The recipes on The Way are intended as an East meets West look at food and its relationship to health and nutrition. Food is powerful, and every bite can either greatly benefit your system or effectively work against it. In Chinese Medicine, each grain, vegetable, meat, fruit, and spice has unique properties that can be harnessed to help us achieve and maintain balance in our bodies. Our recipes seek to incorporate some of the age-old principles of Chinese medicine into the culinary practices more familiar to the West.
Goji berries (known as “gou qi zi” in Chinese) are an important Chinese medicinal that are now relatively easy to find at many health food markets in the U.S. These pretty red berries are sweet, raisin-like in texture, and commonly used in Chinese cooking. You may be wondering how to incorporate them into your own cooking repertoire. So we have created a tasty smoothie recipe that also happens to be great for the joints (and the eyes).
In Chinese medicine, goji berries are a wonderful “yin supplementing” medicinal. They benefit the Liver and Kidney systems and nourish Blood and Essence. What does all that mean in practice? Liver and Kidney yin deficiencies are often deeper level pathologies that may arise as we age or through prolonged illness and injury. These pathologies may present as dizziness, blurred vision, ringing in the ears, enduring thirst, persistent dry cough. In this smoothie, however, we are highlighting two of the most common uses of goji berries: their ability to relieve joint pain, especially in the lower back and knees, and to “brighten the eyes.” According to Chinese medicine, the Liver organ system relates to the tendons, and the Kidney system to the bones. Deficiencies in both organ systems might result in chronic, persistent joint pain, such what might be found in osteoarthritis or old sports injuries. In the fascinating subdiscipline of Chinese medicine ophthalmology, the Liver and Kidneys are also related to the pupil of the eye. Goji berries are therefore a widely used medicinal for improving vision.
Cherries are not only a nice seasonal addition to this smoothie but an excellent complement to the properties of the goji berries. According to Chinese medicine, they benefit the Kidneys, strengthen the Spleen, and drive out Wind and Dampness. Anyone with a gimpy knee, hip or other joint injury will understand intuitively that Wind and Dampness, such as we might experience on a rainy day, are common “external causes” of joint pain. Goji berries and cherries work well together because they address both the internal and external causes of joint pain.
Although we have reached beyond the typically culinary palette of Chinese medicinal food with our other ingredients, they still provide nice balance to this beverage. For example, lime peel, although not common in China, acts like other commonly used citrus peels to “move qi” and aid in digestion. Likewise, basil is rarely used in Chinese cuisine, but like other aromatic herbs, can settle the stomach and improve digestion. These two additions balance the potentially cloying properties of cherries and goji berries and ensure that they are easily digested. Although goji berries are generally well tolerated by most, they are nonetheless a strong medicinal and we recommend that you don’t exceed about 15g per day (roughly 2 tablespoons).
Tart Cherry and Goji Berry Smoothie for Joint Support
Serving sizeAbout 2-3
Prep Time / Cook Time
10 minutes / 5 minutes
1 Cup Tart Cherries
2 Tablespoons Goji Berries
½ Cup Almond Milk
2 Tablespoons Chia Seed
4 Leaves Basil
3-4 Ice Cubes
½ Teaspoon Lime Juice
1/8 Teaspoon Lime Zest
1 Teaspoon Maple syrup
½ Teaspoon Black Strap Molasses
DirectionsRemove pits from cherries (I did it by hand using a chopstick).
Add all ingredients to blender and blend on medium-high speed until well blended.