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Herbal Explorations

Crossing The Barrier: Applying TCM Food Therapy to American Cuisine

By: JK DeLapp

In India there is a saying, ´To feed someone is the highest expression of love.´" This is because the person cooking the meal infuses the dishes with a part of his or her own heart and spirit–nourishing another with more than just food.

Fall is full of death and decay–a thought easily mistaken to be fraught with unhappiness. But in reality, death and decay are the raw materials of new life to come. I think we´d be hard pressed to find anyone not willing to acknowledge the beauty of Fall...which is really just the dying of pretty much everything that´s not an evergreen. Not the Ending of one cycle–but rather the Beginning of Things To Come. Death, indeed, can be beautiful.

We are quickly moving into my favorite time of year in regard to food...solid months of holiday season! And in America, nothing is more integral to the holidays than feeding friends and family. I´m sure we all have memories of family gatherings, wood fires, hot and spicy mugs of spiced (and sometimes spiked!) ciders, pumpkin and apple pies, Eskimo kisses, company parties, and friendly gatherings. There´s SO much to be said on this subject...it´s actually a little daunting for me as a writer. haha

Late Fall is a time of Harvest and of Thanksgiving. All Hallows Eve marks the end of the month, and is a time of remembering the endless members of friends and family past. And–by tradition, Thanksgiving is a time of gratitude, commemorating the help lent by the Natives of our great land to some of our first settlers, heralding back to a time before war and disease–back to a time of one soul lending a helping hand to another.

It is interesting to note that in the meditative practices, the beginning of the breath cycle is actually not the inhale, but on the exhale. Death. Even the process of Birth is actually preceded by a kind of Death–the expulsion of the fetus. Fall is all about exhaling...leaves fall off the trees and death abounds all around, preparing for the inhale, otherwise known as Spring, which is actually symbolic of the inhale. And that ties together why Spring is often the birthing season for so many animals. Breath–New Life–always follows Death.

Health wise, Fall is the time that most deaths occur. Hospitals see their highest number of patient deaths during this time of year. From a 5 Element perspective, I believe this to be due to the weakness of the Metal Element. As the Lungs are our connection to the Heavens, as our bodies weaken, it is often our Lungs that are the leading cause of death during these months. Our connection to the Heavens weakens, and is eventually severed. So...all the more reason to take this Season in full earnestness.

A Historical Side Note
Historical side note–I´m not sure many in the States are aware that there was actually a short Ice Age when the first peoples were coming here to the Americas. It lasted somewhere from the 12th century, up through the 1850´s, where temperatures were on average 6°F cooler than they are today. Winters were MUCH harsher and longer than they are today–something that made coming here quite a bit more difficult than it should have been. Something also that made, say, the Plagues in Europe, more detrimental, as it was a very tough time in recent history.

It´s also something that put into perspective, for me, learning about the American Revolution. I´ve read about just how difficult the Winters were for soldiers, and how they were eventually reduced to boiling down the leather in their boots and belts to eat due to food shortages. Turns out...the late 18th century was actually some of the harshest Winters of those cold, cold years. Anyone ever seen blocks of ice floating in the Delaware River, like in the famous painting of George Washington´s crossing? Yeah...it doesn´t happen anymore.

Old Georgie:

I know in Pennsylvania, there were many German and Dutch settlers around the time of the Revolution. When the British invaded, it was common practice to raid towns for food. Oddly, the first towns and items they raided were often German and Dutch settlements–and the number one thing they were looking for was Sauerkraut, which aides in digestion, and warded off the numerous digestive issues the invading armies faced. The liquid from the Sauerkraut was also used in dressing wounds and disinfecting surgical tools when alcohol supplies ran low. PS–unpasteurized sauerkraut is a great condiment! Only a tablespoon or so with a meal will GREATLY help you digest your meals, especially meals heavy in meats and animal fats. It´s the Bao He Wan of Europe!

The point in my mentioning this is–we have much to be thankful for, for what those who came before us endured, so that you and I might live in this wonderful country that we call our own. Halloween and Thanksgiving parties aside–it´s what makes October and November two of my favorite months!

Not having grown up on or around farms, I think many have lost the connection with what Late Fall is–a Time of Harvest. And, although many of us will not be out in the fields during the Harvest Moon, we should still be keenly aware that for our bodies and spirits, these next few weeks are terribly important. We may not be filling the storehouses and granaries, but instead, our focus should be nutritional and spiritual storage. The Storage Gates are wide open and our Spleens and Kidneys are working over time in an attempt to shore up as much as possible to last the body through the coming Winter. It makes these next few weeks extremely unique in regard to nutrition and spiritual well being.

As the days lengthen, we should be mindful to be leaving work earlier, and spending more time with our families and friends. As the sun is setting earlier and earlier, be mindful that having dinner at 7 or 8pm is no longer an evening meal–it´s now eating in the middle of the night, and will lead to digestive complications and disturbed sleep. I know it´s difficult in our job-centered worlds, but do aim to stop working earlier, and aim for eating around 5 or 6pm and then spend a good hour or two with family around warm drinks or a glass of wine or apple brandy...nourishment for the body and soul. Also be sure to spend a little time outside in the cool, crisp air..."airing out our Lungs", so to speak. Who wants to be leaving for work before the sun rises, and leaving from work before the sun retires for it´s own sleep, anyhow? No sense in overly burning our Midnight Oil.

Respect the Seasons, and in turn, Time will respect you.

A Word About Herbs

In last month´s article, I mentioned the importance of respecting our body´s Midnight Oil. I´d like to remind my readers that the next few months are integral in reserving our stores of Midnight Oil. In addition to Ba Zhen Tang and Liu Wei Di Huang Wan, I´d like to mention another form of "Midnight Oil" that has been used through time immemorial: Cod Liver Oil (CLO), and a more modern take on Vitamin A & D rich, grass-fed butter and cheese–High Vitamin Butter Oil.

Back in my April article, I had written about CLO, so I will keep it limited here, and will re-mention a link that I suggest you all read, and also refer you to the April article for more on this wonderful "herb."

Cod Liver Oil www.westonaprice.org/The-Yin-and-Yang-of-Cod-Liver-Oil.html

April article: http://nuherbs.com/resources/crossing_april

High Vitamin Butter Oil
Originally conceived by Dr. Weston A. Price after observing multiple populations around the world and their dietary habits, he noticed that their diets were high in Vitamin A, Vitamin D, and what he called "Activator X", or the "X Factor." In the West, this was more of a dairy source, coming from rich grass-fed cows, sheep, and goats in the form of fresh, unpasteurized dairy and cheeses.

Seeing the multiple modern diseases, and seeing the widespread nutritional deficiency that, to this day, runs even more rampant than 70+ years ago, I find his convention both ingenious and essential. He took warm butterfat and centrifuged it to concentrate the nutritional content of the milk fat. He took 8-12 pounds of butter, warmed and centrifuged it to make roughly 1 single pound of what he called High Vitamin Butter Oil, which is high in naturally occurring Vitamins A and D, as well as Activator X, and multiple other nutrients that are all but devoid in modern dairy products–and our American diets, in general.

Do not be fooled–the Vitamin A and D that we consume in our daily diets is largely synthetic, and is often not Vitamin A or D (both of which are actually hormones), but rather a vegetable sourced pre-curser to Vitamin A and lab-created Vitamin D. And sadly, the body only converts 1-2% of this "Vitamin A" into true Vitamin A. And if Vitamins A and D are really hormones...who wants to be taking synthetic hormones, anyway???

The only way to get these nutrients is through sunshine, properly raised animal products, and our body´s own production of them. All the more reason to be mindful of what we eat.

Today, we have Dave Wetzel to thank for carrying on Weston Price´s work in providing this product to the American Public. Both the CLO and the Butter Oil can be purchased through him on his website: www.greenpastures.org. When you place an order, please do send along a friendly hello from me. =)

Cod Liver Oil and Butter Oil are two herbal products that I highly, highly suggest offering to your patients. Unless there is a severe Dampness issue in the Spleen or Liver and Gallbladder which should be rectified first, these are two "herbs" that everyone can benefit from, especially over these next few months.

Butter Oil & CLO Articles: http://www.realmilk.com/price.html



Now--what to put in my food?!

Nan Gua: Pumpkin & Winter Squashes (Varietals like Acorn, Butternut, Buttercup, Spaghetti, and Kabocha–there are so many heirloom options out there now...so keep an eye open!)
Sweet to taste and cool, neutral, or warm in temperature, Winter Squashes enter the Spleen and Stomach to Tonify Qi. Common around the world, almost every culture has dishes made with these wonderful vegetables. Often recommended for diabetic or overweight patients for their ability to regulate insulin levels and lower blood sugar, these vegetables are wonderful roasted, pan fried, or made in soups. Also wonderful as a simple congee (I prefer sautéing them in a little butter, first, to really bring out the flavor). Take full advantage of the season--sauté them and mix in some mild curry, or pan fry them in just a little bit of butter (my personal fave!), and flavor them however you choose–these wonderful fall vegetables are our friends!

"Pumpkin Spice"
Usually a combination of Ginger (Gan Jiang), Cinnamon (Rou Gui), Cardamom (Bai Dou Kou), Allspice (Pimenta Pepper), Nutmeg (Rou Dou Kou), Cloves (Ding Xiang), Star Anise (Ba Jiao), Mace (The shell of Bai Dou Kou).

All together, these herbs are warming in temperature and are sweet and pungent in taste. Fantastic herbs for digestive issues, such as food stagnation, and for Bi Syndrome–especially Cold Bi. Usually ground to a powder for cooking, the whole herbs can be used to infuse a nice, organic apple juice to make a fantastic-tasting cider...especially with a little apple brandy. Grind and add to apples sautéed in butter to make a homemade applesauce. The coming cold of the months to come makes this mixture a staple in my side-cooking...bringing smiles to all who taste, and happiness to anyone who enters my home, smelling the wafting spices in the crisp, cool air.

Maple or Birch Syrup
The reduced sap of the maple or birch trees, maple and birch syrups are actually the "Blood (or Lymph) of the Tree". Using maple or birch syrup in cooking is actually an old Native American blood tonic...which is fabulous for me, because they both seem to taste fabulous in just about anything! During the Fall, I use either of them as a sweetener in my teas, and use a touch of it in soups, as well. Gives most soups a nourishing sweet note, as well as the added benefit of Tonifying the Blood.

I suggest purchasing organic, as formaldehyde is a common preservative that does not have to be on the label, since it is "Standard Manufacturing Practice" in the US, but is not used in organic products. Even better if you can purchase it straight from a small, family producer or friend. I also suggest purchasing Grade B syrup, as it is higher in nutritional content and has a stronger Blood Tonifying property than does Grade A. If you can get your hands on Grace C, by all means, purchase as much as you can!

Birch syrup is often hard to come by, unless you live in Northern New England, or along the Canadian Border, and most often must be ordered online. However, I do occasionally come across it in more specialty stores, and sometimes even come across it in granulated form, which has just been reduced to the point of no moisture.

Historically, maple and birch syrups were also boiled down to make "candies", which were often poured into wooden molds to make shapes of leaves and such, and were given as gifts to children, or used during gatherings of friends as both décor, and a cute item to break a piece off to sweeten tea or coffee. I occasionally run across these during this season in stores. I´ve also seen them in smaller, more traditional towns, usually in more northern parts of the country. Keep an eye open for them, and if you happen to run across them, please take note--I´d appreciate an email with the producer´s contact information.

Now let´s talk about some food!

I know in California, we´ve had a bit of an Indian Summer, but around the rest of the country, it´s been cooling off quite considerably. As the heat begins to subside, and the weeks bring cool and crisp air, Moistening the Lungs and clearing Stomach Heat are still good, general things to keep both in mind dietarily, as well as with our acupuncture treatments. My two previous article are chalk full of recipes and ideas that still apply to the next few weeks.

As this is still Fall, it is the time of the Lung and Large Intestine, as well as the Season of Grief. Eating with our families, celebrating the holidays, and keeping an attitude of Joyousness and Thanksgiving are the best remedies for countering this Season´s perils to our health. Take every opportunity provided to you to nourish one another with your company over a meal, over a glass of something hot and spicy, or while sitting around a wood fire or out back in the cool, crisp evening air.

Never take a moment for granted, for–as the name of the Season: Fall, might suggest–we may be called at any moment to depart. Nourish yourself, and the lives of those around you, in the hope that the coming Winter Slumber might not be so harsh, and so that the Hope of Spring might be full of Growth and New Life.

And be sure to be getting plenty of sleep...God forbid you run out of Midnight Oil!

5 Element Meal
I thought it would be fun to take a unique approach to this month´s dining experience–what I call the 5 Element Meal. In remembrance of this past year, we´ll take elements from each of the Elements and incorporate it into a 5-course meal.

Because the Harvest Gate is wide open over these next few weeks, I think this is a perfect way to pay homage to each of the elements, giving them Qi to store for the Winter.

This Month´s Recipes:

The 5 Element Meal

Especially good for:

Fall is actually the Beginning of the Next Cycle. For this reason, I think it is a good thing to incorporate each of the elements in a simple meal fashion that is common to anyone of French, Italian, or Greek Decent–pretty much any European will instinctively know this "meal pattern".

It consists of "feeding" each of the Elements. To help conceptualize, look at the chart above, or take a peek at a Generating/Controlling 5 Element Chart. This meal balances the Elements–both Generating and Controlling each of the Elements in the body.

This can serve as a simple stand-alone meal, or better yet–as a snack to be enjoyed out back while sitting around a wood fire. And as the weather cools even more, bring it inside around the hearth. Every so often eating like this, and you will feel like you are pampering yourself. You´ll find your worries melting away, your friends calling to invite themselves over, and your loved one and kids thinking you are ingenious–and worth all of their love!

Stick with me on this one...

The Meal:

Wood: Wine->A glass of wine serves to warm the digestion. In many European meals, the opening course is a glass of wine, before any food has been consumed. Of course, you can drink some throughout the meal. Have a second bottle handy, just in case you get carried away.

The idea here is to create movement, and to Move Stagnant Qi. The wine will stimulate the Liver, and aid in digestion. Plus, as things begin to cool down, the warmth from a glass of wine while sitting outside in the chill around a fire will be a welcome "inner blanket".

Fire: Cheese->I prefer toasting a nice, organic baguette and using French Brie or Camembert, but a Blue Cheese can be quite nice, as well. Aim for high quality cheeses, here. Visit a Whole Foods or a local Fromagerie. The money and intention will be well worth the benefit.

The idea here is that cheeses are fatty, or very Yin. Yin Nourishes and Moistens Fire. Being very fatty, cheeses also help to "cloud clarity and distort perception"...not always a bad thing. Sometimes we need a thin veil between Reality and Self. Doing this gives your Fire Element a nice, Yinny hug.

Earth: Honey->Have a few different honeys available to put on your toasted bread and cheese. Lavender or Sunflower Honey from France are favorites of mine, back from when I lived in Provence. Any honey will due, and local varietals offer an endless array of flavors to enjoy. Unpasteurized is best.

The idea here is that Sweet Nourishes Earth. The sweet, subtle flavors of honey are perfect for bread and cheese. You should see the eyes of my friends when I pull this little treat out for an appetizer!

Metal: Apples->Fall is the season of apples! From apple pies to apple sauce, these delicious fruits are the perfect accompaniment to a 5 Element Meal. I suggest making an old-fashioned apple sauce, of which I have included the recipe, below.

The idea here is that apples moisten the Lung and Large Intestine. The spices that are used are pungent in flavor, and will benefit the Metal Element. It´s also interesting to note that the malic acid in apples cleanses the Liver, and is a great way to prep the Wood Element for the coming Spring, only a few months away. I prefer to use Granny Smith apples, as they are especially astringent to the Lungs, which is great at this time of year–but any apples will do, especially if a little past their prime. This dish serves as a great snack, dessert, or stand alone meal (especially when for breakfast), and is great to eat through the rest of Fall and through all of the Winter (as Metal is the Mother of Water).

Water: Coffee->It´s common practice in Europe to finish a meal with a cup of coffee or espresso. Coffee beans serve to function as a digestif when taken after a meal. Coffee when used this way is also warming, downbearing, and serves to stimulate the Kidneys.

The idea here is to Warm and Stimulate the Water Element. Herbally speaking, the coffee will function as a nice digestif. But Elementally Speaking, you are providing a nice, nurturing warmth that is well received after a meal, and helps to disperse the oncoming cold of the season that is the naturally enemy of the Water Element.

In Summation:
Glass of wine in hand.
Toasted baguette with decadent cheese in the other.
Honey screaming to be drizzled.
Apples simmering in the pot.
Coffee or espresso, fresh-ground and awaiting brewing to finish off the night.

**This 5 Element Meal can be incorporated into ANY meal that you plan on having, as well as standing alone as a great opportunity for family or friendship bonding.

If incorporating into a larger meal, serve the Wood, Fire, and Earth courses first. Then serve your meal. Finish off with the Metal and Water courses for a complete, decadent, soul-enriching experience!

Lastly, don´t forget that the past two month´s articles contain recipes that are still perfect for this time of year–so don´t forget to continue employing them!

Mulled Cider or Wine, or JK´s DeLapptastic Chai

Especially good for:
Pure decadence! Making this will make your entire house smell like something out of one of Martha Stewart´s fondest dreams.

The apple juice serves to moisten both the Lung and Large Intestine. The spices Aid Digestion, Warm the Collaterals, and Dispel Bi Syndrome. To be drunk any time during the day–it´s a great way to either wake up, or close out the night. Enjoy around a fire with friends or family. And for an extra treat–add a splash of a nice apple brandy, such as Calvados. Will help to Move the Blood, in addition to adding a lovely flavor.

This was something I made a lot back before my brother graduated from high school and left for college. He and I would sit out back around a fire and drink endless mugs of this stuff. Fond memories of two brothers bonding... My sister enjoyed the occasional cup, too. My mother LOVES when I come home from the holidays, because I almost always make this when I am home. Come to think of it...Dad smiles more than usual, too. But that could just be my magical presence...wishful thinking, I know.

Drink this in honor of those memories, and raise a toast to my family and yours!


Organic Apple Juice, fresh pressed, if possible. Pumpkin Spice Mix


Red Wine instead of apple juice->to make a mulled wine (to be prepared the same way as if with apple juice).


Milk->to make JK´s version of Chai Tea, without the peppercorns. This has the added benefit of alsoTonifying Qi and Moistening the Stomach. Prepare the same as if with the apple juice.

**I prefer organic Pumpkin Spice mixes. You can find them in the spice isle. It´s the same thing I use when making a pumpkin pie. With some luck and customer support (hint hint), I think it´s a blend that nuherbs would be willing to begin putting together for us, both as whole herbs for making a beverage, and ground, to use in cooking. [Editors note: Check out our current special! We are incredibly busy with warehouse renovation right now but making packets of this mix to serve in the clinic or to sell or gift to patients would be simple and appreciated!]


1. Pour the apple juice into a saucepan, and add the herbs–either whole, or ground.

2. Over medium heat, bring the apple juice to a boil, and immediately reduce heat, and simmer.

3. Simmer for 5 minutes, and strain.

4. Drink, be warm, and smile!

Old-fashioned Apple Sauce

Especially good for:

Smiles! Who doesn´t have memories of old-fashioned apple sauce, made fresh and from scratch!?

This time of year, Granny Smith apples are in season, and they are my favorites to use to make applesauce. However, any apples that are a little past their fresh ´n crisp days are perfect candidates for making applesauce.

Nourishing the Metal Element and Moistening the Lung and Large Intestine–this simple food benefits beyond any simple property, cutting straight to the Soul for nourishment!

Granny Smith apples have the benefit of Astringing Lung Qi.

My Aunt Carol is FAMOUS for her applesauce. I came up with this recipe as a way of satiating the hunger that fills the gaps between holidays. A fiery, redheaded woman of Northern European decent, she is chalk full of great food. This little concoction I dedicate to my Aunt Carol–a culinary inspiration, to say the least!


6-10 Organic Granny Smith Apples, or any apples past their prime
Pumpkin Spice Mix
3 Tablespoons Organic Butter
Maple or Birch Syrup, to taste


1. Chop the apples into bite-sized pieces.

**I prefer to leave the skins on, but it is alright to peel the apples.

2. Melt butter in a saucepan.

3. Sauté the apples in butter until nice and caramelized.

4. Add the pumpkin spice and sauté for another 2-3 minutes.

6. Remove from heat, and add maple or birch syrup to taste.

Nan Gua Pumpkin Congee

Especially good for:

I like to use pumpkin this time of year, but any squash will do. The idea here is to Tonify the Mother (Earth) in order to Tonify Metal. Using pumpkin in this way Tonifies the Spleen and Stomach, Drains Damp, and inadvertently Nourishes Metal.

This simple congee is a great way to get some taste with a powerful punch of function. Don´t be surprised if you stick with this for a week or two for breakfast and find yourself losing a little weight...it´s a great way to lean out and reduce the body´s unwanted Damp Fluid, and, I´ve also found, Phlegm.

Plus, it´s very easy on the digestive system, so this helps tremendously for any food stagnation, gas, bloating, or Phlegm (Hot OR Cold) in the digestive tract.

It´s perfect for following Halloween and leading up to Thanksgiving, when there will be PLENTY of FRESH pumpkin to make this with!

Cooking hint–Sushi Rice or Arborio/Risotto rice make it nice and thick, so it doesn´t taste like you´re eating water. You can use any kind of rice, but I find adding a ¼ cup of either of these gives congee a great texture.


Nan Gua–I prefer pumpkin, but any squash will do 2-3 Tbsp of Butter 1 Cup of Rice (I prefer Arborio/Risotto rice, or Black Rice, for Nourishing Kidneys–or a mix of the two) 6-8 cups of water

**Optional: Pumpkin Spice Walnuts (to Nourish Kidney/Water Element) Maple or Birch Syrup to taste Soy Sauce to taste


1. Core your pumpkin, removing the seeds. (These can be reserved and dry roasted in a pan for eating later with a little bit of sea salt...yum!)

2. Chop your pumpkin into 1-in strips.

3. Cut the outer layer off the strips.

4. Cut the strips into ½ inch cubes.

5. Pan fry the pumpkin in a skillet with the melted butter over medium heat for 5 minutes.

6. Add the rice and stir fry together for 1 minute.

7. Transfer to a slow cooker or stew pot.

8. Add the water and cook all night long on low and eat in the morning!

**Optional to add Pumpkin Spice while stir frying. **Optional to add Walnuts to the slow cooker. **Maple or Birch Syrup and/or Soy Sauce to taste.

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