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There’s a pharmacy in your kitchen, tradition says

AN OLD MAXIM says: “Food is the medicine you take every day.” This is a relatively new idea in the west, popping up in books like Food Pharmacy (2018). But food therapy is an old belief in China, known Shi Liao. The Chinese have long believed that all naturally occurring foods, including fruits, vegetables, meat and even herbs have their own characteristics in healing.  

The concept of healing power of food is based on traditional Chinese medicine. Having the right sort of nutrients and amounts of food that fit our bodies’ needs creates harmony and physical wellness.


Colourful plates of food are appealing and healthy as having vegetables and fruits in diverse colours guaranteed that people get an array of minerals, vitamins, nutrition and antioxidants. 

As nutritionists have stressed, green vegetables contain phytochemicals which have anti-cancer properties, while red fruits contain natural plant pigment lycopene – an antioxidant that can help reduce the risk of cancer. 

Based on traditional Chinese medicine, adding a plethora of colorful food to diet can have many health benefits. Each naturally occurring colour in food – red, yellow, green, white, and black – benefits different organs of our body.

For nourishing the heart, we can taste more red food, namely tomatoes, and for strengthening kidneys, we can have food black in colour, such as black soyabeans. Green vegetables help to detox the liver and improve its function. White and yellow foods help boost the functions of the lungs and spleen respectively.


Chinese people believe that different food should be tasted in four seasons, particularly in the winter, for physical well-being. 

In spring, we need to protect our livers well. Choose food or eat soup that can soften the liver and nourish it, such as those with wolfberries, ginger and onions. In the summer, people can get irritated easily and that can cause heartache. Chinese medicine practitioners believe that our hearts dominate our mental activities. As such, the food therapy should focus on relieving heat inside our body by encouraging the consumption of tomatoes, white gourd, lotus seeds and lotus roots.

Chinese parents match foods with seasons. Photo by Angela Roma / Pexels

In the autumn period, people may have a dry cough which can weaken our lungs, therefore, it is important to nourish the lungs by eating more sesame, honey pears and loquats. In the winter, the kidneys are believed to be under more stress. It is important for us to warm the kidneys and dispel the cold by having chicken meat, duck, goose, beef and lotus seeds. 


Chinese herbal medicine treatment and food therapy can help cancer patients who have suffered from cancer and undergone radiation/chemotherapy. These can alleviate patients’ discomforts caused by radiation and chemotherapy and restore their vitality. Chinese medicine practitioners believe radiation as a kind of pathogenic heat toxin, which can consume body’s energy.

After radiation to the chest for curing lung and breast cancers, for example, patients may feel shortness of breath and Chinese herbal medicine are used to nourish the lung. Chinese medicinal herbs such as snakegourd root, almonds and lily bulbs can be used for treating such conditions.

For those patients who suffer from colorectal cancer, patients can suffer from abdominal pain after radiotherapy. It is essential to clear heat inside the body and cool the blood to stop bleeding. Chinese medicinal herbs include garden burnet root, black locust flower, Chinese pulsatilla root and rice bean.

Chinese people complain that traditional medicine tastes awful — food with medical properties, of course, is the exception! Photo by Prince Photos from Pexels

Let food be your medicine. Food therapy is a simple and intuitive ways to connect our bodies and minds to our food. Chinese medicine has become sought-after for maximizing the benefit of Western medicine as it can treat  post-operative side effects.

Image at the top comes from by Sam Lion/ Pexels

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