Chinese Herb-ed Bone Broth
I know that bone broth is eye-rollingly trendy right now, but bear with me, ok? Because it is GOOD for you. Animal bones are loaded with collagen, calcium, phosphorus, and other important minerals. Because of this, bone broth is great for your skin and bones. It also supports the immune system, improves gut health, and benefits the tendons. It can also aid in liver detoxification, as it contains the amino acid glycine.
That being said, as with many other 'superfoods', bone broth will not magically improve every aspect of your life. Regularly incorporating bone broth into your diet will, over time, give you some benefits. You may notice that your nails are stronger or that your hair is less damaged, and that you get colds and flus less frequently. Unfortunately, it will not ensure that your life is suddenly magically organized and you become one of those people who is on top of getting your laundry done regularly/life organized/projects completed on time -- I wish that it did!
In the winter, I make bone broth about once a week, and once or twice a month in the summer. I keep some on hand to have as a base for my soups and stews, and I also use it as a quick breafast option -- if I'm running late in the morning (which, let's be honest, I usually am), I simmer some for a few minutes with some chopped veggies (kale, mushrooms, spinach, carrots, etc.), lemon juice, and salt. Voila! Emergency breakfast.
There are plenty of places in Portland where you can purchase pre-made bone broth, but I find it cheaper to make it myself, and with all of my food sensitivities it's easier for me to control what goes into the broth. I also like to add some Chinese herbs to my broth in order to increase its benefits, including cinnamon, ginger, star anise, astragalus, poria, dang gui, and he shou wu. The dosages that I use these herbs in is not high enough to be considered therapeutic, but is a great way to get low doses of safe herbs into my system.
Cinnamon, in addition to tasting great, is used in the Chinese pharmacopeia invigorates the body to aid in resolving edema, relieving pain, and benefitting the menses. It as antibiotic, diuretic, antipyretic, analgesic, circulatory, sedative, and antitussive effects.
Ginger helps to benefit the digestion, warming up the stomach from the inside out to relieve nausea. It is also used to relieve seafood poisoning, and has effective antibacteial properites against Salmonella typhi, Vibrio cholerae, and Trichomonas vaginalis.
Astragalus benefits and bolsters the qi, helping with deficiency of both qi and blood. It helps to bolster the immune system, aids in wound healing, reduces edema, and can help to relieve numbness and pain. It has numerous western pharmacological actions, including being an immunostimulant, hematopoeitic (blood-building), it can increase basal metabolic rate, and can lower blood pressure. It also has some antibiotic effects and can sedate and reduce pain.
Poria is an herb used to improve digestion and water metabolism. It has diuretic, sedative, and some antibiotic effects.
Dang gui, sometimes spelled dang quai, is an herb commonly used in both eastern and western herbalism. It is used to build and invigorate blood in order to relive pain; it is commonly used in women's health issues, particularly with painful menses. It can also be used to relieve constipation. It also acts as an immunostimulant, pain-reliever, and anti-inflammatory herb. While it is very safe for most people, it can potentially act on the uterus and should be used with caution during pregnancy.
He shou wu is another herb used to build the blood, and also helps to benefit what is called 'essence' in Chinese medicine. This essence is the constitution that you inherit from your parents at conception. Essence tends to decline as we age. He shou wu is said to 'blacken the hair', a euphemism for building the essence. It has antihyperlipedemic effects, anti-aging properties, and also benefits the immune, gastrointestinal, and endocrine systems.
2-3 lbs of bones (I usually use cow or lamb bones, but chicken, pork, or fish are great too)
2 T Apple cider vinegar (this is used to leach the calcium from the bones)
1 onion, coarsley chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 sticks celery, chopped
5-7 cloves garlic
Loose herbs (whatever herbs I have in the fridge, such as sage, thyme, rosemary, parsley, and my Chinese herbs)
1-2 tsp salt
Pepper to taste
Enough water to cover the bones
I cook mine in my Instant Pot, which makes it much faster. Set your Instant Pot on the 'soup' setting, make sure that the pressure setting is on high, and set the timer for 120 minutes. You can also cook the broth in a slow cooker by setting it to low and allowing it to simmer for 24-48 hours. Ideally, when you remove them, the bones should be easy to crumble between your thumb and forefinger.
1.Chen, J, Chen, T. Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology. California: Art of Medicine Press; 2004.
2. Kresser, C. How to Prevent Colds and Flus Naturally. Chris Kresser. Available at: http://chriskresser.com/how-to-prevent-colds-and-flus-naturally/. Accessed December 4, 2015.
3. Morell, S. Broth is Beautiful. The Weston A. Price Foundation for Wise Traditions in Food, Farming, and the Healing Arts. Available at: http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/broth-is-beautiful/. Accessed December 4, 2015.
4. Pitchford, P. Healing with Whole Foods: Ancient Traditions and Modern Nutrition, 3rd Edition. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books; 2002.
Andrea Lane is a licensed acupuncturist, herbalist, and certified Pilates instructor in Portland, Oregon. Her practice particularly focuses on treating allergies, autoimmune disease, and women's health. She is passionate about maintaining good health through a whole-food diet, mindful movement, and meditation. When she is not practicing, she loves to cook, listen to podcasts, read her way out from under the small mountain of books she's accumulated, and cater to her cat's every whim.