Chinese Yam (Shan Yao) Benefits in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

It is not surprising that many people are not familiar with Chinese yam or shan yao (Chinese name: 山药) and have not eaten it before.

Do you know that Chinese yam is one of the safest and best foods that has an excellent tonic effect on our major organs?

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

The thermal nature of Chinese yam is neutral. This means that everyone can consume it safely regardless of their body constitution.

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

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

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

Strengthens kidneys: Chinese yam helps in boosting Qi in the kidneys so if a person often wakes up in the night to urinate or keep feeling weak and sore in the waist and knees, 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 available.

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

dried chinese yam
Dried Chinese Yam.

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

fresh Chinese yam
Fresh Chinese yam

Take precautions when you are washing and cutting the fresh Chinese yam because the sticky substance on the Chinese yam (after de-skinning) can make your skin itchy (for most people). You may want to wear gloves when cutting fresh Chinese yam to avoid direct contact with your hands.

How To Choose Chinese Yam

two types of Chinese yam
Image source: CCTV –

The most commonly available type of Chinese yam out there is called ‘Vegetable Chinese yam’ (菜山药), which is the one shown on the right in the image above.

The one on the left is known as ‘Iron-rod Chinese yam’ (铁棍山药). It is less commonly available and is more expensive. If you’re able to find it at your local store/markets (and if your budget allows), you can go for this type of Chinese yam as it has stronger tonic effects.

How To Eat Chinese Yam

A simple way to integrate Chinese yam into your meal is to add the fresh Chinese yam into your rice and cook them together. Here are the steps:

  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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