Chinese herbal chicken soup based on Traditional Chinese Medicine formula “Si Wu Tang” is a classic well-being remedy for women. This herbal combination (Si Wu Tang, 四物汤) of angelica root, rehmannia, white peony root and Sichuan lovage root is famous for relieving PMS pains, replenishing blood, improving circulation and enhancing youth and beauty for women.
“Si Wu Tang” literally translates to “four-substance decoction” in English. The 4 substances refer to the 4 herbs in the formula. Herbal soup mixes are often cooked in meat soups in Chinese cuisine. I paired this PMS relief remedy with chicken soup for maximum nourishing quality and enhanced flavour.
Note that this herbal chicken soup has a strong medicinal taste. Ready to make this PMS relief soup remedy? Be prepared for a Chinese herbal soup that tastes more like medicine than others.
There is an important recognition in Chinese medicine that biologically women are prone to blood deficiency, blood stagnation and menstrual irregularity. As these characteristics are well studied in Traditional Chinese Medicine, many herbal remedies are designed to address female deficiencies. Among them “Si Wu Tang” is regarded as the 1st gynecology formula and used as the base of many other formulas targeted for a variety of women’s issues. This remedy can be traced back for over 1000 years in application.
Main Functions of “Si Wu Tang” (四物汤)
The reason “Si Wu Tang” formula is so highly regarded can be attributed to the balanced use of herbs, that not only nourish blood nut also Qi at the same time. While the remedy replenishes blood, it does not clot blood, like ejiao (阿胶), another popular blood strengthening supplement, does; while the remedy improves circulation, it generally won’t lead to excessive bleeding, like Tibetan red flower (藏红花) may as a famous blood invigorating herb. I don’t mean to say ejiao and Tibetan red flower are inferior, they just need to be used with more caution for the right conditions. On the other hand, “Si Wu Tang” is more of a middle-of-the-road tonic suitable for the average female population.
The point of “blood deficiency” that requires more nourishment is fairly easy to understand as female lose quite a lot of blood every month. “Blood stasis” and “Qi stagnation” on the other hand may not be a straight-forward concept to those aren’t familiar with Chinese medicine. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, illnesses are generally categorized by the root cause rather than symptoms. Stagnation in fact is a cause for a whole range of illnesses, most frequently present themselves as various pains. For example, painful PMS is often a symptom of blood stasis.
According to Root + Spring, the company that makes the herbal mix in my PMS relief herbal chicken soup, each of the herbs in the formula has special abilities.
Angelica Root (Dang Gui, 当归) – Highly valued for the treatment of a multitude of women’s illnesses. This root strengthens the blood, nourishes the female reproductive organs, regulates menstruation and alleviate period pains.
Rehmannia (Di Huang, 地黄) – Known as a longevity herb that nourishes a depleted Yin, rehmannia provides potent restorative, building properties that are beneficial for increasing fertility as well as sex drive. In addition, it strengthens tendons, bones and bone marrow.
White Peony Root (Bai Shao, 白芍) – Excellent at alleviating painful menstruation because of its analgesic and spasmolytic actions. The herb relaxes muscles, reduces painful menstruation, as well as lowers serum and free testosterone levels in women.
Sichuan Lovage Root (Chuan Xiong, 川芎) – Because it moves Qi, this herbs is widely used for various pain caused by blood stasis or qi stagnation. It unblocks blood vessels, regulates menstruation, disperses Qi stagnation and relieves pain.
Where to Buy & How to Use
Unless you are familiar with Chinese specialty herbal shops, these herbs aren’t easily available in Asian grocery stores individually. You may find pre-packaged “Si Wu Tang” soup mix sold in grocery stores, but they may not be of very high quality or the quantity may be small. I am glad to have come across Root + Spring, a company that makes this Just for Women Herbal Mix and delivers right to your home wherever you are. The herbs are clean and delicious, and of generous amount for a big batch of soup. One package of the Just for Women Herbal Mix I received contains 20g of Angelica root, 35g of rehmannia, 25g of white peony root, and 10g of Sichuan lovage root.
It’s important to note that you should not consume this soup remedy during menstruation or any serious bleeding, as well as during cold, flu or fever. Consult a TCM practitioner if you want to consume this soup during pregnancy. As this herbal formula promotes blood circulation, it may lead to more blood loss if used during an episode of bleeding. In addition, menstruation is female body’s natural way to detox. It’s a good idea to follow our natural biological rhyme – the nourishing and strengthening remedies should be used after the detox is complete. This remedy is of a warming and nourishing nature, thus not suitable during flu and fever.
After your period is over, you may consume 1 to 2 batches of this PMS relief herbal chicken soup over many days. Each batch of the herbal chicken soup can be divided up into 4 portions. If you feel digestive discomforts, or excessive heat from the soup, then reduce or stop the remedy. You may need a different ratio of this herbal mix, or require some tweaking with additional herbs from a TCM practitioner. Note that it isn’t uncommon to not have a fixed ratio for a herbal remedy – often times a herbalist adjusts the amount of each herb in order to suit different conditions. You may consume this soup remedy monthly or as needed.
Fun facts: Unlike the name “just for women” suggests, this herbal remedy can be used for men, as well as other conditions such as hives, etc. “Si Wu Tang” is well-known as a female remedy, because it’s the most popular application. My TCM doctor used to tell me stories and jokes about men taking female herbal remedies – it’s totally fine as long as they are used for the same causes such as blood deficiency, poor circulation, etc. Since I am not a doctor or a man, I can’t speak about how men should eat this herbal chicken soup. For now, keeping your man away from the herbal chicken soup, means more for yourselves, ladies!
PMS Relief Herbal Chicken Soup
- 2-3 slices angelica root
- 3 pieces rehmannia
- 12-15 slices white peony root
- 2-3 tbsp sichuan lovage root
- 1 Just for Women Herbal Mix by Root + Spring (See notes for where to buy)
- 1 organic free-run whole chicken (preferably old hen for the most nourishing and flavourful soup)
- 12 cups filtered water
- sea salt or honey to taste (optional)
- Rinse the herbs under clean running water briefly and set aside.
- I recommend blanching the whole chicken for a couple minutes in boiling water, discard the water and rinse the chicken. This will ensure the final chicken soup is clear without foams.
- Place the clean whole chicken and 12 cups of water in a large stock pot or slow cooker. The chicken should be mostly submerged under the water. If the chicken legs and feet are sticking out of the pot, flip the chicken upside down, so that the chicken legs and feet are underneath and weighed down.
- If you skipped step 2 of blanching the chicken, you will want to bring the chicken soup to a boil and skim the foams first, before adding the herbs.
- Add the rinsed herbs in the chicken soup, simmer all ingredients together for about 2 to 2.5 hours. You can expect the herbal chicken soup to turn black due to the herbs.
- You can eat the chicken separately or with the soup. I usually eat them separately. Discard cooked herbs.
- Divide the liquid up into 4 portions. Drink 1 portion on the first day, and save the other 3 portions in mason jars to be consumed on subsequent days.
- You may drink the herbal chicken broth as-is, or flavour with a spoon of honey or a pinch of salt, depending on your preference.
- You can get a pre-packaged herb mix for this soup remedy from Root + Spring.
- It's totally authentic to flavour Chinese herbal chicken soup with either honey or sea salt, and you don't need to use both. I prefer my herbal chicken soup plain, but enjoy them flavoured as well.
- This remedy is traditionally used at the finish of the period for up to 10 days to alleviate PMS discomforts and as a general tonic for women. See the "how to use" section for more details for usage and cautions.