I don’t know about you, but as soon as the first touch of fall is in the air, I find such nurturing satisfaction in a warm cup of delicious herbal tea. And, this year, I’m particularly satisfied because I just came across an organic blend of many of my favorite things: turmeric, ginger, licorice root, lemon grass, orange peel, and essential oil of lemon. I found this healthful mix at Arogya, a wonderful holistic health center and tea specialty shop in Westport, CT where I’m also doing some part-time administrative work.
It’s not just the taste of this tea that excites me, but the fact it’s an ideal healing tonic.
This is the first time I’ve found a tea that includes turmeric, a yellow spice derived from the Zingiberaceae perennial plant of the ginger family. If you’ve ever seen turmeric root in it’s natural form, it looks very much like ginger but with orangey-yellow flesh. Considered a “miracle” spice for its exceptional anti-inflammatory qualities, turmeric has been used in the Indian Ayurvedic medicine system for thousands of years. It’s also commonly used as a dye because of its dynamic color. Don’t worry – it won’t stain your teeth. In fact, while it might seem counter-intuitive, studies suggest turmeric can actually help whiten your teeth.
Turmeric’s active ingredient, curcumin, has powerful anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. There is growing evidence that turmeric also helps prevent Alzheimer’s disease and various cancers. Additionally, it’s been found to help prevent and manage arthritis. This time of year, I find turmeric effectively minimizes slight inflammation and irritation I experience in my throat due to allergies and changes in the weather. It’s also excellent to gargle with salt and warm water to combat a sore throat.
Then there is ginger, which is the rhizome of the plant Zingiber officinale.
Originally cultivated in South Asia, ginger is well known for its ability to aid digestion and alleviate nausea. It’s even been shown to help pregnant women suffering from morning sickness (before taking any supplement while pregnant, ask your doctor!). Like turmeric, the spice has anti-inflammatory properties and can help alleviate pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Sipping ginger tea promotes warmth in the upper respiratory tract and, as a result, can offer cold and flu relief. It’s also natural and effective mouth freshener.
One precautionary note: If you have gallstones, stay away from ginger as it can promote the production of bile.
Another powerful herbal in this tea is lemongrass, or Cymbopogon citratus, a tall perennial grass native to India and tropical Asia. Commonly used in cooking, lemongrass is also used in holistic medicine to treat digestive tract spasms, stomachaches, high blood pressure, achy joints, colds, fevers, and exhaustion. It has a crisp, cooling essence and acts a mild astringent with antifungal qualities. Studies suggest it might help prevent the growth of some bacteria and yeast. Lemongrass oil has been used since ancient times as a natural pesticide and preservative. It’s closely related to Citronella (Cymbopogon nardus), which is commonly used as a natural insect repellent.
Then there is that distinctly flavored licorice root. While licorice roots flavor and scent is reminiscent of anise or fennel, it has no botanical relation. It comes from the root of Glycyrrhiza glabra, which is native to Europe and parts of Asia. There is a lot more to write about licorice and the powerful glycyrrhizin oil that can be extracted from the root by boiling it. Did you know that glycyrrhizin is 30-40 times sweet than sucrose? A more detailed profile of licorice will have to be for another blog!
In brief, the steeped root can act as a soothing agent and expectorant, making it ideal for reducing phlegm and alleviating other upper-respiratory irritation. It can definitely soothe a sore throat!