As the days shorten and the weather cools, we will look for ways to continue strengthening immunity and invigorating our physical bodies. Bone broth is an excellent way to do so. From a Chinese medicine point of view, bone broth builds the most essential component of the body, the Kidney essence, along with the qi, blood, bones and tendons. Thus, bone broth is an especially useful staple during the cooler months. When you consume bone broth, you are nourishing your Kidney Yin and Yang directly. We call this 'strengthening the root' in Chinese Medicine because the Kidneys are the root of all Yin and Yang in the body. Here are some interesting tidbits about bone broth I have picked up along the way:
If there are colds going around or if you feel run down, make the following recipe and eat it for two or three days in a row. Increases resistance and builds immunity:
Herbed Bone Broth
4 lbs. roasted chicken necks, backs, feet or 2 roasted chicken carcasses
2 celery stalks
1 yellow onion, quartered
3 large cloves of garlic
12 cups water (3 quarts)
3-4 Tblsp Apple cider vinegar
2 grams Kombu (one large strip)
6 slices ginger
20 g (about 2 Tblsp) Fo Ti/He Shou Wu
16 g (small handful) Chinese yam/Shan Yao
20 g (about 3 Tblsp) Goji berry
10 g (small handful) Astragalus/Huang Qi
15 g (large handful) Reishi mushroom/Ling Zhi
1. Roast chicken bones/pieces on 400 to enrich the flavor of the broth, until they are browned. (optional)
2. Add bones and any juices from the roasting pan to a large crockpot with celery, onion, water, apple cider vinegar and kombu. Turn crockpot on low and bring to a simmer. You don’t want the broth to boil, but a gentle simmer is fine.
3. Simmer for a minimum of 20 hours, then add the herbs and simmer for an additional 4 hours.
4. Strain everything from the broth and discard the solids.
Sip the broth as it is, or use to cook grains and stews. I usually let it cool on the counter for a bit then chill in the fridge. To remove the fat, let the broth cool then you can skim the fat solids from the top. Leave a little, the fat helps your body to absorb minerals!
Nourishes yin, yang, qi and blood. Calming and settling to the spirit. Builds immunity and adaptability.
Bone Broth Tips and lessons
Summer is a good time to up your water intake! Hydration is a key factor in your health, and most important is to drink clean water with a more alkaline nature. The alkalinity is an expression of the minerals that are in water naturally. When water is filtered, it removes most if not all of the minerals along with the toxins. One of the tasks of the minerals is to act as the electrolytes that promote the absorption of the water. When you are mildly dehydrated, these are some of the symptoms you may experience:
Keep in mind, it is not only the water that you need to help with these symptoms, it’s the minerals that act as electrolytes. Electrolytes are responsible for directing the water to the areas of the body where it is needed and also for maintaining optimal fluid balance inside of the cells. In addition, the minerals help your muscles to contract and relax and assist in the transmission of your body’s nerve impulses.
The best water to stay hydrated with is clean pure fresh spring water. If you don't have access to a spring, you can buy it in glass jars at the store. But that is very pricey. The most obvious solution is filtered water with minerals added back in. There are many different options for doing this, from purchasing a trace mineral supplement to drop in your drinking water, or a minute shake of whole salt (like Himalayan or Celtic - not any of the traditional table salts) into your glass.
Learn Your Yin from Yang: What does this look like in the body?
In my last entry I described some general concepts of Chinese medicine including the theory of yin and yang. Let us explore a simple example to make this understanding more vivid.
A generally healthy person comes to the clinic with a symptom of anxiety that has been agitating them for the past few days. After intake we discover there is also a dryness in the throat and eyes. Looking at the tongue we can see some redness to its color, and the pulse itself is not filled out the way we believe it should be for the person, it is ‘thin’.
Any student of Chinese medicine would be able to infer a yin deficiency pattern of imbalance from these few symptoms. What is occurring is a pattern of dryness and heat that is a result of not enough yin in the body. The body fluids that lubricate the eyes and moisten the throat are yin substances. The blood that fills out the pulse is also a fluid - yin - substance. Redness in the tongue shows there is heat; to understand this you can think of what happens to your skin tissues when you have a sunburn! Perhaps the most difficult to understand is the anxiety. In Chinese medicine all patterns of imbalance have emotional symptomatology that will correspond and anxiety reflects a state of heat in the body* (see note below). Without enough yin substance to cool the body, excess yang manifests as heat (remember from the last entry that yang is hot, yin is cool). Heat in the body rises, like a flame will rise up, to agitate the Shen, or emotional spirit of the person causing a fidgety, nervous, monkey mind syndrome.
For this particular pattern to create balance we don’t look so much to clear out the heat as to bring in more yin substance to the body which will cool and settle the excess yang heat, a harmonizing balance of these polar energies. This can look like yin activities such as quiet meditation and relaxing breathing practices; nourishing yin by consuming yin substances like foods such as healthy fats, green vegetables and whole grains; and herbs like Shu Di Huang (prepared rehmannia) and Gou Qi Zi (goji berry).
If the patient continued in their lifestyle practices and did not make any alter to their current state, they might begin to experience more symptoms that fall into this pattern as the yin diminished and heat progressively increased like insomnia, night sweats and dry stools, blurry vision, unsettling hot flashes or a delayed menstrual cycle and infertility. This is how we can interrupt these cycles early with ancient and simple health practices.
*NOTE: Not all anxiety is caused from yin deficiency, it gets more complicated because it can be due to a yang excess; this excess yang will eventually begin to consume the yin like fire boils away water, but in this instance we focus on reducing yang as our main strategy rather than nourishing yin primarily. All symptoms of ill health can be viewed in this complicated manner, and takes dedicated study to understand the complexities. This example is meant for an aid to general understanding of the foundations.
Learn Your Yin from Yang: