In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) herbs are often taken in the form of food, soups being one of the most common ways this is done. It allows the slow boiling of the herbs, a method of extraction called decoction, all  in a nutritious broth base which has its own medicinal qualities.  

As a herbalist I always have these soup herb ingredients in the store cupboard ready for when the body needs some extra nourishment. The below recipe contains chicken which is seen as a yin nourishing food, it is believed in Chinese medicine that the bone marrow released in chicken broth helps replenish kidney jing (energy essence). Having strong kidney jing is considered important for the immune system. If you wish to make this recipe vegan but feel free to substitute the water used with a vegan broth, I would use a hearty mushroom broth with kombu for extra minerals. 


Soup herbs: You can purchase these in Asian Markets and are easy to get online already packaged as “herbal soup mix” I personally buy each one individually as I like to snack on goji berries and chinese dates.

Equal quantities of the following herbs: 

Astragalus membranaceus / Huang Qi – 4 sticks

Codonopsis pilosula / Dang Shen– 4 sticks

Dioscorea sinensis (Chinese wild yam) / Shan Yaeo– 4 sticks

Lyciium barbarum (Chinese wolfberries or Goji berries) / Gou Qi Zi– 1 handful

Chinese dates (Jujube) 1 handful

Additional herbs:

Fresh ginger 2 tablespoon grated ginger

1 cups dried shitake mushroom


5-10 peppercorns

1 stick of cinnamon. 

Other broth ingredients: 

400 g of skinless chicken pieces, on the bone

2 tbsp fresh grated garlic

Tops of leeks if using

Vegetables for the final cooking:

1/2 C chopped celery

1/2 C thinly sliced carrot

1 C chopped greens (Collard greens, bok choy, spinach, turnip greens- whatever you like)

1/2 C chopped onions or leeks (reserve the green leek tops for the slow cooking)

Fresh coriander as garnish


1: Optional step- Rub the garlic paste and ginger paste and marinate overnight.

2: Chop all vegetables, fairly small pieces, if cilantro have roots, chop them too. Leave the vegetables to one side for later.

3: Put the chicken, soup herbs and any cilantro roots along with the chicken in a large pot or crock pot and add water so they are covered with several inches of water. If you didn’t marinate the chicken add the fresh ginger and garlic here. If using leeks you can use the dark green leek tops at this stage. 

3: Cover with water and simmer for 1 1/2-2 hours or 1/2 hour in a pressure cooker. You may need to top up with water. 

4:  Remove the chicken and leave to cool on a plate. Drain the broth through a sieve, squeeze as much of the goodness from the herbs and the leek tops! I usually discard all the stock herbs except for shitake, where I remove the stalk and chop and add back to the broth. When The chicken is cool enough remove the chicken meat from the bones and leave to one side.

5: Bring the broth to the boil and add all the cut vegetables from step 2 apart from the cilantro leaves. Cook vegetables until tender, about 15 minutes. (If you are using soft greens like spinach or bok choi leaves you can add them 2 minutes before serving). Once ready serve with some of the chicken and top with cilantro before serving. 

6: Aim to have two cups of broth a day. Will store in the fridge for 3 days but freezes well. If you freeze, freeze without the chicken. 

You can use bone broth instead of water to add the nutrition content. If vegan, a hearty mushroom broth works great as a base.