What would you eat for beauty’s sake?

Asians, especially the Chinese, have a reputation for eating just about anything on earth. There is a famous Cantonese saying which states that “anything that walks, swims, crawls, or flies with its back to heaven is edible.” So what strange things do we eat for beauty sake?  Here are five that I’ve come across.

Human placenta
Barbie Hsu or Da S once said she was keen on eating her sister’s placenta to enhance her beauty. And she’s not the only one. Cassandra See, a part-time local actress, was reported to have baked her own placentra to eat after giving birth and she claimed that eating that gave her a glowing complexion. There’s even a term, placentophagy, to describe this practice because the placenta is apparently rich in minerals and vitamins, especially B6 and said to delay aging. Traditional Chinese Medicine experts claim the human placenta has been eaten by the Chinese for 2,500 years to improve lethargy, rejuvenating ageing skin and even promote breast milk production. (source) I learnt that you can get human placenta from China in a dried form from our local Chinese medical halls although I’ve not checked it out, and am not sure if it’s really human placenta or just plant placenta or sheep placenta.

Chinese pearl powder
Pearl powder is a finely ground powder from real pearls and its use as a skin care cosmetics can be traced far back to over two thousand years ago. Because of its rarity and magic multifunctional properties in ancient China, pearl powder had been the most sought-after and expensive Chinese medicine but only affordable by royal families, high class officials or celebrities. Both oral administration and topical application of pearl powder will improve the skin nutrition and metabolism, promote the proliferation of healthy new cells, retain the water in epidermal layer, purge brown spots and other dark freckles in skin, thus reduce wrinkles and make the skin whiter, finer, smoother, softer and more radiant, delicate to rejuvenate the appearance of skin. (source)

Bird’s nest
According to a medical research reported by Hong Kong Chinese University, the cell division enzyme and hormone of bird’s nest can promote reproduction and rebirth of human cells. Edible bird’s nest is the nest made purely of swiftlet’s saliva secretion. This nest is usually found in caves near shoreline cliffs or under eaves of house and is hand-collected. Hairs and filth are then removed from the nest before manufacturing. Frequent consumption result in fairer skin, helps to stay young and look radiant. (source)

Dried fallopian tubes of frogs
Widely known as Hasma, and sometimes mistakenly thought to be frog’s fat, this is usually cooked into a sweet soup dessert and said to improve skin’s complexion when consumed frequently. (source)

Lingzhi or Reishi mushroom
Lingzhi retains and regulates water in the skin and helps maintain the skin’s elasticity, keeping the skin hydrated and smooth. It also helps to inhibit the formation and deposit of melanin in skin. Today, Lingzhi beauty care products are becoming new stars in the cosmetic industry. By adding Lingzhi into the bath, not only can skin be kept smooth but it can also help prevent bacterial infections. (source)

What have I eaten?
Okay, apart from human placenta, I’ve tried all the rest and my personal favorites are bird’s nest and dried fallopian tubes of the frogs. Reason being that they’re tasty as desserts. As for improving the skin complexion, I do believe to a certain extent especially when it comes to consuming bird’s nest. In fact, I deliberately took it when I was pregnant in the hope that I’ll have a baby with beautiful complexion. Well, my boy has lovely skin but of course I can’t say if it’s entirely due to eating that.

So what would you eat for beauty’s sake? Would you eat human placenta? And what other strange food have you come across that can contribute to one’s beauty?

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  1. Hannsb says:

    whoa, very interesting post! I’ve never tried any of those yet,even strange foods except the reishi mushrooms which I like that comes from capsule forms or made as coffees.wow, eating human placenta is really strange.What does it taste like?

  2. kiwi says:

    I dunno if it’s just me… But eating human placenta just seems a tad… Gross. >.<

  3. pf1123 says:

    EWWWWWWW….human placenta….

  4. Vonvon says:

    *Shudder…placenta from any source..NO WAY!!

    But like you, I ate lots of Bird’s Nest when I was pregnant with my daughter and she has lovely glowing complexion. Her face always looks like she has just applied powder, and her cheeks has almost always a slight rosy flush. Of course, I ate lots of Mediterranean diet while pregnant too.

    I like Hasma too, and have tried Pearl Powder.

  5. Jyoan says:

    I like Bird Nest and pearl powder. Intend to eat bird nest regularly when pregnant too! haha.

  6. stella says:

    i think i’ve had everything except the placenta too, not really for complexion coz i juz eat whatever my mom makes… altho’ i do take some beauty supplements like fancl tense up now; really helps if you’re in a stressful job. human placenta… hmmm, i would draw the line at eating my own hahaa

  7. Happy Feet says:

    I would love to take lots of bird’s nest too but they are way too expensive to take everyday! Although hashima (thought it’s known as HASHIMA, correct me if I am wrong) is a cheaper alternative, I understand from the chinese medicine perspective that hashima is too ‘cooling’ for women to take frequently. Is that right?

  8. Nita says:

    Where to buy a good quality bird’s nest here? And what’s the price range?

  9. zhenling says:

    i like bird nest! i always thought collagen supplements are a better alternative but after trying i found them incredibly heaty.

    you forgot to include white fungus. they say its a cheap alternative to bird nest.

    and i think human placenta or wadever placenta is just plain dangerous. who knows what kind of germs and viruses are in it?!

  10. sesame says:

    I always thought white fungus were eaten more for health benefits like for coughs but now that you raised it, I ran a quick check and yes, it’s also used as a beauty enhancer to improve the complexion. And you’re right that it’s a cheaper alternative! Heheh…I’ve been eating quite a bit of it lately and didn’t know. ? It’s nice as a sweet soup dessert but I like it cooked with chicken as a soup too.

    You also raised a good point about eating human placenta cos there is no sterilization and diseases could grow on it. This is applicable to animal placenta too.

  11. sesame says:

    Where are you based? I always get mine from a trusted medical hall here – it has a chain and goes by the name of “Fu Hwa”. Range could be S$100 – $300. I usually get those mid range and prefer those that are not bleached but look yellowish.

  12. sesame says:

    Yeah…it’s been awhile since I ate them too. Then there’s the double boiling which takes time too.

    I think there are variations to the name – Hasma, Hashima and even Hashmar. It is a cheaper alternative but I remember the cleaning process is quite troublesome cos my mom used to make them for me. But good thing you can get the dessert at restaurant and of course there are the bottled ones.

    Not so sure if they’re too cooling but I guess it’s better to take such food in moderation.

  13. sesame says:

    So if I understand you correctly, you won’t mind eating your own? I asked myself the question but I’m really not sure. I think if someone wash it, bake it and grind into powder for me, I would most probably take. Haha…but no chance already!

  14. sesame says:

    It’s really good for both mommy’s and baby’s complexion. ?

  15. sesame says:

    Not even your own?

    I’m very envious of my son’s complexion…so lovely. Wish my skin is half as good.

  16. sesame says:

    Haha…I don’t even want to add a picture of it.

  17. sesame says:

    No, it’s not only you…I find it gross too…even the idea of eating my own. I think the trick is not to see the placenta but too bad, my gynae showed me before and I remember wondering why she asked if I want to keep it. ?

  18. sesame says:

    I have no idea what it taste like but I think for those who eat it, they actually have it made into powder form so the taste shouldn’t be too bad.

  19. Nita says:

    I’m living in Singapore.

  20. sesame says:

    Ah…so you would be able to look out for Fu Hwa which is located at various shopping centres. No need to go for the “Blood” type of bird’s nest…those are too expensive although they’re supposed to be more premium.

    But you need to know how to cleanse the bird’s nest and double boil. I usually boil with an egg. Drooling now as I’m sharing this info. Haha…

  21. JacquiA says:

    I would draw the line at human placenta! My chinese friend gave me the best birds nest she could find when I was expecting both my children. She pretty much schooled me on the do’s and don’t according to chinese beliefs. Also, my husband was brought up in a predominantly chinese community and hence I did not find it a problem to adopt the chinese-ness from him.

  22. Audris says:

    Yumm, I love Hashima and Bird’s Nest. My mum and dad soak the Bird’s Nest in water and use tweezers to extract the hairs from them. Very tedious.
    I think placenta for topical use (like in creams) is still ok – used to know a dermatologist who actually owned her own sheep farm in Mongolia and controlled the sheep’s diet and uses the placenta for her own creams. But I wouldn’t dare to eat them…

  23. joy says:

    well i’m not a bird nest person as i ever watched a show about it on how those ppl throw the baby birds down the cave…stopped eating it after that…was shocked.. My beauty secret is to sleep abt 9 hrs a day and less stress environment and job#k8SjZc9Dxk#k8SjZc9Dxk

  24. yay says:

    wow…great article! i don’t think i ever will try human placenta…bird nest are expensive…i don’t think i ever had any before… i heard that u can’t really trust some of the herbal places that sell bird nest…

  25. zhenling says:

    hi again sesame! was just thinking about how my mum treated my younger bro’s sensitive skin by applying ling zhi powder topically many years ago..

    so im thinking of experimenting with it on my face hoho where would you reccomment getting ling zhi from?

  26. sesame says:

    Oh it’s good to know you were open to consuming bird’s nest. Many pple I know would hesitate taking something that sound so weird if they’ve haven’t been exposed to it before.

  27. sesame says:

    Ah…I think there are increasingly more sheep placenta products in the market. The other day, a HK facial spa invited me to try their facial using placenta. I think it’s sheep and I was still not open to the idea.

  28. sesame says:

    They throw the baby birds down the cave? Hmm…the problem with such exotic foods is that they come with some level of cruelty. I can understand why you won’t take it.

  29. sesame says:

    It’s true…that’s why you need to buy from sources you trust or someone you trust recommended. I have been buying from Fu Hwa cos my mom used to buy from them and they’re reliable. Some of the bigger ones tend to get you to spend more and buy the expensive grades.

  30. sesame says:

    Actually I ate Lingzhi briefly some years back…so can’t recommend. It’s very expensive though. Not sure those in the pharmacies are worth the purchase. But I’ve tried using Lingzhi mask at the facial spa I frequent. It’s supposed to be good at drawing out impurities but I didn’t like it cos it’s a stick on mask.

  31. joy says:

    ya they do that for you know what country la…not to mentioned… but my bro told me that now they have a new way of breeding the birds and no longer doing that…not sure if it’s true or not..

  32. Nita says:

    Oh Thx. I’ve never heard about that chain before. What mall got the chain? It seems that they don’t have any website

  33. stella says:

    yea i guess i wouldn’t mind eating my own if it’s purported to be GREAT for the skin. i mean, it’s from your body in the first place and not like some waste product i guess *shrug*

  34. stella says:

    but yeah other’s placentas are no-no… i seriously think there may be healthy safety issues with what you don’t know eeps

  35. Vonvon says:

    My own?? May be yes, may be not. Guess I have seen too many placentas while studying O&G that just the idea of consuming placenta is ewwww….. no offence!

    Me too…of my daughter’s! Sometimes, people actually asked me if I let her put on cosmetics like powder and blush. I was like ‘No’….though she would sneakily take my Guerlain Meteorites and apply it on her face sometimes. ?

    and yes, when I was pregnant, my complexion and even hair were in superb condition….partly due to the hormonal changes, but could be attributable to bird’s nest consumption, I supposed.

  36. youngorgeous says:

    hi dear…what about the bottled type of birds nest..is it just as effective?

  37. sesame says:

    I think they’ll do work, just that they might not be as good as those you buy and cook yourself. But I’ve also heard that some do not use real bird’s nest so again, you have to know the source. But if they’re the real stuff, then for the price difference, I think they’re okay.

  38. sesame says:

    Oh you saw many placentas??? Then I can understand your resistance. I couldn’t even stand the sight of my own and googling for the pictures also made me a little nausea. That’s why I couldn’t bear to put up a picture of it here.

  39. juantan says:


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  40. Hazel Fern says:

    human placenta!
    That’s gross!

  41. Hazel Fern says:

    Moreover, human placenta is part of the body during gestation. Is like eating your ‘meat’. Yuck!

  42. Rinka says:

    wow chinese people are really dedicated to good skin! lol

    my family is japanese, but we never had any crazy foods which apparently help with good skin. it was just wakame (type of seaweed) for strong shiny hair, and sake for glowing skin! sake is really good for skin, if you add a little into a bath, your skin will become really soft.

  43. sesame says:

    Yes, I agree the idea is rather gross…

  44. sesame says:

    Well, actually it’s not a matter of being dedicated to good skin but rather, we are pretty adventurous when it comes to food. Kind of scary sometimes…

  45. Anita Serenity~~ says:

    This is really interesting… Thanks for the tips…I wonder if this stuff could be put together for next months giveaway ?

  46. sesame says:

    Hahaha…that’s an idea! But need sponsors though… ?

  47. Eyra says:

    You take the meaning “You are what you eat” to a whole new level! I myself would like to say that I would eat anything that would guarantee good skin but maybe if someone tricked me into eating it and told me later what I ate!

  48. sesame says:

    Haha…actually, it’s true…if you don’t know them in their raw form, most of these exotic beauty food are palatable.

  49. Vonvon says:

    Yes, 2 semesters in O&G and assisting in don’t-even-remember how many deliveries…..at the end, just got ‘immune’ to the sight of it already. As student, the professors and even nurses would ‘bully’ us to handle them (with gloves and wearing our scrubs, of course!). So there you are……

  50. Dawn R says:

    Yeah, that human placenta–ugh. I can’t imagine ever going there. I read about other unusual beauty rituals at The Beauty Girl a few months ago. When she was on her honeymoon in Southeast Asia, she not only discovered what people will do for beauty, but also how differently beauty is defined in certain places. It was quite interesting.

  51. fwy says:

    I know vegans tend to age better than most people. You can always switch your diet. No need to go to the extend of eating such gross things.

  52. sesame says:

    Haha…it’s another perspective of beauty diet that some pple will probably go “oh so gross”.

  53. ann says:

    There are actually services in SG that come and take your placenta after you give birth to process and encapsulate it! But ahem … still not for me.

  54. sesame says:

    They do??? I didn’t know! Wow…I wonder if this is just recent or has been happening for awhile already. I never came across it during my time.

  55. Ceriene says:

    Wow. What women will do for beauty. ? I’ve only had bird’s nest and ling zhi before, though pearl powder and hasma sounds interesting. I think as long as I don’t know I’m eating the fallopian tubes of frogs, those would be pretty decent too.

    Thank you for not including a picture of placenta, by the way. I happened across a rather unusual recipe for ‘placenta pizza’ a year back or so, and I don’t think I need to think about eating placenta again.

    I’m a new reader, so I hope you don’t mind me popping in to say that I do love your site. It’s very informative, and really helps me when I consider what kind of skincare I want to purchase or try. Thank you for all the effort you put into it. ?

  56. sesame says:

    Of course I won’t mind! I’m very happy to receive comments from readers…in fact, I often learn from the comments posted too.

    Fallopian tubes of frogs are decent to eat…tasty as a dessert too. As long as you don’t think about frogs when you’re eating, it’s not a problem to stomach them. ?

  57. Ceriene says:

    Haha, I’ll have to try it when I’m in Hong Kong again. I don’t think I’d risk trying it here in Beijing. Goodness knows what it’ll be like. Thanks again!

  58. sesame says:

    That’s true! ?

  59. anna says:

    eating your own placenta … sounds a little cannibalistic :/

  60. sesame says:

    Haha…it does!

  61. Jigme pelden says:

    I have lot of LINGZHI but we never thought of it , we collect LINGZHI from forest and we used to paint and keep in lobby for decoration .

    So now I knew it is a mediation so plz tell me how can I used LINGZHI as mediation ?
    If any one looking for this let me know I will collected and keep for you email.
    In my place LINGZHI used to grow in forest .

  62. Anjana says:

    I would like to buy some Lingzhi

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