Cincau or Grass Jelly to the Rescue

CINCAU, Camcau, CamCam, or black grass (Cyclea Barbata) and grass jelly in English.

At first sight, the jelly doesn’t really look appetising with its black in colour, slimy blob, it may turn you off really.

But we, in Malaysia and South-east Asian region as well as in China, were practically growing up consuming this jelly.

It  has a mild herbal taste since it is made from boiling a a herbal plants commonly known in Malaysia and other parts of Asia as cin cau or its latin name Cyclea Barbata.

Granted, I have heard or read about its medicinal/health properties over the years. However, I didn’t really paid much attention to it because I love drinking it especially in a hot humid day.

The ignorance me, until about a week ago.

When my dear cousin suggested that I should take cincau to control my borderline blood pressure.

I have been warned by my doctor to keep my blood pressure under control as the last three visit to the clinic, my blood pressure reading was at borderline.

It was worrying indeed as my late dad suffered severe stroke in his later years. I remember he was suffering headache a lot and just popped panadol each time.

Though I wouldn’t know for sure if the high blood pressure caused him to suffer stroke, I was away in Germany for several months then and when I returned I was caught up with preparing for the birth of my son…But I am sure they were connected. 

I used to suffer headache and migraine a lot due to my my eyesight problem as well as my menstrual symptoms every month.

However, when the bp reading was at borderline, coupled with my age, I need to be worried and do something about it.

The doctor prescribed the tablet that I need to take daily but I don’t like the idea of taking pill everyday to control my  blood pressure. It may have adverse effect on my kidneys in long term.

So my cousin’s idea came at the right time.

I have got nothing to lose. Besides, I love drinking cincau as long as I can remember and it easily available at the supermarket at relatively cheap price.

However, I was having a bad cough in the past two weeks and cincau is known for its cooling property which mean its a big “NO” for me…

But being stubborn and hot-headed me, I prepared my cincau drink for two days on Monday and Wednesday and then as my cough has gotten worse I decided not to push my luck anymore. I stopped.

And on Sunday I went to see my doctor as the cough was still bad and much to my pleasant surprise and his too, my blood pressure is way below borderline. He was making a remark about the tablet was making a positive effect on my reading. I just kept quiet about it. Wish I jotted the numbers down but still I was very happy. I didn’t tell him that I didn’t take his tablets and I took cincau instead…

For the uninitiated, cincau/ grass jelly is similar to agar gel derived from soaking the leaves (or other organ) of the plants in water. Gel formed by the plant leaves contain carbohydrates that can bind water molecules. Black said grass jelly “grass jelly” itself comes from the Hokkien dialect sienchau, commonly pronounced among the Chinese in Southeast Asia. 

Cincau most widely used as a major component of beverages. 

Cincau essentially has no calories at all. Hence, grass jelly diet would make a great meal for filling the stomach when you are watching your calorie intake.

From what I read, in every 100 grams of leaves of grass jelly stored 100 mg of calcium and 100 mg phosphorus. After becoming a gelatin calcium content of 50 mg and 15 mg of phosphorus per 100 grams.

Traditionally, native grass jelly has been used around the world as a medicine. In Indochina, especially Laos and Vietnam, grass jelly is used to relieve pain (gastritis) and other stomach disorders such as constipation, flatulence, diarrhea. Peninsular Malaysia use it as a fever remedy. In Papua New Guinea, in addition to down the heat, grass jelly is used as a cough remedy and headache. In Java, grass jelly is often called cao or provisional-believed to cool the womb, which is believed to accelerate the occurrence of pregnancy in infertile couples.

Cincau often used to whet your appetite. India’s population recognise grass jelly for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, abdominal pain or heartburn, and flatulence due to colds. The habit of giving to people with fever grass jelly expected to help reduce fever and reduce adverse effects due to increased body temperature.

Either the green grass jelly or black, quite popular as one of the foods to relieve high blood pressure. Usually taken with a little honey or syrup, so it’s not bland.

In China, grass jelly is commonly served with sugar syrup, evaporated milk or fruit such as mango, watermelon or cantaloupe. In other Asian countries, grass jelly typically is mixed with other types of desserts and soy milk. In several Asian countries, grass jelly is also available as a beverage, usually mixed with a juice.

Grass jelly  plants can thrive in the lowlands to the area with an altitude of 800 metres above sea level. Loose soil with the acidity of 5.5 to 6.5 and shady environments, is a suitable place for the grass jelly. These shrubs grow by propagating towards the right of its host tree. About 1 cm in diameter, its length can reach 5 to 16 metres. Leaves are shield-like shape, tapered, and green, with a length of between 5 to 16 cm.

Through my reading. I learned that Indonesian have done a lot of researches and write-ups about this special jelly compared to other nations.

Black cincau, which is tasteless in nature, is easily found to be sold, whether in a traditional market, or in a supermarket. Even though cincau beverages possess many health benefits, but another ingredients on making cincau beverages tastier, might be questionable for health.

The use of sugar in a large amount, or artificial sweetener that is used by traditional cincau beverages seller, will make cincau no longer healthier. Even worse, if the seller made his own cincau, by adding the soluble water of the leaves with borax, to make it more gummy, and lasts longer to be sold… Now my next quest is to find cincau plant for my garden…A