It’s that time of year again. I’ll give you a hint. Cough, cough. Sneeze, sneeze. If you are one of the lucky healthy ones, you want to quarantine yourself from the outside world. When that isn’t possible, and for most of us it isn’t, the best you can do is wash your hands (a lot) and hope for the best.
On a recent flight back from Toronto I was surrounded by a plane full of people coughing. One was behind me, two were in front of me. I thought for sure I’d come down with something horrific by the time I gathered my bags and hopped into a cab. But so far, so good. I like to think it’s because of this little concoction I drink daily — ginger and honey turmeric tea.
Ginger and turmeric are rhizomes belonging to the Zingiberaceae botanical family and both are terribly good for you. Ginger is wonderful for treating all sorts of digestive issues, plus it has powerful anti-inflammatory compounds that help reduce pain. When fresh ginger is simmered for tea it acts as a diaphoretic, warming you from the inside out and encouraging perspiration so you can sweat away all of those pesky germs. Plus, it tastes good.
Fresh turmeric looks like a distant cousin to ginger, except when you slice it in half you can see how lovely and deep orange it is. With an earthy brightness when it comes to flavour, it also packs powerful health benefits. Curcumin, the compound responsible for that bright yellow hue that loves to stain countertops and clothing, has strong antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antifungal and antiviral properties. It is also great for your heart and brain, and it can help with joint pain and arthritis. So basically, consuming turmeric on a regular basis is not a bad idea.
Fresh turmeric can be found occasionally and bags of powdered turmeric are available at most grocery stores. I like to add it to curries and stir fries for extra punch, or else I will sprinkle it lightly on salads and blend it in smoothies. You can’t even tell it’s there.
My favourite way to get more turmeric in my life is to drink it in this tea. I like to make a double batch, then reheat it as I need it. Just bring a small pot of water to a boil, add the fun stuff: slices of fresh ginger, ground turmeric, half a cinnamon stick, a few whole cloves and peppercorns, and a pinch of salt.
Simmer it for just 10 minutes, then squeeze in juice from half a lemon. Strain it into a large mug if it’s just for you, or into 2 smaller mugs if you are sharing. Sweeten it with raw honey, which is great for soothing the throat and that incessant, nagging cough. The coconut oil may sound like a strange ingredient, but it helps move the turmeric throughout the body, not just the stomach. Same with the black pepper — adding something spicy to the turmeric helps increase its absorption into the body.
If turmeric is a new flavour for you, you may want to ease your way into it by just adding ½ tsp of it at first. The flavour does take some getting used to, but before you know it, you’ll be adding 1 tsp or maybe even more. It also loves to settle to the bottom of the mug, so you have to stir it around occasionally. I’ve adapted a “swirl and sip” method to drinking this tea, which I’m quite proud of, but there still is usually some turmeric left on the bottom of my cup. Just add a splash of hot water and sip the last bit like that. I hope this winter’s brew works the same magic on you as it does on me. To your health!
Ginger and Honey Turmeric Tea
2 ½ cups water
1 inch piece fresh ginger root, sliced
1 tsp ground turmeric OR 1 inch piece fresh turmeric, sliced
half a cinnamon stick
3 whole cloves
3 whole peppercorns
pinch sea salt
juice of half a lemon
raw, unpasteurized honey to taste
¼ tsp coconut oil or olive oil
lemon slices, for garnish
In a small saucepan, add the water and bring it to a boil. Stir in the ginger, turmeric, cinnamon stick, cloves, peppercorns and sea salt. Reduce heat and simmer the tea on medium-low for 10-12 minutes. Squeeze in the lemon juice. Strain the tea into 2 mugs (or 1 large mug). Add honey to taste. Stir in coconut oil. Garnish with a few lemon slices. Makes about 2 cups.