Spring is in the air! Temperatures have risen, flowers have started to bloom, trees are getting their leaves back, and birds are singing. The change of season is here.
According to Chinese medicine, winter is the most yin time of the year, while summer is the most yang. As winter becomes spring, yin becomes yang or when summer becomes fall, we are vulnerable to getting sick. There is a traditional Chinese remedy that is meant to support the body through this change. In English, we refer to it as “Change of Season Soup.” It’s a simple recipe that can be modified according to your needs. It contains four main herbs which can be purchased at any pharmacy where traditional Chinese medicine is sold.
Codonopsis root (党参dăngshēn) helps the body adapt to stress. According to traditional Chinese medicine, this herb acts on the spleen and lungs. It tonifies qi, helping to strengthen the immune system and increase energy in the body.
Astragalus root (黄耆huāngqí) enhances immunity and strengthens our protective defenses. This tonic herb has anti-tumor activity and can increase vitality. Astragalus also benefits the lungs. Along with codonopsis, it is best taken to prevent a cold or flu so avoid taking it when you are actively fighting an infection.
Dioscorea root (山药shānyao) is a medicinal herb and food, also known as Chinese yam. You can find it in grocery stores or wet markets. You’ve probably tried shānyao in soups or in stir-fry meals. It’s a long thin root, white on the inside with a rough, dark brown, almost hairy-looking skin. When chopped it becomes very slimy, thanks to its high content of saponins. Its medicinal effect is to nourish the lungs and tonify the kidneys.
Goji berries (枸杞子gǒuqǐzǐ) are one of the most common herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine. They’re also known as Chinese wolfberries and they contain immune-enhancing vitamin C and a long list of other nutrients and antioxidants. Traditionally, they have been used to treat respiratory conditions including cough and asthma.
This soup can be made in a variety of ways. You can boil the herbs alone in the water and make a simple broth or tea. It tastes a little bitter, but you can add some brown sugar or honey to improve the taste. You can also make it as a congee. With the addition of other vegetables or meat and bones, it can be prepared as a more substantial nourishing soup. The possibilities are endless.
Here is the basic recipe. I usually get the astragalus and codonopsis sliced; and use about 5-10 pieces of each depending on the thickness, less than 10g. Generally, you want to use equal amounts of each herb, but I tend to be more liberal with the goji berries and the shānyao. Add to 4 liters of water in a big pot over the stove. Cook for two hours or more on low heat. You can add more water if it boils down or becomes too concentrated for your taste. Enjoy!
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Dr. Melissa Rodriguez is a naturopathic doctor and mother of two, who works at Beijing United Family Hospital. To find out more, visit her website at www.drmelissarodriguez.com.
Photo: vivi14216 via Pixabay
This article appeared on p18 of beijingkids April 2018 issue