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Health, Beauty & Fashion

Tangerine to clear phlegm

Dried tangerine peel can also improve digestion and qi flow in the body
The Straits Times - April 5, 2012
By: Joan Chew
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Tangerine to clear phlegm -- PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

When eating tangerines, most people would peel and toss the skin aside with nary a thought.

But traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioners use the dried skin of the ripe fruit to improve digestion and clear phlegm.

The dried tangerine peel, also known as chenpi or jupi in Mandarin, is usually harvested during the end of autumn or early winter when the orange-coloured citrus fruits have matured, said Mr Chen Ping, the senior TCM consultant at Bao Zhong Tang TCM Centre.

The skin is cleaned and sun- or air-dried under low heat in a low-humidity environment to prevent mould from growing on it, he added.

This is why store-bought dried tangerine peel should always be stored in an airtight container too, especially in this climate.

In its raw form, it is relatively pungent and bitter. Some people make tea out of dried unsweetened tangerine peel by soaking it in hot water and adding honey.

Often, the peel is preserved and sweetened as a tidbit or eaten to reduce morning sickness and nausea.

It can be obtained at $1.20 for a tael (37.5g) in some medical halls here.

Tangerine peel is thought to move through the lung, spleen and stomach meridians in the body - channels through which qi (vital energy) travels.

Thus, it is used in TCM to regulate the flow of qi, which can be disrupted by external and internal factors. In TCM, good circulation of qi is required for good health.

When a person enters an air-conditioned place after being in the hot sun, or eats cold food such as ice cream or watermelon, the body experiences coldness which could lead to a feeling of oppression in the chest and poor qi circulation, said Mr Chen.

The elderly and those who lead sedentary lives are thought to have poor qi flow, he added.

Qi is related to body movements, so exercise helps to promote qi flow.

In other instances, indigestion leads to a bloated stomach, which hinders the normal movement or flow of qi in the body.

Dried tangerine peel is used in that case to strengthen the spleen and stomach, which are responsible for the digestion and absorption of food.

If the spleen and stomach are weak, fluids cannot be absorbed nor used by the body for daily functions.

Water is retained and begins to congeal, becoming thick and viscous and carried to every part of the body in the form of phlegm, which accumulates easily in the lungs and is expelled in coughs, said Mr Chen.

It is believed in TCM that such 'dampness' in the body is also the cause of many ailments such as high cholesterol, he added.

In TCM, phlegm tends to hinder the flow of qi, so dried tangerine peel is used to eliminate phlegm from the body and promote qi flow.

While the dried tangerine peel is a common food item, its 'warming' properties make it unsuitable for 'heaty' people who tend to have mouth ulcers, dry skin and mouth and a red tongue, Mr Chen advised.

It is also unsuitable for those nursing dry coughs due to qi or yin deficiency, he added. Yin is the aspect of the body linked to moisture and coldness.

In Western medicine, however, the production of phlegm in the airways and lungs is a symptom of problems such as vocal-cord irritation from smoking, a nose allergy, asthma or bronchitis, said Dr Tan Tze Lee, a general practitioner with a clinic in Choa Chu Kang.

Asthma is a chronic condition in which oversensitive airways react to triggers such as dust, by swelling and producing extra mucus. Bronchitis is inflammation of the main air passages to the lungs, usually brought on by an infection.

Doctors focus on treating the underlying problem, which would then make the phlegm go away, Dr Tan added.

But patients may sometimes be prescribed a cough mixture to soothe the irritated throat.

Cough expectorants, in particular, make mucus more fluid so a patient can cough it up easily, he added.

But it is not known if food such as dried tangerine peel has the same function, he added.


Bread with dried tangerine peel

(Serves two to four)


40g dried longan

30g dried tangerine peel, cut into strips

1 tsp instant yeast

280g flour

15g sugar

1 tsp salt

1 egg

105ml water

10g butter


Soak the longan and tangerine peel until they become soft. Squeeze them dry and leave aside.

Add warm water to the yeast and let it stand until the yeast dissolves.

Mix the yeast mixture, flour, sugar and salt using an electric mixer. Add the egg, water and butter and start kneading the dough for 15 to 20 minutes until it becomes smooth and elastic. Alternatively, knead the dough by hand for 30minutes.

Add the longan and tangerine peel to the dough. Cover the dough and let it rise until it is double its original size. This takes about 45 minutes.

Divide the dough in half and smooth each half with a rolling pin. Roll each half into a loaf and place each loaf in a lightly greased 20cm long, 10cm wide loaf pan.

Cover the pans and allow about 30minutes for the dough to rise until it doubles its size in each pan.

Bake the loaves in a pre-heated oven at 160deg C for about 20 minutes or until their tops are golden brown and their bottoms sound hollow when tapped. Cool them on wire racks before serving.

Source: Mr Chen Ping, senior traditional Chinese medicine consultant at Bao Zhong Tang TCM Centre


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