At this time of year we are thinking about how to stay warm and healthy during the dark, wet and cold months. One thing we have to remember is that this is the time of year when we may want to be more reflective about our lives as well as take more time for cooking soups and sharing them with people that we love and enjoy being with. For years, I have made soups with the addition of immune enhancing herbs. One of these herbs, astragalus, has gained recognition in the West over the past decade or so. First used in China as a rejuvenating tonic, its warm, sweet energy strengthens the digestion, lungs, and kidneys. Astragalus is used to increase vitality, build resistance to disease, and in addition, it strengthens the legs and arms and has been extensively used by people who work outdoors or who are physically active. Taken on somewhat of a regular basis, especially during the fall and winter months, astragalus may help one to stay healthier and more energized. Since it can help anyone to rebuild and rejuvenate, it is especially beneficial for those recovering from an illness and those who have a compromised immune system.
Here is one example of a soup that I make for my family:
4 cups organic chicken or turkey stock
12 cups of clean water
6 slices astragalus root
one 12 inch long burdock root (1/2 in. diameter) cut into 4 long lengths
12 dried shitake mushrooms broke up in pieces (easier to crumble when frozen. ( other mushrooms can be used as well)
4 sticks of dried Kombu ( 4 inch lengths) or other seaweed
1 medium sized carrot chopped
1 medium sized parsnip chopped (optional)
2 medium onion ( saute in some olive oil then add the stock)
1 large potato chopped
4 stocks of bok choy ( optional)
other vegetables may be used as well
Mix equal parts basil, oregano, thyme, marjoram ( and other spices that you like) then add 2 or 3 tbsp of this blend to soup to help strengthen digestion.
1 -2 teaspoons of sea salt ( to taste)
Simmer all ingredients together for 4 - 6 hours. The soup tastes great for many days. ( make sure to refrigerate it though!) This is how the Chinese so often use their herbs - in their food. The spices tone the digestive system so that we better assimilate our food, the onions help to build the blood, the sea veggies help to re-mineralize our system and the mushrooms help to mobilize the immune system. Taking herbs as foods is much easier and tastier than swallowing a bunch of pills. The whole family can partake in the nourishment this way without any questions asked!