Here is a great ginger root tea recipe for cold weather in Winter or Late Autumn.
A basic principle in Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda is that life is a warm process. Its a process of warm transformation of cold air and raw food stuffs into warm, 98.5 degree blood and, in the stomach, a digestive soup that is 101 degrees, even warmer than the body temp overall. This basis of life, the transformation of air, food, and sleep into the energy of life is a process involving gas exchanges, maceration, chemical lysis, etc. It is a process that takes place in the presence of heat and that requires heat to be accomplished.
This is why in Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda we eschew completely ice cold beverages and cold food from the fridge. Its also why for cold dry Vatta especially, and for cold wet Kapha to a lesser extent, raw foods, which are innately cooling with a few exceptions (it takes heat from your body to break down) are avoided. Raw foods are light and dry which makes them even a worse choices or Vata, to a lessor extent in summer.
There is also the general principle in Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic Medicine that when the body is attacked from the outside by cold, then we warm the body. When the body is attacked by excessive heat, we cool the body (for example drinking coconut water or eating watermelon in hot weather), when the body is attacked by Cold, wet weather we warm and dry (with drying spices and by avoiding rich food), and when the weather is dry we eat more moisturizing foods, like avocado and oily fish.
One of the fastest ways to warm up the body is hot tea with herbs and spices that are fundamentally warming to the interior of the body. This is good for the kind of cold that develops because the weather is cold or you have been sitting a long time or its morning.
But if you have a chill because you were outside (called Wind-Cold in Chinese Medicine) then often the surface of the body (meaning the skin and the superficial layers of the fascia and muscles) and the Lungs are colder than the core, and we want to “chase away” that cold from the surface with herbs from the category Spicy Warm Surface relievers in Chinese Medicine. These are herbs whose heat is directed more to the surface than the core, and may also make you sweat by stimulating the surface capillary action.
In western herbology these are called “stimulating diaphoretics.” As they warm the Lungs as well as the Stomach they are commonly used for colds, allergies, and asthma. The premier medical herb in this category is Ma Huang/Radix Ephedra. This should be used with caution and an awareness of its side affects that are tempered by the other herbs in the prescriptions you will find Ma huang in. It is never used in high doses alone, nor is it or has it ever been used for “energy.” That is abuse.
The premier herb for very very safe kitchen use out of this category is fresh ginger root. Fresh ginger root (zingiberis officials), as opposed to dried ginger, chases cold from the surface of the body, from the Lungs and Stomach, which is why it is also a great digestive herb, useful if you overate or ate something cold, like frozen yogurt. It is also used for nausea, though i find dry ginger root to me more effective there, and will require large amounts. Because it helps warm the overall circulation it is an excellent herb to use all winter as a tea or condiment in cooking. It is also an excellent herb to take during menstrual bleeding for the same reason–it warms the uterine circulation, and most menstrual pain is due to cold.
Now, Dec 13 is late autumn in San Diego, transitioning into early winter which begins around solstice. (In colder climates early winter may come earlier.) Late autumn and early winter are the time of year in which terrestrial and celestial Vatta predominates, because it is cold, relatively dry still, and the nights are long and days short. A good time for warming, moistening foods like what we heat at Thanksgiving and Christmas, because Vatta is cold and dry.
Recently it was quite cold and I walked to my friend’s house and then we went out again and walked together in the cold, dry night air, so when we came back in we put on a small kettle and I placed in the tea pot
Fresh Ginger Slices, 5
Cassia Twig 1 inch, broken
Ginger Powder, 1 tsp
Cinnamon Powder ½ tsp
Cumin Seed ¾ tsp
Thyme ½ tsp
Black peppercorn 5
and then poured in about 2 cups of water just off the boil.
At first glance this may seem like an odd thing, to add cumin seed to tea. But cumin is really a mild and adaptable herb, used mostly in cooking, but found in Dr. Wickeramasinghe’s tea that I have blogged on elsewhere. It goes quite well as a tea herb along with ginger clove and cinnamon. Ajwain is what I really wanted, but she did not have any, so really i was substituting, in part because my digestion was also not feeling quite up to par, I was a little too full from my previous meal.
Thyme may also seem unusual for tea, but not really. When I was in Crete there was for sale everywhere a kind of wild Thyme that is unique to Kreta called “Dittany.” Any of our culinary thymes are in the ball park of Dittany, which the Cretans drink alone or with wild sage, mint and lemon verbena. You can get Dittany online and make a tea with equal amounts of each.. Of course they make all kinds of fantastic claims about it, but its general principle is to “restore life by warming.”
Dittany, or our regular culinary Thyme in its stead are excellent herbs for winter, as they have an expectorant effect, relieves cough and spasms, and is antibacterial. They also warm the gut and stimulate Agni/digestive fire, and even have a diuretic effect, which my be why the Cretans us it for bladder infections, too. It stimulates Agni in the gut and lungs. Its surprisingly good with tea.
I allowed the spices to steep for ten minutes, strained out the tea, and added more hot water to use them again a second time.
Each time I added:
Raw Honey, 1 tsp
Honey is moistening to the lungs and helps to relieve cough and protect delicate bronchial and pulmonary mucosa from the ravages of the dryness that comes from both cold weather outside, and internal heat from lung infections inside. Honey in tea is excellent for Vatta as honey is moistening and warming and sweet, all of which pacify Vatta. Sweet pacifies Pitta, too, but honey, which is considered deeply warming (think of all that hot bumble bee energy that made that honey, all that aerobic activity, from a bug containing venom) is the one sweet that Pittas should avoid. Avoid does not mean never, it means what it says, avoid, not consumed regularly. If you are a Pitta Vatta and its Vatta season and you got cold and have some dryness in your lungs with a dry cough, by all means, have honey in your tea. But if its summer and you have a rash, don’t.
Honey should never be cooked or heated beyond what it takes to dissolve it into your tea. Ayurveda considers honey to be a fine medicine that takes the energy of other medicines to the deepest layers of the tissues. That is why you see raw honey a lot in both Ayurvedic and Tibetan herbal pills. Raw honey. Cooked honey is considered poison that, guess what, penetrates to the deepest layers of the tissues.
The above kind of spicy warm teas and its many variants (cardamom, saffron, fennel, long pepper) is excellent drunk regularly in autumn and winter if you are prone to colds and wet kinds of cough and allergies with lots of clear or white discharge. It can also be excellent for folk with chronic sinus infections.
Caution: Be careful with spicy hot teas if you have a dry cough or are prone to the gamut of Pitta issues such as heartburn or red type eczema. In that case I would add some heated goat’s or cow’s milk for balance.
Let me know what you think about this tea blend!
About the wild thyme (Dittany, Dictami, Diktamos) of Crete, the following is said
“Disinfectant especially for the broncho-pulmonary system, expectorant; strengthens the immune system, purifying. Bactericidal activity (typhus, meningococci, diphteric bacteria, staphylococci). “
And here is a You Tube with images of the Dittany plant in its beautiful natural setting on the island of Kreta (Crete in English). http://http://youtu.be/rkoiOd35u90
Happy Winter Solstice!
copyright eyton shalom, december 2013 all rights reserved use with permission