Cue last April: Dave and I were on a quick trip to Turkey, on assignment with a packed itinerary that would require a lot of driving, marketing, interviewing, and eating. There would be no down time, and not much sleep either.
Around noon of our first day Dave felt a cold-foretelling tickle in the back of his throat. By six in the evening I was feeling it too, along with a headache. I had a 6am Skype appointment the next morning, and we were to be out the door by 7.
So that night, when we got to our kitchenette-equipped room, I dug deep into our duffel bag and pulled out something we rarely travel without: fresh ginger and turmeric. I washed and sliced the roots, boiled them for 20 minutes with a green tea bag, strained 4 cups of orange liquid and poured it into two mugs. We drank every drop and went to bed. We woke up. No colds.
It wasn't the first time, nor the last time, that we've relied on turmeric to steer us clear of illness. A few years back I began to hear of turmeric's good-for-you properties. (Read about turmeric's cancer-fighting, anti-inflammatory, and other health benefits here and here.) And five years ago we learned that in central Vietnam slices of candied turmeric are eaten to alleviate coughing and sore throat.
Two years ago, while working on a Thailand food story, I interviewed an Australian medical doctor-Cambridge University professor-world authority on southeast Asian herbal remedies. He talked a lot about turmeric -- about how Indians especially know that it is so good for our bodies in so many ways.
"You should be including plenty of turmeric in your diet. You're just crazy not to," he said.
I told Dave, who had gotten hooked on green tea when we lived in China in the mid-eighties. (By now we should all be aware of green tea's anti-oxident properties.) Dave thought, why not combine these two natural powerhouses? And so he started experimenting with tea infusions.
This recipe is the result: turmeric, ginger (also an anti-oxidant, with other benefits), lemongrass and black peppercorn-infused green tea. Black pepper is said to enhance the body's ability to absorb turmeric's good stuff. Lemongrass is for flavor (and can be omitted if you like), but it also has beneficial properties.
This is our go-to drink during the day, when we're both sitting at our computers. Turmeric's mild astringency makes it refreshing; the ginger and black peppercorns give it a little zing. We like it iced, but you can drink it hot. Add a little sweetness if you like -- preferably with something other than processed cane sugar (palm or muscovado, honey or agave nectar would work). We each drink probably 2-3 glasses a day.
There is a lot to be said for the power of the mind: if you believe you won't get sick you may not, and the opposite can hold true as well. But I don't think I've come down with a single cold since we started drinking Dave's miracle tea 1.5 or 2 years ago. If I feel something coming on I double up on my intake. And so far, I've pushed the yuckies back every single time.
It's getting to be cold and flu season in the USA and surrounds. Boil up a batch. What have you got to lose?
Dave's Miracle Tea
These amounts are guidelines. If you love ginger, for instance, add more. But you need the turmeric. Both ginger and turmeric can be sliced, frozen and kept to use later.
The tea is strained, so you can substitue powdered ginger for fresh. Just make sure your powdered turmeric isn't too old (it shoud have a strong aroma). The general conversion formula for fresh to dried turmeric is 1 inch fresh root = 1/2 tsp. dried powdered.
In our experience this tea will keep for up to 3 weeks in the fridge. But since you should be drinking it every day, you won't have it around for that long.
1/3 cup loose green tea leaves (preferably Chinese)
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns