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Herbal Explorations

Crossing The Barrier: Applying TCM Food Therapy to American Cuisine

By JK DeLapp

“Fall is a time of letting go of things that don´t serve you... so take out the trash now before you end up hibernating with it all Winter.”

Wow—did the Season shift as quickly with the Harvest Moon on Halloween Night where you live, as dramatically as it did here in San Diego!? It was truly amazing to see the shift in the Seasonal Paradigm here in San Diego a few weeks back. We’ve had a really crummy time for weather down here (yeah, I know…that sounds like a joke!) this past year. Very unusual for this area, from what I’ve learned of my new home. With the Harvest Moon came a swing from the overcast, humid weather of the past months, straight into an Indian Summer. Hot, dry days with cool, crisp nights. I’m curious if the rest of the country was fortunate to experience such a dramatic shift?

What I find fascinating about the shift stems from the quote above—it’s as if the region was sick of the preceding months of crummy weather (as were all of its residents), and in its frustration, went cold turkey on the weather and changed overnight. With no desire to hibernate all Winter long under a layer of damp and dreary, the weather pattern was let go in a single night. I’m thinking that was Heaven’s Way of illustrating the magic of our medicine in a very tangible kind of way. Could you imagine what our lives would be like if we were to have such resolve and do the same? To say the least…I’m a nerd. I’ve been fascinated!

A Word from the Su Wen

In Chapter 2 of the Su Wen, the qualities of the Seasons are described, with emphasis placed on proper action within their Seasonal confines, and the consequences to be expected in the following Season if Nature’s Laws are not properly obeyed. I mention this because Autumn is the Season of Metal, and is the Mother of Water, the next Season we are preparing to enter. Yang is declining, and we are about to enter a Yin within Yin time of year. There is utmost stress placed upon proper living so as not to damage the Water Element.

This final month, in particular, is a great month of harvest and bounty. These past three months are called the “plentiful and balancing.” We are told go to bed early, and to rise early, which is something that our modern “time change” interferes with. Remember to go by “Real Time”—as if the time change did not occur. This will be of benefit to you these coming months, as we tend to burn an extra hour of midnight oil in turning back the clocks an hour. Just be aware of how truly “late” you are staying up. Eat dinner early—around 5 or 6pm if possible. And tape your shows to view on weekends so as not to be staying up so late during the week.

These past three months have been a time for us to be “harvesting the spirits (of our organs) and gathering the Qi…clarifying and refreshing the Lung Qi…It is the way that maintains the Harvesting of Life.” This is why proper breathing practices found in the meditative arts are so invaluable. “To go countercurrent would injure the Lung, causing, in Winter, diarrhea, through an insufficient supply for storing.” In other words—moderation in activity, plenty of rest, and taking full advantage of the bounty of crops is of utmost importance for properly preparing for the coming Winter.

Chapter 2 of the Su Wen continues with advice for proper living during the Winter Season. “Going to bed early, rising up late. Everything must be done according to the light of the sun.” Oh crap. Can you get everything done in your day by sundown…around 4:30-5pm, and be ready for bed by dark!? I know I can’t! All the more reason to be wary of how we live! Getting to bed early will be of utmost importance.

And for those of us that love to be gym rats, we are warned to not sweat during the Winter, as it injures the Qi that needs storing for the following Spring. So don’t push yourself so hard over the Winter. Or better yet…take a respite from hard workouts, and stick with the more traditional forms of exercise—Qi Gong, Yoga (non-heated and therefore not as much sweat), and the Martial Arts.

What I am trying to express here is that the Ancients recognized the importance of living within the system: proper rest (“according the light of the sun”), proper eating, proper containing, proper breathing. The simple path is the one that leads to long life, good health, and peace of mind.

As we move into Winter, remember to take special care and go easy on yourselves. No sense needlessly throwing away what we’ve spent all year working to save, only to end up behind the game come Spring.

Now--what to put in my food?!

Chuan Bei Mu: Fritallaria

Slightly cold in temperature, and bitter and sweet in taste, Fritallaria is a great herb to use at the tail end of Fall, especially with an Indian Summer such as we are experiencing in my neck of the woods at the moment. Clearing Heat from the Lung and Large Intestine, it is great to use in conjunction with the Moistening properties of pears. You’ll want to either have it ground for you, or grind it yourself in a coffee grinder or food processor. Can be used as an added ingredient in last month’s old-fashioned applesauce, for example. Traditionally, it was steamed or baked with pears and honey. Recipe to follow!

Shan Zha: Crataegi Fructus, or Hawthorn Berry

Slightly warm in temperature, and sour and sweet in taste, Hawthorn Berries Promote Digestion, Reduce Food Stagnation, Invigorate Blood, and Transform Blood Stasis. If you think anything like I do, and eat like most Americans over Thanksgiving—then you and I are thinking this herb definitely has its place on our tables this year! A staple herb in Bao He Wan, a fantastic formula for the overindulgent eating that is common during the holidays, I always make sure to bring some home during the holidays. The herb, itself, has a lovely taste, as well. Can be used in soups, or as an herb for brining your Turkey, or made as a simple tea by steeping the berries in hot water for 15 minutes before drinking. The berries can be eaten straight out of your cup, too—just beware of the hard seeds! Or, try the nuherbs Hawthorn Sauce as an accompaniment to your turkey!

Chen Pi: Citri Reticulatae Pericarpium, or Dried Tangerine Peel

Warm in temperature and pungent and bitter in taste, Chen Pi Regulates the Qi in the Lungs and Spleen/Stomach, helping to Clear Phlegm from the Lungs and to relieve digestive problems. Citrus zests are common in Western cuisine, so it should come as no surprise to learn that the whole peels are used in many Asian dishes. This herb is carefully dried and aged to really bring out its medical value, so I highly recommend purchasing a top quality Chen Pi from your friendly herbal supplier. It’s great to use ground or whole in any dish that calls for citrus zest. I also like using it in brining meats, along with Hawthorn Berries. I find it makes for a really tender, flavorful, easily digestible dish! Turkey Brining recipe to follow!

**One caution with Chen Pi—I do not recommend using citrus peels in your cooking if you have an allergy to penicillin. Penicillin is actually extracted from aged citrus peels…which is actually what Chen Pi is!


I know, I know—you’re wondering how on earth sugar can be considered an herb! Various sugars have various properties, according to Chinese Medical Theory. In the West, we generally see sugar as a sweetener, and a sweetener only. And nothing that is good for us, either.

Oddly, sugar in Asian cuisine is used as a sweetener, yes—but the type of sugar used is what is more important. A few sugars and their properties to consider:

White Sugar, Organic and Unbleached:

This white sugar, which does not employ the use of chemical extractions or bleaching agents and is not entirely white, is cool in temperature and sweet to taste, and is good for Nourishing Fluids and Moistening the Spleen and Stomach. Best used during the warm months of Summer.

Red Sugar: Organic and Unprocessed:

Red Sugar, as the Chinese call it, is what we call a “whole cane sugar”. Nothing has been removed from the fresh-pressed sugar cane juice except the water, leaving behind a dark, malty-tasting sugar. Also knows as “Muscovado Sugar” to the Spanish, or “Black Sugar” from the West Indies or Indonesia, Red Sugar is Warming to the Spleen and Stomach (unlike white sugar, which is Cooling) and also has the added benefit of Nourishing Blood. It is a favorite in Asia for PMS, and was also used by heavy laborers and field workers. Both used it the same way—a spoonful or two would be added to warm water and drunk before meals, or simply added to their water to be sipped throughout the day to help build Blood and to recover from exhaustion.

There are 3 types/brands of Red Sugar I recommend for using in your recipes.

--Rapadura, which is made by Rapunzel (www.rapunzel.com) and sourced from Fair Trade, small family-owned operations in South America.

--Heavenly Sugar, which is actually an Ayurvedic, herbally-prepared sugar made by Heavenly Organics (www.heavenlysugar.com) from cane grown in the Himalayas.

--Muscovado Sugar, which is made by India Tree (www.indiatree.com) and grown on the island of Mauritius off the coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean, and grown in nutrient rich lava fields.

I use all three of these in my cooking, usually in place of white sugar, unless I need more of a cooling action in my food (usually during the Summer), or if I want to balance some of the warming properties of a dish with a cooling ingredient.

Palm Sugar

The dried juice from the flower of the coconut palm, this is one of my favorite sugars for sweetening tea, especially if I am wanting a lighter tasting sweetener. This sugar has all the same properties of Warming the Spleen and Stomach and Nourishing Blood, although I don’t think it’s Warming or Nourishing actions are quite as strong. Just my personal observation on that.

There are plenty of options when purchasing palm sugar, as it has become a bit of a “fad food” with diabetics and health nuts. Look on the shelves of your local health food store or Whole Foods—and even most Asian or Indian groceries carry it in “bricks,” “cones,” or “rounds,” which are usually made right there on the property of whichever small operation they are purchased from. Almost all palm sugars are grown in Southeast Asia (like Thailand) or one of the various Pacific Islands (like the Philippines).

One last note--almost all palm sugars are grown organically and on small family farms as the coconut palms are extremely resistant to industrial cropping. Especially when purchased in the brick, cone, or round forms see if you can taste a smokey note to it. The palm sap is usually slow-boiled over a wood fire on a beach at the small family farm that it was made. A pretty neat little gift from an islander somewhere!

Now let’s talk about some food!

Fall has always been a time of year for me that entails spiced drinks, wood fires, and nights out back looking at the stars. Some of my best memories with my siblings and folks have been made during the Fall…memories that still continue to serve and vitalize me to this day. I really do hope that you have all been taking advantage of the Season this year, and have been more intentional about slowing down a little to soak it all up.

As we close this Fall Season and transition into the Winter, I hope we are each bringing warm smiles and plenty of houseguests along with us. The Season of Grief will be closing its doors and the Season of Sadness (or, more accurately—the Season of Reflection) will be upon us. We have spent the past year of activity properly nourishing our Spirits for the coming months of cold, building up the Spirits of the Elements and nourishing our Souls. As we enter the most Yin time of year, I hope that your life will also become more Yin—getting plenty of rest, eating nourishing foods, spending more time inside, and giving the gym a break from your sweating. I do hope that everyone will properly guard their Bountiful Harvests through the months of desolation so that, come Spring, there will be enough in the Storehouse to properly foster the surge of Growth and Rebirth.

This Month’s Recipes:

Being the month of Thanksgiving, I thought it only fitting to share a piece of my table with yours. My mother, aptly named Candy--as she is quite nourishing to the sweetest aspects of the Soul--is the source and inspiration of many of these dishes. We each have my mother to thank for instilling in me the love for cooking at a very young age, and it is because of her skill in the kitchen that I am here today sharing with you the joys of cooking.

I dedicate these recipes to my mother—and our string of mothers --that have instilled in us the joy of nourishing the souls around us…one plate at a time.


Candy DeLapp 

Especially good for:

Full of pumpkin, which Nourishes the Spleen and Stomach, and red sugar, which Nourishes Blood, and the pumpkin pie spice which warms and aids digestion—this is a fantastic comfort food that all in America love and adore. Using all organic ingredients makes this a health food, and is not something that should induce any feelings of guilt for eating a slice or five.

When we make these at home, we make several, as they keep well sitting covered on the counter, and it’s easier to make a bunch in one sitting, rather than several times over a period of days.

You’ll notice that making this recipe--with fresh pumpkin and my pumpkin pie spice mix, along with clean, organic sugars—that there will be no bloating, no “brick” in your stomach, and no acne or plaque on your teeth. This truly is a nourishing food for your soul!


1 cup cooked pumpkin (or organic canned pumpkin)

2 tablespoons flour (any organic flour will do)

1 egg (organic, free-range)

1 teaspoon

pumpkin pie spice

-- go a little light on this, more like 3/4 tsp. (or use 1/2 tsp. each cinnamon and allspice)  

If doubling the recipe, use 1 1/2 tsp. spice.


1/2 cup

Organic, Unbleached White Sugar

1/4 cup Red Sugar: Rapunzel’s Rapadura, Heavenly Sugar, Muscovado, or Palm Sugar

2/3 cup whole organic milk


1. Mix together flour, sugar, red sugar, and pumpkin pie spice until well blended (can be done by hand)

2. Using mixer or hand mixer, add egg, pumpkin, and milk.  Blend well.

3. BAKE AT 400 FOR 40 -50 MINUTES. The filling will be slightly jiggly, but will firm up when it cools.  Some people like to cook it until it starts to crack slightly on the top. Personally, I prefer mine on the slightly jiggly side, with lots of real whipped cream. Store-bought pies many times are too dry, which results from a very firm filling.  It is all personal preference. Not to mention…lots of BS ingredients when not made from scratch.



:  You will probably have to DOUBLE this recipe unless you are using an 8-in pie plate.  You will have a little filling left over when using a 9-inch pie plate if you double it, but it will be perfect if using a 10-inch pie plate, which also is good if you love pumpkin pie because it goes further!  If any filling is left over, it is great to drink warm, which is a favorite beverage with everyone in my entire family!


- To cut down on baking time, warm the mixture in a convection oven or on low on the stovetop for 2-3 minutes, then pour into the pie shell.

- To make the filling darker and/or more solid, mix canned pumpkin (pure pumpkin, nothing added) with your cooked pumpkin.  1/4 C canned to 3/4 C cooked, or 1/2 and 1/2. 


- Cut pumpkin in half (top to bottom)

- Scoop out seeds. (can reserve and toast -> delish!)

- Slice each pumpkin half into approx. 1-in pieces (easier to peel if the slices are thin)

- Peel off the outside rind and scrape off any seeds/pulp left from the inside of the slice.

- Cut the slices into approx. 1-inch cubes (it will cook faster and be easier to mash when finished)

- Cook in large pot by adding approx. 1/4 cup water.  

- Cook slowly until it starts to boil, then turn down to a simmer.

- Check pot periodically for liquid. The pumpkin will eventually make its own liquid.  

Be sure not to let the liquid run dry or the pumpkin will burn.

- Let simmer for 3-4 hours, or until soft and mushy, stirring occasionally.

- Put through a blender or food processor, or simply mash with a hand blender.

- Store extra pumpkin in containers and freeze.  Be sure to measure how much pumpkin is in each container and label accordingly.   I usually allow 2-cups per container, but also will throw in a 1-cup and a 3-cup container to be used for holidays when making more than 1 pie.

**Note: the cooked pumpkin can also be used in soups, casseroles, or mixed with a little flour and sautéed in butter. Let your imagination run wild with creativity!

PIE CRUST - Makes 2 8- or 9-inch single-crust pies

Candy DeLapp


2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

1 tsp salt

2/3 cup softened butter or lard

5-7 Tablespoons cold water


1. Mix together with a pastry blender.

2. May need to add a little more flour if mixture is too wet.

3. Or may need to sprinkle another teaspoon of water over mixture if it is too dry.

4. Form into a ball.

5. Put two pieces of wax paper over the top of newspaper, or on counter if no newspaper available.

6. Sprinkle wax paper with flour.

7. Divide dough in half.

8. Flatten dough and roll from center to edge till 1/8 inch thick.

9. Sprinkle dough with flour as needed.  Turn over and sprinkle dough again just until it is not sticky.

10. Fit pastry into pie plate; trim edges.  Crimp edge.

11. Prick bottom and sides well with fork.

NOTE:   Too much flour will make the crust a little tough.  Making pie crust takes a few tries to get the feel of it.   Don´t get discouraged -- MOM 

Pumpkin Bread

Candy DeLapp

Especially good for:

The mix of pumpkin, red sugar, and walnuts makes this a fantastic Jing Nourishing food! I know…who would have ever thought something this tasty could nourish the deepest aspect of their being!?

The pumpkin Nourishes and Strengthens the Spleen and Stomach, the red sugar Nourishes Blood, the pumpkin pie spices all have warming properties and many warm the Kidneys, as well--and the walnuts act as a guiding herb in this formula to direct these actions to Nourishing Jing.


1 Cup Organic, Unbleached White Sugar

2 Cups Red Sugar

3 ½ Cups All-purpose Organic Flour

1 Tbsp Baking Soda

1 ½ tsp Sea Salt

4 Eggs

1 ½ sticks of melted Butter

2/3 Cup of Water

3 tsp

ground Pumpkin Pie Spice


1 tsp Cinnamon

1 tsp Allspice

1 tsp Nutmeg

2 Cups cooked Pumpkin Puree

2 Cups of Walnuts, broken up by hand (can use less if you don’t like walnuts so much—or pecans can be used)


1. Grease two bread loaf pans with butter.

2. Mix altogether and bake at 350º in two bread loaf pans for one hour.

3. Check with a toothpick to see if cooked all the way through. If not cooked, the toothpick will come out of the center “dirty”. If cooked, the toothpick will slide in and out “clean”.

4. Allow to cool before removing from the pans.

Pear with Chuan Bei Mu

Especially good for:

This tasty little treat is great for Clearing the Heat and Dryness that are so prevalent at the tail end of Fall. Pears are moistening to the Lung and Large Intestine, and can help soothe Dry Lungs or Dry Constipation.

The Chuan Bei Mu Clears Heat and Transforms Hot Phlegm. Together, along with the moistening and harmonizing actions of the honey, this dish is fantastic for treating any seasonal condition related to the weather at the end of Fall. Not to mention…it’s delicious!


10g or 1 Tbsp of ground Chuan Bei Mu/Fritallaria

1 ripe Pear (any variety will do, but I particularly like it with Asian Pears)

2 tsp Honey

**If desired, a dash of cinnamon or pumpkin spice for flavor


1. If your Fritallaria is not already ground, use a food processor or coffee grinder to grind it to a powder.

2. Wash the pear, but don’t peel it. Remove the top one third of the pear and reserve.

3. Cut out a portion of the core of the lower aspect of the pear without cutting all the way through the bottom—so as to leave a “container” inside the pear.

4. Place the ground fritallaria inside the hole and fill the remaining space with honey, and then adding back the cap of the pear we had cut off.

5. Place the pear in a steamer and cook, covered, for 40 minutes or until soft.

**If you do not have a steamer, the pear can be cooked inside a glass or ceramic bowl placed inside a pot containing about an inch of water. Cook with the lid to the pot left ajar.

6. Serve warm as a breakfast treat, snack, or dessert to a meal.

Thanksgiving Brined Turkey

A traditional method of preserving foods before the days of refrigeration, brining is a cooking technique that is regaining popularity. Chefs and home cooks alike are discovering that a good brine bath adds flavor and juiciness to pork, chicken, turkey and even shrimp. After the food is brined, it is then roasted or grilled.

A brine penetrates into food much more deeply than a marinade. Water from the brine enters each meat cell, making the meat juicier while infusing it with flavor. When cooked, the meat or poultry will not necessarily taste salty; it will just taste delicious.

There are many great turkey brines available on the market. In particular, I like the one sold by William-Sonoma. But…making your own is quite lovely!

You’ll want to purchase a turkey brining bag from your local grocer.

Especially good for:

Turkey is only slightly warmer than chicken, which is the most neutral in temperature out of the meats. It is particularly good for weakness and post-partum recovery.

If possible, I hope that you can get your hands on a pastured turkey from a local farmer. Not only do they not contain any of the BS that is so pervasive in store-bought turkeys—but the taste is unparalleled!

If a pastured turkey is not at your disposal, the next best option is an organic turkey purchased from your local healthy grocer. Regular store-bought turkeys are loaded with hormones, are fed pesticide-laden feed, and are an all around compromised food. I do hope that you put in the effort to find the highest quality turkey possible—you and your family are worth the effort and cost! Not to mention…the flavor will be exponentially better!

You can check with the Weston A. Price foundation for pastured poultry (and all pastured meats) near you:



1-2 Cups of Sea Salt or Kosher Salt

1 Apple, sliced

1 Palm-sized piece of Fresh Lemon Peel, cut into pieces

1 Handful of Chen Pi (dried Tangerine Peel)

1 Handful of Shan Zha (dried Hawthorn Berry)

2 Pieces Star Anise

3 Fresh Cloves of Garlic, minced

1 Tbsp Rosemary

1 Tbsp Thyme

½ of an Onion, minced

2 Tbsp mixed whole Peppercorns (can use Black—Tellicherry, Green—Sweet Indian, and Pink—Madagascar) or just Black Peppercorns

2 Bay Leaves

Water to submerge the turkey

**This mix will suit a Turkey up to 20 lbs in size


Brine your turkey overnight in the fridge.

** If using a store bought turkey and it is still frozen, this can be done in the kitchen sink. Make sure to properly clean the inside of the sink with soap and a scouring pad, and thoroughly rinse. Plug the sink, place turkey and brine in it, and then cover in plastic wrap.

Drain the liquid and dispose of the herbs.

Remove the neck and gizzards, and reserve.

Preheat the oven to 475º.

Grease the skin of the turkey with butter.

Cook the turkey at 475º for 20 minutes to crisp the skin.

Reduce the temperature of the oven to 250º

**For each pound the turkey ways, cook at 250º for 20 minutes per pound. Example: if your turkey weighs 15 pounds, you’ll cook your turkey for 5 hours at 250º.

**Reserve all bones and tendons after carving. These can be cooked along with the neck and gizzards with whatever vegetables you choose to make a delicious soup broth that can later be used to cook grains or rice, or made into a turkey soup with any leftover meat. Cook together for 1-3 hours and then strain to have your broth.

My father’s favorite way to eat this is a barley soup made with carrots, celery, and whatever spices I feel like adding to make a nourishing, hardy soup that feeds us for days!

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