5 ways to treat a cold or the flu with tea.

Woman sneezing. Photo: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It has been said: “flu season is tea season!” San Jose’s cold and flu season has definitely begun, and while flu shots definitely help ward off flu viruses, they are not 100% effective.  You may still find yourself getting sick, and there are few beverages that are better for getting rid of the effects of a nasty virus than a nice hot cup of tea or tisane.

Doctors recommend that while you are fighting off your bug, you should keep your system hydrated, and cup after cup of tea will help provide the necessary fluids. Caffeine can be dehydrating, however, and since you’ll need to drink so much liquid, it would be better to drink decaffeinated tea or alternate your regular tea with caffeine-free tisanes. Here are some suggestions, in no particular order, for using tea and herbal tisanes to soothe cold and flu symptoms, strengthen the immune system, and even weaken the flu virus!

  1. A classic remedy for nausea and nasal congestion: ginger “tea” with honey. The most flavorful and effective way is to buy fresh ginger, grate it yourself, bring it to a boil in water, steep it for 10 minutes or more, strain the liquid, add honey and drink it. Squeeze half a fresh lemon into your cup of tea for some Vitamin C and extra flavor. If you aren’t up to being in the kitchen, you can also purchase ginger herbal tea in bags from Stash, Celestial Seasonings, and Lemon Ginger herbal tea from Twinings.
  2. Another traditional nausea, congestion and cough remedy is mint tisane. Fresh peppermint or spearmint leaves make a wonderful, refreshing tisane, but you can use dried mint as well. If you don’t have any fresh or dried mint, Stash sells a wonderful Oregon mint tisane that is really minty, and convenient.
  3. A favorite of professional and amateur singers and musicians: licorice tisane, which soothes the throat and clears mucus. Stash makes a nice Licorice Spice tea.
  4. A Japanese-style dish to settle an upset stomach: “tea on rice, which is hot green tea poured over hot steamed white rice to make a soup, and eaten with pickled ginger on the side.
  5. A remedy for sore throats might be a flu preventative: gargling with brewed green tea. The results of a recent (2006) Japanese study suggest that gargling with strong green tea can ward off the flu virus, but researchers agree that more study is needed before doctors can recommend it as a sure preventative. However, if you have a sore throat, a warm gargle is a soothing thing anyway, so why not try gargling with some tea while you’re at it?

Of course, most people have their own favorite flu and cold home remedies, but it is interesting to note that tea and herbal tisanes and preparations figure prominently in most of them. Ginger, garlic, sage, thyme, cinnamon, cayenne, and pepper are also widely-used herbs and spices that traditionally combat congestion, sore throats and coughing when added to foods or drunk as tisanes. Luckily, San Jose’s large Asian populations basically guarantee that both the Asian and American markets will sell things like ginger, garlic, cayenne, hot-and-sour soup, and many other helpful herbs and spices, not to mention a variety of soothing teas and tisanes. Hopefully, most San Jose residents will escape the flu this winter, but if you don’t — or if you’ve already caught a virus — make sure you have tea and some herbal tisanes in your kitchen!

Copyright 2011, Elizabeth Urbach.

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For more info: “Can you really de-caffeinate your tea in 30 seconds?”
“Tisanes, or ‘herbal teas’: what are they and how do you make them?”
“Floral tisanes and how to make them.”
“Soothing orange-blossom mint tisane recipe.”
“Flu season is tea season: best teas to drink when you’re sick”
“Drink tea with your swine flu vaccine.”
“Tea – a natural immune booster to help prevent and treat H1N1.”
“Stash Tea: You do What with Tea?!”
“Gargling with tea reduces flu by 87%”
“Gargling with tea catechin extracts for the prevention of influenza infection in elderly nursing home residents: a prospective clinical study.” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2006 Sep;12(7):669-72. Yamada H, Takuma N, Daimon T, Hara Y. Division of Drug Evaluation & Informatics, School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Shizuoka, Shizuoka, Japan. hyamada@u-shizuoka-ken.ac.jp
“Herbal cold & flu preparations”
“Flu Season is Tea Time”
“Cold & Flu Survival”
“The Best Cold and Flu Rememdy Tea in the World!”
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