Chinese Tonic Soup

A Chinese friend of mine recommended I start taking a Chinese tonic soup, meant to boost the immune system, improve breathing, and increase energy. I didn’t believe it would work, but I was willing to try a recipe out. I’m susceptible to colds and flu year-round, but especially in the fall. And I have asthma problems, among other things (I do a little cough of death as I settle in for the night).

After one night of soup (I accidentally put in enough herbs to double-dose myself), the next day I already felt healthier. Breathing better (no cough of death), and lots of energy in the morning–and I did not wake up sick. It was as if I had taken a double-dose of all my inhalers.

Another day later, I felt even better, despite not having had tonic soup again.

So perhaps this soup will help you too.

WARNING: do not take this soup while you are sick. It boosts up your immune system, which is good, but taking it while your sick will boost your immune system a bit much and make you feel worse.


The recipe is very simple, but depends on a few ingredients odd to the West:

pak kei pak kei, known in the West as Astragalus root. It looks a little like strips of bark. This is the most important part of the tonic, the one that boosts the immune system.
wai san wai san, dried slices of Chinese yam. White chips. If you go looking for it in a Chinese herb and grocery store, the English label will probably read Rhozoma Dioscoreae.
dang shen dang shen, which looks like straight ginseng root, but is not at all in any other way like ginseng. Packages will be labeled Codonopsis Pilosula.
kei chi kei chi, little Chinese wolfberries, dried. Will more likely be labeled Fructus Lycii.

You also want lean meat, either pork or chicken, just enough to fill your cupped hand. Try to get the good stuff–no hormones, for instance. Remove skin from the chicken, and fat from the chicken and the pork. Tenderloin is by far the leanest cut of pork.

You want a slow cooker, too–a medium-sized one. You can do it in a pot, but I like to be doing other things while everything steeps for a few hours. I also used an electric kettle that will shut off when the water in it boils, 1 liter capacity.

Steps for one serving of tonic soup:

  1. Measure out around 25 grams of each of the Chinese ingredients except for the berries, which should be around 20 grams. Rinse off the roots, leave the dried berries alone. Dump into slow cooker.
  2. Fill the electric kettle to 1 liter capacity and turn it on.
  3. Take out the chicken or pork (just enough to fill the cup of your hand) and trim off any skin (in the case of chicken) or fat (in the case of either). Cut up into stew-sized pieces. Dump into slow cooker.
  4. By now the electric kettle should have boiled the water. Once the water has boiled, pour into the slow cooker directly onto the meat. This effectively parboils the chicken or pork without a separate step.
  5. Close slow cooker lid and turn it on Hi (not Low).
  6. Wait for four hours.
  7. Turn off slow cooker and fish out the bark-like Astragalus root strips (you don’t want to eat those). You can also fish out the dang shen and the wai san; the berries can be left behind. Alternatively, just strain the soup and fish out the meat chunks.

Eat the meat if you want, but it’s more important to drink all of the soup.

The soup is sweet, not at all sour or bitter. It smells good while it’s cooking. Lean pork is supposed to work best.

Hope this keeps me healthy. I plan to have it every other day.

4 thoughts on “Chinese Tonic Soup

  1. I have these herbs and am going to try this tonic tomorrow. :O). The herbs I have came in a bundle and say that they are preserved with sulfates/sulfites and should be rinsed/boiled. I’m happy they helped you. :O)))).

  2. Hi,

    Not sure if you still write here, but I tried a slight variation of this recipe tonight. I have to admit that the chicken seemed to lose all of its flavour, but the broth tasted amazing. It tasted incredible, hope it is as healthy as your friend says.


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