Traditional Chinese Medicine is becoming increasingly popular in the West. Take advantage of living in Singapore and learn about different remedies and how you can use them to cure minor ailments. Here is a quick guide to get you started!
Barbary Wolfberry Fruit
Good for: Increasing vitality
If you’re feeling sluggish or your skin looks dull due to stress or sleepless nights, these antioxidant-rich, brick-red morsels can help. Also called Chinese wolfberries, they’re believed to boost vitality by strengthening the liver and kidneys, enriching the blood, as well as promoting youthful-looking skin by nourishing yin energy.
Physician Ng Li Ying from Eu Yan Sang TCM Clinic @ Clementi and Harbourfront suggests snacking on them or adding some to herbal soups. While they’re safe when taken in moderation, they may interact with blood thinners like warfarin. Consult a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner if in doubt.
Eu Yan Sang Gold Label Bak Foong Pills*
Good for: Regulating menstrual ailments
The supplement is packed with Chinese herbs that are beneficial to women, such as Chinese ginseng, powdered pilrose deer antler, angelica root, astragalus, cinnamon bark and eucommia bark. It helps reduce discomfort and fatigue during your period and also nourishes the body after childbirth. Dosage instructions can be found on the package.
Chrysanthemum Tea with Tangerine Peel
Good for: Alleviating phlegmy coughs
Boil chrysanthemums with tangerine peel to make a tea, says Li Ying. Chrysanthemum helps with the cough while tangerine peel reduces phlegm.
Chinese Yam (Shan Yao)
Good for: Soothing digestive problems and reducing the risk of colds
Chinese yam is thought to be good for toning the spleen and kidneys, the two organs TCM practitioners consider the foundation of good health. “We view the spleen as responsible for digestion and the absorption of nutrients, and as Chinese yam can help strengthen the spleen, it is said to be good for digestive health,” says Lim Xiang Jun, a TCM physician with Urban Rehab.
Chinese yam can also help with digestive issues like diarrhoea. To prepare a congee with the root vegetable, cut it into pieces and cook with rice and plenty of water. The congee can be eaten as a main meal or a snack. Fresh Chinese yam should be consumed as soon as it is bought.
To reinforce the kidneys, Xiang Jun suggests adding slices of cut, dried Chinese yam to homemade soups. “Chinese yam can make your child less susceptible to illnesses like colds, and even help him develop a strong body constitution for years to come.” Cut, dried Chinese yam can be stored for a long time in a cool, dry place.
Bao He Pills
Good for: Relieving a sluggish appetite and bloating due to overeating
Tan Weii Zhu, a TCM physician at Raffles Chinese Medicine, recommends Bao He pills for indigestion, bloating and sluggish metabolism. The centuries-old formula contains herbs such as hawthorn berry, radish seed and malt, which aid digestion and whet the appetite. “Bao He pills are sold as Chinese proprietary medicine in many local medicinal halls,” Weii Zhu adds. “Take the pills when necessary and according to the package instructions. Store them in a cool, dry place and do take note of the expiry date.”
Good for: Improving digestion and increasing appetite
The candy made from hawthorn berries, sugar and malt, that we ate as kids, can help improve digestion and increase appetite.
Ban Lan Gen
Good for: Relieving a sore throat
The herb has powerful antiviral properties. It comes in a number of forms, such as granules which can be mixed with hot water for an instant beverage. “It is good for clearing heat and removing toxins, especially for relieving a sore throat,” says Xiang Jun. “It can be taken by children whose spleens and stomachs are generally weak.”
If your child has a sore throat, is coming down with a cold or was exposed to someone with a cold, he should take this herb. But don’t take large doses or use it over long periods, warns Xiang Jun. The herb is cooling in nature and can reduce the heat of the spleen and stomach, and affect digestion.
Eu Yan Sang Eight Treasures Herbal Tea*
Good for: Relieving stress and promoting relaxation
Get your husband to sip on this tea when he’s going through a stressful period at work. Eight Treasures Tea comes in four different blends – Lily, Longjing, Oolong and Rose. Each blend contains various flowers, fruits and herbs to calm frazzled nerves.
Eu Yan Sang Pure Cordyceps*
Good for: Reducing fatigue and strengthening immunity
Ideal for when your man feels run-down, this strain of cordyceps shares many of the potent benefits of wild cordyceps. It reduces fatigue, boosts energy, improves vitality and strengthens the respiratory and immune systems. Just get him to pop a few capsules a day to recharge his batteries and keep illness at bay.
FOR YOUR ELDERLY PARENTS
Hawthorn Berries (Shan Zha)
Good for: Relieving indigestion, and maintaining healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels
Says Xiang Jun: “When our forefathers cooked old chicken meat with a few hawthorn berries, they found that the meat became tender. The berries are thought to help with softening and removing food that is slow to digest, and to alleviate indigestion and flatulence.” When used to make a tea, hawthorn berries also help cut the oil after a greasy meal.
Hawthorn berries can also promote blood flow, she adds, so they help control blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels, and maintain healthy arteries and heart function.
They can be found in fresh and dried forms. Turn the dried berries into hot tea by rinsing them and steeping them in hot water for a few minutes. The tea should be consumed after meals.
Watermelon Frost Extract Spray (Xi Gua Shuang)
Good for: Soothing a dry or sore throat, and relieving mouth and tongue ulcers
Watermelon Frost Extract Spray is a generations-old herbal formula. It is made up of watermelon rind and a mineral called mang xiao or mirabilite. According to Xiang Jun, it relieves swelling and pain, moistens the throat and addresses a variety of oral conditions, such as mouth and tongue ulcers, pharyngitis and tonsillitis. Spray onto the affected area three to six times a day, two to four sprays each time.
Yi Yi Ren (Zhong Guo Yi Mi/Job’s Tears)
Good for: Removing “heatiness” and reducing joint pain
Yi yi ren is often called Chinese pearl barley, but don’t confuse the two. They have a similar appearance – spherical, pearl-coloured, with a brownish groove on one side – but yi yi ren is about twice the size of pearl barley and less polished.
Yi yi ren cools the body even as it strengthens the spleen, says Xiang Jun. “It can be taken regularly to clear heatiness due to hot weather or eating too much spicy, grilled or barbecued food.”
The herb can help remove “dampness”, making it suitable for relieving joint pain due to “wind dampness”, a common problem in the elderly.
You can consume yi yi ren as a beverage, seasoned with rock sugar. “Before boiling the raw yi yi ren, rinse and soak it in water for about an hour to soften the seeds for easier cooking. Then boil it with the soaking water. The boiled yi yi ren can also be eaten together with the drink.”
*Available at Eu Yan Sang stores or online.
DISCLAIMER: Only purchase herbs and supplements from reputable and legitimate TCM halls or stores. Only Health Sciences Authority-approved Chinese proprietary medicine should be used. If you have other symptoms or conditions apart from the ones mentioned in this article, avoid self-medicating and get advice from a TCM practitioner or general practitioner. Also consult your health-care professional if you suffer from serious illnesses, are on other medications or if your symptoms persist.
By Sasha Gonzales, Simply Her, August 2015