Chicken Soup Medicine for the Soul (Lycium/GOJI berries)

In Eastern medicine it is common to add a paper bag of ingredients to something like a soup. Things like dried fruit, bark, twigs, roots or deer antler/gelatin. This becomes medicine instead of something a Western herbalist might prescribe like a tincture. These soups typically have chicken, rice, and vegetables. If you have traveled much in Asia you might be familiar with congee. A porridge like meal that is served to infants, the elderly, and sick because it is nourishing, easy to eat and digest. Congee may not look or sound appealing but actually once you have had it you start to crave it. This chicken soup with goji berries has a terrific balance of textures and flavors. Perfect for winter or recovery. You can play with the amount of water to create anything from broth, to stew, to congee.

Last summer I noticed a strange stalk growing from the neighbors yard under my fence. Since he is a doctor of oriental medicine I suspected it might be something interesting. Sure enough I discovered it was Goji. It managed to over winter in our climate, send out many more stalks and produce some lovely berries this year. I have been purchasing the dried berries recently. I like to use them in my rejuvenation pastes. I also eat them by the small hand full when I crave something sweet after dinner. I love the slightly astringent/bitter taste at the end. I find the fresh berries pleasing as well. I look forward to larger harvests through the years and experimenting with another powerful “heal all”.

Medicinal Chicken Soup

In a large cast iron stock pot saute on medium heat until just soft-

4TBSP of olive oil

4 TBSP of finely chopped fresh, peeled, ginger root

1/2  large onion coarsely chopped

Then add

3 pounds of chicken defrosted and coarsely chopped This does not include the weight of bones etc, if you used a whole chicken. I used boneless breasts and thighs.

You can add more vegetables or mushrooms later if you want to skip the meat). Increase heat and cook until starting to brown.

While this is cooking you can chop your vegetables to save time.

Then add……

1 cup of fresh gourmet mushrooms ( I used large trumpet) chopped into bite sized pieces.

To the pot add……

8 cups of water , bone broth or stock.

Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low. Then add…….

1 cup of dried medicinal or “Asian” mushrooms/fungi of your choice (shitake is easy to get) Break these into pieces if you can.

2 TBSP of soy sauce or substitute

2 TBSP of umami spice powder

1/2 tsp of Chinese 5 Spice powder

2 TBSP of salt (maybe less if your stock was salted)

1 -2 cups of peeled carrots coarsely chopped or other root vegetables such as parsnips or fresh burdock root.

2 cups of peeled and diced butternut squash

Simmer on low for one hour with a lid then add………

1/2 cup dried goji berries. One could also add some Chinese red dates.

2 cups white rice, cooked. Brown rice will hold its texture better if you want more of a stew.

 1 TBSP of unflavored gelatin powder(optional if you did not use both broth or chicken with bones)

Cook for 30 minutes Then add…..

2 cups of loosely packed spinach, nettles, dandelion, or other greens. Part of my mix included chrysanthemum.

Salt to taste

Cook 15 minutes then serve. You can add more water if you want a thinner broth like soup or continue to cook until you get a congee like consistency. If you are going for congee I would chop the meat and vegetables into much finer pieces, use white rice and really let it break down during the cooking process.

Lycium chinesis

This evergreen/perennial is considered native to Asia but is commonly cultivated in Europe. It is in the nightshade family (ground cherry, tomato, chiles/peppers) The “bush” typically grows from the ground in 6ft long stalk/stems which may have short occasional short branches. These fall over like tomatoes and benefit from being on a trellis. Stems may have spines and have a whitish film, Leaves are medium green, alternate, narrow, spade shaped, with smooth margins. Orange/red berries are drop shaped. Pale purple (greenish) flowers are tube shaped with 5 partially joined petals. Prefers full sun and poor , well drained soil. There is a native variety that grows in the American Southwest (L. pallidum).

Do not confuse with other members of the solanaceae family that have red berries like Solanum dulcamara or americarum which are poisonous.

Lycium is used in both Eastern and Western medicine. You may not find this plant discussed in some of your Western herb books because it is not cultivated much in the US. Goji berries are a great adaptogenic herb for when the body is ill or under stress. As a nutritive herb, the provide support/strength for the liver, kidneys, endocrine system and the “blood”. Lycium helps remove toxins and is considered a Yin tonic. This herb has been used to treat weak muscles/back/ligaments/veins, night sweats, fevers, colds, pneumonia, dizziness, bleeding, inflammation of the bronchial tubes, asthma, hair loss, low blood sugar, infertility, symptoms of hormone imbalance or menopause, tinnitus, vertigo, aging, diabetes, anemia, high blood pressure, varicose veins, poor circulation, fatigue, dry skin/tissues, poor immune system, tumors, impotence and to reverse weight loss associated with cancer or AIDS. They may improve eye health (macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma) and sight as they are high in carotenoids, lutein, and flavonoids. When used regularly in the diet, berries can help support the growth of healthy bowel flora and decrease cholesterol levels.

Latin Name: Lycium barbarum/chinensis (most commonly cultivated)

Botanical family: Nightshade/Solanaceae

Parts used: fully ripe or dried berries. The bark and root only by experienced doctors of Oriental Medicine. The immature leaves sometimes in soup.

Energetics: sweet, warm, bitter or neutral, cooling and sour

Element: water

Emotional/spiritual uses:grounding, nourishing, calming, strengthening

Contraindications: acute fever, diarrhea, bloating, “damp” constitution

Published by blackbirdsbackyard

My backyard botanical pharmacy is located in Boulder Colorado. I began studying herbal medicinewhen I was 12 years old. In college I studied subjects like anthropology, microbiology, anatomy and physiology, After graduation I decided to go to midwifery school. I attended births and had a small practice until I retired early in order to be a mother full time. I have always had an herb garden, gathered plants and made my own healing formulas with plants. Over the last 30 years there have been many teachers and I have attended dozens of workshops. I am one of those people who is always reading, studying and learning. In 2019 I was called to practice as an herbalist professionally, using "plant spirit medicine" and bio-energetic ( 5 element)healing techniques. I feel that there is a big need in the community for my skills and talents. I hope to inspire others to start their own backyard pharmacies as a solution to species extinction and the healthcare crisis in America. Healing has also become a spiritual practice and way for me to feel balanced and connected with nature. I consult with clients in person, teach classes (adults and kids), give tours of my garden and offer apprenticeships. Health, joy, meaning, and support are everyone's birthright.

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