From a Chinese medicine perspective, seeds are little packages of Jing. The Chinese character for Jing, 精 has two meanings wrapped into it. One part of the character describes Jing as vitality and the other essence. Together they impart the description of something that is so refined and yet so subtle that it is essentially a distillation of the nature of all things…inside of each of us.
Your Jing in Chinese medicine is coupled (and interdependent) with your Shen (spirit). This is one of the reasons why actively reducing stress is strong medicine. When your Shen is taxed, so is your Jing and vice versa. This constant push and pull on your system has long term consequences on your health.
Rotating certain seeds can influence the levels of progesterone and estrogen in your body. Depending on where you are in your cycle (ladies) eating seeds will help harmonize Jing and Shen. Balancing the two hormones can level out those mood swings, increase libido, and reduce hot flashes, just to name a few ways estrogen and progesterone affect your well being.
This use of seeds is called Seed Cycling or Seed Rotation.
-Flax and Pumpkin affect estrogen levels.
-Sunflower and Sesame affect progesterone levels.
How can eating seeds provide hormone support?
The idea is that seeds carry certain oils, vitamins, and nutrients that can help support the body’s production, release, and metabolism of hormones. Some seeds contain lignans, which is a large group of polyphenols found in plants. The lignans found in flax and sesame seeds, bind to excess estrogen in the body allowing for more efficient elimination.
How to Seed Cycle
During the follicular phase (generally day 1 – 14) of the menstrual cycle, 1 tablespoon of flax and pumpkin are ground up and consumed daily until ovulation. Day 1 is the first day of the menstrual cycle and the day you begin to bleed. Ovulation can fall around day 14 or 15, but for some, it is earlier and some later. During the luteal phase (generally day 15-28) of the cycle, 1 tablespoon of sunflower and sesame is consumed daily until menses begins.
It is important to note that some women have longer cycles and some shorter, so the 1-28 day cycle may not be your rhythm, which is why it is important to keep track of your cycle to fine-tune the cycling of the seeds to best match when the follicular phase moves to the luteal phase of your menstrual cycle.
Seeds can be easily incorporated in raw or ground form into your daily diet with your morning breakfast cereal, in smoothies, over yogurt, blended into protein snack balls, sprinkled over a salad, or used as a garnish with sautéed greens.
Remember, like all things wholistic, this is a process. Don’t get discouraged if you are not seeing instant changes. Commit to trying it for 3 cycles. If you would like to track your progress, I created this Chinese Medicine Food Journal, which you can download at this link. The journal will help you make adjustments each month and observe other ways food is playing a role in your overall health.
Access it here: Chinese Medicine Food Journal
For further reading about women’s hormone cycles, check out:Ecology of Estrogen in the Female Body, by Juliet Blankespoor
Renée Klorman is a seasoned practitioner of acupuncture and Chinese medicine with a focus on movement. She practices in Walla Walla, WA at the Thompson Family Acupuncture Clinic, and spends most of her time in the outdoors when not immersed in Chinese medicine.