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Five Elements in Chinese Medicine: A Recipe for the Metal Element

By Travis Metzger /

Five Elements in Chinese Medicine: A Recipe for the Metal Element

There are five elements in Chinese Medicine, and we've just recently entered the Metal Element.  In the fall, our bodies turn inwards to prepare for winter and dryness often dominates in the environment and can appear with heat or cold conditions and is associated with dehydration and symptoms which can include dry lips, nostrils and skin.  Dryness can affect the lungs as a dry throat or cough.

The lungs govern Qi, respiration and the passage of water as it relates to skin and pores with relation to symptoms such as cough, nasal congestion, a hoarse voice, sweating irregularities and skin rashes are all problems associated with the lungs.  

The health of the skin can reflect lung health and immunity function as related to mucus membrane.  

Individuals with healthy lungs maintain a light, moist protective coating on all the mucus membranes giving well nourished and energized skin which wards off extreme weather influences as well as viruses and other pathogens.  Such a person is protected against infectious diseases like colds and flus and has good immunity in general.

Lung imbalances can be caused by dryness or excessive mucus in the membranes and can show up as sinus problems, nasal congestion, lung and bronchial conditions, frequent colds and susceptibility to viruses.

Poor eating habits can cause mucus to be deposited in the lungs and block their proper functioning.  Overeating, not enough roughage, too much dairy, meat or other congesting foods along with processed foods can result in toxic build up which can create tension and exhaustion.

You can support your body by supplementing the lungs with the foods you eat.

lentil soup recipe

Hot/Cold Ingredient Properties

Spicy or pungent tastes are associated with the lungs and tend to disperse and circulate Qi and invigorate blood.  

Chile peppers – treat the lungs, stomach and spleen, aid digestion, diminish swelling and have antioxidant properties.

Celery – A cooling vegetable that treats the stomach and lubricates the internal organs.  Coumarin compounds can tone the vascular system while enhancing blood flow and also cleansing the blood.  

Allspice – Supports the spleen, stomach and digestion.   Moves blood.

Orange juice – A cooling food that helps to circulate Qi, acts on the lung, stomach and spleen and helps aid digestion.  

Orange peel – Aids digestion and transforms mucus.

Carrot – Qi tonic that nourishes the lungs and stomach while helping to dispel toxins, move energy, treat indigestion and improve skin health.

Garlic – pungent and sweet flavor that is warming in thermal temperature.  Invigorates Qi and tonifies the spleen, stomach and lung meridians. Improves digestion, is antibacterial, anticarcinogenic and anti fungal.  Reduces sinusitis and influenza while eliminating toxins.

Lentils – Key vegetarian protein source, second only to soybeans that tonifies Qi. Convenient to use and easy to cook make them perfect for soups.  Neutral to slightly warm in post digestive thermal temperature and can benefit the circulatory system, spleen and stomach.

ancho chile puree

Ancho Chile Accented Lentil Soup

Prep/cook time about 45 minutes

Serves about 8

  • ¼ Cup Celery
  • ¼ Cup Carrot
  • ½ Cup Onion
  • ½ teaspoon dry Thyme
  • 1 ½ Cups Red Lentils
  • 6 Cups Vegetable Stock
  • Sea Salt
  • Fresh Cracked Pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons Ancho Chile Puree
  • 1 Ounce Pasilla Chile
  • 1 Ounce Ancho Chile
  • 1 Ounce Mulato Chile
  • 2 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 Heaping Tablespoon Annatto seed
  • 1 Heaping Tablespoon Allspice ground
  • ¼ Cup Olive Oil
  • ½ Cup White Wine Vinegar
  • Zest of one Orange
  • 1 ½ Cups Orange Juice
  • Scallions
  • Feta Cheese if desired

This is a simple soup made with fast cooking red lentils and some mirepoix.  The kicker here is the ancho chile puree that we make which adds depth, acid and a little background heat.  The puree is made with dried chile’s, I chose ancho, mulato and pasilla’s. Dried chilies tend to have a much more distinctive taste then their fresh counterparts, with flavors that are deep and often quite complex as the drying process intensifies and magnifies the flavors of the chile.  The ancho is the dried poblano chili and is the sweetest of the dried chilies, it has a mild fruit flavor with tones of coffee, licorice, tobacco, dried plum and raisin. The ancho together with the mulato and the pasilla form the holy trinity of chile’s used to prepare mole sauces. Like the ancho the mulato is a dark chocolate brown chile with a smoky deep lingering taste.  The pasilla chile or “little raisin” has berry and herbaceous tones. Remove the stem, tear open and remove the majority of the seeds and add to a blender with the garlic, annatto seeds, allspice, orange zest, orange juice, olive oil, white wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Blend on high until the puree thickens and is smooth, set aside.

ancho chile puree recipe

Annatto  is the seed of the achiote tree and is used to add color to many Latin American foods.

For the soup we add our celery, carrot and onion to a medium size saucepan along with the dry thyme, some salt and pepper and a bit of water.  As the vegetables begin to soften add the lentils and stock and simmer until the lentils become soft and the soup thickens. Stir in the ancho chile purée and adjust seasoning.  Feel free to puree part of the soup or all of the soup to the desired texture, I chose not to puree this version. Garnish with scallions or parsley and a liitle feta cheese if you like.  We kept this vegetarian but you can easily add some andoullie sausage, bacon or ham.












Dining with Culinary Artist Travis Metzger is an unforgettable experience. You can taste the passion, creativity and culinary expertise in each of Travis’s one-of-kind recipes. Most would agree that Traditional Chinese Medicine herbs in their original form taste less than delectable, but Travis has proven that TCM for today can taste great with DAO Labs. Travis develops unique flavors for each DAO formula to complement the proprietary blend of herbs and their health benefits. After extensive training at the New England Culinary Institute, Travis ran some of the finest restaurants across the country before starting his own in Minneapolis. To survive the stresses and physical challenges of the kitchen heat, Travis focused on combining natural ingredients for healthy AND delicious eating and juicing.

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  • Thank you for this article ✅🙌

    Gill on

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