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TCM Foods : TCM Diet to support Your Diagnosis 

There is a famous saying that is attributed to Hippocrates: “Let thy food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. This is as true today as when he said it over 2000 years ago.

It means that diet plays an enormous role in wellbeing, and that adding or omitting certain foods may help to improve one’s health. 

Practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) help to improve patients’ health not by prescribing a drug to treat symptoms but by understanding the root cause that is driving those symptoms.  When it comes to deficiencies, stasis, dampness, and heat, a focus on the proper foods may help to get patients on the path to better health.

On a TCM diet, this may mean adding more nutritious foods and avoiding those that do no favours for good health. To learn more about Chinese medicine foods, read on.

Five Flavours and the Energetic Properties of Food

Food can be classified into five different flavors: sour, bitter, sweet, pungent, and salty. Each of these flavors can have an effect on the body. Foods that are sour in taste will create fluids and yin.

Those that are bitter can help the body to relax, clear heat, and harden. Pungent foods can enhance circulation while sweet foods lubricate and reduce the effect of toxins. Salty foods help to soften hardness while lubricating and supporting the function of the intestines. 

A Traditional Chinese Medicine Food Chart will show foods classified according to five energies: cold, cool, neutral, warm, and hot. These energies are not based on the actual temperature of the foods ingested. Instead, they refer to the effect certain foods can have on the human body.

Overconsumption of cold or cooling foods may result in such symptoms as pallor, poor blood circulation, and weakness. When too many hot or warm foods are eaten, the result may be constipation, swelling, and a poor mood. 

Chinese Medicine Foods on a TCM Diet

Illnesses are the results of a lack of balance in yin and yang. Since TCM aims to keep a patient’s yin and yang in proper balance, a TCM diet recommends foods that will help to achieve that. A TCM practitioner may recommend certain foods based on a patient’s symptoms and diagnosis. A few examples include:


  • Foods to build Kidney Yin:   Kidney yin provides nourishment and moisture to tissues and organs. When there is a deficiency in kidney yin, this can result in dryness. Ginseng is often recommended in the treatment of symptoms related to metabolism. It both stimulates and nourishes while helping to restore yin. Including clear soups, herbal teas, eggs, asparagus, duck and hydrating fruits will help to tonify kidney yin.


  • Foods to build Kidney Yang: In contrast to kidney yin, kidney yang helps to warm and promote the function of tissues and organs. When deficient, patients may experience coldness. To build kidney yang, it is important to include warming foods such as brown sugar and honey in a TCM diet. In addition to those foods, those with kidney yang deficiency will want to avoid cold or raw foods as well as dairy. Other examples of yang building foods include garlic, shrimp, lamb, walnuts, spices such as cinnamon and ginger also tend to be rich in yang energy. 


  • Foods for Spleen Qi Deficiency: Overeating raw, cold foods and beverages may lead to spleen qi deficiency. Symptoms include a lack of appetite and poor digestion. To provide nourishment to the spleen, include a diet of healthy fats such as salmon and olive oil along with fermented foods such as kimchi and sauerkraut. Along with rice, sweet potato, squash, dates and oats.


  • Foods to Build Blood: Feeling fatigued may be a sign of a deficiency in the blood. To nourish and build blood, eat a diet that is that includes beef, organ meat, leafy greens, legumes, beets, dark berries, fish such as salmon. 


  • Foods to Move Blood Stasis: Dampness, phlegm, and heat are all known to be associated with blood stasis. When present, blood stasis can eventually lead to serious metabolic disorders. Rhubarb can help to relieve blood stasis while clearing heat and toxins. Pungent spices such as coriander and peppermint will also help to bring movement to the blood. In addition to those foods, it is important for those with blood stasis to avoid cold, raw foods. 


  • Foods for Liver Qi Stagnation: When liver Qi is stagnant, it can lead to liver fire. Symptoms include a red, flushed face, dizziness, and insomnia. Foods to improve liver Qi stagnation include cooling foods such as cucumbers, mung beans and fish. Other recommended foods for Liver Qi include onions, garlic, watercress, asparagus, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, carrots, celery, water chestnuts, kale, rapini, bok choy. Alcohol and fried foods are best avoided. 


  • Foods to Remove Excess Heat: On a Traditional Chinese Medicine food chart, fruits, such as apples and oranges, and vegetables, such as mushrooms, celery, watermelon, cucumbers, tofu and peppermint are recommended to clear excess heat. Choosing these foods will also help to prevent the buildup of toxins. 


  • Foods to Remove Dampness: A diet that contains foods like onions and beans will help to clear dampness. Foods that have been shown to induce perspiration, such as spicy foods, are also recommended to clear dampness. Read more about damp diet here.

Incorporating TCM Food into a Healthy Diet


The best way to ensure a diet is rich in foods that will nourish the body and bring balance is to plan ahead. Prior to shopping for food, consider recipes that include seasonal fruits and vegetables, fermented foods, legumes, lean meats, and fish. Meals can be as simple as pairing a lean protein with a vegetable of choice.

Plan meals ahead of time so that junk food or fried foods are not chosen simply because they are convenient. If dining out at a restaurant, check the menu ahead of time to ensure there is an option to accommodate your Chinese medicine diet.

Prepare snacks, such as cut vegetables and fruits, in advance to have on hand and readily available when hunger strikes. Hydrate with ginger tea or other warm, herbal beverages. 



When patients experience symptoms of deficiency or stasis, the fix truly may be as simple as incorporating certain foods at meal time to restore the balance of yin and yang. Choosing TCM foods like seasonal fruits and vegetables along with lean meats, fish, and legumes may be just the medicine needed to resolve deficiencies and provide relief from their associated symptoms. To learn more, speak to a TCM practitioner about incorporating Chinese medicine foods into a TCM diet.

* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. We can’t guarantee the treatment result, as the symptoms of conditions are unpredictable and vary greatly from person to person. The treatment length and recovery time also varies for individual. Please visit our consultation page where a specialists will discuss your care and provide a consultation, and the treatment will be designed to meet your individual needs.

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