Comfort in a cup

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Sitting by the window at the kitchen table while sipping a cup of hot ginger tea, waiting for the first soft colors to begin painting the eastern sky with the fresh hope and promise of the beginning of a new day, I’m pondering which comfort foods to start my family’s day with. As the tea warms my throat (tickled by all the current high mold count which is above the 5,000 mark) I’m also thinking of the friends and neighbors who have called my sweet Mama this week asking for her “recipe.”

For those of you who immediately remembered the Baldwin sisters’ “recipe” from The Waltons TV show, let me bring you back from those nostalgic days to the present day. One cup of ginger tea is quickly made with one inch peeled and grated ginger root boiled in one cup of water. (I boil mine in a small iron skillet.) Strain the mixture into a mug and add one half of a fresh squeezed lemon and a teaspoon of local honey for pure sipping comfort and pleasure.  If you don’t have fresh ingredients on hand, you may use pre-grated ginger or ginger crystals and lemon juice from the grocery store. Mmmm.

Charl’s Ginger Tea

It’s been helpful to keep this recipe on hand in the refrigerator (up to two weeks at a time). We fill a 12-ounce Mason jar with fresh lemon slices (washed and sliced) and two inches of freshly grated ginger (washed, peeled and grated) then slowly drizzle the honey over the lemon and ginger until the jar is filled. Just stir a tablespoon (more or less as you prefer) into a cup of hot water to make a tea. Some people we know just swallow a teaspoonful of this mixture as a cough syrup, but we find the hot tea mixture soothes our tight throat muscles by warming the esophagus and relaxing the bronchial tube.

How does it work? Hippocrates has been quoted, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Lots of research has been collected over the years as people have wondered about the science behind many traditional remedies around the world. In a nutshell, ginger has many health benefits, including Vitamin C and antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties to strengthen the immune system, as well as anti-nausea properties and amino acids that aid digestion and reduce bloating and enhance nutrient absorption. Lemons are well known for their high Vitamin C content and supplies Vitamin A and multiple B Vitamins as well as calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, and manganese. Lemons and honey are sources for calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, sodium, zinc and copper. Vitamin C is an anti-oxidant that researchers say enhances iron absorption, boosts the immune system, and reduces the risk of asthma. Honey is an additional source of selenium and fluoride, but people who are allergic to various pollens may find honey increases their symptoms and may need to avoid it.  Agave, xylitol, or stevia may be better tolerated if you want a sweetener to offset the strong flavors of lemon and ginger. Personally, I prefer to mix our tea with just filtered water and enjoy it just as well. It is a welcome caffeine-free alternative to coffee in the morning in our home. (Here some of the many sources providing interesting analyses of the food we consume: http://nutritiondata.self.com and  http://www.aicr.org)

Although savory by itself, many people add flavor and claim health benefits to the basic recipe by including at least one of the following: turmeric and or cinnamon (claim anti-oxidants and hormone effects, supposed to help balance blood sugar and lower heart disease risks), peppermint oil (may inhibit histamine release to improve hay fever and inflammation and to act as a decongestant; also used to improve various stomach digestive complaints), cayenne pepper (found in hot sauce or Tobasco sauce, may be added as a decongestant; it contains Vitamins C and A), echinacea (used as an anti-imflammatory, Vitamins A, C to boost the immune system, includes calcium and iron).

A friend and I were recently sharing about our current preparations of homemade decorations and homemade remedies and treats, so I wanted to share a couple of ideas that you might enjoy making and sharing with your loved ones.

Besides the above mentioned tea (which looks pretty in a clear jar with a brightly colored gingham ribbon tied around it and a tag with instructions for use), homemade cough drops can be poured into candy (or lollipop) molds, then gifted in a decorated jar with a tag.  Besides listing the ingredients and instructions, tags can become part of the overall decoration and as festive as you wish.

There are many recipes online, so here are some sources for cough drops: http://wellnessmama.com/7719/herbal-cough-drops and http://www.thankyourbody.com/recipe-homemade-honey-lemon-cough-drops-ginger)

I look forward to swapping more ideas and recipes with you in the comments below!

Wishing you good health, Charl Rae Cobb

The information shared in this article is not meant to diagnose nor substitute physician instructions or treatments.

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