Community, Lifestyle

Chinese Medicinal Cuisine: What You Need to Know

Dating back to ancient times, the Chinese created various cuisines that serve as medicinal food, offering healthy benefits. And now more than ever, it’s important to maintain a balanced and healthy lifestyle to avoid getting diseases and to keep our bodies strong and well-nourished.

Interested in exploring traditional Chinese medicinal food to better your health? Here’s the history and general principles of Chinese medicinal cuisine:


History of Medicinal Cuisine

The earliest work on medicinal cuisine and the basic ideas of Chinese food therapy originated during the early Han Dynasty  (206 BC-220 AD), making China  one of the world’s oldest medical systems. They also developed what is now a well-known ancient Chinese medicinal text called, “Huangdi Neijing” (“The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine”), which is attributed to Huang Di, the Yellow Emperor, who reigned during the third millennium BCE. 

This respected text has been treated as the fundamental and highest doctrinal source for Chinese medicine for more than two millennia. It’s even considered as one of the most important classics of Taoism. Aside from medicinal cuisine and basic ideas on food therapy, the text also gives various food recommendations  based on a person’s health status and different environmental conditions.

Many subsequent ancient Chinese medical books listed hundreds of plant, animal, and chemical ingredients that help sustain a healthy body, along with suggestions on how they may cure various diseases. Time and time again, Chinese medicinal cuisine evolved — from techniques to ideas about food and health. 


[Left]: Huang Di, the Yellow Emperor; [Right]: A text from the ancient Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine

General Principles of Chinese Medicinal Cuisine

1. Balance

Chinese medicinal cuisine reflects Chinese culture and religion. In particular, that balance has played a vital role in the everyday life of Chinese since ancient times. The fundamentals of Chinese Traditional Medicine are geared towards the balance of the “qi,” which is figuratively seen by the Chinese as the “material energy,” “life force,” or “energy flow,” that losing this balance would lead to diseases and sicknesses. 

Although the Chinese believe that a healthy body or organ has proper balance by nature, balance can only be maintained by a continuous effort to remain healthy. Considering that there’s numerous external factors that disrupt the balance, like environmental factors, physical injuries, and inevitable balance, it is a must to regain one’s strength and healing through eating nutritious foods and taking one’s medicine to keep things from getting worse.


2. Adding Medicinal Herbs

Herbs may have strong medicinal benefits, which may contribute to one’s healing from a particular disease. Adding these healing herbs or animal parts to one’s food or diet may help one upgrade to a healthier lifestyle, keep diseases or viruses away, and heal quicker.

3. Using Heats and Flavors

Medicine doesn’t have to taste dull or bitter, and that’s all the more true when you integrate it in your food. For many Chinese, food are categorized by “qi temperature,” since cuisine can either be served hot or cold, and certain flavors influence the body depending on the situation or environment. There are five food flavors to choose from: sour, sweet, bitter, hot, and salty. The Chinese also generally include all the flavors in every meal to balance the qi temperature. 


Photo courtesy of Unsplash


4. Order

The Chinese also take into consideration the way they eat, and the pace at which they do so, since it also affects your health in the long run. They emphasize the value of eating slowly, which has been shown to have health benefits.

The ancient text of Chinese medicinal cuisine has described what to prepare and how to eat meals in general.

  • Try to avoid overly processed food. Eat naturally.
  • Eat seasonal vegetables and fruits.
  • Always make sure the vegetables are cooked.
  • Sit down to eat at a quiet place.
  • Chew the food well.
  • Eat slowly.
  • Pay attention to your eating or taste of the food, and get away from distractions since the mind helps the stomach digest the food better. 
  • Don’t skip meals.
  • After lunch, take a nap or rest for a while.

And with that, we wish you all the luck on your health journey!


Want to learn more about Traditional Chinese Medicine? Check out our article here.


Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is not medical advice and should not be treated as such. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and information, contained in this article is for general information purposes only. Do not ignore professional medical advice or treatment on the basis of this article or the products mentioned herein. Always seek the advice of a licensed medical professional for any questions regarding a medical condition.  CHiNOY TV does not guarantee the effectiveness or safety of any of the products in this article. If you are experiencing any medical issue or emergency, please consult a licensed medical professional.

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