Pop­u­lar Ayurvedic su­per­foods


kapha dosha,

Like Ayurveda, TCM is an­other an­cient sys­tem of medicine, revered for its im­mu­nity-boost­ing prop­er­ties. Says physi­cian Anita Pee of Eu Yan Sang TCM Clinic @ Cle­menti, “TCM is one of the world’s old­est forms of medicine, dat­ing back to more than 2,000 years ago. It is shaped by Chi­nese his­tory, phi­los­o­phy and med­i­cal knowl­edge, to form a well­ness and heal­ing sys­tem that in­cludes ther­a­pies such as herbal med­i­ca­tion, acupunc­ture, cup­ping, etc.”

One im­por­tant as­pect of TCM is proper diet and nu­tri­tion, as food is con­sid­ered to be more than just sus­te­nance for the body since it has medic­i­nal prop­er­ties as well. Like herbs, food items are cat­e­gorised ac­cord­ing to whether they are warm­ing or cool­ing, and then ac­cord­ing to their tastes and ef­fects.

“By eat­ing foods suit­able for one’s body con­sti­tu­tion and health con­di­tion, one can nourish the body and main­tain good health,” she says. Pee adds that hav­ing a strong im­mune sys­tem means hav­ing a strong Qi (vi­tal en­ergy) that can de­fend the body from ex­ter­nal pathogens.

Adds Tay Jia Yin, TCM Physi­cian, Raf­fles Chi­nese Medicine, “West­ern nu­tri­tion analy­ses food in terms of its chem­i­cal com­po­si­tion, calo­ries, car­bo­hy­drates and vi­ta­mins it con­tains. TCM how­ever, fo­cuses on the en­er­getic prop­er­ties of food, as ev­ery food has a na­ture, flavour and or­gan sys­tem as­so­ci­ated with it. The na­ture (warm­ing or cool­ing) de­scribes the ef­fect of the food on the tem­per­a­ture of the body, while flavour (sour, bit­ter, sweet, salty or pun­gent) de­scribes the taste.

Chi­nese di­etary ther­apy utilises these prop­er­ties as a guide to a well-bal­anced meal. Diet is pre­scribed not only ac­cord­ing to ill­nesses, but also in con­sid­er­a­tion to a per­son’s body type.” Ac­cord­ing to her, the term ‘su­per­food’ is a con­tem­po­rary term.

“From the TCM view­point, one par­tic­u­lar food could be good for one per­son but not so good for an­other. There is no one-siz­e­fits-all la­bel since the food na­ture as well as its flavours have to be taken into con­sid­er­a­tion. Be­sides, dif­fer­ent foods have dif­fer­ent prop­er­ties that can help the body at var­i­ous times.”

TCM prac­ti­tion­ers agree that cer­tain ingredient­s stand out with spe­cial at­tributes and are of­ten con­sumed to main­tain health:

• As­tra­galus

Known for its abil­ity to strengthen the im­mune sys­tem and help the body fight off in­fec­tions, as­tra­galus also has anti-age­ing prop­er­ties and is an adap­to­gen which in­creases the body’s abil­ity to han­dle stress.

• Cordy­ceps

Boosts lung Qi and nour­ishes kid­ney essence, is es­pe­cially use­ful for strength­en­ing res­pi­ra­tory health and for gen­eral weak­ness in the body.

• Gin­seng

A pow­er­ful herb that strongly boosts Qi in the body and strength­ens spleen and lung func­tions. How­ever, gin­seng should

not be used in heaty or ex­cess yang con­di­tions such as high blood pres­sure, con­sti­pa­tion, or headaches.

• Goji Berry

Also known as wolf­ber­ries, goji berries have been used as an herbal rem­edy for over 3,000 years. They nourish the kid­ney essence that un­der­pins hu­man vi­tal­ity and are typ­i­cally con­sumed to im­prove eye­sight. It also strength­ens the liver and kid­neys and re­plen­ishes vi­tal essence in the body.

• Ju­jube dates

A warm­ing food, the ju­jube date helps to strengthen the spleen and stom­ach Qi, and nourish the blood.

• Ling Zhi

Known for its im­mune-boost­ing ef­fects and anti-aging prop­er­ties.

• Wal­nuts

Eat­ing wal­nuts can sharpen the mind and boost con­cen­tra­tion and mem­ory. In ad­di­tion to help­ing the brain, wal­nuts sup­port the kid­ney Qi and aid di­ges­tion by lu­bri­cat­ing the in­tes­tine.

Tonic for­mu­las also help to aug­ment or re­plen­ish the body sub­stances when they are de­fi­cient or weak, says Tay. In gen­eral, herbal ton­ics help to strengthen the body, aid in sleep and di­ges­tion or boost the im­mune sys­tem.

They could in­volve in­di­vid­ual tonic herbs or a com­bi­na­tion of small for­mu­las. In some cases, ton­ics are made into wines by us­ing al­co­holic ex­trac­tion to ob­tain the ac­tive ingredient­s of herbs and al­low them to keep for a longer pe­riod of time. In TCM, wine is con­sid­ered a ‘guid­ing’ drug, which en­hances and re­in­forces other drugs, while im­prov­ing blood cir­cu­la­tion at the same time. “It is im­por­tant to first ad­dress the un­der­ly­ing de­fi­ciency be­fore ap­ply­ing the ap­pro­pri­ate tonic in or­der to ob­tain the max­i­mum ben­e­fit,” she says.

• Codonop­sis root (Dang Shen)

Mild yet su­perb Qi and blood tonic which helps to main­tain good Qi and blood cir­cu­la­tion.

• Chi­nese An­gel­ica root (Dang Gui) Re­plen­ishes and in­vig­o­rates blood to pro­mote bet­ter blood cir­cu­la­tion.

• No­to­gin­seng (San Qi)

In­vig­o­rates blood and re­moves blood sta­sis, also al­le­vi­ates pain and swelling from trau­matic in­juries.

When asked what foods she would rec­om­mend con­sum­ing, Tay says, “In TCM, the role of food and medicine over­lap. For ex­am­ple, water­melon is food, but its hy­drat­ing prop­er­ties could also serve as a med­i­cat­ing ef­fect dur­ing hot days. How­ever, there are also some foods that are con­sid­ered more ‘medicine’ than ‘food’, such as gin­seng, for ex­am­ple. When it comes to such ‘medicine’, a per­son should con­sult a prac­ti­tioner since eat­ing it could make your body worse, as all of us have dif­fer­ent con­sti­tu­tions that in­ter­act dif­fer­ently with dif­fer­ent foods.”

She con­cludes by say­ing, “From a TCM per­spec­tive, a good bal­anced diet is where foods are con­sumed in ap­pro­pri­ate com­bi­na­tions ac­cord­ing to their na­tures and flavours. It is best to con­sume fresh foods that are free from chem­i­cals, preser­va­tives, and over-pro­cess­ing. It is also im­por­tant not to eat too much (ide­ally up to 70 per cent of your ca­pac­ity), and have food that is mod­er­ate in tem­per­a­ture, to avoid strain­ing the di­ges­tive or­gans. When a per­son con­tin­u­ally eats only one type of food, it cre­ates an im­bal­ance in their body, thus af­fect­ing health. One of the key prin­ci­ples in TCM is to keep the body ‘neu­tral’. The idea is to eat the right food at the right time, in mod­er­a­tion.”

• Chi­nese yam (Huai Shan)

Boosts Qi and Yin in the body and strength­ens lung, spleen and kid­ney. This mild yet nour­ish­ing herb and food is great for pro­mot­ing a healthy di­ges­tive sys­tem and is suit­able for all ages to con­sume.

• Hawthorn berry

Im­proves ap­petite and aids di­ges­tion, par­tic­u­larly af­ter con­sum­ing oily foods. It has shown ef­fects in re­duc­ing blood lipids and pro­mot­ing heart health. How­ever, this herb is not suit­able for peo­ple with acid re­flux.

• White fun­gus

Nour­ishes lung Yin and in­creases flu­ids in the body. It is use­ful for treat­ing dry coughs or dry­ness in the mouth and throat and im­proves skin com­plex­ion.

• Red dates

In­vig­o­rates spleen and stom­ach and strength­ens the di­ges­tive sys­tem. Also nour­ishes blood which pro­motes healthy, rosy com­plex­ion, and use­ful for blood­d­e­fi­ciency con­di­tions such as dizzi­ness and scanty pe­ri­ods.

• Black se­same

Strength­ens the liver and kid­ney and re­plen­ishes blood and essence in the body. It has anti-aging prop­er­ties and is use­ful for treat­ing hair loss and grey hair. It is also use­ful for con­sti­pa­tion due to yin and blood de­fi­ciency.

Co­rian­der seeds



As­tra­galus Ju­jube dates

Chi­nese An­gel­ica root Codonop­sis root (Dang Shen)

Hawthorn berry

Black se­same

White fun­gus

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