#Nutrition and a proper diet are key foundations to your #health and #immunity which is important more than ever due to the #COVID pandemic. You may be surprised to learn that many Chinese Herbs are also the very foods you can find in your own kitchen, So, naturally, a good way to incorporate the benefits of Chinese Herbal Medicine is through food.
While there are a wide variety of foods I can go over, this post will focus on foods that can strengthen the Lung and Spleen/Stomach, transform damp/phlegm, and strengthen the immune system. In addition, some of these foods have known antimicrobial properties including antibacterial and antiviral.
MY KITCHEN STAPLES: The following are a few staples that I keep in my own kitchen. I often use many of these to not only support immunity but to also address cold and flu symptoms or digestive issues not related to COVID. I encourage you to grab these for your home during your next grocery run if you are sheltering in place/social distancing/quarantining.
Ginger (Sheng Jiang): Alleviates nausea, relieves an upset stomach, and addresses the common cold/flu. Helps decrease pain. Also, has known #antiviral properties. Try drinking it daily as a tea with honey, lemon, and cinnamon.
Garlic (Da Suan): Warms the Stomach, strengthens the Spleen. Relieves digestive complaints. Also has antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, antiparastic, and immunity-enhancing properties. Mix it in your eggs, top your toast with it, or simply roast them in the oven.
Cinnamon (Gui Zhi or Rou Gui): Warms the body, alleviates cold/flu symptoms such as chills, fever, and body aches. Has strong antifungal properties. Sprinkle it on your oatmeal, brew tea, or bake with it.
Honey (Feng Mi): Tonifies the Spleen and Stomach, restores Qi, prevents dryness. Can address cough, stomach pain, & dry skin. Has known antibacterial properties. Mix it in with your tea or use it as an alternative to processed sugar.
Lemon and Lime (Ning Meng): Quenches thirst, harmonizes the Stomach, and relieves coughing. Also a rich source of Vitamin C.
Mint (Bo He): Clear heat and cools the body such as with fever. Vents rashes. Can relieve headaches and soothe a sore throat and cough. Can also be calming. Try brewing it as a tea with some honey.
Green Onion (Cong Bai): Is aromatic and pungent and can address common cold symptoms. Often used in conjunction with ginger. Use it to top your soup, mix in your eggs or stir-fry dishes, or try making scallion pancakes.
Miso: Fermented soybean paste often used in soups, stews, sauces or marinades. Supports gut health (and immunity) due to its probiotic benefits. I often use it as a base for soups.
Onion (Yang Cong): Traditionally used to suppress coughs and relieve edema. Modern studies show properties that are antimicrobial. Universally used in many ways. I often use it for soups/stews, bone broth, stir-fries, scrambled eggs or omelets, and love them caramelized.
Seaweed (Hai Zao or Kun Bu): Varieties for cooking/eating include arame, dulse, hijiki, nori, kombu, and wakame. Transforms phlegm and is effective against coughs and bronchitis. It can address skin issues, edema. Rich in zinc, selenium which are essential for the immune system. Easily found dried in most supermarkets. Can be eaten as a snack, sprinkled on rice, cooked in soup, or rolled up as sushi.
Mushrooms: Rich in polysaccharides which can boost the immune system. Some may have antiviral properties. Also contains protein, iron, minerals, niacin, and riboflavin. Varieties you can easily find at your grocery store include button/white, enoki, maitake, oyster, and shiitakes. Reishi mushroom may best be found as a supplement.
Black Wood Ear Mushroom (Hei Mu Er): Often found dried in most Asian supermarkets. Can be used in soups or stir-fried dishes. Associated with the Lung and Spleen channels, moistens the Lungs, and generates fluids. I mostly use this in soups but can also be used in a salad.
Pears: Any variety but particularly the Asian Apple Pear. Can address dry cough and constipation. Generates body fluids, moistens dryness, and transforms phlegm. Try steaming pears and drizzling it with honey.
Thyme: Enters the Lung to stop cough and address the common cold; Enters the Stomach channel to address nausea, vomiting, and indigestion. The essential oils in Thyme have also been shown to have antimicrobial properties.
Rice: Any variety but particularly white rice. Tonifies Qi, harmonizes the Stomach, strengthens the Spleen. Often used medicinally as the base for congee.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Other than Chinese Date and Goji Berries which I do regularly carry in my pantry, these are other foods you can consider adding.
Asparagus: Clears heat and moistens the lungs. Rich in Vitamins K, C, and A. I enjoy them roasted, stir-fried, or in soups.
Chinese Date (Da Zao or Hong Zao): Tonifies Qi and Blood. Generates fluids, strengthens the Spleen and Stomach. Can be found in most Asian grocery stores. Boil as a tea with ginger, cinnamon, and pear or toss into your soups.
Goji Berry (Gou Qi Zi): Tonifies blood, brightens the eyes, and enhances the immune system. Rich in betacarotene and Vitamin C. Easily found at most grocery stores and is often mentioned as a superfood.
Tangerine Peel (Chen Pi): Regulates Qi of the Lungs and Spleen/Stomach, clears phlegm from the Lungs, and address digestive issues. Often found in a lot of packaged teas or try drying your own by setting aside your peels.
Daikon Radish (Luo Bu): Has a pungent flavor. Can clear phlegm from the Lungs, aid digestion, and ease difficulty breathing. Can be added in soups/stews or sliced as a salad.
Other things to consider are bone broth, either store bought or make your own. If you make your own, try adding any of the food items listed above to further boost the nutritional and immune supporting benefit of bone broth. Our immune system is also very much tied to our gut health. It is important to take probiotics or eat fermented foods such as miso, kefir, kombucha, kimchi or sauerkraut. Lastly, stick to warm or hot, cooked foods such as soups and stews as opposed to cold, raw foods such as salads and smoothies.
As always, practice #socialdistancing, frequent handwashing, and other recommendations by the CDC are key. Supporting your own health through proper diet, exercise, and sleep are equally important. It ensures that your body has the nutrients, strength, and vitality it needs to fight the virus should you be exposed.