Warm Your Heart with Gui Zhi

Gui Zhi sounds exotic, but I bet you would recognize it by its scent. Its English name is cinnamon twig, and it comes from a plant that is related to the cinnamon on your spice shelf.

In Chinese medicine, we categorize foods and herbs according to temperature, flavor, and the meridians they enter. Knowledge of these properties guides us when we are choosing remedies. Gui Zhi is classed as warm, which means that it expels cold and promotes circulation. Its flavor is sweet and acrid: sweet foods are tonifying and soothing, and acrid foods disperse accumulation and moisture. And the meridians it enters are Heart, Lung, and Bladder.

While Gui Zhi is useful for acute conditions of cold and accumulation, it is also an excellent constitutional. Classical Chinese medicine recognizes constitutional herbal types: an individual’s physical build, appearance, and symptoms gives us clues to which herbs would particularly benefit the patient. Dr. Huang Huang, author of Ten Key Formula Families in Chinese Medicine, states that Gui Zhi types tend to be thin, with fair skin and a spirited look in the eye. They sweat easily, are sensitive to cold, and show a tendency toward abdominal pain or muscle spasms.

porridge in orange bowl

If your body or spirit feels fatigued, or your hands and feet are frequently cold, Gui Zhi can help you, and here’s a recipe to try. It comes from The Book of Jook, by Bob Flaws. “Jook” means Chinese medicinal porridge, and in this case, it’s a mix of herbs and rice. Two of the other herbs are probably also familiar: Gan Jiang is ginger, and Dang Shen is ginseng. The last herb, Da Zao, is jujube, the Chinese date.

Gui Zhi, 6 g
Gan Jiang, 6 g
Dang Shen, 3 g
Da Zao, 8 pieces
white short grain rice, ½ cup
water, 4 cups
dried fruit, brown sugar, or honey

1. Place herbs in a cheesecloth or tea bag for easy removal after cooking. In a Crock Pot, add the rice, water, and herbs.
2. Set the Crock Pot to low and cook overnight (around 8 to 10 hours).
3. In the morning, the congee should look silky, as most of the rice has dissolved. Remove the herbs and discard.
4. Add dried fruit, brown sugar, or honey, if desired. Eat like oatmeal. Have for breakfast or as a snack.

We have all the herbs in stock, so if you would like to try making this, please let us know. One batch of herbs will cost $4.

We’re not quite done with winter, but Gui Zhi and friends will give you the warmth and courage to keep going!

[written by Kennedy]