According to traditional Chinese medicine, fall marks the shift into the yin time of year, a time thought to be ideal for recharging and nurturing yourself and retreating to quieter, internal pursuits. For many people, fall is a time for new beginnings and new endeavors. In nature, leaves and flowers are dying and energy sinks, becoming concentrated in the seeds and roots of plants. During this time, we are particularly vulnerable to colds and flu.
On request, here is my recipe for Change of Season Soup. This delicious herbal chicken soup is a great tonifier, gently supporting the immune system during times of stress, and especially during the change of seasons. It enhances the body’s ability to remain balanced during times of transition by increasing our innate ability to adapt to change. As an immune system tonic, change of season soup is an ideal way to mark the autumnal equinox (this Friday Sept 23), improve your resistance to colds and flus, and prepare yourself for the colder seasons to come.
You can buy the herbs pre-packaged in traditional Chinese herbal stores and some health food stores or use 2-3 oz of each of the following herbs:
- Astragalus membranaceus / Huang Qi – 4 sticks, 15 cm long each
Astragalus is a root that helps to strengthen protective defenses, strengthen Qi energy, nourish the spleen, and tonify the blood and lungs.
- Codonopsis pilosula / Dang Shen – 4 sticks, 10 cm long each
This herb will help to tonify and strengthen Qi energy. It helps to build blood and nourish body fluids.
- Dioscorea opposita (Chinese wild yam) / Shan Yao – 2 sticks, 5 cm long each
Dioscorea is a herb that tonifies and balances the lungs and the kidneys.
- Lyciium barbarum (Goji berries) / Gou Qi Zi – 3 tbsp
Goji berries help to strengthen the liver and the kidneys.
You may prepare the soup with the above ingredients, simmering for 2-4 hours in a covered pot with 4 L of water. Or use it as a base for a fuller soup made with the addition of the following optional ingredients:
- 1 whole chicken or carcass
- 5-10 whole garlic cloves
- 1 thumb of ginger
- 1 onion, chopped
- lots of local harvest vegetables: mushrooms, carrots, celery, potatoes, pumpkin, squash, beets and beet greens, swiss chard, etc…
Place herbs in a tea sock or cheesecloth bag for easy removal. Add all ingredients (except leafy greens) to a large soup pot. Cover with 4-5 L of water, bring to a boil and simmer covered for 2-4 hours until chicken and vegetables are well cooked. Remove herbs, add leafy greens and continue cooking until greens are wilted. Serve.
Divide left over soup in 1-2 cup portions and freeze for later use. Drink 1 cup or bowl every day for 2 weeks. This soup is also safe for children but the amount needs to be adjusted for weight.
People who are already in the midst of a cold or flu should not drink the soup until after they have recovered.