I am sometimes asked to recommend a weight-loss food suitable for fasting. A weight loss or cleansing food should be light, easy to digest and nourishing enough to protect energy and blood sugar balance. The Chinese have upped the recipe to include ingredients that tone the organs of digestion while cleansing.
Four Spirits Soup 四神湯 (Si Shen Herbal Soup) fortifies energy, digestion, improves weight loss, mental clarity, and enhances breathing.
Four Spirits Soup supports healthy stomach, spleen and kidney/adrenal energy, detoxify the body and support vitality and mental clarity with enhanced digestion. On a physical level the ingredients reduce mucus and water retention. There is also a spiritual level in traditional Chinese herbal formulas (called soups.) In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) Shen, usually translated as spirit, refers to our consciousness, thoughts and emotions. A spirit or shen occupies and influences each of our deep organs. These spirits may be damaged by our actions, thoughts and emotions.
If a person’s kidney/adrenal energy is low, on a physical level, they may appear to be listless, have dark circles under the eyes, a shallow breath, their pulse will be deep, sluggish, slow, their voice sounds like a groan. We say they have a low spirit. It is a weak Zhi the spirit in the kidney/adrenal energy system, made worse by obesity, chronic illness, chronic fatigue, abusive habits, grief, loss, lack of oxygen and low vital energy. On a spiritual level, the heart and kidney/adrenal shen make possible our awareness, understanding and the actions necessary to transform our personal will to reflect our higher self.
In TCM, the spleen is central to digestion and considered a vital organ. The spleen is said to pull Qi energy from the foods we eat and deliver it to the rest of the body. When the spleen is weak we cannot transform food into nutrition so that we have digestive discomforts. Undigested food turns to waste, edema, we develop bruising and yeast infections. The spirit of the spleen system is Yi or intellect. Yi includes our capacity to use our conceptual mind and to form intentions. An unbalanced Yi can manifest as rambling thoughts or obsession, unconscious mental chatter that damages the spleen. Do you know anyone who likes sweet rich foods, who works with words and ideas all day and who has stress belly fat?
If both spleen and kidney/adrenal energy lack Qi, we are not strong enough to keep our energy in place, organs fall, mental clarity is lost, we lose the ability to transport energy throughout the body, and problems such as shortness of breath and chronic diarrhea may occur. A healthy spleen Yi manifests as spirit-infused intelligence and understanding, empathy. A healthy kidney Zhi manifest as our ability and willingness to understand and act out our destiny, courage. Will this soup make you smarter? That is up to you. It may give you the energy, clarity and will to pursue and enjoy your work. It may let you party all night and not look the worse for it.
Here are the main ingredients. Euryale seed, also called fox nuts, is considered sweet, astringent and neutral, and is associated with the spleen and kidney meridians. Its main functions are to tonify the spleen and stop diarrhea, to strengthen the kidneys and control the (jing) our inherited vitality; and to dispel dampness (sluggish digestion, bloating, gas and edema).
Dioscorea, dried sliced Chinese wild white yam, shan yao is used for poor appetite, fatigue or diarrhea due to spleen deficiency, for coughs due to lung deficiency. It has been used in cases of seminal emission, frequent urination or thick vaginal discharge. It is also beneficial for diabetes, menstrual and digestive cramps, rheumatoid arthritis, and pain from gallstones.
Lotus seeds is helpful to reduce cholesterol, fat and sodium. They have been used to improve high blood pressure, heart diseases and obesity due to their high magnesium and low sodium content. Lotus seeds contain protein, B vitamins, and dietary minerals.
Fuling (aka poria mushroom,) often added as a gentle diuretic, has been used for loss of memory (amnesia), anxiety, restlessness, fatigue, tension, nervousness, dizziness, urination problems, fluid retention, sleep problems (insomnia), an enlarged spleen, stomach problems, diarrhea, tumors, and to control coughing.
This bland tasting soup may be used for fasting, as part of a weight loss program, and for deep cleansing from undigested food (and thoughts and relationships.) It can improve low energy, poor digestion and weak breathing.
Blanch the ingredients and simmer in water until the seeds and roots are soft. You can drink the broth or all the ingredients when soft. It can be stored in the refrigerator and used 30 – 60 minutes before meals to set up better digestion. If you prefer to sweeten the flavor, you might cook it with a piece of monk fruit lo han guo pod that you crack open or add a sliced pear.
--- Letha Hadady, M.S., D.Ac.
Letha Hadady, M.S., D.Ac., first loved herbs at age 5 in her Hungarian grandmother’s garden. Delight in the study of natural medicine took her to China, India, Thailand, and Tibet to study and work in hospitals and jungle huts. University studies include a B.A. University of New Mexico, M.S University of Paris and TCM and Ayurveda studies in New York. She graduated from Tri-State College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in New York and did supplementary acupuncture and herbal studies and work in Shanghai. Her most recent books available at Amazon.com include Karma Herbs and Heart to Heart care for your heart naturally. Her website is www.asianhealthsecrets.com She lives in Manhattan with two cats, writes the Wing Hop Fung herb blog, paints portraits with oils and drinks Chinese tea all day.