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Herbal Explorations

Crossing The Barrier: Applying TCM Food Therapy to American Cuisine

By JK DeLapp

Summer in most places around the country is in full swing, as our kids enjoy their last days before school starts back, all of us bracing ourselves against the heat and the sun as we enjoy our last days of summer before Labor Day Weekend.

It may surprise some of us to find out that Autumn has already started. Culturally, we say that the end of Summer is Labor Day Weekend–our last blowout before school starts and the summer ends, and we usually say Fall begins officially with the Autumn Equinox. We might actually call this period Late Summer, or Indian Summer. I was surprised when I learned that Autumn actually began almost a full month before I thought it did. But when I did–it put most of my childhood into perspective through the lens of what TCM teaches us about the body in its relation to the Seasons.

Autumn actually began on August 8th. By the 23rd, we will be experiencing what is called "End of Summer Heat," and September 23rd will bring the Autumn Equinox–the day of equal length of both night and day–the height of Autumn. Interestingly, August 22nd is the Sturgeon, Corn, and Fruit Moons, September 23rd is the Harvest Moon, and October 22nd is the Hunter"s Moon. Do the timing of these moons ring any bells from yesteryear when our lives more closely mirrored the Seasons?

The Huang Di Nei Jing breaks the 12 astrological months into 24 fixed periods. These divisions do not depend on the lunar months, but rather on the solstices, equinoxes, and the beginnings of the 4 Seasons. The exact number of days in the year is of little importance–rather, it is the study of the quality of Qi that was important to our forefathers.

I strongly recommend reading The Way of Heaven by Claude Larre SJ (translated by Peter Firebrace) for a great read on the first two books of the SuWen, which outlines all the details of living in connectedness with the Seasons, "The Way of Heaven." It is a quick and fun read, and one from which I think you will benefit greatly.

It is important to note this since the Summer is usually a time for us, as Americans, to push life to the limits and live with the pedal to the metal (ha...I think I just made a pun–speeding from Summer to Autumn-->Metal!)...especially the last few weeks of Summer! Rather, our focus should begin to be turning inwards. As the leaves begin to dry up and turn colors, giving a last burst of life in their deaths, soon to be falling to the ground–we should keep in mind that Autumn is a time of harvest, and a time not of death–but rather a preparing time for nourishment for the coming Spring. This is the time when the deaths of this year begin to prepare us for the coming Winter and to nourish us for the coming Spring–in essence–death-begetting life.

Whereas Summer was the Reign of the Heart, and of Joy, Love, and Outward Movement–Autumn is the time of the Lung, of Grief, of Harvest, of Connecting With the Vital Qi, of Giving Value to Things, and of Transformation.

I find the timing and importance of this Season to be of unusual irony in my own season of life. This past July 9th, my fiancée, Saveria, was hit and killed by a drunk driver on her way to work not ten minutes after I had gotten off the phone with her.

She absolutely LOVED reading my articles, and they were the spark of innumerous conversations about life, love, and the search for the depths of the Spirit in everything we do in our lives. These last weeks, as I have been in the grips of Grief–I have also found myself in the midst of a great Harvest, deeply Connecting With the Vital Qi. As my Joy was stolen away, I have found myself in a great period of Transformation–and her death, surprisingly, has been Giving Great Value to the 10,000 Manifestations in my life. Lessons to be learned in each moment...If you would please join me, I would like to dedicate this article to Saveria Raffaelli-Santoni--Mon cœur, ma vie, ma raison d´être.

A word on herbs

Oddly–the Autumn Season and my own personal season of life have really comingled and aligned this year. The herbs I"d like to share with you this month actually constitute a modified Gan Mai Da Zao Wan that has helped me TREMENDOUSLY as I have been dealing with the grief. With the exception of Ye Jiao Teng and He Huan Pi, all the other herbs could easily be incorporated into your dishes. But, when the 7 herbs I´m about to share are combined into an herbal tea, they take on a very powerful quality that has rightfully led this to be called "Happy Tea." It is a fabulous formula for grieving. It is also a great 5 Element mix of herbs, as the base formula of Fu Xiao Mai, Da Zao, and Gan Cao Nourishes the Heart and Calms the Spirit (Nourishing Fire to Engender Metal, it´s Controller and Grandmother), and the additions do a great job of Nourishing Metal and Malleability—the Lung and Large Intestine.

Gan Mai Da Zao Tang, "Happy Tea" Signs and Symptoms: Disorientation; frequent attacks of melancholy and crying spells; inability to control oneself; restless sleep (sometimes with night sweats), frequent bouts of yawning.

The traditional diagnosis for the use of this formula is "Zang Zao"–Restless Organ Disorder, attributed to excessive worry, anxiety, or pensiveness. It is a great formula for grief–and also a great formula for post-partum depression. Odd just how familiar "post-partum depression" might sound to one when in the grips of grief...

The base formula is Fu Xiao Mai, Gan Cao, and Da Zao, and Nourishes the Heart, Calms the Spirit, and Harmonizes the Middle Jiao.

The additions that I have incorporated into the formula make this a great, all around Autumn formula...something to be drunk as both a good and nourishing tea, and also to be consumed if you"re feeling a bit emotionally down. We have Sav to thank for bringing this to our attention.

The Base Formula: I like using 9g each of Fu Xiao Mai and Gan Cao, and 10 pieces of Da Zao.

Fu Xiao Mai–Floating Wheat
Sweet and salty in taste and cool in temperature, Fu Xiao Mai enters the Heart to Regulate and Nourish the Qi and Yin of the Heart, and to Nourish the Liver (Mother of the Heart). Floating Wheat is not generally something found on grocery store shelves–so be sure to inquire your herb representative about this herb to get a "true" floating wheat. Otherwise, an organic (and hopefully heirloom) soft white wheat should make a great substitution that can be found at most health-conscious markets. Interestingly, wheat is the only grain that is said to directly Nourish the Heart.

Gan Cao–Licorice Root
Sweet in taste and neutral in temperature, Licorice Root enters all 12 channels, with a very strong propensity for entering the Heart meridian. Generally used as a harmonizing herb, it also tonifies Qi, and when combined with Da Zao, tonifies the Heart, Spleen, and Liver. it´s nice to just suck on a piece, which I do occasionally. Reminds me of being a kid... Makes a nice tea by itself, goes well in soups (and adds a nice sweet note), and will harmonize any dish that you add it to.

Da Zao–Red Jujube
Sweet in taste and neutral in temperature, Red Jujube enters the Spleen and Stomach channels to Augment Qi, Moisten Internal Dryness, and when combined with Licorice Root, tonifies the Heart, Spleen, and Liver. I actually like eating a handful of these as a snack. I generally get them un-pitted, but they often come pitted, as well. Jujubes have a pleasant taste, and add a note of sweetness to anything they are added to. Soups and congee are great dishes to throw in 8-10 of these.

The Modifications: I like using 9g of Ye Jiao Teng, 9g of Fu Ling, 9-15g dried Bai He, and 6g of He Huan Pi.

Ye Jiao Teng–Polygoni or Fleeceflower Vine
Sweet in taste and neutral in temperature, Fleeceflower Vine enters the Heart and Liver channels to Nourish the Heart, Calm the Spirit, Unblock the Collaterals, and Expel Wind. Not a food herb–so I"d restrict this herb for use in a Happy Tea formula.

Fu Ling–Poria
Sweet and bland in taste and neutral in temperature, Fu Ling enters the Heart, Spleen, Kidney, and Lung channels to Tonify the Spleen, Eliminate Dampness, and Calm the Heart Spirit. Fu Ling, on the one hand, tonifies the Heart, Spleen, and Lung, while on the other, facilitates the water pathways, unblocks the orifices, and expels pathogenic heat. When the Spleen is functioning properly, both the Heart and the Lungs benefit. This is why this herb is used for insomnia and palpitations due to insufficiency of the Heart and Spleen. Likewise, its ability to leach out dampness and dispel pathogenic heat also makes it useful for the accumulation of damp-heat in the lower burner, opening up urination. A great food herb for congee and soups–and is a great herb to use in Late Summer when Dampness is prevalent. Individuals with allergies to mushrooms are cautioned in using this herb.

Bai He–Lilly Bulb
Sweet and slightly bitter in taste, and slightly cold in temperature, Lilly Bulb enters the Heart and Lung channels to Enrich Lung Yin, Drain Heat from the Heart, Stop Coughs, and Quiet the Spirit. This is a great food herb, and can usually be found fresh in Asian markets, and will usually be labeled as Lilly Bulb. Just ask–everyone there will know what you are talking about. Purchased fresh or as a raw herb, Lilly Bulb is great to add to soups and to congee in the Late Summer and Autumn.

He Huan Pi–Silktree Bark or Albizzia
Sweet in taste and neutral in temperature, Albizzia enters the Heart and Liver channels to Relieve Constraint, Calm the Spirit, Regulate the Qi, and Invigorate the Blood. This herb is most often used for patterns of Liver constraint leading to stifling sensations in the chest, worry, short temper, forgetfulness, and insomnia. It also has a marked yin-nourishing effect, as it is a great herb used to grow flesh and muscle, and reconnect the sinews and bones. According the Treasury of Words on the Materia Medica, it "has the marvelous quality of allowing the five spirits to open and reach outward, and eliminating the extremes of the five emotions...when the Heart Qi is harmonious and moderate, then the consciousness naturally opens to happiness without a care!" In effect–it is a great trauma herb–both physically and spiritually/emotionally. Not a food herb–so I"d restrict this herb for use in a Happy Tea formula.

To recap–the base formula is delicious in and of itself, and can be drunk as tea or made as a congee. it´s great to be drunk all year round (take that as you will–haha), but especially during the end of Summer/Late Summer and throughout Autumn. With the exceptions of Bai He and Fu Ling, I would limit the use of the other modifying herbs to consumption in the Happy Tea.

**The prepared formulation made by Herbal Times and sold by nuherbs is also a fabulous formulation with slightly different modifications, and I recommend it to anyone wanting an easy and convenient (and portable!) dose of Happy Tea in tea pill form.

The full recipe to follow below.

Now let´s talk about some food!

In French, to call another "Gourmande" is a compliment–it can mean anything from a fabulous meal to one who appreciates a lavish or delicious fair. A "Mistral Grourmande" is a Master Chef...of which Sav never would call me, lest my head grow too large for my neck! She loved food just as much as I...and for some reason always loved hearing me talk about my love affair with cooking. Sav had a way of calling me Gourmande, and making it sound more like she was calling me a Fat A**...something that I always took as the highest compliment.

Sav always used to joke that reading my articles was like reading a letter written by a man in love. Of course, I always wrote to her with just as much passion and thought and poetry...but she"d always tease me still, asking if she ever needed to be jealous of the food. Haha...Of course, she never did have to worry–but it was always amazing how the articles seemed to draw us closer, discussing with her what it was that was so mesmerizing for me about food. It was what the food represented to me–a time to connect with the very things that kept us alive and well; a time to connect with those breaking bread with us; a time to infuse a part of ourselves into the meals and into the lives of those eating them; and a time to revel in the deepest layers of Spirit as we commune with one another--and with ourselves--over a nourishing meal and a smile. Meals are for me a time in which to revel in the depths of Nourishing my Spirit, and those Spirits I am fortunate enough to feed.

As we sit down to each meal, it should take on the guise of both celebration, and a form of meditation–as we remember that everything on our plates before us died so that we might richly live.

Greet every meal with thanks and gratitude, and treat every meal as if it may be your last. I can"t help but think sometimes that Sav died so that I–and each of us that knew and loved her–might live just a little more richly.

And with that, I will leave each of you Gourmandes to your next meal =)

This Month´s Recipes:

Gan Mao Da Zao Tang–"Happy Tea"–with modifications

Especially good for:

Late Summer and the Autumn months, post-partum depression, crying without reason, grief, and "Restless Organ Disorder".

This drink Nourishes the Heart, Calms the Spirit, Harmonizes the Middle Jiao, Nourishes Lung Yin, and Clears Heart Heat–a fabulous Autumn beverage.


9g of Fu Xiao Mai
9g of Gan Cao
10 pieces of Da Zao

These three herbs can be drunk alone as a delicious tea, or made as a congee.


9g of Ye Jiao Teng
9g of Fu Ling
9-15g dried Bai He
6g of He Huan Pi


1. Add all of the herbs together to a ceramic herb pot, or a stainless steel pot.

2. Add 4 cups of water and bring to a boil.

3. Simmer, uncovered for 30 minutes.

4. Strain, drink, and feel happy!

Gou Qi Zi Scallops

Especially good for:

Scallops, which are cold and sweet, benefit the five internal organs and nourish Kidney Yin, addressing conditions such as dizziness, hot flashes, dry mouth, weakness in the lower back and knees, nighttime urination, emotional upset, and insomnia.

Gou Qi Zi, also known as Goji Berries or Lycium, enter the Liver, Lung, and Kidney channels to nourish Liver Blood and Yin, benefit the Essence, and improve vision. A great ingredient for building Liver Blood to treat menstrual bleeding issues due to blood deficiency, vision problems, aging, and dryness of the skin and hair. it´s also red–which is the color of Summer (Heart is the Controller of Lung). As it is nourishing the Liver, the Mother of the Heart, Goji Berries indirectly nourish the Heart to treat insomnia and heavy dreaming due to Heart Blood Deficiency.

It is the beginning weeks of Autumn, and this dish is great for Nourishing and Tonifying the Liver and Kidney Yin and Yang, as well as Nourishing the Kidney Jing (essence). As an added benefit...it stops leucorrhea.

Sav was from Corsica–a French island and Territory in the Mediterranean. She absolutely loved seafood...so I hope all of you will enjoy this dish in tribute to her.


30g Goji Berries
½ lb. Of large, wild caught scallops–fresh preferably, but frozen will work. For some added fun, try to get these in the shell from your local seafood market
10g minced fresh Ginger
2 Scallion stalks, minced
15 mL of Rice wine
2 cups of Chicken Stock boiled down to ½ cup OR 2 tsp. Of chicken bouillon, preferably without MSG **(Rapunzel is a GREAT brand–and my bouillon of choice)
¼ tsp of Sea Salt
Sesame Oil, to taste

**You will need a STEAMER and a CERAMIC BOWL big enough to fit the ingredients into for this recipe. If you have a wok to do the steaming in, even better!

**You will need to soak the Goji Berries for a few hours in rice wine–overnight is even better.


1. Cover the Goji Berries with rice wine and marinate overnight (or at least 2 hours).

2. Before cooking, wash the scallops and drain the excess water.

3. Place the scallops in your ceramic bowl. Evenly distribute the rice wine from the Goji Berries over the scallops, and place the marinated berries on top of the scallops.

4. Place the minced ginger and scallions on top of the scallops.

5. Combine the sea salt and the reduced chicken stock/chicken bouillon. Sprinkle evenly over the scallops.

6. Bring the water in your steamer or wok to a boil. Place the ceramic dish in the center of the steamer and cover, **making sure that the water does not boil over into the dish while steaming.

7. Steam on high for 15 minutes.

8. Before serving, season each scallop with 1-2 drops of sesame oil.

Is there something that you would like to be learning about specifically as we journey through the season? Are there any types of foods or dishes that you would like to be learning more about? Any questions and queries that you may have–nuherbs Co. and I would love to hear about them.

Please do send up an email—we´d love to hear what you have to say: herbalexplorations@nuherbs.com