A Favorite Winter Beverage
1 cinnamon stick per cup
Lots of sliced fresh ginger (I use 5 quarter sized slices or more per cup)
Lemon juice (1/2 a lemon or so)
It can be brewed in a normal cup just like tea, but it comes out even better with a thermos cup or something to keep the heat in. If you are serving it as a New Year’s beverage and you really want to warm it up, try adding tequila.
The cinnamon sticks that we use in the West are somewhat in between the TCM products Rou Gui and Gui Zhi. Our cinnamon sticks are made from the cortex of the thin, tender branches, whereas the Chinese medicinal Rou Gui is made from the main bark of the trunk itself. Gui Zhi is the sliced twigs at the periphery.
The distal, yang reaching aspect of Gui Zhi is evident in its medicinal properties, and the centrally-focused effect of Rou Gui also fits with the doctrine of signatures. The cinnamon sticks that we use as a spice in the West are probably intermediate in terms of their effects, and the sweet flavor and mild nature of cinnamon sticks makes them a relatively balanced and harmonious (though slightly weak) medicine.
On the TCM market, two main Rou Gui products can be distinguished. The best comes from Vietnam and is somewhat expensive. It is oily and powerfully fragrant if the bark is cut, and it tends to be sold as a curved “board” with the surface shaved off on the ends. (Shave off the surface before using it, the best stuff is underneath.) The average product comes from cinnamon grown in China (typically Guangxi province). It is sold in large curled rolls; the thicker the better.
Lemons (Ning Meng) in Chinese medicine are said to engender liquid, allay thirst, dispel summerheat, and quiet the fetus. The species of lemon that is most common in China is a bit different from the main species that we use in the West. The Chinese lemon is a bit in between a lemon and a lime, and lemons and limes are poorly differentiated from each other in the literature. Obviously, their effects should be similar, but Western lemons and limes are slightly different than the product traditionally described in Chinese medicine.
Honey has been revered as a medicinal substance across the world for thousands of years. Many bee products are found in Chinese medicine, such as normal honey, processed honey, royal jelly, beeswax, bee venom, carpenter bees (their bodies and their honey), and even bee larvae. According to Chinese medicine, honey supplements the center and moistens the lung, and relieves pain and resolves toxin. It is also used to reduce the toxicity of aconite.
Fresh ginger is a famous medicinal in Chinese medicine, and is also one of the three fundamental spices that is used throughout Chinese cuisine (along with garlic and scallions). According to the Zhong Yao Da Ci Dian (Great Encyclopedia of Chinese Medicine), fresh ginger effuses the exterior, disperses cold, stops vomiting, and frees phlegm.