Rehmannia root or Chinese foxglove root

Ingredient Name: Rehmannia root, Chinese foxglove root, Sheng di huang, Radix Rehmanniae

Chinese Name: 生地 (Shēng dì)

A very interesting and scary looking Chinese medicine.  My herbalist recommended this to me for my “cooling” tea to rid me of my “fiery” condition of sore throat and heaty body.  I had to ask him a few times what it is and then spell it for me in the simplest of Chinese terms, but I managed to come to a good understanding of this ingredient.  This will make any water, soup, tea, drink BLACK – so beware.  It’s not a bad thing, but sometimes black and dark things aren’t the most pleasant things to drink – well, except for black coffee for some people and cola.  But in Chinese medicine, black is usually associated with bitter.

What is this?
  • The root of the Chinese foxglove plant
  • The root is harvested in the spring or autumn, dried in the sun and sliced into usable portions
  • This plant is most commonly found in China and the root is a common Chinese medicine ingredient
  • It is known as a “cooling” ingredient with sweet and bitter properties
  • The root is almost black in color and will certainly make your soup or tea black
  • Found in various forms such as dried (as picture above) or powdered

How do I prepare it?

  • Rinse in warm water before usage

Where can I buy this?

  • Most herbalists will carry this ingredient
  • Chinese medicine stores

What is the cost?

  • Relatively affordable
  • As pictured above, 2 pieces I purchase cost me $3 HKD

Any benefits?

  • Helps remove heatiness in the body and cool the blood
  • Relieves sore throats, dry mouths and helps cool the body to eliminate thick, green mucous caused by heatiness
  • Can help reduce a low-grade fever
  • Can help eliminate and reduce cold sores in the mouth and tongue
  • Nourishes the “yin”

Any precautions?

  • As it is cooling, it should be avoided by pregnant women in their first trimester (or even throughout a pregnancy) as it stimulates menstruation (it is also known to be used to prevent or terminate pregnancies)
  • Avoid if you’re lactating (breastfeeding)
  • Avoid using or consuming this ingredient if you have spleen problems, diarrhea or lack of appetite
  • Limit exposure and use for children

Saiga Antelope Horns

Ingredient Name: Saiga antelope horns, Saiga horns

Chinese Name: 羚羊絲 (Líng yáng sī)

I do not condone the poaching and killing of animals (much less endangered ones) for their parts because of traditional medicinal beliefs.  I actually bought this ingredient as part of a package from the wet mart because I wanted to boil something “heat” relieving for myself (because of a bad sore throat and the obvious over-heated symptoms of thick-green mucus and fiery throat).  And of course, little did I know what the ingredient was until I got home and did some research and then went back to speak to the herbalist and he told me “yah, this is a rare and much coveted ingredient in Chinese medicine!”   Nonetheless, I’ve boiled it, drank it and my sore throat is gone, but do not think I will buy it again.  The thing with doing it once is that you learn from it and honestly, once you know most of the ingredients, you can buy them separately (without pre-packaging) and ensure you’re not buying stuff that could get controversial.  So that’s my 2 cents on the parts of endangered species.  However, I will still share what this ingredient is for your own learning (and mine!).

What is this?
  • The horn of the saiga antelope (which is a rare and highly prized ingredient in Chinese medicine)
  • The saiga is an antelope with medium-sized horns that are found only on the males
  • It is an endangered species to date and commonly found in areas in Asia such as Mongolia
  • The horns are found in various forms such as dried, thinly sliced (or flaked as pictured above), ground into a powder, or cut into tiny pieces
  • The horns are white/beige in color
  • China is the largest importer of the saiga horn and often uses the raw horns in various derivatives of this Chinese medicine

How do I prepare it?

  • Rinse the dried, flaked version in warm water before use
  • For powders, mix in water as directed

Where can I buy this?

  • Chinese herbalist stores
  • Chinese medicine specialty stores
  • Not too commonly available in North America, more so in Asia

What is the cost?

  • The cost varies as it is a pretty rare ingredient, but it is not cheap

Any benefits?

  • Said to be an excellent painkiller and antibiotic
  • A diverse ingredient that is used to treat many ailments such as headaches, fever, congestion, delirium (although there is no reliable scientific studies that prove this)

Any precautions?

  • Be sure you’re purchasing from a reputable source as there are quite a few “fake” or not genuine products available
  • With your purchase, you’re also promoting the market of saiga antelope horns, which will further reduce their already limited numbers (did I just say that!?)

White Peony Root

Ingredient Name: White peony root, Chinese peony, Bai shao yao, Paeonia lactiflora

Chinese Name: 白芍 (Bái sháo)

What is this?
  • A commonly known traditional Chinese medicinal ingredient
  • The roots of the white peony flower are collected when matured to about 3-4 years
  • The white peony roots are collected, cut, boiled and dried and cut to various lengths (2-4 inches in length) before usage or distribution
  • It is white/beige in color with a consistent color throughout
  • It is known to address “liver” diseases and conditions
  • The white peony flower is mainly grown in China
  • This ingredient is considered slightly cold with properties such as bitter and sour

How do I prepare it?

  • Rinse in warm water prior to use
  • Add directly to soups or drinks when water boils

Where can I buy this?

  • In most wet marts in Hong Kong
  • Available in your Chinese herbalist or Chinese medicine store

What is the cost?

  • Relatively affordable and common Chinese medicinal ingredient
  • As pictured above, 5-6 sticks cost around $5-8 HKD

Any benefits?

  • Ideal in treating pain associated with menstruation and cramps
  • Often treated with hot flashes when mixed with calcium (so ideal for menopause)
  • Nourishes the “yin” of the body

Any precautions?

  • A cooling ingredient may contradict those with a cooler body, so take caution
  • As it is a cooling ingredient, women who are pregnant in their first trimester should avoid or minimize consumption
Job’s Tears

Job’s Tears

Job’s Tears

Ingredient Name:

Job’s Tears, Coixseed, Chinese Pearl Barley, Adlay

Traditional Chinese Name:

薏仁 (yì rén)

For videos, visit us on YouTube.


  • Job’s tears come from a grain-bearing plant native to East Asia and currently cultivated in most parts of the world
  • It has a higher-than average protein to carbohydrate ratio than other grains
  • In Asia, they are used in a medicinal fashion
  • Some cultures also grind them down into a flour or use them to make beer
  • Although it is known as “Chinese pearl barley”, it is not a part of the barley family
  • When eaten, they have a warm, nutty, slightly sweet flavor
  • Job’s tears can also be used to make tea in some parts of Asia
  • A common ingredient used in soups that are made for the Spring season (to eliminate the wetness and extra moisture from the body)
  • There are 2 types of barley:  raw and fried, both are suitable for soups
  • Dried Job’s tears can be purchased at most Asian grocery stores and some supermarket

How do I prepare it?

          • Simply wash and put into your soups
          • Some people will pre-soak in them water first, but this is up to you.  I just rinse and drop them into my soup
          • I will usually use about 2 tablespoons worth

Any benefits?

  • According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, job’s tears can be used to treat internal dampness and damp-heat conditions, including disorders of the spleen, stomach, lungs, and large intestine.   Specifically, it is used to treat conditions such as rheumatism
  • Job’s tear are diuretic and used to promote urination and treat edema
  • Some believe job’s tears can be used to treat joint pain
  • It is also known as a mild sedative

Any precautions?

  • No significant precautions although consuming too much may lead to dehydration.

Looking to build your basic Chinese Soup Pantry?

This is a great starter video to build our your basic Chinese soup pantry.  A handful of these ingredients are actual amazing with one simple chicken.  It’s your basic Chicken Herbal Soup here!



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Astragalus Root

Ingredient Name:  Astragalus Root, Huang Qi, Bei Qi, Milk Vetch

Chinese Name: 黃耆 (huang qi) or 北芪 (bei qi)

What is this?
  • It is a very common Chinese herb and can be found in the household soups (as well as in Chinese medicine)
  • The astragalus root comes from a legume (specifically the pea family) and may also be called yellow milk vetch
  • The root looks like dried wood and is usually light in body color with some dark pigmentation
  • It is normally prepared as pictured above in thin, long pieces
  • The herb is said to offer multiple health benefits and is often used to strengthen qi, boost the body’s immune system and help with heart functions
  • It is slightly heaty with a slightly sweet taste

How do I prepare it?

  • Simply rinse under running water and it is ready to use

Where can I buy this?

  • The astragalus root can be purchased at most Chinese dried herb shops

What is the cost?

  • 1 pound of dried astragalus root costs approximately $10 CAD

Any benefits?

  • The astragalus root has been a steple of chinese medicine for centuries and is often used to strengthen qi and boost the body’s immune system
  • According to Western medicine astragalus helps to stimulate the body by producing a substance known as interferon while boosting red blood cell formation. Interferon, an anti viral agent, helps the body when destroying viruses and other harmful microbes
  • The astragalus is a common ingredient to help build, retain and maintain heat in the body
  • Another benefit of astragalus is its ability to boost energy levels and vitality. Also, astragalus root has been linked to improving blood circulation

Any precautions?

  • When used appropriately, astragalus appears to be very safe and to have few side effects
  • However, very high doses may suppress the immune system