Wei Qi: Can an Ancient, Eastern Philosophy Lean into Modern Medicine?

Wei Qi is a defensive energy shield that protects our bodies from external insults. It is an important concept from Traditional Chinese Medicine, a whole system of medicine that emphasizes nutrition and herbs, as well as acupuncture and meditative practices to maintain health. Wei Qi is propagated by energy from the lungs, and nourished by both clean air and warm, hydrating food. When Wei Qi is strong, we are protected from infectious agents and autoimmune triggers, but when is it compromised our risk for these conditions rises, as does the threat of chronic disease.

Wei Qi is weakened by:
Processed foods containing GMO’s, sugar, herbicides, and additives
Stressful, unresolved belief systems
A lack of fresh air
Poor quality sleep
Chronic illness

Wei Qi is nourished by:
Warm, hydrating foods like soups, stews, and porridge- Not raw foods, smoothies, or salads
Clean Air
Restorative Sleep
Mild exercise

How do we reconcile the ancient concept of Wei Qi with what we know from modern, evidence-based medicine? While clinical trials have not demonstrated the presence of subtle energy systems, they have validated the factors that weaken Wei Qi do in fact, increase our risk for viral infection, autoimmunity, and chronic disease. Additionally, advances in the field of neuro-immunology have demonstrated a clear connection between stress and the immune system. When stress resilience is low, viral infections are more prevalent, vaccine take-rates are lower, and autoimmunity may be triggered or exacerbated.

Whether or not the subtle energy attributed to Wei Qi is a reflection of the numerous homeostatic reactions supported by intention-based living, or it is something altogether different, and unmeasurable by the reductionist techniques of modern research, partaking in warm, hydrating foods can only be a good idea, particularly as we weather the winter of this pandemic.

For more information about Wei Qi, food energetics, and the philosophies of Traditional Chinese Medicine, please read the excellent “Welcoming Food” by Andrew Sterman, available at https://anncecilsterman.com/product-category/books/

Kitchen-Prescription Recipe: Congee Inspired Barley-Millet Porridge

Thank you to Li Zhang for testing this recipe.


½ cup of barley          

½ cup of millet

2 tablespoons of chia seeds

2 tablespoons of hemp seeds

1 teaspoon of kosher salt

6 cups of water

Condiments for serving: cooked eggs, lightly sautéed greens, slivered ginger, ground flaxseed, toasted or black sesame seeds, and tamari sauce

Combine the barley, millet, chia seeds, hemp seeds, salt, and water in the bowl of the Instant Pot. Fasten the lid, and pressure cook for 20 minutes.  You can also simply push the “porridge” button on the Instant Pot, as this will also cook it for 20 minutes. After it is done, allow it to sit undisturbed for 20 to 30 minutes. After that, release the pressure, and stir to combine-it may look separated at first but vigorous stirring will combine it into a thick porridge.  Ladle into bowls, and top with the condiments of your choice.  This recipe will make four servings.

K-P Cooking tips:

Millet and barley are whole grains, comprised of fiber, protein, and carbohydrate. Eating them in this preparation provides lasting hydration, as well as prebiotic nutrition and structural support for the millions of normal bacteria, viruses, and fungi that comprise your microbiome.

Barley is not gluten-free. If you have celiac disease or are gluten intolerant, use one cup of millet, instead of the barley.

Flaxseed is an important source of alpha-linoleic acid, a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid. It has also been shown in clinical trials to lower cholesterol. Whole seeds are not well digested. The best way to utilize flaxseed, is to grind the whole seeds in a coffee grinder, and store in a jar in the freezer. This helps to prevent oxidation of the fatty acids.

The Instant Pot has a “delay start” button. The ingredients can be combined in the bowl of the Instant Pot the night before, and the cooking can be delayed until early morning so that the porridge will be ready at breakfast time. Set the Instant Pot to cook approximately one hour before you would like to eat.

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