Take on Winter with Chinese Herbs

With bone-chilling cold weather in our midst, our bodies are gearing up for major adjustments to the change…

With bone-chilling cold weather in our midst, our bodies are gearing up for major adjustments to the change in season. It’s important to give your body the fuel and nutrients it needs during this time of hibernation and rejuvenation. I like to practice the “quality over quantity” rule, and incorporate high-quality foods and herbs into my favorite winter comfort foods. I was fortunate to learn about Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and the power of Chinese herbs during my time working at a TCM clinic. The practitioners were always eager to help me experiment with "super" herbs, and I was always amazed at how easy supplies were to locate (check your local Asian market, or shop online) and use throughout the winter. Check with your TCM practitioner and then try out some of these herbs in your favorite recipes:

Astragalus Root (Huang Qi)

  • Sweet and slightly sour in taste, warm in nature
  • Use the sliced root to creates a savory broth in soups. A little goes a long way!
  • Or you can put a slice of the root in a mug of hot water as a nutritious, warming beverage
  • Improves immune function, circulation, digestion and overall health

Chinese Yam (Shan Yao)

  • Sweet in taste, neutral in nature
  • Also great in soups and stews
  • Improves digestive health and benefits the lungs

Gogi Berry (Chinese Wolfberry)

  • Sweet in taste, neutral in nature
  • Munch on them throughout the day to help regulate blood sugar
  • Benefits kidney and liver, improves deficiencies
One of my go-to winter meals is vegetable soup: it’s a perfect combination of a warming, nutrient-dense and easy-to-make and digest meal. I also love it because I can use up whatever vegetables are hanging out in my pantry. The recipe varies depending on the ingredients I have one hand, but I usually use a variety of winter veggies such as sweet Potatoes, carrots and other root vegetables, yellow onion and winter squashes. I also add in minced garlic and ginger to give the soup some additional nutrients and flavor. Chop everything up the night before and then throw it all in the crockpot the next morning along with six cups of water and some Chinese herbs. Usually a couple sticks of astragalus root and a handful of some Chinese yam make a nice flavor addition. And if I’m feeling adventurous, I’ll put one cup of Gogi berries in the mix and they’ll get plump and juicy as they soak in the broth. Let it simmer on low for the day, and when you get home, you’ll have a yummy and nutritious, immune-boosting meal that your body with thank you for. Do you use Chinese herbs? What are your favorite winter recipes? — Jenny Wiley is co-owner of an advertising agency in Wichita, Kansas called Apples & Arrows. She began practicing yoga in 2007 as a way to balance her high-energy job with her grounded essence. She and her husband, Dave, are both active in Wichita community, and love to volunteer and attend local events for yoga, art and music. Along with their two kiddos, Penny and Orion, their family tribe lives on yoga, love and whole living. When she’s not at work or on the mat, you can find this Midwest-born girl attending music festivals, making and practicing with hula hoops and camping and enjoying the Kansas countryside with her family.