Nutrition Month 2020: 7 Traditional Ingredients From Chinese Medicine That Can Help Boost Your Health
Traditional Chinese Medicine has been making its way back into the mainstream with the popularisation of more natural methods of achieving health and wellness. In Chinese medicine, Qi is the vital energy that helps regulate the body and keep it functioning normally. Any disruptions in the Qi are primarily seen as the source of physical and mental health issues including common ailments like the flu, fever, cough, depression and anxiety.
We spoke to two Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners - Gianna Buonocore from Integrated Medicine Institute and Cecilia Cheung from Health Wise - for advice on which herbs to add to your diet to help boost your immune system and improve your wellbeing.
The most commonly suggested ingredient by the two experts to add to your routine to boost your immunity is the Astragalus Root - or Huang Qi - as known in Chinese. The root is a principle herb used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for increasing an individual’s vitality and promotes immune boosting compounds. Astragalus Root is typically combined with Atractylodes Rhizome (Bai Zhu) and Ledebouriella Root (Feng Feng) to create a soup. According to Cecilia Cheung, this soup is like “building a ‘defensive wall’ to protect your body” from cold and flu and is “generally good for everyone” at all stages of life.
Fresh ginger is often prescribed to boost the energy levels in individuals. According to Gianna Buonocore, it “not only soothes an upset stomach but helps fire up your immune system” and “helps clear the pathogen by inducing sweat”. Ginger has been used to treat many initial flu and heat symptoms like dry and sore throat, constipation and fatigue. It can also assist with promoting blood circulation and aids in relieving constipation, vomiting symptoms and morning sickness.
Garlic has been widely recognised for its many antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and anti-inflammatory effects. The active ingredient inside garlic known as allicin, has antimicrobial properties which is activated through “the action of chopping, crushing or chewing raw garlic” - though Buonocore warns that these properties are destroyed during cooking. It is great for preventing and treating cold and flus, including relieving symptoms such as “coughs, clear(ing) phlegm and enhanc(ing) immunity” Cheung adds.
Chrysanthemum is a cooling herb and has antimicrobial properties which has a cleansing effect on the body and can help to clear pathogenic heat. Cheung describes chrysanthemums as “a lung clearing herb” as it is known to treat ailments like headaches, sore, throats, acne and ulcers. It has also been prescribed for issues like sleeplessness, strained eyes and high blood pressure.
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Buonocore states that Goji Berries or Wolfberry Fruit are often used to “improve health, vitality, longevity, energy and stamina”. In Chinese Medicine, it is typically prescribed to treat poor eyesight, diabetes and anemia. Add them to your breakfast or include them in your tea for extra nutrients.
Red Jujube Dates
For those suffering from insomnia, restlessness, fatigue or loss of appetite, red jujube dates have often been used as a treatment by Chinese medicine doctors. The dates are said to have properties to calm the mind, reduce stress and decrease anxiety. Buonocore recommends “a cup of jujube tea before bed (as it can) promote a restful night’s sleep or treat insomnia”.
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In Chinese medicine, rose buds have a warming effect, and are used to alleviate abdominal pain, reduce indigestion, improve blood circulation in the body, and help to regulate menstruation and alleviate abdominal cramps. Buonocore suggests that “rose bud tea can be combined with goji berries or red dates to combat tiredness, fatigue and sluggishness”, however for those suffering from sore, dry throat, or constipation, Cheung recommends limiting your intake.