Fall is by far my favourite season; give me cozy knits and a glass of fancy scotch in my backyard on a cool fall evening and I’m one happy little doctor.
While I personally love this time of year, the change of season can bring some unwanted immune issues. The lungs, in particular, are especially vulnerable to colds and flu at this time of year. In Traditional Chinese Medicine theory the lungs are responsible for both temperature regulation and immune function. This means that during change of season your lungs are preoccupied with adjusting your body to changing external temperatures leaving less resources to support your immune system and protect you from respiratory viruses.
My go-to solution for a strong immune system this time of year is a big bowl of change of season soup. This traditional immune system tonic has been used by herbalists and TCM practitioners for hundreds of years to ease the body into a new season. It is a Chinese herbal blend that improves resistance to colds and flu and also helps to balance the body during periods of stress. The original recipe is a combination of 4 “tonifying” herbs that helps your body acclimatize to new temperatures by strengthening the lungs and boosting the immune system. You can source the following herbs from a herb dispensary, or your local health food store:
- Codonopsis root: This herb helps to tonify and strengthen “qi” energy, specifically “wei qi” which is energetic force behind your immune system .
- Astragalus root : Astragalus is a root commonly used in both western and eastern medicine practices. In traditional Chinese medicine it helps to strengthen protective defences, increase Qi energy, and tonify the lungs. There is even research showing that this herb can improve your immune system by increasing the number of active NK cells in your body. These lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell that protects your body from viruses.
- Dioscorea (Chinese yam) root: Dioscorea is a root used to tonify and balance the lungs. It’s also rich in polysaccharides, a type of carbohydrate that has positive effects on immune system regulation.
- Chinese Lycii berries (goji berries): TCM doctors prescribe Lycii berries in order to protect the liver and the kidneys. They’re also a rich source of antioxidants to strengthen your immune cells and protect them from damage.
While effective, the herbs used in this soup are frankly quite unappealing on their own. To improve the taste (and patient compliance) I’ve enhanced the traditional recipe with some tasty little extras. This soup recipe is a fall staple in our house. It’s change of season soup, upgraded. My version contains anti-inflammatory spices to improve flavour, along with medicinal mushrooms and nurturing bone broth to help prepare the immune system for the fast-approaching fall season.
Change of Season Soup, Upgraded
It's immune-supportive change of season soup, upgraded. This recipe contains warming spices and aromatics to improve flavour, along with medicinal mushrooms and nurturing bone broth for added immune system benefits.
- 1 cup shiitake mushrooms (dried or fresh)
- 8 cloves of garlic, chopped in half
- 1 onion, roughly chopped
- 4 stalks of celery, roughly chopped
- 2 large carrots, roughly chopped
- 2 tbs turmeric powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup Codonopsis root
- 1/4 cup Astragalus root
- 1/4 cup Dioscorea (Chinese yam) root
- 1/4 cup Chinese Lycii berries (goji berries)
- 2L chicken broth
- 2L filtered water
Add the chopped garlic, onion, mushrooms, celery and carrots to a large stock pot along with turmeric powder & salt and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes until the onion and celery are slightly translucent. Fill the stock pot with 2L water + 2L of chicken broth or homemade bone broth then add the traditional change of season herbs to the pot. Place the lid on and bring to a boil and simmer for 4 to 6 hours. Using a slotted spoon, or strainer, remove the herbs and vegetables from the pot. At this point you can drink it as a broth but it's tastiest when used as a base for soup recipes: I like to reheat with extra bone broth in a 1:1 ratio along with some chopped veg, shiitake mushrooms and pulled rotisserie chicken.