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Gelatin (e jiao)

What is gelatin? What is it used for?

Gelatin is a protein substance derived from collagen and found in the skin and bones of animals. Traditionally, gelatin was obtained from the hide of a donkey; today, it is extracted by boiling the hides, skins, bones and tissues of various animals. The hides and skins undergo a series of processes before being boiled, which makes it easier to extract the gelatin.

It is used in the creation of a variety of foods, including jellied meats, candies and desserts, and helps stabilize food products such as ice cream and marshmallows. Other industries use gelatin to manufacture items ranging from pharmaceutical capsules to cosmetics, ointments and lozenges.

Although gelatin is a protein food, it is an incomplete protein. Unflavored protein is almost tasteless and odorless, and ranges in color from light yellow to a dark amber color. Many companies now sell gelatin as part of a finely ground mix, with sugar, flavorings and colorings added to make it more palatable. When immersed in liquid (usually boiling water), the gelatin takes up moisture, then melts, forming a gel-like substance that solidifies as it cools. The gel can revert to its previous state if it is heated.

In traditional Chinese medicine, gelatin has sweet and neutral properties, and is associated with the Liver, Lung and Kidney meridians. Its main functions are to tonify and enrich the blood, stop bleeding, and nourish yin. It is often used with tonic herbs such as rehmannia, codonopsis and peony

How much gelatin should I take?

The standard recommended dosage of gelatin is between 3-15 grams, melted in water and taken orally.

What forms of gelatin are available?

Gelatin is available as a powder, either in an unflavored granulated variety, or as a more finely ground mix with added flavorings and colorings.

What can happen if I take too much gelatin? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

Because of gelatin's absorptive properties, some researchers believe it can hinder digestion. As such, it should not be given to patients with dyspepsia or indigestion. As of this writing, there are no known interactions with gelatin. As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking gelatin or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.

References

  • Carter BB. Pseudomembranous colitis, bacterial vaginosis, and antibiotics. Available online.
  • Cheng XC. Experimental observation of the effect of e jiao on vascular permeability in rabbits. Zhong Yao Tong Bao Dec. 1986;11(12):47-51. In Chinese.
  • Cohen I, Tagliaferri M, Tripathy D. Traditional Chinese medicine in the treatment of breast cancer, part three. Available online.
  • Li QY. On the quality of e jiao (colla corii asini). Zhong Yao Tong Bao July 1982;7(4):24-5. In Chinese.
  • Zhang ZK. Using spectrophotometry to determine lead content in e jiao and bing pian. Journal of Shizhen Medicine 1999;10(3):1-2.

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