Nourish Yourself During the Cold Seasons, using Chinese Medicine (and soup)
Article and photo by Tina Camilleri, our new Chinese Medicine Practitioner, Acupuncturist, Herbalist and seasonal food enthusiast
The transition from Autumn to Winter can be a tough one for some people, especially those of us who are susceptible to colds, so in the next few weeks it is super important to give our immune systems, respiratory systems and adrenals a little bit of extra love and support. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine is particularly good at helping our bodies adjust to seasonal transitions, because it works in harmony with where the body is at, and helps support the qi or energy in places where it has become stuck, depleted or worn-out.
At my clinic in the Blue Mountains where I work when I’m not at Max Remedial there are a lot of patients seeking treatments for this very reason. As it gets colder, our bodies want to slow down and go inward but our work/family/social commitments often require us to stay in Summer or Spring mode, so things can go a bit off kilter. We can feel emotionally worn-out, unable to sleep or focus, and we may have aches and pains or suffer poor digestion as our bodies feel over extended. It is also common for lingering lung problems to show up, such as sinus and allergies or a constant sniffling nose or dry throat. Alongside acupuncture and personalised Chinese medicine formulas there are some simple self-care rituals I encourage my patients to do to help build the body’s resistance to the cold-weather woes. One simple self-care ritual is making soup with delicious, hearty, seasonal ingredients.
The best place to start with Autumn or Winter soups is a nutritious base or stock. If you are a meat-eater go for an organic chicken bone broth, or one made from meat cooked on the bone. An easy way to do a chicken broth is to cook the whole chicken overnight in a slow cooker, so it’s ready when you wake up. Then all you need to do is build your soup up from this hearty base. If you are too busy to make your stock from scratch there are some wonderful pre-prepared stocks you can buy off the shelf (one of my favourites is Love & Bones Broth, which contains no added nasties). Of course you can also make a delicious hearty soup without using any stock. Just start with a big slice of ginger, some garlic and anything else from the wonderful allium family such as onions, leeks, shallots, spring onions, as well as a good pinch of salt and some warming spices, some animal protein, 2 litres of water, some seasonal vegetables, barley etc. Bring to the boil, then turn down to simmer for 2-5 hours. Check that everything is tasty, tender and cooked through then serve hot with chopped green herbs and a squeeze of lemon.
If you are a non meat-eater go for earthy dried mushrooms, miso and/or healing grains like barley and spelt to give you a rich earthy soup base. Add in protein-rich beans or legumes too, remembering to wash and soak them beforehand to help make them easy to digest. Once legumes have been cooking for a while, add your seasonal veggies to the broth. Cook until everything is tender and tasty. Top with fresh herbs and lemon juice.
Whether you are opting for meat or meat free meals you can also add medicinal Chinese herbs to your soup broth to help build your body’s defensive qi (or immunity levels). At the request of my patients I have combined some of my favourite medicinal herbs in a super-charged broth booster that you can add to your soup in the early stages, to help make things easy. I will be selling these from Max Remedial if anyone is interested.
We often forget to take care of our bodies at the times when we most need it. The transition into Winter is one of those times, where it is important to listen to our bodies, slow down and give ourselves some extra support. If you want any cold weather recipes or medicinal soup herbs, or you have any questions about Chinese Medicine, food therapy or acupuncture I would love to hear from you. Now I’m off to eat my soup!