A TCM Beauty perspective of Bird’s Nest
Have you wondered why people would pay so much to eat a bird’s saliva? If you think it’s just a hyped up dessert, read on…
Bird’s Nest has been used for centuries in ancient China since the Tang and Song Dynasties. It was traditionally used for boosting energy, longevity, skin and respiratory health. Majority of the bird nest is from 2 species of swiftlets- the white-nest swiftlet and the black-nest swiftlet. In recent scientific studies, it was found that bird’s nest actually contains Mitogenic Stimulation Factor and Epidermic Growth Factors (EGF) which can:
1) Enhance the rebirth of cells
2) Reinforce the immune system
3) Restore energy and stamina
4) Boost heart functions
5) Supply, distribute heat energy throughout body
6) Inhibit infection by influenza viruses
7) Reduce side effects of chemotherapy
Bird’s nest is mainly made up of 50% protein and about 30% of carbohydrates. The balance is a source of fibre, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. Bird's nest contains 18 out of the 20 types of amino acids (excluding Asparagine and Glutamine), including all 9 types of essential amino acids. These amino acids are vital for tissue regeneration, cell growth, collagen regeneration, maintenance and repair, muscle contraction and oxidation functions. Hence Bird’s nest is a good nutritional food for skin and tissue repair due to presence of these EGF and collagen building proteins.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Bird’s nest is considered a neutral food, neither heaty nor cooling. It is sweet in flavour hence it is nourishing in nature. It moves through the lungs, stomach and kidney meridians through which Qi or energy flows. Therefore, bird’s nest is used to nourish and moisten the lungs and stomach when they lack yin energy. A person whose lungs lack yin may have symptoms such as thirst, dry and sore throat, dry cough, dry skin. Those lacking in stomach yin may suffer from a loss of appetite, dry mouth or experience constipation. Bird’s nest can also boost the Qi in body although its effect is not as strong as ginseng.
TCM also believes that the health of the lungs directly affects that of the skin, hence nourishing the lungs with bird's nest can improve one's complexion and address dry skin conditions too.
Who should eat Bird’s Nest:
All who wants to maintain youthful complexion and beautiful skin particularly peri & post-menopausal women
Those who have just recovered from illnesses and are weak in yin and qi energy to speed up recovery
Those who wants to boost their immune system, stamina or energy levels
People with weak lung health - always suffering from chronic cough or asthma conditions, not for acute cough conditions
Cancer patients or those undergoing radiation
Those who needs to stimulate appetite and improve digestion
Who should avoid Bird’s Nest:
Those who are allergic to bird’s nest (similar to egg allergy)
Those who have a lot of phlegm in their throats
Young children should consume less portion accordingly, eg. a 12-year-old should consume half of an adult portion.
When should we eat Bird’s Nest?
Best time to eat Bird’s Nest is on an empty stomach in the morning when our digestive system is active and ready to digest and absorb the nutrients
How to cook Bird’s Nest?
The bird’s nest should be soaked overnight till its soft and cleaned of any feathers or dirt and impurities
Bird’s nest should be steamed or stewed indirectly (using the double boil method) using low fire
It should not be subject to direct heat as the active substances such as the mitogenic stimulation factor is destroyed when the temperature rises above 80°C.
Where to buy Bird's Nest?
White bird’s nest is usually better than the red bird’s nest which is mainly due to oxidation of the minerals absorbed by the nest from its surroundings and not due to the nest itself
Reputable Chinese Medical Halls and Retail shops in Singapore sell good quality ones, they would be able to recommend which types are good.