Health benefits of Chinese red dates

Health benefits of Chinese red dates

Chinese red dates are one of the most popular foods used for health in China. Chinese people treat dates as a food, a health tonic, and a traditional herb.

Many traditional herbal formulas include dates as they are used for balancing the herbal formula, and the Qi and Blood for the body. Likewise, they are also used in cooking to balance the food. On special occasions many people buy quality dates and give these as gifts to their friends and relatives.

These dates are red, soft on the outside, with a sweet smell. The inside is soft and moist. They are readily available from a Chinese market or grocer, throughout the year, all around the world.

Unfortunately, many people don’t realise the amazing health benefits that Chinese dates have, and therefore, they’re not popular enough in Western food and diet therapy culture.

Hopefully, you may be encouraged to include them in your diet, after learning how they can benefit your health.

How Chinese red dates can help you

Tonify Blood

An ancient traditional Chinese book called Ben Jin, along with other Chinese herbal text books all claim that Chinese dates can strengthen the Spleen and Stomach Qi (energy) which helps to digest food, tonify blood and calm the mind.

Chinese medicine regards that blood is formed through good digestion and absorption of food, which is mainly helped by the Spleen and Stomach. If Spleen and Stomach Qi are weakened, it will affect the blood supply and its function. This may lead to blood deficiency (iron deficiency) along with the following symptoms:

  • poor appetite
  • lack of energy
  • pallor
  • lack of muscle on the arm and legs
  • overweight
  • diarrhoea
  • sluggish bowel movements or bowel movements straight after eating
  • bloating after eating
  • stomach cramps or diarrhoea from eating cold food
  • light and shorter menstruation
  • insomnia

Some people may also suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, under-active thyroid (hypothyroidism), miscarriages or infertility.

Balancing the Spleen and Stomach Qi function increases the blood and causes symptoms to subside. If you are currently receiving treatment for the above symptoms, or want to avoid them, add Chinese red dates to your diet. There is a recipe at the end of this article.

Improve insomnia

Chinese red dates can help people who have insomnia from lack of Qi and Blood. Chinese medicine considers Qi and blood deficiency one of the major causes of insomnia. This is due to the blood being unable to moisturise the Liver and Heart, causing a Ying and Yang disorder. This disorder causes sleep problems, including the following:

  • light sleep (easily woken)
  • lots of vivid dreams
  • lack of energy from the beginning of the day.

These people may also experience dizziness, lower blood pressure, palpitations, pale skin, and shortness of breath, especially during activities. They may also notice tremoring hands when they become tired. Eating Chinese red dates whilst undergoing treatment, can be very helpful.

Help protect the Liver, reduce cholesterol and prevent cancer

Modern scientific research confirms what was noted in the traditional Chinese medicine textbooks. That is, Chinese red dates contain high levels of Vitamin C, as well as having the function of protecting the Liver. They also help reduce cholesterol and increase the body’s immune system, and may help reduce the risk of cancer.


Chinese dates can be eaten many ways. You can eat fresh dates as they are, or you can cook them which is very easy to do. Dates can be cooked with porridge, steamed rice or as a soup. It’s recommended that adults eat five dates in a sitting, three or four times a week for general health care.

Chinese red date and goji berry tea

  • 3 whole dried Chinese red dates
  • A tablespoon of goji berries

Place the red dates and goji berries into a tea mug, add hot boiling water and steep for 5 minutes. You can refill with hot water a few times. Don’t forget you can eat the red dates and goji berries at the end (watch out for seeds in the red dates).

Effects: Tonifies body fluids (Yin) and Blood.

Chinese red date porridge

  • One hand full of white rice
  • 5 Chinese red dates (remove the seed)
  • 3 cups of water

Bring the rice and whole dates to the boil and simmer until the rice is soft and the liquid is sticky (around 30 minutes). The porridge will smell very nice and will taste mildly sweet. It is best to eat when warm. However during summer you can eat the porridge at room temperature. It can be eaten for breakfast or for dessert.

Effects: Strengthens the digestive system and tonifies blood.

Chinese dates and lotus seed porridge

This porridge is cooked the same way as Chinese date porridge, but instead of using 5 Chinese dates you also add 5 lotus seeds.

Effects: tonifyies Spleen function and increases Blood; helps those with sleeping issues.

Beef bone soup with red dates

  • 1kg beef bones with a little meat
  • 8 cups of water
  • 20 Chinese red dates

Add the beef bone to the water and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and cook slowly for 4 hours. 30 minutes before eating, add the Chinese red dates and cook. Add salt and pepper for taste and serve with your favourite vegetables.

Effects: Increases energy and Blood; warms the circulation.


While Chinese red dates can be beneficial, it’s wise to take precautions as they may not be suitable for everyone.

If you suffer from any of the following conditions, it may be best to avoid Chinese red dates, or to limit the amount you have:

  • constipation
  • smelly stools
  • stomach bloating
  • body heat or fever
  • red face
  • bad breath
  • cough with yellow phlegm
  • worms
  • tooth disease including gum and tooth pain or infection
  • mouth ulcers.

If you’re in doubt, please check with your Chinese medicine practitioner.

I remember 40 years ago when I lived in the traditional Hutong (street) of Beijing. A lot of the houses there had many date trees and in November which is Autumn, it would be the harvest time for the dates. There were many red dates hanging off the trees, just like red lanterns looking so beautiful. The date trees from different homes each had different tastes, some may be crunchy, soft, sour or sweet, so many children exchanged dates with all their friends to try everyone’s home grown dates. Everyone knew that if they ate too many dates it would cause them to bloat and have diarrhea, so they would only eat 10 dates at most.

A few years ago, the Hutong street was cleared and changed into a park so there are no longer as many red date trees in the area. But the beautiful image of the date trees are still in my memory.


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.

  • Jack

    this is news to me. thanks for the great article.

    28 November, 2010
  • Suzanne

    I suffer from blood disorder ( thalassaemia) and low qi but now i understand at last that it has been the reason for my tendency to insomnia and light sleep, and ALL the other symptoms you list. I have been taking red date and dang gui tea with ginger for a year and my blood count (red blood cell) went up. Now i will try red date porridge! Yummy!

    21 August, 2011
  • mar

    I suffer from a disease called thrombocytosis, which is characterized by high platelet counts; my platelets range from 700 hundred to 900 thousand but i have been as high as 2 million before. They have manage to get it down with a medication called hydrea, which has many bad side effects of which i am very afraid of. Even with the hydrea i have not been able to go lower than 700 thousand. Hydrea makes my stomach burn and this is one of the milder side effects. I constantly live with the threat of stroke with the high platelets and cancer as the side effect of hydrea. What can i do? Thank you for taking my question; grateful Mar.

    31 July, 2013
  • Leigh Ann Lipscomb

    Are these ok for women who get hot flashes? Thanks!

    26 October, 2013
  • plyn

    Thks for the valuable infomation!
    Can i know if the beef bone soup with red dates are suitable for 3year old kid? My son has poor appetite, pale looking, i thought of cooking some soups to boost him up


    13 December, 2013
  • glw

    I’ve been diagnose with low iron, GP given iron supplements. I also have itchy skin rashes behind the neck and on both my legs. I also have a white tongue and constipation. Would the red date porridge be suitable for me?

    30 December, 2013
  • rachel

    When is the suitable time for ladies to take red dates in a
    particular month?
    Can they consume it during their menses?

    10 March, 2014
  • Abdul Khalid

    I have just undergone a Coronary Bypass Artery Graft operation and the Doctor has given me medicine including “warfarin, Aspirin” for thinning the blood. My question is if I take “Chinese Red Dates”, will the “Chinese Red Dates” collude with my medicine especially the blood thinning.

    11 March, 2014
  • kay kay

    Hi, I have been diagnosed with IBS so I always have bowel movement immediately after I eat (especially in the morning), and have been suffering from painful menstrual cramps and frequent spotting which makes me feel dizzy from the lost of blood. Does red dates with ginger soup help?

    25 January, 2015
  • Connie chang

    May I know if red dates r good for Qi, wat if I always have bad breathe issues, can I still take small amount of red dates? Can you pls advise how to cure severe bad breathe? I hv consulted so many doctors n physicians but issues are nvr solve. Thanks

    13 April, 2015
  • Christine


    Thanks for sharing your article.

    I recently boiled red dates water using 65 pieces of small red dates. Is this too much for the body? Will there be any side effects?

    Look forward to your reply.


    3 May, 2015
  • Narelle

    I live in Hillary’s and was wanting to buy Chinese dates can you tell where I can buy them from please

    19 June, 2015
  • Athifa

    Recently only i knew about red dates and very curious about it. I am on medication for hyperthyroid. And also i have a week gum and teeth problem. So will it be ok or good to take 5dates per day?

    9 April, 2016
  • Faye

    I am scheduled to have an abdomen surgery on 10 Sep 16 but the recent blood test shows my haemoglobin level is too low (<9) for the surgery and doctor has postponed my operation. He asked me to take iron pills to boost up the HB level but I tend to have headache after the pill.

    Can you please kindly advise what should I take to increase my haemoglobin level? I prefer through diet instead of the pill as the pill make me sick. Do you think the beef bone + red date soup has good effect on this?

    Thank you.

    25 August, 2016
  • deeznuts

    I hate dates they never go out with me

    21 October, 2016
  • Kanti Selig

    Hello dear Sir,
    I’ve heard that red dates boiled with celery and drink the tea are good for high blood pressure. My BP is VERY high, what do you think of this remedy or do you have other suggestion?
    Thank you for all that you do to help others!
    Kanti Selig

    27 November, 2016