Herbal scent bags serving medicinal purpose

Herbs and Helpers

EMBROIDERED silk scent bags are everywhere this time of year. They are charming and sweet-smelling, while also serving a medicinal purpose.

According to traditional Chinese medicine, the pouches of herbs help to prevent heat stroke and dispel mosquitoes. They are usually worn on cords around the neck.

Since ancient times, Chinese people have traditionally considered this season to be dangerous or unhealthy, because it is when temperatures and humidity rise and there are more insects, pests and bacteria spreading disease.

Carrying a scent bag around for a few months was a must. Today the bags are said to be not only a health provider, but also tokens of good luck, longevity and romance.

These pouches are popular in southern China where it is especially hot and humid for a long period.

“Different herbs packed inside the bag help in refreshing the mind, improving appetite, soothing nerves, boosting immunity and thus helping prevent colds, flu and other respiratory ailments,” says Gai Yun, a doctor at Shanghai No. 7 People’s Hospital attached to Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine. But Dr Gai says the scent bags alone won’t kill germs or viruses.

Common herbs used in scent bags include mugwort, grassleaf Sweelflag rhizome, clove, mint, lavender, jasmine, yuanzhi (polygala root), cassia twig and Chinese herbaceous peony.

It is advised not to use perfumes while carrying a scent bag, lest the fragrance reduce the efficacy of the herbs. Pregnant women should not wear bags containing herbs such as ageratum for long period of times as they can lead to miscarriages.

Fresh scent bags are effective for two or three months, but dampness can shorten the period. Herbs in DIY bags should be changed every 10 days to ensure their effectiveness.

Recipes for DIY scent bags

Preparations: Grind the ingredients into powder and put 5g of the mixture in a scent bag.

Mosquito-repelling bag

Ingredients: Clove (5g), mugwort (5g), mint (5g), lavender (5g) and grassleaf Sweelflag rhizome (5g)

Flu-prevention bag

Ingredients: Cangshu (rhizome atractylodis, 10g), gansong (nard, 10g), changpu (calamus, 10g), cinnamon (5g), ginger (15g), realgar (5g) and borneol (1g)

Nerve-soothing bag

Ingredients: Lavender (12g), jasmine (10g), cedar seeds (10g), polygala root (10g), cinnamon (8g) and baishao (white peony root, 8g)

Source: Shanghai Daily

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