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Take These 7 Medicinal Herbs for a Healthier You

Looking to level up on your wellness? Learn about these popular TCM medicinal herbs that you can incorporate into your lifestyle for a healthier and happier you.

A couple of man and woman drinking tea made from medicinal herbs.

China and other Asian countries have welcomed herbal therapy with open arms for centuries, and they’re now recognised in Western medicine too. If you’re looking to soothe symptoms or want to increase your overall wellness, there are a variety of medicinal herbs worth adding to your diet.

Here are seven popular herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which are considered unsung heroes.

Lily Bulb

A handful of dried lily bulbs.  
With thousands of varieties of lilies, it’s time to put this popular flower to use. 

A notable edible flower in Chinese cuisine, lily bulbs (bai he, 百合) are a regular appearance in vegetarian dishes, soups, and stews. It’s also an important herb in TCM and has been used for over 2,000 years.

The delicate flower is described as bittersweet in taste and is used to treat chronic coughs, fever, and respiratory diseases. This is because of its sweet and cooling properties that can moisten your Lungs and clear Lung Heat.

Not only is it associated with the Lung meridian, but it’s also linked to the Heart meridian, alleviating a dry throat and cough, while treating Heart Yin Deficiency, which shows up in symptoms such as irritability, insomnia, heart palpitations, and restlessness.

The International Journal of Agriculture and Nutrition lists the following as the herb’s most important health benefits: 

  • Enhances focus and concentration 
  • Prevents and stops diarrhoea 
  • Can be used to treat a low-grade fever 

Lily bulbs contain calcium, iron, phosphorus, folate, potassium, vitamins B1, B2, and C, and an ample amount of protein and starch. It’s easy to see why it’s an effective superfood and herbal remedy. 

Dried Longan

A bowl of dried longan on a wooden surface.  
Dried longan is one of the most commonly fruits used in TCM.

Associated with the Heart and Spleen meridians, dried longan (long yan rou, 龙眼肉) is used for people who feel weak, have difficulty falling asleep, or tend to be forgetful. As the Heart also includes the mind in TCM, eating dried longan can help you feel calm and improve concentration and memory. It’s considered to have sweet and warm properties.

A 2022 review published in the International Journal of Current Science Research and Review outlined that dried longans can be used to increase memory, relieve insomnia, prevent amnesia, treat anaemia, improve qi flow, and promote blood metabolism. 

You might have seen dried longans in sweet and sour dishes and desserts. It’s even more reasons to enjoy them! 

Red Dates

Dried red dates or Chinese jujube spilled onto a straw mat. 
The Chinese red dates has nutritional value and many health benefits.

Another fruit to add to your list is Chinese red dates (da zao, 大枣), also known as jujubes. Grown in China for over 4,000 years, this fruit has gained popularity in recent years, spreading in cultivation to Europe, Australia, Russia, and the southwestern United States. 

Red dates in Chinese herbal medicine formulas help balance and replenish your qi, tonify the blood, and are also used in dishes to sweeten or balance flavours. It’s perfect if you suffer from a loss of appetite and loose stools due to Spleen Deficiency syndromes. You might have also spotted this nutritionally rich fruit in cosmetics and supplements. 

On top of that, research in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism shows that jujubes have beneficial effects on metabolic disorders and can be used to treat gastrointestinal disorders.

Lingzhi

A cup of lingzhi tea with loose lingzhi mushrooms on a dark wood surface.
Lingzhi mushrooms can be eaten fresh but can be found in powdered forms because of its “supernatural” benefits.

This fungus has been a popular natural remedy in traditional medicine for its healing properties. Ground into powder or taken in supplement form, lingzhi mushroom (ling zhi, 灵芝) is best known to help lower blood pressure and cholesterol, replenish qi, boost the immune system, relieve asthmatic symptoms, and contain anti-cancer properties.

A research study published in the medical research journal Heliyon was the first to confirm that the peptides from lingzhi mushroom proteins can reduce inflammation and oxidative stress. Taking it as a supplement makes you more energetic, have better memory and concentration, and prevent digestive disorders. 

Chinese Yam

A handful of Chinese yam on a woven mat.
Medicinal herbs such as Chinese yams can be consumed in many ways.

Chinese yam (huai shan, 淮山), may not be a vegetable you see during your regular trip to the supermarkets. They’re pale yellow and have a cylindrical shape. As a herbal treatment, the starchy veggie is a key herb in TCM for strengthening the Kidneys and is beneficial to your Liver.

A study published in Nutrients found that Chinese yam has antidiabetic effects which help with oxidative stress, antioxidant activity, and cholesterol, as well as improve Liver and Kidney function. It also has antioxidant properties (zinc, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, iron, manganese, selenium, and copper) and is nutritiously rich in vitamin B-1 and C, amylase, glutamine, mucilage, and amino acid content. 

Consuming Chinese yam helps with frequent urination, chronic diarrhoea, poor appetite, dry coughs and asthma, and even diabetes

Chinese Wolfberries

Dried Chinese wolfberries close up.
Chinese wolfberries are used in many dishes because of their sweetness and nutritionally rich properties.

Chinese wolfberries (gou qi zi, 枸杞子) or goji berries are considered one of the fruits that are rich in antioxidants. They’re traditionally used for the skin and as a remedy for improving eyesight.

Known as a sweet herb, it’s tasty in juices, tea, liqueur, and soups. TCM practitioners would also recommend it to temper acute reactions within the body and to replenish qi and blood.

Just like Chinese yam, the antioxidants found in goji berries have a tonic effect on the Kidneys and Liver, which slows ageing and the onset of dementia. An article published in the Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine verified that wolfberries have both valuable nutritional and bioactive properties because it can: 

  • Increase energy 
  • Improve eyesight 
  • Inhibit the spread of cancer cells 

Apricot Kernel

Shelled apricot kernels in a bowl surrounded by apricots on a wooden table.
White when fresh and light brown when cooked, apricot kernels are another herb used in TCM for conditions related to the Lungs and large intestines.

High in fibre, protein, and essential fatty acids, apricot kernel (xing ren, 杏仁) has been consumed for hundreds of years. Apricot kernel is the seed found inside apricot pits and contains an important component, amygdalin (vitamin B17). They help fight against cardiovascular disease and cancer and are also used in TCM to alleviate symptoms of Lung and large intestine conditions.

A review in Technium BioChemMed confirms that apricot kernel is a reliable source of medicine and contains compounds such as polyphenols, carotenoids, and vitamins. These play an important role in preventing diseases and maintaining health. Apricot kernel is also effective against stomach inflammation, tumour formation, liver disorders, and chronic heart diseases. 

It’s important to take note that apricot kernels should be used with caution as they contain a strong toxin called hydrogen cyanide, which can only be eaten when properly cooked. You should only eat up to 20 kernels at a time.

TCM techniques and natural Western health remedies have intertwined with the understanding that old practices can go a long way. Depending on your ailment, consult your TCM practitioner and add these medicinal herbs as alternatives to improve your health. 

Have other natural herbs you’d like to share? Let us know what your favourites are below. 

This is an adaptation of the article “Herbal Heroes”, which first appeared on the Eu Yan Sang website.

References

  1. Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine. 2021. Health benefits of wolfberry (Gou Qi Zi, Fructus barbarum L.) on the basis of ancient Chineseherbalism and Western modern medicine. [online] Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8051317/> [Accessed on 10 February 2023]
  2. Heliyon. 2022. Investigating the cellular antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of the novel peptides in lingzhi mushrooms. [online] Available at: <https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2405844022023556> [Accessed on 9 February 2023]
  3. International Journal of Agriculture and Nutrition. 2019. Lily bulbs (Bai He), A super food and A herbal remedy. [online] Available at: <https://www.researchgate.net/publication/337209408_Lily_bulbs_Bai_He_A_super_food_and_A_herbal_remedy> [Accessed on 9 February 2023] 
  4. International Journal of Current Science Research and Review. 2022. Phytomedicinal Potential of “Dimocarpus Longan Lour.” as an Essential Nutraceutical. [online] Available at: <https://ijcsrr.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/20-16-2022.pdf> [Accessed on 9 February 2023]
  5. Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism. 2016. Potential Benefits of Jujube (Zizyphus Lotus L.) Bioactive Compounds for Nutrition and Health. [online] Available at: <https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jnme/2016/2867470/> [Accessed on 9 February 2023]
  6. Nutrients. 2015. Antidiabetic Effects of Yam (Dioscorea batatas) and Its Active Constituent, Allantoin, in a Rat Model of Streptozotocin-Induced Diabetes. [online] Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4632431/> [Accessed on 10 February 2023]
  7. Technium BioChemMed. 2021. Effects of Apricot and Apricot Kernels on Human Health and Nutrition: A Review of Recent Human Research. [online] Available at: <https://www.techniumscience.com/index.php/biochemmed/article/view/4328> [Accessed on 10 February 2023]

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