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Dispel heat with daylilies

The Straits Times (26 February 2015) - This flowering plant can alleviate “heaty” symptoms in the body. Joan Chew reports

WHAT IS IT

A daylily is a flowering plant in the genus hemerocallis. The word hemerocallis is derived from two Greek words meaning “beauty” and “day”, referring to the fact that each flower lasts only one day, according to The Illustrated Guide To Daylilies, a publication of the American Hemerocallis Society.

 

To make up for this, there are many flower buds on each daylily flower stalk and many stalks in each clump of plants. Besides being a common vegetable on the Chinese dinner table, daylilies (above), or jinzhen cai in Mandarin, are used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).

Those which are harvested from Hunan in China between April and May are said to be of the best quality, said Ms Felicia Ng, a senior acupuncturist at the Complementary Integrative Medicine Clinic at Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

She said good-quality daylilies retain some moisture, are not too hard nor brittle, and are yellow with a tinge of red. A 100g packet of daylilies cost $1.20 at some dry goods stores.

HOW TCM USES IT

The sweet daylily is considered neutral in nature, said Ms Ng. It is thought to move through the meridians of the liver, kidneys and spleen. Meridians are channels in the body through which qi (vital energy) travels.

A balance of yin (the element responsible for cooling organs) and yang (the element linked to heat) in the body is needed for good health. Ms Ng said daylily is prescribed when there is yin deficiency in the liver and kidneys, which could lead to symptoms such as dry eyes, dark-coloured urine, chest tightness, hot flushes and excessive perspiring which usually occurs at night.

A person who has yin deficiency in the liver and kidneys may also have a red tongue with little white coating and a taut and rapid pulse, she added. This deficiency can arise from excessive physical exertion, inadequate hydration and following childbirth, when the woman loses blood – a yin component of the body.

Ms Ng said an unresolved yin deficiency can lead to pain following tooth extraction, as fluids in the body cannot nourish the wound properly. Daylilies are also used to dispel external pathogens of heat and dampness which cause heatiness in the body.

As a result, a person will find it hard to feel sated despite eating and will not be able to digest his food properly.

The typical symptoms of heat-dampness include bloatedness, a heavy head, fatigue, thirst, scanty dark urine and a dark red tongue with thick coating, said Ms Ng.

WHO IT IS FOR

Daylilies are commonly prescribed to promote the well-being of hepatitis B carriers, who are known to have a tendency to develop yin deficiency in the liver and kidneys, said Ms Ng. It can also help women who have undergone childbirth and, hence, experience blood deficiency in the liver. Such a deficiency gives rise to internal body heat. However, this group of patients should always consult a physician before using any herbs, she said.

Children and the elderly are also more susceptible to having the pathogens of heat and dampness invade their bodies.

Ms Ng advised adults to consume no more than 20g of daylilies a day, while children below 12 years old should take no more than 5g a day.

WHO SHOULD AVOID IT

People with a weak stomach and spleen, which is marked by a bloated abdomen, diarrhoea and a poor appetite, should consume daylilies with caution, as it is a fibre-rich food and may aggravate their symptoms.

WHAT RESEARCH HAS SHOWN

The potential antidepressant activity of daylilies was reported in the Journal Of Traditional And Complementary Medicine in 2013.

Rats were put through a forced swimming test, which is a stress-induced model for mimicking human-like depressive behaviour.

The rats were observed to be struggling, swimming, or immobile in a glass barrel filled with water. The duration of their immobility was used to determine the extent of depression.

The results revealed that all rats treated with ethanol extract of daylily flowers had a significant reduction of immobility time in experiments.


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Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.