Chinese Food Herbs is not a simple combination of food and Chinese herbs, but a special diet
made from Chinese herbs, food and condiments under the theoretical guidance of diet
preparation based on differentiation of symptoms and signs of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).
It has not only the efficiency of medicine but also the delicacy of food, and can be used to prevent
and cure diseases, build up one's health and prolong one's life.
Two Types of Food Herbs
1. Dietetic Chinese Herbs:
Known as "edible Chinese herb,", dietetic Chinese herbs refer to drink and food, which can be used
either for prevention and cure of diseases, or for health care and recovery. Dietetic Chinese herbs of
this type include cereals, fruits, nuts, vegetables, seasonings, birds and animals, aquatic products
and so on.
2.Food Herbs for dietetic therapy:
It is a diet made from beneficial drugs, food, and condiments. Medicated diet can
be prepared either from edible Chinese drugs alone or from crude Chinese drugs and foods according to
certain prescriptions by processing and cooking.
The characteristics of Chinese Food Herbs are as follows:
1.Selecting Food Herbs on the Basis of Differential Diagnosis.
When prescribing Food Herbs, we should first make an overall analysis of the patient's
physical and health condition, the nature of his illness, the season he got ill in and the geographical
condition, etc, form a judgement on the type of syndrome; then decide on corresponding principles for
dietetic therapy and select suitable medicated diet. For instance
if a patient is suffering from a stomach condition resulting from a cold, the patient should take one kind
of medicated food, but if the patient is suffering from the same kind of condition caused by a stomach yin-deficiency,
the patient should take a different medicated food.
2.Suitable for both Prevention and Treatment, Outstanding in Effect.
Food Herbs can be used either to treat diseases or for healthy people to build up their health and
prevent diseases. This is one of the characteristics in which food herbs is different from treatment
by medicine. Although food herbs is something mild, it has a notable effect on the prevention and
cure of diseases, health build-up and health preservation.
3. Good in Taste, Convenient for Taking
There is the saying "Good herbs tastes bitter" among the people, because most of the decoction of
chinese herbs are bitter. People , especially children, take an aversion to the bitterness of Chinese
drugs and refuse to take them.
Most of the herbs used in Food Herbs are both edible and medicinal,
and retain the properties of food: colour, sweet-smelling, flavor, and so on. Even if part of them are
chinese herbs, their nature and flavour are taken into consideration and made into tasty medicated diet
by mixing them with food and careful cooking. So it can be said that Food Herbs is good in taste and
convenient for taking.
History and Development
Chinese Food Herbs has a long history. The ancient legend "Shennong Tastes a Hundred Grasses"
shows that early in remote antiquity the Chinese nation began to explore the function of food and
medicaments, hence the saying "Traditional Chinese medicine and diet both originate from the practice
and experience in daily life."
In the Zhou Dynasty(11th century-256BC), royal doctors were divided into four kinds.
One of them was dietetic doctors who were in charge of the emperor's health care and health preservation,
preparing diets for him.
In The Yellow Emperor's Internal Classic, several Food Herbs prescriptions were recorded. In Shennong's Herbal
Classic, which was published approximately in about the Qin and Han Periods and is the extant earliest
monograph on materia medica, many sorts of medicaments which are both drugs and food were recorded,
such as Chinese-date (Fructus Ziziphi Jujubae),sesame seed (Semen Sesami), Chinese yam (Rhizoma Dioscoreae),
grape (Vitis), walnut kernel (Semen Fuglandis), lily bulb (Bulbus Lilii) , fresh ginger (Rhizoma Zingiberis Recens),
Job's-tears seed (Semen Coicis), etc. In the book Treatise on Febrile and Miscellaneous Diseases written by
Zhang Zhongjing, a noted medical man, in the East Han dynasty, some noted medicated diet recipes were recorded,
such as Soup of Chinese Angelica root, Fresh ginger and Mutton (Danggui Shengjiang Yangrou Tang ), Decoction
of Pig-skin(Zhufu Tang), etc., all of which now still have important values.
Sun simiao, a well-known doctor
in the Tang Dynasty, listed and discussed such questions as dietetic treatment, dietetic treatment for senile
health care and health preservation, etc. in his books Prescriptions Worth a Thousand Gold for Emergencies and
A Supplement to Essential Prescriptions Worth a Thousand Gold for Emergencies. These two books were substantial
in Food Herbs prescriptions.
According to history books, up to the period of the Sui and Tang Dynasties about more than sixty kinds
of books on dietetic treatment had been published. But unfortunately most of them are lost.
The book Dietotherapy of Materia Medica by Meng Xian in the Tang Dynasty has a great influence on
later generations. It is the extant and earliest monograph on dietetic treatment.
In the Song Dynasty, Wang Huaiyin and some others wrote Peaceful Holy Benevolent Prescriptions,
in which they discussed Food Herbs treatment for many diseases. A Book on How to Help the Old to
Preserve Health and Your Kith and Kin to Prolong their Lives by Chen Zhi is an extant early monograph
on gerontology in China. Of all the prescriptions recorded in it, 70% are about medicated diet. it is
emphasized in this book that "dietetic therapy should go first for any senile diseases, and then followed
by herbs if they are not cured. " In the book Principles of Correct Diet, a monograph on Food Herbs
, by Hu Sihui, a royal doctor in the Yuan Dynasty, a lot of Food Herbs prescriptions and dietetic
herbs were recorded.
In the Ming Dynasty(1368-1644), Li Shizhen collected and recorded in his Compendium of Materia Medica many
Food Herbs prescriptions, dozens of which were about medicated gruel alone, another dozens touched on nothing
other than medicated wine.
At present, Food Herbs has been developing greatly in assortment on the basis of traditional process,
for example, cans with herb, sweets with herbs and so on. Salutary food and drinks produced on the basis
of achievements in scientific research and having the effect of curing diseases have a variety of sorts and
vary in characteristics. There is Food Herbs suitable for patients suffering from diabetes, obesity and
angiocardiopathy; there are health-care food and drinks suitable for athletes, actors, actresses and
miners; there are also health- care food or Food Herbs suitable for the promotion of children's
health and growth, or for prolonging life of the aged.
Chinese Food Herbs has begun to go abroad. cans with herb, health-care drinks and herb wine
made from traditional Chinese medicine have been sold at the international market. Food Herbs
dining-halls have been set up in some countries. Personnel of academic, industrial and commercial
circles abroad have paid close attention to Chinese Food Herbs, hoping to develop
academic exchanges and technical and economic cooperation in this respect. Chinese Food Herbs
make contributions to the health of the people all over the world.