Tuesday, September 27, 2011

2 Recipe #282: "Get Well Sooner" Tea :-D

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Behold the amazing health benefits of Chinese star anise, used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine.

In addition to hot cocoa, a Z-pak, lots of sleep, and a lovely and delicious cocktail of Nyquil, Dayquil, decongestant, and cough drops (NOT! Hehehe :) ), I've been drinking lots of water and herbal tea lately in attempt to combat a respiratory bug, which, (fingers crossed!), is almost gone. And, you guessed it, one of these herbal teas I've been drinking is the below recipe. :)

Now don't worry, I made sure to test both this recipe and the hot cocoa recipe after my senses of taste and smell had fully returned. :) (So you can relax; I won't be subjecting you to a carrot and garlic sorbet recipe anytime soon. LOL.) Now that these senses have been restored, I can get back to regularly posting recipes again. :-D

Of course, it should come as no surprise that the below recipe is specifically geared towards improving respiratory health. There's been a bug or two going around lately, so if you're also currently experiencing the same symptoms and need a reprieve, try this tea and see if it'll help you.

This tea contains Chinese star anise, which not only helps with digestion but also helps to actively combat flu symptoms (i.e., for both seasonal influenza and other strains -- like swine flu, etc. -- as well). In fact, the shikimic acid contained in Chinese star anise is one of the primary ingredients in Tamiflu, most commonly known as the drug used to fight avian influenza (bird flu). [However, having stated this fact, please note that Chinese star anise should not be used as a replacement for Tamiflu, but rather as a supplement to existing (preventative) health measures. Tamiflu contains a laboratory-synthesized form of shikimic acid extract -- i.e., an active ingredient called oseltamivir -- as well as various other ingredients. So, in other words, it's not just a bunch of ground-up Chinese star anise. ;) The chemical composition of the original source material has been significantly altered in the process.]

Before buying &/or using Chinese star anise, please read the intro of this post. It contains some very important health and safety information regarding this spice that you'll definitely want to read before consuming it. Since there's also a small amount of licorice in this tea, please read the advisory for this spice as well, especially if you or a loved one has high blood pressure. (Yep, that's the disclaimer part, where I disavow any responsibility if you use the stuff. :) )

It also contains ginger and cayenne pepper, both of which stimulate the respiratory system. Ginger is good for the digestive system as well as the respiratory system, while cayenne is an excellent aid for eradicating winter colds, (bronchial) congestion, infection, and inflammation. Both serve as helpful catalysts for other herbs as well.

In addition to the benefits you'll get from the spices and herbs in this tea, the hot liquid of the tea will soothe your throat and help rid your body of impurities. So, regardless, it's really a win-win situation. :)

"Get Well Sooner" Tea

1/8 c. (2 Tbsp.) Chinese star anise (about 16 small "stars")
1 tsp. licorice root, pre-cut (if possible)
1/2 tsp. ginger, peeled (with a spoon) and diced (about a 1/8" x 1" sliver)
2 tsp. whole green cardamom pods (about 14 pods)
1 tsp. whole cloves (about 14-16 cloves)
8 c. water
1/8 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
1 (6-7") vanilla bean, scored and split open with a sharp knife

Directions: Add all whole spices, minus the vanilla bean, to an extra large tea ball and place into a large teakettle (or if unavailable, a medium-sized pot with a lid). Pour the water into the kettle and then add the ground cayenne pepper. Next, scrape the vanilla essence from the pod into the kettle (preferably using a dull edged knife like a dinner or butter knife, which is more effective than kitchen/chef's knives), toss in the bean as well, and then close the lid. Bring the water to a rolling boil, about 8-9 minutes. Remove from heat, allow to steep for 15 minutes, drain remaining liquids from tea ball, and then discard solids. Pour into tea cups and serve. If desired, add honey &/or (coconut/soy/regular skim) milk, to taste. Tea can be served either hot or cold (as an herbal iced tea).

Yield: Makes 8 c.

Chef's Notes: Some of you might be asking, "OK, so now where do I get all of this stuff?" Below are resources for the less commonly found items:

Chinese star anise: Chinese star anise can be purchased at an international/Asian supermarket or bought online. Some regular supermarkets carry it as well. Just make sure you don't buy Japanese star anise, which is poisonous and only meant for ornamental purposes.

Licorice root: This can be tough to find in a local store, unless you know of (or can find) a store that specializes in herbal medicine. So, the easiest place to get this is online. I like buying the pre-cut kind, since I only use it for tea. :) The flavor of licorice root sweetens and mellows out the bolder (and sometimes slightly more bitter) taste of the star anise.

Green cardamom pods: Please be sure to use whole green cardamom pods (i.e., cardamom in its natural, unprocessed form) and NOT the bleached ones that are sold in generic grocery stores (i.e., the cardamom pods from McCormick's Gourmet Collection, etc.). In the latter case, not only has their color been bleached out, but so has their flavor & nutrients! Natural green cardamom smells wonderfully vibrant & heady. And, when you boil the pods, along with the other whole spices, they will make your whole kitchen smell absolutely divine! Green cardamom pods can be ordered online or found in a local ethnic (i.e., Indian, Asian, etc.) market.

Vanilla beans: Quality vanilla beans can be expensive, especially if you buy them at places like Whole Foods and the like. At Whole Foods, I think it's something like $12 for a single bean, which is a complete rip-off. Or at least that's what it was the last time I checked, the end result being that I left the store empty-handed and went elsewhere. :) So, if you don't want to spend an arm and a leg on quality vanilla beans, I've got a good source for premium Bourbon Madagascar Vanilla Beans, and I'm willing to share it. :) I usually buy the 1/2 lb. bag, (which contains about 54 beans), via a distributor on Amazon.com, because it ends up a better value for the money. At $26.50, that's only 49¢ per bean. (There's also a smaller size as well, which contains 7 beans, and currently costs $9.70, or $1.38 per bean.) I've had nothing but good experiences buying from this vendor and would highly recommend them to those of you who need to stock up on vanilla beans. :)

"Heat Advisory": Great use of the phrase, "heat advisory," eh? ;) If you can't already tell from the ingredients, this is a tea recipe to warm the cockles, in all senses of the word. OK, let's not mince words here. This tea is packing some serious heat, both in terms of temperature and piquancy. :) Yeah, a real double whammy. Ka-pow! Heheh.

The warming properties of this tea are actually what help it to work its magic on the body. So let the cleansing fires begin. :-D Of course, you can be wimpy about it and tone done the heat some, but then you won't reap the full effect of its healing properties. LOL. The choice is yours. :)


Yum Yucky said...

I'm so excited about this! And how intersting that the Star Anise is part of the Tamiflu ingredients. I had buy Tamiflu for our ENTIRE family because my daughter contracted the swine flu. It was recommended that we all take the medicine, not just her. What a sham! Anyway, I coulda been drinking this tea instead!

Cyberpenguin said...

Yikes, hope your daughter's doing better now! Did the Tamiflu help your daughter & the rest of your family?

Before you decide to chuck your Tamiflu out the window and replace it with Chinese star anise (LOL), just thought you should know the following: Tamiflu's active ingredient, oseltamivir, is actually a synthesized form of shikimic acid, and not simply a raw plant extract. Tamiflu also contains a lot of other ingredients, including some rather odd ones you wouldn't expect to find in a drug (like talc & shellac!). While Chinese star anise has some awesome health benefits, it's by no means a replacement for Tamiflu. ;) However, Chinese star anise can be used as a supplement to other (preventative) health measures.

Glad that you're pumped about trying recipe. :) Hope that it turns out well for you. Sometimes star anise can have a slightly bitter aftertaste when it's steeped, so be sure not to let it steep for too long (15 minutes max). (In that way, it's very similar to loose tea leaves.) Also, you might want to add a little soy/coconut/regular skim milk and some honey to add some sweetness and mellow out the flavors. :) Either that, or you can reduce the amount of Chinese star anise by a tablespoon or so, if you prefer a gentler flavor. Of course, if you like bold and spicy or licorice-flavored teas, then feel free to go for it. :)


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