Herbal Allies: Honeysuckle + Forsythia

Honeysuckle and Forsythia

Paired together, these acrimonious accomplices coagitate and conspire to  entangle upper respiratory infections like colds, flu's, bronchitis, and sore throats in their vivacious vines. These two toxic avengers provide the brawny backbone for one of the ancestral Chinese pharmacopoeia's most judicious antibiotic herbal formulas, Yin Qiao. They release heat pathogens from the body, quell toxicity, and have been decocted by the initiated masses for thousands of years to treat wind-heat conditions, influenza, and viral infections. Recent clinical trials have shown that honeysuckle tea exhibits broad-spectrum antiviral and antibiotic activity, suppressing the effects of influenza virus in mice, effectively acting as a "virologocal penicillin". If a turn of phrase like "virological penicillin" gets you all hot and bothered in a panty drenching swoon, then boil yourself a pot of honeysuckle forsythia tea and drink it throughout the day, or decoct in a hot rice porridge or congee for a DIY flu shot. Lemon and honey will smooth over the acerbic edges, but the tea's poignant puissance will never fully acquiesce. But you want your medicine to be grizzled not chiseled - 'tis the season for prevention!

Herbal Allies: Huang Lian /// Coptis Root

Coptis Root

This golden, auric wonder glows like a honey-dipped sun, but under its florid veneer it shrouds a lethal combination of antibiotic and anti-inflammatory moxie engulfed in an acerbic matrix of bitter oomph. Coptis is, quite possibly, the bitterest herb I have ever tasted. Long enshrined in traditional medicine for its ability to treat conditions associated with excess dampness, inflammation, and heat, its bitterness is the key to its effectiveness. The bitter taste and yellow hue indicate the presence of berberine, an alkaloid with strong antibiotic effects that effectively drains excess and heat from the body. In test tube studies, berberine was shown to inhibit the growth of streptococcal bacteria responsible for some forms of pneumonia, and it exhibits broad-spectrum antibacterial and antiviral activity (take that, o meager single-minded flu shot!) that supports the use of coptis to treat skin, mouth, eye, gastrointestinal, and vaginal infections. A robust stalwart of heavy-hitter herbal prescriptions, Coptis takes on staphylococcus, strains of streptococcus, hepatitis B, salmonella, SIBO, cholera, and its motto is basically “I can handle all this jelly.” ALL HAIL.

Food of the Coconut Gods

Coconut Gods

Let's talk dirty. The average adult has 2-6 pounds (!!!) of microbes in their gut. There is 10x more bacteria than all human cells! It is like Midtown Manhattan up in there, so crowd control is necessary. So many essential metabolic functions in the gut are carried out exclusively by our microbiota, which is why you should seed the belly regularly with high potency probiotics, like this absolutely ambrosial vegan coconut yogurt from @coconutgods. Keep your microbiome in check with a few tangy tablespoons per day, or make your own with a yogurt starter and a little elbow grease.❤️

Turmeric Orange Julius

Orange Julius

A valley girl summer cooler brought to you by winsome & woebegone memories of strolling the Sherman Oaks Galleria in Bart Simpson boxer shorts with a home perm and Orange Julius in hand. All of the nostalgia and none of the junk, with a hint of Ayurveda and a Taoist twist. ☀️

1 frozen banana, 3 knuckles freshly peeled turmeric root, 1 orange, 1 tbsp grass fed collagen protein, 1 tsp pearl powder, blended in a base of rice mylk.

Ritual Medicine: Magically Charged Immune Tonic

If one cannot obtain medicines 

One can live still to several hundred years of age,

If one fully grasps the principles

Of cultivating Qi and practices daily.

Indeed, humans exist within the Qi

And Qi exists within humans.

From Heaven and Earth to the myriad things,

Qi is pervasive.

There is nothing that does not rely on Qi for life.

-Master Ge Hong, The Book Of The Master Who Embraces Simplicity, 4thCentury C.E

Qi Gong Immune Tonic

Ritual and Medicine were once entwined in a caduceus of consanguinity, an ouroboros of serpentine synergy. Mutually engendering one another, they coaxed forth each other’s latent powers and filled in the gaps in their respective repertoires. Most traditional medical systems still honor this alchemical marriage, but our current hegemonic medical paradigm has been ripping up the paperwork and denying them rights. As a healthcare provider, it’s fashionable and expected that I shirk away from this brouhaha and peddle the antiseptic certitude of allopathic care with sophistry & absolutism. However, indigenous medicine places the physician as a mender of chasms, honoring the prosaic prowess of each paradigm and fusing ritual and remedy as one. 

On a forced sabbatical recuperating from the pernicious three-week flu that recently swept Los Angeles, I was reminded of how important it is to fuse ritual & medicine, particularly when you’re wilted and supine, struggling to find your mojo in a disempowered mire. There’s nothing more humbling then being banished to your bed by a gruesome malady, a victim of capricious circumstance failed by your own flailing biology. It is in these ashen hours that a call to arms is ever so crucial, so that we may remind ourselves of our ferocious latent powers and re-connect with the seeds of our quieted magic. This is a simple, homespun ritual that I like to do at the advent of cold & flu season, when I feel an itchy tingle beckoning in the back of my throat, or when I’ve got tendrils of pestilence bristling within my body. The purpose of this rite is to strengthen the body’s energetic shield and first line of defense, and allow its innate curative alchemy to expel any lingering pathogens. As magic is best when it’s a prosy pastiche of incongruent passions, this ritual draws upon Traditional Chinese Medicine, kitchen witchery, and the ancient Taoist art of qigong. This can also be done as a protection rite in a circle of priests & priestesses, should you be lucky enough to have a slew of fellow witches and warlocks to bro-down with. 

BACKGROUND

Qigong is the ancient Taoist art of cultivating qi from the abundant environment, and circulating its healing helices of gossamer elixir throughout the body. Through qigong, we can tap directly into the diaphanous motive power that operates the universe, and sycophantically siphon it into our own body cauldron. Qi is everywhere…within, without, above, below, giving life to all things. Its nature is to move and change, and the root of all health problems, be it injury, illness, or aging, involve the stagnation and circulation of qi and blood. Its harmonious flow is the basis of all ancient Asian medicinal and magical practices. 

This simple equation, culled from the magnificent book The Healing Promise of Qi by Roger Jahnke, appeases both the science nerd and wizard in me, and distills the myriad mysteries of qigong into a basic formula: 

Practice + Intention = Inner Harmony = Qi Flow = Health and Longevity

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the lungs are inextricably linked to qi. Doctor Shen’s Compendium of Honoring Life (Shen Shi Zunsheng Shu), a Chinese medical text from1773, states that “the lung is the master of qi. Above, it connects to the throat; below, it connects to the orifices of the heart and the liver. It is in charge of inhalation and exhalation, and, in more general terms, the flux of coming in and going out.” The optimal functioning of the lungs ensures vitality and fortitude for the body en masse. The Statutes of Medicine (Yimen Falü), another Chinese medical text from 1658, illuminates this relationship, stating that “all bodily qi has its physical origin in the lung. If the lung’s qi is clear and straightforward, then there is not a single type of qi in the body that will not obey and flow along smoothly. However, if the lung qi becomes obstructed and turns murky, then the qi dynamics of the entire body will start to go against their natural flow and start to move upwards instead of downwards.”

The lung also has the unique distinction of being the uppermost organ in the body, an envoy between the external evils and the internal sanctum, uniquely susceptible to pathogenic factors like wind and cold. The lungs control the strength and circulation of Wei Qi, the ancient Chinese medical term for the body’s defensive energy and proverbial force field. Wei Qi warms the body and protects one’s self from the rigors of the outside environment. If you catch colds easily, have low energy or require a long time recuperating from an illness, your Wei Qi may be deficient. This ritual uses qigong and kitchen alchemy to strengthen the lung energy, boost Wei Qi, and ensure the harmonious flow of qi throughout the body.

GROCERY LIST

Your ritual libation will be a magically-charged ‘Wei Qi Tonic,’ comprised of horseradish root, white onions, hot peppers, garlic, ginger root, and apple cider vinegar. In some circles, this is called ‘Fire Cider,’ though amongst my kinfolk it is lovingly referred to as ‘Plague Tonic.’ Plague Tonic is white and pungent to support the lungs, as this combination of color and taste resonates with the element metal in five element correspondences within Traditional Chinese Medicine. You can find directions on how the Botanarchy test kitchen makes this infernal brew here. Priests & Priestesses could also use an immunity alembic of their choice in lieu of the Plague Tonic. A strong hot toddy, a shot of fresh pressed garlic juice, oil of oregano, cayenne & lemon water, whatever tickles your pickle. Ideally, your libation will be zesty, fiery, and entirely NOT sip-worthy. But with a dash of magical zeal, anything radiating with the harmonics of healing will do.

PROCEDURE

When you fall ill, first regulate the breath,

Ingest the Qi, and fix your attention on the afflicted area.

Practice holding the breath, 

And by means of conscious attention

Visualize the breath concentrating in the afflicted part.

Visualize the Qi attacking the illness.

When you can no longer comfortably hold the breath,

Exhale very slowly.

-The Immortal Master’s Treatise on the Absorption of Primordial Energy

1.    Prepare the space with a banishing ritual that you vibe with, and an incense or smudge wand of your choice. Ai Ye, Mugwort, would be an excellent fumigant for this rite, as it is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to purify pathogens, and ‘warm’ deficient conditions within the body. 

2.    Sit your Priests & Priestesses in a circle in a comfortable seated position, each with a chalice of Wei Qi Tonic. If you are rolling solo, just plop down and have at it.

3.    Call upon a pathogenic factor you wish to expel. This could be an ‘emotional pathogen’ plaguing the body, such as lingering bad habit or traumatic event, or it could be a physical ailment, such as a runny nose or sinus headache. Attune to the physical locus of the pathogen within the body, and fix your attention on the afflicted area. Where does it linger? Is it heavy, oppressive, constricting? Does it feel hot? Sticky? Smokey? Summon it forth, feel its viscerality, and let it grow. Connect with its noxious character and feel it licking the walls of your viscera. 

4.    When the pathogen has been effectively summoned, slowly imbibe the Wei Qi Tonic, and feel its vigorous heat burning away the putrid evil of the pathogen. Sip slowly and with fierce intention until a visceral response is elicited. This could be anything from a hearty sweat, to a cough, tearing eyes, digestive noises, cathartic breath, or a sensation of lightness within the body. When you feel you have expelled your pathogen, push your ritual chalice to the center of the circle.  If you are working with a group, this will signal to the other Priests & Priestesses that it is time to move on to the Wei Qi cultivation portion of the rite.

5.    Now that you have purified your body, gather the Heavenly Qi of the universe and store it within you. Begin by standing comfortably in Horse Pose. Circle your arms over your head as you inhale Heavenly Qi through the lungs, drawing the qi down through your arms as you rest them in a circle over your umbilicus, exhaling Evil Qi out of your lungs. Visualize spirals of healing qi descending into the lungs, and disseminating protective Wei Qi over the surface of the body. Repeat at least 5 times.

6.    Electrify the Wei Qi, and increase the diameter of its energetic field by relaxing and shaking the body vigorously for at least one minute. Imagine golden white light enshrouding you with protective mojo that no ills can permeate.

7.    Give yourself a Wei Qi bath, by rubbing your hands lightly over the entire surface of the body, starting with the head and face, moving down the outer legs, and back up through the inner legs, dousing the body in energized, electric Wei Qi. 

8.    Once thoroughly exulted, close the rite by taking a few deep breaths to honor your inner physician. Whenever you feel persnickety, pestilent, or fatigued, know that qi is bounteous, free, and omnipresent, the marrow of the universe ripe for the suckling. Enjoy in robust health~! 

Herbal Allies: Pang Da Hai

Pang Da Hai Karaoke Seed

Known in Asia as ‘The Karaoke Seed’, Pang Da Hai tea has been soothing my stressed throat all week, after a ribald weekend of duetting to Kate Bush at top volume. This gem of an herb is wonderful to have on hand for singers, speakers, teachers, rabble rousers, or anyone prone to voice loss, raspiness, sore throat, and dryness. Pour hot water over the seed, and watch as a magnificent, jellyfish-esque sea creature emerges. Pinkies up!

Chinese Herbal Bone Broth

Bone Broth

Never does a week go by in our household where the scraps of our epicurean labors aren’t heaped in a giant enamelware pot and stewed for hours while we mill about the homestead. We’re fanatical about our bone-collecting, surreptitiously slipping chicken carcasses into napkins under the table, asking waiters to box up our goat bones after indulging in a hearty pot of Birria De Chivo Goat Stew. The result of our rampant scrap-mongering is a rich, profoundly nourishing bone broth, imbued with golden melted life-force, exceedingly nourishing to the illustrious Three Treasures of Chinese Medicine:

Jing, our Essence, the source of life, the basis for all growth, development, and sexuality.

Qi, our energy, giving us the ability to activate and move our bodies, whilst protecting us against external and internal pathogenic factors.

Shen, our inner light, the vitality behind Jing and Qi, the mental and spiritual force that shapes our personality and spirit.

Bone Broth- or ‘stock’, depending our your particular cultural milieu- is a pan-cultural old world panacea, utilitarian kitchen alchemy transforming vegetable scraps and bones into pure nutritional gold. Heaps of vegetables, herbs, and leftover bones are pragmatically piled in a pot, and left to simmer slowly for long periods of time, extracting every morsel of function and flavor. The resulting infusion is a gently potent brew, teeming with trenchant, bio-available nutrition, easy to digest and suitable for all matter of medicine, both preventative AND curative. A complex, rich mosaic of variegated flavors, it is also an opulent addition to stews, soups, sauces, poaching liquid, grains, beans, and porridge, transforming blasé cooking water into a savory swill. It nourishes our tendons, ligaments, skin, bones, and blood, keeping us limber and spry, with an assassin-worthy immune system. As a grounding force in our otherwise hypersonic, twenty-first century lives, it forces us to spend a few hours a week at home, tending to our hearth fire. If I seem a little in love with it, it’s because I am. I get to melt bones in a giant pot, like a surly wizard necromancer.

Many moons ago, before I was religious about my bone broth, I was stricken by a persnickety set of symptoms that left me vacillating between a sprightly 20-something yoga warrior and a knobby, decrepit old crone. One day, I would be handstanding in yoga class like nobody’s business, and the next day, I could barely touch my toes, plagued with spells of tightness, pain, and numbness, accompanied by bouts of sleep seizures that made me feel ancient, neurotic, and utterly powerless. After getting diagnosed with a vague autoimmune disease, delivered with a despondent, helpless send-off from the Western Medical Hegemony, my homegrown recovery was rooted in cutting out all inflammatory foods (gluten, sugar, ungainly processed rubbish), and going the way of old man Hippocrates by using food as my medicine. Through Traditional Chinese Medicine and the wisdom of thee Weston A. Price Foundation, I discovered the ancient magic of bone broth, and have never looked back. Years later, I am symptom free (though on occasion, I go to town on Chocolate Stout and homemade bread), and enjoying all sorts of bendy melee on the regular. And really, despite seeing tons of under-the-weather patients daily, have developed a super-human resistance to colds and flu. I make my cauldron of bone broth weekly, and drink a cup a day, increasing in times of debauchery, disorder, or debilitation. I suggest this to everyone that walks through my door, as I’ve seen countless miracles in managing all matter of disease (you can check out the foxy graphic below from Vanessa Romero at Healthy Living How To for a list of its wiles and wonders).

If broth seems too good to be true, it’s because it is. Our leery, infirmed culture has taught us to be inherently disdainful of anything that seems ‘too good to be true’, a silly idiom I’ve always despised for shading the world in a Saturnine hue, thwarting the everyday magic of simple things, and propagating the ‘snake-oil’ mythos that impedes the advancement of traditional medicines. I much prefer the wisdom of wise old Yeats, who knew that “The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”

Why is bone broth so beautiful? The venerable Dr. Mercola at The Mercola Institute drops some science on this egregious elixir below, adding some credence to my highfalutin claims:

BENEFITS OF BONE BROTH

Helps heal and seal your gut, and promotes healthy digestion: The gelatin found in bone broth is a hydrophilic colloid. It attracts and holds liquids, including digestive juices, thereby supporting proper digestion.

Inhibits infection caused by cold and flu viruses: A study published over a decade ago found that chicken soup indeed has medicinal qualities, significantly mitigating infection.

Reduces joint pain and inflammation, courtesy of chondroitin sulphates, glucosamine, and other compounds extracted from the boiled down cartilage. (Aside: glucosamine and chondroitin are usually sold over the counter as fancy supplements for arthritis).

Fights inflammation: Amino acids such as glycine, proline, and arginine all have anti-inflammatory effects. Arginine, for example, has been found to be particularly beneficial for the treatment of sepsis (whole-body inflammation).Glycine also has calming effects, which may help you sleep better.

Promotes strong, healthy bones: As mentioned above, bone broth contains high amounts of calcium, magnesium, and other nutrients that play an important role in healthy bone formation.

Promotes healthy hair and nail growth, thanks to the ample gelatin in the broth.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED

Large Stainless Steel Stock Pot or Crock Pot

Roughly two pounds of organic chicken, beef, lamb, or fish bones, procured from a local butcher, or culled from recent feastings and stored in the freezer until needed. We’re talkin’ carcasses, knuckles, and hooves, oh my! If you plan on making a habit out of your stock making shenanigans (which you should!), I suggest finding a sympathetic meat peddler to bro-down with in your hood. In Los Angeles, I’m sweet on J&J Grassfed Beef. You can peruse sustainably raised local livestock on LocalHarvest.org, or check out the CrossFit gyms in your area, as many CSA’s are starting to offer gym delivery.   

¼ cup vinegar: Of paramount importance, for extracting the minerals from the bones into your broth.

A Mirepoix, consisting of 1 coarsely chopped onion, 2 carrots, and 2 sticks of celery.

Other coarsely chopped vegetables and assorted kitchen detritus: Perhaps the most admiral facet of broth is its commonsensical use of otherwise discarded cooking debris, with a peasant zeal otherwise reserved for Bruce Springsteen. Yellowing parsley, disfigured carrots, celery tops, blood-red chard stalks, onion skins, the graveyard of your heroic juicing efforts, haunted specters from the crisper… they all get their day in the sun. Your ingredients will be subject to the capricious nature of your weekly eating habits, producing a protean olio that is romantically un-reproducible from one week to the next. We keep a jar in the freezer that we fill with our forsaken vegetable fragments just for this purpose. My mainstays for flavor are 1 bunch of parsley, 2 quartered potatoes, a few hearty sprigs of rosemary and thyme from the garden, and a few cloves of garlic.

1 tsp black peppercorns

Fresh, cold water

I love to add a smidgen of Chinese herbs to my brew, to enhance and direct the healing vectors of my broth. 2-3 ounces of each herb should do the trick, always being intuitive with your needs and working with what you have on hand, like the cunning egalitarian Kitchen Witch that you are. These folks are mainstays in my cabinet, and on any given Sunday, I may sprinkle a smattering of the following into my cauldron:

A handful of Dang Shen/Codonopsis Root: To help strengthen the qi, counter mental and physical fatigue, build blood, and nourish body fluids.

Perhaps 5-10 slices of Huang Qi/Astragalus Root: To boost the immune system and strengthen qi, ensconcing one in protective energy that helps prevent illness due to external influences.

Certainly always a knuckle or so of Sheng Jiang/Fresh Ginger Root: To stoke the digestive fires and stimulate the circulatory system.

A pinch of Xi Yang Shen/American Ginseng Root: Boosting gentler Ginseng tendrils than the Chinese or Korean varietals, an admirable addition to combat fatigue and stress, whilst improving athletic and mental performance,

Dong Quai/Chinese Angelica Root: The ultimate femme tonic, invaluable for strengthening the blood, nourishing the reproductive organs, regulating menstruation, and alleviating period pain.

Shan Yao/Chinese Wild Yam: A lovely anti-inflammatory that tonifies qi, nourishes yin, and strengthens the spleen, lungs, and kidneys, particularly puissant after a long-term illness.

A sprinkling of Shan Zhu Yu/Dogwood Fruit: An excellent astringent herb and reproductive tonic that strengthens the liver and kidneys, while securing leakage of vital essence.

6 or so strands of dried Dong Chong Xia Cao/Cordyceps Mushroom: My most favorite herb in the Chinese pharmacopeia, Cordyceps is hailed on the street as the Himalayan Viagra for its revered ability to increase stamina, sex drive, virility, strength, brainpower, athletic prowess & focus. It’s a favorite of Chinese Olympians, so you know it’s gooch.

HOW TO

1. Break your precious bones up into smaller pieces (ideally about 3 inches long), with kitchen scissors or a fun weapon (living with a ninja has infinite perks). This will increase the surface area of bone exposed to the water, giving you a higher nutrient yield.

2. If using beef bones, you’ll want to roast your bones until browned at 400 degrees F for roughly 60-90 minutes to add richness.

3. Place the bones in your stockpot or crockpot, along with your vegetables, scraps, peppercorns, and Chinese herbs. Cover with cold water, adding a few fingers for good measure. Add your splash of vinegar and cover with a lid.

4. Slowly bring your stock to a boil, then reduce to low and simmer gently for 6-48 hours (yes, I know 48 hours is a very daunting commitment in our breakneck world). I love to use a crockpot, because you can just pile all your business in, turn on high until boiling, reduce to low, and then promptly forget about it whilst retiring to your bedchamber for the evening. It’s so egalitarian, I can hardly stand it. If using a stockpot, you can use the following guidelines (and your own pending commitments) to gauge cooking time: 6-48 hours for chicken bones, and 12-72 hours for beef and other meats.

5. Give your bone broth the occasional shout-out during simmering, checking to see that there is always a fair amount of water covering your accoutrements.

6. At some point, you will inevitably notice a thick, insalubrious scum rising to the top of your broth. Many folks will trick you into thinking you MUST skim this off routinely, to clarify the product and make a finer tasting brew. To this I say, “ain’t nobody got time for that!” The whole skimming off the top thing is sadly overrated, as testing has shown that this “scum”, while unsightly, contains nothing harmful. If you wanna be fancy, go right ahead. Otherwise, fret not!

7. When you’re ready to call it quits, remove your bones with a slotted spoon, discard, and strain the rest through a colander into a large bowl. If you’re feeling spry, you can strain again through a sieve or cheesecloth to achieve an extra-fancy, clear broth. Chill your luscious potion of collagen and gelatin in the fridge, until the fat congeals and rises to the top. If you want a liquid broth for cooking purposes, you can skim the fat off and store the remaining liquid in the fridge for roundabout a week’s time. However, if you want your broth to drink like a rich toddy of hot buttered rum, I say leave the fat on (we do), and enjoy your broth like molten velvet bone mojo. Enjoy in radiant heath, golden ones!

Soup Cure: Four Deities Soup

Preventative medicine in a porcelain pot, Si Shen Tang 四神汤, ‘Four Deities Soup’, is an old school tonic remedy for all matter of melee thwarting zest & zing. I have been all sorts of obsessed with this soup since introduced to it by my Chinese Nutrition teacher, who’s hot-blooded zeal for food as medicine is unparalleled. Slurp by slurp, I noticed near immediate relief from digestive doldrums, and felt palpable rays of puissance wash over my seriously taxed bag o’ bones. This gentle soup can be utilized in a myriad of ways, from strengthening the digestive system, increasing appetite after illness or chemotherapy, battling fatigue, boosting the immunity, and calming a jostled nervous system. Because it’s taste is placid & mild, Si Shen Tang is the perfect source of nutrition for finicky kids with digestive distress. Though I find juice fasts to be haughty, ill-informed, & positively superfluous (life is entirely too vivacious to camp out on top of a Vitamix for weeks on end, eschewing commitments, kettlebells, and spontaneity), I CAN get down with a soup detox, which grounds, nourishes, and warms the body. Where juice lacks fiber & protein, shuts down the thyroid, dampens the digestive system, and contributes to wild fluctuations in blood sugar, tonic soups are PERFECT for a midsummer cleanse. They will sustain and simplify, supporting your organ systems without dampening and depleting your inner fire.
Soup cures are this bruja’s medicine of choice, nonpareil. Though you must be proactive, prudent, and vigilant in your preemptive preparation, using soup as medicine is an infinitely rewarding and deliciously empowering alternative to medication and surly interludes at urgent care. A dash of fastidiousness in the kitchen goes a long way in the gallant fight against acute ailments, chronic fatigue, and recovery from illness, by maintaining a buoyant & valorous flow of qi throughout the body.

INGREDIENTS

Though their pedigree may seem glamorously avant garde, Chinese herbs are a hoary banality, and customary staple in most Asian pantries for both healing and grubbing. All of the herbs below can be easily procured in your local Chinatown apothecary, should you have a local Chinatown apothecary. If Los Angeles happens to be your halcyon homestead, hustle on over to Tin Bo or Wing Hop Fung for a crash course in Chinese herbalism, and a fanciful frolic amongst shelves of dried fish maw, beetle skeletons, powdered horns, seahorses, and musty mystical mushrooms. Fresh fare- such as Sake and Chinese Yam- will be readily available at any Asian market, where you can also try your luck at finding rogue Chinese herbs to flesh out your budding collection.

1 Cup Job’s Tears Barley/Yi Yi Ren

Yi Yi Ren

A gluten-free barley (be still my heart!) that adds burly nourishment to even the most tedious soups, stews, and brews, Yi Yi Ren is a gloriously gratifying grain. Excellent for eliminating dampness, heat, and toxicity, it goes to the spleen, stomach, and lungs, aiding in digestive troubles, swelling, fatigue, urinary difficulty, abscesses, and joint pain. I was thrilled to learn recently that Yi Yi Ren is being used intravenously in China to shrink cancer cells, and has been exhibiting hefty anti-tumoral powers. It is, unfortunately, not suitable for pregnant women, though it’s wondrous in soups for conjuring postpartum joie de vivre.

1 Cup Lotus Seed/Lian Zi

Lian Zi Lotus Seed

A dapper bedfellow to Yi Yi Ren, Lian Zi is a meaty lil’ seed that nourishes the heart, spleen, kidneys, and vital essence. Another darling of the pantry, Lotus Seed is mild enough to beef up any feastly fête, excellent for cases of chronic diarrhea, urinary and reproductive disorders, low appetite, irritability, insomnia, anxiety, and palpitations.

1 Cup Fox Nut/Qian Shi

Fox Nut Qian Shi

Completing the trifecta of tonics, Qian Shi gently supports the spleen and kidneys, for frequent urination, diarrhea, diabetes, chronic discharge, and sore low back from stress and over-taxation.

A Few Pieces of Fu Shen/Spirit Poria Mushroom, Broken Up

Fu Ling Spirit Poria Mushroom

One of the most poetic medicinal mushrooms of the Chinese canon, Fu Shen is both a mushroom AND a morsel of host wood from the pine tree upon which she feasts. Thus she contains the rootsy, arboreal energetics of the tree, and the otherworldly, decaying detritus of the fungus. Spirit Poria nourishes the heart spirit, and the ancient Taoists believed that consuming this famed fungi 'leads to a long and happy life.’ It is used by those wishing to overcome anxiety, palpitations due to heart deficiency, insomnia, poor memory, worry, fear, edema, and urinary difficulties.

1 Raw Chinese Yam/Shan Yao, Grated and Sliced

Chinese Yam

Another boon for boosting spleen and stomach qi, Shan Yao is excellent for diarrhea, fatigue, spontaneous sweating, and lack of appetite. Also admirable for tonifying lung and kidney qi, it is an delightful herb for diabetics and those with chronic cough and wheezing.

3 Cups Sake or Mirin 

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, rice wine invigorates and warms the channels of the body, quickening the flow of qi and enhancing the potency of herbs.

3 Liters Purified Water or Homemade Bone Broth

Should you be hoarding any homemade Botanarchy Bone Broth, this would add luscious flair to your brew. If water seems entirely too ho-hum for your tastes (which it won’t be, I promise), you can find my broth recipe here. I recommend a lighter broth, such as chicken, tempered with purified water.

A Heavy-Handed Sprinkling of Toasted Sesame Oil and Sea Salt, To Taste

Optional: Chicken or Pork

METHOD

First, sanctify your herbal assemblage by bathing it in water, and grate the scrappy skin off your Chinese Yam before slicing. Once your herbs have been happily hallowed, grab yourself a hefty stock pot, and throw in the Job’s Tears, Lotus Seed, Fox Nut, and Fu Shen with wild abandon. Cover with a liter of purified water, boil, and then reduce to a slow simmer with lid on for about 2 hours, until your herbs have sweetly softened. Pop on over about two shakes of a lamb’s tail short of two hours, and add the Sake and Chinese Yam. Once the yam is soft, season to taste with Sesame Oil and Sea Salt. Enjoy in robust health, surreptitiously slurping your bowl of medicine daily, until you have thoroughly coaxed your mojo back to life and hoisted the heebie jeebies right outta dodge.

Plague Tonic

Plague Tonic

My bosslady Sara Pettitt, L.Ac., got me hip to this infernal brew, and now I whip it up every cold season to chase the devil away (once I have my way with him, natch). I give it out to all my kin, and we take turns knocking back shots like career Bukowski’s courtin’ strumpets in a skid row rattrap. This is not a dainty convenience store dalliance, like popping a few Sudafed between hits of Emergen-C (which are so déclassé, I won’t even touch them). This wicked brew has a visceral tang harkening to the necrotic fury of the Black Death, as the basic formula goes back to medieval Europe & Asia during the Bubonic Plague. It is a broad-spectrum antibioticthat will destroy both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria.Puissant to the point of arrogance, it is also a potent antiviral and antifungal formula. Drink one ounce a few times daily for broad immunity, and increase as necessary for acute conditions, such as inducing a sweat to vent a fever. If you’ve a brutish constitution, you can even gargle this tonic for sore throats.

Mix equal parts of the following in your Vitamix, or equally tenacious blender. Oh, and be sure to wear gloves, as the nefarious pairing of pepper-stained fingers and your nethers is disdainfully inelegant:

Garlic cloves, peeled

Fresh ginger root/Sheng Jiang

Fresh horseradish root

White onions, peeled

The hottest peppers you can get your paws on (Habanero, African Bird, Scotch Bonnet, Cayenne, et. al.)

1/3 cups Braggs Raw Apple Cider Vinegar

2/3 cups vodka or grain alcohol

Blend on high until liquid, and down a thimble full. Store the rest in a glass jar in your refrigerator.

Turmeric Toddy

Turmeric Toddy

This tangerine-tinted titan has been my bedfellow all morning whilst nursing a wee cold in my gypsy sleep tent.  The ocherous alembics of turmeric and ginger root warm the bones and stoke the middle jiao, while the saccharine swirls of maple syrup tendrils send me into an autumnal abyss from which I never want to return. Whip the following up in a Vitamix until milky, and warm on the stove:

1 large knuckle of fresh Turmeric root/Jiang Huang

1 small knuckle of fresh Ginger root /Sheng Jiang

3 Tbsp raw Hemp seeds

Maple Syrup, to taste

2 cups fresh water

The sweet solar energy of this hot toddy will boost your wei qi, providing you with Viking-worthy armor against pathogenic pests and shivering bones all season long.