Brews and Potions
If my mother were a Hogwarts professor she would definitely be in Potions and Herbology. There are always things brewing in our house. Be it broths or herbal tisanes, it’s good for what ails you. My mother’s side of the family, even with the doctors among them, would always prefer an herbal concoction to substitute for any medicine, for minor ailments, of course. It has little to no side effect, they often chorus. And for the most part, it has worked well for them.
My mother doesn’t take any maintenance medicine of any sort. It works for her because apart from her herbal brews, eating healthy is not something she endures but something she enjoys. It’s natural to her to just snack on fruits and veg. Not surprisingly, she belongs to a Facebook group dedicated to medicinal plants. When the turmeric craze kicked in, not liking the taste of the often adulterated mustard-colored powder that was available at any corner, she just bought yellow ginger (luyang dilaw) at the market and made a tisane with it. Yellow ginger (or turmeric, its powdered equivalent) is known for its potent anti-inflammatory effects. My mother has credited her yellow ginger tisane for all sorts of things, particularly less achy-creaky joints and two tumblers of which also led to a quick de-escalation of her gout.
My mother is no amateur, of course, and doesn’t really brew single ingredients, it’s actually a panoply. Of late, she regularly buys a bunch of fresh guyabano (soursop) leaves at the AANI (Agri-Aqua Network International) Weekend Farmer’s Market in FTI (now Arca South) and dries them herself. When my sister had a terrible hangover a couple of months ago my mother whipped out a killer combination of guyabano leaves, guava leaves, yellow ginger, and boiled all of them together and put it in a tumbler. According to my sister, the results were pretty instantaneous. Depending on your tolerance for herby tasting drinks, it doesn’t taste bad, the guyabano leaves give it a fruity aroma, although the flavor is more of an undertone. If you need things to taste sweeter, I guess there’s always honey, whose undertone is sour, which is why it complements a lot of brews, or even coconut sugar, which also has a sour component.
I like to think that I have a good balance between quaffing natural alternatives and modern medicine. I will pop into my mouth whatever works. Lately, though, I, too, have begun to lean towards all sorts of tisanes to alleviate minor discomforts. My main one is a basic lemongrass (tanglad) tea. In my experience, nothing alleviates bloating and stomach ailments quite as fast as lemongrass tea. It’s that feeling where things don’t really hurt but you feel like you ate a balloon, and it kinda just sits there. Lemongrass is also easy to obtain and affordable, and it is more lush and plentiful at the palengke instead of in the supermarket. But this isn’t true for all herbs. The luyang dilaw I once bought at a chain supermarket turned out to be fresher and nearly same in price as that of our local market. The Bayani Brew in Lemongrass Pandan is the only commercial variety I see in Family Mart (I just don’t see this at 7-Eleven and Ministop), and it actually works well, too. I have been thankful for it for the times I‘ve had some form of indigestion away from home. I do prefer the taste of plain lemongrass with or without calamansi, lime or lemon. Added to chicken broth, it adds another layer of flavor that you can sup. Lemongrass also has the benefit of making you sleep deeper. I don’t know if the soporific effects of lemongrass have been studied, but everything I say with regards to any health benefits of any herb I’ve mentioned is purely anecdotal.
It’s not always about the health benefits. Tarragon tea, with a unique minty licorice flavor, is just something I like to drink; although, a cursory search reveals a surprising number of pluses in the wellness column as well, such as helping decrease blood sugar by improving insulin sensitivity, acting as a sleeping aid, and anti-bacterial properties. Tarragon isn’t always easy to find, but they’re easier to grow than other more climate-sensitive herbs that prefer a more temperate climate.
The concept of food as medicine is hardly new. You can’t really go wrong with herbs, spices, and rhizomes. When it’s in the form of supplements or when the plants are processed that’s another story altogether, not to mention an unregulated one, but in its natural state, it’s hard to get it wrong. If you can put it on your salad, you can surely make a tisane with it. You can pretty much find a comforting herbal tisane that you find delicious with the health benefits just being extra.