Everyone has their go-to foods they automatically reach for when feeling run down.  Sometimes, no food is appealing, depending on what type of bug-a-boo you’ve caught.  Here are a couple suggestions for eating according to the principles of Chinese food therapy and macrobiotics.

Making soups and congees has long been part of Chinese food therapy.  Various foods, herbs, and vegetables, or even fresh or dried fruits are chosen specifically when making a congee for the infirm, depending on their particular imbalance.

Since people usually feel chilled and weak during seasonal colds, foods are chosen to restore the yang qi so the body can warm up, and generate the needed energy to heal.   Most people go for chicken soup, which is also a classic Chinese remedy.  Perhaps the end flavor, and vegetables chosen differ a bit, but the bowl of comfort soothes the body and the soul when not feeling well.

In macrobiotic cooking, miso soups are common.  Miso soup is full of health benefits, which you can read about, and learn how to make this excellent Miso Soup with Shredded Daikon & Carrot recipe.  Daikon is a radish, and radishes are great for expelling excess phlegm.

The combination of using grated daikon and carrot is part of a traditional Macrobiotic remedy for helping dissolve excess fat or mucus that can often be difficult to expel.

Carrot Daikon Healing Remedy:

  • 8-9 ounces purified water
  • A 2-3 in. piece of wakame, alaria, or kelp, optional
  • About 1/3 cup each of grated daikon and carrot
  • 1/4 of a sheet of nori
  • 1/2 tsp.+ soy sauce

Place water in a small pot along with the piece of seaweed.  Let it simmer for 5-10 minutes until the seaweed has softened.  Add carrot and daikon, simmer another minute or tow on low. Add soy sauce.  Cut or tear the nori into small pieces into the pot.  Serve, and drink the broth, and eat the veggies.

Optional additions:  Sliced scallions, and a little fresh grated and squeezed ginger.

This combination is consumed every morning, or every other morning for up to a few weeks, before other meals.   It’s great for dissolving phlegm, mucus, and hardened fat in the body.

We also made a more strengthening soup recently using a small amount of beef, like our Beef Vegetable Soup with Barley.  The beef we used was from a couple that raises grass-fed, and actually barley grass-fed beef here in the Valley of the Sun.  They actually grow barley grass for their animals to graze on since fresh grass can be in short supply in the desert Southwest.  After letting it simmer for nearly a day and a half, it turned out so very tender and delicious.

Actually, it’s the first beef we have had since fall 2011.  After recent research, we believe that there could be many nutrients that long-term vegans are deficient in that can cause unnecessary problems down the line.  Zinc being one, which is important for wound healing, building the libido, and for strong immunity, among other important factors.  Vitamin B 12 is another, of which the symptoms are similar to those we diagnose as blood deficiency in Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM.

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The macrobiotic or Chinese food therapy considers animal foods, especially beef to be more strengthening and building in nature.  The right amount and type (all animal foods have different energetic qualities, just as plants do) is added to provide a more yang essence, and restore balance to those with excess yin.

Those with blood deficiency often have cold hands and/or feet, may not sleep deeply, wake up tired, have a hard time getting up and getting going and may rely on caffeine for a jump start, and may have low or depressed mood states and ongoing anxiety.  Other signs may include palpitations, and pale signs, such as pale pink nails, pale tongue, and pale under the eyelids.  There may also be dry skin and hair, and constipation.

While having blood deficiency signs isn’t quite the same as being sick, in many ways it can feel somewhat similar.  Ask anyone who has blood defiance syndrome, and they will tell you that they never feel quite well.  Having blood deficiency according to a TCM diagnosis may not correlate with a low iron count on a blood test.

Treatment of both conditions is different.  If someone is sick with a pathogen, which in the early stages is called a wind-cold invasion, as all the ‘evil qi’ enters via the sensory organs, we would clear the pathogen before using herbs or foods that are very tonifying.   An old Chinese saying is that you don’t want to lock the burglar in the house, or something like that.   As an aside,  we always recommend wearing scarves in drafty areas to protect the neck, an area that is also sensitive to exposure.

A wind-cold ~ though an excess from the standpoint of having something external, like a bacteria invade the system ~ is marked by deficiency signs.  General malaise, pallor, chills, aches, and a pale tongue.  If there is a tongue coat, it will be white.  Phlegm and secretions may be copius, but clear or white.  Usually when someone is sneezing a lot, we put them on Cinnamon Twig decoction.  Cinnamon is very warming, and can also help dispel the wind and cold.  Treatment is to provide warmth and strengthen the system.

A wind-heat is the next level.  There may be a fever or sore throat.  Treatment may be clearing the fever first.  Yin Chao is a classic formula that can be used effectively when needing to clear an infection with heat sings.  It’s an excellent herbal formula to keep on hand in your medicine cabinet.  Take 3-4 tablets at initial onset, and continue to take 3-4 at least 3 times a day the first day.

There are acupuncture points we use that help reduce a fever.  Actually, I had a good fever going myself last night.  Don poked four of my fingers, and four toes at the Jing Well points, near the corners of the nails at the cuticle area.  Yes, ouch, but it works.

The acupuncture  brought my fever down, and with it, some pretty unbearable headaches that made me feel like my head was going to explode.

Sometimes herbs are used as diaphoretics to help induce a sweat, and break the fever.  A simple way to help someone at this stage is to make some tea with ginger and honey.  Drink, then take a very warm bath.  Even better is a salt bath.  Go cocoon yourself in towels and blankets after a 20 minute salt bath, and sweat out the toxins.  You’ll feel better after!

Many kitchen herbs can do double duty when made into a tea to help with respiratory issues.  Marjoram, oregano, and other herbs that are aromatic are antiseptic, antimicrobial, and diaphoretic.  Sage tea, on the other hand can help stop excess sweating.  (Menopausal women, take note!)

I made a tea with a blend of oregano (I first used Mexican oregano, which is spicier, than Greek oregano when I ran out), fenugreek seeds, anise seeds, fennel seeds, cardamom pods, a few cloves, and a pinch of sage.

My Tea For Calming Digestive Upset & Helping Open the Lungs:

  • About 1/2 tsp. oregano
  • 1/3 tsp. each fenugreek seeds & fennel seeds
  • 5 green cardamom pods
  • 3 cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. star anise seeds
  • 1/8+ tsp. sage (If sweating a lot, use more)

Steep for several minutes.  Drink as is, or sweeten with honey.

When I was first feeling sick, I had some nausea as well.  The cardamom, anise, and fennel seeds all helped regulate the digestive area, and relieved my stomach pain.  The rest helped to open up the respiratory tract, and resolve some of the mucus that felt lodged and stuck.

Considering how bad I felt yesterday, I’ve had a pretty quick recovery.  I’m not 100%, and my voice is hoarse, but I’m writing a blog post!  I’m vertical, rather than just horizontal which is how I spent my entire day yesterday.

Fenugreek is also good for treating blood deficiency.  The leaves can help prevent anemia in girls, and the seeds are high in iron.  Fenugreek is also good for reducing fever.

For helping build the blood, Dong Gui, or angelica root, can be added to soups and congees, along with fenugreek seeds and leaves.  There are many other herbs that can help build the blood as well.  These two have a nice licorice like flavor.  Cooking with nettles, and fresh dandelion leaves, or parsley, along with dark leafy greens will also help build the blood in the plant kingdom.

Try some Beef Vegetable Soup with Barley, made with a little Beef Shank, or Chicken Soup with a piece of Dang Gui (angelica root) and fenugreek will also help fortify your blood and your energy if you’ve been feeling a bit weak or low energy.  Add juniper berries to clear out an infection, and purify the blood.

If you don’t want to use animal foods, fortify Barley Vegetable Soup with chickpeas, seitan, or tofu instead.

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Cook any stew or soup with some fresh burdock root which is also a good blood purifier.  Root vegetables are strengthening, and more calorically dense than dark leafy greens, however, fresh herbs and dark greens will boos the mineral content of anything you make.

Follow the links above, or here for the recipes for Miso Vegetable Soup with Tofu, and Beef Vegetable Soup with Barley.  Any links for products are to help you see what I am referring to, and link to the products through my Amazon account.  Purchases made through those links do not cost you more, but do provide a little support for our blog and website, and are greatly appreciated.

I hope you enjoy this post, and can make yourself a cup of tea, or a great soup to help over come any winter blues, including a cold or flu bug!  I have recently put these suggestions to the test.  While not feeling well, I made several cups of tea with my kitchen herbs.  When my appetite was improved, I was all over the Miso Soup with Shredded Daikon and Carrot, along with some extra seaweed and greens.

I’ve also had a long standing issue with anemia, and blood deficiency.  I take a custom herbal formula we make that immediately helped reduce my symptoms, and boost my energy.  Especially in the mornings.  Angelica root is one of the main herbs.  The Beef Vegetable Soup with Barley was also a big help.  One meal with a little better quality beef was all I needed for a while.  I will consume more as needed, paying attention to my symptoms.

When I feel like I’m dragging, and I begin to crave meat ~ which isn’t really often for me at all ~ then I know it’s time to have a little, and I’ll make up another batch of soup, or stew.  It’s right in line with Chinese food therapy and macrobiotic principles.

Apples are also used therapeutically to moisten dryness, which I will discuss in the next post, along with  a great Baked Apples and Oatmeal breakfast recipe.

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