Taste of the Caribbean: Beat Colds & the Flu with Lemon Grass Tea
When we were kids back in St. Croix and my brothers and I would come down with colds, the flu, or other assorted sicknesses, our Trinidadian Mom would often eschew modern medical science and instead treat us using more natural methods. She wouldn’t do this 100% of the time, but common medicines like Tylenol and Pepto-Bismol would more often play a supporting role to whatever concoction she could whip up herself.
Once she had to pick me up from school early because I had a bad cold. On the way home, she stopped to check out some bushes growing wild on the side of the road. I remember her carefully studying a few different plants before finally cutting several strands from one in particular and getting back in the car.
Later, at home, she boiled up that bush, creating a hot drink that she commanded me to drink. I have no idea what bush she used, or what she made, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the same stuff pictured here that I make today whenever anyone in my house gets sick.
It’s called lemon grass, or fever grass tea, and it’s good for all sorts of ailments. Indigestion, anxiety, skin disorders, coughs, colds, fevers, nasal congestion; this tea is said to fight them all. Some scientists have even found lemon grass to kill cancer!
There are more than 50 different varieties of lemon grass, and not all of them offer the same benefits. The most common type is known popularly as West Indian lemon grass, though there are even two different types (Cymbopogon citratus and Cymbopogon citriodora) sharing that same name. Both work similarly, though, so you should be good to make the tea if you can get your hands on any lemon grass with “West Indian” in its name.
To make the tea, fill your kettle and get it boiling. While the water is heating up, cut off three of four young stalks of lemon grass. Clean the stalks with cold water, cut them into manageable lengths, and place ’em in some sort of heat-tolerant container. I usually use a glass bowl or a carafe like the one pictured above. Once your water reaches a boil, add it to the lemon grass, cover and let steep for at least five minutes. Finally, pour some into your tea cup, sweeten to taste with sugar or honey, and enjoy!
Now, you don’t have to be sick to take advantage of all that’s wonderful about this tea. It has a fantastic lemon-herb scent and provides a calming sensation that settles nerves in a magical way that will get you smiling anytime.
If you can’t get your hands on a lemon grass plant to add to your garden, you can buy tea bags of the stuff here.