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Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Dr Andre Budihardjo on December 15, 2022

What Is Fish Maw And How Does It Keep You Looking Young?

Fish maw is a highly nutritious delicacy that can help you look and feel younger. Here's what it can do for you and how to add it to your diet.

Close-up image of a woman putting her hand on her face.

Are you looking for foods to add to your diet that make you look and feel younger? If so, fish maw is something you need to try today.

In fact, fish maw is so nutritious that many people credit it as the Asian’s best-kept anti-aging secret.

Read on to learn more about the many anti-aging health benefits of fish maw and how to add it to your diet.

What Is Fish Maw?

Close up image of raw or dried fish maw.
To make fish maw, it must first go through a dehydration process.

Fish maw, also known as fish bladder, is the dried form of a fish’s swim bladder. It’s an organ in the fish belly that helps them stay afloat in water. The organ is rich in gelatine and has an array of nourishing health benefits. Because of this, it has become increasingly popular as a delicacy in recent years.

Interestingly, the swim bladder of deep-sea fishes is thicker and more gelatinous. To produce fish maw, it must first go through dehydration or a sun-drying process. Meanwhile, the swim bladder of smaller fishes will either be baked at a high temperature or deep-fried before being available for purchase in the market.

Here are some health benefits of consuming it and different ways to incorporate the delicacy as part of a healthy diet. 

Health Benefits Of Fish Maw

Is fish maw healthy? According to The Compendium of Materia Medica, this delicacy can nourish the Kidneys, blood, and yin. It can also help boost energy levels and maintain your skin’s appearance.

Enhances and maintains skin health 

Collagen — a type of protein — is essential for ensuring the health of your hair, skin, bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. It’s worth noting that the natural production of collagen by the human body reduces with age. Collagen levels start to deplete even before we reach the age of 30. 

On the other hand, women can potentially lose up to 30% of collagen during the first five years of menopause. Similarly, collagen fibers can accumulate damage over time, thus decreasing their ability to function correctly. Consequently, damage to collagen fibers or low collagen levels in the body can weaken the skin’s structural support. The skin will lose firmness and volume and start to wrinkle. 

In the same way, glycosaminoglycans (previously known as mucopolysaccharides) are also important for supporting the healthy growth of skin, bones, cartilage, corneas, tendons, and connective tissue. Because of this, more people are consuming fish maw, which is abundant in both these skin anti-aging nutrients.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the benefits of fish maw include nourishing yin and helping to alleviate gastrointestinal disorders — disorders of the digestive system — like gastritis and peptic ulcers, and stomach pain. This advantage attributes to the sticky nature of the ingredient after boiling.

Specifically, it works as a protective barrier by adhering to the surface of gastric mucosa after it enters the stomach. It also effectively inhibits hematemesis — vomiting of blood — due to gastric erosion or peptic ulcer disease. 

Nourishes organ systems in the body 

Alternatively, people with a Qi Deficiency in the Spleen or stomach can also mix fish maw with herbs like Astragalus rootginseng, or Codonopsis root (Dang Shen). Consuming a herbal formulation that includes these herbs can help nourish qi and invigorate the Spleen.

In addition, this delicacy can replenish Kidney essence (jing), which supports the production of Liver blood. It’s worth noting that the Liver and Kidney systems relate directly to each other. Hence, its consumption can provide relief for muscle twitches and spasms, and tremors caused by Kidney and Liver Deficiencies.

How To Cook With Fish Maw

A bowl of fish maw soup on a wooden table.
You can enjoy fish maw by adding it to soup along with goji berries and dates.

There are many different ways to cook with it. Typically, you can include this delicacy in chicken soup alongside dates and goji berries. Preparing a soup with these ingredients will make a delicious meal and nourish the body. 

To cook chicken and fish maw soup with goji berries, you will need:  

  • Half a chicken (organic and antibiotic-free)
  • 20 grams of fish maw 
  • 10-15 goji berries 
  • 10 dates 
  • 10 longan fruits 
  • 1 tangerine peel 
  • A moderate amount of ginger, rice wine, and salt 

To prepare, rinse the chicken and chop it into chunks. Next, soak the fish maw in warm water for 15 minutes and cut the ginger into thin slices. Then, fill up a pot with water before adding the chicken chunks and fish maw into it. Add in some cooking wine and let the dish cook for approximately an hour. Finally, include the goji berries in the soup and let it cook for another 15 minutes before serving.

In addition to cooking with it, you can take it in supplement form. It’s often combined with other TCM ingredients to provide the best results, such as chicken essence with fish maw.

Tips For Consuming And Buying Fish Maw

People who are prone to indigestion or have a weak Spleen and stomach should refrain from consuming substantial amounts of it. Similarly, people with seafood allergies should not eat it.

If you’re keen on trying out a new delicacy whilst maintaining wellness, then this ingredient might be suitable for you.

If you’re interested in purchasing it, keep in mind that the good ones, either fried or dried, should have an even golden yellow color. They should be fairly thick and in whole form.

Avoid broken ones and those with a greyish tinge. It’s a sign that they have probably been displayed for too long. With all things considered, you can experiment with cooking up various delicious recipes using this dried seafood with herbs to elevate it to the next level.

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