Winter Jing Tonic Cabbage Soup is an ideal way to nourish  what Chinese Medicine calls the Kidney Qi, associated with the deepest level of body energy, the Jing, or Essence.

Growth, reproduction, basic energy levels, strength, and mental faculties are all associated with Jing/essence in Chinese Medicine.

Foods that nourish the essence are best prepared as soup, as they tend to be heavier and harder to digest. Cooking food as soup makes them easy to digest. This is why all traditional cultures serve soup to the sick.

Storage of Jing in Chinese Medicine–Winter

Winter is the season in ancient Chinese philosophy associated with storage, when the essences of the previous year are distilled into wisdom.

The Agricultural Year

Not surprisingly, even in European literature and poetry, winter is a metaphor for old age, it is the final season in the cycle of birth and death.

The goal of the agricultural year is to have stored enough food to survive winter. Fruits and vegetables that were caned and salted, and meat that was salted and dried are how we survived winter.

Just as in life old age is the time we can develop more wisdom from experience, in agrarian times Winter was the time to mend your nets and sharpen your plough.

There is no harvest of crops in Winter, and there is less outdoor time altogether, both due to cold and due to short days and long nights.

Classical Chinese Medicine in Winter–Qi becomes Jing

In Chinese Medicine in Winter our bodies tend to convert their excess Qi into Jing. Jing is essence, the source of all reproductive energy. And reproduction is to make new, which in the year, is spring.

One reason its important to rest more in Winter is to respect this natural process that goes on behind the scenes. We can respect and aid the process with a healthy lifestyle of greater rest in winter and more nourishing foods. This is Winter Storage.

Jing is also exhausted by overwork, excessive breast feeding and child birthing, excessive ejaculation for men, and a restless mind.

Everything you do to create a life in balance helps preserve Jing. Emotions run rampant exhaust Jing, which is why Chinese Medicine always included Tai Qi and Taoist or Buddhist Meditation. As a fierce wind blows water out of a bowl, so too a restless, anxious or angry mind exhausts Jing.

We store the rain in winter and early spring, the ground absorbs it and in Spring new life comes, just as the sheep give birth to lambs and the desert to wildflowers does.

Winter is a natural time to eat more nutrient dense Jing tonic foods, like Bone Broth and meat, because in Winter our digestive fire is strongest, as it ramps up to fight the cold.

Vegetables in Chinese Medicine Nutrition–Plant Jing and Cleansing

We can replace our Jing by eating foods that are nutrient dense, like dried and fresh  berries, bone broth, nut meats, but even vegetables. Vegetables are light, so they are not like the typical Jing tonics that immediately increase sexual energy, like scallops or deer antler.

But, vegetables are high in minerals and antioxidants, Jing tonifiyers in their own right.

Cabbage is a Super Food

One of the vegetables that keeps well in the temperate winter, both in its fresh and preserved states, is cabbage.

Cabbage is a superfood, as valuable as expensive superfoods like Goji berry. Its full of antioxidants, mineral, and vitamins. And it goes very well with any grain and every flesh food.

It says in Chinese Medicine, “meat for strength, rice for energy, and vegetables to keep everything clean.” Vegetables keep the body clean by keeping the digestive tract contents moving, because they are “light” and full of easily digested fiber when cooked.

Cabbage is an inexpensive and delicious way to balance the heavy nature of flesh foods year round, but in Winter I am fond of using cabbage in soups of all kinds.

I use it in borsch, in cabbage soup with organic sausage and dill, in Chinese and Japanese soups, and in Indian curries or Sambar.

By cooking vegetables in soup, we extract the minerals and vitamins from the vegetables into the broth, which facilitates deep digestion of nutrients, just as we extract the essences of bones when we make bone broth.

Jing Tonics in Chinese Medicine

Here is a soup I made today with what was in the house. I had bought Chicken hearts for my pet dog, who deserves fresh food as much as I do. But we had a very long walk in the cool winter air after the rain, and I felt like soup and I felt like fresh ginger.

I knew I had celery, scallions, and cabbage in the frig, and have always loved the use of celery in soup. Celery is used all over the world as a vegetable on the boundrey of being an herb.

From the French mirepoix, to Persian celery khoresh, to  Vietnamese sweet and sour fish soup with celery, cabbage, pineapple, ginger, onion, and tomato, you will find celery in soups with fish or meat as a digestive herb that helps with the heavier stuff.

I decided to capture the celery and cabbage from that soup, and to use the wild salmon I had been planning to broil, but to start out with some chicken hearts, because I also felt like the uplifting energy of chicken.

I have been working and exercising very hard lately, so I decided, being winter, to add some shrimp which I had in the freezer, crustaceans and shellfish being Kidney and Jing tonics, because they themselves have already extracted the essence of ocean water.

All the Jing tonics in Chinese medicine have some kind of richness to them, are high in minerals, and often have some kind of gelatinous quality, from dark fruits to dark green veggies to organ meats to things that live in the sea, especially at the bottom.

Many Jing and Kidney tonics, like organ meat and sea food, are quite warming, even hot, and must be used judiciously or not at all by people with pathological heat disorders, like eczema and hives.

On the other hand they are ideal for people who are naturally weak, like Vata types in Ayurveda,  or who have weak Kidney energy manifesting as weak libido or impotence. That is why you often hear of oysters and scallops being consumed my men wishing to improve sexual performance.


Winter Jing Tonic Cabbage Soup


2.5 qts. water

cup chopped celery

1 cup chopped cabbage

¾ cup chopped scallion

4 large slices ginger root, or an equivalent amount grated

1/4 cup dried mushroom—shiitake, wood ear, or any dried mushroom

4 inch piece of kombu or wakame sea vegetable

8 chicken hearts, or an equivalent small amount of chicken meat, like 4-5 neck bones

½ cup small cooked shrimp

1 filet of wild salmon, around 6 inches long

1/4 cup rice wine for cooking, or sake

2 tbsp chick pea or mellow white miso paste.


Wash the dried mushrooms and place them in large saucepan with the water.

Add chicken hearts, celery, ½ of the scallions, ½ the cabbage, ginger, and seaweed, and bring to a boil.

Keep at a low boil, covered, and after 15 minutes or so add the salmon. No need to cut the salmon to pieces, allow it to cook in 1 piece

Simmer for 10 minutes

Now add the remainder of the cabbage and scallions, along with the shrimp and rice wine.

Continue to simmer for a minute while you place a few tbsp of the broth along with the miso paste in a cup and whisk,

so that the miso paste will mix well into the soup.

Now add this whisked miso paste to the soup and simmer for 5-10 minutes until the miso is cooked.

When the miso is cooked the soup color will change a bit.

Enjoy with rice, noodles, or by itself.


copyright eyton shalom, january 2017 san diego, ca all rights reserved use with permission


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