What is Chinese Medicated Diet?
Chinese Medicated Diet or Chinese Functional Food as it is also referred to, is the theoretical study and clinical practice of combining foods with medicinal Chinese herbs. This practice follows the same theoretical principles and guidance of syndrome differentiation used in acupuncture, herbal medicine and tuina massage. Many of the ingredients are themselves already considered to be medicinal herbs, widely used within Chinese herbal medicine. Whilst acutal foods themselves, are evaluated and incorporated based on their particular properties.
The definition of functional food is: “Food that is made from raw materials, taken in the diet in the normal way, and labeled to specify its function in biological regulation”.
This allows a Chinese medicine practitioner to combine the medicinal properties of Chinese herbs and formulas, with the nutritional properties of foods, creating effective remedies for treating and preventing illness, boosting one’s health and prolonging one’s life.
Chinese medicated diet has a long history of development, with the earliest recorded discussion of medicated diet prescriptions appearing in The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine. Further records of medicinal dietary discussions, prescriptions and thoery can be found appearing in many of the classical Chinese medicine texts, such as the Shennong Ben Cao Jing, Shang Han Lun and the Bei Ji Qian Jin Yao Fang. This tradition has continued to this day, with modern practitioners and researchers further expanding and developing the theory and understanding.
Towards the end of the 20th Century and going into the 21st Century, the awareness of Chinese dietary therapy has moved beyond the borders of China and expanded throughout the world. It is now commonly integrated into healthcare systems in the Far East and is utilised by TCM practitioners in the West as well.
Characteristics of Chinese Medicated Diet
- Selection on the Basis of Differential Diagnosis: This comes through a complete consultation with the patient. Making an assessment of his/her overall physical and mental state, the length and nature of the illness or health condition, and the use of tongue and pulse diagnosis to formulate a judgement on the nature of the syndrome affecting the patient.
- Suitable for both Prevention and Treatment: Functional food therapy can be used to treat patients with a defined health condition or for healthy people who wish to build up their health and immune system. It is this characteristic which makes it slightly different from treatment by just herbal medicine alone.
- Good in Taste, Convenient for Taking: This essentially refers to the flavour and taste of the recipes used. Traditional Chinese herbal medicine often has a bitter taste, which many people, including children, find difficult to tolerate. The ingredients used in Chinese medicated diet therapy are combined in such a way as to create foods which are good tasting, despite containing medicinal herbs, and which are easy to eat.
Nature and Flavour of Chinese Medicated Diet
Much like Chinese herbal medicine, ingredients used within medicated diet are viewed as having certain properties relating to their nature and flavour. Foods are selected using these characteristics based on the syndrome differentiation and the treatment principles.
The nature of functional foods are: Cold, Cool, Mild or Neutral, Warm and Hot. Cold or cool foods are used to clear Heat, purge Fire and remove toxic substances. Such foods may include crab, bitter melon and mung bean. Warm or Hot foods have the function of clearing Cold, and include foods such as mutton, beef, ginger and garlic.
The flavous of functional foods are: Sour, Bitter, Sweet, Pungent or Aromatic, Salty. Each flavour acts on a different organ and has a different action within the body.