WHAT IT IS: Chinese raspberries, derived from drying fresh, red raspberries, have a name that is related to their use in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).
The third edition of the Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica refers to the herb as "fupenzi" - literally, turning over the bed pan.
The herb may also help some people with lower back pain resulting from kidney problems.
The belief is that it cures bedwetting and other abnormal nocturnal emissions that may require the use of a bed pan.
The medica said Chinese raspberries of good quality are full and yellowish-green.
They are sold at $3.20 for a tael (37.5g) at some medical halls here.
HOW TCM USES IT: The sweet and sour Chinese raspberry is considered slightly warm in nature.
It is said to move through the meridians of the kidneys and liver. Meridians are channels in the body through which qi (vital energy) travels.
In TCM, the kidneys regulate the absorption and excretion of water.
Problems of frequent urination, bedwetting and spermatorrhea (abnormally frequent and involuntary non-orgasmic emissions of semen) are blamed on poor kidney function, said Ms Zhao Xu Hong, a TCM practitioner at Raffles Chinese Medicine at Raffles Hospital.
The Chinese raspberry is known to be astringent and is used to arrest such abnormal discharge from the body.
Ms Zhao said to treat urinary incontinence, the Chinese raspberry is used alongside other herbs, such as Chinese wolfberry, gordon euryale seed and lotus seed.
The kidneys also control reproduction, growth and development.
People who have problems with fertility, such as men who experience premature ejaculation, often need to nourish their kidneys with herbs such as the Chinese raspberry, Ms Zhao said.
To be healthy, a good flow of qi in the body and a balance of yin (the element responsible for cooling organs) and yang (the element linked to heating organs) are required.
Ms Zhao said the Chinese raspberry has a mild effect in addressing a yang deficiency in the kidneys, which may arise from a weak body constitution, ageing and an overactive sexual life.
Those with such a deficiency are plagued with symptoms such as a sore lower back, passing a copious amount of urine, cold limbs and poor appetite. In TCM, it is believed that the health of the eyes is linked to that of the liver, so nourishing the liver with the Chinese raspberry also helps promote good vision.
WHO IT IS FOR: Ms Zhao said it is common for elderly people to have symptoms related to weak kidneys, because yin, yang and the essence of nutrients - which sustains the functions of all organs - in the kidneys deteriorate with age.
It is also not uncommon for elderly men to experience premature ejaculation, making the Chinese raspberry beneficial to them.
The herb is also prescribed to children who still experience bedwetting beyond the age of six.
Ms Zhao said the daily dosage for this herb should not exceed 10g.
WHO SHOULD AVOID IT: People who suffer from kidney yin deficiency and exhibit "heaty" symptoms, such as hot palms and feet, dry mouth and excessive thirst, should refrain from consuming the Chinese raspberry, which will make them only more "heaty", said Ms Zhao.
People diagnosed with urinary tract infection, who need to drink more water to flush out bacteria, should also avoid astringent herbs such as the Chinese raspberry, she said.
Lastly, those with a fever are encouraged to lower their body heat through sweating. They, too, should not use astringent herbs, she added.
WHAT RESEARCH HAS SHOWN:
A 2006 study published in the Biological And Pharmaceutical Bulletin found that a mixture of nine herbs that included the Chinese raspberry, called SA1, improved the sexual activity and erectile function of male rats.
They took a shorter time to mount the female rats and had a higher mount frequency than rats in the control group.
But the authors from South Korea noted that the "precise mechanisms involved in the aphrodisiac and erectile effects of SA1 require further investigation".
Chinese raspberry porridge(Serves one to two)
15g Chinese raspberries600ml water50g riceHoney, to taste
Soak the Chinese raspberries in 600ml of water for 30 minutes. Then bring this to the boil for 15 minutes.
Remove the raspberries, then add rice into the pot to cook till it turns into porridge. Add honey to taste before serving warm.
Source: Ms Zhao Xu Hong, a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner at Raffles Chinese Medicine at Raffles Hospital
This story was first published in The Straits Times on Oct 17, 2013
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