By Jade Ouk
2023 marks another Water year in Chinese astrology, but this time with the added element of Yin, signalling a greater introspective undercurrent. With this in mind, I wanted to share my reflections about the medicinal properties of everyday seafood.
Last year, my family and I took a long overdue holiday and traveled to Europe escaping wintery Melbourne. We had a wonderful time, visiting documenta fifteen, Europa Park, driving through Portugal and catching up with old friends. One of my favourite memories came during dinner with one of our dearest friends. We were enjoying the delicious seafood broth at Cervajaria Ramiro when my 1 year old son, impatient at the inefficiency of the soup spoon for nourishment instead picked up the dish of broth, slurping up its remnants much to the entertainment of the table. The way the broth quenched him reminded me just how versatile and important for our health, food and in particular broth is. Ultimately that is what Chinese Herbal Medicine is - a tailored - ‘broth’ at medicinal potency.
So What Made the Seafood Broth so Nourishing that Instinct Kicked in?
Of course, it was delicious and that would have had plenty to do with it, but seafood is also considered in Chinese medicine to be cold and yin. Perfect for cooling and nourishing your body essences during the hot summer of Europe and especially for young children whose growth is facilitated by their warmer ‘Yang’ energy. Shellfish can create too much cold and damp when eaten in excess however the common additions of wine and garlic help to balance the cold and damp by adding blood-invigorating properties and acridity.
Compounds found in the ocean or water have long been used medicinally in Chinese Medicine. Mother of pearl and oyster shells are used to anchor and calm the body, and mussel broth can have a similar effect. Oyster shells have also been used to treat hardness in the body, while cockle shells can dissolve phlegm and invigorate blood. Kelp, seaweed, and clam shells are used in Chinese medicine to dissolve phlegm heat. While carp in a stew or soup with ginger has traditionally been recommended for pregnant women.
In the hot European summer the nourishment of the seafood broth from Cervajaria Ramiro was multifold. Quenching the thirst of hunger whilst balancing the Yang energy of the day’s heat with the magic of enjoying food with loved ones - here you find the essence of Chinese Medicine philosophy.