Making Medicinal Broths

dsc_9744Medicinal Broths are perhaps the quintessential “food as medicine.” They can be used in detox regimens, to heal everything from the common cold to cancer, and as a delicious and fortifying part of your daily meals. Broths excel at nutrient extraction, then provide these nutrients in an readily absorbable form, which is what makes broth an ideal food for convalescence, post-partum, and chronic digestive system weakness. Want to forego taking all of those expensive vitamins? Drink a bowl of broth instead. There are a zillion potential recipes for broth, so we’re going to focus on the skeleton, the structure whereby great broth is formed, and leave the specifics to the spontaneous creative forces at work in your kitchen, including the season, what’s on hand, what needs healing, and your instincts. Our take is to follow a few basic rules, keep it simple, and experiment with different food, herb and spice combinations, never making the same broth twice.

great MEDICINAL brothS must include the following:

  • An animal carcass or some bones with meat – could be fish, chicken, turkey, beef, etc. Inclusion of bone is vital for the extraction of gelatin and other nutrients such as calcium and glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate that are healing and strengthening for our bodies.
  • Vegetables. I often include garlic and onion. Potatoes, carrots, celery and parsley are a famous combination for restoring potassium levels. Alternately, squash, string beans, celery and parsley is a veggie combo used to restore electrolyte and pH balance. Or just use whatever you’ve got in the fridge!
  • Culinary herbs are always welcome for flavor and medicinal properties. Favorites include rosemary, thyme, sage, and/or marjoram. Or try spices such as cayenne, ginger, cumin or curries.
  • Medicinal herbs. Be careful here, as many herbs have a bitter or acrid taste that will alter the flavor of your broth. I often use astragalus, a bland tasting root that is a great immunity tonic, and burdock, a tasty root that enriches the broth with flavor and benefits the liver. Consider also seaweed, lotus root, kudzu, ginseng or codonopsis (poor man’s ginseng).
  • Wild edibles. Wild food plants are nutrient dense, and broths are a great opportunity to experiment with the green grocery store just outside your door. Pick potherbs in springtime, dandelions throughout the summer (use the whole herb – only from pesticide-free lawns of course!), dig wild carrot or burdock in the fall…

How To: I like to begin by sautéing the vegetables with salt in olive oil to bring out their flavors.

Then add the bones and meat, and mix with sauted vegetables. Fill the pot with water. Add medicinal herbs, culinary herbs and spices, and greens. A splash of vinegar will facilitate mineral extraction. Put the lid on the pot and bring to a boil. Skim the scum off the top, turn the heat down and simmer, covered, for at least a few hours and preferably about 12 hours. Strain and drink, or use for cooking other dishes. Store in the fridge or freezer. 1 tablespoon of whey can be added to broth before drinking to increase absorption of minerals. Salt to taste.

Winning Combinations To Get You Started:

  • Ginger / garlic / miso / shiitake mushroom / scallion / daikon radish
  • Chicken / astragalus / mixed vegetable
  • Beef bones and meat / carrot, onion, celery / parsley, thyme / burdock

After straining, leftover meat and bones can be enjoyed by your dog (cats can enjoy boneless chicken or fish). Sources for writing this blog & resources for you: – very educational and contains specific recipes for making chicken / beef / fish broths. Healing With Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford – highly recommended for learning more about food energetics, food as medicine (Oriental medicine-based philosophy). Prince Wen Hui’s Cook by Bob Flaws – an interesting book on Chinese Dietary Therapy; Good for learning how to incorporate Chinese herbs into dishes. Do you have any favorite healing broth recipes? We would love for you to share them with us. Bon Appetit!