There are endless strategies for losing weight, but the key to healthy, long-term weight loss is finding natural ways that work specifically for you. A healthy diet and physical activity are often the cornerstones of weight loss, but if you’re looking to drop pounds safely and naturally, supplementing with Chinese herbs can be beneficial, too. For thousands of years, practitioners of Chinese herbal medicine have used an array of Chinese herbs to help people leave health issues behind and thrive at a healthy weight.
The Best Chinese Herbs for Weight Loss
These well-researched Chinese herbs are thought to help in the treatment of obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and more. Start with these Chinese herbs for weight loss as a complement to your diet and exercise routines, and for best results, be sure to incorporate other traditional Chinese techniques like acupuncture, cupping, and ear seeding.
Many Chinese weight loss herbs are available as supplements in capsule form, so they’re easy to take daily with a morning glass of water. Make it a habit, like brushing your teeth, and you’ll see the most consistent effects. Some of these herbs can be sipped as a tea or nibbled as a dry root, and a few can be snacked on as sweet, fruity treats. However you get your dose, know that these herbs come with a multitude of benefits, trusted by experts for thousands of years.
1. Ginseng Root (Xi Yang Shen)
This Chinese herb was discovered more than 5,000 years ago and has long been used in Asia for centuries as a remedy for all kinds of ailments. (Its full name comes from a Greek word for “cure-all.”) Ginseng root has been shown to help prevent weight gain, perhaps in part from working to control patients' appetite and reduce excess food intake.
Ginseng root may also support weight loss by changing the composition of our gut microbiome, the complex assortment of “good bacteria'' dwelling within our digestive system. Supplementing with this safe, natural herb can potentially work to balance gut microbiota and help the body shed weight while staying energized and vibrant. You can consume ginseng in tea, or as a supplement in capsule or tablet form. Ginseng is one of the potent ingredients in WTHN's detox supplement, Oops I Did It Again.
2. Adenophora Root (Nan Sha Shen)
This traditional Chinese herb comes from a flowering plant that grows across Asia. (The flower itself is known as a "ladybell," with large blue or purple petals.) Its medicinal properties include use for dry coughs, due to its nourishing properties, and for symptoms of what practitioners call a stomach yin deficiency, like thirst and constipation.
Adenophora also has a demonstrated anti-obesity effect, possibly thanks to antioxidant and anti-inflammatory mechanisms, according to research. This herb is usually taken as a capsule or tablet. You can find it as part of WTHN's blend called Forever Young, which works to counter the signs of aging.
3. Green Tea (Lu Cha)
The history of green tea in China reaches back thousands of years to the Han Dynasty, when it was used medicinally for longevity and overall well-being. (Legend has it that green tea was discovered when an emperor accidentally drank from a cup of water that had a leaf in it.) Today, studies show its power as an obesity-fighting herb. Though scientists continue to research exactly how it works, green tea is understood to help lower the amount of food consumed, perhaps due to appetite suppression, while also burning body fat.
Green tea comes with a long list of potential health benefits in addition to weight loss, such as mental alertness, digestive relief, and headache relief. Some research also suggests that consuming green tea may help with blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It makes a delicious and soothing drink, hot or iced, but can also be taken in a capsule.
4. Codonopsis Root (Dang Shen)
This mild yet powerful herb is among the most commonly used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It’s one of a group of herbs called adaptogens, which are thought to help the body’s systems deal better with environmental stress and its ripple effects like anxiety and fatigue.
While it's also known for its immune-boosting effects, when it comes to weight loss, several studies show a link between codonopsis root and decreased body weight, particularly in the context of a high-fat diet. Extracts, dried slices, capsules, and powders are all available. Codonopsis root is part of WTHN's Gut Check blend.
5. Poria Cocos (Fu Ling)
Actually a type of mushroom, this herb plays a unique role in the weight loss arsenal: It works as a gentle diuretic to help shed excess water weight so you can feel lighter almost instantly. Water retention can happen for a number of reasons, such as eating too much salt or having your period, but natural diuretics can help flush excess body fluids that seem to be weighing you down.
Interestingly, poria cocos mushrooms have also shown promise against the effects of Alzheimer’s disease, as it helps clear certain plaques from the brain. Poria cocos can be taken as an easy-to-use supplement and is found in WTHN's digestive support supplement called Gut Check. It's also an ingredient in a popular Chinese digestive remedy called Si Jun Zi.
5. Black Atractylodes Root (Cang Zhu)
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, this native plant is often used to treat issues originating with the spleen and stomach (particularly a diagnosis known as "spleen qi deficiency,") which manifest as gastrointestinal symptoms like bloating or nausea.
It also has a demonstrated anti-obesity effect which may make black atractylodes root an appealing addition to your weight loss toolbox. This herb is sold as dried root, extract, and supplement pill, and can also be found on the ingredients list of WTHN's popular Oops I Did It Again detox blend.
6. Chinese Red Date (Jujube)
Not to be confused with the multicolored candy, the jujube fruit, also known as Chinese red date, is a small, round stone fruit related to peaches and cherries.
One of this plant’s greatest superpowers in terms of medicinal purposes may be its potential obesity-fighting properties. The Chinese red date is an excellent source of fiber, which can help you feel fuller, longer, and in turn help to prevent excess food intake.
7. Mulberry Fruit (Sang Shen Zi)
The mulberry tree has been cultivated in China for over 2,000 years, with juicy red-to-black berries and lush green leaves. In ancient China, its branches were often used to craft things like bowls and furniture.
This plant works for weight loss in a fascinating way: its extract inhibits the breakdown of certain carbohydrates, in effect lowering the glycemic index of those carbs. That means the food is less likely to raise blood sugar, part of a cascade of events closely tied to weight loss. You can enjoy this whole fruit as a delicious snack, and is especially convenient to keep handy in the car or during travel.
8. Eucommia Bark (Du Zhong)
Native to China, and widely grown and used there for medicinal purposes, the eucommia tree (a type of rubber tree) and in particular its bark help support the kidneys and heart while promoting weight loss.
By stimulating the body’s metabolic system, this herb, which is often consumed in China as tea after being ground into flakes or a powder, helps ward off metabolic syndrome, a group of health conditions based on waist circumference, blood sugar, blood pressure, and others that, together, can lead to diabetes and heart conditions.
9. Fennel Seed (Xiao Hui Xiang)
Fennel is known in holistic medicine as a remedy for certain abdominal issues, in addition to other uses in digestion, breathing, and immunity. This Chinese herb may work for weight loss by preventing the body’s accumulation of excess fat. In one study, drinking fennel tea also helped reduce appetite: Women who drank the fennel tea, compared to a control group, reported less hunger, felt fuller, and ate less afterward.
Its seeds are also sold on their own, or ground into powders and capsules. It's found in WTHN's Gut Check, a digestive tonic based on an ancient Chinese remedy called Six Gentlemen.
10. Ginger Root (Sheng Jiang)
With medicinal origins in ancient China and India, ginger has been used for millennia as an herbal tonic (and flavorful culinary ingredient). Research confirms that ginger can help reduce body weight, and in one study, was also shown to increase the number of muscle fibers and improve endurance during exercise.
Ginger can be brewed in teas, incorporated in cooking and baking, taken as a supplement, or all the above. Find it as part of WTHN's Fully Charged, which supports energy levels without the crash commonly associated with caffeine.
Frequently Asked Questions About Chinese Weight Loss Herbs
How Do Chinese Herbs Support Weight Loss?
Chinese herbs can help with weight loss in more than one way. Some are thought to curb appetite and limit the amount of food consumed, while others prompt the body to burn fat, and still others act by decreasing systemic inflammation, which is interwoven with metabolism. At least one of the Chinese herbs on this list works by helping you build muscle and exercise for longer before reaching fatigue, and another lowers carbohydrates' glycemic index to keep your blood sugar from spiking.
Each herb has unique properties that determine exactly how it works, and all of them can be natural, effective additions to your routine, as culinary ingredients to eat, teas to drink, or supplement capsules to take with water. Before you combine them or begin a new regimen, it's highly recommended that you talk to your doctor or TCM practitioner, who can put together the best weight loss and holistic health plan for you.
Is There a Chinese Herbal Tea for Weight Loss?
Many Chinese herbal teas support weight loss. Ginger, fennel, and more are often consumed as teas, along with the classic green tea. There is not just one Chinese herbal tea for weight loss, but any herb with weight loss properties, when consumed as a tea, can potentially help you lose weight.
Do Chinese Herbal Slimming Patches Work?
The most credible research on Chinese herbs and weight loss has studied the effects when herbs are ingested, rather than placed on the skin. Eating, drinking, or taking these herbs as a supplement are all a better bet, along with TCM methods like acupuncture and ear seeding.
What is the TCM Approach to Healthy Weight Loss?
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, practitioners look for the root of the issue, often originating with an imbalance in the flow of Qi, or vital energy. For weight loss, the approach is the same: An acupuncturist or herbalist can help pinpoint the source of any essential imbalances, then put thoughtfully and holistically together a treatment plan to help your body reach a healthy, sustainable weight. Along with acupuncture treatment and herbs, TCM practitioners also may suggest acupressure, ear seeds, or auricular acupuncture to enhance your healing with similar principles.
From a traditional Chinese perspective, physical movement could include martial arts or tai chi. And the TCM perspective on nutrition and weight loss draws on the seasons of nature, with five distinct seasons determining what your body needs: Summer, Late Summer, Autumn, Winter, and Spring. Eating a TCM diet of in-season fruits, vegetables, and spices makes a great starting point for balancing your metabolism, moving away from a poor diet, recovering from health problems, and ultimately reaching your weight loss goals.