The middle of May seems like a weird time for me to be posting a cold and flu remedy. Unfortunately, San Diego can't seem to make up its mind about what season it is, and yet another bug is making its way around school.
When the weather patterns are bipolar like this, it's best to layer up, or at least bring a change of clothes in your car, as I did not do on Wednesday. Also, make sure your neck isn't exposed to cold air -- Turtle necks and scarves are a great defense, as most of Europe has already figured out. (In fact, if you're not from San Diego you're probably like "duh, this whole paragraph is lame," but please have pity on the people who didn't learn these habits as a child. Common sense is not so common these days.)
So what to do when you feel a cold coming on? ...Bust out the crock pot!
Chicken soup is a well-known cold remedy around the world and across cultures. I made the this particular recipe more times than I can count this winter, and I do feel that helped me to fight off various bugs and reduced the intensity of symptoms when I was sick, thanks to the combination of immune-supporting botanicals.
I just realized today that the recipe is very similar to one that my teachers, Dr. Warren Sheir and Dr. Yuan Wang listed in their book, Ancient Wisdom, Modern Kitchen--I guess that means this soup is a winner. I'll definitely add more of their recipes to this blog at some point.
Astragalus root may not be something that you have your cupboard right now, but it's worth purchasing and keeping on hand. It's a favorite among both Eastern and Western herbalists for strengthening the body's defenses against pathogens. In Chinese medicine it strengthens the qi of both the Lung and the Spleen, so it also enhances digestion. Its flavor is very mild compared to the other ingredients in this soup. I actually like to chew on the pieces of it left over in my bowl.
Shiitake mushrooms are a medicinal mushroom, and they're pretty easy to find fresh in grocery stores these days. They've been studied extensively for their immune-enhancing properties, and they've even been found to shrink tumors. If you don't believe me, do a pubmed search. Beware -- They emit a pretty strong smell while they're cooking for the first couple of hours, but the flavor and odor mellow out once they're fully cooked.
Garlic, of course, has anti-bacterial properties, and fresh ginger warms the body, reduces cough and nausea, and helps you to break a sweat -- That's a good thing when you're sick!
Feel free to add steamed vegetables to your bowl, just don't add them to the crock pot while the other ingredients are cooking -- It'll make the soup taste funny. You can also add a little cayenne pepper for an extra kick.
Immune-Boosting Chicken Soup with Mushrooms and Astragalus
30g of dried astragalus root
8 - 10 cups of boiling water (as much as needed to fill your slow cooker)
2 teaspoons of salt
1 lb of chicken breast (+ chicken bones if you have 'em)
1 whole head of garlic, peeled
2" piece of ginger, cleaned and sliced
50g of fresh shitake mushrooms, sliced
- First soak the astragalus root in warm water while you are preparing the other ingredients.
- Boil the water and add it to your slow cooker. Put the setting on low.
- Add the chicken, salt, ginger, and mushrooms to the pot.
- Drain the astragalus and add it to the pot.
- Cook for at least 6 hours, or up to 24 hours.
- Store in the refrigerator, or strain and freeze the stock.