Donkey-hide Gelatin: A TCM Treasure

July 25, 2013
Editor: Gu Wentong and Yang Xiaolin

Donkey-hide gelatin (ejiao) []

Donkey-hide gelatin (ejiao) []

Donkey-hide gelatin (ejiao) is a type of glue made by decocting a donkey's hide and some medicinal Chinese herbs (such as dried tangerine or orange peels and sweet-scented osmanthus) in water, and then concentrating the liquid. The gelatin is one of the three treasures of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). In recent years, an increasing number of Chinese women have been using the gelatin, formerly a tribute to the imperial family, to improve their health. So, just what are ejiao's health benefits?

Ejiao has a long history; the earliest known historical record of the gelatin is in the ancient Chinese medical document entitled Shen Nong's Materia Medica. The document was compiled by medical practitioners during the Qin (221 BC -206 BC) and Han (206 BC-220 AD) dynasties. 

In that document, ejiao is listed as one of the top-grade health products in China. As documented in the Compendium of Materia Medica, written by Li Shizhen in 1578, ancient Chinese used donkeys' hides, oxen's hides and some other animals' hides to make tonics. However, they considered ejiao, made by decocting a donkey's hide in water collected from the Ejing Well — best-quality water that contained mineral substances, such as calcium, potassium, magnesium and sodium — in Dong'e County, in East China's Shandong Province, as the best tonic.

The Pharmacopoeia of the People's Republic of China (the 1990, 1995 and 2000 editions) refer to donkey-hide gelatin as the only certified ejiao product.

Benefits to Women

The sweet-tasting ejiao has proven to be an effective tonic/medicine for women. It provides the following health benefits:
1. Invigorates blood circulation, moistens the lungs and treats yin deficiency (by reinforcing body fluids and nourishing the blood) and cures dizziness, insomnia, coughing and palpitation, which result from lack of blood or yin;
2. Helps women who suffer from such ailments as coughing up blood and/or passing blood to stop bleeding;
3. Curing irregular menstruation, stabilizes the fetus (if the woman is pregnant) and prevents miscarriage. As ejiao invigorates blood circulation, it can treat lack of blood and blood stasis, both of which are major causes of irregular menstruation. In addition, ejiao contains such elements as lysine, arginine, histidine, cysteine, calcium and sulfur, which help prevent miscarriage;
4. Helps prevent and treat cancer. Ejiao can be used to prevent cancer, and it can be used as a supplementary medicine for patients who receive radiotherapy and chemotherapy; and
5. Improves physical appearance. As ejiao invigorates blood circulation, women who eat it often tend to have rosy cheeks and glossy skin.
In addition, ejiao helps strengthen bones and muscles and improves the quality of sleep.

Dos and Don'ts

Since ejiao benefits one's health, you might be inclined to think the more you take, the healthier you will be. However, you should be mindful of the following:
1. The gelatin tends to be more beneficial if you take it on an empty stomach;
2. You should not eat turnips or drink tea while you eat ejiao;
3. You should consume less ejiao if you suffer from excessive internal heat after taking the gelatin;
4. You should not take ejiao if you have a cold; and
5. You should not eat the gelatin if you are menstruating.


Ejiao Porridge

Ingredients: 100g of polished glutinous rice and 15g of ejiao
Directions: 1. Place the glutinous rice in water and cook it thoroughly;
2. Add the ejiao and stew until the ejiao melts in the porridge.
Effects: This porridge increases blood circulation, helps stop bleeding, treats yin deficiency (by increasing the body's fluids and nourishing the blood) and prevents miscarriage.

Soup with Ejiao and Egg Flakes

Ingredients: 10g of ejiao, a spoonful of honey and an egg
Directions: 1. Melt the ejiao in warm water or warm milk;
2. Add honey;
3. Add an egg to the soup.
Effects: For best results, serve the soup before breakfast every morning. The soup will help treat such illnesses as bad cough and asthma.

Soup with Ejiao and Red Dates

Ingredients: 10 red dates, 6g of ejiao and a spoonful of brown sugar
Directions: 1. Place the red dates in water and cook thoroughly;
2. Pound the ejiao into pieces, place in the soup and stew until the ejiao melts; and
3. Add the brown sugar.
Effects: The soup will help improve functioning of the spleen and increase blood circulation. It will also help treat diseases, such as illnesses of the heart and spleen, palpitations and insomnia.

Soup with Ejiao and Pork Ribs

Ingredients: 30g-50g of ejiao, 500g of pork ribs, some dried tangerine or orange peels and roots of Angelica dahurica
Directions: 1. Place the pork ribs in a pot and add some water;
2. Stew for about 20 minutes, until the pork is thoroughly cooked;
3. Pound the ejiao into pieces, add to the soup and cook until the ejiao melts; and
4. Add the tangerine or orange peels and roots of Angelica dahurica to taste.
The soup, if eaten regularly, will help one stay fit and improve his/her physique.


Donkey-hide gelatin (ejiao), ginseng and pilose antler (of a young stag) are called the "three treasures of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)." Many women favor donkey-hide gelatin, as it can help them replenish qi and increase blood circulation. The other two "treasures" are especially good for men, as they can strengthen muscles and bones and improve yang (vital function), which can help men increase virility and sexual potency.

(Source: Women of China English Monthly March 2013 Issue)

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