Saturday, September 11, 2010


What are the health benefits of common spices fennel, clove, turmeric and cinnamon?  How are they applied in Chinese Medicine?


Fennel is commonly used for it's digestive properties helping to ease gas, constipation, diarrhea, indigestion, bad breath and colic.  It can also be used for anemia as it contains iron and the amino acid histidine which is involved in the production of hemoglobin and other blood components.  Fennel ease menstrual cramps by regulating hormone function in the body.  In addition fennel can help remove toxins from the body and ease rheumatism and through its diuretic action.  It also enhances lactation and can help with bronchitis and cough as it contains an expectorant.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine Xiao Hui Xiang, which is the seed of the fennel plant is warm and acrid thereby used to warm the interior and expel cold.  It enters the channels of the Liver, Kidney, Spleen and Stomach.

What are the actions and indications of xiao hui xiang?

  • Spreads liver qi, warms the kidneys, expels cold and alleviates pain thereby treating lower abdominal pain.  May also be combined with cinnamon bark or litchi nut.
  • Regulates qi and harmonizes the stomach to treat indigestion, abdominal pain, reduced appetite and vomiting due to cold.  Combine with ginger for stronger effect. 
Ways to prepare fennel
  • the bulb may be chopped up to be grilled, roasted or sauted.  
  • it can be added to stock, soups, sauces and dips
  • steeped for tea
  • seeds can be chewed after meals to aid digestion

Clove has many health benefits due to its high nutrient content.  It contains calcium, phosphorous, iron, vitamin A, vitamin C, sodium and potassium.  Clove oil is frequently used for dental care as a gargle or to relieve pain and mouth sores.  Clove oil also has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties therefore it can be used for cuts, bruises, acne, fungal infections and insect bites.  Clove has also been shown to help with nausea, indigestion, premature ejaculation and strengthening the immune system.  These actions are closer to the Chinese Medicine uses of clove.  According to TCM clove enters the kidney, spleen and stomach channels.  Clove can be used to regulate the spleen and stomach systems, dispel cold and warm kidney yang energy as it is acrid and warm.  

What are the actions and indications for ding xiang? 
  • Warms the middle burner ie. the spleen and stomach, directs rebellious qi downward to treat hiccups, cough and vomiting due to cold.  Also used for abdominal pain, diarrhea, lack of appetite also due to spleen and stomach cold.
  • Warms kidneys and strengthens the yang qi which is the warming energy.  Therefore ding xiang can be used to treat impotence, clear vaginal discharge often with weakness in the legs.  
Ways to prepare clove
  • Use in cooking curries, vegetables, soups, breads and fruit dishes
  • Use oil for topical application


Turmeric is used to treat a variety of inflammatory conditions including irritable bowel disease, toothache, menstrual irregularities, chest pain and arthritis.  With antioxidant properties it has also been used in cancer studies and shown promise for preventing the formation of tumours.  

In Traditional Chinese Medicine jiang huang is the rhizome of curcumae longae while yu jin is the tuber of curcumae therefore both can sometimes be referred to turmeric.  Jiang huang is the herb discussed below and it is warm with bitter and acrid flavours.  It enters the spleen, stomach and liver channels.  Therefore has the general action of invigorating blood, promoting qi movement, alleviating pain and expelling wind.

What are the actions and indications for jiang huang?
  • Invigorates blood and promotes menstruation to treat chest or abdominal pain, amenorrhea or dysmenorrhea due to blood stasis or deficient cold.
  • Promotes qi movement and alleviates pain especially epigastric and abdominal pain due to stagnant qi.
  • Expels wind and promotes blood circulation to treat arthritis known in TCM as wind-damp bi, especially good to treat painful obstruction of the shoulders.
Ways to prepare turmeric
  • use in curries, chutneys, rice and vegetable dishes
  • tea made with ginger, maple syrup and lemon to help fight off colds
  • tea with milk and honey for muscle aches and skin conditions
  • mask for acne - mix 1tbsp sesame or coconut oil with 1tsp turmeric apply to acne areas for 20 min

Cinnamon is anti-microbial which helps to inhibit bacterial and fungal growth, thereby making it an natural preservative.  It also has anti-clotting properties which can help with arthritic pain.  Studies have also shown it can lower LDL cholesterol and regulate blood sugar.  Cinnamon contains manganese, fiber, calcium and iron which can help regulate bowel function.  It also has anti-clotting properties and reduces the proliferation of cancer cells.  Another study has also shown the scent of cinnamon can improve brain function and memory.

According to Chinese medicine rou gui enters the spleen, stomach and kidney channels.  It is a warming sweet and pungent herb which promotes circulation, relieves spasms and aids digestion.

What are the actions and indications for rou gui?

  • Warms the kidneys and strengthens the yang energy especially of spleen and kidney.  Symptoms include cold limbs, weak back, impotence and frequent urination for kidney deficiency.  Combined with spleen yang deficiency there will be abdominal pain, reduced appetite and diarrhea.
  • Disperses cold, warms and unblocks channels and vessels to alleviate pain associated with dysmenorrhea, amenorrhea, damp-cold painful obstruction which is similar to arthritis.  Also used for chronic sores and abscesses which are slow to heal or ooze clear fluid.
  • Can also encourage generation of qi and blood when combined with appropriate herbs.

Ways to prepare cinnamon

  • add to hot beverages such at coffee, tea or hot chocolate
  • add to greens to help reduce bitterness
  • add to root vegetables such as squash for added flavour
  • use as tea
Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica by Dan Bensky and Andrew Gamble


Katherine Josh said...

Pei pa koa is pretty decent cough medicine (from herbal as I remembered), great non alcoholic medicine, some western cough medicine are more effective, but this is non drowsy.

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Angela Foran, BSc, DrTCM said...

Yes I have used Pi Pa Gao for cough before and it has helped especially for a dry cough. It is made from loquat fruit which has many health benefits.

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Nazeer M said...

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