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The Centers for Disease Control issued a health advisory warning that this year’s flu vaccine is less effective than normal.

According to the report, 91% of cases nationwide have been a strain of Type A (H3N2) Influenza, which is the most severe strain. The vaccine produced for this season has been effective in only 48% of Type A cases. This flu season may be more virulent than what we experienced last season, but fear not! Vaccines and lathering one’s self in hand sanitizer are not the only way to protect the body.

Every winter I am frequently reminded of my mentor, Yuan, who would often say, “Food is free medicine, and it tastes better!”
I’ve got a couple of cozy, immune boosting recipes that can be eaten as a preventative measure, or if you’re already sick. Most of us are familiar with the chicken noodle soup that mom or grandma used to give us as kids. These souped-up versions have an Eastern flare to them.

Shitake Mushroom
Shitake Mushroom

Immunity Boosting Chicken Stock

1 (2-inch) piece of fresh ginger cut into ¼ inch slices (no need to peel)
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 medium-sized leek, washed well and cut into 3-inch pieces
1 pound chicken bones
4 dried or fresh shitake mushrooms, rinsed
6 medium-sized pieces (20grams) astragalus also known as huang qi
12 cups water

Place all the ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil.
Skim off the fat that floats to the surface as needed.
Lower the heat and simmer gently with the lid on the pot for 2 hours.
Strain the broth through cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer.
Discard bones, leek, ginger, astragalus and mushroom bits.

Serve immediately, or store in portions in the freezer. If refrigerated, broth lasts about 5 days.
You can find astragalus at Asian supermarkets like Dong Yang Market or Yu Yu Asian Supermarket here in Lexington.
This chicken stock can be consumed on its own or used in the next featured recipe: Flu Season Soup.

Flu Season Soup

¾ cup pearl barley
3.5 cups water
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (olive, canola, or coconut)
½ medium onion cut into ½ inch pieces
2 cloves garlic peeled and minced
2-3 stalks celery cut into ½ inch pieces
1 leek, well washed and cut into ¼ inch pieces, with the rough green tips discarded
¼ cup fresh or frozen peas
A handful of arugula, roughly chopped
1 cup cooked beans your choice (azuki, kidney, or black beans)
1 cup Immunity-boosting chicken stock (see recipe above) or chicken or vegetable broth
2 teaspoons dried thyme
Black or white pepper
Salt to taste

Combine the barley and water in a large pot.
Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a gentle simmer.
Cook uncovered for 30 minutes.
Leave the barley on a low simmer while working on the rest of the soup.
Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat.
Add onion and garlic. Cook until fragrant and soft
Add the celery, beans, broth, and thyme.
Cook uncovered for 15 minutes.
Add the bean mixture to the pot of the barley.
Mix in the leeks and peas. Season with salt and pepper.
Simmer for another 15 minutes or so until the barley is soft.
Sprinkle arugula on the top of each serving as a garnish.



Added bonus: these foods strengthen the spleen and lung qi which will also give you a nice energy boost.  And remember, whether you’re feeling malaise, the prodromal symptoms of the flu, or are in the throes of it- acupuncture is always a good idea!

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