Lotus-eaters eye flowers

On a sunny winter’s afternoon, enjoy a cup of flower tea and let your thoughts drift to the romantic. It is healthy, says Sunny Hun.

After the first thunderstorm of summer, the strings of white and sweet flowers of Chinese scholar trees bloom like clouds. Grandmothers collect the fresh flowers to make cookies or noodles, or dry them into special tea.

Take more flowers, they will improve your eyesight and help defend you against the summer heat – Grandma always said so.

This was my first impression of the extra uses of flowers, besides the enjoyment they afford and their decorative uses. Other knowledge about the flower may come from food like the sugar lotus with sweet osmanthus and fermented beancurd with rose petals.

Various flowers have special medical effects due to their unique qualities,” said Wang Yiqiang, a doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) at Xiangshan Hospital. “Several thousand years ago, our ancestors used flowers as important ingredients of TCM formula.

Wang listed some common flowers and their medical uses.

It tastes pungent and bitter, but has a slightly cold property.

According to TCM, herbal medicines have four basic properties (hot, warm, cold and cool) and five tastes or flavours (pungent, sour, sweet, bitter and salty).

It can dispel wind-heat in cases of upper respiratory tract infections and acute conjunctivitis, and soothe the liver in cases of headache, dizziness and blurred vision due to heat affections.

These flowers of common globemaranth, with a slightly sweet and mild quality, can cool the liver and stop coughing and breathlessness.

Being larger than roses, this can invigorate the circulation of the blood and get rid of extravasated blood due to coldness or other causes. The flower is especially good for women with menstrual problems.

Sweet osmanthus
This is widely used in cooking due to its special flavour. Its warm property can help remove the phlegm and extravasated blood.

Wild Camellia
This has a cold property and a bitter taste. It can clean away the heat inside the body and get rid of poisonous elements.

It is warm in property and sweet in taste, and can cure colds. It regulates the flow of qi or vital essence and invigorates the circulation of the blood.

Chinese Rose
Similar to the rose, it can reduce swelling and relieve internal heat and fever.

Ginseng flower
It is warm in property, can enrich the qi and can promote the production of body fluid. It is good for building up the body and acts as a pleasant daily refreshment.

Lily flower
Slightly bitter and cold, it has the effect of cleaning and moistening the lungs. It can relieve internal heat and soothe the nerves.

Since the flowers are not as strong as other herbal medicines, they can be used often without side effects,” said Wang. “It is common to take 3 to 5 grams of such dried flowers and then make them into tea.

If used with other Chinese medicines, the flowers may have better effects. Wang has made about 20 types of healthcare tea with flowers and some herbal medicines as main ingredients. There are two big sellers:

A tea with the main ingredient of rose, luohanguo (Momordica grosvenori) and jiaogulan (Gynostemma pentaphylla) enriches the vital essence and reduces fat in blood. The long-term use of the tea can help the patient lose weight.

And “Carefree Tea” has flowers of rose, golden sweet scented osmanthus and plum and tangerine pith. It can ease the pain due to stones or inflammation of the liver and gallbladder. Drinking the tea before dinner can improve appetite and digestion after dinner.

(By Shanghai Star, January 2002)