Anti-Inflammatory Foods in Traditional Chinese Medicine

5 Anti-Inflammatory Foods in Traditional Chinese Medicine

Recent research shows that a diet rich in antioxidants might help reduce risk factors for chronic disease.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a complete system of medicine, encompassing all aspects of health that treats maladies with diet, exercise, lifestyle, acupuncture and herbs.

In the west, we typically consider medicine as a separate entity from food, but in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), they are often one in the same. TCM is a complete system of medicine, encompassing all aspects of health that treats maladies with diet, exercise, lifestyle, acupuncture and herbs. Thus we can use the medicinal qualities of herbs to make delicious, healing food.

Here is a list of some of our favorite anti-inflammatory ingredients.

1. Ginger

One of the most loved and well-known spices in the world, ginger is a strong antioxidant. It can help reduce aches and pains in joints, decrease inflammation, support digestion, and by warming the body and encouraging it to sweat ginger helps with coughs and colds.

There are so many ways to enjoy this amazing spice – you can drink a shot of concentrated juice, add it to tea, take it as a supplement, or cook a range of dishes, even cookies.

2. Huang Qi/Astragalus

Despite the fact that it looks like a tongue depressor, astragalus is actually added to soups and stews frequently in other parts of the world. It is a tonic adaptogen that has both anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. It helps mediate stresses on the body, be they physical, mental or emotional. Astragalus helps lower cholesterol and can help with heart function, and it may even help lower blood sugar levels.

It is important to note, however, that astragalus does interact with some medications, so please be sure to check with your doctor before adding it to your diet. The next time you cook up a batch of chicken soup, add 1-2 sticks of astragalus to take it to the next level!

3. Curcumin

Turmeric has been enjoying the center stage of the antioxidant world for quite some time now, and with good reason. Curcumin, one of the active ingredients, has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiseptic and possibly anti-cancer properties.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we commonly use turmeric for menstrual and abdominal cramps, joint pains and traumatic injury. This herb, with its extraordinary golden color, can be found in foods, from curry to cookies. Keep an eye out for both the fresh root or the ground powder at your local supermarket.

For a delightful warming drink that combines turmeric, ginger and cinnamon, look for – premixed “golden milk” in the milk section.

4. Mushrooms

There are tens of thousands of different types of mushrooms. Reishi mushrooms tie with shiitake mushrooms for the most well-known varieties of mushrooms full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. They are anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and they have the power to regulate blood sugar, strengthen the immune system, and protect the brain and heart.

Shiitake also has the benefit of antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal properties. There are endless ways to enjoy mushrooms in your diet depending on your tastes.

5. Citrus peel/Chen Pi

Chen Pi, or dried citrus peel, is an ancient and effective aromatic herb that is so high in vitamin C, and antioxidants, it’s commonly used for coughs and indigestion. A favorite snack in Hawaii, Chen Pi is absolutely delicious eaten by itself, added to teas or cooked with chicken or beef. Check out this recipe for Chen Pi Chicken to help clear any phlegm this winter season!

A healthy diet can incorporate foods that are both delicious and healing. Consider adding these anti-inflammatory foods to your weekly rotation.

For an extensive review of anti-inflammatory herbs used in the TCM, this research article is an informative resource.

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Anna Rudel
San Jose Acupuncturist
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