Liáng chá [涼茶] – Cooling Herbal Drinks of Southern China

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Ethnobotanical survey of cooling herbal drinks from southern China

Liu Y, Ahmed S, Long C
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2013 Dec 19;9:82
PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3926322

Southern China
Lingnan (dark red) covers all or part of Guangdong, Guangxi, Hainan, Hong Kong, Macau, Hunan and Jiangxi provinces [Map source: Koryakov Yuri, Wikimedia Commons]
Yujing Liu, Selena Ahmed and Chunlin Long of Minzu University of China conducted an ethnobotanical survey of plant species used and commercialized as cooling herbal drinks in southern China’s Lingnan region.

From the abstract:

Liáng chá [涼茶] (“cooling tea”, “herbal tea” or “cool tisane” in Chinese) are herbal drinks widely produced in southern China and consumed by billions of people worldwide to prevent and treat internal heat as well as a range of associated health conditions. Globalization and renewed interest in botanical remedies has attracted growing attention in cooling herbal drinks by industry, scientists and consumers. However, there is a knowledge gap on the plant species used and commercialized for cooling herbal drinks in southern China and their associated ethnobotanical use, habitat and conservation status. This is the first study to document plant species used and commercialized as liáng chá in southern China’s Lingnan region and associated ethnomedical function, preparation methods, habitat and conservation status.”

The authors note that Lingnan, a tropical and subtropical region south of China’s Nanling Mountains, is a richly biodiverse and culturally diverse area, where the practice of liáng chá is regarded to have originated more than 2,000 years ago.

Glycyrrhiza uralensis
Glycyrrhiza uralensis is on China’s Regional Red List of threatened species [Source: Stickpen, Wikimedia Commons]
Working with 300 native-born residents from 12 socio-linguistic groups, the team documented a total of 238 species used for liáng chá, including 112 wild harvested species, 51 species that are either wild harvested or cultivated, 57 cultivated species and two naturalized species. One of the species is endangered (Paris polyphylla var. yunnanensis), one is critically endangered (Dendrobium officinale), eight are vulnerable (Notopterygium incisum, Atractylodes macrocephala, Magnolia liliiflora, Dendrobium chrysanthum, Dendrobium fimbriatum, Dendrobium loddigesii, Dendrobium nobile, Coptis chinensis), and three are listed in China’s Regional Red List of threatened species (Glycyrrhiza uralensis, Paeonia lactiflora, Paeonia veitchi).

The authors recommend conservation efforts and further research on the safety and efficacy of herbal drinks:

“The liáng chá industry of southern China reflects the rich plant species richness as well as cultural diversity and exchange of the region. As China’s herbal drink industry exceeds the market share of Coca-cola, future research is needed to understand the safety and efficacy of recorded herbal tisanes. The market-orientated production of herbal drinks should be monitored for ecological viability and product safety towards sustainability.”

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

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