In honor of the Winter Solstice I'd like to share a simple and delicious tea recipe that is a perfect accompaniment to this seasonal dynamic. Just as on winter solstice we see the rebirth of the sun from the depth of winter, this warming yellow tea is like a burst of sunlight to warm us on a cold, dark day. Three golden and yellow ingredients-- ginger, lemon, and honey-- come together in a tea that is great for strengthening the immune system and warding of colds, and also for alleviating symptoms if a cold has already set in. I love that the colors of all the ingredients in this tea are yellow and golden; it really does evoke the sunlight we so often crave in the cold and dark of winter.
One of the few types of fruit that is in season in the winter (at least from where I'm writing) is lemon, and it's the perfect fruit for winter. Not only does it have a bright sunny flavor and aroma, lemon juice is also rich in Vitamin C-- one of the main vitamins that we need plenty of in order to strengthen our immune systems against winter viruses. One cup of lemon juice has a bout 180% of the recommended daily value for vitamin C. Lemon juice is also beneficial for the liver, and it balances the body to be more alkaline (much of our chronic illness comes from being too acidic).
Fresh ginger root is another heavy hitter in this tea. Also known as Sheng Jiang, fresh ginger is placed in the category of Chinese herbs called the "Release Exterior" herbs. In the ancient system of Chinese Medicine, when we get a cold or flu we see it as an external invasion of wind, either wind-cold or wind-heat depending on the symptoms. "Release exterior" herbs help to expel this external wind invasion (or externally-contracted virus, depending on which lens you're using). This is best done in the very early stages of a cold, before the wind penetrates deeper into the body. So if we are starting to have cold symptoms, and especially if we feel chilled at the onset, then we can take fresh ginger at the very first signs of sickness.
This tea can also be helpful when we have already gotten sick to alleviate symptoms and speed healing; for this I recommend adding a clove of fresh crushed garlic for it's antimicrobial properties. It might sound weird, but I personally think it tastes great in this tea, and for the healing properties of garlic, it's worth it. There's a reason they call garlic poor man's Penicillan! I have found garlic to be one of the best herbs for sinus congestion. Raw honey also has some antimicrobial properties, and its demulcent properties make it soothing to a cough or sore throat. You also can just drink this tea throughout the winter, even if you're not sick, to warm your body and strengthen your immune system. Enjoy!
Ginger-Lemon (and possibly garlic!) Tea (makes 2 servings):
Bring 2 cups of filtered water to boil and pour over 2-3 Tbsp. of fresh grated ginger that's in a cup or mason jar (if you are in full blown sick-mode you can also crush 1 clove of garlic into the tea and let it steep here as well). Allow the tea to steep, covered, for 15 minutes. Once it has steeped, strain using a small metal strainer (or you can simply leave the ginger and optional garlic in if you prefer). Add the juice from 1-2 lemons and 1 Tbsp of raw honey, and drink while still warm.
I am a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist with a Heart-centered practice in the Santa Cruz mountains. See my About page for more about me and the work I do.