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February 2018

Volume 2/Number 1

Chinese New Year Edition

Time To Clean House

Now is the time. Shake loose. Stretch out. Get out the dustcloth and broom. January was a lovely time for rest and hibernation, but now? Now things are beginning to percolate.

Just as the first few months of pregnancy are all but invisible, so too are the first few movements of the year's new life – this is the harbinger of Spring. Can you hear it? Deep underground the insects are beginning to vibrate.  Quietly, softly, and to a subtle rhythm, but it's there nonetheless.

And whether we feel it or not, this gentle beat is pulsing in us too.

But before we really start to dance, we must first clear out the garbage. Now is the time to let go of whatever we don't want to accompany us in this new year's growth. Those tender, virginal energies of early Spring will bind with whatever we bring forth, so let's choose wisely what we carry forward and what we leave behind.

Pre-Spring Detox Soup

This easy soup recipe is a Chinese New Year classic and also an anytime detox special. It's especially good for reducing the impact of alcohol on the liver and improving digestive conditions with an inflammatory component. For chronic conditions, it can be taken daily. For general maintenance, I recommend taking twice a week.

Included below are two versions, one savory, one sweet. For alcohol detox, add kudzu root (available in the Japanese aisle of your grocery store) to the savoryversion.


2 cups mung beans

2 tbsp kelp powder


2 cups mung beans

3-4 licorice tea bags (or 1-2 tbsp of licorice root)

1-2 tbsp raw honey


Combine the ingredients (excluding the honey for the sweet version) in a pot. Cover with water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes. The savory version is now ready to serve. For the sweet version, remove the licorice, allow to cool until you can put your finger in the soup without pain, add the raw honey, and then serve.

For improved digestibility, soak the mung beans overnight before cooking. Strain off the soak water and use new water to cook.

A note on honey: Traditionally, rock sugar is used instead of raw honey. Considering the enzyme-active, pre-digested quality of raw honey, I consider it a healthier alternative.

Herbalist's note: Kelp and licorice do not play well together from a herbalist's point-of-view. Therefore, please do not combine the savory and sweet versions of this recipe.

Plum and Cherry

When I was still in school, I spent many an afternoon wandering the Chinese garden in Portland, Oregon. One of my favorite corners of the garden was the winter courtyard, resplendent in plum and floored with mosaics of plum blossoms atop cracked ice. In the traditional botanical pantheon of East Asia, the plum is celebrated, as it ignores the frost and the darkness of the season and so blooms first. Thus, one might expect to find plum blossoms atop an otherwise frozen landscape. Winding through the garden on chillier afternoons, I often thought how I might become as the admirable plum, certain in my own inner knowledge of the coming warmth, regardless of the doubts of my fellow 'trees'.
Another corner of the garden housed the cherries. These were of a completely different sort. The pink, gossamer blossoms of the cherry raced to catch up with the blooming of the plum, but were always – nonetheless – second. And almost as soon as these trees were decked in pink, the winds carried away the blooms. Traditionally, this is seen as a representation of the ephemeral beauty and transience of existence in general, or of youth in particular: Grasp the cherry blossoms today, for they will be gone tomorrow. But I wonder if, in light of the plum, we might find a different message: Slow, steady, inner-determination provides the inner fire and warmth needed to crack the frost and break the ice, while hastening towards external beauty brings about only a quick decline. Indeed, I submit to you, now is the season to find the strength within.

Thanks for reading and Happy Chinese New Year!

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