It may be the last leg of winter, but there are a lot of people out there (at least in Guelph) fighting off that final winter bug. My long-time favourite tea for when I’m feeling under the weather or when I’m simply craving a healthy warming brew is a ginger decoction with cinnamon and a hint of cayenne. Recently I threw in some sage leaves to boost the tea’s antiviral and bacterial activity, and to my surprise, the tea was even tastier than before.
Tea vs. Decoction
The nerd in me wants to take you on an educational tangent to clarify that this tea is a decoction, a common way of preparing a root based beverage. A decoction means the roots, seeds or bark are placed in water that is left on the stove and simmered for a while. Infusions, commonly made with flowers, leaves, and soft stems, is the tea most are familiar with, in which hot water is poured over an herb mixture and allowed to steep in water that is no longer being heated.
What is in the tea?
The herbs in this tasty decoction have been chosen for their taste, their synergistic warming and flu-fighting actions, and for symptom relief.
Ginger: Famous for use in poor digestion, ginger is a great remedy for any abdominal pain, bloating, digestion, nausea, or vomiting. Its anti-inflammatory action can help with any joint or muscle pain or even migraines. And to top it all off, ginger is a potent antimicrobial and antiseptic herb, meaning it has the ability to help fight off any nasty viral, bacterial, or fungal infection your immune system may or may not be struggling with.
Cinnamon: Great for chills and suboptimal circulation, cinnamon is well known for its ability to increase our metabolism of glucose. In other words, cinnamon can decrease blood glucose levels in some people. It also has antimicrobial properties (a fancy word for antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal) and can be used for respiratory conditions, like a cough or a sore throat.
Cayenne: Another warming circulatory stimulant, cayenne is a common ingredient in heating topical applications for sore muscles and joints. Its thinning mucus action has value in conditions involving lung or sinus congestion, such as bronchitis, sinus congestion, or a runny nose.
Sage: Like ginger and cinnamon, sage also has a powerful antimicrobial action that can be incredibly valuable at any stage of a cold or flu. Sage is commonly used for upper respiratory tract infections such as a sore throat (laryngitis or pharyngitis). Nausea and digestive complaints can also see relief from some delicious sage tea. Interesting side note: sage is considered a nootropic, meaning that it has the action of improving memory in some individuals.
Warming flu-busting decoction
- 4 litres water
- 1 thumb of ginger
- 1 cinnamon stick
- Pinch of cayenne
- 4-5 sage leaves
- Honey to taste
- Heat the water in a large pot on high.
- While waiting, peel and cut the ginger into approximately 2 cm slices. I prefer to keep my ginger in the freezer, as it peels, cuts, and can be grated with ease when frozen.
- Add cinnamon and cayenne.
- Cover once the water starts boiling, cover, and simmer decoction for about 40-45 minutes.
- Turn off heat, and add sage leaves for 10 minutes.
The tea is now ready to serve (I like using a ladle) and can be left on the stove for reheating later that day. If adding honey, I do so when I portion out a mug. Any leftover can be stored in jars and refrigerated for up to 5 days.
Remember to stay warm, cover your neck with a scarf, stay hydrated and get plenty of sleep. Wishing you all strength for these last few weeks, there's sunshine and warmth in our near future!
Please note: all material and information contained in this post is for educational purposes only and does not mean to replace or augment any advice or consultation provided by a licensed health care practitioner or physician.
NHPAssist (2014). http://www.nhpassist.com/