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Turmeric Tea for Colds & Flu

by Dr. Sarah Cimperman, ND

Turmeric has a long history as both a food and a medicine. Traditionally it has been used to treat small pox, arthritis, liver disease, digestive problems, menstrual disorders, and cancer, as well as respiratory conditions and infections. Curcumin, one of the active compounds inside turmeric, may be best known for its anti-inflammatory activity, but research studies show that it also has a wide range of antiviral activity. It can inhibit herpes simplex virus, hepatitis B virus, Japanese encephalitis virus, human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 which has been linked to blood cancer, and human papillomaviruses including high-risk HPV-16 and HPV-18 which have been associated with cervical cancer. Turmeric can also inhibit influenza viruses, including H1N1. Influenza viruses treated with prescription antiviral drugs can develop resistance, but those treated with turmeric do not.

Turmeric is the star of this tea, but there are other important ingredients. Aromatics like ginger, cinnamon, and chili peppers have anti-inflammatory effects as well as other health benefits. Ginger has been used for thousands of years to treat colds, arthritis, migraine headaches, nausea, and high blood pressure. Cinnamon has been shown to lower blood sugar, lower cholesterol, and fight infections. Capsaicin, an active compound in chili peppers, is being studied for its roles in pain relief, weight loss, and cancer prevention.

You can drink this tea unsweetened or stir in a spoonful of honey. Honey is a good choice during colds and flu because it can soothe sore throats and quiet coughs. One study of children with upper respiratory infections found that honey reduced the frequency of coughing, the severity of coughing, and the sleep quality of children as well as parents.

Turmeric Tea with Ginger and Cinnamon

This tea is delicious hot or cold. I like to make it in advance and strain it the following day or just before I’m going to drink it. The longer the aromatics steep in the tea, the stronger their flavor and effect.


1 tablespoon of ground turmeric

1/2 organic lemon, finely chopped (fruit and peel)

2 inches of fresh ginger root, finely chopped

1 dried chili pepper (chile de árbol or other)

1 cinnamon stick

4 cups filtered water

Raw, local honey for serving (optional)


1. Add the turmeric, lemon, ginger, chili pepper, cinnamon, and water to a medium saucepan.

2. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat.

3. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.

4. Turn off the heat, cover the mixture, and set aside for 20 minutes or more.

5. To serve, strain the tea and discard the solids. Reheat if desired. Pour into individual cups and stir in a teaspoon of honey (optional).

6. To store, transfer the tea to an airtight glass container and keep it in the fridge.

References are available upon request.

Dr. Sarah Cimperman, ND is a naturopathic doctor in private practice in New York City and author of the book, The Prediabetes Detox: A Whole-Body Program to Balance Your Blood Sugar, Increase Energy, and Reduce Sugar Cravings (www.prediabetesdetox.com). Follow Dr. Cimperman on Facebook, Twitter and her blogs, A Different Kind of Doctor and The Naturopathic Gourmet. Find her at www.drsarahcimperman.com.


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