6)

Jiaogulan is the Perfect Balance

jiaogulan-in-tcm-jiaogulan-teaWhat makes jiaogulan especially unique, of course, is the fact that it also features an element of “sweet” to counter its bitterness.

While it’s well-known that eating immoderate amounts of sugar is one of several problems in the Western diet, it’s often overlooked that sugar can be beneficial for the body in reasonable doses.

Certain sweet foods are known for restoring the body’s energy levels and aiding in digestion after a big meal. (7)) With a cup of fresh jiaogulan tea, you’re getting the best of both worlds!

Your Path to Harmony

In looking at the dietary model created by today’s mass-produced food culture, it’s pretty clear why so many people struggle with malnutrition and energetic imbalances. And when you’re constantly dealing with health challenges, it’s hard to live the kind of fulfilling life you’d prefer.

Being in alignment with ourselves and the greater world starts with the things we put into our bodies. Absorbing the dietary wisdom of TCM and macrobiotics can go a long way in setting us on the path to balance and harmony, and China’s “herb of immortality” just might be a foundation of that journey.

Imagine what you can “a-chi-eve” with Aum Tea!


  1. Natural Healing Through Macrobiotics by Michio Kushi, p. 18
  2. Jiagoulan: China’s “Immortality” Herb, p. 22
  6. Truth The Brilliance of Bitter By Marc David

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