You may be surprised to learn that both walnuts and water chestnuts are herbs in Chinese medicine. It may be surprising because both are commonly eaten foods, but they also have some amazing healing properties. Here are some things to know:
Water Chestnuts are actually the corms, or roots, of a grassy water plant. Found in Asian cuisine, water chestnuts are unexpectedly moist and crunchy. Called Bi Qi, water chestnut as an herb is considered to be sweet and slightly cold. It’s used to treat conditions with heat (such as fevers or infections), thirst and thick phlegm. Its cold nature makes it a good choice in formulas to treat pneumonia or lung infections, a sore and swollen throat (such as strep throat) and jaundice, which is a liver condition. Interestingly, while Bi Qi can help transform phlegm, it’s also moistening and can help your body produce fluids and reduce thirst. Its moistening action and ability to generate fluids also make it useful in treating constipation.
Bi Qi should not be confused with a product called Biqi capsules, which is a formula combining several herbs as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. However, it does not contain Bi Qi, or water chestnut. In addition, while some Biqi formulations contain herbs only, others also include an immunosuppressant drug, called methotrexate.
Walnuts, called Hu Tao Ren in Chinese, are the dried ripe seeds of the walnut tree. There are actually over 15 varieties of walnuts, but they all look similar. Their taste can vary, however, ranging from sweet to bitter. The walnuts used in Chinese herbal medicine are considered to be sweet and warm. They’re used as a tonifying herb, which means that it helps strengthen your body.
Walnuts have a number of actions. They can:
- Strengthen your Chinese Kidney system. Hu Tao Ren is used for weak and achy knees or a lower back due to Kidney depletion.
- Improve the nourishing quality of your blood.
- Warm your lungs, to treat asthma, chronic cough and shortness of breath.
- Moisten your intestines. Walnuts are warming, so they may be used to warm and move your digestion along and reduce gas and bloating. They also contain oils that help moisten your intestines to treat constipation.
As a food, walnuts are considered to be healthy for a number of reasons. Researchers are finding that walnuts:
- Are high in antioxidants, which helps offset free radical damage that can accelerate aging and cause a number of diseases.
- Are high in Omega 3 fats, which help maintain a healthy balance between Omega 3 and Omega 6 fats.
- May help increase and maintain healthy gut bacteria.
- Can help with weight control because they help you feel fuller faster. And even though they are calorie-dense, only a percentage of the calories are absorbed.
- Help control blood sugar.
- May improve brain function
It’s interesting that in Chinese medicine, some foods and herbs overlap in their therapeutic use. This is certainly the case with both walnuts and water chestnuts. Whether used in an herbal formula or as a part of Chinese food therapy, walnuts and water chestnuts are good to eat, healthy and have a number of healing properties! If you want to know more about Chinese herbal medicine, nutrition or food therapy, please give us a call.
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Dr. Jeda Boughton is a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Registered Acupuncturist in Vancouver. She is also a Registered Herbologist and the founder of BodaHealth.