Brown sugar is especially recommended for women with menstrual problems, those who have just given birth and those who are weak and elderly.
Many Chinese people don't like the look of brown sugar - they think refined white granulated sugar, or at least rock sugar, is preferable.
But brown sugar has more nutrients than refined sugar and it's especially good for women, according to traditional Chinese medicine. Many people also think it tastes better.
Dark brown sugar, light brown sugar, white sugar and rock sugar are all made from sugar cane, refined and processed to different degrees. Sugars also come from sugar beets and fruits, but here we're talking about cane sugar.
White sugar is the most processed and refined. The more refined it is, the whiter it is, but the sweetness doesn't change.
Brown sugar is made from cane juice with minimal processing, like simple condensation. It retains vitamins, amino acids, carbohydrates and micro-elements like iron, zinc, manganese, and chromium.
Given the small amounts consumed, the mineral content is insignificant, except in TCM, which holds that brown sugar is a "warm" (yang energy) food that helps reinforce energy by "warming" the body. It reinforces energy and blood, benefits the spleen, warms the stomach, dispels pathogenic wind and cold (too much yin/cold energy), activates blood circulation and combats blood stagnation.
It is especially recommended for women with menstrual problems, those who have just given birth, children with poor appetites, and those who are weak and elderly.
All kinds of sugars are made from sugar cane, refined and processed to different degrees.
Warm brown sugar soup (just sugar and water) is more easily absorbed than raw sugar.
Because it reinforces and activates blood, it is recommended for women during their periods and during yue zi, the postpartum period.
It smooths the flow of menstrual blood and relieves cramps. After a period, drinking a cup of thin brown sugar soup before lunch daily can help make up for blood loss and relieve associated fatigue.
A cup of dark sugar soup before dinner can relieve serious discomfort.
After giving birth, drinking thick brown sugar soup for seven to 10 days can help make up for lost energy and blood and aid in recovery.
TCM says new mothers often suffer from stagnation of blood and energy, causing belly pain. Brown sugar soup with herbs can help. It also helps the uterus contract and promotes milk production.
Cooked with other foods, brown sugar has different benefits.
Combined with white fungus, wolfberry (gouqi) or jujube, it reinforces yin energy and acts as a diuretic. Adding longan and ginger can strengthen its energy and blood-reinforcing function.
Ready-mixed herbal dark sugars are available on the market, such as ginger brown sugar, motherwort dark sugar, e'jiao (donkey hide gelatin) dark sugar and rose dark sugar.
This saves time for complicated cooking.
Brown sugar can be used externally to dispel toxins and nourish the skin. In the old days Chinese used to apply highly concentrated brown sugar liquid to relieve inflammation and pain caused by bee stings.
Putting brown sugar liquid on the skin in cold weather can relieve dry, itchy skin.
Some modern research shows brown sugar can reduce the appearance of aging and improve the complexion by helping the body resist oxidation, accelerating metabolism and reducing melanin pigment.
Diabetics, of course, should avoid it. Those with problems of pathogenic heat, such as ulcers and constipation, should avoid brown sugar and use rock sugar instead.
Ready-mixed brown sugar is available in hypermarkets.
Ginger and brown sugar juice
Ingredient: Ginger powder, ginger juice, brown sugar
Function: Helps relieve stomach ache and dispel pathogenic cold.
Suitable for everyone except diabetics.
Motherwort brown sugar
Ingredient: Jujubes, pepper, brown sugar, motherwort
Function: Helps relieve belly ache; reinforces blood and energy.
Suitable for adult women, including menstruating girls.
Afterbirth brown sugar
Ingredient: E'jiao (donkey's skin), pepper, brown sugar
Function: Helps relieve belly pain after childbirth and promote discharge.
Suitable for women after childbirth.
E'jiao brown sugar
Ingredient: E'jiao, brown sugar
Function: Reinforces blood; nourishes yin energy; dispels pathogenic wind; nourishes organs.
Suitable for everyone except children and diabetics.
Rose brown sugar
Ingredient: Rose, brown sugar
Function: Reinforces blood; regulates energy; helps improve mood.
Suitable for women.
Nourishing facial mask
Ingredient: Black tea (2 teaspoons), brown sugar (2 teaspoons), flour
Preparation: Cook soup, filter, add flour, mix.
Apply, leave on for 15 minutes, wash off with water.
Apply twice a month.
Function: Helps nourish and protect skin.
Whitening facial mask
Ingredient: Brown sugar (300g), fresh milk or milk powder
Preparation: Combine brown sugar, hot water and milk or milk powder.
Apply to face, wash off with water after 30 minutes.
Use daily for three months.
Function: Helps decrease melanin pigment and whiten complexion.