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The Wild Kingdom of a Chinese Apothecary


In Traditional Chinese Medicine, many different herbs are used to heal the sick and to help those who are in pain. Most herbs are derived from plants, however, in Asia, some sources are more unusual and even controversial. Although they are not as commonly used as plant-based herbs, some practitioners still believe in the effectiveness of these rather bizarre ingredients.

Deer Antlers

Along with ginseng, and reishi mushrooms, deer antlers are considered to be one of the three most popular herbal ingredients in China and are used to increase energy and promote overall wellbeing. Some also believe that the deer antler tips are effective for boosting the immune system as they help to stimulate the production of white blood cells. Deer antlers are not used to treat any specific disorders or illnesses, but instead they are used to maintain a healthy life and improve longevity.

Squirrel Feces

To many people, the most astonishingly outlandish ingredient used in TCM would have to be feces of the flying squirrel. This ingredient is used to invigorate the blood and relieve pain while eliminating toxins in the body. While not very popular, it is regarded as an effective treatment for disorders affecting the female reproductive system.


Snake blood is very popular in various parts of Asia. The flexibility of the snake indicated to ancient Chinese practitioners that it would be helpful to treat muscle stiffness, and the quick regeneration of snakeskin suggested to them that using snake as an herbal remedy would have powerful effects on the skin.

Today, snake bile and snake blood are mixed with rice wine and can be found served in some restaurants in China, Taiwan, and Vietnam.


Soft-shelled turtles are widely sought-after, as it is believed that turtle meat promotes longevity and good health. It is easy to see where this conclusion comes from as turtles can live upwards of 80 years.

Oyster Shells

Nutrient-rich oysters are beloved by people all over the world as a treasure to eat from the oceans. But oyster shells also possess stunning health benefits as a treatment method against anxiety, insomnia, epilepsy, and migraines. Some use oyster shells medicinally to help with falling asleep, similar to western sleeping pills. However, unlike sleeping pills, the oyster shells work more gradually, and the results are longer lasting.


Edible bird’s nest is also another one of the peculiar delicacies of Asia. Made from the saliva of the Swiftlet bird, it is the most popular natural tonic available in China. Often prepared as a soup, or sometimes steamed into a jelly, it has a naturally glutinous quality and a delicate flavor. It is consumed before meals to allow the stomach to absorb nutrients more efficiently and some believe it is an ancient beauty secret for radiant skin.

Who knew that a trip to a Chinese apothecary would be such an adventure?!