The Odd Diet of the “World’s Oldest Man,” and His Advice for Long Life
Good Herbs and State of Mind Are Everything
“Balderdash! No way some guy lived over 250 years!”
That’s a common reaction today upon hearing about a man said to have lived to be 256, according to official Chinese military records.
It’s not hard to see why we’d have a hard time believing someone can survive longer than America has existed… After all, we consume polluted air, polluted media, and polluted food. It’s just part of modern living.
But not too far in our past — people drank water from the air itself, healed their physical body through their energetic body, and walked mountains not treadmills.
There are people who live in a state of “vacation” everyday, while we often need a vacation to recover from our “vacations.”
His Humble Yet Startling Journey
Before the Communist Revolution in China, a man quietly roamed the mountains of the Far East collecting and selling herbs said to extend life. His name was Li Ching-Yeun.
In 1749, at the youthful age of 72, government records show Li joined the Chinese army. The commander-in-chief welcomed him as a teacher of martial arts as well as a tactical advisor.
As an Army veteran, Imperial China kept tabs him. Thus, they congratulated him in 1827 on his 150th birthday.
A 1930 New York Times article documented how officials in China congratulated him on his 200 birthday in 1877.
When he turned 250, General Yang Sen (揚森) of China’s National Revolutionary Army invited him to his residence where the following picture was taken.
The legend says Li became an herbalist at 10, seeking out potent substances amid high mountain ranges, learning of their reputation for longevity.
He traveled throughout China, Tibet, Vietnam, Thailand and Manchuria gathering herbs by hand for his first century of life.
When he reached the seasoned age of 100, he let others do the gathering, yet remaining a salesman of the precious herbs that seemed to help keep his life force radiant.
He was known to practice the ancient art of Qigong (which translates to “the cultivation of life force energy”), along with being an herbalist.
Alive in the 20th century, records are pretty accurate as to his most popular anti-aging superfoods and herbs.
Let look at some of them…
Reishi mushrooms, also known as Lingzhi were one of his favorites. The anti-cancer properties in reishi mushrooms were found to “ increase the activity of a type of white blood cell called natural killer cells.” This helps combat infections and cancer while boosting the immune system.
Other studies showed less anxiety and depression from patients taking reishi, along with better heart health and blood sugar control.
Few side effects were shown from eating the mushrooms whole, while a some cases showed minor adverse side effects from consuming the substance in powdered form. (Perhaps eating them the way nature intended is better).
Goji berry is considered a super food, used for centuries in China to treat High blood pressure, diabetes, fever and issues related to old age like poor eyesight.
Studies of the berry found it boosts feelings of wellness and tranquility, althleticism, weight loss and sleep quality.
It’s full of antioxidants that boost the immune system, and also is known to contain nice levels of Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Iron and Fiber.
Wild ginseng was another favorite of Li. It has a special place in this list because it’s found not only in China but— who’da thought — North America. The reputed medicinal properties make the demand so high that it’s difficult to find the plant wild in most of Asia.
Ginseng is even been listed as an endangered species in some American states — making it could be illegal to harvest it too early! You can even go to jail for harvesting ginseng on federal lands in some cases!
That’s because there’s great value commercially, as it’s packed with antioxidants which make it an anti-inflammatory. It’s also said to benefit brain functions like a better mood memory and behavior.
Studies also show people consuming ginseng reported less physical and mental fatigue.
It’s been used for centuries to boost energy naturally, it may even help men become more potent. Other studies show it fights cancer, boosts immunity and lowers blood sugar levels.
He shou wu is the only one I’ve never heard of, nor can recommend this one. Also known as Chinese knotweed, it’s been traditionally used to treat age-related issues. However, I can’t recommend this one because of too many reported side effects— not only abdominal distress but actual liver damage and even death have been reported. So even though the world’s oldest is reported to have consumed it, skip this one.
Gotu kola is a safer herb in the parsley family. Traditional uses include wound healing and boosting circulation. It’s also used to treat anxiety and even Alzheimer’s, as it may protect brain cells from toxicity. Relieving joint pain and bringing an overall sense of well-being have also been reported.
However, it’s recommended to start with a low dose because higher doses may cause side effects like stomach upset and dizziness.
A startling thing Li is also said to have consumed was rice wine, though details of how much or how often are foggy.
In the end, Li said keeping a calm mind could be the biggest factor in longevity, even more than herbs and superfoods. He famously said his secret to long life were to: “Keep a quiet heart, sit like a tortoise, walk sprightly like a pigeon and sleep like a dog.”
Keeping a quiet heart seems to imply not letting our emotions get carried away… Sitting like a tortoise means to be comfortable but with gravity on our side…Walking sprightly like a pigeon? Perhaps good posture and an active lifestyle. And sleeping like a dog needs no explanation.
We’ll explore the deeper meanings behind this quote in future stories from this anti-aging series. Get my emails delivered straight to your Inbox.
If you’re interested in learning the basics of the energy cultivation known as Qigong Li practiced, visit Club Qigong.
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