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This will be the beginning of a long time ongoing “herb tasting” article where I, Shifu, risk body and health for you, the innocent consumer, in order to find out just how supplements and food products affect the Qi and the risks to your 5 Pillars of Health.
Before getting into today’s topic, it would be well to recall some of my research and what TCM in general has to say about alcohol, caffeine, and sugar.
As a rule, alcohol is a depressant, but in small quantities it is an agitator and invigorator. It has the main property of dampness, which stagnates the middle jiao (hepato-spleno-pancreatic region), but can affect chemoreceptors in the head and affect lungs, kidneys, and heart. It is very powerful. So the general rule is, 1 ounce of liquor or 1 medical glass of wine or 1 beer (or less) per hour to invigorate and get healthy; more than that will stagnate Liver Blood, aggravating conditions from migraines to back tension to arthritis. There are different alcohols, though, which go to different regions. Hot alcohols like tequila and whiskey/bourbon go to the head and stagnate faster, while red wine goes to the heart and chest. White wine and champagne also go to the head but are cooling. Vodka is cold and stagnates the digestion and creates more phlegm. Etc..
Similar to alcohol is caffeine, which also stagnates the right flank nerve plexus arising from SP21 (Great Luo of the body). It opens the vessels in the brain making it a stimulant, but unfortuantely it stagnates the periphery, leading to rises in blood pressure, Raynaud’s, agitation, depression, restless leg, and heart palpitations. In more innocuous forms like Green tea, it is useful medicinally. If a person has 1 or less cups of coffee a day, it may take 5 years for its negative effects to show themselves. However, most people addicted to the False Qi of coffee do not stop at one a day. use with caution, but use.
Sugar, especially the more sweet versions like Fructose Corn Syrup, and HFCS stagnate the left SP21 nerve plexus, increasing risks of metabolic syndrome, hypoglycemia, and diabetes. Sugar is highly addictive to the frontal and pre-frontal neocortex, where much ruminating and worrying occurs. A long term risk of addiction is also atrophy, a subject for another article. Use with extreme caution, and try to get cleaner forms of sugar than processed. HFCS in particular also stagnates the Liver Qi leading to bi-polar feelings or mood swings and heavy-headedness/muzzy head.
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Given all the hype surrounding coffee and soda, people have naturally shifted away from these two sources of False Qi in search of energy. The sensation Monster and Red Bull caused when they hit the markets was surprising, and frightening. Within years, massive amounts were being consumed, with intense side effects such as insomnia, palpitations, and dehydration.
The market of health-prone individuals reeled from this, and since companies like V8 were slow to get to the market with their own versions (to fill those gas station cases now holding new energy drink sections), it was inevitable that a smartly marketed product would take the reigns. This was 5-Hour-Energy Shot.
As I was driiving Saturday, getting relaxed on a low Qi day, I pulled into a Shell station. I had an idea, “Why not try a 5HES?” It had two appeals. Number one, I was wanting stimulation but Tea and Monster had no appeal. Number two, I also knew I had never tried 5HES. It was about time to practice the Ben Cao (Herb Tasting) on this lucrative, dominant product with positive infomercials.
First experience: I discovered it was not stored in the refrigerator, but in cases (of various versions) near the register. This is a major clue that this drink is full of False Qi. Like margarine, if something does not go bad at room temperature, there is a strong chance it is dangerous. Peanut Butter and Honey are exceptions, and perhaps there are others, but in general my experience has been, if a chemical product does not mold or rot, it has no Qi. Fine.
Now reading the label, I was immediately reminded of how powerful alcohol is. The name shot might be poignant. So I ingested merely the half dose or 2.5 hour energy. The taste was like to Dimetap, and it felt about the same. At the end of the half-shot my Stomach Qi rebelled and I had a strong urge to never drink it again. This, in herbalism, is known as a toxicity alert. Although the drink was not bitter, the grape flavor may have masked that fact.
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Within 5 minutes the stimulant package was into the nerves, and I became talkative, bubbly, and hyperactive. This means the liver qi was heading to stagnation and as the Liver channel enters Du (spinal nerves) and Stomach (via Vagus nerve), it was very easy. Prior to this ingestion I was not in anyway feeling damp, agitated, or blocked.
After 30 minutes the children began to act up (a hidden effect of cognitive changes is reality turbulence). After 45 minutes I became impatient and claustrophobic, needing to exit the car. My mood plummeted to low levels of boredom and I had a stronger desire to go see a movie. Coming home I felt talkative, but more normal.
After 1 more hour I felt extremely tired/wasted. After that I was unable to really do anything but be calm and then watched Netflix on the tablet.
I cannot help but feel that the most active ingredient is the taurine.
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The effect of THIS “energy drink” reminded me of a Zija product, but times 4. Unlike Moringa, this drink had no Qi whatsoever, just pure chemicals. It stagnated Qi faster, and its form of energy was basically the same hyperactive Qi that Wood element patients have all the time which is a negative thing. This means chronic use will drain the spleen/pancreas and increase chances of arthritis. The caffeine levels were not good for the heart. Afterwards I felt burning over KI25 above the heart, not in the esophagus but in the channel, meaning that liver heat was going upwards into the mind.
Unless a person is in extreme duress, I cannot recommend this product to any type of patient. Excess patients it is ABSOLUTELY contraindicated for, and for deficient patients it has nothing to offer but increasing deficiency. There is not even enough Qi like in Zija’s product to warrant short-term use. The product appears dangerous to me for large consumption and perhaps ought to be prescribed. If it is better than Red Bull and Monster, then that only tells you something about those products, which I have never tried and do not plan to, even for Ben Cao articles, and I leave you to make up your mind for yourself.