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Herbal Explorations

Crossing The Barrier: Applying TCM Food Therapy to American Cuisine

By: JK DeLapp

I have been asked by nuherbs Co. to begin writing a new and fun column that I am extremely excited about. Currently, I am unaware of a company in our industry that has had the vision to begin to approach and discuss what the Chinese would say, "Yi Shi Tong Yuan": Food and Medicine are of the same source.

Respect for the healing properties of food is interwoven into the very fabric of everyday cuisine in Asia. Although several herbs are especially potent and are used very specifically for certain illnesses, many foods and herbs are as common to Chinese Cuisine as are Hamburgers and French Fries here in the US.

In TCM Food Therapy, balance and interrelatedness are the rules of thumb. In this healing tradition, the cook seeks to bring balance to our meals, thus bringing our bodies and minds in balance with the seasons. The Key to this entire process is to bring the various pieces of your artist´s palette (your kitchen) together as part of a whole (your masterpiece of a meal).

For the first article in this series, I thought it would be fun to incorporate a holiday meal, with Easter and Passover just around the corner. I thought it a perfect match for the coming Spring season, as we will be needing to move Liver Qi, and warm and tonify the yang in preparation for Spring´s Growth. But first, I thought it might be helpful to introduce myself!

    JK´s Story:

I learned to cook from my mother, wonderful woman that she is. I am the eldest of three children, and growing up, my father was out of town on business 20-25 days out of the month–so it was only natural for me to be helping in the kitchen.

In college, where I received a BA of Speech Communication from The University of Georgia, I continued to expand on my culinary loves, cooking for friends, family, and – always – for fun.

I was part of a group of men that founded a fraternity on campus (from Animal House to Ancient Medicine...go figure) where I had an opportunity to start a catering company to help fulfill a few of our needs. As an 18 year old kid, I was catering for everything from Greek events for 450 people to dinner parties to dinners where guys were asking their girlfriends to marry them...an exciting introduction to the professional side of food!

My last year in college, I studied in Avignon, France, in the heart of Provence–and this is where I fell in love with the Art of Food. I went on to teach with a former professor in Paris and Prague for a few months after graduating. My time in Europe taught me that food is more than just something we consume to fuel our bodies–it is the very ground substance with which we nourish our Hearts, our Souls, and our Friendships, as well as our bodies. There is a reason we have the saying, "Home is where the Heart is."

In 2002, I began working with The Weston A. Price Foundation (www.westonaprice.org), a non-profit foundation centered on Food, Farming, and The Healing Arts. I went on to work with the Foundation in various fashions: everything from helping organize Organic and Biodynamic farmers, farmers markets in the South Eastern US, as well as helping restaurants source locally grown foods. I´ve had the pleasure to teach workshops and educate healthcare professionals, restaurateurs, and curious laypersons about the importance of local, organic, seasonal foods around the country.

It was through the Foundation that I was first introduction to food as medicine.

Fast forward: I enrolled at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in San Diego, CA in September of 2008, where I am currently a student. Since beginning my professional pursuit of Chinese Medicine, my interest in food as medicine has continued to flower and bloom.

This Month´s Recipe:

Mint-Rubbed Leg of Lamb:

Though lamb is often paired with mint jelly, this roasted leg lets you leave the jelly jar in the pantry. Serve the roast medium-rare to medium, in its own juices, with a simple arrangement of spring vegetables.

Especially Good For:

Eating in the wintertime and early spring. Serving to those recuperating from bone surgery or injury, or any illness; those experiencing chronic joint pain; or concerned with minimizing the effects of aging.

This meal will strengthen the Liver and Kidneys; fortifies bones, tendons, and muscles; moves Liver Qi; and warms and arouses the yang in preparation for Spring.

It is a great meal to warm you up on a cool night–and to put smiles on the faces of your family!


  • 5-pound whole leg of lamb (bone in)
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons dried mint, crushed(Bo He)
  • 1 tablespoon coarse-ground black pepper(Hu Jiao)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • Fresh mint sprigs (optional)


  • Cooked herbed new potatoes (optional--or fresh Shan Yao can be purchased from a local Asian Market)
  • Steamed carrots (optional)
  • Steamed asparagus (optional)


1. Preheat the oven to 275 Degrees F.

2. Trim excess fat from meat (although I like to leave some on–helps make a delicious au juice to use on the meat and vegetables after cooking).

3. Combine dried mint, minced garlic, pepper, and salt; rub mixture over entire surface of lamb leg. Drizzle honey over lamb leg and rub to coat. Place on a rack in a shallow roasting pan.

4. Place the lamb in the over and roast for 6 hours, or until the meat almost falls off the bone.

5. Increase the oven temperature to 425 Degrees F and roast for another 20 minutes, or until a crisp crust forms.

6. Transfer the lamb to a cutting board and cover loosely with foil and let stand for 15 minutes. Garnish with mint sprigs and serve with cooked herbed new potatoes, steamed carrots, and steamed asparagus, if desired.

Makes about 10 to 12 servings.