Chinese yam (Shan Yao) benefits in TCM

It is not surprising to know that many people do not know about Chinese yam (Shan Yao – 山药) and some people may not have eaten it before. But do you know that Chinese yam is one of the safest and the best food that has a very good tonic effect on major organs? Read on to find out more!

fresh Chinese yam
Fresh Chinese yam

Chinese yam is also known for its properties in slowing down aging. Hence, in recent years, there are more and more supplements based on Chinese yam being released in the market.

The thermal nature of Chinese yam is neutral. This means most people can consume it safely. In fact, all types of body constitution can eat Chinese yam safely.

Chinese yam benefits the lungs, spleen and kidney and it has the following healing and tonic effects:

Strengthen spleen: Chinese yam is a very good food to strengthen the spleen. If a person is having weak spleen (having loose and sticky stools most of the time) or has indigestion pretty easily when eating oily stuff, then eating Chinese yam regularly will relieve these conditions. 

Strengthen lungs: Chinese yam helps in boosting the Qi in the lungs, also nourishing the ‘yin’ in the lungs. This means it helps to relieve conditions like weak lungs due to long-term coughing. 

Strengthen kidneys: Chinese yam helps in boosting Qi in the kidneys so if a person often wakes up a few times in the night to urinate or keeps feeling weak and sore in the waist and knees, then he/she should eat Chinese yam more often. Chinese yam also helps to reduce irregular discharge (for females).

Two forms of Chinese Yam

There are two forms of Chinese yam, one is the dried type. And the other one is the fresh type.

dried chinese yam
Dried Chinese Yam.

For the dried type, it is commonly used in cooking with other herbs like the Si Shen soup. When cooking the dried Chinese yam, it is better to soak it for about one hour so that it absorbs as much water as possible before cooking. And if possible, eat the Chinese yam together with the soup for the best tonic effect.

fresh Chinese yam
Fresh Chinese yam

For the fresh type, it is more commonly used when cooking with rice, porridge, and vegetable soup. 

Take precautions when you are washing and cutting the fresh Chinese yam because it will make your hands very itchy (for most people). Try to wear gloves when cutting fresh yam to avoid your hands having itchy sensations after that.

How to choose Chinese yam

two types of Chinese yam
Image source: CCTV – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETtYZykNy_4

Most of the time, you will only see the right side (above image) of Chinese yam in the market. The right side is known as ‘Vegetable Chinese yam’ (菜山药). 

If possible (and the budget allows), you can choose the ‘Iron-rod Chinese yam’ (铁棍山药), shown on the left, if you happen to see it in the market. This type of Chinese yam is more potent in its tonic effect.

How to eat Chinese yam

The easiest way to integrate Chinese yam into your meal is to add the fresh Chinese yam into your rice cooker (with rice) so you can eat the Chinese yam with the rice with other dishes.

  1. Wash, de-skin, and cut the fresh Chinese yam into smaller pieces.
  2. Prepare the rice with water and put the cut Chinese yam into the rice. Mix them evenly before turning on the rice cooker. 

Chinese yam with rice

Dosage recommendation: 10 to 30g (dried), 50 to 150g (fresh).

Hope you find this post useful!

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