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TCM – The Medicinal Properties Of Chinese Red Dates

Known as “hong zao” 红枣 or “da zao” 大枣 in Mandarin, Chinese red dates, also known as jujube (Ziziphus jujuba) have been cultivated in China for over 3,000 years. There are two common types of dried red dates available in the market; “hong zao” which refers to the red variety while “da zao” refers to the black variety. Both originate from the same fruit, however the production process results in different colors. Fresh jujube fruits which are lightly blanched in boiling water and then dried sun dried produce the red variety Chinese date. Fresh jujube fruit blanched in boiling water, sun dried and smoked till blackened produce the black variety.

Dating back to the 5th century, the “Qu Min Yao Shu” 齐民要术 is one of China’s earliest and most complete agricultural texts. This agricultural encyclopedia identifies 42 kinds of fruit and ranks the jujube fruit first on this list. Jujube, along with peach, plum, apricot and chestnut are known as the “Five China Fruits”.

Chinese red dates are believed to have highly medicinal properties according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), earning the moniker “the king of fruits” (“bǎi guǒ zhī wáng” 百果之王) among Chinese. It is very rich in vitamins (vitamin C in particular) and other micronutrients such as calcium and potassium. This explains why it is one of the most popular health foods in China. However, like all good things in the world, even red dates should be eaten in moderation. Excessive consumption can result in bloating and additionally, since they are sweet, diabetics are usually advised to avoid red dates.

Nourish the blood and replenish “qi”

Red dates are believed to have blood nourishing and “qi” replenishing properties (the red variety in particular). According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, red dates are “warming” and thus consumption helps boost a person’s “Yang-Qi” which is the warm half of the Yin-Yang balance.

“Qi” in Traditional Chinese Medicine refers to the “life energy” that is an essential constituent in every living being, governing the fundamental processes that keep every living being alive, from organ function, blood circulation, growth, development, immunity etc. “Qi” deficiency is believed to lead to illnesses and Chinese red dates are one of the most popular recommendations to nourish “qi”. Thus, Chinese red dates are often recommended for people who are blood deficient and generally weak. Combining red dates with longan and goji berries for instance in the preparation of red date tea or red date porridge is believed to help stimulate blood production nourish “qi”.

Maintain youthfulness

Chinese believe red date help rejuvenate skin and help maintain its youthfulness, making it a popular food for women.

Soothe the nerves

Red dates are believed to calm the nerves and thereby help a person to relax.


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Traditional Chinese Medicine – Food Guide For A Healthy Summer

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), humans (and all other living beings) together with the world make up one unified entity and changes in the surroundings bring about changes in the humans. These environmental influences can cause imbalances in the human body and steps can be taken to prevent such imbalances and maintain good health.
One of those steps is to alter the diet and eat according to seasons, thereby maintaining harmony with seasonal changes. As an example, the arrival of summer, a time of rising heat, could also result in a corresponding buildup of heat in the human body.

To re-balance this “imbalance”, foods that cool down the body (known as “cooling foods” or “qu huo” 上火 in Chinese) are popular during the hot summer season while “warming foods” (known as “shang huo” 上火) i.e., foods that increase heat in the body are generally reduced. How much cooling foods should be consumed depends entirely on the individual as some people are more prone to heat buildup while some are more not.
By adapting the diet to environmental changes, it is possible to restore balance between the yin and yang elements in the human body.

Summer is the season of fire, a time of rigorous growth and heat. During this season, cooling foods that dispel internal heat and nourish “yin” are preferred while “warming” foods which raise “yang” are reduced or avoided.

Mung beans:

Mung beans are believed to have very cooling effects on the body according to Traditional Chinese Medicine. Mung bean soup or mung bean dessert soup with rock sugar are popular dishes during summer.


Cucumbers are abundantly available during summer and in most Chinese households, cucumbers are a popular food to stay cool during the hot season. A refreshing Chinese style cucumber , or cooked cucumber dishes such as cucumber soup are popular.

Watermelons and Cantaloupes:

Watermelons and cantaloupes are very hydrating and considered to be on the higher end of the “cooling scale” for fruit.

Green tea:

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, green tea is believed to have cooling properties (black tea on the other hand is believed to have warming properties), and a hot cup of green tea (not chilled) is a popular way to stay cool during summer.


Soups are popular as they are hydrating, thereby helping to clear the summer heat. Nourishing winter melon soup for instance is very popular during summer.

Warming Foods To Reduce Or Avoid:

Intake of “warming foods” (foods that contribute to heat in the body) are usually reduced or avoided. The following foods are believed to be “warming”:

Red meat and chicken
Spicy food
Fried food
Fatty foods
Excessively sweet food

Heavy meals are also avoided during the summer months and instead light, frequent meals are preferred.