This Chinese herbal healing oxtail soup is a classic nourishing recipe based on Traditional Chinese medicine. The oxtail soup provides the full range of health benefits of the bone broth. Coupled with the use of goji berries and codonopsis root, this Chinese herbal healing oxtail soup focuses on toning and strengthening Qi. Whether you are in a process of healing or just looking for a cozy and nourishing meal, this Chinese oxtail soup is a perfect recipe for the whole family in cold weather.
Ready to learn the secrets of this delicious, nutritious soup incorporating tonic Chinese herbs that’s also easy to make? Here is my version of this classic recipe.
Healing Soups of Traditional Chinese Medicine
“Winter” in my kitchen is almost a synonym for soup, the most nourishing form of food we could feed our body, made from boiling bones, meats and vegetables. I love making healing soups, because they provide all the key nutrients that our body can absorb readily. It’s especially important for those with compromised digestion. The gut is the core of our health. The soup that heals our gut, improves our overall health from the foundation.
There was a time in the past when I was extremely ill, depleted after child birth, bed ridden for months in debilitating pain. I had a lot of digestive issues and lost a ton of weight. I visited a doctor who practised Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) multiple times a week to receive acupuncture treatments and a brown liquid potion from boiling 30+ medicinal herbs custom made for my ailments. TCM saved my life.
I followed a diet based on how my body was feeling and the recommendations from Traditional Chinese Medicine. All I could eat was soup and broth for a whole year, and slowly added other foods back. Besides giving me treatments, the TCM doctor also shared with me her favourite oxtail soup. I fell in love with it ever since then.
What is Amazing about Oxtail?
Oxtail is my personal favourite cut of meat for soup and broth. It consists of bones for minerals, tendons for gelatin and collagen, meats that’s tender not tough, with healthy amount of fat. I love that it provides well-rounded nutritions from an animal food source in a single cut, and it’s delicious!
I cook a lot of soups and broth for healing purpose, from basic chicken bone broth and beef bone broth, to the more elaborate turkey quinoa pumpkin soup and mussels and tomato soup that incorporate bone broth in them. After all, oxtail is still my favourite meat for tasty, hearty and nutritious soups and broths.
When I don’t have time to make bone broth often, I use a quality collagen supplement. Collagen is very nourishing to the digestive system, joints and skin. Perfect Supplements is the brand I trust. You can use my exclusive discount code YANG10 to get 10% off your entire purchase at checkout.
Tips for Chinese Herbal Oxtail Soup
I always recommend adding vinegar in simmering broth that contains a good amount of bones, as the vinegar helps to extract minerals. Ask your butcher to split the bones in half, so that the bones will release more minerals during cooking. The extra acidity from the vinegar won’t come across off-putting in this recipe, because it blends very well with the flavour of the tomatoes in this recipe.
Ginger is a staple in almost every healing and winter Chinese soup recipe. It’s warming to the stomach, spleen, which greatly benefits digestive health, and especially good in the cold time of the year.
Mushrooms are very nutritious and add depth and heartiness to the soup. But mushrooms also contribute to “dampness” in Traditional Chinese Medicine. You can skip the mushrooms if you are suffering from too much “dampness” symptoms. Otherwise, together with the potatoes and tomatoes, they are so tasty in this oxtail soup, and you have just made a nourishing meal in one pot!
Herbal Ingredients for Chinese Oxtail Soup
There are hundreds of herbs commonly used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to cure illness; out of which, at least a couple dozen are used in everyday soup and broth. For this recipe, we will use 2 of the most common yet wonderfully nourishing Chinese herbs, goji berry (aka. NingXia berry) and codonopsis root (aka. Dang Shen).
Goji berry is a nutrient-dense and antioxidents-rich berry eaten for it’s nutritional and medicinal values. The codonopsis root, also called the “poor man’s ginseng”, is a very important tonic that’s suitable for all body types.
Don’t get thrown off by the nickname “poor man’s ginseng”, and think it’s not a valuable medicine. Codonopsis root is similar to ginseng, however milder in strength, therefore can be consumed by the whole family including little children. The same is not true though for ginseng that is powerful but can also be harsh and harmful for certain people. Codonopsis root is much cheaper than ginseng, despite great values in toning and strengthening our Qi (energy). Codonopsis root is one of the go-to herbs used in many medicinal soups in Chinese families. Now the nickname “poor man’s ginseng” totally makes sense, doesn’t it? You really don’t have to spend much to benefit from the nourishing codonopsis root.
Where to Buy Chinese Herbs
In Toronto, goji berry and codonopsis root are so easy to find in every Chinese market and Chinese specialty herbal shops. They really are quite common in the oriental diet. But if you don’t live in an area they are available, you can easily buy them online. Store the extra herbs tightly-sealed in the fridge, they will last for years.
I like the quality of Chinese herbs at Plum Dragon Herbs. My reader exclusive discount code “YANG05” will give you 5% off your entire purchase from them. Here are the links to their goji berry and codonopsis.
You can also get these herbs from Amazon here:
Related: More Healing Soups and Chinese Food Remedy You Will Love
- Immune-Boosting Chicken Broth Seaweed Egg Drop Soup
- Adrenal Support Chinese Herbs And Pig Stomach Soup (四神汤)
- PMS Relief Herbal Chicken Soup (四物汤)
- Instant Pot Shiitake Ginger Chicken Bone Broth
- Sichuan Fritillaria Steamed Pear (川贝雪梨): TCM Natural Cough Remedy
- Honeysuckle, Monk Fruit and Chrysanthemum Tea (TCM, Keto, Vegan)
- Easy DIY Floral Tea 3 Ways: Coupling the Healing Power of Teas and Flowers
Chinese Herbal Healing Oxtail Soup
- 1 pound oxtail pre-cut into pieces
- 3 tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar or another light-coloured cooking vinegar
- 2 inches ginger
- 2 codonopsis root cut into 1-inch pieces, use discount code "YANG05" for 5% off
- 3 tablespoons goji berries use discount code "YANG05" for 5% off
- 3 potatoes
- 1-2 tomatoes depending on size
- 150 grams buna-shimeji mushrooms (aka. brown beech mushrooms) or another soup mushroom such as enoki or oyster mushrooms
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt or to taste
- 1/4 cup cooking rice wine
- 2 liters filtered water plus more for blanching and rinsing
- As long as time permits, soak the oxtail chunks for a few hours in cold water and rinse to get rid of as much blood as possible.
- Submerge oxtail pieces in new water in a stock pot, bring to a boil then let it cook for a few minutes to get the inpurities out of the meat and bones. Although some prefers to skim off the foam, I highly recommend discarding this water and rinse remaining scum off the oxtail chunks. You will get a much clearer and yummier soup in the end.
- Cut the ginger into thin slices.
- Gently wash the codonopsis roots, then cut into 1 inch long pieces. The whole root is edible after cooked. The head of the codonopsis root (the bigger end) is the most nutritious.
- Add the oxtail, sliced ginger, pieces of codonopsis root, and vinegar back to the stock pot, cover with 2 litres of clean filtered water. Vinegar helps to extract the minerals from the bones. Simmer for a minimum 6 hours. Add more water if the water runs low.
- Meanwhile, peel the potatoes. Cut both potatoes and tomatoes into bite size of your liking. Trim off the roots of the mushrooms.
- After the broth has been simmered for at least 6 hours, add potatoes, tomatoes, mushrooms, rice wine, goji berries and salt to taste. I typically use around one and a half tea spoon of salt. Simmer for another hour. Enjoy!
Looking forward to making this! Can I substitute Chinese red dates for the Goji berries? Thanks for the recipe.
Red dates and goji berries are typically not interchangeable. However, soup recipes can be quite flexible, using whatever people have on hands. So yes, you can definitely use red dates instead of goji berries in this soup.
I don’t have Codonopsis root, angelica root, hua qi shen, and dried yam. Can I use any of those to replace the codonopsis root?
Sorry, I realized I had a typo. I don’t have Codonopsis root ***but I have*** angelica root, hua qi shen, and dried yam. Can I use any of those to replace the codonopsis root? Was what I meant to say 🙂
You can use “Hua Qi Shen” in place of codonopsis root, that’s probably the closest. The beauty of Chinese herbal soups is they are very versatile, you can actually put a little of each in there! 😊
Thank you so much for generously sharing your knowledge! I’m so happy to have come across your website as I’m trying to make more Chinese soup for my family.
Do you know if I can make this soup in an instant pot?
Thank you and look forward to hearing from you!
So glad you found my blog helpful. 😊 Thank you for stopping by! I haven’t tried but I don’t see why not in the Instant Pot. I would probably cook the oxtail, ginger, codonopsis on high pressure for 3-4 hours, and then add the vegetables to cook another 20-30 minutes. Play with the timing and have fun!!
This soup is AMAZING! Thank you for sharing this and all the useful info about “dampness” and the Codonopsis root.
I made 3 batches of the soup yesterday and my roommate and I cannot get enough. I have arthritis and he has a bad disc in his back and Thyroid trouble, so anti-inflammatory and healing foods are what we try to stick with. Not only does this soup meet those criterias, but in comparison to other soups, even meals, it is quite literally one of the BEST things I have ever tasted! I chose to add some small organic carrots as well.
I am subscribed now, look forward to getting to know your food. 🙂
Very interesting to read about cooking traditions from around the world, especially Chinese with its healing , herbal practices… I like oxtails myself and will look for the Codonopsis Root in China Town in San Francisco !
I too love learning about cooking traditions from all cultures. Hope you get to try this healing oxtail soup!
I’m a HUGE oxtail fan. In fact, we’re cooking some up this weekend. This is so fascinating – I love learning about the medicinal properties of ingredients! We are very lucky in Toronto to have such an amazing selection of every ingredient from all over the world, eh?
We ARE lucky! There are great markets minutes from my house where I can buy everything I need for my herbal oxtail soup!
Katie Mae @ Nourishing Simplicity says
I was eying oxtail at the grocery store a few weeks ago! Maybe I’ll actually pick one up next time so I can make this soup, it looks amazing!!
You are going to love oxtail once you try it!
Reginald Hammond says
Can you make it, in a crock pot.
Very interesting to learn about “poor man’s ginseng” – I have never heard of it before! Oxtail soup is one of my favourites too. My mum is Indonesian and there is a very simple Indonesian oxtail soup that I just love; simple and with a rich broth.
That sounds great, Monique! I would love to know about your mom’s Indonesian oxtail soup. Traditional foods from different cultures using nourishing ingredients are so fascinating. Oxtail is such a wonderful cut that it’s amazing even in the simplest soup!
Emily @ Recipes to Nourish says
I love learning from your posts. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with Chinese medicine (and acupuncture) – and how nourishing and healing soups can be this time of the year. Winter is a time for replenishment, I think so many people forget that because they’re so focused on detoxing and restrictive diets. Beautiful soup!
Thank you Emily. Well said!
Joni Gomes says
So informative thank you!
You are welcome 🙂
This soup is something I need to try. I am still recovering from the effects of chemo therapy and I am sure that this would help me in my recovery.
All the best in your recovery!
Megan Stevens says
How generous of you to share such a special soup! I love where you got the wisdom and recipe. 🙂 And your story, yay! I can’t wait to buy codonopsis root. We have a great Asian market here. And your use of goji berries in savory has opened my mind even more! Will make this for my family!! 🙂 Thank you!
Hi Megan, thank you for your kind words. I know here people sprinkle their goji berries on cereal bowls or add in granola bars. Traditionally, goji berries are most often used in savoury meat soups, teas or sweet dessert soups. We don’t often eat dried goji berries on its own. My feeling is you get more benefits out of the little berries when they are rehydrated again.
So many nutrient packed ingredients! You’ve been killing it with these healthy and healing recipes. Can’t wait to try this out.
Thank you Jean ☺️
linda spiker says
What a lovely soup! That color is very pretty!
I love all the healing herbs/mushrooms in this soup! So much more than just chicken noodle – this really heals! Thank you for sharing your special recipe!
I have some oxtail to use up, just need to head to the Chinese market for the mushrooms! Looks SO good!
Lindsey Dietz says
Never heard of codonopsis root, but its benefits sound amazing! What a nourishing soup!