Spring Tonics

03/25/2009 (last updated: 08/24/2009 13:40)
Judith Benn Hurley

tea cup“You need a spring tonic,” decreed a friend in Rome, as I entered her apartment feeling light-headed and without appetite. She charged immediately to the kitchen where, with a flourish, she peeled a whole lemon in one long swoop, and tossed the peel into a small saucepan with about a cup and a half of water.

Lecturing nonstop, my friend instructed me, for future reference, to boil the tonic until the water was reduced to one cup, about ten minutes, then drink it hot.

“My Portuguese nanny gave this to me for stomachaches as a child. She called it ‘cha’ for ‘tea,’ the same as the Japanese word,” my friend went on. “Spring is the time to nourish the liver, or you wind up feeling like you do. Boiled lemon peel is the best liver tonic--didn’t anyone ever teach you this? You must come to Italy more often!”

Not unlike the Italian and Portuguese, many cultures espouse their own spring tonics to prepare the body and mind for the lighter days of spring. Some interesting versions are offered here:

Three-Spice Tea

East Indian Ayurvedic herbalists recommend this formula to abate such spring digestive woes as bloating, gas, and indigestion.

  • 1 teaspoon cumin seed
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seed
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 2 cups water

In a small saucepan, combine all of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the water has been reduced to 1 cup, about 15 minutes. Discard the spices and sip warm, up to 3 times a day. Makes 1 serving.

Ginger-Chive Decongestant

In Japan, herbalists recommend this bracing brew to soothe the symptoms of spring allergies and sinus congestion.

  • 4 slices fresh gingerroot
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives

In a small saucepan, combine the ginger and water and bring to a boil. Continue to boil until the water has been reduced to abut 1 cup, abut 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, add the chives, cover, and let the brew steep for about 5 minutes. Then discard the ginger and chives and sip warm, up to 3 cups a day. Makes 1 serving.

Mixed Mint Tea

A Jamu herbalist in Indonesia taught me to prepare this spring elixir. The mints and the lemongrass contain aromatic compounds that help soothe spring digestive irritability.

  • 1 teaspoon dried peppermint
  • 1 teaspoon dried spearmint
  • 1 teaspoon dried lemongrass
  • 2 cups hot water

In a teapot, combine all of the ingredients, cover, and let steep for 5 minutes. Discard the herbs and sip warm or very slightly chilled, as needed. Makes 2 servings.

Tisane of Thyme

French herbalists prescribe thyme tea to help rejuvenate the body for spring. The herb’s aromatic properties can help prevent coughs, sore throats, colds, and spring flu.

  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme, or 2 teaspoons fresh
  • 1 cup hot water

Steep the thyme in the water, covered, for 4 minutes. Discard the thyme and sip warm as needed. Makes 1 serving.

Judith Benn Hurley is an award-winning author and journalist who has written for such publications as The Washington Post, Prevention Magazine, Ladies Home Journal, Self, and Organic Gardening. She has just finished her twelfth book.



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