TABLE of CONTENTS

                  



Elements





01 FIRE 
02 EARTH ䷁
03 METAL
04 WATER
05 WOOD ䷃



06 BLOOD
07 JING
08 QI
09 SHEN
00 VOID ䷼







the BOTANARCHY JOURNAL

                  



1/2 —Japanese Tsuba, 1916
2/2—Japanese Tsuba, 1916

The Earth Element




Round, ripe, rotting, reciprocity. Beyoncé as Oshun, the splendors of the body, security, stability, being filled to the brim. Humidity, heaviness, hearth, harvest, not fearing the reaper. Moldy peaches, Bergman’s Wild Strawberries, languidness, turbidity, torpor, ennui. Ahhhh, late summer, Sorceress of Saudade, surprise season of surplus and swamp, of yin emerging from yang, duality and abundance on the precipice of decrease.

In the five element calendar, Late Summer is the fifth season, a poetic interlude of plumpness betwixt the third week of August and the autumn equinox that hearkens the arrival of fall. The Earth element reigns over her kingdom in Late Summer, and to understand her splendor is to romp in her amber waves of grain. Abundance and satiety abound in tandem with decline and decrease. With a tinge of melancholy and a golden brush stoke, the entire cosmos is swaying in a heat-drunk torpor to Bowie’s ‘Golden Years’ as the earth does its best impression of a Fauvist landscape with languishing bodies lolling in the low-hanging sun. Some may say, “my dude, that’s just summer!” But if you’ve been paying attention to the Great Unfurling, everything is… slowing down. There’s an entirely different flair to Late Summer than the swank and swagger of its sister season. For in this moment, fire hath liberated the moisture hiding within Earth, and the air is pregnant, heavy, like an Earth deity herself, arms teetering with grain and a pregnant belly full of nascent baby goddesses. The whole of the cosmos is telling the alchemical tale of how yin - substance - emerges from yang - energy. Can you feel it? (Hint - it’s sticky.)

Our embodied Earth element is our spleen and stomach organs, the Axis Mundi and cosmic hinge for the whole of our metabolic processes, and the reverse equation of how yin - substance - creates yang - energy. What a magnificent ouroboros this universe is! As five element acupuncturist Lonny Jarrett says, “the earth element governs our connection to the Earth in a way that empowers utilizing and integrating all sources of available nourishment in life so that our potential may be actualized.” So, in honor of our potentialities both amorphous and accomplished, I offer this series of rites and ruminations, a bouquet of spectral sunflowers upon the auric altar of Earth.



On The Earth Element Within and Throughout


Whilst in the throes of a love affair with Earth In Her Season, I stumbled across this quote from the lusty tome The Deep Ecology Movement:

“The photograph of earth taken from outer space by a satellite that shows the whole blue orb with spirals and whorls of cloud, was a great landmark for human consciousness. We see that it has a shape, and it has limits.”

I remember a story I heard about the writing of my favorite song - Terra - an ode to the naked curves of Earth by Brazilian musician and anarcho-provacateur Caetano Veloso. It’s the most beautiful f*&%ing song that ever graced our hoary hobgoblin ears, and we are surely not worthy of its majesty, but regardless - go listen to it right now. Veloso wrote the song from the depths of a jail cell, doing time for protesting police brutality during a period in which Brazil had suspended habeas corpus. From his captivity, he witnessed those very same photographs of Earth taken by the first astronauts on the moon. Gazing at her, he distilled her celestial grandeur into an swoony, sparse, seraphic ode to Her supernal shape as witnessed from above —



From where, neither time nor space

May the Force send courage

For us to treat you tenderly

During all the journeys

That you carry out in the nothing

Through which you bear

The name of your flesh…

Earth! Earth!

However distant

The wandering navigator

Who could ever forget you?


The song is sung entirely in Portuguese, but its message was never lost on our english ears; Despite our various freedoms, we are ALL longing heretics trapped inside a prison of our own creation, calling out to Her to hold us. Earth…Won’t you re-parent us? Give us what we never got? Shell out something sweet to take away the pain? Teach us about enduring beauty? Won’t you be our lover AND our mother? (Esther Perel would have a bona fide field day with all this).

The Earth has always been fetishized as a talisman of unconditional love and generosity. She connects and unifies us in our differences as inhabitants of her home, mediates conflict, and soothes with her boundless breast. We call her Mother and she gets our needs met gracefully with silent aplomb. Sympathy, in the Chinese Five Element tradition, is the emotion of the Earth element, and you can feel it in her liberal charities and licentious largesse. As if by the grace of a hidden hand, our Mistress of Eternal Empathy anticipates our needs, placing the medicines we seek for the plague du jour smack dab in the palm of our hands. Toxic oil spill!? Here’s an oil-eating Oyster mushroom to devour the poison miasma! Malarial outbreak?! Here’s a heap of Artemisia Annua growing in the garden path! Her body is sustenance for the entire swathe of terrestrial enterprise. She endures abuse, and continue to provide for us. Think of the Amazon.

In the cosmic re-parenting, an out of balance Earth element in our own bodies is reflected as an insatiable neediness, a loss of connection to source that is dealt with by compulsive consumption, eroding our digestion of both food and experience. We may even feel the need to over-give ourselves, equating self-worth with the ability to caretake for others at the expense of our own flowering. When our internal Earth is shaky, we may find ourselves resisting change or avoiding choices that might jeopardize security and stability. Working on the Earth element in acupuncture and herbal medicine pulls us back to our center, empowering us with feeling at home wherever we go. Cue ‘This Must Be The Place.’

Though we often debauch her narrative by casting her as bruised and battered, a hapless victim of patriarchy that needs our saving, Earth is QUEEN and has been self care-taking and evolving solutions since time immemorial (learn from this). Her timeline is not one of minutes and years, but of centuries and millenniums, and us Children of Earth often miss how she regulates and repairs. She didn’t need a #selfcare hashtag with a jaunty blonde in a bathtub to teach her how to patch her wounds. If she needs a solution, she creates one, quite literally (hello, evolution). This is something to consider when we work on healing our inner Earth element. I think of the incantation I have from the artist DeeDee Cheriel hanging in my home - You Have Everything You Need. Late summer and the gentle work of nourishing our Earth element imparts this sense of sublime security and abundant bounty, much needed to combat the chaos of culture that is insistent that we never have enough.

In Her season, perhaps more than ever, the umbilical connection to Earth as home and navigator is paramount as we float through deep space untethered and astray. The advice for those floating comes again from The Deep Ecology Movement:


“We must find our way to seeing the mineral cycles, the water cycles, air cycles, nutrient cycles, as sacramental—and we must incorporate that insight into our own personal spiritual quest and integrate it with all the wisdom teachings we have received from the nearer past. The expression of it is simple: gratitude to it all, taking responsibility for your own acts, keeping contact with the sources of the energy that flow into your own life, i.e. dirt, water, flesh.” 

This is why I write to Her daily like a provincial taoist Carrie Bradshaw.

Earth! Earth! Earth! Who could ever forget you?



On The Spleen and Stomach


"Every Microcosm, every inhabited region, has a Centre; that is to say, a place that is sacred above all.”

- Mircea Eliade

In order to discuss the majesty of the Spleen and Stomach, we have to understand the central metaphor of digestion through the lens of the Earth element. Both our center and our alchemical furnace, the Spleen and Stomach are paired as the organs of our internal Earth, and their transmutation and transportation of nutrients provide the context and structure for how we support ourselves. These digestive organs nourish and nurture, providing stability and serenity (or when out of balance, worry, obsession, and self-doubt). They are responsible for the efficient digestion of all we encounter - both food AND experiences - churning and turning the manna of life into qi to fuel the body’s processes. ‘Neutral Good’ in alignment, the Spleen and Stomach are concerned with how we meet our own needs and the needs of others. Providers of comfort, they are the embodied  Nonna’s in all of us… worried with how we are fed, perhaps a little needy, often overbearing, imprinting our relationship to food for life, for better or for worse.

One of the legendary Chinese medical physicians of yore, Master Li Dong-Yuan, founded what would come to be known as the Earth School in 1200 C.E. The Earth School believed that disorders mainly originate with damage to the Spleen and Stomach, and helped to contextualize how disease could be engendered by lifestyle and emotions, and how both these things are shaped by oppression and poverty (hello, radical). I was going to write a whole swoony love letter to the Earth School, but everything I would have said, acupuncturist Sharon Sherman said better in this article:

As Chinese medicine evolved, practitioners began to realize that patients did not live in a vacuum and they could not be treated as such. Every patient affected by an ailment needed to be treated individually because many factors beyond just physical disease were playing a role and required attention. For Master Li Dong-Yuan, lifestyle was a major factor in the preservation of a patient’s well being. He felt that patients’ emotions could heavily influence the qi’s integrity and that physical illness could be eroded by the socio-economics of a war-torn society plagued with famine, epidemics and poverty.

Li Dong-Yuan believed that the cause of damage to the stomach and spleen occurred as a result of three main factors: intemperance in eating and drinking (especially consumption of excess amounts of cold, raw, fatty or unclean foods), overwork which leads to exhaustion, and from the effects of excessive and habituated emotional expression — excessive emotions agitate the body and consequently weaken digestion. When the conquered people were left powerless, poor and unable to access proper nutrition, opportunistic disease processes were able to also overcome and vanquish health physically, mentally and spiritually.

In honor of the Earth School and Late Summer, I invite you to to do a hot little inventory of nourishment, and how that might be supporting or thwarting your tao.



On Feeding the Earth Element


“It is not easy to recognize and choose good nourishment of any kind if the spontaneous and receptive instinctual part of us is numb and neglected.”

- Jean Shinoda Bolen

As someone who has the privilege of tending to bodies and secrets, I know how deep and vast our wounds with Earth run, expressing themselves through disordered and dysregulated eating. Let’s get something straight - If we are eating outside the boundaries of Monsanto-fied foods that feed corporate egregores whilst robbing bodies and Gaia of their legacies, there are no inherently ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods. Where food falls on the spectrum between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ is completely relative, and is one of the myriad ways we fall victim to internalized prejudices informed by a slew of various cultural conditionings that impose false hierarchies on things. Most of this has more to do with socio-economic biases (and sophisticated advertising both overt and covert) and less to do with nutrition. That said, food CAN support or negate our thriving, but this is different for everybody and informed by the climate of each person’s unique ecosystem, personal history, and stew of inflammatory predispositions that can take a lifetime to understand. This is where the Taoist approach to nourishment diverges from most modern nutritional practices… we think seasonally and contextually, focusing on the relative truths of each person, and not a supreme truth, acknowledging that reality is in a state of process. Everything changes, nothing is constant, and sometimes things flourish best when left alone. We don’t need to obsess too much about these things (but I still do from time to time, it’s a hard knot to undo).

Which is to say… the following ruminations on digestion aren’t about diet in the sense of DON’T EAT LECTINS, LECTINS BAD, but more about the SPIRIT in which you eat your food. The query of Earth is ‘what is your relationship to nourishment in general,’ so this work can be aided by understanding the ways digestion is supported in Chinese medicine, gentle pillars to reinforce the Earth element.


土 Earth is stodgy and likes monotony, ergo having stable rituals around food is a way to encourage digestion and assimilation. Chew slowly, eat regularly, try not to eat when angry, tired, or rushed (impossible, I know, but worth stating as your ever-concerned aspirant granny doc).


土 Following the meridian clock, the qi of the Stomach is at peak energy between 7 + 9 am, and the Spleen qi between 9 + 11. If you loooove syncing up with your biorhythms, eat a big, sexy breakfast between 7-9, and then carve out a swathe of Spleen time between 9-11 for meditation.


土 Earth gets soggy and slow with damp and cold foods, and digestion gets sticky, curdled, and congealed like when excess dampness turns the earth to mud. The process of warming up cold foods absorbs a fair amount of your precious qi, energy that you could be using for far more interesting things. In some internal climates, too many foods of this nature end up damaging digestion over time, so it’s worth examining if ice cream, dairy, iced drinks, and smoothies might be curdling your innards and impairing flow.


土 Science experiment: try not drinking water with meals (puts out the digestive fires and dilutes your precious gastric juices!) and removing iced drinks from your repertoire for a hot minute. See if your center feels more fortified.


土 Keep the Earth strong and nimble with warming foods and spices. Warm grain bowls, pumpkins and squashes that embody the golden color of the Earth element in her prime, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, soups and stews, parsnips and root veggies, baked yams drizzled with maple syrup, think like a harvest goddess and what she might eat.


土 An out of balance Earth element craves sugar, but often does’t respond to it well (oh, the pathos!). Sweets that get those neurotransmitters all a’gaga whilst also nourishing the Earth are molasses, dates, rice syrup, warm fruit compotes, rice pudding. Think sexy macrobiotic restaurants from the 90’s.



Communing With The Gut-Mind


If you’re feeding your Earth responsibly and still experiencing digestive duress, or feel like old tricks ain’t working, I leave you with a slew of Earth element reframes for intuitive eating that can separate the proverbial wheat from the chaff, and guide you in the direction of waking up your receptive and instinctual gut-mind:

土 Are you allowing the Earth to provide for you?


土 Are you approaching her bounty with reverence, slowing down to receive it, tuning in to how it may support or hinder the unfolding of your Tao?


土 Are you sublimating unmet needs through compulsive corn chip consumption (guilty as charged over here)?


土 Are you looking to food for sympathy?


土 Do you have stable rituals around food, feeding yourself in congruence with the needs of your day so that you can provide for your emotional and physical labor?


土 Are you warming your center, keeping your earth warm like a swaddled child?


If any of this resonates and feels like it needs further unpacking, you might want to enlist the wisdom and wiles of your acupuncturist to work on fortifying your center.



On Dampness


Dampness is humidity in the internal ecosystem, manifesting as things that are puffy, sticky, and heavy… think lethargy, lumps, bumps, boredom, brooding, bloating, mucus, phlegm, water retention, accumulation, and aggregation. It likes to perturb the Earth element with such illustrious foes as diarrhea, sticky stool, nausea, and loss of appetite.

Per my oft-quoted dude Lonny Jarrett, “dampness is an accumulation of everything that should have nourished us but has instead transformed into burden.” Think of a tree holding onto rotten fruit, or a fridge hoarding exotic condiments past their expiration date whose monetary and utilitarian value have long since soured (Earth Rx bonus ritual - clean your fridge! I’m sure my shui sorceress Meghan Wallace James would approve). Dampness slows things… thoughts, processes, metabolisms both psychological and physical. This is how Late Summer is distinct from Early Summer, which is marked by its speed, joie de vivre, and robust quickening.

Dampness often rears its heavy head in folx that find it difficult to say ‘no’, continually ensnaring themselves - begrudgingly, yet brusquely - in the projects, dramas, and predicaments of other people, taking on an excess share of the collective weight of the world. And dampness also calls into question resource hoarding and guarding. Have you ever watched your dog lament over its bone? Transfixed by its power, they become unwilling to let it out of their sight even for a moment to entertain the basic, joyful needs of the body, like going for a walk, jumping on the bed for head scritchies, running to the door to greet strangers. It becomes a talisman of inertia, a burdensome object that impedes joy and flow. So many of my commitments were once this very thing.  

Do you hold onto things because of their perceived value, but feel the weight of these ephemeral widgets is actually slowing you down? RELEASE THEM UNTO THE EARTH. As I write this to you, it’s day 1 of Autumn, the season of droppin’ leaves and sickle-bearing reapers - shedding excess weight on this cusp is part and parcel.



Elemental Acupressure:
Spleen 21 ‘The Great Enveloper


Debra Kaatz, in the resplendent ‘Taoist Tales of Acupuncture Points’, translates acupuncture point Spleen 21 ‘Da Bao' 大包 as ‘A Vast and Extensive Containment’ or a ‘Big Cuddling Embrace’.  This is the point I choose when my patients need to remember that they are nourished, safe, contained, and held, supported by both the vast reserves of their bodies and the grace of the all-encompassing tao. The energetics of some points are subtle, but this one has a rich, warm, spreading sensation, almost as if Earth herself was holding you close in a bower of leaves and mulch. I liken it to the arms of a lover around your waist as the sun crowns in a late summer meadow, except better, because romantic love never lasts but the ardor of Earth is eternal.

Located on the mid-axillary line below the holy hallows of the armpit in the 6th intercostal space, you can rest your palms here whence engulfing yourself in an embrace of devotional self-love. Or, you can declare your body a safe space and sovereign nation by activating this point with self-qigong, rubbing your hands together until you feel flickers of electric qi shooting betwixt them, and then placing them upon The Great Enveloper whilst ensconcing yourself in a gravity blanket of protective Earth qi. Kaatz sermonizes on the services of Great Enveloper, describing it as the point where

“we can dive deep within the wonders of our Mother Earth and feel her vast and extensive containment. It is here the spleen enriches us with all its great vitality and dynamic movement, the place that everything within us is connected to the Mother Earth with her great care, stability, warmth, and nourishment. In this great enveloping embrace we can feel secure and come back into balance to receive the warmth and care that we need.”

Acupressure re-parenting, anyone?



Mixtapes of the Tao: 
Late Summer // Earth


An ode to Gaia and her golden kin, this elemental mixtape is a cosmic etching upon her great countenance, an alchemical distillation of sunflowers and saudade, a solemn soliloquy to the receding waves of summer and how we make *home*upon her grand facade. Bop bop bop bop, bop bop bop bop, this is planet earth, you’re looking at planet earth.

Invitations for use: Use this mixtape to nation-build with the elementals, forming coalitions with the air, water, and soil (vow to protect them with your magic!). Play it whilst reposing under a taciturn tree, watching the interplay of golden light and shadow upon your skin. Use it to ruminate upon the inter-connectedness of all life at the close of a boozy picnic at dusk (you drank too much AGAIN). Fan yourself on the porch during an Indian summer heatwave while this wafts through the willowy curtains. Make like Dylan Thomas and use it to rage against the dying light.

︎opentaoistboombox︎ 
_____________________________

Elemental Reading List



Earth House Hold, Gary Snyder:
The poet laureate of the Archaic Revival


Pharmako/Poeia Series, Dale Pendell:
On the poetry and power of poison plants. Dale Pendell is Gaia’s consort, and he sampled every psychotropic plant upon her vast countenance so that you don’t have to. #yourewelcome


Apocalyptic Witchcraft, Peter Grey:
The witch was created by the land to speak and act for it


Queer Ecologies: Sex, Nature, Politics, Desire, Catriona Mortimer-Sandilands and Bruce Erickson:
Queer interrogations that subvert and transform heteronormative nature relations


The Alexandria Quartet, Lawrence Durrell: Bodies and landscapes colliding in the Alexandrian sun, sumptuous word-drunk fiction to be read in the blaze of a late summer repose


Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu via Ursula Le Guin: A 2500 year-old manifesto on rewilding (and the entire basis of Chinese medicine) that reads like a Taoist handbook for crafting a temporary autonomous zone with feminist flourishes from Le Guin


Treatise On The Spleen and Stomach, Li Dong-Yuan:
Digestive medicine from Earth School Grand Magus Li Dong-Yuan, written over 800 years ago but still r-a-d-i-c-a-l


Healing With Whole Foods, Paul Pitchford: Elemental nutrition for balancing the internal ecosystem


In The Realm Of Hungry Ghosts, Dr. Gabor Maté:
Rewiring the maladaptive compulsions of human cravings and addiction


How Much Land Does A Man Need, Leo Tolstoy:
My best friend and Slavic Soul Brotha Boris Dralyuk translates Tolstoy’s tiny folktale on the impossibility of satisfying desire


Borderlands/La Frontera, Gloria Anzaldúa: Transcending cultural tyranny within a topography of displacement, a Chicana activist’s reflections on borders both geopolitical and conceptual. Now, more than ever 


Caliban And The Witch, Silvia Federici:
The enslavement of the female body via capitalism and the enclosure of the common lands


The Parable Of The Sower/Earthseed #1, Octavia Butler:
Adaptation and working together in the throes of the slow apocalypse we are all ensconced in that barely reads like fiction at this point


Deep Ecology, Bill Devall:
Living as if nature mattered


Walden and Civil Disobedience, Henry David Thoreau:
A stodgy old white dude contemplates nature and writes loquacious earth porn about resistance and simplicity, both ‘meh’ and ‘still good’



Earth Medicine
Brew What Thou Wilt: Lacto-Fermented Beet Kvass


“The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious…

The beet is the murderer returned to the scene of the crime. The beet is what happens when the cherry finishes with the carrot. The beet is the ancient ancestor of the autumn moon, bearded, buried, all but fossilized; the dark green sails of the grounded moon-boat stitched with veins of primordial plasma; the kite string that once connected the moon to the Earth now a muddy whisker drilling desperately for rubies.

The beet was Rasputin’s favorite vegetable. You could see it in his eyes.”

-Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume


Beet Kvass is an acquired taste, a guttural garnet brine of sanguine soil, mossy mouthfuls of prosaic, proletarian food medicine. A digestive tonic of Slavic heft and ardor, it’s a simple remedy that exalts the latent magic of the beet through fermentation, boosting its nutritional profile and inoculating the beets with boughs of beneficial bacteria. Kvass is a perpetual staple at my LA homestead, along with bone broth & cod liver oil. Taken religiously with the fervor of my Slavic ancestors, it can render the need for further digestive support obsolete, all the while strengthening a sluggish immune system and supporting the organs of elimination.

I first sampled this rosy, fermented fête out of an unmarked carafe at a hot spring in rural Austria. Thinking it to be cranberry juice, I was immediately perplexed by its salty strangeness and effervescent bite. Which is to say, I spit it out. Moments later, I longed to swill it by the mouthful, like a Viking gulping the blood of its enemies. Beet Kvass will sneak up on you like that. My friends from Eastern Europe grew up swigging Kvass daily in school, a nourishing ritual that shames the pants off the Dixie Cups full of sugary fake juice doled out by the US school system.

The probiotic puissance of Beet Kvass lies in its ability to rectify the morass of an unbalanced digestive system, whilst thinning out the bile to help with liver congestion and function. The mystical beet, in and of itself, also boosts an ORAC value of 1,776, making it an excellent natural anti-inflammatory and preventative medicine for cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, allergies, and chronic fatigue.

Fixin’s
6 Organic beets, washed & peeled

1 Tsp Sea Salt

1 Packet Body Ecology Probiotic Starter Culture

½ Gallon Glass Jar or Fermentation Crock

Method
Wash, peel, and chop your beets into small pieces, placing them in your sterilized glass jar. If you don’t have a ½ gallon vessel, you can distribute them amongst smaller jars, and divvy the recipe up equally (Kvass is a cooperative chap!). Fill the jar with purified water, enough to cover the beets, making sure to leave 1 inch headroom at the top. Add your sea salt and probiotic starter, shaking and whisking until thoroughly infused. Loosely seal (I use a paper towel and a rubber band, because I’m the utmost fancy) and store away from direct sunlight, allowing your rubicund potion to ferment at room temperature for 3-5 days. You may notice a winsome, white mold starting to form on top of your prized Kvass. Fret not, fervid fermentors! It’s merely a harmless rogue mold, entirely par for the course in the wily badlands of cultured foods. Scoop her off gingerly, with nary a scoff or skirmish.

After my counter top fermenting has commenced, I’ll either whirl my Kvass with a smidgen extra of water in a Vitamix before bottling (for the earthy girth of a thicker brew), or strain the beets and bottle the scarlet elixir. You can reserve the beets for a nice salad or amuse-bouche, or re-ferment them in a second batch of Kvass. Store your Kvass in a sealed glass vessel in the fridge, where it will continue to simmer and seethe with bountiful bacteria indefinitely. Serve chilled, with a squeeze of lime or a spritz of sparkling water if you so fancy, or add to homemade Borscht for a bit of old world Slavic kitchen witchery.

If the Kvass is entirely too pungent for your palate after the counter top fermentation, mellowing it in the fridge for 2-3 weeks will curb its mojo. This will also enhance the nutrition of the Kvass, but is not a necessary step, as she’s already an unequivocally potent brew.

Dose
¼ cup per day, taken as a few sips hither and thither before meals to stimulate digestion. If your body temple is not accustomed to the bubbling brawn of fermented foods, start small, and work your way up to the full dose.



Earth Medicine:
Four Deities Soup 四神汤


Preventative medicine in a porcelain pot, Si Shen Tang 四神汤, ‘Four Deities Soup’, is an old school tonic remedy for all matter of melee thwarting zest & zing. I have been all sorts of obsessed with this soup since introduced to it by my Chinese Nutrition teacher, who’s hot-blooded zeal for food as medicine is unparalleled. Slurp by slurp, I noticed near immediate relief from digestive doldrums, and felt palpable rays of puissance wash over my seriously taxed bag o’ bones. This gentle soup can be utilized in a myriad of ways, from strengthening the digestive system, increasing appetite after illness or chemotherapy, battling fatigue, boosting the immunity, and calming a jostled nervous system.

Because it’s taste is placid & mild, Si Shen Tang is the perfect source of nutrition for finicky kids with digestive distress, Earth element alchemy to woo the spleen and stomach back to life. Though I find juice fasts to be haughty, ill-informed, & positively superfluous (life is entirely too vivacious to camp out on top of a Vitamix for weeks on end, eschewing commitments, kettlebells, and spontaneity), I CAN get down with a soup detox, which grounds, nourishes, and warms the body. Where juice often lacks fiber & protein, shuts down the thyroid, dampens the digestive system, and contributes to wild fluctuations in blood sugar, tonic soups are PERFECT for an autumnal cusp cleanse. They will sustain and simplify, supporting your organ systems without dampening and depleting your inner fire.

Soup cures are this anarcha-taoist’s medicine of choice, nonpareil. Though you must be proactive, prudent, and vigilant in your preemptive preparation, using soup as medicine is an infinitely rewarding and deliciously empowering alternative to medication and surly interludes at urgent care. A dash of fastidiousness in the kitchen goes a long way in the gallant fight against acute ailments, chronic fatigue, and recovery from illness, by maintaining a buoyant & valorous flow of qi throughout the body.

Ingredients
Though their pedigree may seem glamorously avant garde, Chinese herbs are a hoary banality, and customary staple in most Asian pantries for both healing and grubbing. All of the herbs below can be easily procured in your local Chinatown apothecary, should you have a local Chinatown apothecary. If Los Angeles happens to be your halcyon homestead, hustle on over to Tin Bo or Wing Hop Fung for a crash course in Chinese herbalism, and a fanciful frolic amongst shelves of dried fish maw, beetle skeletons, powdered horns, seahorses, and musty mystical mushrooms. Fresh fare- such as Sake and Chinese Yam- will be readily available at any Asian market, where you can also try your luck at finding rogue Chinese herbs to flesh out your budding collection.


1 Cup Job’s Tears Barley/Yi Yi Ren

A gluten-free barley (be still my heart!) that adds burly nourishment to even the most tedious soups, stews, and brews, Yi Yi Ren is a gloriously gratifying grain. Excellent for eliminating dampness, heat, and toxicity, it goes to the spleen, stomach, and lungs, aiding in digestive troubles, swelling, fatigue, urinary difficulty, abscesses, and joint pain. I was thrilled to learn recently that Yi Yi Ren is being used intravenously in China to shrink cancer cells, and has been exhibiting hefty anti-tumoral powers. It is, unfortunately, not suitable for pregnant women, though it’s wondrous in soups for conjuring postpartum joie de vivre.

1 Cup Lotus Seed/Lian Zi

A dapper bedfellow to Yi Yi Ren, Lian Zi is a meaty lil’ seed that nourishes the heart, spleen, kidneys, and vital essence. Another darling of the pantry, Lotus Seed is mild enough to beef up any feastly fête, excellent for cases of chronic diarrhea, urinary and reproductive disorders, low appetite, irritability, insomnia, anxiety, and palpitations.

1 Cup Fox Nut/Qian Shi

Completing the trifecta of tonics, Qian Shi gently supports the spleen and kidneys, for frequent urination, diarrhea, diabetes, chronic discharge, and sore low back from stress and over-taxation.

A Few Pieces of Fu Shen/Spirit Poria Mushroom, Broken Up

One of the most poetic medicinal mushrooms of the Chinese canon, Fu Shen is both a mushroom AND a morsel of host wood from the pine tree upon which she feasts. Thus she contains the rootsy, arboreal energetics of the tree, and the otherworldly, decaying detritus of the fungus. Spirit Poria nourishes the heart spirit, and the ancient Taoists believed that consuming this famed fungi 'leads to a long and happy life.’ It is used by those wishing to overcome anxiety, palpitations due to heart deficiency, insomnia, poor memory, worry, fear, edema, and urinary difficulties.

1 Raw Chinese Yam/Shan Yao, Grated and Sliced

Another boon for boosting spleen and stomach qi, Shan Yao is excellent for diarrhea, fatigue, spontaneous sweating, and lack of appetite. Also admirable for tonifying lung and kidney qi, it is a delightful herb for diabetics and those with chronic cough and wheezing.

3 Cups Sake or Mirin

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, rice wine invigorates and warms the channels of the body, quickening the flow of qi and enhancing the potency of herbs.

3 Liters Purified Water or Homemade Bone Broth

Should you be hoarding any homemade Botanarchy Bone Broth, this would add luscious flair to your brew. If water seems entirely too ho-hum for your tastes (which it won’t be, I promise), you can find my broth recipe here. I recommend a lighter broth, such as chicken, tempered with purified water.

A Heavy-Handed Sprinkling of Toasted Sesame Oil and Sea Salt, To Taste

Optional: Chicken or Pork


Method
First, sanctify your herbal assemblage by bathing it in water, and grate the scrappy skin off your Chinese Yam before slicing. Once your herbs have been happily hallowed, grab yourself a hefty stock pot, and throw in the Job’s Tears, Lotus Seed, Fox Nut, and Fu Shen with wild abandon. Cover with a liter of purified water, boil, and then reduce to a slow simmer with lid on for about 2 hours, until your herbs have sweetly softened. Pop on over about two shakes of a lamb’s tail short of two hours, and add the Sake and Chinese Yam. Once the yam is soft, season to taste with Sesame Oil and Sea Salt. Enjoy in robust health, surreptitiously slurping your bowl of medicine daily, until you have thoroughly coaxed your mojo back to life and hoisted the heebie jeebies right outta dodge.



Waving Goodbye To #hotgirlsummer



Smile O voluptuous cool-breath'd earth!

Earth of the slumbering and liquid trees!

Earth of departed sunset—earth of the mountains misty-topt!

Earth of the vitreous pour of the full moon just tinged with blue!

Earth of shine and dark mottling the tide of the river!

Earth of the limpid gray of clouds brighter and clearer for my sake!

Far-swooping elbow'd earth—rich apple-blossom'd earth!

Smile, for your lover comes.




Prodigal, you have given me love—therefore I to you give love!

O unspeakable passionate love.



— Walt Whitman