—Licensed acupuncturist, educator and author
Ellen Goldsmith is a nationally board certified, licensed acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist. She is passionate about bringing the everyday wisdom of Chinese medicine to the masses. She currently serves as faculty at several institutions: the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine, the National University of Natural Medicine’s College of Classical Chinese Medicine, and Helfgott School of Graduate Studies. There she teaches integrative medical fellows on the energetics of food, and graduate Chinese medicine and Masters of Science of students in the study of Chinese Dietetics and its application in Western society.
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into east asian medicine, or share with us one of your greatest achievements.
I started out as a modern dancer in NYC. As a young woman, in my twenties, I was not managing my energy that well and was seeking answers. I exercised, was a lousy vegetarian and went to chiropractors, not making much progress. Meanwhile, there were six different people who kept recommending that I go see a Japanese macrobiotic teacher and barefoot shiatsu master, Shizuko Yamamoto. After my first Shiatsu treatment with her, I felt as if I had been put back in my body with extraordinary vitality. It was an incredible experience and I wanted “more” of that. I wanted to learn whatever she could teach me. I asked if she would and she said no, but that I ought to go study Macrobiotics, which I did. It was there at the Kushi Institute that I first encountered the concepts of Yin and Yang, Dao Yin, the energetics of food and principles of change.
I kept following my curiosity, studying Shiatsu, practicing it. And, then as it goes I was referred to a wonderful acupuncturist in Queens, Dr. Hsu. Each visit would include tea with his wife, acupuncture, readings from the I-Ching and great kindness. The spirit of the medicine, as well as its effectiveness, continued to inspire my curiosity which led me to continue my studies in NYC with various teachers, Europe and finally formalizing my education at the College of Classical Chinese Medicine at the National University of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon. I am proud of the book I have written Nutritional Healing with Chinese Medicine: + 175 Recipes for Optimal Health. Yet, my greatest satisfaction comes when a patient of mine is inspired by the changes they experience after treatment to go on to study Chinese medicine themselves. That they are motivated to learn and use their knowledge to help others, is a great sense of achievement.
Courtesy of Nutritional Healing with Chinese Medicine by Ellen Goldsmith © 2017 Recipes copyright © 2017 Maya Klein and Ellen Goldsmith Reprinted with permission. Available where books are sold.
What was your first encounter with medicinal or traditional foods of your culture or Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)?
It was in studying Macrobiotics that I came to understand food as medicine. Its foundation included whole grains, new vegetables, new ways of preparing and cooking which included many Japanese foods - miso, fermented soy tempeh, natto, sea vegetables, and cooking methods that were entirely new to this New York Jewish woman. I started to feel so much better as I changed the way I ate adding in vegetables, whole grains, and regular meals. I enjoyed a community of cooks and people seeking to understand the power of food as medicine and of course pleasure! As I continued to study Shiatsu, I started receiving Chinese medicine treatments and became intensely curious about Chinese medicine and its foundational principles. Food has always been a touchstone for my health, well being and a way to connect with others, to nourish and transform. The beauty of our medicine is the grounding of its principles in nature and the cycle of change throughout the seasons. At the College of Classical Chinese Medicine, I had the great fortune to learn Chinese dietary therapy from a wonderful chef and teacher from Chong Qing who brought so much vitality and pleasure to our “medicinal” food.
Every day we eat, over and over again. We may go to an acupuncturist and take herbs for a while, but we will always eat. Therefore, is not food one of our most powerful medicines? The principles of Chinese medicine can be applied daily where it matters most; in our kitchens where we nourish ourselves, our families and connect to nature through the foods we cook. Everyone can learn to cook in a way that supports health and a deep sense of well being
What are some of your routine TCM practices?
I have always been a person who connected to vitality through my body. I routinely receive acupuncture treatment. I love to keep moving. I have a Qi Gong practice in the lineage of Jinjing Gong (Tendon and Channel Qigong). I routinely cook and prepare food with a variety of herbs. I also have been making Herbal Tonic Wines for the past 20 years and have a number of recipes in my book, Nutritional Healing with Chinese Medicine: + 175 Recipes for Optimal Health for each season. I love using these tonic wines in small doses (!) as a delicious medicinal tonic to tonify my blood, Yang, Qi or bring balance.
Where do you stand on the adage "food as medicine?" What is one food-based item you take/consume for wellness?
I say yes: food is the most delicious medicine and why wouldn’t we want to enjoy healthful, dynamic food to nourish our body and soul? The beauty of Chinese medicine is that its grounding in nature. It is dynamic; rooted in the principles of change and transformation. We can apply its principles across all cultures. Looking back to history we see the use of food as medicine across all civilizations, the sad thing is that through modernization many of these traditions are lost or quickly disappearing. In ancient times along the Silk Road, we see the influence of Chinese medicine in Iranian “vegetable doctors” who use the same concepts of warming and cooling (thermal nature) in medicinal food recommendations.
Warm salad of wilted escarole, edamame, roasted cherry tomatoes salad with black sesame seed dressing from the book, Nourishing Treasures of Chinese Medicine
There is not one food item I consume for wellness; rather I go for fresh, organic produce, grains, nuts and seeds, and well-raised animal food. Variety, color, texture all are my nourishment. And, I do love a good cup of matcha tea and a handful of goji berries!
Could you share two to three health-conscious recipes with us, in which you used ingredients inspired by traditional medicine or nature?
For this season, I'd love to share two recipes: one warming lamb stew with the herb, Dang Gui, and the other a vegan mushroom dish that is a rendition of Nishime, a traditional Japanese simmered dish.
Nourishing Lamb Stew with Butternut Squash and Dang Gui
Sake-Braised Shiitake Mushrooms with Vegetables and Kombu
Which body constitution do you have and how will you modify your daily rituals after finding out?
I am yang deficient according to the body quiz! How interesting. What will I do? Never eat cold food from the fridge again?? (Even though I do not in these cold months)! I am conscious of eating seasonally and always add in more warming foods in autumn and winter such as sweet brown rice, lamb, walnuts, roasted vegetables, stews, chestnuts, root vegetables, as well as as warming herbs and spices added to fish dishes, soups and stews such as thyme, star anise, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, rosemary, herbal chai teas, tonic wines (in minuscule amounts). I also regularly eat fermented foods such as homemade pickled vegetables, sauerkraut, or kimchi.