benefits and risks of 3 commonly used tcm supplements

By Dr Michelle LIM, Associate Consultant and Associate Professor Tan Thiam Chye, Visiting Consultant, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, KK Women's and Children's Hospital


Some women use Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM, as they believe it might help maintain a healthy reproductive system. In this ancient practice, it's commonly believed that the most important organs that govern the qi (life force) and blood are the liver, spleen and kidneys. The TCM viewpoint is that a liver malfunction might result in menstrual disorders; and an issue with the spleen might cause deficiencies in blood and qi, which might disrupt menstrual cycles. The kidney also plays a big role in excreting biological waste products and water from the body.

It's very important that you consult a licensed TCM physician before starting on any treatment. Here are three commonly used supplements that are prescribed for women's issues and the risks and potential benefits to be aware of:

1. Bird's Nest (Yan Wo)

bird's nest

This supplement might help to stimulate appetite and aid digestion.

What are the risks? In general, no side effects have been documented.

Related: Important Nutrients: What Should You Eat More Of? 

2. Royal Jelly (Feng Huang Jiang)

royal jelly

This supplement is thought to increase endurance and energy levels.

What are the risks? Don't take this if you're allergic to bee pollen, honey, conifer and poplar trees.

Related: Understanding Health Supplements 

3. Chinese Ginseng

chinese ginseng

This supplement is believed to improve blood circulation so it's normally used to restore strength and energy levels after giving birth or in the case of a severe loss of blood. It's thought to promote digestion and improve the appetite of the new mother.

What are the risks? This supplement should not be taken by pregnant women or by new mothers who experience hot flushes or skin rashes after delivery.

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Read these next:

  • Important Nutrients: What Should You Eat More Of?
  • Safe Medication During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
  • Pregnancy Complications
  • Sources:

    The New Art and Science of Pregnancy and Childbirth 2008, World Scientific

    Healthy Start for your Pregnancy 2012, Health Promotion Board Singapore