Functional foods are trending because they often work. Science has shown us over and over again the health benefits of a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, and nuts, or more specifically the phytochemicals nutrients found in these foods. And science is also discovering what thousands of years of herbal medicine across cultures have known: herbs have powerful effects on the body, and can be healing agents. High-quality functional foods bridge the gap between a highly beneficial ingredient and the person who doesn’t want to or doesn’t know how to take herbs like ginkgo biloba. This is why we are seeing products like mushroom chocolate and gummies with B vitamins; they can be effective and they are meeting a direct consumer need for better health.
The Need for Functional Foods
Many Americans suffer from poor health, even if they don’t have a specific health condition or diagnosis. Fatigue is a plague on our nation, resulting from increased demands from all areas of life. Many people experience chronic pain every day and other inflammatory conditions like allergies. Poor digestion is simply a way of life for many people, and emotional distress is increasing in all corners of our country, specifically as we enter year three of a global pandemic. People are in desperate need of some kind of relief and functional foods are poised to do just that.
Functional foods are generally defined as foods that offer more health benefits beyond simple nutrition. They are classified into three categories: conventional food, nutraceuticals, and probiotics. Conventional here simply means regular or whole, like apples, mushrooms, and pumpkin seeds. Nutraceuticals are things like vitamins, minerals, fish oils, and herbs. Probiotics are the healthful intestinal bacteria that support digestion and increase immunity. Examples are fermented foods like kefir, yogurt, and tempeh.
Chinese Medicine and Functional Foods
While this market isn’t a panacea or a cure-all, and there are definite issues with “pixie dusting” products, products that have minimal amounts of the functional ingredient, this trend is highlighting something that the Chinese have known for millennia: eating healthy foods, specifically functional foods, and herbal medicines increase health. This idea is woven into their culture. Food is thought to be therapeutic and their cuisine with far more vegetables and herbs than ours reflects that. As far back as the Shang Dynasty (1700-1110 BC), political leaders were espousing the benefits of medicinal teas, and nutritionists working with the royal court were common.
Chinese medicine looks at food as far more than simple nutritional sustenance. They see each ingredient as having a particular energetic effect that can be fine-tuned to a particular person’s specific ailment. Food is therapeutic, used to treat illnesses and other health conditions, in addition to herbal medicine and other treatments like acupuncture and reflexology. Herbs are often added to food as part of a “medicinal diet”. It is common in Chinese households to treat mild health complaints and issues with food made with herbs or other, well, functional ingredients. This knowledge and lifestyle have been passed down through the generations and while western medicine is available, many people in China still primarily use functional foods and herbs in their diet to treat health issues.
The preparation of these foods and the use of herbs are dictated by Traditional Chinese Medicine and use some of the following principles.
- Food and medicine can synergize and work together more powerfully.
- Use is based on specific signs and symptoms.
- Cooking processes are adapted to medicinal herbs or foods.
- These foods aren’t limited to those who are ill, they can also increase health in the healthy.
To incorporate the wisdom of Chinese medicine, try adding fresh herbs to salads or making rich broths or soups with ingredients like ginger and shitake mushroom.
Traditional Chinese Medicine Gummies from Seattle Gummy Company (SGC)
Curious about Chinese medicine but not sure where to start? Try an SGC gummy. Their gummies are made with patented gummy technology that lets them put truly functional amounts of herbs and nutraceuticals into their gummies, without adversely affecting taste.
- Support your brain and your heart with a powerful dose of ginkgo biloba from SGC’s energy gummy, the Mocca Shot. This Chinese herb protects the heart with potent antioxidants and increases circulation to the brain. Ginkgo not only supports memory but also healthy emotions, making it a good choice for anyone under stress or experiencing anxiety or depression.
- The Beauty Multivitamin gummy contains the Chinese herb Angelica Sinensis. In Chinese medicine, this herb is used for menstrual disorders. It is also an excellent hormone balancer and wonderful for circulation in general. These qualities make Angelica very nourishing to the skin and it supports a healthy complexion. Angelica can be quite effective for blemish-prone skin and has also been used in Chinese medicine to treat acne, brown spots, freckles, and hair loss.
Check out SGC’s other gummies featuring functional herbs and foods like ginseng for endurance, elderberry for immunity, apple cider vinegar for digestion and weight loss, valerian root for sleep, and ginger and turmeric for glowing skin.