1. Apricot Seeds
TCM practitioners use apricot seeds to treat respiratory symptoms such as asthma, bronchitis, wheezing and persistent coughing. The seeds are also known to encourage bowel movements, thus improving intestinal health. Note that they should never be eaten raw: they contain traces of hydrogen cyanide, a poison. Using it in a soup, as in this case, is perfectly safe, as the toxin is completely hydrolysed in the cooking process.
2. Tangerine Peels
Bitter yet fragrant, tangerine peel is often used in stews, soups, desserts, marinades, teas and even snacks. The peel, with anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties, can help relieve a wet and persistent cough due to excessive phlegm in the lungs. It is used in this particular dish to give it a distinct taste that stays in your mouth long after you’ve scooped the last spoonful.
3. American Ginseng
In TCM, American Ginseng is used to treat many ailments. It’s well-known for boosting the immune system, and is prescribed for flu or cold. In the wider medical community, the herb has been used to regulate the central nervous and circulatory systems. As a culinary ingredient, it has a sweet and slightly warm taste, with an aroma that’s said to relieve stress when breathed in!
4. Notoginseng Root
TCM practitioners use this herb to treat blood-related problems, from blood stasis and deficiency to profuse bleeding. A powdered form was rumoured to have been carried by Vietnamese soldiers during the Vietnam War. With its sweet and slightly bitter taste, notoginseng root is popular as a flavouring ingredient in Chinese cuisine.
5. Salvia Root
Salvia root, or dan shen, is used to treat heart-, liver- and kidney-related ailments. It can only be found 90–1,200m above sea level in China and Japan, but harvesting this herb is worthwhile as research has shown that it has the ability to reduce vascular resistance. This means that when it comes to getting rid of clots and breaking up blood stasis, salvia root is a must-have.
6. Bird's Nest
Bird’s nest is one of the best-known miracle foods in TCM. Aside from its benefits to the skin and child development, it is especially good for the lungs, helping to alleviate conditions such as phlegm collection and chronic dry coughs. For the elderly, adding some it to soups will ease most respiratory-related ailments and even boost their appetite in the long run.
This article first appeared in NATURA magazine issue No.9.