the healing power of plants + a turmeric lemonade recipe

Last weekend I attended an ‘Herbalism Intensive’ at Angelica Organics Learning Farm. It’s no secret I’ve always been interested in the healing properties of the foods we eat, so it seemed natural to extend my studies to the world of medicinal plants.

The weekend was fantastic; as an urban dweller that is too often disconnected from nature and the earth, I appreciated the opportunity to get my hands dirty digging up burdock root, plucking dandelion flowers, and harvesting stinging nettles to make oils, tinctures, teas, and tonics. Beyond the specific medicines that we created, I found the fresh farm air and sunshine to be quite the cure-all.

I hope to share more specifics of the Herbalism Intensive as well as a few photos on another blog post very soon; But in the meantime, I wanted to share a recipe I have been whipping up recently. One big takeaway from the weekend was that you don’t need to seek out exotic or expensive herbs and plants to attain optimal health – but rather, its often the weeds growing in your backyard or the spices available at your grocery store that can have truly transformative effects.

Common herbs and spices like basil, rosemary, oregano, garlic, ginger, and cinnamon are familiar and available to virtually all North Americans – yet most of us do not take full advantage of their benefits. I’ve made this turmeric tonic in numerous variations before, but was re-inspired to add it back into my repetoire. Turmeric is one of the top 20 most commonly used herbs in North America, and is gaining popularity for it’s anti-inflammatory properties. It has an amazing golden yellow-orange hue and is a member of the ginger family. Turmeric has a subtle, earthy flavor – but if you add too much is can be slightly bitter.

I couple turmeric with other powerful spices like cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and cayenne – but feel free to mix things up according to your preference or what you have in your pantry. If I have fresh ginger on hand, I will usually chop that up and add to the mix. I may also add fennel seeds or black pepper corns depending on my mood. The juice of a lemon adds brightness in flavor partnered with a megadose of vitamin C and alkalizing effects. In the rare instance I don’t have a fresh lemon, I would use 1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar.

Here is a breakdown of the benefits of the specific spice ingredients that makes this ‘lemonade’ amazing:

TURMERIC: beneficial for pain associated with arthritis or join issues, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant rich, boosts brain function, improves memory, alleviates symptoms of depressionCINNAMON: stabilizes blood sugar, improves digestive health, anti-oxidant rich, boosts alertness and mental clarity, anti-bacterial/microbial/fungal, increases immunity, lifts mood

GINGER: improves absorption of nutrients, eases digestive discomfort, immunity booster, anti-oxidant rich, benefits respiratory function

CARDAMOM: anti-oxidant rich, immunity boosting, lowers blood pressure, aids in detoxification, improves digestion, aphrodisiac

CAYENNE PEPPER: immunity boosting, aids metabolism, improves digestion , promotes heart health, anti-oxidant rich, detoxifying, benefits tooth and gum health

In the cooler months, I’ll enjoy this warm upon rising or after eating, but when it warms up I like it chilled or over ice. Adding sweetener is a personal preference. I’m known to enjoy the taste of anything that’s ‘good for me’ – but if you want to ease into this – adding a little sweetness from raw honey or stevia is delicious. If using honey, add it before the water so it can evenly mix into the brew. Lately I’ve added a few drops of stevia to my glass before drinking. This is a good way to customize the level of sweetness according to your specific tastes or to whomever your sharing with. Once you start adding this ‘lemonade’ to your routine, you’ll start to crave it! I’ve been waking up and pouring a big glass to wake me up in the morning.

If you’re concerned about your tooth enamel from the lemon or staining from the turmeric, use a straw!

Turmeric Lemonade


1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
4-6 cardamom pods
pinch of cayenne pepper (more or less to taste)
1 lemon
stevia or raw honey to taste


Place desired spices in a quart sized mason jar or pitcher. Cut lemon in half and squeeze all of juice inside container. I like to use a reamer to get the juice as well as the pulp. If you’d like to use honey, add a teaspoon or two now. You can add more later according to taste.

Meanwhile, bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a kettle or pan. Pour boiling water over spices. Use the handle of a wooden spoon to stir. Let cool. Taste a little, and if you’d like it sweeter, add a bit more honey. Cover and store in refrigerator.

Shake or stir before pouring/serving. I usually don’t use the honey, but if I’m in the mood for something sweet, I’ll add a few drops of stevia (2-3) to my glass. Otherwise, I like this sour, pungent, and tart tonic all on its own.


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