Truth, Inspiration, Hope.

Traditional Chinese Medicine Recipes for Health–Part I: ‘Minor Heat’

Melody Shen
Melody Shen is a licensed clinical practitioner of L.OM&L.Ac. in Pennsylvania and New York. She studied Chinese and Japanese acupuncture and Chinese herbal Medicine, with a focus in Chinese therapeutic herbal dieting. Prior to her career in traditional Chinese medicine, Melody was engaged in marketing, brand management, exhibition planning and curation, and graphic design. In addition to her medical background, she studied history and art history in college and graduate school. She is also a fan of music, film, and writing.
Published: July 18, 2023
A nutritious beverage brewed from dried hawthorn, Chinese plums and medicinal herbs can help maintain balance and health during the heat of summer. (Image: Melody Shen/Vision Times)

According to traditional Chinese medicine, humans are one with nature, and exist in a “unity of form and spirit.” Changes in the human body and even the occurrence of disease are often related to cyclical changes in the environment. 

The ancient Chinese observed 24 solar terms. These two-week periods defined by the traditional Chinese calendar follow a predictable pattern in natural weather conditions. By nourishing the spirit and adjusting the diet in accordance with nature’s pattern, we are able to strengthen the body and maintain health.

Traditional Chinese medicine holds that every person is unique, as are their conditions and the recommended treatments. Treatment works in a dialectical process, and it varies from person to person in accordance with natural conditions. As the saying goes, “Humanity follows earth, earth follows heaven, heaven follows the Dao or Way, and the Dao follows what is natural.” 

The 24 solar terms are able to guide farmers in cultivating the land, and serve as a guide to preserve health, because they are produced according to natural law.  Just as there are 365 days in a year, there are 365 acupuncture points on the meridians of traditional Chinese medicine.

The entry and exit of the sun through the zodiac in the course of a year marks the 24 solar terms, expressed in alternating minor (yin) and major (yang) terms. The energy pattern in the body also follows the cycle of the 24 solar terms, with a focus passing from one to another of the 12 major organs (and conceptual organs as recognized by TCM) and their meridians. 

Moving in a natural pattern from the lungs to the large intestine, stomach, spleen, heart, small intestine, bladder, kidney, pericardium, three thoracic cavities (三焦), gallbladder, and liver, the life forces in the body are synchronized with the solar terms. 

Thus, as the earth experiences a change in season, people will feel the effect on both mind and body. During this period, for instance, the prevailing heat and humidity affect the heart, causing fatigue, and thus more frequent dreams. 

Every year when the sun reaches 105° longitude (July 7 or 8), we enter a the solar term called Xiaoshu (小暑), or “Minor Heat.” Summer temperatures are high, but haven’t yet reached their extreme, which comes in the following period of “Major Heat.”

The Minor Heat solar term typically receives the most precipitation. Once the Xiaoshu solar term arrives, cool breezes are replaced by heat waves; and heavy rain, thunderstorms, hail, and other strong weather events are likely. 

The summer heat is strongest during the days known as san fu (三伏) or “three hidings.” The days between July 11 and August 19 are divided into three (san) periods, during which the sun and heat are so intense that you should hide (fu) from them. 

During these times — the middle period (July 21 through August 9) being most severe — we are no match for the heat and need to protect ourselves from it. Otherwise excessive sweating can deplete the yin qi and cause heat stroke — with symptoms like headache, irritability, fever, thirst, and night sweats. If the qi is damaged, problems such as fatigue and laziness will arise.

Seasonal foods can help us maintain balance. Fruits like mangoes and melons are of yin nature, and have a cooling effect. One of the best foods for clearing excess heat is loofah melon; it is also a delicious way to remove toxins from the body.

When the weather is hot, everything grows vigorously, and the physiological activities of the human body are also in a very active state. A lot of nutrients are consumed, yet digestive ailments are common — such as loss of appetite, stomach pain, flatulence, and indigestion. Cooking during the Minor Heat solar term thus calls for “light fragrance” to invigorate the Spleen organ group, nourish Yin, and stimulate the appetite. 

Foods with light fragrance and yin-nourishing effects include edible fungi, barley, lean meat, crucian carp (鯽魚 Ji yu), shrimp, and other seasonal seafoods. Simply cooked, they are a delicious way to clear away heat, improve appetite, and provide important nutrients. 

Because the heat of summer causes us to sweat, we lose a lot of nutrients. So we need not only to replenish water, but also to supplement nutrients such as zinc, calcium, and the B vitamin group.

Rice or barley porridge cooked with mung beans, lotus leaf or lentils and garnished with fresh mint is a delicious detox that can help cleanse and cool the body.

Seasonal vegetables suited to the Minor Heat term include bamboo shoots, lotus seeds, okra, fiddleheads, bitter melon, burdock root, yellow daylily buds (known as golden needle when dried), Longxucai (龍鬚菜) — the curled tendrils from chayote squash plant (Gracilariopsis lemaneiformis), sweet potato leaves, immature loofah fruit, muskmelon, cucumber, and amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri), commonly known as pigweed — a nutritious wild edible.

Seasonal mushrooms include oyster mushroom, king oyster, enoki (Flammulina filiformis), coral, velvet shank (Flammulina velutipes), and white fungus (Tremella fuciformis), many of which can be wild foraged. 

Seasonal fruits include watermelon, mango, cherry, peach, grape, lemon, lychee, avocado, and plum.

Therapeutic recipes for Minor Heat

Shengmai Mushroom Soup

Clockwise from top left: Schisandra, Ophiopogon, Chrysanthemum, Dangsheng; center: king oyster and willow mushrooms. (Image: Melody Shen/Vision Times)


  • Dried ginseng (Rensheng人參) (Panax ginseng), 0.5 oz. [if ginseng is too pricey, it can be substituted with dangshen (黨參) (Codonopsis pilosula), using twice the amount, or huangqi (黃芪) (Astragulus) using three times the amount.]
  • Mai men dong (麥門冬) the dried root of creeping liriope (Ophiopogon), 1 oz.
  • Wu wei zi (五味子) dried schisandra berries, also called “five flavor fruit,” 1 oz.

(The above three traditional Chinese medicines combined are called Sheng-Mai San, and the combination of the three medicines can nourish the Heart Qi. For people who often feel tired, weak, and poor in spirit, Sheng-Mai San can replenish vitality and prevent heatstroke.)

  • Dried chrysanthemum flowers (juhua 菊花), 1 oz.
  • 2 or more types of fresh mushrooms (such as king oyster and willow), 8 oz. each
  • Salt to taste
  • 8 cups water
Shengmai mushroom soup (Image: Melody Shen/Vision Times)


  • Wash all the medicinal herbs and set aside.
  • Wash the mushrooms, remove the dirty end of the roots, slice the oyster or other large mushrooms, and split the stems of willow mushrooms. 
  • Heat the water in a pot over high heat. Add the dried medicinal ingredients, and bring to a boil, then turn to low heat and continue to cook, covered, for 20 minutes.
  • Turn to medium heat, add mushrooms. Cover and simmer until the mushrooms are cooked, three to five minutes.
  • Season with salt to taste, and serve.

Hawthorn and Wumei Drink 

Served chilled, this is the perfect summer drink. Hot, it can be served as a soup or tea. The taste is sweet and sour. It can relieve heat and quench thirst, with the added benefits of promoting healthy skin and weight loss. 

Clockwise rom top left: wumei, hawthorn, roselle, tangerine peel, licorice root. (Image: Melody Shen/Vision Times)


  • Wumei (烏梅 Chinese dried plums), 1 oz.
  • Dried hawthorn berries (Shan zha 山楂), 1 oz.
  • Dried hibiscus flower (Loushenhua 洛神花), ½ oz.
  • Dried tangerine peel (陳皮 Chen Pi), ½ oz.
  • Dried licorice root (甘草 Gan Cao), ¼ oz.
  • Water, 3 quarts
  • Chinese rock sugar, or brown sugar, to taste.
Served hot or cold, this beverage will replenish and refresh. (Image: Melody Shen/Vision Times)


  • Wash all the herbs and add them to the pot with the water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
  • Strain out the herbs, then return to the pot and add rock sugar. Stir and boil to dissolve the sugar. The tea can be consumed hot, cooled or chilled.

Note: Hawthorn berries are rich in glycolic acid, iron, calcium, vitamins B2, E, and C, and good for digestion, and for improving the texture of blood and clearing impurities. However, individuals with hyperactivity, stomach issues, and those who are fasting or pregnant should limit their hawthorn consumption.