The Healing Powers of Korean Food Remedies

Foods That Heal

Mothers around the world love cooking soothing foods for their sick children. It’s just how mothers are. In Korea, however, there are foods widely believed to not just be soothing for the sick, but can treat and prevent diseases, lead to recovery and boost health.

Koreans have been using foods as remedies since the monarchy days of Korea. There’s a widely known written document of these culinary remedies, found in Donguibogam, edited by a royal physician during the Joseon dynasty in the 17th century. It consist of 25 volumes of how ailments affect organs and what can be done to treat and prevent diseases. It is still highly regarded and widely used by Eastern Medicine doctors. There may be little to no scientific data on the powers of these foods but they are nonetheless widely believed to be curative. Here are some of these Korean healing dishes.

Samgyetang is chicken with ginseng soup. It’s made with a whole small chicken stuffed with glutinous rice, garlic, red dates, peeled chestnuts, and ginseng. It is believed to help regulate body temperatures as ginseng warms up the body, especially the stomach. Another warm soup is Kongnamul-guk, soybean sprout soup, served with Korean chili flakes or without. Commonly believed to help cure adult hangovers, they say the saltiness and the natural vitamins found in soybean sprouts, helped “clean” the liver and stomach. Another is Miyeok-guk or seaweed soup. It’s made with a protein broth, usually beef broth and seaweed. In Korea, new moms are given this as part of their recovery diet in the hospital. Seaweeds are rich in minerals – calcium, phosphorus, iron and iodine – considered important during pregnancy and lactation.

Jook or rice porridge is a Korean staple for the sick, especially those with stomach aches. It’s made by slow-boiling rice that’s been left out to soak in water for many hours. The soft, moist texture of the porridge is easily swallowed and digested to calm the stomach. Kimchi. Two types commonly consumed for health benefits are ggakdugi, or spicy radish kimchi for hangover, and mul-kimchi, or water kimchi, said to hydrate and replenish the body with salts that sweat out.

Baesuk or Korean pear punch/tea is a traditional Korean punch/tea made by poaching or steaming Korean pear with black peppercorns, honey, and ginger. If served hot, commonly used as a remedy for the common cold, sore throat, or cough. Ginger to keep the body warm, the honey to soothe the throat, and the Korean pear to help with digestion. Yuja-cha or yuja tea, made with yuja marmalade in hot water. The tea is often enjoyed in the winter, to warm up, or to treat cold, because it is especially high in vitamin C. Yuja has 2.3 times as much vitamin C as the equivalent amount of raw lemon juice.

Trying Korean Healing and Soothing Foods

Want to know more about Korea’s healing foods? Find out more when you dine at UW Seattle Korean Tofu House.