Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM has been used for centuries to treat almost every ailment under the sun from gout to depression, and menstrual cramps to insomnia. Today, it’s easy to procure your own TCM herbs from the myriad of herbal apothecaries dotted around Singapore. So next time you’re feeling under the weather, you don’t have to trek far to get fixed up. Just head to your medicine cabinet instead! Here are 12 TCM herbs every household should keep on hand for little emergencies and also big ones but remember, always consult a doctor before using ginseng or any medicinal herb to treat yourself for any condition:
1. Wolfberry Fruit
Mr Yo San, a trained TCM physician affiliated with the Singapore Chinese Physicians’ Association says these little red berries are great for detoxifying the liver and improving the eyesight. Wolfberries are also good for enriching the blood, as well as promoting youthful-looking skin by nourishing yin energy.
Ginseng’s many reputed health benefits are varied and far-reaching. According to Mr Yo San is particularly good for restoring one’s qi or life energy. Ginseng is also an adaptogen, which restores emotional and mental balance and improves the body’s ability to adjust and adapt to every situation. Beyond that, it helps to improve mental clarity and increase energy and stamina.
Chrysanthemums are not only pretty to look at, they’re also full of health benefits. They help to soothe tired eyes and also aid in reducing “heatiness” in the liver.
To alleviate coughs with a lot of phelgm, boil chrysanthemums with tangerine peel to make a tea for alleviating coughs with a lot of phelgm. Chrysanthemum helps with the coughing while tangerine peel reduces phlegm.
4. Chinese Yam (Shan Yao)
Chinese Yam or Shan Yao is good for soothing digestive problems and reducing the risk of colds. Mr Yo San says it’s especially beneficial for the spleen, an organ that’s important for health according to many TCM practitioners. Cut and dried Chinese yam can be stored for a long time in a cool, dry place. While fresh Chinese yam should be consumed as soon as it is bought.
Hawthorn is a type of berry that is helpful in aiding digestion. Mr Yo San also says it can reduce high cholesterol levels by helping to clear accumulated fat deposits in the arteries. Hawthorn candies, meanwhile, can help improve digestion and increase the appetite. Fun fact: In parts of Europe, Hawthorn berries are widely used as an approved treatment for early stages of heart failure.
(Related: Here’s How TCM Fights Weight Gain)
6. Ban Lan Gen
This Chinese medicine is actually a root that is good at getting rid of body heat. According to Mr Yo San, Ban Lan Gen is also helpful in soothing sore throats. So, if there are any family members that have a sore throat, is coming down with a cold or was exposed to someone with a cold, they should take this herb.
Also known as “caterpillar fungus”, Mr Yo San says cordyceps is good for the kidneys and helps the consumer to absorb qi properly. Also ideal to take when you feel tired, cordyceps reduces fatigue, boosts energy, improves vitality and strengthens the respiratory and immune systems. It can be used to treat respiratory problems such as asthma and chronic bronchitis as well, and can be brewed in soups, ground into powder, or taken in tablet form.
8. Eight Treasures Herbal Tea
Sip on this tea when you are 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. Mr Yo San says the Eight Treasures Herbal Tea is also good for women to drink after they finish their menstrual cycle.
9. Watermelon Rind Extract
Watermelon Frost Extract is a generations-old herbal formula that is often ground up into a powder and administered via a spray. It is made up of watermelon rind and a mineral called mirabilite. It relieves swelling and pain, moistens the throat and addresses a variety of oral conditions. So, this is an extremely useful to have around whenever someone has an ulcer at home!
10. Job's Tears (Yi Yi Ren)
Job’s Tears of Yi Yi Ren is a type of pearl barley that relieves the spleen of excess heat. It can also 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.
(Try This Recipe: Chicken And Pearl Barley Salad)