Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Chrysanthemum Flower Herbal Drink

We Chinese pay particular attention to the yin and yang balance of our bodies. Our concept of eating has to be balanced with the changes in weather. Although in Malaysia, the weather is tropical all year round and we don’t experience snow or fall, the fluctuations between hot, humid and warm can take a toll on how we feel and taxes our bodies too.

It must be global warming because the weather in Penang right now is very hot! The mornings start off extremely warm and the heat increases during noon. My skin literally burns when I get out into the sun. It’s a searing heat that can be quite lethal. The sun keeps this dry heat going on the whole day until dusk sets. When evenings come, the day’s heat has become heavy rain clouds, pregnant with rain and thunder. The evenings are stormy and rain comes often. It is these two very extreme ends of the weather that causes many people to feel uncomfortable. Hot in the day and cold in the night.

To combat this hot weather, I remember the herbal drinks my mom used to prepare for us when we were little. One of my favourites is chrysanthemum flower herbal drink which is cooling on a searing day.

Chrysanthemum flowers (chrysanthemum morifolium) are dried and sold in Chinese medicine shops cheaply, usually RM1 for a large packet. They are good for the eyes, lung and liver and can be made into an infusion or eye-wash for red eyes (if you are using as an eye-wash, please don’t add rock sugar!). The flowers should not be overboiled or it will lose its potency. The flowers clear heat, fever, headache and calms the liver. But do not use it if you have diarrhea.

The packets of chrysanthemum sold usually come with two other herbs. One is Jin Yin Hua or Honeysuckle which clears toxins and heat while the other is Licorice Root or Gan Cao. It is called a long life herb and is usually added to Chinese teas for revitalizing Qi. Gan Cao can be chewed on its own (like a chewing gum – discard the root once you’ve taken its ‘juice’) if you have a sore throat or itchy cough. It helps with the lung meridian and detoxifies the body. It is often used to harmonize the prescription of other herbs.

This trio of herbs can be made into a cooling herbal drink easily. Just boil the trio of herbs in a pot of water for 30 minutes. Sweeten with rock sugar if you like. This herbal tea can be taken warm or cold.

Tip: A delightful glass of cool chrysanthemum tea is heavenly on a hot afternoon!

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