Ask most Chinese if they know what Gui Ling Gao is and you may be greeted with a nod. The herbal jelly is somewhat legendary and its reputation is passed on from one generation to the next — my mom bought some for me during my acne ridden high school days. Fast forward 20 years or so, it’s now my son’s turn to include this acne-fighting jelly in his diet, much to his disliking the bitter taste (sugar syrup comes to the rescue).
The hype: “Guilinggao is thought to be good for the skin, allowing for a healthier complexion upon repeated consumption.Other supposed positive effects of the jelly includes improving circulation, assisting muscle growth, relieving itching, reducing acne and kidney restoration.” among other health benefits you can find from online literature.
Traditional guilinggao recipes require boiling turtle shell plastron (bottom shell) from the critically endangered turtle for many hours, first by itself, then with a variety of herbal ingredients, so that the liquid is gradually evaporated and a jelly-like residue forms. Rice flour and corn starch is added to “thicken” the product. Thankfully today, there’s no longer a need for turtles to die so humans can live longer or look better.
Why I know it works: We were in Singapore late last year for a family holiday. At the time a new pimple had appeared on his chin except this time it was inflamed and noticeably swollen. So happened we stayed at a hotel in Bugis where there was a well known Guilingao shop. To cut a long bitter-sweet story short (minus the drama of hesitation to swallow) my son woke up the next morning minus the inflammation leaving my wife, daughter and I looking at each other in disbelief. From personal experience, an inflamed acne typically stays red for good number of days at least. I was SOLD!