Ginger Soup: How Memories of My Mother Still Cure Me

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A few years ago, I'd been looking forward to our family trip to Los Cabos, Mexico with my parents and sister, Nancy. Just three days into the week-long vacation, I began to experience severe flu-like symptoms. I could not get out of bed because of constant nausea, headaches, total body aches, and severe runny nose and congestion. I figured I was in for a couple of days of rest and then I would be good as new. However, it did not get better, but progressively worse.

We returned home after seven days. By then, I was barely able to get up to go to work. Something was horribly wrong. My gut stopped working. I had never felt so ill in my life. I wanted to throw up constantly, and I could not stop burping. If I even took a sip of water or ate a single bite of any food, the nausea was intolerable. I became severely dehydrated such that I remember performing one tonsillectomy surgery a week later, and had to ask my anesthesia colleagues to give me intravenous fluid since I had stopped making urine for over 20 hours. After two liters of IV fluids, I finally arranged to see an internal medicine doctor. We ran lots of tests and checked my blood. The only abnormality was my cortisol level, which was slightly low.

The doctor and I both believed I had what is called post-viral ileus. This is a rare condition when your gut stops working as a result or complication of experiencing the flu or a viral illness. The problem was no one could tell me how to fix it. I missed work and cancelled my participation in an annual department trip, during which I was suppose to give a presentation. I felt hopeless because I simply lay in bed wondering about every possibility of what was wrong with me. I even underwent an EGD (esophagogastroduodenoscopy) or scope of my swallowing tube and stomach to see if there was cancer or some horrible disease. The scope was normal, yet I knew I was still very sick. Out of sheer desperation, a voice within me told me clearly that if my mother was still alive, I knew exactly what she would do. She would go into the kitchen and make clear chicken ginger soup.

That is exactly what I did.

I bought fresh ginger root (in the produce section of the grocery store), organic chicken cut into two to three inch pieces, and some prepared chicken broth. I mixed three cups of water with two cups chicken broth, added three or four pieces of chicken meat with bone, and put in six to seven large, eighth inch slices of ginger into the broth. My mother was right there with me that night, I felt her spirit as I drank this soup, spoonful by spoonful. I was able to keep it down. I stilled burped, but did not throw up.

For the next three to four weeks, I ate and drank almost nothing but this soup twice a day. Slowly after the first week, I was able to eat some plain rice and a few bites of chicken meat. It took a full month for me to recover. I had further testing done for my initially abnormal blood work, which, thankfully, was normal.

Ginger is the one of the most potent anti-inflammatory foods in nature. The Chinese also believe that it stimulates the circulation and blood flow. When western medicine failed me, I am thankful I was able to tap into my Chinese heritage and culture to cure myself.

Hands slicing ginger on a cutting board with a large knife

This recipe serves 4.


  • 1 organic chicken, ask butcher to chop into 3 inch pieces (may substitute with a couple of drum sticks or bone in skinless thighs)
  • 1 large 3 inch piece of fresh ginger root
  • 2 cups of chicken broth
  • 3 cups of water


Add water and broth into sauce pan, add chicken pieces. Peel ginger root then cut into eighth inch slices. Add ginger to broth. Bring to boil, cover and simmer for one hour. Add salt to taste. Enjoy!

Hands placing pieces of ginger in a pot on the stove


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  • Thank you Dr Wei for the recipe, I will make this delicious soup!!

    Nivia Ortiz on

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