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Common tcm herbs used in cooking

By Pauline D. Loh | China Daily | Updated: 2012-09-24 13:10

Heshouwu (Fleece flower root)

This black-brown root tuber of the Polygonum multiflora vine is a traditional cure for graying hair. Many shampoos made in China advertise the addition of this herb. But like most plant cures used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is more often used internally, to clear toxin build-up, reduce pain and improve blood circulation. The roots are harvested in autumn and winter and then dried. It is grouped with ginseng, lingzhi (ganoderma) and cordyceps to form the Four Magic Cure-alls.

Ginseng (Panax ginseng, Radix ginseng in dried form)

Long treasured as a rejuvenating tonic, wild ginseng is getting rare and rarer. Most of the ginseng you see on the market is now farmed, mostly in the northeastern part of China, on the foothills of Changbai Mountain. Panax ginseng has been credited with almost miraculous cures, but is most often used as recuperative tonic.

Chuanxiong (Sichuan lovage rhizome)

This herbal tonic can send your blood racing. This is the traditional cure for poor circulation and aches and pains caused by the accumulation of too much "wind" in the body. It is also believed to dissipate clots and bruises. For that reason, it is often used as a tonic for "woman troubles" such as dysmenorrhea.

Baizhi (Taiwan angelica root)

One of the many forms of Chinese angelica roots commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine. This is used more often to nourish the yin if the body is off balance. It is a mild diuretic used to treat water retention.

Danggui (Radix angelica sinensis)

This is a very common herbal cure, distinctive in its bittersweet aroma. It is most often used in chicken soup brewed to replenish the strengths of new mothers recuperating from giving birth. Known as "women's treasure", it is used in many tonic pills and infusions sold as health supplements for the fairer sex.

Huaishan (Dioscorea root, Chinese mountain yam)

This long, stick-like hairy root is known for its mild but nourishing qualities. It is believed to benefit the liver and kidneys, helping the kidney especially, perform its functions better. In Chinese pharmacology, those with a weak constitution are encouraged to eat more of this during the cusp of the seasons, when weather become unpredictable.

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