Food52 in 5

A Soothing Tonic for All Your Winter Woes

January 26, 2018

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If you’ve left your house and interacted with other humans sometime in the past few months, chances are you have been, currently are, or soon will be feeling sick. Sniffles, sore throat, chills—even if you've had your flu shot, it's hard to emerge from winter with a completely clean bill of health.

With colds and flu season still in full swing, it pays to be prepared. But don't reach for the tissues or Vicks; instead, when you feel the first hints of sickness—be it achy bones or a scratchy throat—whip up a batch of this super-simple warming tonic. It's like a powerful immune-system boost, zinging with ginger and honey and just a hint of cayenne. Bonus: it tastes like a hot toddy, minus the booze (though if you want to add some, more power to you). We can't legally promise that a bright, steaming mug of this will cure all your ills, but we can promise that it will taste excellent.

A tablescape featuring Vitamin C. Photo by James Ransom

The best part? You don't even need a recipe to make it happen—which is especially helpful if you're trying to make it in a fog of sickness. Here's how to keep colds and sniffles at bay, all winter long.

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First, gather your ingredients. Basically, this should be a mixture of everything that is said to have holistic healing properties—as long as it tastes good. (Sorry, raw garlic, you're not invited.) Grab a lemon, a small piece of ginger, a piece of turmeric root, a jar of honey (the nicer the better), some apple cider vinegar, and cayenne pepper. Ready your favorite mug. Cue up some daytime TV and prep your couch and blanket.

Ready to boost that immune system. Photo by James Ransom

If you're making this warmer for yourself, start with 4 cups of water in a large saucepan. Slice off about an inch of fresh ginger, peel it, then crush it with the side of the knife (like you’re crushing garlic before peeling). Do the same with the turmeric; use a single root if it's a small one (an inch or so), or half of one if it's larger. Toss both of these into the saucepan. Juice the lemon over the water (don't worry about the seeds—you'll strain those out later), then toss in the juiced halves. Add a healthy splash of apple cider vinegar (about a tablespoon) and an equal amount of honey. Feel free to add more if you like things on the sweeter side, but we really like to taste the apple cider vinegar. Finally, if you're really stuffed up, add a sprinkle of cayenne pepper—careful, this stuff is really hot! But it will clear up your nasal passages.

Put the pot over medium heat until it just starts to simmer (don't let it boil), stirring a few times to dissolve the honey. Turn down the heat and let it simmer gently for about 5 minutes—a little under or over is no big deal. Strain the steaming liquid into a large thermos, your coziest mugs, or a heat-proof container for future use. Store extra tonic in the fridge for up to a week, then reheat on the stove or in the microwave whenever you feel under the weather.

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Top Comment:
“I do a lemon/apple cider vinegar tonic first thing every morning but this hot drink with the ginger and tumeric hits the spot. Forgot how tumeric stains but the yellow comes off with multiple handwashes. I am ready for my next fix now!”
— Amy K.

What do you eat (or drink) when you feel a cold coming on? Share your healing secrets in the comment section!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Amy Kaufman
    Amy Kaufman
  • Dina Sindil
    Dina Sindil
  • Jennifer
  • Panfusine
  • gandalf
A kitchen scientist and dog-lover. Someday I want to have you over for dinner.


Amy K. January 31, 2018
Delicous and soothing. Feeling run down and probably first day of a cold. I do a lemon/apple cider vinegar tonic first thing every morning but this hot drink with the ginger and tumeric hits the spot. Forgot how tumeric stains but the yellow comes off with multiple handwashes. I am ready for my next fix now!
Catherine L. February 1, 2018
Yes, good point! It stains the cutting board, too—oh well! Glad to hear the tonic is working :)
Dina S. January 28, 2018
Oh wow, very similar to my tonic for all ills and warm, too! What I do, after seeing it on a bottle of a kombucha-like drink in the US, is I mix apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, grated ginger, turmeric extract (It’s real turmeric), stevia & mineral water. It tastes like kombucha! It is the best hangover cure too 😂 Anytime I want something clean & fresh & something that will clear my head, I reach for this. So simple, and I never measure quantities. Thank you for the warm variation ☕️
Catherine L. February 1, 2018
This would be super good cold! Especially with some sparkling water... I've definitely reached for kombucha when hungover and I think this would do the trick, too.
Jennifer January 27, 2018
Oh my gosh! I thought I invented adding cider vinegar to ginger/turmeric tea. I guess not. Although sometimes I eat a grapefruit and add the juice instead of the cider vinegar. I don't bother with lemon, and I only use half teaspoon or so of honey. To each her own.
Catherine L. January 28, 2018
Love the idea of grapefruit juice!
Panfusine January 26, 2018
I depend upon this tisane that my grandmother used to brew. It's brewed using a toasted powdered mix of ginger, galangal, longpepper, peppercorn, coriander and licorice root. the peppery ginger is perfect for those sore throats.
Catherine L. January 28, 2018
I'll try that combination next time I feel a cold coming on!
gandalf January 26, 2018
Can you use powdered turmeric? If so, how much? I don't have easy access to turmeric roots.
Catherine L. January 26, 2018
Yes, definitely! It might not be as potent as a fresh turmeric root, but you can definitely substitute.
gandalf January 26, 2018
For the 4 cups of water, would 1 tsp. of powdered turmeric be an appropriate amount? Thanks!
Catherine L. January 26, 2018
Yes, I would start there! Then dial it up or down depending on your preferences; I've found that ground turmeric doesn't have much flavor (if any at all), so I don't think that will be overboard
gandalf January 28, 2018
I did use 1 tsp. turmeric; the color was a bit more orange that what is in the photo accompanying your article; but otherwise it was fine. I also increased the amount of honey (I used a large lemon, so perhaps that is why it tasted a bit more acidic; and I have a bit of a sweet tooth, anyway). For the second batch, I used blue agave syrup instead of honey, and it seemed to work out well also.

Thanks for the recipe!
HalfPint January 26, 2018
My BFF eats an orange whenever she feels a cold coming on. Not OJ or canned orange segments, but a peeled orange. She believes that the extra dose of Vitamin C and the fiber is the reason why she either does not get sick at all or the duration is only a couple of days.
Catherine L. January 26, 2018
Interesting! The vitamin c can’t hurt. I’ve been told to swallow raw garlic but haven’t tried it yet...