Patricia Singer MS LAc

Bone Broth: The Elixir of Life

It’s no wonder that Bone Broth Boutiques are popping up all over New York City! They are riding on an ancient tradition traced back to early China to the original alchemists seeking the Elixir of Life, which promised eternal youth. The ancient ones concentrated on medicine and longevity, developing a blend of these two aspects in search of immortality.

Bone Broth is a wonderful example of an alchemical process, of transforming the ‘lead’ or raw materials - bone, vegetables, herbs and spices, refined through the heating process, and transformed in the gold, or elixir of life. Gold represents something that is incorruptible and eternal, thus those that can manage to incorporate ‘gold’ into their bodies achieve an immortal state. It’s a reflection of the evolution of matter from one form to another, of taking something that is ‘heavy’ and from the earth, adding materials together and transforming those substances into ‘more’. In the ancient traditions the ‘alchemical brew’ was buried, heated and brought through a ritual of timing, dependant on the stars, the cycle of the moon, and let ‘cook’ for a long period of time and when the transformation was complete, exhumed and consumed.

We begin with a recipe and the ingredients required for a specific dish. We put the components through a process of ‘firing’ or heating via roasting, bubbling, brewing and over time an ‘elixir’, the bone broth, is formed which serves the purpose of supporting, nourishing life and essence.

‘Bone’ in Chinese Medicine symbolizes our essence, ancestry, the building blocks of our own DNA. It is said at birth we have a fixed amount of vitality laced in our constitution. As we age our essence is depleted. Bone Broth refers to an understanding that the essence of a long-cooked stock nourishes at the deepest of levels, the bones, joints, blood, building marrow, the kidneys, reproductive system and the brain.  These long cooked stocks are beneficial for those depleted, run down, stressed, over-exerted. This elixir, key to longevity, is stimulating, grounding, fortifying and nourishing, all at the level of ‘bone’, our deepest building block, and an easily digested medicinal food.

The broth is easy to make and can be consumed plain or used as the base for a more complex soup by adding vegetables, meats, and beans. It may also be used as a base in place of water in cooking rice or other grains. Adding vinegar, an important key ingredient, extracts minerals like calcium and magnesium, collagen and marrow from the bones into the soup, making it easy for the body to digest. (My mother, who will soon be 87 years old and very healthy, consumes a cup of bone broth before going to bed. She swears that it helps her sleep, keeping her vital and healthy.)

Bone Broth

4-6 pounds of bones, cut into 2-4 inch sections (beef marrow bones, joints with the cartilage included, chicken, veal, fish skeletons (need less cooking time) - 4-6 quarts of water enough to cover bones and vegetables, adding more to keep covered. Use organic or grass fed meat products whenever possible. 
To make a vegetarian stock, ready in 20 - 60 minutes, use seaweed (usually kombu/kelp) and dried mushrooms.  

Add 2 tablespoons vinegar per quart of water or per about 2 pounds of bones.
2-3 onions, coarsely chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic
6 or more celery stalks, coarsely chopped
4 inch piece of ginger, several sprigs of fresh thyme, parsley (good for the kidneys), or other favorite herbs and spices
2 - two inch pieces of fresh turmeric or 1 tablespoon or more of powdered tumeric
2 bay leaves

Salt only after you have finished the cooking process and are ready to drink the broth.

Step One: Extracting the goodness from the bones
Preheat the oven to 350F and brown bones in a roasting pan for 45 - 60 minutes - the roasting consolidates the bones. If there is meat on the bones, I usually remove it and refrigerate or with the long cooking time it gets stringy and tasteless. I add it back once the soup is complete or use it in other ways if I only want to drink the clear broth.

Step Two: Compiling the ingredients
In a stockpot, put in the roasted bones, cover with cold water, add the vinegar and bring to a low boil, skim off the ‘foam’. Add vegetables, spices and herbs and reduce heat to a low simmer. You can also add the browned bones and vegetables to a slow cooker. 

Step Three: Cooking time
Allow the soup to cook anywhere from 8 to 24 hours - the longer cooking time yields a richer broth. You can add more water as it cooks down.  Crock pot works the best as there is no loss of liquid.

Step Four: Straining
Strain the liquid into a large bowl and allow cooling.  A layer of fat will settle on top of the stock, remove the fat so as to keep the stock clear.  Divide the stock into containers. It will keep in the fridge for four days or freeze until needed. The cooled broth will have a jellylike consistency due to the high gelatin content of the collagen.

Vegetarian Stock

Some vegetables also promote collagen production, including: seaweed, celery, soybeans, kale, beets, spinach and olive oil – They’re also rich in minerals (calcium), and phyto-nutrients that boost immune system health. Adding Miso paste brings the benefit of a fermented food to the broth, which helps improve digestion, boost immune function and improve energy. Wakame is a seaweed that has collagen-boosting effects and its high levels of minerals.

Vegetable Broth Recipe

4 tablespoons olive or coconut oil
1 bunch of celery stocks, chopped
1 cup or more golden/red beets
1 cup of dried Wakame reconstituted in a bowl of water - before using rinse the seaweed and throw out the water - you can also add other types of seaweed or sea vegetables as well
4 cups mixed of fresh chopped spinach and kale
2 tablespoons Tamari or soy sauce
¼ cup organic Miso paste
1/4 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
1 bay leaf
12-16 cups of water or veggie broth

*optional: 1/2 chunk of fresh turmeric, finely chopped, 1 cup chopped onion and 1-2 cloves garlic minced, 4 inch or more of raw ginger, fennel.

In a large stock pot, sauté celery in oil over medium-low heat. (If you’re adding turmeric, ginger, onion and garlic, add them now as well).
Once celery is tender – about 5 minutes – add bay leaf, beets, water or veggie broth and soy sauce. Increase heat to medium flame and cover the pot.
Drain the excess water off of the Wakame and add it to the pot. Bring to a near boil and reduce heat to low, letting broth simmer for about 45 minutes. Add spinach and kale, parsley and Miso paste, stirring until Miso dissolves.

Cold and Flu from a Chinese Medical Perspective

From a Chinese Medical perspective colds and flu reflects a need for a time-out. In our busy, often hectic life we are constantly on the go. A cold or flu allows us the space to stop, reflect, rest, nourish ourselves, often giving us the opportunity to redirect and reconsider our situation.

Change is inevitable. Nothing stays the same, it shifts, contorts, alters, transforms. WIND is the symbolic culprit responsible for change, a supportive ‘prod’, pushing us to transform, create improved situations and claiming our lives in a conscious way.

A gentle, light breeze is a simple reminder, like a mild cold. Wind can be gentle and range by degree, all the way to a tornado or hurricane, much like flu, causing destruction, devastation and definitely capturing our attention.

The Poetry of the Wind reflects our personal journey, how we work and engage with the issues that confront our daily schedule. There are three categories that are used to classify colds/flu, which reflect the intensity of change and govern the signs and symptoms experienced.

Wind Cold
This is the first stage of a cold/flu, a viral infection:

  • Cold constricts - more chills than fever
  • Feeling cold or having an aversion to cold
  • Frontal headache
  • Clear fluid, drippy nose
  • Don’t want fluids
  • Cold constricts like ice causing gripping pain, no inflammation, localized, painful, stiff tight, prevents movement
  • Emotional, psychological levels: over extended, challenge moving ahead, looking too far forward, not able to focus on now.

Essential Oils used for a Wind cold are WARMING in nature.

  • Pine – strengthens the lungs
  • Cypress – astringent, draws into lungs
  • Ginger – strong expectorant, anti-histamine, breaks thin mucus – add to food – especially for food borne pathogens, e-coli, salmonella
  • Eucalyptus Globulus – chest rub

Wind Heat
The second stage of a cold/flu, a bacterial infection:
Heat warms – sign and symptoms

  • Smelly sweat
  • Red complexion 
  • With injury, red, pain and swelling
  • Activity, fast rapid, always moving, quickly, jerky movements, restless
  • Hot, more fever than chills
  • Thirst
  • Inflammatory signs – heat rises and spreads up and out – goes to the eyes, head and ears – yellow discharge
  • Not able to concentrate, have to put the book down.
  • Heat expands, face expands, affects the eyes, ears

Essential Oils used for a WIND HEAT are COOLING in nature.

  • Tea tree – antiviral, fungal, bacterial, broad spectrum
  • Ravensara – helps promote discharge
  • Lemon – for low grade fever
  • Peppermint releases to the exterior
  • Rosalina – clears wind heat – especially for sensory organs
  • German chamomile – for high fever
  • Eucalyptus Citradora – diffuse with Eucalyptus Radiata

Wind Damp
Dampness is related to a fungal infection: the greats difference being signs and symptoms are one sided, may alternate from side to side or stays on one side.

  • Dampness: can’t see clearly, foggy, sluggish, can’t get out of bed, depressed, tired
  • Can’t make decisions, not flexible
  • Damp comes in and affects the sinuses with thick discharge – nose and eyes. Various types of sputum that you can cough up
  • Phlegm is also something we're not aware of and can hide in the body.  Repressed emotions. Not able to see options and possibility, limits choices – one side of nose clogged, other side okay
  • Wind-Damp condition -  Dampness/hesitation
  • Chills not strong and fevers not strong.
  • Body is still trying to get rid of it – some sweating/sticky sweat. 
  • May have swellings.  Internal dampness prevents you from generating the fever - why you didn't get a Wind Heat condition – dampness was blocking the heat. 

Essential Oils used for WIND DAMP resolve dampness:

  • Eucalyptus Polybractea
  • Grapefruit
  • Rosemary
  • Peppermint

It’s so important to resolve these Wind conditions as if they not dealt with, can go deeper into the body, become latent or produce deeper symptoms, more challenging to deal with in the long run.

Always add carrier oil, such as Sweet Almond or Coconut Oil to the essential oil blend. Essential Oils have anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties.

In making an essential oil blend use 10 to 25 drops of each oil in a one ounce bottle, adding the carrier oil to fill. Shake the bottle. The blend can be used as a rub on the body, e.g. a rub over the chest, diffused (10 – 15 drops in a diffuser), or in a bath (30-50 drops). Do not use more than four oils at a time in any given blend.

Cold & Flu Remedies
Tea For Cough and Colds

  • A chunk of ginger – two to four inch piece
  • A bunch of scallions (6 – 8) with green part cut off, keeping roots and white stem
  • 1 quart of water

Place ingredients in a pot, cover, allow it to simmer for 20 minutes, Strain adding honey. The honey coats the throat, stopping cough.

Preventative Formula

  • In a glass jar add: depending on the jar you’re using you’d vary the amount of each ingredient.
  • 2-4 organic lemons sliced thinly – take out the seeds
  • Large chunk of ginger, diced
  • Cover the lemons and ginger with honey.Store in fridge, shaking it every couple of days. The liquid will become less thick with time. Good for three months.

When feeling like a cold is coming, take a tablespoon or more of the mixture, add it to hot water, steep for ten minutes or more and drink. Can be used as a preventative measure as well.