Herbal Drinks For Winter Health
BY KITT WALSH
It seems inevitable. The minute it turns cold, I come down with the first winter bronchial crud (helped no doubt by sitting amidst all the tiny germ carriers at my granddaughter’s Story Time) and while most of these episodes don’t require a doctor’s visit, turning to Mother Nature at these times is comforting. As the winter winds howl in much of the country, hot herbal drinks chase the chill and improve your health.
What is an herbal tea?
Not actually “tea” at all, herbal tea is an infusion of seeds, roots, bark and leaves steeped in hot water. The ingredients have benefits themselves and the aromatherapy aspect of them will help lift your mood on the stormiest of days.
A word about brewing: Put two teaspoons of loose herbs in a cup filled with boiling water (or buy fillable tea bags from your health food store.) Cover and let steep for a few minutes. Strain and drink three or four times daily as needed—or make a potful, but do as the old Irish do, swirl hot water in and out of the teapot first and keep the pot under a covering “a cozy” to keep it nice and warm, first sip to last.
Also the use of “warming herbs” isn’t just a phrase. Herbs classified as “warming” actually increases your blood flow and cause you to feel warmer. Some classic warming herbs are cayenne, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger and garlic. Here’s some recipes with these and other good-for-you ingredients:
Lemon & Honey Tea
An old favorite for a sore throat.
Squeeze 1/2 of a real lemon into the cup with 2 tsp. of honey (organic is best) and 8 oz of boiling water. This is full of antioxidants and the honey helps sooth the scratchiest of throats.
Crumble 2 tsps. of dried leaves into your tea ball and steep in hot water for 3-4 minutes. Sweeten to taste. This is a tried-and-true immune booster and a time-honored herbal remedy for colds.
Lemon & Lavender Tea
Put a few tablespoons of dried lavender blossoms (nature’s antibiotic) into a tea ball and steep in hot water with a sliced lemon.
Elderberry (or Pomegranate) Tea
Either of these ingredients tied into a cheesecloth pouch and stepped makes a lovely colorful seasonal tea that is antiviral and helps fight the common cold.
Ginger and Green Tea
Mix the warming action of ginger with the antioxidant properties of any classic green tea and you’ll be doing your low resistance a favor in winter months. Ginger is also great for an upset stomach. Make fresh ginger tea by simmering a piece of ginger root on the stove for 10 to 15 minutes—add fresh lemon juice and honey when you have a cold for a powerful germ-fighting combination.
Mulled Apple Cider with Pomegranate
Buy up the last of the seasonal cider from the nearest farm stand and heat it slowly with a halved pomegranate in it. Throw in a cheesecloth bag with thyme, rosemary and a bay leaf, let it steep and serve warm.
Chili Pepper Hot Chocolate
Yes, dark chocolate is good for you! Mixed with chili peppers that support your metabolism, they can get your blood moving and help you shake off the winter blues or the lingering effects of a bad cold. Using a double boiler, melt a few squares of dark chocolate, add honey (or unprocessed sugar) to taste, along with a pinch or two of dried chili pepper (experiment with how much you like–you can always add more) and mix well with heated soy (or regular) milk.
Peppermint & Cinnamon Hot Chocolate
Follow the directions above but substitute a few drops of peppermint oil for the chili pepper and stir with a cinnamon stick.
Two exotic “kitchen sink” recipes”:
Mix crushed cranberries, a pinch of cayenne, a few drops of lemon oil, and a teaspoon of red chiles and dried hibiscus flowers. Steep for a few minutes, then strain and drink. This mix is sure to warm you, heart and soul.
Or take one from Native Americans: Mix equal parts slippery elm bark, rhubarb root, sorrel and burdock root. Put in a cheesecloth bag and steep to make a whole pot. Meditate on spiritual matters while sipping this one, willing your body to get well and heal itself.
Peter Rabbit’s Mom knew what she was doing when she prescribed chamomile tea to her baby bunnies. Steep a few teaspoons of flowers in a tea ball, especially if you have bronchial trouble or a cough. For a sore throat, gargle with the liquid.
This winter, stay warm, inside and out, and remember, being cozy is a state of mind.