Too much ‘heat’ might be making you sick – and herbal tea, or leung cha, could help

Leung cha was officially selected as part of Hong Kong’s intangible cultural heritage in 2006. Rescuers prepare to move an injured Malayan tiger for treatment in Malaysia’s north Perak state in October 2009, after it was badly injured in a snare set up by poachers near the jungle border with Thailand. Photo: AFP/ WWF Malaysia Hong Kong customs found 7.2 tonnes of tusks in a shipment of frozen fish in 2017. Photo: Dickson Lee Customers take a picture with their Tiger Sugar bubble tea in Causeway Bay. Photo: Dickson Lee Herbal tea known as leung cha is found throughout south China, and tea shops have been a familiar fixture of the Hong Kong landscape for more than a hundred years.

What is ‘cooling tea’?

Leung cha translates literally as “cooling tea”. An infusion of herbs originating from China’s Guangdong province, it is believed to contain medicinal properties. In fact, the drink rarely contains any elements of the tea plant and is more like a bitter-tasting medicinal soup.

A quick-fix remedy, leung cha is thought to cool “internal heat” and is used to treat a range of health problems. An affordable alternative to doctors since the late 19th century, leung cha was officially selected as part of Hong Kong’s intangible cultural heritage in 2006. Here are some of the more typical ingredients: Some of the typical ingredients in leung cha. The body’s harmony

People throughout China are traditionally attentive to their body’s inner harmony and believe diet affects their overall well-being. Food and herbs are traditionally categorised by whether they heat or cool a person’s metabolism. Many acidic foods are classified as “heaty”, regardless of their temperature or spiciness. “Cooling tea” should be consumed piping hot to cleanse the body of excess heat and to relieve early symptoms and head off illnesses before they develop in full. Food and herbs are traditionally categorised by whether they heat or cool a person’s metabolism. Yit hey: too much heat

South China’s hot and humid weather acts as a breeding ground for germs and diseases in the region and, according to theories of traditional Chinese medicine, people’s internal workings are also susceptible to the accumulation of “heat” and “dampness” from the same environment. Bear in mind that Hong Kong has seven months of highly humid, hot weather. Hong Kong has seven months of highly humid, hot weather. One of the ways to naturally regulate body temperature is by producing sweat which cools the skin as it evaporates. However, excessive ambient humidity compromises the body’s ability to cool itself and heat accumulates internally as a consequence, according to traditional thinking. Excessive ambient humidity compromises the body’s ability to cool itself. “Heat” and “dampness” accumulate inside the body when too much “heaty food” is consumed in a humid environment.

How is leung cha believed to work inside our bodies? Symptoms of excessive internal heat and dampness. People from Guangdong province drink leung cha for its cooling benefits to rid the body of excessive internal heat and dampness.

The herb round-leaved holly is prescribed for inflammation (sore throat, mouth ulcers or sores). The herb “heal-all” is believed to dilate blood vessels, lower blood pressure and reduce body heat.

The increase of flora in the gut can help improve digestion, and the long-term use of glutamine is thought to strengthen the immune system.

Not for everyone

Excessive herbal tea may lead to dizziness through the body becoming too “cold”. The following people should avoid herbal tea: Herbal tea is not for everyone. It is advisable to consult your doctor if you are new to drinking leung cha .

This is an excerpt from Chinese herbal tea: history, health and how to make it , a multimedia infographic

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