Now that the cold season is upon us, my wife and I engage in a simple tea ritual every morning. We make Indian chai sweetened with a little honey. We start our simple and tasty ritual by filling a pot with about one liter of water to which we add the following spices: fresh ginger (about 1-2 inches of fresh ginger cut into small pieces), 1 tsp fennel, ¼ tsp black pepper, 1 tsp crushed cardamom seeds, 1 crushed cinnamon stick, ½ tsp nutmeg powder, 5-8 whole cloves, and two star anise pods.
When the tea boils, we let it simmer for about five minutes and then steep for another five minutes. By that time, all the flavors and medicinal qualities of the herbs have turned into a most healing, aromatic tea. Then we pour this hot, appetizing assembly of herbs into a large cup over tea bags of either rooibos or black tea leaves, caffeinated or non-caffeinated. You may add cream, milk, coconut, or soy milk if desired.
We drink this tea several times a day these days, not only because it tastes great, but also because it keeps us warm, and it also improves our digestion. Another great quality of this tea is that it is full of immune system strengthening anti-oxidants. Not only that, it also has anti-viral qualities which helps keep the cold bugs from taking over our lives in the winter season.
According to Ayurvedic medicine, these spices are considered “sattvic,” or calming, vitalizing and mentally clarifying. A cup of chai is therefore not only medicinal for the body but also the perfect mental and emotional antidote to the stresses of modern life.
Yes, a cup of chai (or more) a day will definitely keep the doctor at bay. This fragrant brew of super-herbs literally contains a whole medicine cabinet of healing plants. Here is a short list of some of Indian chai’s medicinal qualities:
Cinnamon is an effective herb for strengthening and harmonizing the flow of circulation and helps regulate blood sugar levels, increase circulation and breathing capacity, brings awareness and vitality, and reduces fatigue. Good for treating colds, sinus infection, and bronchitis.
Cardamom benefit the lungs, kidneys, and heart. It is also a mood elevator.
Cloves has the highest ORAC score, or anti-oxidant quality, of any herb or food known to science, thus it’s a great aid in fighting viral infections of any kind. In addition, cloves have pain-relieving and antiseptic attributes. Like pepper and ginger, clove is also used to synergistically increase the potency of other herbal blends. Effective in treating colds and coughs.
Widely used to support circulation and metabolism, black pepper can help to alleviate chronic coldness. It helps clear toxins from the colon (but should not be used by those suffering from inflammation, IBS or Colitis, as it is too irritating). Recent science has established that black pepper has the amazing ability to increase the bioavailability of nutrients from other foods or herbs.
This fragrant seed has been used for centuries to ease sciatica and promote the digestion of heavy foods. It was also used by ancient Arab physicians to treat kidney and lymph problems. Nutmeg reduces insomnia, gas in the colon, and is a wonderful nervine.
Traditional Asian herbalists credit star anise with a variety of properties. It’s used frequently as a cough remedy and to freshen the breath.
This most sattvik of herbs is a tonic for the heart, and has been long valued as a stimulant for the circulatory and the immune systems. Ginger has been used to treat such disparate conditions as impotence, arthritis, colds, hand motion sickness.
An important medicinal plant in the royal herb gardens of medieval France and Germany, fennel is still widely used to treat both kidney and ocular problems, as well as laryngitis. However, Fennel is even better known for its wonderful digestive qualities, as this licorice tasting herb increases our digestive fire as well as helping to stop cramping and to dispel flatulence.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ramesh is the Director of the Prama Wellness Center where lifestyle is considered our best medicine. Ramesh is also a writer, yogi and workshop leader. He studied yoga therapy in Nepal and India, Ayurveda at California College of Ayurveda and is a certified yoga detox theraphist from the AM Wellness Center in Cebu, Philippines. He has taught workshops in many countries and is the author of four books, including Sacred Body, Sacred Spirit (InnerWorld) and Tantra:The Yoga of Love and Awakening (Hay House India).