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Favorite Chinese Herbs and Their Uses

With an estimated 30,000 flowering plant species, China possess a diverse and rich flora to form the basis of Traditional Chinese Medicine. At least 5,000 of those plant species are used as medicinal plants in China, and many of those are used as food. The line between medicinal food and medicinal plants is blurry in China, as it is in all herbal traditions. Here are suggested healthful Chinese food and medicines that you can try that are beneficial but may be expensive and hard to find in the West.

Cinnamon Twigs (桂枝) and Bark (肉桂)

Cinnamon Twigs
This favorite spice is easy to find in the natural form. It is also cheap because it comes from a common tree is southern China called the cassia tree. You can add it to cereal.

It is known both in the West and East for its health benefits. In the West, it is thought to reduce blood sugar, triglyceride level, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes.

It is thought to be good for helping people with diabetes; and it is also a mild antibiotic and might have anticancer effects. In Chinese medicine, it is thought to encourage generation of qi and blood.

Ginger (姜)

Ginger
This common herb is used a lot in Chinese cooking. In the West, it is reputed to have anticancer effects. It is thought to be good for colds or the flu and have other healthful properties. In Chinese medicine, it is thought to increase the Yang.

Ginseng (人参)

Ginseng
This favorite of Chinese herbology shouldn’t be used regularly because it is hard on the body, but it strengthens health and stamina.

It is thought to increase the Yang and qi in the body, and thus it is good for older men. It comes either as whole roots or sliced roots at markets. Of all the common Chinese herbs, it is about the most expensive.

Goji Berries or Wolfberries (枸杞子)

Goji Berries
This small fruit is becoming known in the West as good for athletes and as an antioxident, but it has long been used for traditional medicine.

In the West, it is recommended as a nutritious fruit that has a lot of healthful benefits and increases strength and stamina. It doesn’t have known side affects. It can be commonly eaten like other kinds of berries.

Fresh or dried Goji Berries are difficult to find in the US, but they are commonly eaten as a food in China. People often use it to make certain kinds of soups.

The Ningxia area that is relatively close to Xi’an is known for good quality berries and is a major center for the production of the berry.

However, be careful about pesticides. These delicate berries should taste very good and sweet, not bitter from too much synthetic chemicals

In traditional medicine, it is thought to enhance the kidney and lung Yin and improve vision. It is thought to be mainly a woman’s supplemental herb, though in West male athletes eat it as a supplement.

Hawthorn Berries (山楂)

Hawthorn Berries
This is a tart fruit that looks and tastes much like a crab apple, but the benefit for stamina, health, and the heart is amazing. It is known as a good food to eat for those with problems with weak hearts, poor circulation or angina. It helps the circulation, and strengthens the cardiovascular system.

However, if you are already taking drugs, there could be adverse side affects. It is a natural food with a healthful punch. But experiment with how it affects your body by trying just a few berries at first. You’ll know you’re taking too much if you heart rate increases too much.

In Chinese medicine, it is said to help move the qi.

Licorice (甘草)

Licorice
This sweet herb is used to flavor and sweeten candy in the West. Its Chinese name means “sweet grass.” It is thought to be good for sore throats. It helps to get rid of mucus and increases blood pressure. Chinese think that it restores the Yang balance and increases qi.

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