In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) we look at each food as not only having nutritional values but also having individual properties that act in a very specific way on the body.
By using specific foods, tailored to the individual and their particular set of symptoms (we’d identify it as a particular pattern or imbalance in the body), one can help to rebalance the body and heal in a very specific and customized way.
No two people are the same, and therefore it is important to listen to your particular body and symptoms and pick foods that work for you.
As we enter into these colder winter months, it is important to switch our diets from the more fresh, cooling foods of summer (think fresh cooling cucumbers, salad greens, tomatoes and watermelon) to the deeper warming, nourishing and building foods of winter (think warming spices like cinnamon, cumin, ginger and all the hearty soups and warm drinks that winter brings).
Ginger: A Wonderful Warming Spice
One of the most wonderful warming spices we use in Chinese Medicine is ginger. Ginger has the amazing ability to warm the body in a very deep way. In addition to just balancing out the cold that comes in this winter season, this spice is particularly good for someone who suffers from cold symptoms.
A cold pattern in TCM would show up in someone who is, go figure, cold all the time (the one who is in a sweater when everyone else is in a t-shirt). They can have aches and pains that feel worse in cold weather including sore lower back and knees; they may have very frequent and pale urination often having to wake through the night to go pee.
They may also suffer from looser bowels, tend towards edema or swellings and retaining water as well as having a constant running or drippy nose (particularly when outside) and may suffer from very low energy. This person would do very well drinking dried ginger tea or adding dried ginger to their meals.
Another healing benefit of ginger is for those suffering from what we’d call a cold wind pattern. What this means is those suffering from a common cold that exhibits more cold signs than hot ones: chills but no fever, running nose that is clear watery mucus with lots of sneezing.
(If you’re suffering from a sore throat, thick yellow mucus or fever – ginger is not the spice for you. You’ll need a cooling spice like peppermint to clear the heat).
The best way to consume ginger for this pattern is in its fresh/raw form. Fresh grated or sliced ginger in hot water with a bit of lemon and raw honey can do wonders for the onset of a cold.
I’ve listed an excellent little soup below that’s easy to make and works wonders at the onset of a wind-cold invasion (aka the common cold!)
I always keep some nourishing stock in the freezer and try to be sure to have green onions, astragalus, fresh ginger and garlic on hand throughout the winter. If I’m feeling a bit rundown and noticing the onset of a cold coming on, I can whip this up and nip it in the bud before it progresses to a full-blown cold. It works like a charm!
3 Other Key Healing Ingredients
This is shown to have the lovely perk (in addition to tasting great) of being antibacterial and immune boosting. It is considered warm in Traditional Chinese Medicine food therapy and is great for reducing swellings, removing toxicity and carcinogens, strengthening the digestive system and moving our qi!
This is also considered a warm and pungent herb, which makes it great for getting rid of ‘superficial’ conditions (aka the common cold) that are cold in nature (those chills!). It can be eaten cooked or raw and adds a great flavor to foods and works well in combination with ginger for that warming action.
This powerful herbal tool is easily found at your local Chinese market or herbal store. It has sweet and slightly warm properties and has great immune boosting properties. We say it works on the Lung and digestive systems in TCM and has great Qi (energy) boosting properties to it. It’s great for someone who seems to get sick all the time or has a lingering cough or just can’t seem to beat their cold.
Wishing you a cozy, healthy and nourishing winter season!
Ginger Soup To Kick That Cold To The Curb
I’ve got chills…and they’re multiplying (Common cold with chills and clear runny nose. No fever). Boost your qi, build your blood and kick that cold to the curb broth.
- 1-2 inch piece of Fresh Ginger sliced thinly.
- 4 Green onions sliced into medium sized pieces.
- 1-2 garlic cloves peeled and chopped (you can also use a garlic press).
- 6 cups Chicken bone broth* (see below) -You can also use regular chicken stock for this recipe if you don’t have the time or broth ready.
- And for vegetarians, see below for another option.
- Place ginger, onions, garlic and mushrooms (if you choose) in a pot and add a small amount of broth.
- Simmer until ingredients are softened.
- Add the rest of the stock and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 20-30minutes. Sip on broth throughout the day and feel better!
This broth/soup can be stored in the fridge easily for a few days. You can also eat the ginger pieces if you like for some extra heat.
Feel free to add some other vegetables if you desire to make it more of a meal. But be careful not to add too much salt as salt tends to bring things deeper into the body and this is more about pushing out the cold virus.
- Add in dried or fresh mushrooms (shitake, maitake, etc.) to add an extra boost for your Qi.
- Add in 4-5 pieces of Astragalus (Huang Qi) to the broth as it is simmering to boost your immune system and energy (qi).
*A Note On The Stock
Bone broth is incredibly easy to make and just takes a bit of time, but not a lot of energy. If you have a slow cooker that’s great or I would just let my broth simmer on the lowest setting possible on my stove overnight to get the same effect.
Organic Chicken Bone Broth
- Organic chicken bones simmered for 24 hrs with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar.
- For one pound of bones, you need about 12- cups of water or just fill the pot to cover the bones instead of measuring it out.
- Once it has simmered for 24 hours, skimming off the fat and oil on the surface, strain, and store in glass jars or freeze for later use.
I usually have stock simmering in my slow cooker every week to use with cooking or just freeze, so I have it to use in a pinch. Saving your bones from a roast or just checking with your local butcher for chicken backs or ends is a great way to get the bones for the broth).
You can also save the ends of your vegetables in a bag in the freezer and add them to the stock for a bit more of a nutritional boost!
“Bone Broth” for Vegetarians
Vegetarians you can make a vegan “bone broth” using vegetable stock or the ends of your veggies simmered for 8-10 hours and adding things like seaweeds, mushrooms, and miso to up the nutrient content.
This article explains the Traditional Chinese Medicine approach to health, the benefits of ginger and garlic, and how to make an immune-boosting ginger garlic soup for the cold & flu season. Enjoy!
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