A beginner's guide to TCM: herbs and medicines

Discover the basic components of traditional Chinese medicine and their uses

Traditional Chinese Medicine can be a bit of a mystery when you don’t know what’s what. Let Time Out help you sort your roots from your berries with our rookie’s guide to everyday herbs and medicines that you can pick up at your local TCM pharmacy without a prescription.


Dangshen 党参

This root can be easily added to hot water, steamed dishes or soups. It is claimed to help treat or prevent a huge range of problems, from poor circulation to menstrual disorders, as well as boost the immune system and energy levels – and is often used by Chinese patients suffering from HIV and cancer.


Huanghua 黄花

This herb is believed to help the liver and skin, and is particularly regarded as beneficial for women. TCM experts cite it as useful in building up strength after giving birth, and reducing PMT too. Add to boiling water daily to gradually feel the benefits.

Gouqi 枸杞

Gouqi, or goji berries, can be added to teas, soups and porridge. While often used to address problems in the immune system and strengthen the kidneys and liver, they’re also widely regarded as good for the skin and are believed to have anti-ageing qualities. The turbo-charged snack is also claimed to improve a gentleman’s libido, but we’ll let you be the judges of that one.

Shanhua 山花

Many people use shanhua to combat dizziness or vomiting, as well as to alleviate lung problems and phlegm (lovely). Don’t take this if you’re pregnant.

Xi yang sen 西洋参

Ginseng can be very pricey, but luckily this cheaper form of root is still believed to be effective for fever, coughs and aching joints. Sufferers of cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and depression also claim to find it effective.

Chao Baishao 炒白芍

These white peony roots can be mixed in water and tea, and are claimed to help fevers, chest pain, liver function, cholesterol levels and muscle cramps.

Danggui 当归

Add this one to hot water daily to help tackle heartburn, insomnia, or a lack of appetite. Easy.

Fuling 茯苓

A type of poria mushroom, these are known as all-round good guys. Often taken by people wishing to help build memory function and reduce anxiety, fuling is also believed to have an antibacterial effect, which can improve the digestive system and lower blood sugar levels.

To purchase these items, try TCM experts Tong Ren Tang (同仁堂) who have multiple locations throughout the city.

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