A Bird in the Hand

Bird’s nest soup is a delicacy in Chinese cuisine. The Chinese name for bird's nest soup, yàn wō (燕燕), translates literally as swallow's nest . This soup has been consumed in China for o!er in e"cess of #$$$ years. %ccordin& to 'un(Cheun& )on&, a professor of biochemistry at the Chinese *ni!ersity of +on& )on&, swiftlet nests were first traded in China durin& the T’an& ,ynasty (-#.(/$0 %.,.). 1ometime between the years #2-. and #-33, %dmiral Chen& +e introduced forei&n nests to the imperial court of the 4in& ,ynasty. 5t is belie!ed that e!en at this point in time domestic supplies of the nests had been lar&ely depleted. which made imports in hi&h demand. 6dible bird’s nests are amon& the most e"pensi!e animal products consumed by humans. The material is also used in Traditional Chinese 4edicine and in Traditional 7ietnamese 4edicine.

%ccordin& to a recent medical research reported by +on& )on& Chinese *ni!ersity. namely ca!e swifts. throu&h 1outheast %sia includin& Thailand. The soup and a mostly clear &elatin ser!ed in small :ars is now !ery popular throu&hout %sia. the most hea!ily har!ested nests are from the 6dible(nest 1wiftlet or Ahite(nest 1wiftlet (%erodramus fucipha&us) and the Blac9(nest 1wiftlet (%erodramus ma"imus). perhaps because it has the reputation of bein& an aphrodisiac or ha!in& traditional health enhancin& 8ualities. that ha!e a uni8ue chemical te"ture to the sali!a they use to ma9e their nests. Based on recent research. 5t ta9es the bird about @$(2? days to finish the nest. Collocalia species are relati!ely small and a!era&e -. impro!in& the !oice. the cell di!ision en. 4alaysia. althou&h other materials such as !e&etation or feathers may also be utili.this occurs each evening. These nests with other materials are considered seconds or lesser !alued. only the nests of four species mostly spread throu&hout 1outheast %sian re&ion ha!e commercial !alue because of human consumption. Collocalia ma"ima and Collocalia unicolor. and an o!erall benefit to the immune system. %ccordin& to reports. 7ietnam. >ests ha!e hi&h le!els of calcium.Video above: Hundreds of thousands of swiftlets returning to their nesting house owned by Yen Viet Company . %mon&st !arious species of swiftlets in the &enus of Collocalia.?& in wei&ht. The nests are composed of interwo!en strands of sali!ary laminae cement. 1wiftlets (collocaliini) are tiny insecti!orous birds that are distributed from the 5ndian <cean. 6ach of these species produces nests with sali!ary &lue. potassium. it appears that this claim of health benefits is not a myth but based on real fact. The edible bird's nests ( 燕窩 in Chinese) made up of pure sali!ary &lue are much more e"pensi!e than those incorporatin& other materials. 5t also helps promote one’s immune system and enhances body metabolism. They are Collocalia fucipha&a. Harvesting The nests are made by a relati!ely small number of species of swift. impro!in& focus.yme and hormone of bird’s nest can promote reproduction and re&eneration of human cells.ed. the =hilippines and 5ndonesia and >orth %ustralia to the =acific. iron. a cementin& substance. and ma&nesium. such as aidin& di&estion. alle!iatin& asthma. The small birds eat insects only and catch these insects on the fly as they fly from nearly first li&ht until nearly dar9. Collocalia &ermanis. The nests ta9e the shape of a shallow cup stuc9 to the ca!e wall. . and ha!e &lossy pluma&e. The white nests and the red blood nests are supposedly rich in nutrients which are traditionally belie!ed to pro!ide health benefits. raisin& libido.

Birds nests from the more pro&ressi!e companies li9e 'en 7iet Company in 7ietnam which collects birds nest from multiple sites in )hanh +oa.. The white nests are commonly treated with a red pi&ment. and a 9ilo&ram of red blood nest can cost up to B#$. 5t has been estimated that the products now account for $. usually reinforced concrete structures either in the form of shop houses. 5n +on& )on& and in Chinese diaspora locations throu&hout the world. The nests were formerly har!ested from ca!es. thou&h most of the final consumers are from mainland China. 5n +on& )on& a bowl of Bird >est 1oup would cost B2$ *1.?E of the 5ndonesian C. % 9ilo&ram of white nest can cost up to B@. which has become the centre of the world trade. theaters. These nestin& houses are normally found in urban areas a:oinin& the sea. Chairman and General Director. Bein& one of the TC4s. This industry has transformed many towns in the 5ndonesian =ro!ince of >orth 1umatra as well as limited areas in 7ietnam. Thailand and elsewhere the nests are mostly e"ported to +on& )on&. Thailand and the =alawan area of the =hilippines. Aith the escalation in demand these sources ha!e been supplanted since the late #//$s by purpose( built nestin& houses. 5t is belie!ed that TC4 herbs ha!e wide(ran&in& effects for enhancin& health..$$$ *1. the importance of this trade has become !ery lar&e. Drom 7ietnam. Vo Thai Lam. .(Pictures above) Mr. Yen Viet (far ri ht). +on& )on& and Taiwan are the lar&est importers of these nests. traditional Chinese medicine (TC4) is often used to treat diseases and enhance health. lowerin& ris9 of diseases and promotin& life span. unli9e other traditional medicine materials edible bird's nest is different from most of the TC4s.. 5ndonesia. etc. +owe!er. >inh Thuan and other pro!inces in 7ietnam are har!ested in an ecolo&ically sustainable way. principally the enormous limestone ca!es at Comanton& and >iah in Borneo. ! u"en Van #e and Yen Viet$s !ha Tran Mana er in front of Yen Viet$s si n in a modern industrial %ar& in !inh Thuan (see our article on !inh Thuan) The Business of Producing and Bringing to Market Bird’s Nests China. 5n 5ndonesia. 5t is uni8ue in that it is not only a medicine to ma9e people healthy but also a pleasant food to be consumed and en:oyed. e8ui!alent to about a 8uarter of the country's fishin& industry. Health Benefits of Bird’s Nests The medicinal use of edible bird's nest can be traced bac9 to the #0th century but maybe e!en earlier. The birds are nurtured and the nests are ne!er remo!ed while the e&&s or small birds are present.$$$ *1. to B#$$ *1. &rowth promotin& and immuno(enhancin& properties. edible bird's nest is belie!ed to ha!e health enhancin& effects such as anti(a&in&. Traditionally.=. but methods ha!e been de!eloped to determine an adulterated or altered nest. The &elatin drin9 that is ser!ed in small &lass bottles also is processed with roc9 su&ar and has a sli&htly sweet taste. since the birds ha!e a propensity to floc9 in such places. author. Mr. it is double boiled with roc9 su&ar to ma9e a delicacy 9nown as bird's nest soup .

%lso accordin& to the 4alaysian Dederation of Bird’s >est 4erchants %ssociation 4alaysia's annual production of bird's nests had reached # billion rin&&it (@/$ million *. (Picture left) Mana ement of Yen Viet. there is a trend of usin& edible bird's nest e"tract as one of the chief in&redients of the products. there are reports of fa9e edible bird's nest made from fishes' s9in. This has chan&ed and currently a lar&e !ariety of edible bird's nest related products ha!e emer&ed in the mar9et.. the dual nature of edible bird's nest. . Chairman and Ceneral .$$$ swallow houses in 4alaysia with some . 1ome instant bird's nest may also be supplemented with other TC4s. dollars) in !alue and was e"pected to hit ? billion rin&&it (#. (Picture ri ht) The Parents of Mr. such as instant bird's nest in different concentrations. 5n the past. 4alaysia is the world's third lar&est supplier of birds' nests after Thailand and 5ndonesia. 5n 7ietnam. 7o Thai Fam..1.30 billion *. contributin& #$ percent of the @#$ tonnes.. Ahy is +on& )on& the leadin& consumer of birds nestsG 5t may be due in part to the fact that +on& )on& people are increasin&ly concerned about their health and the status of TC4 has risen after a series of &o!ernment policies on TC4. Vo Thai Lam *ho no* live in the +. #ui Tuon Minh of (unc&el ) 'ssocites outside the com%an"$s Phan (an main office. &um 9araya or sterculia. Iecently. %part from the traditional form. and are %roud %ro%onents of the health as%ects of bird$s nests. These products are mostly ready to ser!e products. of the company has achie!ed a !ery hi&h le!el of return based on his re!erence for the birds and his constant willin&ness to put their well bein& ahead of short term profits. Dor the limited supply and hi&h price of edible bird's nest. 'en 7iet Tradin& and 1er!ice Fimited Company which is based in >inh Thuan but has a total of #. most of them are still in the traditional form as bird's nest soup. which utili.es them both as medicine andHor food. locations throu&hout the country where they raise the birds and har!est the nests achie!es sales of o!er *1 B? million per year of which 2$ percent are from e"ports. The si.e of Collocalia bird is small. the 'uthor and Mr. people could only buy dried edible bird's nests and render them in a fairly time consumin& process. %mon&st these new products. worth up to B3 billion *1 dollars. China and elsewhere. +owe!er. Mr. These products focus mainly on the medicinal use of edible bird's nest. Because of these reports. Taiwan. some of them may e"a&&erate the e!idence of therapeutic use of edible bird's nest. This approach has borne results in 7ietnam and already 'en 7iet is a leadin& brand in 7ietnam and yearly increases its sales internationally in +on& )on&. Dor e"ample. many of the bird’s nest companies earn millions of *1 dollars in sales of their products which ha!e a &ood reputation both domestically and internationally.$$$ people ta9in& part in swallow farmin& acti!ities. 4r.e and importance of this mar9et is hu&e for all of these countries. it is not uncommon to hear reports of fa9e edible bird's nest in the mar9et. 4oreo!er.irector. may play a role as food in centrally lin9in& cultural pastime in +on& )on&. #e. there are increasin& concerns on authenticatin& the &enuineness of edible bird's nest. today there are 3$. >o coo9in& process is re8uired. the mar9et &enerated by it is 8uite lar&e and &rowin& at double di&it rates.1. The imitation substitute commonly used is the edible plant(e"ude. Dor e"ample. mushroom or al&ae in China.%lthou&h the si. dollars) in another fi!e years. consumed annually by top buyers in China and Taiwan.

differentiation and de!elopment.@E &alactosamine. e!aluated the pharmacolo&ical effects of edible bird's nest and pearl powder . 6CD is a -.0E fucose./E &alactose and $. includin& breast. This study demonstrated an epidermal &rowth factor (6CD)(li9e acti!ity in a8ueous e"tract of edible bird's nest that stimulated the . 5t appears to play a crucial role in ma:or normal cellular processes such as proliferation. people are worried about a possibility to induce tumor pro&ression and to resist chemotherapyHradiation treatment in tumor cellsM in conse8uence. non( small(cell lun&.2E &lucosamine. other scientific e!idence was published by )on& et al. Concana!alin % and =hytohema&&lutinin %. there has been increasin& reports of fa9e edible bird’s nests. o!arian and colon cancer. 5t is because the source of edible bird's nest is deri!ed from sali!a Collocalia inhabitin& mainly in limestone ca!es. su&&est that cancer patients should a!oid edible bird's nest.-) in +on& )on&. a nine(carbon su&ars. 5t may offer a rationale for the medicinal use of edible bird's nest in a&ein& resistance. The ma:or in&redients of edible bird's nest are &lycoproteins. The method is based on the reaction between >(acetylneuramic acid and ninhydrin in acid solution. 5n spite of the lon& history of usin& edible bird's nest for medicinal purposes. carbohydrates and mineral salts. 5n #//3. 1tartin& in the #//$s. there is no e!idence supportin& this su&&estion. The earliest recent scientific e!idence was &i!en by >& et al. a research team in China.L. namely the sali!ary and Brunner's &lands. sialic acid (/E) is the ma:or one. Currently we ha!e e!aluated the effects of a8ueous e"tract of edible bird's nest on the !iability on two human cancer cell lines. 1ince the receptor for 6CD is hi&hly e"pressed in a number of solid tumors. flame atomic emission spectroscopy. Iecently. ?. the nutritional and biolo&ical mechanisms of sialic acid in human body are still under in!esti&ation. &lutamic acid. ultra!iolet(!isible spectroscopy and other physico(chemical techni8ues to determine the authenticity of edible bird's nest. renal. the first comprehensi!e report on authentication of edible bird's nests were published. ener&y dispersi!e J(ray microanalysis. which is one of the ma:or components in edible bird's nest. . head(and(nec9. 5n addition.$$$ . Three non(essential amino acids (aspartic acid. e"pensi!e and only wor9ed on some of the substances used to imitate birds nests. 5t contains hi&h content of sodium and calcium. (#/.Authenticity of Edible Bird's Nest 5n recent years. man&anese and iron are also detected in edible bird's nestK. a China based research team de!eloped a simple but accurate and reliable spectrophotometry method to determine edible bird's nest content. inducti!ely coupled plasma(atomic emission spectroscopy. +owe!er.inc. 5n fact.a polypeptide hormone produced by &lands of the &astrointestinal tract. 6dible bird's nest a8ueous e"tract was found in his studies to potentiate mito&enic response of human peripheral blood monocytes to stimulation with proliferati!e a&ents. Nutritional Content and Medicinal se 6dible bird's nest contains mainly amino acids. The method e!aluates the internal content of >(acetylneuramic acid. #-. 6dible bird's nest is rich in mineral salts. praline) and two essential amino acids (threonine and !aline) can be foundK##L. The results of this research su&&ested that edible bird's nest mi&ht possess immunoenhancin& effect by aidin& cell di!ision of immune cells. %mon&st the carbohydrates in edible bird's nest. These tests were difficult to run. They could facilitate normal body functions such as cell repair and promote immunity. there is not much scientific research related to the therapeutic use of bird’s nest. %mino acids and mineral salts are also important components in edible bird's nest. There was no obser!able effect on cell !iability when comparin& with the control &roup (unpublished data). These reports demonstrated the possibility to use scannin& electron microscopy. The other ma:or carbohydrates include 0. low le!els of ma&nesium. human breast cancer 4CD(0 (%TCC +TB(@@) and human li!er cancer +epC@ (%TCC +B(.>% synthesis in 2T2 fibroblast in a dose dependent manner in !itro.$-?). 5t was found that e"o&enous source of sialic acid may contribute to neurolo&ical and intellectual ad!anta&es in infantsK#@L. <ne year later.

for his contribution to impro!in& *. 5n addition. Iunc9el li!ed and wor9ed in Thailand for o!er si" years. 5n #//0. a =ortland. Iunc9el is one of only two non(%mbassadors to recei!e this award in the @$$(year history of the *..istin&uished +onor %ward. China. !urther "tudies 6dible bird's nest has been used for hundreds or more probably thousands of years. Iunc9el is the principal and founder of Iunc9el O %ssociates. The formulation was demonstrated to ha!e immuno enhancin& effects by ele!atin& . the formulation also showed a&ein& retardation by increasin& the le!el of supero"ide dimutase. . . is a &raduate of the *ni!ersity of <re&on and Fewis and Clar9 Faw 1chool.epartment of 1tates hi&hest award for ser!ice. diplomat to return to 7ietnam after the 7ietnam Aar. 4r. he was awarded the *. the . a former senior *1 diplomat who ser!ed in many counties in %sia. pearl powder or both. 4r. +owe!er.e!elopment of 1cience in 7ietnam About the AuthorN Christopher A. 4r. &roups in +on& )on& and more recently in 7ietnam. (www. This research is bein& supported by modern birds nest raisin& companies li9e 'en 7iet who 9now that the secrets of birds nest need to be better understood and documented and who are always tryin& to impro!e and enhance the consumers e"perience. scientific e!idence for its efficacy is still limited. #ead our related article$ o +istorical =erspecti!es on Traditional 4edicine in 7ietnam o o o o Traditional 4edicine Aith a 4ore 1cientific Basis Continues To =rosper in 7ietnam % Bird in the +andN The Business of =roducin& and Brin&in& to 4ar9et Bird’s >ests The Duture of 7ietnamese Traditional 4edicine . The claimed health benefits such as resistin& a&in& and impro!in& immunity of edible bird's nest is yet to be conclusi!ely pro!en..elphi +ealth 1er!ice are conductin& modern biotech and biochemical research on 7ietnamese birds nests to better document the health promotin& 8ualities and to better understand the science.1. <re&on based consultin& company that assists businesses e"pand business opportunities in %sia. the study did not e"plore whether the effects came from either edible bird's nest.nc Ter-s of use .1. 4ephydica and .com) *ntil %pril of #///.>% synthesis of T(lymphacytes and circulatin& immuno&lobulin 4 content in mice.(7ietnam relations.1.business( in(asia. +e ser!ed as .at =hen. +e was the first permanently assi&ned *. diplomatic ser!ice.containin& formulation. Co%yright & '()($ #unckel * Associates+ . led by <n& Ba . Iunc9el.espite this. Iunc9el was 4inister(Counselor of the *1 6mbassy in Bei:in&.1. Iecently.eputy Ceneral Counsel of =resident Cerald Dord’s =residential Clemency Board./Business0in0Asia/co- . 4r.