Herbs for winter wellness | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Herbs for winter wellness

Hopefully you are starting to downshift gears and transition into the winter as we reach mid-December. This is a very restorative time of year: In Chinese medicine winter is associated with the kidneys, which are our energetic store house; our savings account.

From a western physiological perspective the adrenal glands assume a very similar role. They help support us through all of life’s stressors and demands including psychological and physiological. The goal is to rebuild and reserve our energy versus spend it.

This can be accomplished by engaging in less strenuous activities, keeping warm, and consuming primarily warm foods (cooked versus raw or cold) and liquids.

Homemade bone broth or stock is one of the most nutritionally dense and easily absorbable foods, which makes it very beneficial this time of year. The vital nutrients provided by broth strengthens the gut and aids in the body’s ability to take in and get the most out of the foods we eat.

These qualities can be further enhanced by adding herbs to its preparation. We have put together some of our most basic and traditional formulas to help support and tonify the body. They can be easily added to stocks with little to no change in flavor.

Some of the more commonly known herbs and foods that are great for winter include the medicinal mushrooms (reishi, shiitake, turkey tail, lions mane…), astragalus, cinnamon, ginger, onion, garlic, black pepper, clove and turmeric.

The above suggested herbs are said to warm the interior and assist the immune system in venting pathogens. Here are some recipes you might like to try:


1 2-inch piece of ginger

3 cloves garlic peeled and crushed

1 medium leek, scallion or onion roughly chopped

1 pound chicken bones — the easiest way to get these are to save them from a roasted or baked chicken

4 dried or fresh shiitake mushrooms, rinsed

6 medium sized pieces / 20 grams astragalus

12 cups water

Combine and cook all ingredients for 2 hours, strain and enjoy.


3 medium size fresh shiitake mushrooms, washed and sliced

2 bunches fresh maitake mushrooms, washed and sliced

8 medium size fresh oyster or other mushroom, washed and sliced

2 tablespoon dark sesame oil

¼ medium sized onion, diced

About 7 ounce soft or firm tofu cut into ½ inch cubes (optional)

1 medium sized green onion, ends trimmed, chopped

3 ½ cups Dashi soup stock

Approximately 4 tablespoon white miso paste

Add sesame oil to a pot and saute mushrooms and onions. Add soup stock, bring to a boil then reduce heat and let simmer for 2 minutes. On the side, thoroughly mix miso with a couple table spoons of cooked broth until no lumps remain; gradually pour the miso back in the pot and stir before serving.


½ cup (20 grams) dried black wood ear (hei mu er) — soak for 30 minutes in warm water — it will significantly expand in size. Drain and cut off any fibrous edges. Slice in to ¼-inch slices

6 dried Chinese red dates (hong zao), seeded

2 teaspoon rock sugar or honey, to taste

3 cups water

2-3 teaspoon pine nuts (optional for garnish)

Combine wood ear, Chinese red dates, and sweetener with the water in oven proof dish. Place dish onto steamer tray or rack within a lidded wok or pot. Steam for about an hour (replacing the pot’s water as needed). If too much, you may also gently simmer the ingredients together in a pot on the stove; served garnished with pine nuts.

This is especially efficient in assisting with recovery from injury or surgery and women feeling drained after menstruation or child birth.


Fill a pot up two thirds with water then add:

Huang qi (astragalus) 5-7 sticks

Reishi — 1 medium

Slightly sprouted beans or pre-soaked — ¼- ½ cup (adzuki, black, etc)

Bring water to a boil, simmer for 20 minutes, and then add:

Organic barley (½ – 1 cup) depending on thickness desired

Simmer another 20 minutes and then add favorite vegetables such as:

Carrots and celery


Beet tops or chard, collards, mustard greens, etc.

Sea vegetables such as nori, kelp, wakame, etc

Potatoes (optional)

Gobo (burdock root)

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