Chinese red dates for insomnia and blood deficiency

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Food & Diet Therapy, Stress, Sleep & Fatigue 22 September, 2010 14

Chinese red dates are one of the most popular foods used for health. Dried chinese dates are red, soft on the outside with a sweet smell. Inside being soft and moist. Throughout all seasons they are available from a Chinese market or grocer as well as through the world. Chinese people treat dates not only as a food but also as a health tonic and a traditional herb. Many traditional herbal formulas include dates as they are used for balancing the formula, Qi and blood for the body. Likewise they are also used in dishes to balance the food. On special occasions many people buy quality dates and give these as gifts to their friends and relatives.

It is unfortunate that even today they are not very popular in Western food and diet therapy culture. Many people do not know that chinese dates have such beneficial effects for human health. In this article I would like the share the benefits of Chinese red dates.

1. The effects of Chinese red dates.

1) Tonifying Blood

An ancient traditional Chinese books called ‘Ben Jin’ and Chinese herbal text books all mention that Chinese dates can strengthen the spleen and stomach Qi (energy) which helps to digest food, tonify blood and tranquilize the mind. Chinese medicine considers that the formation of blood is through good digestion and absorption of food which is mainly helped by the spleen and stomach. If spleen and stomach Qi are weakened it will affect the blood supply and its function, this may lead to blood deficiency (iron deficiency) and may also have the following symptoms, such as; poor appetite, lack of energy, pallor, lack of muscle on the arm and legs, overweight, diarrhea, sluggish bowl movement or bowl movement straight after eating, bloating after eating, stomach craps or diarrhea from eating cold food, or light and shorter menstruation and insomnia. Some people may also suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, under-reactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), miscarriages or infertility.

A few weeks ago, I helps a lady fall pregnant. This lady suffered from Qi and blood deficiency. She had pallor, lethargy, with light and short periods. I treated her, using acupuncture to balance internal Qi and blood as well as teaching her beef bone soup with red dates to drink. After a couple of months she had increased energy, with a pink health colour in her face with regular periods. She also fell pregnant, I am very happy for her.

Usually when I treat this type of case, I balance the spleen and stomach Qi function to increase the blood. This will help to increase the blood but also cause all symptoms to subside. I suggest that those who are undergoing treatment or want to prevent this problem to eat certain foods such as Chinese Red Dates. (Please check the recipe below)

2) Improving insomnia

Chinese dates are suitable for people who have insomnia from lack of Qi and blood. Chinese medicine considers one of the major causes of insomnia is due to Qi and blood deficiency such as the blood being unable to moisturize the liver and heart causing a ying and yang disorder. This will cause problems with sleeping.  Usually this can cause the following symptoms; light sleep (easy to be woken), lots of vivid dreams, lack of energy from the beginning of the day. These people may also experience dizziness, lower blood pressure, palpitations, pale skin, and shortness of breath especially during activities or tremorring hands when tired. For these people it is suitable to eat Chinese dates whilst undergoing treatment. (Please check recipe below)

3) To help protect the liver, reduce cholesterol and prevent cancer

I will share some information from modern science research which is noted in Traditional Chinese Text Book mentions chinese dates contain high levels of Vitamin C, also having the function of protecting the liver, help reduce cholesterol and increase the bodies immune system and may help reduce the risk of cancer.

2. Recipe

Chinese dates can be eaten many ways, but in general they are very easy to cook. First of all, you can eat fresh dates as they are. Secondly, you are able to cook them with porridge, steamed rice or as a soup. I suggest that adults eat 5 dates at once, three or four times a week for general health care.

1) How to cook chinese red date porridge

One hand full of white rice
5 chinese red dates (remove the seed)
3 cups of water

Bring the rice and whole dates to the boil and simmer until the rice is soft and the liquid is sticky (around 30 minutes). After cooking the porridge smell is very nice with a taste which is mildly sweet. It is best to eat when warm. However during summer you can eat the porridge at room temperature. You can have a small bowl of chinese date porridge for breakfast or for desert.


Strengthens the digestive system and tonifies blood.

2) How to cook chinese dates and lotus seed porridge

This porridge is cooked the same way as chinese date porridge, but instead of using 5 chinese dates you also add 5 lotus seeds.


Tonifying spleen function and increases blood and helps those with sleeping issues.

3) Beef bone soup with red dates

1kg Beef bones with a little meat
8 cups of water
20 Chinese red dates

Cook and boil the beef bone until it is boiled. Then cook slowly for 4 hours. 30 minutes before eating add the chinese red dates and cook. You can add salt and pepper for taste and your favorite vegetables.

Effects:  Increases energy and blood and warms the circulation.

3. Precautions

1) For the following conditions it is best to lessen the amount or avoid eating chinese red dates; constipation, smelly stool, stomach bloating and body heat or fever, red face, bad breathe, cough with yellow phlegm, worms, teeth disease including gum and tooth pain or infection, and mouth ulcers.

2) If you are unsure whether you should eat chinese date please advise your Health practitioner.

I remember 40 years ago when I lived in Beijing Hu Tong (Street). A lot of the houses there had many date trees and in November which is Autumn, it would be the harvest time for the dates. There were many red dates hanging off the trees, just like red lanterns looking so beautiful. The tastes of the dates from different homes had different tastes, some may be crunchy, soft, sour or sweet, so many children exchanged dates with all their friends to try everyones home grown dates. Everyone knew that if they ate too many dates it would cause them to bloat and have diarrhea, so they would only eat 10 dates.

A few years ago the government cleared the street and changed it into a park so there are no longer many red date trees in Hu Tong. But the beautiful image of the date trees are still in my memory.


About Ping Ming Health

Ping Wang is the director and senior practitioner of Ping Ming Health with over 30 years of experience in traditional Chinese medicine teaching and practice. Ping is experienced with all general health issues, women’s health, fertility and pregnancy problems. She especially enjoys sharing her knowledge of Chinese medicine through our popular clinic articles, seminars and clinical training of students and practitioners.





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