They look as enigmatic as their names sound. Here is a legend of the herbs
Slightly bittersweet, these thin shavings are commonly used to treat chronic coughs and other febrile and respiratory diseases.
Dried longans, or long yan rou, are usually found in sweet desserts and sweet-and-sour dishes. These herbs promote mental fortitude: they calm the mind and improve concentration and memory. Besides revitalising the mind, long yan rou are also useful for those deficient in qi and those suffering from anaemia.
The flowers and leaves of red dates are used in perfumes and potpourri in other countries. But in TCM, the herb tonifies the spleen, replenishes qi, nourishes blood and eases the mind. As such, it is good for those suffering from loss of appetite and loose stools due to deficiency syndromes of the spleen.
With a name that literally means ‘supernatural mushroom’, you can be sure this herb has a bevy of healing properties. The bitter fungus will boost your immune system, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, replenish qi, relieves cough and asthmatic symptoms. It can even be used to treat insomnia.
Also known as huaishan, these pale yellow tubers are one of the most commonly used in TCM. Consuming the herb strengthens the kidney—a key organ that maintains fluid balance in the body and viewed as the root of all organ functions—and is also beneficial to the liver.
Not only do these berries impart a tantalising bright red hue to the dish it is cooked in, they are packed with medicinal properties. They improve circulation, ameliorate dizziness and tinnitus, and possess a wealth of ophthalmologic benefits.
Use this with caution: apricot kernels contain hydrogen cyanide, a strong toxin. Eating more than 20 pieces may result in death, but the cooking process usually renders it safe. Those suffering from lung and large intestine ailments can take these herbs to alleviate symptoms.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock. This article first appeared in NATURA magazine issue No.1.