With all the stress so many of us have with packed schedules, deadlines, work and family responsibilities, and more, we could all use a little pick-me-up sometimes. Coffee and alcohol come to mind, but both have serious drawbacks that can affect mood, energy and mental acuity. When I need a boost to get through a busy day, reduce stress, or to help me sleep, I like to turn to tonics.
Are defined as a medicinal substance, usually taken in beverage form, that provides a feeling of health and well-being. Generally made from herbs and other plant parts such as roots or berries, herbal tonics are prepared and mixed into a liquid such as tea, water, juice or even milk. You may have also heard about tinctures, elixirs and teas. Here are the differences:
Are heavily concentrated extracts made by placing chopped fresh or dried herbs into a jar and covering them with a solvent. That may be high-proof alcohol (such as vodka or brandy), glycerin or vinegar. Tinctures are strictly medicinal and aren’t necessarily meant to be enjoyed or savored.
Are made by adding one more ingredient to a finished alcohol (made with vodka or brandy) tincture such as honey or sugar syrup. The typical ratio of tincture to honey or other sweetener is 2:1. Again, this is more medicinal and not a beverage to be sipped.
Are an herbal extract that’s made by using water as the solvent. Teas are popular and easy to prepare, but less concentrated than tinctures, so you’d have to drink a lot to receive the benefit. However, many benefits from herbs are cumulative, so drink up often!
are delicious remedies that can help calm, boost energy, boost immunity and relieve digestive problems, depending on the herbs and ingredients used. Many tonics can be made with herbs and spices that are already in your pantry, but to be most effective, use the best, freshest ingredients available.
An indispensable root with a bright yellow color and anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anti-fungal and antioxidant properties.
This is one of the oldest, most commonly used medicinal plants known to humankind. It eases nausea, aids digestion and is very effective for treating colds and flu.
OK, not so common. It’s a powerful anti-inflammatory root related to ginger but more aromatic. Galangal has been used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years, and according to a growing body of scientific research, it can help fight and potentially prevent a broad number of cancers and tumors. It’s available in Asian markets or online.
Helps brain function, memory and can be a stress reliever.
Aids in detoxifying the body, helps reduce inflammation and stress.
Supports the immune system, detoxifies, reduces cholesterol, aids digestion, and helps reduce headaches. See our Honey Lemon Grass Tea recipe.
Helps relieve nausea, headaches, congestion, fatigue and aids weight loss.
Good for stuffy noses and coughs, it’s an antibacterial that helps fight colds and flu.
Helps reduce stomach discomfort, bloating, stress and prevent memory loss.
Good for coughs, sore throats, congestion and boosts the immune system.
Helps to fight colds and flu; reduces congestion and can help with weight loss.
Reduces inflammation and helps reduce cholesterol.
An aid for digestion, improves circulation, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial.
Reduces bloating and indigestion.
Aids digestion and reduces bloating.
Can help eliminate flatulence and stabilize blood sugar.
Reduces bloating and helps with digestion.
Soothing; helps reduce stress and anxiety.
Good for reducing cold and flu symptoms and reduces inflammation.
The Indian word for tea is chai and masala means spiced. This delicious, complex tonic is full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory herbs and spices. For a great summer refresher, you could pour this tonic over ice.
2 black peppercorns
2 cardamom pods
½ cinnamon stick
1/8 tsp. fresh ground nutmeg
1 Tbsp. black loose tea (or one tea bag)
½ tsp. fresh sliced ginger root
½ tsp. fresh sliced turmeric root
4 oz. water
4 oz. low fat milk
Honey (or other sweetener) to taste
This DIY cough syrup contains ingredients you probably already have on hand and if not, go buy them and use them a for a tasty roast chicken when you feel better!
Makes 12 fl. oz.
6 oz. extra virgin olive oil
3 lemons, sliced
Fresh sprigs of oregano, rosemary, sage and thyme
6 fl. oz. honey
The inspiration for this drink comes from the Cuban mojito. My non-alcoholic version uses sparkling water. Mint leaves aid digestion. The agave nectar is high in fructose, which means that it does not raise your blood sugar to the same extent as other sweeteners do. For a stronger mint flavor, use more mint leaves.
2 small bunches fresh mint leaves
¼ cup lime juice (about 2 limes)
4-8 tsp. agave nectar
2½ cups sparkling water
Crushed ice (optional)
This recipe is as simple as it is beautiful. Try serving it at brunch on the patio. An ounce or two of turmeric juice mixed with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice makes a healthy and refreshing tonic. The turmeric and the vitamin C in the orange juice double the antioxidant power of this drink.
2 recipes (or double the recipe) fresh turmeric juice (recipe below)
2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice
Crushed ice (optional)
Combine the fresh turmeric juice and the fresh orange juice and divide between 2 glasses. For super summer refreshment, add crushed ice.
Fresh turmeric root fights inflammation and contains antioxidants. The best way to enjoy fresh turmeric is to juice it. Once juiced and strained, it can be stored in a tightly closed container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
YIELD ½ cup (4 oz.)
¼ lb. turmeric root peeled
½ cup water