Falling sick recently? The flu season is back in full force, spiking even more as kids go back to school and Singaporeans take long-awaited vacations.
Here at the Meatmen, we’re keeping safe the tasty way, with yummy and nutritious daily meals. We’re going for healthier dishes, adding veggies, and including more Traditional Chinese Medicine ingredients from our friends at Eu Yan Sang. If you are also looking for some ideas to make healthier meals too, here are our top 12 picks of TCM ingredients for an immunity boost:
1. Red Dates (红枣)
If you’re just getting into TCM, Red Dates are one of the easiest ingredients to start cooking with. Its sweet flavour, comparable to caramel or brown sugar, makes it super simple to incorporate into desserts, soups and teas.
Good for: The high levels of vitamin C and antioxidants improve blood circulation, facilitate detox and give the skin a glowy appearance.
How to eat: The sweet, fruity taste of Red Dates makes it popular in desserts, such as our Snow Fungus Papaya Soup recipe. For new mummies who are breastfeeding, you can even try a Milkfish and Green Papaya soup which also boosts the production of breast milk.
What to avoid: Do not take with cough, flu or fever symptoms. If you are making tea, reduce the heatiness by removing the seeds and boiling no more than 5 red dates per glass of water.
2. Dendrobium Nobile (石斛)
Image Credit: Eu Yan Sang Singapore
Its name sounds like a complex spell from Harry Potter, and you’ll find that the effects of Dendrobium Nobile are like magic for your gut. Clearing heat from your stomach, this cooling TCM ingredient helps with gastric reflux and relieves abdominal pain.
Good for: Gastric and digestion issues, especially gastric reflux. Plus, the cooling properties clear heat and nourish the skin to prevent dryness, including for dry eyes or eye infections.
How to eat: Consuming 1 gramme at a time, you can either boil it with water for a glass of tea, or consume it in powder form on its own. Either way, the sweetness of this TCM ingredient makes it palatable and pleasant to consume.
When to avoid: Avoid prolonged consumption if you’ve got a weak spleen and Yang-deficient constitution. How do you know?
3. American Ginseng (西洋参)
American Ginseng is the signature pick-me-up in TCM. Like coffee, it boosts our alertness and combats sluggishness. Many enjoy the invigorating fragrance of Ginseng — but if the slightly bitter taste of Ginseng is not what floats your boat, consider pairing it with red dates or honey to reap the full benefits.
Good for: Reducing lethargy and fatigue. Plus, great for improving immunity and hydrating the body from stress or lack of sleep.
How to eat: Best consumed at the start of your day, you can have it in herbal soups (like Korean Ginseng Herbal Soup), tea, or in capsule form. For ginseng tea, just 3 – 5 thin slices per glass of water would suffice for a nourishing, warm drink.
When to avoid: Having American Ginseng at night may not be the best idea, unless you’re getting ready for an all-nighter! It is not recommended to consume American Ginseng when one is having cough, flu, fever or excessive heatiness in the body.
4. Lingzhi (灵芝)
Image Credit: Eu Yan Sang International
Lingzhi has long been prized as a TCM ingredient, going back centuries to over 2,000 years ago.Lingzhi’s time-tested immunity-boosting prowess is lauded today, as it was thousands of years ago!
Good for: Boosting natural immunity and promoting circulation around the body. It has anti-inflammatory properties, plus a calming effect on the nerves.
How to eat: Best brewed as a tea, break large chunks of Lingzhi into smaller bits and use not more than 1 gramme per glass of water (or 4 to 6 slices per litre of water). Simmer for up to 2 hours to get an earthy and nourishing tea.
When to avoid: Avoid consuming when you are feeling under the weather.
5. Cordycep Sinensis (冬虫夏草)
Cordyceps Sinensis is a prized herb for good reason. Known for its ability to improve and boost respiratory health, Cordycep Sinensis is a big help for those who are asthmatic or looking to boost their stamina naturally. In recent years, this humble-looking herb has earned pride of place for its role in aiding post-Covid recovery, helping with cough, shortness of breath and respiratory weakness.
Good for: Strengthening respiratory function, stamina and exercise performance in adults. May also be helpful for chronic bronchitis and throat irritations.
How to eat: While you can have Cordycep Sinensis as a brewed tea (about 3 pieces per glass of water), it also works well in herbal soups or porridge. Try it with our Black Chicken Herbal soup recipe by adding a few pieces into the spice bag, filled with other fortifying TCM ingredients.
What to avoid: Not to be consumed when having fever, flu or other heaty symptoms.
6. Chrysanthemum (菊花)
Chrysanthemum may not win you many brownie points if you were to present it in a bouquet to your better half, but she will certainly appreciate Chrysanthemum if you brew it in the form of a delicious floral tea. Beloved for its mellow taste, signature floral fragrance and cooling properties (especially on sweltering hot days), there are plentiful benefits in a cup of delicious Chrysanthemum tea. What’s more, it is also great as a mood relaxant, perfect for days when you need to unwind/destress after a long work day.
Good for: Clearing heat and liver tension — which is said to impact the quality of sleep, mood, as well as eye and skin health. Alleviates symptoms like headaches, rashes and sore eyes.
How to eat: Regardless of which type of Chrysanthemum you choose, use about 1 gramme per glass of water to brew as a wholesome and fortifying tea beverage. For added eye health benefits (and sweetness), add Goji berries.
• Baby Chrysanthemum: Higher grade
• White Chrysanthemum: Relief of eye irritation
• Yellow Chrysanthemum: Relaxation and mood
What to avoid: As much as Chrysanthemum tea is a refreshing beverage to enjoy, limit your consumption if you have a weaker spleen or Yang-deficient body constitution. The nature of Chrysanthemum is cooling/cold in nature, so overconsumption may result in digestive discomforts.
7. Astragalus (黄芪)
Astragalus is used in TCM to promote wound healing and sealing. With a mildly sweet and woody taste, it is often recommended for post-surgery recovery.
Good for: Regenerating blood in the body, and said to improve Qi production and circulation, with “Qi lifting” effect especially to the upper part of the body.
How to eat: Herbal soup is the way to go for Astragalus! Use up to 15 grammes per serving of soup, alongside other ingredients to your preference. From a simple tonic soup to Herbal Bak Kut Teh, this TCM ingredient will add a subtle earthy flavour with a health boost to match.
What to avoid: Not to be consumed if pregnant or nursing, or having fever, flu or other heaty symptoms.
8. Tangerine Skin (陈皮)
Tangerine Skin is known for its citrusy fragrance and making DIY bug spray, but did you know that it’s good for your gut too? By improving the Qi flow, it is said to strengthen the spleen, help with digestion issues and open up the chest, great for those who constantly face issues with excessive phlegm.
Good for: Preventing excessive bloating, indigestion and nausea. Helps to remedy motion sickness on the go.
How to eat: The zesty aroma of tangerine peel works well with any recipe that includes citrus fruits, such as Orange Chicken. Add small slices to the dish, or use as a seasoning to flavour the meat and batter.
What to avoid: Remember to store dried tangerine peels in an airtight container! If the hard peels begin to soften, they may spoil.
9. Codonopsis (党参)
A milder TCM ingredient, Codonopsis is suitable for ladies in confinement, and those who are more sensitive to strong herbal boosting. The benefits include more general ones, such as boosting energy and immunity, and also more specific ones like promoting a healthy digestion.
Good for: Improving digestion and strengthening the spleen, without overly stimulating the body. Overall nourishment and blood production.
How to eat: Similar to Astragalus, Codonspsis is widely used in herbal soups with up to 15-18 grammes per serving of soup. With its slightly nutty essence, it’s a good match for soups with woody undertones, such as Old Cucumber soup.
What to avoid: Consume carefully if you are having a fever, flu or other heaty symptoms. While it is generally milder, consuming Codonspsis in large amounts may affect recovery from such conditions.
10. Notoginseng (三七)
Image Credit: All Things Health
If you’ve recently sustained a fall or had a surgical procedure, Notoginseng is a TCM ingredient you should consider for its dual function of improving blood circulation and preventing excessive blood loss (bleeding).
Good for: As a whole, Notoginseng is known in TCM for improving cardiovascular health and promoting recovery, including nourishing the blood, facilitating recovery from injuries and wound healing.
How to eat: You can make a herbal soup with Notoginseng (slices or powdered form), or even take it in capsules. Either way, it’s readily available to enjoy!
What to avoid: As this herb may reduce the formation of blood clots in the body, it’s not suitable for those already on anti-coagulant or blood-thinning medication.
11. Goji (枸杞子)
Goji Berries may be small, but they are packed with anthocyanin, carotenoids,
vitamin C and antioxidants. This means healthier skin, reduced levels of stress, and all-round nourishment for your body. It also refreshes and detox the body and reduces inflammation, and is excellent for those with constipation issues.
Good for: Better skin and eyes. Goji has been known to be helpful when it comes to reducing uneven pigments and spots due to UV/sun exposure. Goji is also great for eyes and boosting vision health, making it a must-try for those who experience night blindness.
How to eat: As a tea, Goji may be brewed with 1 gramme per glass of water. Its sweetness makes it ideal as well for cooking or herbal tonics, with up to 15 grammes per serving.
P.S., it’s also great in desserts, like this Honey Sticky Goji Pudding recipe.
What to avoid: If serving in a herbal tonic, add in only during the last 10 to 15 minutes of simmering.
12. Mint (薄荷)
While Mint is a familiar herb to many of us, its TCM properties like alleviating a stagnated liver and regaining a smooth flow of Qi are lesser known. This refreshing ingredient is super versatile too, complementing a variety of food and drinks.
Good for: Relieving stress and heat-related issues, such as rashes.
How to eat: Best consumed as a drink, you can simply add mint to boiled water, along with other cooling ingredients of choice such as lemon or cucumber. Also works with desserts, such as this Choco Banana Pudding that could use a minty bite.
What to avoid: While generally safe, like any other herb, those with g6pd deficiency should avoid.
Credits: The Meatmen Channel https://themeatmen.sg/12-tcm-ingredients-to-add-to-your-daily-meals/