Jan 6, 2014

Tangerine Peels as Medicine! // Portland Apothecary

A common scene around my house is a mug of steaming tea next to a couple of tangerines that are either peeled or close to being peeled. I keep a huge bowl of them around at all times during the Winter because they make an easy delicious snack and because I think they are so vibrant and beautiful on these grey cold days. Most people simply compost these peels without giving them a second thought, but they can actually be processed into a tasty medicinal herb that you can store throughout the year. 

Tangerine Peels in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) are in the regulate and invigorate the Qi category. (The study of herbs in TCM is so vast and detailed that this is just one of the ways they are broken down into categories, but that's a different post entirely!) What this translates as on a practical level is that they relieve stagnation, and with tangerine peels this means they help with gastric upset which is perfect for the Winter when we might be more sedentary while concurrently eating richer foods. So if you find yourself with any stomach pain, bloated of full feeling do reach for the tangerine peels! These bright orange beauties affect the Spleen Channel (digestion) and also your Lung Channel. The peels help to get rid of mucus, and are also great to take during those times when you find yourself with a cold. 

To turn your peels into medicine you can either do it the traditional way by separating the peel into thirds, making each section a dose, or a part, to add to a recipe --OR-- you can make it easier on yourself with the drying process and cut them into 1/4 inch pieces. I like to separate and scrape on the pith before cutting them so I don't drive myself crazy. You can leave the pith on, but it makes for a more diffused and bitter herb. I like the more aromatic version without the pith. After you've peeled, scraped and cut, spread the peels out on a wire rack, screen, or even your boiler tray and let the sit in a dry warm room for 2-5 days to dry. How long it takes will vary according to how damp your surroundings are. Traditionally they are sun dried, but here in the Pacific Northwest that's not so much of an option! When the peels are thoroughly dry, place them in a clean labelled jar in a cool dark place for keeping. 

Let me remind you here to use organic or unsprayed tangerines! I know you know this, but just a gentle reminder that if you are making medicine, make it clean. That goes for your mood too, never prepare medicine when you are feeling muddled or aggravated because it goes straight into the herbs.

You can use the peels in soups, teas or marinades. I like to throw them in with my black tea or chai mix. They also make an outstanding bitter if you throw them in with some vodka or brandy and let them steep for a month before you strain. So many uses for those peels you were going to compost! Do you use tangerine peels for anything, I'd love to hear some more suggestions. 


  1. Great Post! I can't tell you how many times I have rushed to stop someone throwing their peels away, to ask if I can have them!
    I like to dry, then grind into a powder and (I have many jars of different combos) but my favorites are citrus powder mixed with sea salt, mixed with raw honey or with coconut sugar. I use them in food, preserves and of course tea!
    Warm Wishes!

  2. Do clementines have the same properties?

  3. Jennifer! I love this! How do you grind them, with a cuisinart or do you have an herb grinder? I would love to try that! And, Emmanuelle, yes they have very similar properties! Thank you both for commenting!