From TCM herbal soups to acupressure massage, certified TCM herbalists and physician Yu Jiexin share how you can best support your young scholars during their exam prep.
Whenever the exam period rolls around, we worry if our children are getting enough nutrition to support their studies. When they stay up late burning the midnight oil, we worry that their health will be compromised too. Throughout history, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has helped centuries of scholars do well in the imperial exams. Physician Yu Jiexin of Eu Yan Sang TCM Clinic shares some helpful tips to help parents support their children during today’s tough times. Eu Yan Sang certified TCM herbalists also provide three herbal soup recipes for an extra boost.
Manage Stress Levels by Managing Time
Many students feel anxious and overwhelmed by the need to do well. They spend long hours revising, often sacrificing their sleep and taking irregular meals. This unhealthy lifestyle, coupled with mental stress, affects both emotional well-being and physical health. Helping your children with their daily habits can help them manage their exam prep in a relaxed manner, often increasing productivity and chances of success.
Having an adequate amount of sleep is important, and so is sleeping at the right time. Sleeping during the period of 11pm to 3am is vital for the smooth flow of Qi in the liver, which works to regulate emotions. Hence, TCM theories propose sleeping before 11pm as one of the ways to reduce the symptoms stress brings about. By starting the day earlier rather than staying up late, students can concentrate better and stay refreshed through the day.
In the lead-up to the exams, help your child come up with a practical revision timetable and stick to it. Remember to schedule a reasonable amount of rest time between study sessions. Although it seems counterintuitive, having intermittent breaks can help them retain focus, increase productivity and prevent burnout.
It is also beneficial to incorporate an exercise routine into the schedule. Physical activity stimulates the production of endorphins, the brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, reducing stress levels. Regular exercise can also help to relax the mind and improve sleep.
Acupressure Massage for Mental Alertness
If your child develops headaches, insomnia or stomach disorders due to exam stress, consider consulting a certified TCM physician, who will be able to tailor a suitable treatment. For adults, herbal medicine or acupuncture may be used to correct imbalances and resolve symptoms. As children may have an instinctive fear of needles, paediatric massage can be an alternative treatment.
Stimulating certain acupressure points can help maintain concentration and even be useful for certain stress-related symptoms. At home, try using your fingers to apply firm pressure or a kneading action on the acupoints shown above for 3-5 minutes at a time.
Maintain a Balanced Diet to Combat Stress
Ensure they eat nutritionally balanced meals that include some form of protein with each meal. These include poultry, eggs, low-fat dairy, lean meats, fish or soy products. Proteins satisfy hunger and helps keep you mentally alert. Complete the meal with fresh vegetables, fruits and whole grains.
Remind them to eat regularly and not skip meals. It’s easy to forget to eat when you’re stressed out, but energy levels suffer as a result. And they might end up bingeing unhealthily when they do finally eat. If stress is an appetite-killer, try eating smaller amounts more often throughout the day.
On the flip side, avoid using ‘comfort’ foods such as chocolate and potato chips as a stress-reliever. If they feel the need to snack while studying, hard, crunchy foods help relieve stress by putting tight jaw muscles to work. Try a handful of almonds, soy nuts or carrot sticks.
Also stay away from caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea and sodas. The caffeine may provide a quick pick-me-up, but it can disrupt sleep patterns and add to anxiety.
Herbal Soups for the Body, Heart and Soul
We also asked the certified TCM herbalists at Eu Yan Sang for herbal soup recipes we can easily prepare at home. They suggest these three to boost mental clarity, energy levels and digestive function to sustain them through this stressful period. The best part about these recipes is that everyone in the family stands to benefit, not just children facing exams. In fact, each of the following recipes is enough for about 10 servings. Enjoy!
For Mental Clarity: Duck Infused with American Ginseng
The key ingredient in this recipe is American Ginseng, which is known to improve mental performance and cognitive (memory) function. During tough times, it helps to relieve stress and fatigue. It’s also used for general health, strengthening the body and immune system while increasing energy levels.
- 3-4 pieces Duck drumstick (whole or deboned, according to preference)
- 150g American ginseng (mashed)
- 150g Concentrated vegetable stock
- 500g Water
- A pinch of salt
- Wash the duck. Marinate with a mixture of mashed American ginseng, concentrated vegetable stock, water and salt for 2-3 hours.
- Drain off the water, wrap the duck in cling film and steam for 1.5 hours.
- Remove and set aside to cool before slicing if preferred.
- 100g American ginseng (slices)
- 500g Water
- ½ tsp Chicken powder
- 2 tbsp Concentrated vegetable stock
- Steam American ginseng slices in water for two hours.
- Add chicken powder and concentrated vegetable stock.
- Thicken with wheat starch (optional) and pour over the prepared duck.
For Energy & Vitality: Black-boned Chicken Soup with Lotus and Ginseng
Besides nourishing the spleen, kidney and heart, lotus seeds possess calming properties that help alleviate restlessness, heart palpitations and insomnia. Black chicken contains twice the amount of carnosine as compared to ‘regular’ chicken. Carnosine is made up of amino acids concentrated in muscle and brain tissues; it improves memory and helps regulate the immune system.
- 1 Black-boned chicken (skinned)
- 20g Lotus seeds
- 10g American ginseng
- 15g Cistanche root (肉苁蓉)
- 20g Chinese yam (淮山)
- 15g Chinese wolfberry (枸杞)
- 25g Dried scallop
- 2 slices Fresh ginger
- 2 strips Spring onions (sliced thinly)
- 1 tbsp Ginger liqueur
- A pinch of white pepper
- Wash and cut the chicken into bite-size pieces and scald in hot water.
- Pre-boil the lotus seeds for 15 minutes.
- Place all the ingredients into a double-boiler and add enough water to cover all the ingredients.
- Double-boil for 1.5 hours.
- Add salt to taste.
Bonus for the grown-ups: This recipe looks black when it’s ready – such ‘black’ recipes are not only used to encourage growth in children, but also boost sexual drive and improve fertility. The carnosine in black chicken boasts anti-ageing properties and helps prevent joint inflammation too!
For Good Digestion: Fish Maw with Lotus Root Soup
Many children suffer from constipation, especially when they’re stressed out. Lotus root is packed with dietary fibre. It reduces symptoms of constipation while optimising nutrient absorption through the secretion of digestive and gastric juices.
- 20g Fish maw (fried)
- 150g Lean pork
- 1,200ml Water
- 300g Fresh lotus root (sliced)
- 10g Shouwu (首乌)
- 10g Dittany bark (白蘚皮)
- 5 Red dates (unpitted)
- 10g Dried longan
- 2 slices Fresh ginger
- Soak the fried fish maw until softened.
- Wash and cut the lean pork into bite-size pieces and scald in hot water.
- Bring the water to a boil, add all the ingredients and simmer for 1 hour.
- Add salt to taste.
Bonus for the grown-ups: The longer lotus root is cooked, the darker (redder) the soup becomes. This increases the soup’s blood-nourishing property. This is especially good for mothers in confinement, who experience dryness or bloody discharge.
:: GIVEAWAY! ::
We have 5 sets of Eu Yan Sang Power Up! Essence of Chicken to give away! Each set is worth worth $52.40 each, and consists of Power Up! Concentration, Power Up! Vision and Power Up! Appetite. Here’s how to win a set for your child:
1. Like Eu Yan Sang Singapore’s Facebook page.
2. Like and share this article on Facebook. Keep your share public so we can see it!
3. In your shared post, tell us why you would like to win this giveaway.
4. Now just sit back and relax.
All the best!
Closing date: 12 noon, Tuesday, 8 May 2018
The above tips are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Do consult your doctor, be it TCM physician, GP or paediatrician, where necessary.