“Let food be your medicine.” — Hippocrates

I founded the East West Free Natural Health Clinic in Santa Cruz, California, in July 2014. It consists of a group of students, herbalists, nurses, acupuncturists, homeopaths, body workers and a chiropractor who volunteer their services two Saturday mornings each month for a period of two to three hours completely free of charge. This uniquely includes dispensing herbal formulas in various forms, also free of charge.

We began treating people at the local homeless centers. About two years ago we were offered a permanent, ongoing place to operate at a city-wide charitable organization called Mountain Community Resource Center. This enabled us to store our now quite extensive herbal dispensary, tables, white coats, patient files and various supplies in a room designated for that purpose. This was a big deal, as we no longer needed to haul these things back and forth every time we held clinic and we can easily set up and break down the clinic space within 20 to 30 minutes. Instead of our needing to contact each other regarding our attendance, we use a free online Doodle poll program to inform whether we are able to attend each pre-determined clinic date.

This whole operation involves some small financial contribution mostly by me of herbs, products and other supplies. Significant contributions have also been forthcoming from manufacturers such as Planetary Herb Formulas (Threshold), different practitioners who donated their expired formulas, and other herb manufacturers. The result is a large inventory of products that we are able to freely dispense to our clients.

Patients sign a full open disclosure statement and the non-licensed practitioners work legally under the California Health Freedom Act (https://www.cga.ct.gov/2013/rpt/2013-R-0337.htm). Similar acts allowing non-licensed practitioners to practice are available in a select number of states in other parts of the country. This enable graduates and students of the East West Herb School to practice under guidance of Michael and Lesley Tierra. However, most of our practitioners are licensed in their field.

We Won the Green Heart Award!

Recently after five years of practice, the East West Natural Health Clinic was presented with the Green Heart Award by Mountain Community Resources, which is a part of the larger program Community Bridges in Santa Cruz. They provide a child and adult care food program, a women, infants and children program, meals on wheels for seniors, and more. We were honored as Green Heart Award Winners on Oct. 25 at their annual fundraiser banquet.

Kichari: Soup of the Day

At a recent Saturday morning herb clinic I awoke early and decided to make a big pot of delicious herbal soup to dispense to our clients. It is based on the famous kichari recipe which is a mainstay of Ayurvedic healing.

The basic recipe for kichari is as follows:

8 c water

1 1/2 c white basmati rice

1/2 cup yellow split mung beans or presoaked green mung beans

1 tsp powdered rock salt

1 teaspoon of powdered turmeric

1 teaspoon of powdered coriander

1 teaspoon of Powdered cumin

½ teaspoon of black pepper

2 tbsp (or more) of ghee (clarified butter)

Bring the water to a boil in a large, stainless steel pot (never use aluminum or a water soluble metal when preparing food). Wash the rice and beans and add to the boiling water, along with the salt. If you are using white rice and yellow split mung beans these will cook quickly together. Cover and simmer on medium-low heat for 25 or longer minutes.

To this you can add some vegetables such as carrots, and some Chinese herbs such as jujube dates, astragalus root, codonopsis root, black jelly mushrooms, etc. Bring to a boil and cook with the rice and means. You might pre-wrap the ‘rooty’ herbs such as astragalus and codonopsis so these can be easily removed after everything is cooked. Jujube dates have a delicious Qi tonic sweet flavor and the pits are more easily removed after they are boiled. Black fungus, also called “wood fungus” and in Chinese “mu’er,” is quite chewy. I always keep a bag of these in the kitchen to add to various dishes because they add such powerful nutritional value. I first wrapped these in cheese cloth so after cooking I could remove and chop them into smaller pieces to add back into the soup.

The thickness of this soup can be adjusted depending on the amount of ingredients used. I prefer it about medium thickness.

Next, in a wok or skillet heat and melt the ghee and add the powdered spices. It takes little more than a minute or two until the delicious aroma, so familiar to those who love Indian food, wafts through the kitchen. If you decide to include onions or other vegetables to the basic kichari recipe, be sure to sauté these before adding the spices. Take care not to burn the spices.

Pour the rice and bean soup into the ghee mixture and voila! You have made kichari.

Another tasty option that boost the protein content of kichari is to stir in some fresh yogurt when serving.

Once you have assembled all of the ingredients, making kichari is very simple. It took me little more than 45 to n hour minutes to make a big pot for the free clinic. Most of this is waiting for the rice and beans to cook.

For this particular occasion, I decided to increase the potency of my kichari with a few added ingredients. Since I seldom precisely measure out ingredient when make kichari I will just list them beginning with the ingredients of kichari (see recipe above):

  1. Green and/or hulled mung beans
  2. White and/or brown basmati rice
  3. Turmeric powder
  4. Cumin powder
  5. Coriander powder
  6. Fresh ginger
  7. Black pepper
  8. salt
  9. Ghee (clarified butter)
  10. Chinese astragalus root
  11. Jujube dates boiled and pit removed
  12. Black mushrooms finely chopped after reconstituting (
  13. carrots
  14. Onion
  15. Fresh kale

Of course, you can be inventive and create your own variations based on kichari but this was my ‘soup of the day’ and it turned out to be quite delicious and was enjoyed by all including the volunteer practitioners of the East West Natural Health Clinic, many of whom travel 70 miles to participate in the Saturday morning clinics.

Leave a Reply