Thursday, November 25, 2010

Warm Winter Beverages

The cold snowy weather in Vancouver has got me looking for ways to warm up.  I have always loved hot beverages in the winter, such as cocoa with Baileys, lattes with caramel, hot buttered rum, mulled wine......the list could go on, however this year since expecting my first child I am looking for yummy alternatives that also may have some health benefits.

There are many variations of the well known Indian tea but the basic recipe uses spices with many health benefits.  Clove, cardamom, cinnamon and fennel are part of the traditional recipe.  Peppercorns are also often added and some alternatives are nutmeg or orange rind.  In traditional Chinese medicine nutmeg is called rou dou kou,which has an effect on the spleen, stomach and large intestine organ systems. It has warming properties to strengthen the yang qi which is weaker in winter making it a great addition to most hot beverages.  Orange rind called chen pi has more of a regulating effect on the body aiding digestion and helping clear phlegm in the chest.  Fennel, clove, cinnamon and turmeric are all discussed in my ezine article Chinese Herbs Add Spice and Health.  In addition to containing antioxidants black tea leaves have the following healing properties reducing inflammation, enhancing immune function and improving arterial function.

Mulled Cranberry or Pomegranate Tea
Use cranberry or pomegranate juice ideally organic, fresh and unsweetened.  Also have berries and seeds for garnish.  Cranberries are often used to help with urinary tract infections due to proanthocyanidins which inhibit bacteria adhesion.  They also contain phytonutrients and antioxidants which are well known for preventing a host of diseases including cancer and heart disease.  Read about the benefits of pomegranates on my blog post.  Cloves and cinnamon are commonly used in mulled beverages along with lemon, which is high in vitamin C and as with other citrus rinds aids digestion.  Hot lemon water on it's own can even be a tasty drink which will also help flush out toxins, purify the blood and strengthen the immune system.

Hot Apple Cider
Ingredients include apple cider, maple syrup, allspice berries, clove, cinnamon, lemon and orange rind.  Benefits of clove, cinnamon and citrus peels are mentioned above.  Allspice berries contain potassium, iron, magnesium and copper plus vitamin A, C and some B vitamins.  They also have anti-inflammatory properties, stimulate digestion and contain eugenol oil which is a topical pain reliever.  Maple syrup contains zinc and manganese.  To get the most benefit from apple juice it is best to juice the skin as well since it contains the most vitamin A.  Apple juice has also shown to improve the mood of Alzheimer's patients.

Ginger-Turmeric Tea
For this tea you can use half a teaspoon each of powdered ginger and turmeric with 2 cups of water, 1 tablespoon of maple syrup and the juice of half a lemon.  Grated ginger, turmeric and lemon rind can also be used make sure to boil the raw herbs with the water.  Ginger is a common herb known to help with nausea and cold prevention.  The benefits of turmeric are discussed on my blog post on Chinese medicine spices

Common spices in all of these drinks are cinnamon, clove and citrus rind.  Experiment with your favourite tea or fruit juice and spice it up.  Some spices will probably taste better with certain teas and fruits than other.  Maybe pear with lemon, cinnamon or fennel.  Rooibos tea is often flavoured with vanilla instead of getting the flavoured type get organic loose leaf tea and brew with a vanilla bean pod, cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg.  

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