Sticky rice to help cold limbs, hands and feet

Sticky rice to help cold limbs, hands and feet

Before talking about sticky rice, also known as glutinous rice, I should mention a very popular Chinese festival called ‘Duan wu festival’ which is on the 5th of May.  On this day Chinese people eat Zong zi to remember a very famous ancient poet – Qu Yan. Zong zi is made by steamed sticky rice encased in bamboo leaves. In the centre of Zong zi there may be a variety of different foods such as chicken, beans or dates or many other flavours.  Around the festival time, Zong zi is sold everywhere in the market place, the chinese markets and throughout the country, as well as Chinese markets throughout the world.

There are many ways of cooking sticky rice – steamed sticky rice, sticky rice porridge, sticky rice cake as well as the Zong zi already mentioned.  Sticky rice can be cooked by itself or together with any other food.  Sticky rice has a delicious smell, and is a favourite rice in China, usually reserved for special occasions or certain constitutions of the body.

1. Health Benefits of Sticky Rice

i) Strengthens Spleen & Warms the Limbs:

In many traditional TCM books and diet therapy books such as ‘Ben Cao Gang Wu’ and ‘Qian Jin Shi Liao’ they mention that sticky rice has warming effects and tastes mildly sweet and can help the Spleen, Stomach and digestion.  The Spleen & Stomach are not only involved in the digestive system but also the circulation.  In Chinese Medicine, the Spleen & Stomach dominate the limbs, sending the Qi and Blood to the arms and legs, warming them and supporting their function.  If the Spleen and Stomach have a Qi and Blood deficiency, their function will fail and the following symptoms can arise: the body has an aversion to the cold with cold hands & feet, heaviness or puffiness in the arms & legs, shortness of breath, lack of energy, bloating which is worse after eating, sluggish bowel movement and weight gain.  Some of these people may have chronic fatigue syndrome, an underactive thyroid or irritable bowel syndrome.  Eating sticky rice can help to strengthen and warm the Spleen which will then pass this warmth and Qi to the limbs.  Therefore, I suggest having sticky rice during treatment of these symptoms to aid in a speedy recovery. (please see the recipes below)

ii) Strengthening the Lungs & Reducing Excessive Perspiration:

In Chinese Medicine, the Lungs dominate the opening and closing of the pores in our skin.  Therefore, when the Lung Qi is lowered or insufficient, the Lungs lose control of the pores and the body will have a tendency to excessive perspiration.  The symptoms may include:  easily perspiring even with light activity, shortness of breath, pale, lack of energy, low immune system and susceptible to colds & flus.  Eating sticky rice can help strengthen the Lung energy and aid in your treatment and prevention of excessive perspiration.

2. Recipes

You can use sticky rice to make steamed rice, porridge, cake, Zong zi and many other dishes.  Usually when you cook sticky rice you can mix it with other foods which you like. After cooking sticky rice it is abundant in moisture and has a sweet freshly cooked rice smell, being a favourite food eaten by many.  In general, sticky rice is not a food to eat everyday.  Usually a family will eat it for special occasions or as a special treat.  If it is suitable for you, you can eat it two or three times a week and it is especially good in the winter.  Eating one handful at a time will be sufficient.

How to cook sticky rice:

Sticky rice is usually cooked in water.  The less water you use the harder it becomes such as the cake and the more you use it becomes more soft like a porridge.  During cooking, you can also add your favourite flavour such as milk or dates for a sweet taste or chicken or beans for a more savoury flavour.

i) Sticky Rice Porridge

Boil 1 handful sticky rice in 4 cups of water.
After boiling, simmer with 2 pieces of ginger for 20 minutes or until the rice is soft and ready to eat.

ii) Steamed Sticky Rice with Chinese Red Dates

2 handfuls of Sticky Rice
15 Chinese Red Dates
2 cups water

Combine ingredients in a rice cooker until cooked.

For both of these recipes you can also add walnuts or goji berries and other ingredients of your choice for additional flavour.

Effects of these Recipes: Strengthening the Spleen, Stomach and Lung, tonifying the Qi and Blood and warm the circulation to the arms & legs.

3. Precautions

i) Sticky rice takes time to digest and because of this, if you have been sick it is best to eat less or avoid eating it straight away.  Eating too much of this will make you very full and will take longer to digest.
ii) To find out whether you are suitable to eat sticky rice it is advised that you see your TCM practitioner.


Dr Ping Wang is the clinic founder and senior practitioner of Ping Ming Health. She has over 30 years of experience in traditional Chinese medicine teaching and practice. Dr Ping especially enjoys sharing her knowledge of Chinese medicine through our popular clinic articles, seminars and clinical training of students and practitioners.