Broth can be a food for those who have a weakened digestion, either as a result of illness, or following a fast. It is a nourishing drink that can be incorporated into daily life providing accessible nutrients and medicinal plant compounds that may otherwise be lacking. It is also the ideal sustenance following a succession of heavy meals and overindulgence, some-thing light and easy to digest, the perfect Christmas season solution!
Traditionally, broth was made by simmering meat, bones or fish in water. However, a delicious medicinal broth that utilises the immune boosting properties of mushrooms alongside vegetables, herbs and seaweed can also be made.
Broth has become more popular in recent years, but this isn’t the first time the healing qualities of this savoury drink have been appreciated. In 1860 Florence Nightingale wrote in her book ‘Notes on Nursing’ of beef tea, a type of broth that was given to patients to drink if they were suffering from digestive problems, fever or weakness. She explains that ‘beef tea may be chosen as an illustration of great nutrient power in sickness’ and that ‘there is a certain restorative quality in it, we do not know what, but it may safely be given in almost any inflammatory disease.’
The ingredients of broth can be varied according to what you have to hand. Leafy greens, root vegetables and even foraged berries (such as hawthorn or rosehip) can be included! Some key ingredients provide a deep level of nourishment, alongside immune regulating and anti-inflammatory properties to keep you feeling well for the winter.
Shitake mushrooms: Widely available in most supermarkets, shitake mushrooms not only add a deep, earthy, umami (savoury) flavour to the broth but they contain beneficial health properties too. They are a rich source of copper and selenium which support healthy blood vessels, bones and immunity; research suggests that regular consumption improves immune function and reduces inflammation in the body.1
Native Medicinal mushrooms: Those native to the UK include Turkey tails and Birch polypore, both of which are valuable in supporting the immune system. Mushrooms have evolved to have a range of antimicrobial properties against bacteria and viruses that attempt to colonise them, which can be of benefit when we consume them. Research has found Turkey tails to be effective in the treatment of the cold and flu virus as well as the HPV virus. Trials are currently underway to assess their benefits for infection with COVID 19.
Nettles: Traditionally nettles are picked in the spring when they are young and tender, but there is often a second flush of growth in the autumn and early winter from plants that have been cut back; these too can be used. Nettles are highly nutritious with ample levels of vitamin K, vitamin A, iron and calcium, making them a perfect addition to a restorative broth.
Miso: A savoury paste made by fermenting a mixture of soy-beans with rice, wheat or oats; miso is a traditional ingredient in Japanese and Asian cuisine. Rich in naturally occurring
probiotics it has beneficial effects on the digestive system, is anti-inflammatory and may have a protective effect against liver and breast cancer. There is even evidence that miso provides pro-tection against the effects of radiation; when the atomic bomb was dropped in Nagasaki on August 9th, 1945, physician Tatuichiro Akizuki, along with 20 employees, were caring for tuberculosis patients at the hospital about 1.4 km away from the explosion. None of them experienced acute radiation disease. Dr Akizuki believed that this was the result of drinking miso soup every day. Some experimental research has examined this and found evidence to substantiate the claim.2
Easy to make, delicious and full of anti-inflammatory and immune boosting properties, this vegan mushroom and miso broth can be adjusted according to what you have to hand.
- 2 large carrots
- 3 sticks celery
- 1 tub of shitake mushrooms
- 1 bay leaf
- 1-2 inches of fresh root ginger peeled and roughly chopped
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons unpasteurised white miso paste mixed with a little water to soften
Extra ingredients (adjust according to availability)
- Large handful of fresh nettles (young growth) washed and roughly chopped (alternatively use ½ cup of dried nettles)
- 2 tablespoons medicinal mushrooms fresh or dried (turkey tails, birch polypore or chagga can be used)
- 1 inch cubed of fresh turmeric root or 1 teaspoon dried turmeric
- A strip of dried kelp/kombu
If using whole turkey tails or chagga prepare the previous evening: place in a saucepan, cover with 1 litre boiling water and allow to soak overnight. In the morning bring the water (with the turkey tails still in it) to the boil and simmer gently for 2 hours. This water can then be incorporated into the broth liquid.
Roughly chop the vegetables and add to a large saucepan with the ginger, garlic and bay leaf. Add the extra ingredients and the soy sauce (not the miso as this is added at the very end once the broth has been strained to preserve the probiotics).
If using Turkey tails top up the water to 2 litres and add this to the pan of vegetables. If not using Turkey tails just add 2 litres of boiling water to the saucepan and bring back to the boil with the lid on. Simmer for 45 minutes then remove from the heat and strain through a sieve. Allow to cool for 5 minutes then add the miso paste and enjoy!
This broth can also be made in batches and stored in the fridge for 3 days. Add to soups, casseroles and for cooking rice. The miso can be omitted from the final stage and added fresh at the end of cooking.
The Herbal Clinic, 32 King Edward Road, Swansea SA1 4LL
MEILYR JAMES BSc(Hons) DBTh DAcu AcuC Dir MGNI Registered Medical Herbalist, Iridologist & Acupuncturist
Tel: 01792 474356 Web: herbalclinic-swansea.co.uk Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Xiaoshuang Dai et al. Consuming Lentinula edodes (Shiitake) Mushrooms Daily Improves Human Immunity: A Randomized Dietary Intervention in Healthy Young Adults. J Am Coll Nutr 2015;34(6):478-87. 2. Hiromitsu Watanabe, Beneficial Biological Effects of Miso with Reference to Radiation Injury, Cancer and Hypertension. J Toxicol Pathol. 2013 Jun; 26(2): 91–103.