With the change of seasons comes drizzly spring days, budding new blossoms, sprouting green grasses, and and the whisper of fresh pollens through the air. This is also the time of year when many of us start dealing with stuffy noses, sore throats, and puffy eyes. In preparation for the bustling spring and summer ahead, I really buckle down on my immune system support and try to give my organs a bit of a rest. This can come in the form of a detox or cleansing diet for a couple weeks, but at the very least I make sure to increase my supplements and consume nourishing, fresh, raw, and easily digestible foods in order to lay a healthy groundwork for the hubbub of the next six months or so.
This tea is a staple in my regimen and forever one of my first lines of defense when I predict a cold or flu is on the horizon—or even when I just start to feel less than awesome. When I was growing up, my mother always made this concoction at the first sign of a scratchy throat or cough. Back then, we just called it lemon-ginger tea. Decades later, I gave it my new (and much more fun) name.
The story begins years ago with a friend who was feeling under the weather. Stubbornly avoiding every suggestion to conquer his symptoms with natural remedies, he opted for the pharmaceutical route. Unsurprisingly, the medicines were of no help. His symptoms kept getting worse, and none of the decongestants, cold meds, and pain killers he took gave him much relief. I continued to offer my mother’s tea, and he continued to ardently reject my offer.
With much bull-headed dedication, his response would be some variation of the following: “It’ll never work! I’m just going to take this medicine and go to bed. I don’t need any of your stupid hippie tea!”
“Suit yourself,” I’d reply.
Well, wouldn’t you know, after a couple days of limited improvement, he finally caved. I prepared a large jar of tea and offered it with a note repeating my mother’s long-ago instructions: “Be sure to eat all the ginger!”
He did as instructed and drank the tea every few hours. The following day saw a marked improvement. He raved about the tea and how much better he felt. His cough became productive, his throat no longer hurt, and he was warmed from the inside out.
“That tea is magic!” he said with utter devotion. I listened with an I told you so smirk, amused at just how excited he was. From that day forward, the concoction was officially dubbed Magic Hippie Tea in my home.
Magic Hippie Tea contains only five ingredients, counting the water, and it’s incredibly easy to whip up whenever you feel a little thing coming on
Freshly squeezed lemon juice helps maintain optimal pH balance and assists in hydration, digestion, and detoxification. Lemons are rich in antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. And, of course, they’re incredibly high in vitamin C. They also help your body access minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus.
Gingerroot is another deliciously therapeutic ingredient. Like the lemon, ginger is anti-inflammatory and antifungal. It’s a diaphoretic, meaning it promotes sweating and warms the body from the inside out. Ginger contains plenty of powerful properties, assisting with pain relief, digestion, blood sugar regulation, and heart health, to name a few.
Raw honey is another ancient medicinal ingredient. Antibacterial, antimicrobial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory, honey is one of the oldest medicinal foods in the world. It’s even been known to be an effective soldier against bacterial strains like E.coli and salmonella! Always look for raw honey—and, if possible, local—to reap the most enzymatic benefits (local pollens are more helpful in the relief of seasonal environmental allergies). A natural energy source and immune system booster, honey speeds up wound recovery, soothes organs, and assists in promoting restful sleep. It’s loaded with amino acids, minerals, vitamins, and enzymes that promote healing and general overall health. Feel free to adjust the amount of honey in this tea to suit your taste. I find that when I have a sore throat or a cough, I crave a little more honey than usual.
Cayenne, the final ingredient in this magical tea, is optional but highly recommended. Cayenne offers the detoxifying benefit of capsaicin, the chemical component in hot peppers. It stimulates circulation, boosts metabolism, and warms you from the inside, just like ginger. It’s also a pain reliever and anti-irritant, and it helps break up mucus. Cayenne is rich in minerals such as potassium, iron, and magnesium, it’s loaded with vitamins C and B6, and it’s supremely high in vitamin A. As you may suspect, it adds a spicy kick to this tea, so if you’re sensitive to heat or serving it to small children, you may want to omit it or use a minimal amount. But if you can handle the heat, don’t leave it out!
Taken altogether, this tea is a powerhouse of a potion. It’s an immune-boosting, cold-and-flu-easing, stomach-ache alleviating, indigestion-improving, organ-detoxifying-and-flushing remedy of remedies.
I like to make it by the quart, especially when I’m sick and drinking it all day long, but of course you could make it by the mug. It’s very comforting while hot, but as a sipper I find it easier to drink at a high-warm or warm temperature (especially if I’ve been heavy-handed with the cayenne). It’s also incredibly delicious and refreshing as a cold beverage on a hot day, and the hydrating ingredients are ideal to replenish fluids lost through activity and sweat.
And don’t forget to eat the ginger!
Magic Hippie Tea
Makes 1 quart*
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: As long as it takes to boil a pot of water
¾ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 4–5 lemons)
3 inches gingerroot, peeled and finely grated (I use a mini food processor when I make a big batch)
2–4 tablespoons (or to taste) raw honey, local if possible
1 pinch–½ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to your liking
Boiling water to fill jar
- Place lemon juice and grated ginger in quart jar. If using cayenne, stir it into the honey (this will keep it suspended so it won’t float to the top and burn your lips with each sip). Add honey-cayenne mixture to quart jar and stir through.
- Bring kettle of water to a boil. Carefully pour water into jar. (Make sure jar isn’t cold, or the hot water could make it crack.) Stir tea with a wooden spoon until honey melts. Adjust honey and cayenne to taste, if you’d like. Drink immediately, or cool and refrigerate for future use. Shake or stir jar before serving to be sure that ginger gets in your mug.
*If you prefer to make a single 12-oz. mug, I recommend scaling down to 1 lemon and about half an inch of ginger. Add honey and cayenne to taste, and boiling water to fill mug.
Image from Briana Goodall.