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When we prepare soups, meals, tea or sweet soup at home, we would often put in herbs, for example, American ginseng, dangshen , dried tangerine peel, chuanbeimu, yam, Barbary wolfberries, lily bulb and so on. Many of the ingredients we used are actually Chinese herbs. So if we know more about herbs, we can use herbs that are suitable for ourselves and our family members.

In addition, herbs should be carefully stored and this is to avoid problems like insects, molds, change of colours and loss of flavour due to causes like insects, and environmental factors such as humidity, temperature and sunlight. These will affect the quality and efficacy of the herbs. In general, herbs should be kept in a cool, dry place and away from direct sunlight. For certain herbs with sugar content or are sweet, they should be stored in a refrigerator. Apart from certain herbs like dried tangerine peel in which the age factor counts, herbs in general should not be stored in large amounts and for too long. This is to ensure quality. When buying herbs, you should ask for relevant information from the Chinese medicine practitioner or the shopkeeper, so that you can choose the right kind of herbs and know how to store them properly.

The following are some Chinese herbs which are commonly used at home:

Dried tangerine peel Yam Barbary wolfberries
Sweet almond Bitter almond Candied dates
Figs Silver fungus Red dates
Longan Beishashen Yuzhu
Lily bulb Small red beans Biandou
Luohanguo American ginseng Dangshen
Korean ginseng Chinese caterpillar fungus Danggui
Tufuling Chuanbeimu Sanchi
Pearl Tianma Duzhong
Ganoderma Shihu Heshouwu


Dried tangerine peel
Preferably large and thick, intact, with a red colour and preferably with a rich aroma. The older it is, the better the therapeutics effect it will have.
Efficacy: Smooths the qi, strengthens the spleen, removes sputum, and can be used in patients with a swollen stomach and chest, with poor appetite and cough with sputum.
Usual preparation: Cook in a soup. As the pith is damp and hot in nature, it would be better if the peel is first soaked in water, then have the pith scraped off.
Storage: Store in a tightly sealed box and put in a cool, dry place.

Yam
Or called shanyao , it is thick, long and solid, and it is best with an even colour and little powder.
Efficacy: Strengthens the spleen and lung, nourishes the stomach and moisturizes, tonifying the kidney and securing the essence. It can be used to improve the functions of the stomach and intestines, and enhance immunity. It is suitable for use by elderly.
Usual preparation: Cook in a soup or congee. Soak and rinse before use.
Storage: Store in a tightly sealed box and put in a cool, dry place or a refrigerator.

Barbary wolfberries
Preferably large and full and with a bright colour.
Efficacy: Good for the eyes, nourishes the liver and kidney, can be used to strengthen muscles and tendons and raise immunity.
Usual preparation: Cook in a soup, or use as a replacement of tea in boiling water. Soak and rinse before use. There are also barbary wolfberries which are ready to eat and can be consumed as snacks.
Storage: As they can be affected by moisture and turned dark and also sour with prolonged storage, they should be bought in small amounts and placed in tightly sealed containers and put in a refrigerator.

Sweet almond
The best ones are even, full and thick, and with a yellowish white colour.
Efficacy: Stops coughing and shortness of breath, nourishes the lung and face. When used together with bitter almond, they are good for stopping coughs and asthma as well as removing chest sputum.
Usual preparation: Make almond tea, cook in a soup, or in a sweet soup. It should be rinsed before use.
Storage: Store in a refrigerator.

Bitter almond Size smaller than sweet almond and it is best in even shape, full and intact.
Efficacy: Stops coughing and removes sputum, and relieves shortness of breath and asthma. As bitter almond is a bit toxic, its toxicity can be neutralized when used together with sweet almond. It is mostly used to stop coughing and shortness of breath and remove chest sputum.
Usual preparation: Bitter almond should not be used alone nor can it be eaten raw. Not more than 50g (or one tael) should be used at one time. It can be used together with sweet almond to cook a soup. Rinse before use.
Storage: Store in a refrigerator.

Candied dates
The best ones are those with a gold colour, dry and thick pulp.
Efficacy: Strengthens the spleen and nourishes the lung, enhances qi and is good for the lung and can stop coughing.
Usual preparation: Cook in a soup, brew in boiling water as a replacement of tea. Rinse before use.
Storage: Store in a refrigerator.

Figs
The best ones are those large in size, intact and soft in texture.
Efficacy: Moisturizes the lung, stops coughing, removes internal heat and can also be used to relieve constipation and sore throat.
Usual preparation: Cook in a soup, or consumed as dried fruit snack. Rinse before use to remove the surface impurities. A stronger flavour can be brought out if it is cut in half.
Storage: As figs are sweet, they should not be put under room temperature and should be stored in a refrigerator.

Silver Fungus
The best ones are those large in size, thick, intact, slightly yellow in colour and without impurities.
Efficacy: Nourishes the yin and lung, strengthens the stomach, reduces thirst and moisturizes the skin.
Usual preparation: Cook in a soup or sweet soup. Soak in water covering the fungus surface, remove the harder yellowish part at the bottom and rinse.
Storage: Store in a refrigerator.

Red dates
The best ones are red with lustre, thick pulp and small kernel. Its surface should display irregular wrinkles.
Efficacy: Tonifying the spleen and nourishing the qi.
Usual preparation: As red dates with kernel are dry in nature, they should be used after the kernel is removed. Do not consume too much each time as this will make the belly swollen and full. They can be brewed in boiling water to replace tea or in a sweet soup.
Storage: Store in a refrigerator.

Longan
It is best with large and thick pulp, with a brownish yellow colour, intact and soft.
Efficacy: Good for the heart and spleen, nourishes the blood and stabilizes the mind. It is used in people with a lack of blood and qi, deficiency in blood and palpitations, forgetful and insomnia.
Usual preparation: Brew in boiling water to replace tea, cook in a soup or sweet soup. Rinse to remove impurities before use.
Storage: Longan is sweet and cannot be stored under room temperature. Store in a refrigerator.

Beishashen
Beishashen is best in even length and wide in diameter, cylindrical in shape and has a yellowish white colour.
Efficacy: Moisturizes the lung and stops coughing, nourishes the stomach and removes thirst. It is used in dry coughs of an asthenia-heat nature.
Usual preparation: Often used together with Yuzhu to prepare soup or sweet soup. Soak and rinse before use
Storage: Store in a refrigerator.

Yuzhu
The best ones are those fat, thick and long, in yellowish white colour and has a soft lustre.
Efficacy: Nourishes the yin and dispels irritations, strengthens the stomach and quenches thirst, whitens the skin and removes pimples. It is used to cure dry coughs, relieve dry throat and quench thirst.
Usual preparation: Often used together with beishashen to prepare soup or sweet soup. Soak and rinse before use.
Storage: Store in a refrigerator.

Lily bulb
The best ones are those with even petals, thick, in yellowish white colour, intact, without black spots, dry and light.
Efficacy: Nourishes the yin and moisturizes the lung, pacifies the heart and mind. It is used in people with a deficiency in yin, longstanding coughing and blood in sputum.
Usual preparation: Cook in a soup or sweet soup. Soak and rinse before use.
Storage: Store in a refrigerator.

Small red beans
The best ones are those long and full, with a purplish red colour and lustre.
Efficacy: Removes excessive water and dampness, cures swollenness and toxicity. It is used in edema, beriberi and indigestion caused by dampness.
Usual preparation: Cook in a soup. Soak and rinse before use.
Storage: Store in a tightly sealed box and put in a cool, dry place.

Bianduo
The best ones are those large and full, with a clear white colour.
Efficacy: Nourishes the spleen, removes dampness and effects of heat. Used in people with a weak spleen and stomach, poor appetite, affected by heat and dampness, vomiting and with diarrhea, thirst and irritability.
Usual preparation: Cook in a soup or congee. Soak and rinse before use.
Storage: Store in a tightly sealed box and put in a cool, dry place.

Luohanguo
The best ones are those large and intact, with no fractures in the skin, have an even colour and no sound is made when shaken.
Efficacy: Removes heat and moisturizes the lung, clears sputum and stops coughing, benefits the throat and voice, good for bowel movement. It is used in people with heat in the lung, dry coughs, sore throat and loss of voice, and also constipation.
Usual preparation: Cook in a soup, or brew in boiling water to replace tea. Rinse before use and its flavour can come out more easily if cut in half.
Storage: Store in a tightly sealed box and place in a cool, dry place.

American Ginseng
It is native to the United States and Canada and it is mainly divided into those who are grown wild or cultivated. Those which grow in the wild are smaller in size. They have delicate and close ring patterns in the stem. Its surface is in yellowish brown or yellowish white. It is sturdy and hard. For cultivated ginseng, they are yellowish white in the surface and have delicate and close ring shape patterns. The best ones when cut open should be white in colour and without any dark centre. As American Ginseng root is sturdy and hard, its aroma can only come out easily when sliced. You should purchase from a retailer with good reputation and ask their staff to cut the ginseng root into slices for you.
Efficacy: Strengthens the qi and nourishes the yin. Removes heat and thirst.
Usual preparation: Cook in a soup or make ginseng tea. Soak ginseng root and cut into slices before use.
Storage: Ginseng root should be stored in a tightly sealed box and put in a cool, dry place. Store sliced ginseng in a refrigerator.

Dangshen
The best ones are those with a round and sturdy stem and a wide diameter. Its outer skin should have delicate and close lateral pattern, and soft. After being cut, it should have a brown and sticky quality.
Efficacy: Nourishes the qi and is used to treat weakness in the spleen and lung, shortness of breath and palpitations, asthma and coughs.
Usual preparation: Cook in a soup. Rinse and soak for a while. It should be cut into small pieces before use to bring out the efficacy.
Storage: Store in a tightly sealed box and put in a refrigerator.

Korean ginseng
It is native to North and South Korea. It is made from processing ginseng by steaming and cooking. You should purchase from a reputable store and buy products with an anti-forgery label. Ginseng from South Korea is divided into five grades and the one with the character tian is the best in quality.
Efficacy: Strengthens the qi and replenishes the blood.
Usual preparation: Use in a stew soup. Remove the head and cut the ginseng into thick slices, then rinse.
Storage: Put the ginseng in its original box in a cool, dry place. Opened box or sliced pieces should be stored in a refrigerator.

Chinese caterpillar fungus
Chinese caterpillar fungus is a combined form of fungus and insect. Grades are divided mainly according to the width in diameter of the insect body. The colder the place of origin, the rounder the insect body will be. The Chinese caterpillar fungus grown in Tibet and Qinghai are rounder and sturdier, whereas those grown in Sichuan and Yunan are smaller and thinner. Chinese caterpillar fungus is very expensive and you should purchase from a reputable store. The best ones are those whose insect body has 20 to 30 ring patterns and eight pairs of legs (with the four pairs in the middle most obvious), and at the middle of the breaking point of the insect body, there is a marked U-shaped pattern which is of a dark brown colour and it is crisp and easily breakable. The bottom (the grass) should be in dark brown, long and slender and cylindrical, light and tensile. The insect body should be full and strong, with a clean yellowish colour and a dry and intact body.
Efficacy: Nourishes the kidney and strengthens the yang, protects the lung and relieves asthma, stops bleeding and removes sputum. It is used in people with weak lung and kidney, sore and painful back and knees, longstanding coughs and asthma, frail body, fatigue and weak body after illness
Usual preparation: Put in a stew soup. Rinse several times before use to remove impurities.
Storage: It must be put in the freezer of a refrigerator.

Danggui
The best ones are round, long and with an oily lustre. Its outer skin is yellowish brown, with full pulp and rich aroma.
Efficacy: Replenishes and revitalizes the blood, adjusts menstrual periods and removes pain, facilitates bowel movements.
Usual preparation: Put in a stew soup. Rinse before use. Danggui is a powerful tonic and not all people are suitable for it. Please consult a registered Chinese medicine practitioner before use.
Storage: Danggui root should be put in a tightly sealed box and placed in a cool, dry place. Store sliced danggui in a refrigerator.

Tufuling
The best ones are those with hard and solid texture. When cut, it should display a white or slightly red and brownish colour. It should have few tendons and it should have enough powder.
Efficacy: Removes toxicity and dampness, strengthens the spleen and stomach, calms the heart and mind.
Usual preparation: Cook in a soup. Soak and rinse before use.
Storage: Store in a tightly sealed box and put in a cool, dry place. Do not store in a refrigerator.

Chuanbeimu
The best ones are those with a small size, intact, and a clear white colour. The texture should be hard and solid and they should have enough powder.
Efficacy: Removes heat and moisturizes the lung, clears sputum and stops coughing. It is used to treat heat in the lung and dry coughs with little sputum or sputum with blood.
Usual preparation: Stewing. Soak and rinse before use.
Storage: Store in a refrigerator.

Sanchi
The best ones are those with a large size, sturdy, and have a smooth body. After it is cut, it should have a brownish green colour.
Efficacy: Invigorates the blood and dissipates blood stasis. It can stop bleeding and remove swollenness.
Usual preparation: Stew, immerse in wine or consume after turning into powder form. You should purchase from a reputable retailer and ask their staff to cut it into slices or turn into powder. Rinse sliced Sanchi thoroughly before use.
Storage: Store in a tightly sealed box and put in a cool, dry place.

Pearl
The best ones should be round, large and full with a hard texture and lustre. It can only be consumed after turning into powder. You should purchase from a reputable retailer and ask their staff to turn the pearls into powder.
Efficacy: Cleans the liver, brightens up the eyes, calms the heart and stops palpitations.
Usual preparation: To be consumed after turning into powder.
Storage: Store in a cool, dry place.

Tianma
The best ones are large, heavy and hard. Solid and the keratin at the sections should be bright. Tianma has sharp and slightly bent buds in red colour. Its end has a navel-shaped mark and the surface has a few lines of parallel ring patterns.
Efficacy: Strengthens the qi and tendons, dispels rheumatic pain and removes obstruction in the meridians.
Usual preparation: Stew. Rinse before use.
Storage: Store in a refrigerator.

Duzhong
The best ones are those with a thick body and when broken, they should have white filaments that are plenty and close.
Efficacy: Nourishes the liver and kidney, enhances tendons and bones. It is used to treat people with a sore waist or back pain, or weak legs and knees, or with hypertension.
Usual preparation: Cook in a soup. Soak and rinse before use.
Storage: Store in a cool, dry place.

Ganoderma
It is divided into six types: red, purple, yellow, blue, white and black. The more common ones are red and purple. The best ones are large, thick and solid, dry and with a lustre. It should be cut open before use. You should purchase from a reputable retailer and ask their staff to cut it open for you.
Efficacy: Good for the qi and can cure deficiency. It pacifies the mind and can raise immunity and defer ageing.
Usual preparation: Brew in boiling water as a replacement for tea, or cook in a soup. Rinse before use.
Storage: Store in a cool, dry place.

Shihu
The best ones are in yellowish gold colour and the stems should be slender and closely knit, smooth and solid.
Efficacy: Nourishes the yin, removes heat, and it is good for the stomach and can quench thirst.
Usual preparation: Turned into powder and dissolve in water, or cook in a soup. Rinse whole Shihu before use.
Storage: Store in a refrigerator.

Heshouwua
It is divided into raw and processed forms. Processed Heshouwu is commonly used. It is made from raw Heshouwu steamed and cooked with black bean juice. The best ones should display a reddish brown colour at the surface, with the same reddish brown colour at its section, and there should be a layer of cloud-shaped pattern at the centre.
Efficacy: It is a tonic for the liver and kidney and it nourishes the essence and blood, makes hair and beard black, and can strengthen tendons and bones.
Usual preparation: Cook in a soup. Rinse before use.
Storage: Store in a cool, dry place.

Please refer to the following websites for more information on Chinese herbs: