Chinese Medicine Food

Medicine food is a unique culinary style in Chinese cuisine. It perfectly combines Chinese cooking with traditional Chinese medicine to get the effects of health keeping, bodybuilding, and skin beautifying.

Chinese Medicine Food with Yin and Yang

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine

The theory of yin and yang is applied to all Chinese things including the classification of food and herbs. For over three thousand years Chinese cuisine is based not only on skill and using the best quality ingredients but also on applying the ancient art of balancing the yin and yang qualities in the food.

The Chinese classify each type of vegetable and meat in terms of yin and yang, and combine vegetables with meat in such a way that each cooked dish will be balanced. They know that food may be changed from one to the other depending on the way it is cooked. For example, a steamed fish is yin (cooling) but a deep-fried fish is yang (heating).

History of Medicine Cuisine



The skill of balancing food was developed as early as the 16th century BC. A minister of the ruler of the Shang Kingdom named Yi created Chinese cooking utensils and the art of cooking using the nature of the food to balance the diet.

During the 5th century BC, cooks began to create cuisines with medical values. In the publication called Huangdi Neijing, a Warring States record, there are rules on how to regulate diet and improve the taste of food. The Han publication, Shennong Bencaojing, listed certain herbs and vegetables as being beneficial to the body.

By the Song dynasty (960-1279) it was recorded that many diseases could be cured through proper diet and eating the right food. The development of cooking skills and lists of food for curing ailments intensified during the Jin, Yuan, and Qing dynasties.

The 5 Classification of Foods

Yam Ribs

Yam Ribs

Different foods were classified according to their perceived nature. They might be han (cold/yin), liang (cool/yin), ping (neutral), wen (slightly warm/yang), and ri (hot/yang). cold foods were believed to reduce fever, relieve thirstiness and coughs while wen, warm foods reduce running noses, headache, etc...

  • Han food (cold food) includes bitter gourd, lotus, watermelon, sugar cane, tomato, banana, wax gourd, yellow gourd, snail, crab, etc...
  • Liang food (cold food) includes white radish, ridged luffa, maize, green bean, bean curd, orange, apple, pear, duck egg, abalone, frog’s leg, mushroom, etc... Han and Liang food such as abalone regulates liver function because it cools the “yangness” in the system.
  • Hot food is chili, pepper, and other foods with a hot taste.
  • Wen food (mild food) includes apricot, ginger, spring onion, onion, papaya, glutinous rice, wine, vinegar, almond, dates, venison, prawn, fish, chicken meat, beef, goat meat, liver, ham, etc... Wen and hot food such as apricot stimulate blood circulation and nurture the heart and lungs.
  • The neutral or ping food includes rice, sweet potato, flat bean, yellow bean, black bean, red bean, red carrot, groundnut, lotus seed, corn, pomfret, fruit, pork, goose meat, frog meat, butter and milk, and these foods nourish the spleen and balance the digestive system.

Knowing the nature of individual foods enables the Chinese to eat the proper food to nurture the various internal organs, balance the yin and yang, and enhance the qi of the body.

For example, to nurture the stomach they believe one should eat carrots, melons, apples, and vegetables. To nourish the spleen one can drink honey and drinks made from herbs prescribed by a Chinese medicine shop.

The Five Tastes Vs Five Kinds of Diseases

Spicy Steamed Fish Head

Spicy Steamed Fish Head

The five tastes of food are sour, sweet, bitter, hot, and salty. Sour food relieves diarrhea, asthma, and other disorders. Slightly sweet food relieves ailments connected with the veins. Bitter food helps to cure an overheated body system. Hot food helps blood circulation and salty food helps to stop diarrhea.

Plan your China tour with us and we will provide you a memorable and useful Chinese cooking class.

Some Common Chinese Medicinal Cuisine

Red Date Tea

Red Date Tea

  • Chinese Wolfberry and Red Dates Soup: helps cure weakness and anemia.
  • Stewed Crucian Carp with Peanuts and Red Beans: strengthens the spleen and stomach and eliminates edema.
  • Yam Tangyuan (glutinous rice balls stuffed with yam paste): strengthens the spleen and stomach.
  • Stewed Chicken with American Ginseng: can play a good role in health care and beauty-enhancing for middle-aged women.
  • Spare Ribs and Lotus Root Soup: clears heat and quenches thirst.

NOTE: Please take a Chinese medicated diet under the guidance of a professional doctor to avoid counterproductively.

Where to Taste Chinese Medicine Cuisine

Chengdu Qinshanzhai Health Estates

Matsutake Chicken Soup

Matsutake Chicken Soup

  • Chinese: 钦善斋食府
  • Address: 247 Wouhouci Main St., Wuhou District, Chengdu
  • Features: medicinal hot pot, English-speaking staff

Hangzhou Hu Qingyu Tang Dietotherapy Restaurant

  • Chinese: 胡庆余堂药膳
  • Address: 146-1 Nanshan Rd. (next to the West Lake), Shangcheng District, Hangzhou
  • Features: medicinal local dishes

Experience China’s Cuisine Culture with Us

Doctor of Chinese medicine

A Doctor of Chinese Medicine

There’s a huge variety of dishes in China.  To help you maximize your dining experience and learn some knowledge of traditional Chinese medicine, as well as enjoy a carefree China tour, we select three sample itineraries for your travel inspiration:


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