Bone Broth In Chinese Dietetics

broth with egg

By Kyle Rhodes

            Bone broth is definitely one of those trendy foods we hear so much about across food blogs and nutritional platforms, but how is it seen in Chinese medicine? Broths have been used in Chinese cooking for millennia, not only for nutrition but for healing as well (which, as we know, are one in the same).

            In Chinese medicine the state of bones reflect the Kidney and visa versa. Thus, drinking a broth made with bones naturally affects the Kidney. The minerals leached from their cooking act like an anchor, helping us to be calm and at peace. For example, Chinese medicine herbalism uses fossilized bones, stones and shells in herbal formulation to calm the Shen, or Spirit.

            The marrow included in the bones also is beneficial to the body. As we know from a Western perspective, erythropoiesis (the production of red blood cells) occurs within the bone marrow. From a Chinese medicine perspective, the blood is made from what are call pre-natal sources (that with which we are born, as it relates to the Kidney) and post-natal sources (that we get from food per the digestion). Weakness in these systems can contribute to a deficiency of blood. Bone broth, including marrow, can help nourish the blood since the broth is easily digestible and allows for absorption of minerals.

            It is widely known that drinking fluids with electrolytes (sodium and potassium) helps the body maintain hydration, instead of wasting the fluids through the urination. When consuming bone broth, high in minerals and electrolytes, it helps the body stay well hydrated. This is especially good when recovering from acute illnesses, where many bodily fluids can be lost. Some examples are acute diarrheal disease, where the intestinal lining may be inflamed and irritated, or high fevers where fluids have been lost through sweating. Broth is easy to digest as not to utilize any more energy from the already taxed system. No wonder the ancestors used broths as a first line first aid! Bone broth can also be helpful in chronic conditions, as those folks may be slowly depleted over the course of years by poor gut absorption, long-standing inflammation or autoimmune diseases.

            Other trace minerals are found in bone broth as well (types and amounts of which vary with preparation and types of bones) and include calcium, manganese, magnesium, iron, silicon, phosphorus and sulphur[1]. As far as macro nutrients go, protein in the form of collagen is the heaviest hitter, and since it is in liquid form it can be significantly easier to digest than legumes, nuts, meats and even some vegetables, especially if the digestion is weak or compromised. The tissues of grass fed cows (versus grain-fed) have been scientifically studied and shown to have a more balanced omega 3/6 ratio, making these nutrient more bioavailable so that they can be more useful in our system.

            So, you want to make bone broth? Choose bones that contain some marrow and meat bits still attached, especially if you are addressing blood deficiency. Knuckle cuts contain high collagen and are good for increased flavor and nutrition.

Making Bone broth at home:


2-4 lbs fresh raw bones. With or without marrow.

Any combo of carrot, leek, onion, garlic.

Any combo of rosemary, black peppercorns, bay leaf.

1 tbsp Cider vinegar


Step 1: Blanch bones

In a stock pot, cover bones with cold water, bring to a boil. Let cook on gentle boil for 20 min. Drain and discard water. This helps to removes impurities before you cook for the long haul.

Step 2: Roast Bones

Heat oven to 450 degrees, or higher. Roast the bones along with some basic vegetables like carrot, leek, onion and garlic for a good long while, even to the point where they seem “too done”, about 40 minutes, tossing occasionally. Remove the bones and veggies from the pan. Next, deglaze by pouring a small amount of water or wine into the pan loosening the brown bits of flavor from the bottom.

Step 3: Cook Bones

In a large stock pot place roasted bones, veggies and glaze collected from the roasting pan. Add vinegar and herbs as desired: rosemary, black pepper corns, bay leaves (any or all). Submerge contents with (preferably filtered) water. Cover. Bring to gentle boil and let simmer for 8-24 hours. Add more water when needed to ensure that contents are covered. If using crock pot or slow cooker set to high to get contents hot and reduce to medium/low for the remainder of cooking time. I like to set mine overnight.

Vegetarian options:

  • Mushroom broth: cooking any variety of mushrooms in water. Slice mushrooms, cover, bring to boil, simmer for 6-8h.
  • Miso broth: dissolve miso in hot water. No need to cook! Nutrients in this fermented product are already available.
  • Vegetable broth with root vegetable skins for minerals (potassium in potato skins). Examples include carrot, beet, potato, yam, sweet potato, parsnip, daikon radish, etc.

Stay warm and enjoy!

[1]The amounts of these minerals vary widely and depend on several determining factors such as what type of animal the bones come from, how they are prepared, what the animal ate, the state of the soil upon which they were grazing, etc. This is why it is important to obtain high quality, organically and pasture raised animal products as much as possible.

Kyle Rhodes practices at Thompson Family Acupuncture Clinic in Walla Walla, WA. Kyle is fascinated with the healing power of nature and how it functions in the body. Through East Asian medicine modalities, she brings to light the inner healing power each person holds. Healing is a journey and she is here to support you along the way!

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