10 Amazing Chinese Herbs You Already Have In Your Kitchen

by Heather Schuerlein, L.Ac, Dipl.OM

 

Chinese herbal medicine is one of the oldest and most comprehensive forms of herbal medicine in the world. The Materia Medica of Chinese medicinals details hundreds of roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruits, fungi, minerals, and even some animal materials that are used by practitioners to help heal a wide range of issues.


While you should seek out the help of a qualified herbalist, like our own Heather Schuerlein, to address most of your health needs, you may be able to improve your health with items that are already in your pantry! There are several Chinese herbs that are common foods and spices. Check out these 10 amazing “kitchen herbs” and become your own home herbalist!

 

Cinnamon, “Rou Gui”
One of my favorite “kitchen herbs” to use is cinnamon. You can add it to coffee, tea, oats,curries, roasted vegetables – the options are endless! Cinnamon is used in Chinese medicine to warm, invigorate the body, and improve circulation. It is great for achy joints, painful menstruation, and poor digestion.

 

Scallions, “Cong Bai”
The next time you feel a cold coming on, grab the scallions. An easy kitchen remedy when you’re feeling a little under the weather is a potent miso soup with heaps of scallions. Add in other kitchen herbs like garlic, chilis, ginger, and cilantro for extra power. Scallions are known for fighting “exterior” diseases in Chinese medicine – that is, those initial onset colds, flus, and allergies. They are great at relieving nasal congestion and can even help with tummy troubles.

Watermelon, “Xi Gua”
Ah, the joy of a cool slice of watermelon in summer. This fruit packs more of a punch than just being a hydrating, lycopene-filled superfood. It acts to soothe and heal sore throats and heatstroke in summer.

Goji Berries, “Gou Qi Zi”
These little ruby fruits have gotten a lot of buzz for their antioxidant powers. In Chinese medicine, goji berries are prized for their ability to build and improve the quality of the blood. They are great for nourishing the body during menopause, eye dryness, or for improving the skin.

Peppermint, “Bo He”
Fresh or dried, peppermint is always good to keep on hand. It can be used for sore throats, tired and dry eyes, or just as a tea for relaxation. An excellent tea/herb to open up clogged sinuses and ease tension headaches. 

 

Black Sesame Seeds, “Hei Zhi Ma”
Instead of grabbing the white variety of sesame seeds, opt for the black ones. They have the same flavor, but have some serious health benefits. This dark variety can be eaten daily to help prevent aging and keep your skin and hair looking young and healthy.


Ginger, “Sheng Jiang” or “Gan Jiang”
Chinese medicine makes use of both fresh (sheng) and dried (gan) ginger. Use the fresh form in teas or added to stir frys or soups when you are feeling like a cold is coming on. It is excellent for stomach pain and nausea as well. The dried form is great for warming up dishes in the winter when we are cold and chilly and can help improve a sluggish digestion.


Fennel Seeds, “Huo Xiang”
Tummy troubles be gone! Fennel can nip nausea and abdominal pain right in the bud. If you suffer from chronic digestive issues, start adding fennel seeds to your meals. Carry some seeds with you on the go and chew a few when you feel your stomach acting up.

 

Coriander Seed and Cilantro, “Hu Sui”
Along with fennel, coriander is an awesome spice to add to improve your digestion. Use both the seed and the leafy greens!


Turmeric, “Yu Jin”
Last, but definitely not least, we have turmeric. This spice is an old favorite in Indian cuisine, but has become popularized lately for it’s anti-inflammatory powers. In Chinese medicine, turmeric is used mostly to help improve blood flow and relieve pain so use it in your cooking for any of those complaints or just for better circulation!


These herbs can help with a variety of common issues. If you have any questions about their use, please feel free to ask and we’ll answer as best we can. Happy cooking!