In the article "Yan Wo Kao" (The investigation on bird's nest) in Monthly Mingpao Vol. 231, Prof. Y. C. Kong and Prof. P. S. Kwan (1985) mentioned that in China the consumption of the bird's nest was first documented in the ancient Chinese literature "Hai Yu" (The language of the sea) (Huang, 1536) in the Ming Dynasty.
In "Min Zhong Hai Cuo Shu". Tu (1596) stated that the bird's nest is the food of the rich. However, the medicinal value of the bird's nest was only confirmed by several scholars about hundred years later after a long history of consumption and testing and has been promoted to be a nourishing and replenishing medicine with specific therapeutic effects.
The literature of "Ben Cao Bei Yao" (The essential notes of materia medica) (Wang, 1694) and "Ben Cao Feng Yuan" (The medicinal herbs in the wild) (Zhang, 1695) of the Qing dynasty show evidence that the ancient Chinese had the belief that the bird's nests did have some therapeutic effects and were used to cure disease.
In the years 1757 to 1871, many scholars ang experts had discussed in their literatures in details the transformation of the bird's nest from an expensive food to a precious medicine.
They include the scripts "Ben Cao Cong Xin" (New Compendium of materia medica), "Ben Cao Qiu Zhen" (New compilation of materia medica) and "Ben Cao Gang Mu Shi Yi' (A supplement to the Compendium of materia medica).
Prof. Kong further indicated that, according to Chinese literature, the bird's nest does have obvious healing effects to post-stage tuberculosis, gastric ulcers and bleeding of the lung. Beside, it can promote growth.
In recent years Prof. Y. C. Kong has been conducting detailed investigations on bird's nests.
Based on repeatable results of in vitro exposure experiments he has discovered that the bird's nest contain a "cell division inducing hormone" and an "epithelial growth factor" that can stimulate the growth and division of cells, thereby enhancing tissue growth, cellular regeneration and cell-mediated immunity in humans.
The investigations have provided good scientific evidence that supports the notion that the bird's nest can facilitate growth, replenish strength and vital energy, accelerate the recovery from disease and reinforce immunity. The specific animal proteins in an edible bird's nest have the following three functions :
This is the main reason why the proteins of other precious medicinal foods like the sea cucumber, abalone, scallop, and egg cannot be compared to those contained in the edible bird's nest.
The bird's nest help regulate the function of the endocrine system as well as other body functions. They strengthen the body, moisturize the skin, maintain beauty, provide energy and enhance the metabolism of fat. The bird's nests are adaptable for either sex or any age group.
The consumption of bird's nest during pregnancy can increase nutrition and improve the overall health of the mother and child and will give the infant a flexible mind. Woman consuming bird's nest after giving birth can recover more quickly and slim rapidly to help maintain their beauty.
The stomach and spleen of newborns function weakly. This can easily cause diarrhea and the loss of appetite. Feeding the newborns with bird's nest that has been dissolved in milk can improve these deficiencies. Babies that are 6 month old can be fed with rice porridge or congee containing bird's nest.
Children require more nutrition during their growing period. Being fed with bird's nests can help strengthen the body and stimulate the growth of the brain. Edible bird's nest not only tastes good but when served with rock sugar, fresh milk or oatmeal aids digestion and constipation.
For youngsters, always consuming bird's nest can enhance metabolism, strengthen various body functions and reinforce immunity. Besides, it can also smooth the skin and maintain eternal beauty. People, who are highly stressed and are busy in study and work can alleviate tiredness, relieve spiritual pressure and recover body strength through always consuming bird's nest.
Bird's nests are also beneficial to people who have just recovered from illness, who are old and weak, who suffer from asthma and who are always catching the cold or influenza. A regular diet of bird's nest can help alleviate the trachea, smooth breathing, benefit the control of asthma, expel phlegm, recover vital energy and extend longevity. It is particularly effective to those who have sleep disorders, bronchitis, coughs or hangovers. Bird's nests also show obvious therapeutic effects to help moisturize and replenish the lung and clear away intestinal heat.