Chinese Herbal Remedies from Your Kitchen
Most people have heard of Chinese herbal remedies. But did you know that you probably already have some stashed away in your kitchen?
In fact, there are many Chinese herbal remedies that are also common culinary herbs and spices. In this article, we look at some of the most common herbs and how to use them safely at home.
What are Chinese Herbal Remedies?
Traditionally, Chinese herbal remedies came from plants, animals, and minerals. However, most of the remedies we use today come from plants.
Every herb has different properties. These are determined by its nature (hot, warm, neutral, cool, or cold) and its flavor (bitter, sweet, pungent, sour, and salty). Each herb has its own unique combination of nature and flavors, which are responsible for its effects on the body.
Additionally, each herb has an affinity for a particular organ or organs. This also contributes to the impact it can have on your health.
Although most people know that herbs are an important part of Chinese medicine, few people realise that many of these are common ingredients in cooking. Therefore, there is a good chance that you already have several Chinese herbal remedies in your home!
Chinese Herbal Remedies from Your Kitchen
If you are curious about Chinese herbs, a good place to start is your kitchen cabinets. Here are some of the most popular culinary herbs that also double up as medicines:
Peppermint (Bo He)
Peppermint is a popular herbal tea. People love it for its refreshing flavor and calming effects. In western herbalism, peppermint is usually recommended as a digestive aid. It is useful for symptoms like bloating and abdominal discomfort.
However, in Chinese medicine, peppermint is best-known as a remedy for colds. Since it is cooling in nature, peppermint is best for wind-heat type colds. These have symptoms such as sore throat, stuffy nose, and fever. It may also be useful for dizziness and headaches.
As well as buying commercial peppermint teas, you can easily make your own at home. Simply steep a few sprigs of fresh or dried peppermint in hot (not boiling) water for up to 20 minutes, and enjoy.
Ginger (Sheng Jiang)
Ginger is another spice that almost everyone will have tasted at some point. Like peppermint, it is often used for digestive issues. However, ginger is best for problems in the upper digestive system, such as nausea and vomiting.
In Chinese medicine, ginger is also a common remedy for colds. But while peppermint is cooling in nature, ginger has much more warming effects. This makes it more suitable for wind-cold type colds, with sneezing, runny nose, and chills. It can also be useful for coughs which produce clear or white mucus.
Brew your own ginger tea by slicing a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger root and simmering it in water for 20 minutes. Mix in a spoonful of brown sugar or honey to enhance its soothing effects.
Turmeric (Yu Jin)
Turmeric is probably one of the best-known herbal remedies in the world. It is most famous for its active ingredient, curcumin, and its powerful anti-inflammatory effects.
As a Chinese herbal remedy, turmeric is used to improve the flow of qi and blood in the body. This makes it useful for menstrual problems such as irregular or painful periods. It may also help to alleviate depression.
In the west, turmeric is most common in a powdered form. As well as being an essential ingredient in curries, you can try adding a pinch to porridge, smoothies, or scrambled eggs.
In order to maximize the healing benefits of curcumin, experts recommend that you take it with a small amount of healthy fat (e.g. coconut or olive oil) and a generous sprinkle of black pepper. These ingredients help your body to absorb the compound more easily and make the most of its effects.
Fennel Seeds (Xiao Hui Xiang)
Fennel seeds are another popular digestive aid in both eastern and western cultures. In India, it is common practice to chew on a few seeds after a meal to promote effective digestion.
Fennel’s use in Chinese medicine is somewhat similar. It can be used to relieve bloating and abdominal pain, as well as improving the appetite. It may also be helpful for period pain.
If the idea of chewing on raw fennel seeds doesn’t appeal to you, try steeping a spoonful in hot water to brew your own medicinal fennel tea.
Tea (Cha Ye)
It may come as no surprise to learn that tea is also a popular herbal remedy. However, what you might not know is that different types of tea have different effects. For example, green tea is more cooling and is most suitable for drinking in the summer. Black tea, on the other hand, is warming and best drunk in the winter months.
Chinese herbalists believe that tea has many benefits for human health. These include quenching thirst, promoting digestion, and refreshing the mind.
Western herbalists know that tea is packed full of antioxidants, chemicals which are vital for maintaining health and preventing disease.
How to Use These Everyday Chinese Herbal Remedies
Although you can find many popular Chinese herbal remedies in your kitchen, there are a few things to be aware of. While these herbs are all generally safe, they may be more suitable for some people than others.
For example, people who have a cold constitution shouldn’t use too many cooling herbs. Likewise, people who tend to run hot should avoid overusing warm herbs.
It is generally safe to take any of the herbs mentioned above for short-term use. However, if you are looking for a long-term Chinese herbal remedy, you should consult a qualified practitioner. They will be able to provide you with a proper diagnosis and recommend the most appropriate herbs for you.
You should also seek professional advice if you suffer from long-term medical conditions, take any medication, or are pregnant or breast-feeding. Although these Chinese herbal remedies are very common, it is still essential that you use them safely.