Blood Building Syrup

Blood Building Syrup

All systems of traditional medicine make extensive use of the medicinal properties of both fresh and dried fruit, cooked with water to make a compote, or prepared as medicinal jams and syrups. Ayurveda maintains a large class of medicinal jams called lehyas, which means ‘to lick’, referring to the method of administration. While they aren’t exactly like deserts, compotes, jams and syrups are a very pleasant to get the medicine down, and are particularly suited to both vata and pitta conditions. The following ‘Blood Building Syrup’ is an excellent preparation to help build up the blood in anemia, infertility, exhaustion, and immunodeficiency, or when recovering from chronic disease, medical treatments (e.g. chemotherapy) or surgery. Although it is prepared as a syrup in this recipe, to prepare as a compote simply stew the fruit with the herbs and serve it without processing it further.

½ cup chopped dried figs
½ cup dried goji berries
½ cup dried prunes
½ cup Chinese red dates
1 oz shatavari root (tien men dong or asparagus root)
1 oz cured rehmannia (shu di huang)
1 oz astragalus root (huang qi)
1 oz American ginseng (xi yang shen)
2 quarts (4 liters) water
2-3 tbsp ghee
2 tbsp pippali powder
1 tsp cardamom powder
1 tsp cinnamon powder
½ tsp clove powder
¼ tsp pink salt
1 cup organic molasses (approximately)

Add the dried fruit and herbs (shatavari, rehmannia, astragalus, American ginseng) into a pot along with 2 quarts of water, bring to a boil and simmer until it is reduced to a syrup-like consistency and the fruit and herbs are squishy (about 1 hour). Allow the fruit-herb decoction to cool and then mix in a blender until smooth. Strain the liquid through a mesh strainer into a measuring cup, taking note of exactly how much liquid you are left with. In a separate pan, melt the ghee on medium heat and add the pippali, cardamom, cinnamon, clove and pink salt. Cook for a minute and then add the fruit-herb decoction to this, along with an equal part molasses. Cook on low heat for about 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently. Pour into a clean, dry glass bottle, seal and store in a cool location. Dose is 1-2 tbsp twice daily, with warm water.

Since this post was published a few years back, I have received a number of inquiries where these herbs can be obtained. First off, it’s not absolutely necessary you use exactly the same ingredients. All of the recipes in Food As Medicine are designed as a starting point, and are easily modified based on your needs. That said, this formula in particular has been very successful at resolving anemia, and if possible, measures should be taken to replicate it as closely as possible.

Locating the Chinese herbs is easy if your region or city has a local Chinatown. Here in Vancouver, we have lots of Chinese influence, and it’s easy to find Chinese herbs. My favorite location to send folks here is Kiu Shun Trading Company, down on Keefer Street in Vancouver. When I have international orders, however, for which shipping bulk herbs across the border isn’t so easy, I have a number of online recommendations:

For TCM herbs
Five Flavor Herbs
Springwind Dispensary

For Western herbs
Mountain Rose Herbs
Starwest Botanicals

For Ayurvedic herbs
Organic India
Banyan Botanicals
Vadik Herbs

Feel free to post your favorite resources!

Some student feedback

Some student feedback

Recently I wrapped up teaching both Food As Medicine and an Ayurvedic workshop at Prana Yoga College. Usually I get very good feedback from students, but this recent batch I received was quite lovely and very much appreciated. I will be offering more Food As Medicine workshops and also courses on Ayurveda and herbal medicine though Prana Yoga and other locations in the new year, so please check back for more details.

Here are some of the reviews of my class:

“This course was extraordinary. Everyone was on the edge of their seats the whole time, questions were flying, old perceptions were shattered, and almost everyone decided to buy Todd’s book by the end of the course. One thing for sure is that we did not have enough time — another day (four hours) would have been perfect. There were so many questions and discussions that we didn’t come close to finishing.”

“I know that personally, this course had a profound influence on my life. And I witnessed a lot of dietary and health changes in the other students in the following weeks. I even ran in to some people that had attended the course that were not part of the 500-hour group, and they said it was one of the most amazing workshops they had been to. Food and nutrition has become a complicated subject only because of the kind of culture we live in and the modern food practices. Todd was a voice of reason in an otherwise confusing world of misinformation. This course was a class favorite and I can’t see any reason not to have it offered again, and hopefully lengthened. I think this workshop could draw a lot of people in from outside the 500-hour students — the general public is very interested in nutrition, and Todd really knows his stuff. This workshop should be more prominently featured and possibly held more often.”

“Todd was wonderful. He had so much knowledge to share, that he seemed to be a walking encyclopedia. He was able to answer almost every question anyone had, and there were a ton of questions. I’ve never seen so many students ask so many questions. He had the group’s attention the whole time, never acted superior, was patient with questions, and was passionate about the topic.”

If you are interested in holding a workshop, please send an email to Thanks for your interest and support.

Do you use grapefruit seed extract?

Do you use grapefruit seed extract?

Today I stopped in at one of the local natural health pharmacies here in Vancouver, and saw one of the staff recommend a product called grapefruit seed extract (GSE) to a lactating mother whose baby was suffering from oral thrush (candidiasis).  Not to be confused with grape seed extract, which is commonly used as an antioxidant supplement, GSE is used as an all purpose antimicrobial in the natural health industry that is touted as being both safe and natural.  In 2005 the journal Medical Herbalism [2005:14(3)] printed a letter I wrote outlining the problems with GSE, which cited several studies demonstrating that the antimicrobial property of GSE was attributable to the addition of synthetic preservatives including benzalkonium chloride and triclosan.  Also found in cosmetics, dish detergents and cleaning agents, both benzalkonium chloride and triclosan are known endocrinal intoxicants and human carcinogens that pollute wastewater and are contribute to the spectre of antibiotic resistance.  Since then several more studies have confirmed these findings, demonstrating that not only does grapefruit seed extract contain these synthetic antimicrobials, but that without these added ingredients, it possess no antimicrobial action.  In other words, GSE is a sham product.

I am quite sure that if this new mother, who had gone out of her way to shop at this natural pharmacy, had known that the product she bought for her baby’s yeast infection was comprised of synthetic preservatives, she would have refused it.  She might have even been a little angry that an ingredient commonly found in dishwashing soap was being sold to her as a natural product. My colleagues and I have done our best to urge the natural health product industry to become accountable to this problem. Not only is it sold in retail outlets, GSE is often used in other natural products for both internal and external use, including creams, lotions, liquids and capsules.  In order to protect not only our clients and customers, but the reputation and integrity of the natural health product industry, I urge everyone to please avoid using GSE.  There are many truly natural alternatives to GSE that are equally if not more effective.