Chinese Herbal Chicken Bone Broth for Recovery from Bronchitis

I discovered Chinese Herbal Medicine Chicken Bone Broth for Recovery from Bronchitis in 1991. I was in my second year of Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture school, and was also working full time as an apprentice in two very busy San Diego Acupuncture Clinics. At the same time I also was self-employed doing at 5 Chinese medicinal massages per week. I was burning the candle at both ends like so many Americans.

I caught a cold that winter that I did not nurse well (half of the treatment of colds and other respiratory illness is the nursing–lots and lots of rest, pushing hot fluids, staying warm) and it  turned into bronchitis, which developed into walking pneumonia.  Its not insignificant that I had also just gone through a very difficult and painful divorce, since, in Chinese Medicine, excessive grief weakens the Lung Qi.

What is Lung Qi

Lung Qi can be thought of as the life force that resides in your lungs. Lung Qi is the “force” that enables you to breath in and out deeply and well, and which provides the strength in your voice. Everyone has had the experience that when you are very sick your voice weakens. People on their death beds have weak voices. Their Qi is disappearing.

Teachers and lecturers will have had the experience of having their voice weaken after a long lecture or a long day. This is because its the Qi or life force of the Lung which provides the motive force for speaking Its the out breath of air that causes the vocal chords to vibrate. On the other hand, we all know those people with very strong voices, some of whom become opera singers. These are people with naturally strong Lung Qi.

Pathological Cold Attacks the Lungs

When I had walking pneumonia in 1991  I had a constant dry cough day and night.  I felt weak and my lungs were very irritated. I had slight elevated temperature of 99.5, and a constant light sweat that got much worse with only slight exertion. It is very important to shut down cough when you have a cold or bronchitis, because chronic coughing itself further weakens the Lung Qi. Indeed, we know from science that people are at risk of  developing asthma after having bronchitis. In the view of Classical Chinese Medicine, this is because the Lung Qi became so seriously weakened by bronchitis that they are at risk of invasion by pathogenic Cold. When the Lungs are invaded by pathogenic cold then their ability to grasp the pure essence of the air, another words, Oxygen, is impeded. This is how people with bronchitis end up with allergic asthma and are left with wheezing and the inability to catch a deep breath.

Why Push Hot Fluids With Colds and Flu?

This is why it is so important to push hot fluids with bronchitis and colds, especially hot fluids that are light and nourishing, (like bone broth)  which enables the body to replenish the Lung Qi and Yin, the aspect of the Lungs that has to be healthfully cool and moist, ergo, the mucus membranes. When the lungs are inflammed they feel hot. This is pathological heat. When the lungs are filled with cold, you get allergy, fluid accumulation, and asthma. This is pathological cold and cold damp. In their healthy state the Lung Qi is considered slightly cool, which is shorthand for “not inflammed.” On the other hand Qi is warm, so when there is pathological cold trapped in the lungs this obstructs the flow of normal physiological Qi.

That is why in the past asthma was treated with mustard plasters, mustard seed being very hot, to drive out the trapped cold and restore the flow of normal Qi.. So pushing hot fluids that are lubricating and moistening helps the keep the lungs physiologically balanced between the warm yang of Qi and the cool moistness of Yin so they can grasp the essence of the Air and transform it into healthy blood, akin to the extraction of oxygen by the heart and lungs in western physiology.

Why Add Herbs to Soup?

When we are sick, our body’s overall Qi becomes weakened, and typically our digestive capacity with it. So one way to “trick” our body into absorbing the benefits of herbal medicine tonics like Astragalus, Lily Bulb, Glenia, Ophiopgon, Ginseng, and Dioscorea that nourish the lungs and Qi is to cook the herbs with soup. When we smell and see food that looks and smells delicious our digestive juices begin flowing. And when our digestion is in a weakened state, or when we want to heat up the body rapidly, then soup is the perfect food, light and easy to digest, and a fantastic medium for the administration of herbal medicines..

Drinking Chinese tonic herbs that have been cooked in with soup uses the firey liquids of your gut that are in abundance at meal time–hydrochloric acid, pancreatic and liver enzymes, and bile, to help you absorb the herbal medicine, whereas if you just take the medicine on an empty stomach, none of these digestive juices are stimulated.

And no soup does this better that bone broth, because bone broth, in which all the essences of the deepest part of an animal, its bones, have been extracted, is itself a restorative tonic. For more info on bone broth’s health benefits.

In essence, when herbs are combined with food you take advantage of the fact that all the digestive processes are in free flow when eating, whereas taking herbs on an empty stomach you may not absorb the herbs as well. This is especially the case for tonic herbs, which can be a little harder to digest due to their naturally cloying effect. Chinese tonic herbs that we use to prevent and recover from illness, are dense and heavy, in the same way that meat and dairy is heavy compared to brocolli or bok choy. Whereas other types of herbs, like the ones that clear heat and toxins, used in the acute infectious stage and with fever and lots of phlegm, such as echinacea, goldenseal, isatis/ban len gan,  lian qiao/forsythia,  are best taken on an empty stomach with a little ginger tea between meals because they are so bitter and cold they wont go well with foodstuffs and you need all of your gut energy to process them.

Bone Broth Testimonial

Getting back to my bone broth testimonial. Lingering dry cough that was keeping me up nights and wearing me out all day, low fever, sweating, fatigue. A student in the clinic at my acupuncture school  taught me how to make Chicken bone broth with Chinese tonic herbs, (see recipe, below) or what we call bone marrow soup in Chinese medicine, made into a porridge with rice.  Rice is a good source of energy and is the go-to grain for sick and convalescing people in both China and India. Rice porridge (juk, congee, shi-fan) is just rice that has been cooked to mush, like breakfast cereal.

After three days of drinking and eating Chinese Herbal Chicken Bone Broth, while also taking anti-viral Chinese herbs , my strength returned and I felt much better.  My cough started to reside. I made three more batches of soup and continued eating for a week and a half.   It really worked! After having been sick for about a month, within two weeks I was back to normal, completely. Here is the recipe I used:

Chinese Herbal Chicken Bone Broth for Recovery from Bronchitis

Chicken bone broth naturally tonifies the “Qi and blood.” Any food that is said to tonify the Qi and Blood, like Chicken Bone Broth strengthens the internal organs and essential substances of the body, increasing resistance and boosting immunity. This effect is multiplied ten-fold when such foods are cooked with Chinese tonic herbs like Astragalus/Huang Qi, White Ginseng/Ren Shen, and Dioscorea/Shan Yao. The recipe below includes other herbs like Bai He and Mai Men Dong to specifically restores the Yin moisture of the Lungs that has been scorched and consumed by the Yang Fire of the Infectious disease leading to dry cough. They also restore the Qi  to the Lungs after illness, but can also be used to prepare the Lungs for Autumn and Winter.

  • If there are colds going around or if you feel run down, make the following recipe and eat it for two or three days in a row.
  • If you do catch a cold or flu, then also eat this soup but omit the ginseng and cook the soup with rice in it.
  • If, as in my testimonial, above, you are recovering from a cold, or bronchitis, or walking pneumonia, so long as there is no fever and there is a dry cough, then ginseng is a good ingreident.



One Whole Free Range Organic Chicken

1 cup white Chinese or Thai rice

2 carrots, slice

1 parsnip, sliced

2 slices celery root

1 cup scallions, chopped

6 large ginger slices

6 garlic cloves, whole

1 tbsp toasted black sesame oil

2 tsp sea salt

1-2 tsp ground white pepper


Chinese Herbs

7 slices Huang Qi/Astragalus root (treats fatigue and abnormal sweating, strengthens Wei, or Defensive Qi, immune tonic)

4 slices Shan Yao/Dioscorea root (treats fatigue and spontaneous sweating, a key symptom in the aftermath of strong febrile illness, tonify Lung Qi and Yin-chronic cough)

2 inch piece Ren Shen/Chinese White Ginseng root  (calms the mind which is disturbed by the heat of febrile illness, restores healthy fluids to lung, nourish the lung-chronic cough)

3 pieces Dang Shen/Codonopsis  (tonify the lungs, lung vacuity with chronic cough, strengthens the gut)

1 tbsp Gou Qi Zi/Goji Berry (nourish the kidney energy weakened by illness)

1 tbsp Mai Men Dong/Ophiopogon  (moistens the lungs and nourishes lung qi and yin)

2 pieces Bei Sha Shen Glenia Root  (clears heat after febrile disease, especially with dry throat)

1 tbsp Bai He/Lily Bulb  (moistens the dry lungs, clears heat and stops cough, calms spirit)

1 tbsp Wu We Zi/Schizandra Fruit (tonifys Kidneys, inhibits abnormal sweating, astringes Lung Qi so it can re-accumulate, for chronic cough, wheezing, calms spirit)

Note: You can see what a beautiful formula this is, because it treats all of the symptoms of walking pneumonia–fatigue, spontaneous sweating, chronic dry cough, dry throat and mouth. Also, as a bonus, three of the herbs have a calming effect on the mind or spirit, which is very useful since well all become a bit anxious and impatient when remaining sick for a long time. And febrile illness itself can disturb sleep.



Place your whole chicken and all of the herbs  in a large pot with enough water to cover  very well.

Bring to a boil, and cook on a fairly high heat with a lid for at least four hours, until all the meat has fallen off of the bones, and until the bones themselves are soft enough so that you could bite through the end of a leg bone, for example. Depending on how big your pot is you will have to add water as you go. Some folk use a pressure cooker which is fantastic and shorten cooking time. After doing this once you will figure out how big a pot you need so you dont have to keep adding water.

Now add the vegetables, ginger, garlic,  and rice and cook at a medium heat till the veggies are sufficiently soft, at least 30 minutes.

Now separate out the bones, (though i like to eat the ends of the leg bones,  but leave the herbs. You can eat any and all of them, some are starchy, others sweet

Now add the scallions, black sesame oil, and white pepper, stir, let sit a minute or two and serve.

Depending on how much water you use you will either have a very soupy or thick porridge. Its up to you.



copyright eyton j. shalom, november 2015, san diego, ca. all rights reserved, use with permission.


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