Medicinal Bone Broth Recipe with Chinese Herbs

When bone broth is made only from bones, you’ve got a medicinal tonic. To further kick up this recipe’s value, add vegetables and potent Chinese medicinal herbs. Of the 13,000 herbs listed in the Chinese pharmacopoeia, here are the top eleven used for bone stock plus a broth recipe. Their invaluable healing properties both sweeten and deepen the broth’s flavor.

For over 40 years I’ve used these strengthening herbs in tonics and broths. Yes, good medicine invites repetition. Sometimes I add only one or two medicinals to a broth and other times seven or more. For a comprehensive listing of the energetic and medicinal properties of our common foods, herbs and spices, see my book The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia.

You may use any type of bones in your broth, and there’s leeway in how long you’ll cook it. The longer you cook the bones, the more minerals are extracted. For a broth that sets up like a jelly, include one or more of the following: chicken feet, poultry skin, calves hoofs and/or knucklebones. This recipe is adapted from my and Leda Scheintaub’s book, The Whole Bowl. The medicinals are available in herb stores, natural food stores and Asian markets and all are readily available online

Nota Bene: What you don’t add to your broth is just as important as what you add. Here’s why it’s especially important to make broth in a nonreactive pot.

Medicinal Bone Broth Using Chinese Herbs

Marrow Bones for Broth
Marrow Bones for Broth

Makes 3 ½ quarts broth

2 pounds raw or cooked bones (buffalo, beef, lamb, pork, poultry, or game, or a combination)
4 quarts water
2 tablespoons traditionally aged vinegar or ½ cup wine (any type)
1 teaspoon unrefined salt
1 small onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
1 celery stalk with leaves, coarsely chopped
1 to 3 garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
Choice of Chinese medicinals (see below)

Place the bones and water in a 6- to 8-quart nonreactive stockpot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes with the lid off. Skim off and discard any foam that rises to the surface. Add the vinegar and salt. Return to a simmer, then reduce the heat to the lowest setting so the broth is at a bare simmer and cook for about 24 hours for poultry and/or smaller bones. If using large, denser bones, simmer for up to 48 hours. Alternatively, combine the water, bones, vinegar and salt in a slow cooker and cook on low for the same amount of time.

For the last two hours of cooking, add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, bay leaves, and Chinese medicinals of your choice (see below) and simmer for an additional 2 hours.

When the broth is cool enough to work with, remove the bones with tongs or a slotted spoon. Set aside bones that are still firm and use them for subsequent batches until they start to crumble. Discard the vegetables, herbs and medicinal ingredients. Strain the broth through a fine sieve or a strainer lined with a double layer of cheesecloth into a heatproof bowl. Pour into containers and refrigerate, tightly covered, for up to five days, or freeze for up to several months.

Chinese Medicinal Herbs to Boost to Your Bone Broth

Favor the herbs most targeted to treat your condition. If you’re working with an acupuncturist or herbalist, invite them suggest additional medicinals specifically targeted to your needs. If you add five or more medicinals, use the lesser amount; if you add four or less, feel free to use the maximum suggested amount.

Angelica (dang gui) improves immunity, enhances circulation, tonifies the blood, decongests mucus and blockages and strengthens the body.
Add .25 to .3 ounce to your broth
Astragalus (huang qi) improves immunity, strengthens the body, and is a general tonic (adaptogen). It helps to increase energy levels and build up resistance, especially when the immune system is lowered by overwork and stress.
Add .15 to .3 ounce to your broth.
Codonopsis (dang shen) is an adaptogen with many tonic uses. It aids digestion, improves circulation, is calming (stabilizes nervousness) and counters extreme mental and physical fatigue.
Add .5 to .15 ounce to your broth.

Mountain Rose Herbs. A Herbs, Health and Harmony C

Dioscorea  (shan yao) calms the spirit, regulates the body’s sugar levels, helps control inflammation, enhances vigor, promotes muscle growth, repairs worn-out tissue and alleviates bodily weakness after a long-term illness. Use it to help counter diabetes, diarrhea, fatigue, coughing and dehydration.
Add .3 to .6 ounce to your broth
Ginger supports digestion, increases circulation, and supports respiration and nervous system function. It is widely used to help treat colds and flu by in part effecting a systemic cleansing through the skin, bowels and kidneys. Fresh ginger is preferred for broth; dried ginger can be overly heating to many people.
Add 2 to 3 slices fresh ginger root to your broth.
Goji berries (lycium seed) are an excellent food to help control diabetes, high blood pressure, fever and age-related eye problems. They give a feeling of well-being and calmness, support athletic performance and sleep, and help with weight loss.
Add 1 to 2 ounces to your broth.
Kombu seaweed is both a blood and yin tonic that supports kidney and stomach functions. It helps to regulate conditions of excess heat, water, phlegm and damp and dispel toxins. It contains natural antibiotic properties. For extra value, you may increase the kombu to .2 ounces, but it will result in a less clear broth with a slightly sticky texture.
Add .05 to .1 ounce to your broth.
Lotus seed (lian zi) has longevity-related medicinal properties, such as tranquilizing the mind, nourishing the heart, improving brain health, increasing mentality, and eliminating fatigue. It is famous as a vegetarian tonifying ingredient. The seed also has calming properties that alleviate restlessness, palpitations, and insomnia.
Add .3 to .5 ounce to your broth.
Reishi mushrooms stimulate the immune system, inhibit tumor growth, lower blood pressure and help stabilize blood sugar.

Add .1 to .15 ounce to your broth.

Shiitake mushrooms are a blood and qi tonic that support spleen, stomach and liver functions. They help detoxify the system, dispel phlegm and mucus and are considered a restorative. Shiitake help regulate the immune system and have antiviral and antitumor agents.
Add .1 to .3 ounce to your broth.
Star anise  is renowned for its ability to harmonize various ingredients into a synergistic whole. It has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antifungal properties and it supports digestion.
Add 1 to 2 whole star anise to your broth.

Note: It’s generally recommended that you consult with a qualified health-care practitioner before using herbs, particularly if you are pregnant, nursing, or on any medications. You may also do an online search to see if there are contraindications for the herb in question.


20 Responses to Medicinal Bone Broth Recipe with Chinese Herbs

  1. Hi Rebecca,

    I so appreciate you have the Chinese herbs in English. I grew up in Asia and was familiar with the names in Chinese and could not figure out how to find them when I moved to the US. Now I can easily find the stuff I need with the English names provided!

    Also – you mention that we could “set aside bones that are still firm and use them for subsequent batches until they start to crumble”…does that mean I can still use the bones for other batches of broth? Do you think there’re nutrients left in the bone after the first batch?

    • You’re welcome. Correct you may continue to use the bones for additional batches of broth. What we’re extracting from them is minerals; as the minerals are extracted over time, the bones crumble.

  2. Thank you for this great recipe and all the information, my broth has been boiling for 26h now. I was lucky to find a leg bone with some marrow on it, so it’s quite fatty and I have already added a spoon of the broth into my millet porridge this morning instead of butter, which totally transformed it.
    Towards the end of boiling, I am planning to add goji berries, lotus seeds, bay leaf and ginger along with the vegetables. Do you think this will be a tasty combo? And how would you normally consume the broth for ailments such as anaemia? with noodles as a main dish or any ideas for it being a breakfast soup? I wonder how often and how much would it be good for me, a person with anaemia and low hormonal levels, to drink it considering how fatty it is..I would appreciate your answer. Best wishes,

    • You’re welcome. The combo you suggest sounds tasty to me. Re. how often to enjoy bone broth, just trust your inner knowing. You can’t get “too” much of it. YOu may skim off the fat (and discard it) or use it.

  3. I have been diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome. I see many of the things added to bone broth build the immune system. In my case it is vital to suppress it. How would I put together a bone broth that would fill that need?

    • Correct, in some conditions we do not want to stimulate an overactive immune system and therefore you would eliminate from this recipe medicinal mushrooms, ginger, astragalus and perhaps the kombu. The broth is also tasty without herbs. One herb to add that helps quiet an overactive immune system is bupleurum.

  4. Hi Rebecca,
    I am wanting to add some Chinese Herbs to my bone broth for an extra boost of nutrition and to increase energy levels. What are the best herbs to give it a pho flavour which I love but wont ruin the taste of my broth. Also I have experienced a bad smell after 10 hours from my broth the last batch I made. Have you experienced this?

    • Ginger, star anise and onion are classic pho ingredients. And be light on the star anise as it can be overpowering.
      Hmmm…I’m not sure about your last broth developing a bad smell; I’ve not heard of this happening. Refrigerate it in a covered, glass container.

  5. Hi Rebecca! Where can I find herbs like dioscorea?? Do you order online or go to a pulse reader’s shop or something?

  6. I made a broth sat.with big knuckle beef bones and there was a lot of fat on them resulting in a very fat/greasy broth and I froze it. Its good fat as i bought the bones from a local farmer who raises his beef on 100% on grass. Should I use it the way it is or do you think it’s too much fat?

    • Enjoy the broth with the amount of fat-to-taste that is pleasurable to you. And use any extra fat (tallow) in place of lard or other cooking oil. Beef tallow from the store is pricy.

      • Thank you for all your answers. I’m planning on making that often (as long as there is a good cow farmer close to where I am). Easier than chicken feet. I am 70 and so is my husband, healthy, not on pharmaceuticals, always cook from scratch with mostly organic ingredients. Growing mushroom, sprouting seeds, eating fermented veggies, drinking kombucha, making turmeric tea and coffee and more. Trying to forget my wrinkles and saggy skin.

  7. Do you mix chicken bones and beef bones together. If so does it have a good flavor anyway or is it better to do one or the other.

    2nd question: is it ok to leave the skin and nails on the chicken feet when making a broth. I did a broth with chicken feet before, my husband cut the nails (yuk!) and I removed the skin, it’s too much work but I sure had a good gelatin broth. I’d like to make one again but without all that work.

    I’ll stick to beef broth it’s less work if I have to do all that preparation for the chicken feet.

    Appreciate your answer thank you Rebecca. I love your website and book: encyclopedia …….

    • Yes, you can use any combo of bones and they all taste great. The easiest thing is to purchase blanched chicken feet. Yes, advice is to trim chicken feet claws–sounds like hubby has a permanent job as trimmer!

  8. does it matter if it is not a grass fed, organic beef, chicken or can I use the cheapest chicken and beef bones from any grocery stores.
    I was thinking if the broth has been cooking for 48 hours all the bad “stuff” from the meat is gone. Am I right?
    Thanks for your answer Rebecca.

    • Good question. As possible, we purchase the best quality that we can afford. A problem with commercial meat is that it contains residues from pesticides, herbicides, hormones, etc that was in their feed. (Commercial poultry doesn’t contain hormones, but other meats do.)

      Unfortunately quality bones from grass fed beef are becoming more pricy. One way to save money on meat is to invest in an inexpensive box freezer and buy in quantity.

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