The term “medicinal diet” refers to the usage of traditional chinese herbs or medicine in the food that we eat, be it grains, vegetables, poultry, diary, seafood or bean products. It is the product of Chinese traditional medical knowledge and cooking experiences. 药膳 can exist in many forms, including vegetables, broth, soup, rice, porridge, wine, tea, sweets, snacks etc. With intimate knowledge of the commonly-used herbs, you can make some adjustments to the recipes for medicinal diets, based on your needs and symptoms. Medicated diet originated in the Spring and Autumn Period, and some materials about it were collected and arranged by doctors in Medical Classic of the Yellow Emperor, then it was gradually developed into the health practices with rich content, affirmative effect and far-reaching impact today.
A Chinese medicinal diet is not a simple combination of food and herbs, but a specially prepared dish made from Chinese herbs, food and condiments according to the theoretical guidelines of diet preparation. Such a diet is in response to the different symptoms of a disease and its diagnosis according to TCM, and used to prevent and treat diseases, improve fitness, and/or slow down the aging process.
One of the unique concepts of TCM is that food and medicine come from the same source, they are based on the same theories, and have the same uses. TCM further states that good, free-flowing qi(vital energy) needs to flow within our body and if that qi is corrupted, we become ill. The flow of qi needs to be vigorous to maintain good health; and it can be improved and maintained by changing what we eat.
Characteristics of a Medicinal Diet (quoted from here):
|1.||Synergy of food and medicine|
|Medicine and food function as supplements and complement each other. Functional food is rendered with medicinal properties, and the effects of medicine become stronger with the combination of food.|
|2.||Applied by differentiation of symptoms and signs|
|TCM diagnosis and therapy are based on differentiating symptoms and signs, and this is incorporated into the selection of functional foods. Specific groups of signs and symptoms indicate specific treatment protocols. For example in spleen deficiency which is diagnosed by low spirits, weakness of limb, loss of appetite and abdominal distension – functional foods like Chinese date, ginger, Chinese yam and ginseng are added in order to invigorate functioning of the spleen.|
|3.||Unique cooking techniques and procedures|
|In order to ensure the desired result of a medicinal diet, herbs and foods should be specially processed such as cutting it into pieces, parching or grinding. Besides, cooking techniques are considered for retaining the effective constituents of food and bringing to bear its full effects on treatment and health care. Proper techniques also help to preserve the original juice and flavor of the ingredients so that it results in attractive colours, aroma, flavor and texture, thus arousing the appetite. Usual cooking methods are steaming, stewing, boiling or making soup while those of deep-fry or roasting are rarely used.|
|4.||For enhancement and treatment|
|Chinese functional foods are a milder course of treatment and can be used either to treat disease, or to help healthy people build stamina and prevent disease. This is one of the characteristics in which medicinal diet is different from drugs.|