Winter is coming, as George R.R. Martin tells us. Although winters are very mild in Cyprus, nevertheless it does get chilly in the evenings and if we’re lucky, we may even get some snow in Troodos and go skiing.
Winter is a time for retreating within. We see this in nature around us. Trees shed their leaves and their energy withdraws deep inside their roots. This is why herbalists harvest roots in October and November, just when this process starts and the roots of medicinal plants are at their energetic peak.
Some of my favourite herbal tea blends for winter include roots, bark and exotic spices. These blends are warming, soothing and comforting like a blanket. The aromas and flavours of spices like cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, pepper and ginger promote good health and wellbeing and are a perfect healing beverage for coughs and colds. These spices are cultivated in the tropical and subtropical climates of India, Malaysia, Indonesia and surrounding countries in the Far East and were first brought to the West by the Dutch and Portugese at the end of the 16th century from their colonies. In fact, the Dutch built an entire empire out of the spice trade, chased away the Portugese from their strongholds in the Moluccas (Indonesia) and held a monopoly in the trade for nearly two centuries. During this time, spices such as black pepper and nutmeg were more valuable than gold.
All the aforementioned spices are very rich in minerals, vitamins and antioxidants, therefore useful to build immunity, combat colds, reduce inflammation and generally promote overall health.
Nutmeg is a super-spice, packed with valuable nutrients. Always buy whole nutmeg and grind them in a pepper mill to get the most of their flavour and benefits.
Cinnamon helps to lower cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar levels and is both antibacterial and antifungal. It also enhances the mood and stimulates the brain.
Ginger is one of those spices no home should be without. Ginger tea is one of the best flu remedies, especially in combination with honey and some lemon juice. It is a great anti-inflammatory and therefore useful in rheumatic and arthritic pain, helps in nausea, stomach aches and digestive problems and improves the absorption of nutrients in the body.
Cloves are tiny flower buds but they are giants when it comes to natural health. They’re packed with antioxidants and are anti-fungal, antibacterial, antiseptic and analgesic.
Cardamom is a member of the ginger family. It is an excellent digestive aid, it fights gum disease and is useful in urinary problems.
Making tea from spices is a great way to boost your health and it tastes delicious too. These spices need to be crushed with a pestle and mortar, ginger root sliced – a couple of slices will do- then boiled in water for about five minutes to get all the aromas out. Add a few chilli flakes or peppercorns as well if you like. Strain and sweeten with honey. Enjoy your blanket in a cup!
By Miranda Tringis