Food as Medicine: Ginger-scallion “tea”

Ingredients for ginger scallion tea
Ingredients for ginger scallion tea

Most of this week we’ve been dealing with the flu. First T, now me. Our first line of defense during cold and flu season is ginger-scallion-cinnamon “tea.” Making this drink, I can’t help but think of the gifted healer and friend who taught me how to make it. During our first winter in Boston I was having a hard time dealing with the bitter cold, and any little cold often turned to bronchitis. Pam taught me how to make this drink to boost my immune system. In traditional Asian medicine, ginger, cinnamon and members of the Allium family, which includes scallions, are considered Yang, or warming energy. By the end of that winter, almost everyone in our office was drinking some form of this tea!

First you need a “hand of ginger” which is the large piece you see in the picture above. Washed well and lightly scrubbed, the ginger need not be peeled, but should be sliced. Then 2 large scallions, including the roots. (Pam was very specific that the roots must be kept intact.) Finally, a handful of cinnamon bark. If you’re using the thicker rolled “cinnamon,” you’ll need 2 rolls. An optional ingredient is a pear, either the Asian nashi pear (in photo) or your favorite variety. The pear provides a very mild natural sweetness, and may be eaten separately as a treat or to soothe a cough.

Place all these in a large pot and cover with at least 4 quarts/liters of water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat to a simmer. After 30 minutes, remove the scallions and continue simmering for another 30 minutes.
Cooling tea bag full of cinnamon
After simmering for an hour, use a ladle to serve yourself some “tea” and enjoy while hot. This beverage, like the friend who shared its secret with me, is strong and full of energy, with only a hint of both sweetness (cinnamon) and earthiness (scallions) beneath it. It is most beneficial if drunk as is, but if you want to sweeten it, choose a natural sweetener such as stevia, agave or fresh fruit juice. Processed white sugar has actually been found to lower one’s immune response for 5 hours after being consumed, so should be avoided.(A) Artificial sweeteners are increasingly shown to be cancer-causing and likewise should be avoided.(B)
Finished ginger tea

Let the pear cool for awhile in the liquid, then enjoy separately. In traditional Chinese medicine, pear is considered a “cooling” fruit that lubricates the lungs and quiets coughs.
Gingered pear is soothing for coughs

You don’t have to wait for a cold or the flu to make this for yourself, in fact you may avoid getting either if you start boosting your immunity now. When we lived in places where the change of seasons was more noticeable, I started making this drink when the air started to get crisp, but here in Hawaii it’s easier to forget that seasons still change and flu is always around the corner. Stay healthy, Everyone! And to Pammie, we will always think of this as “Pam’s tea” — thank you for all your generous gifts to us!

(A) See the article: “Sugar’s effects on your health”
(B) Learn more about the benefits of natural sweeteners and the dangers of artificial one: “Sugar substitutes and the potential danger of Splenda