Soothing and Breathing

For the past couple of weeks – seemingly forever – I’ve been sick with some sort of annoying viral thing that is probably a common cold. Aside from the general inconvenience of it all, one of the most aggravating aspects of it is the impact it has had on my tea drinking. I still have the desire to drink good tea, but the congestion in my head and chest makes it so that I can’t taste things accurately. Foods and beverages that are normally delicious don’t taste right, and don’t taste as good as they ought to. I have continued to drink tea, but I tend to drink tea and other non-tea infusions based on what kind of physiological change I want to effect, not based on what I want to taste.

Last week, in lieu of missing work and resting, I was taking NyQuil at night and DayQuil during the day in order to remain relatively functional. This is an effective strategy, but it made me feel like I was operating from inside a large blanket of lukewarm fog. And it was not a soft, comforting fog; it was more like an annoying, thick, impenetrable barrier between my brain and the world. Some people like that feeling. I don’t.

So after three days of the nullifying medicine cycle, I decided to hold off on the bright orange syrrupy narcotic for as long as I could during the day. Before I left for work that day I thought about whether I had any helpful, counteractive infusion-ready substances around the house. I had some gingko leaf, which is good for clearing brain fog, and cloves, which have analgesic properties and can help with respiration. (There weren’t as many cloves as I would have liked because most of them had been placed into little metal tins to be batted around the living room floor by one of the cats, but there were enough to be worth using.) Unfortunately, I did not have any mint at the time, which would have been my chosen third ingredient. But I took what I had with me to work and steeped them in a glass teapot for about five minutes with boiling water.

I can not, of course accurately describe that the resultant brew tasted good. With my palate as out of alignment as it was, it’s hard to say, but it did taste refreshing. More importantly, it helped make me feel better. If I remember correctly, I infused that same pot about three times, until it seemed too weak to be worth the effort to drink.

Hot liquids of just about any type are somewhat soothing during this sickness, but I must say that I’m more than ready to drink good tea and fully appreciate it again very soon!


  1. Can I say ginger too? You are heading into ayurvedic territory with those two ingredients 🙂 (those cloves are especially good for clearing too much ‘kapha’ (congested, heavy, dull, mucous symptoms of the cold) as they are heating and stimulating). Black tea (or ‘red’ tea) is supposedly good too as its both heating and can be bitter (bitter is also good for clearing too much Kapha). Lemon juice is supposed to be good (can be added with black tea/ginger etc) as it heats up ‘Pitta’, the fire quality in the body, and this in turn, ‘burns’ up kapha. Have to love it. The chinese yin/yang works with this, with Kapha being a heavy earth/water element which is predominately ‘yin’. Pitta is of course ‘yang’.

    • I had been thinking at one point that ginger would make a very nice therapeutic infusion, but I didn’t remember to pick up some at the store so I could make some. I am quite a fan of clove in general, for effect and taste, and I found that I enjoyed drinking black (red) tea even though it didn’t taste right to me.

  2. Excuse me if these things are obvious and taken for granted by others. If looking for some good chinese tea health recipes, check out the recipes at the back of the lovely little ‘The Way of Tea’ by Master Lam Kam Chuen. A nice simple book on chinese tea and the health teas are great.

    • I don’t think they’re obvious at all – thanks. I have a copy of that book, but I haven’t paid attention to the health recipes section. I’ll give it a look later today.

  3. I hope you feel better soon! I have been in a similar situation…sick in the hospital for nearly three weeks. My quality tea consumption has definitely been lacking, so I can definitely relate. Also, I agree with J that ginger tea is great tasting and very good for the health.

    Here’s to a speedy recovery!

  4. I just started reading this blog and i don’t really know about your taste so you might probably be disgusted by it since its quite a “heavy hammer” taste-wise:

    What i drink when i have a cold is the following:
    500-600 ml of some herbal tea (works well with just chamomile, but also mint-based stuff) + the juice of one whole lemon + LOTS of honey (preferably forest honey, but its up to taste i guess) (5-6 teaspoons).

    Another wicked anti-cold medicine (for the slimy-cough type) recipe i heard of (and also tried successfully) is boiling ginger in coke for a while (as long as you can stand i guess?) and drinking the resulting beverage. I tried it out once and it really helps a lot… just tastes rather awful even to me…

    • yes the honey and lemon drink is not just ‘old wives tale’ kind of thing, for the chinese TCM and indian ayurvedic medicine systems, both lemon juice and honey heat the body and clear up cold mucousy cold/flu systems. The honey lemon drink is especially powerful with boiled ginger too! (or even fresh ginger juice if you can stand it, very spicy). Both the chinese and indian systems also advise not to add honey to super hot tea, it makes it quite toxic, and instead to let it cool down a bit before adding it.

      thanks for your blog cinnabar, its my favourite tea blog and one of the only blogs i regularly click on in my bookmarks toolbar 😉

      • hmm yeah the hot water kills all the good stuff in the honey (shouldn’t be heated over 60 degree Celsius as far as i know) and probably also in the lemon juice (at least vitamin c will be gone fairly fast)

      • Thank you for reading!

    • Although I generally dislike the flavor of any kind of honey, I’m rather fond of hot toddies on occasion: lemon, honey and brandy. They can help with colds.

  5. I like this word “based on what kind of physiological change I want to effect, not based on what I want to taste. “, we drink tea not only for interest but also for healthy