In China, there is a popular quote in certain regions “ Eating more Chinese radish and cabbage, can keep you healthy”. I am going to talk about Chinese white radishes in this article (Please see my other article about Chinese cabbage). These two vegetables are extremely popular in traditional Chinese cooking at home or in the restaurant, especially when someone has indigestion such as bloating and sluggish bowel movement. In a family it is common for the elder to mention to cook radish and eat during dinner if someone in the family has indigestion (food stagnation), which will help benefit the whole family. Chinese people add chinese radish to many other dishes such as chinese radish cake, chinese radish porridge and other chinese radish sweets. You can even find Chinese radishes in many restaurant dishes.
You can buy Chinese white radishes in most Chinese markets.
1. What is food stagnation?
Sometimes when the spleen (the spleen controls digestion) or digestive system is weaker or one has over eaten, it will take a long time to digest food and metabolize it. Undigested food in the intestine will cause accumulation of heat and toxins, this is known as food stagnation. If you would like to know more about food stagnation, please see our article about eggplant.
If food stays longer in the intestine it will cause more problems due to the heat and toxins. Symptoms of food stagnation are: bloating, sluggish bowel movement, dark and pungent stool, pungent wind, head aches, very emotional, irritable, insomnia, red face, body hot, bad breath, heavy body, craving foods or loss of appetite. If this occurs in children have the symptoms of: crying in the evening, unsettled sleeping, perspiration on the forehead, red face and poor appetite.
In my clinic experience diabetes, obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol and fatty liver can be associated with long term food stagnation.
I remember nearly 30 years ago, when I worked in Beijing Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital in the children department, I saw many young children with food stagnation syndrome which affected their body development. They had a very full and bloated stomach with skinny limbs and were very pale. They avoided eating food which made their parents extremely worried. This was a case of indigestion.
No matter whether you are an adult of child, food stagnation can greatly affect the body’s health. I suggest that when you have the symptoms mentioned above and when you are undergoing treatment you can eat certain foods to help improve your digestion. Chinese white radish is one of these foods.
2. Health benefits of Chinese white radish
i) Help to digest food and improve bowel movement
An ancient traditional Chinese herbal book from Tang dynasty called “Tang ben cao” mentions “white radishes taste sweet and spicy, has cooling characteristics and acts more on the digestive channels. It helps to digest food quicker and move the food down the intestines so it can help with indigestion and avoid food stagnation”. Chinese white radishes are therefor suitable for the symptoms we mentioned above. If you eat white radishes more often it can help to prevent fat to accumulate around the stomach and prevent food stagnation.
I suggest that you can eat white radish and ginger soup or white radish and carrot stir fry to improve your condition (please see the recipe below).
ii) Helping to clear phlegm
Chinese medicine considers phlegm to be stored in the lungs but is not always produced by the lung.
Where is phlegm produced?
a) Produced from lung disorders
These type of disorders include; common cold or flu, heat and cold in the lung and from long term smoking.
b) Produced from the digestive system
Chinese medicine believes that phlegm can be produced by food stagnation. Symptoms may be: heavy white phlegm, bloating especially after eating, burping, poor appetite or craving foods, sluggish bowel movement, heavy arms and legs and overweight.
Chinese medicine has a quote “Phlegm is stored in the lung, but produced from the spleen”. When people visit our clinic with chronic phlegm problems, we use traditional methods of diagnosis to find the causes of the issue to solve the root of the problem.
I suggest that while you are undergoing treatment for this type of phlegm problem, you can eat white radish to help improve your condition.
i) Chinese white radish and carrot stir fry
10cm Chinese white radish – peeled and chopped
1 carrot – chopped
2 pieces of chopped ginger
2 tblsp spring onions
3 tsp olive oil
2 cups of water
Stir fry Chinese radish, carrot and ginger in the oil and water for 10 minutes on low heat. After this time, add spring onions, salt and pepper to taste.
Effects: Help digestion; clears bloating and fullness; helps bowel movement.
ii) Chinese white radish and ginger soup
This is a very common and popular recipe. It is very easy to cook.
Handful of chopped radish
1 piece of ginger
4 cups of water
2 tblsp coriander
Add all ingredients until boiled. Simmer for 10 minutes. After this time you can add the coriander. You can add salt and pepper to taste.
Effects: This soup smells very delicious, it can help to move food down in the intestines; avoid food stagnation; improve digestion and metabolism.
iii) White radish salad
Handful of white radish chopped finely
You can add the finely chopped radish to any of your favourite salad or you can eat it alone with your favourite salad sauce.
Effects: This very tasty, and is very popular salad to eat during summer. It tastes delicious and is crunchy. It clears heat from the liver and intestines; improves digestion and metabolism. This dish is even popular in Japanese food.
i) If you have diarrhea it is best to avoid eating Chinese white radish.
ii) If you are unsure if Chinese white radish is suitable for you, please see your experienced TCM practitioner.