As a Chinese herbalist, I am often asked “which herbs are good to eat?” Well, that is a very broad question. First, different herbs are good for different things. We all have unique energetic imbalances and require different treatments. If we eat an excessive amount of “warming” or “cooling” herbs, this can lead to a severe imbalance in the digestive tract! Also, many Chinese herbs are not so commonly found in your local grocery store. (I have yet to find fresh rehmannia root or even white peony) However, diet and digestion is so important in Chinese medicine, that there are a few herbs that can be used across the board to support good health!
Ginger: Fresh ginger, or sheng jiang, is used to warm the digestion and transform thin mucus. It is often used in ayurvedic medicine to stoke the digestive fire. The similar is true in Chinese medicine, but fresh ginger is also very useful in cases of colds/flu symptoms of clear runny nose and nausea.
Cinnamon: Cinnamon bark, or gui zhi, is used to warm the channels and “unblocks the yang of the heart”. It is great to promote blood circulation and unblock stagnation that often manifest as pain. In preparing for the colder temperatures of winter, cinnamon is a great spice to add to keep warm and maintain proper blood flow.
Green Onions (Chives): Green onions, or Cong Bai, are used in cases of colds and flus. It’s classified as “warm and spicy”, in which can be a good combination with ginger to kick out a cold. It induces sweating, which is necessary when the first symptoms of sickness start to present.
Cardamon: I know this spice isn’t so “common”, but it is one of my favorites to add to herbal formulas! It’s used to warm the digestion to offset any negative side effects of herbs. It transforms “dampness” in the digestive system and therefore is great for people who commonly experience nausea after heavy, greasy meals.
Peppermint: Peppermint, or Bo He, is cooling. It’s best used in cases of colds when a person feels hot. For example, in cases of a sore throat or low-grade fever, peppermint is a better choice than ginger. However, if there are signs of cold in the body (like chills or copious mucus),peppermint would NOT be indicated.