Chinese Medicine Food/Cuisine - Food Treatment

Written by Sally Guo Updated Mar. 23, 2022

Medicine food is a unique culinary style in Chinese cuisine. It perfectly combines Chinese cooking with traditional Chinese medicine to get the effects of health keeping, bodybuilding, and skin beautifying.

Top Principals for Chinese Medicine Cuisine

1. Food is Medicine, Medicine is food

Chinese medecine food

Ginger is food but also Chinese herb

According to traditional Chinese medicine, most of the Chinese herbs are food. In another word, most food ingredients, for their unique features, can be used as medicine for treatment. For example, Ginger, a very widely used ingredient in Chinese cooking, can be also used to warm the body and dispel the body cold in the winter season.

2. The Five Natures of Food

Different foods were classified according to their perceived nature. They might be han (cold/yin), Liang (cool/yin), ping (neutral), wen (slightly warm/yang), and ri (hot/yang). cold foods were believed to reduce fever, relieve thirstiness and coughs while wen, warm foods reduce running noses, headache, etc...


Hot food is always with a hot flavors

Knowing the nature of individual foods enables the Chinese to eat the proper food to nurture the various internal organs, balance the yin and yang, and enhance the qi of the body.

For example, to nurture the stomach they believe one should eat carrots, melons, apples, and vegetables. To nourish the spleen one can drink honey and drinks made from herbs prescribed by a Chinese medicine shop.

3. The Five Tastes Vs Five Kinds of Diseases

Chinese medicine cuisine- soup  

The five tastes of food are sour, sweet, bitter, hot, and salty.

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4. Food Treatment is Different for Different People

For Chinese herb medicine, There is no “ one fit for all” food therapy. Different people have different constitutions thus need different treatment. For example, ginger is good for health for most people, but for people who are very dry and have so much heat in their bodies, Ginger may worsen their situation.

Each food with its nature may help better or worse the situation to different people. 

5. Eat According to the Season

Chinese medicine food - chicken  

According to Chinese medicine, the human body and its operation are influenced by the nature. So season and weather are other very important factors for healthy food choice.

In spring, it is wet, we need to eat food that can help take away the dampness in our body, such as barley and millet.

In summer, it is very hot, we need food to cool our body down, so food with cool nature is a good choice such as watermelon and green beans.

Autumn is warm and dry. We need a lot of water to nurture our body, so eating food with a lot of fluids such as pears is thought to be good for our body.  Winter is cold, we should avoid food with cold nature, and eat food which can warm up our body, such as beef, chicken, and mutton.

6. The climate and weather also matters a lot for food choices

Eating hot pot in the cold weather - Chinese medicine food  

The climate also matters a lot for healthy eating. For example, people who live in humid areas need to eat a lot of hot and spicy food to help dispel the dampness in their bodies. That is why people in China's Sichuan and Hunan provinces love to eat spicy food. People who live in dry and hot areas tend to eat light dishes. If people in the hot region eat too much spicy food, there will be too much heat in their body, which may make them sick.

7. Food Help Balance the Yang and Yin Energies in Bodies

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Healthy eating should help balance the Yin and Yang in the body. A healthy body should have a balance of Yin and Yang, if they are out of balance, there is a disease of sickness. 

Chinese medicine cuisine help to achieve the balance of Yin and Yang in bodies through eating. For example, hot weather may cause high yang in the body, so high yin food is eaten.  

Seasonal Food Help You Live Longer

 As the weather and climate also matter a lot for the healthy food choice, so we need to eat according to season, here is some healthy food for different seasons.

Spring - Green Vegetables to Nourish the Livers

In Spring, everything comes alive and begins to grow. It is important for things to get more Yang energy for growth.  

According to Chinese medicine, Spring is particularly important for livers, so we need to eat food that supplies the necessary Yang and helps nourish the livers. Green vegetables which sprout at this time such as garlic chives and broccoli are thought to be good for our livers.

However too much Yang energy in our body may break the balance of the Yang and Yin, so we also need to eat some food to nourish Yin to keep the balance. Food like lily, yam, lotus seed, and wolfberry is very good food to nourish the Yin energy in our body. 

Summer - Juicy Food/Fruits to Cool the Body

Summer is hot and the Yang energy in your body is high, so you need to cool it down a bit. Eating can help you control the Yang.

In the summer, you need to eat light food and try to avoid food with a strong flavor. The hot climate in summer may result in loss of body water, so you need to supply your body with enough water from food. Having more light soup, porridge, fruits, and vegetables can help nourish your body with much water and vitamin. Food like watermelon, green beans, and cucumbers are very good food for cooling down Yang.

Autumn - Fruits to Moisten Lungs

According to Chinese medicine, Autumn is the season for the lungs. The dry climate can easily hurt your lung and cause your body to lack fluid. Fluid luck may result in dryness in bodies hence cause as dry skin, cough. Etc. So in autumn, try to eat food that generates fluid and moisten lungs such as pear, sugar cane, water chestnut, lily, white fungus.

Winter- Soups to Dispel the Cold

Chinese medicine believes that in winter the qi and blood tend to be inward to protect the body from the cold weather.

In winter, we need to conform to nature, try to eat food with many nutrients to nourish our body so as to protect ourselves against the cold. Drinking soups (chicken soup), eating many types of meats like chicken meat, mutton, etc are thought to be good for our bodies.

Top Winter Recipes

Yam Ribs

Yam Rib

NOTE: Please take a Chinese medicated diet under the guidance of a professional doctor to avoid counterproductively.

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