With the arrival of Summer, comes the arrival heat! And this means we sweat a lot. According to to Traditional Chinese Medicine, a little sweating is healthy. It helps to cool the body when overheating and even naturally expel any toxins that have begun to invade. In this way, sweat is actually an immune response. But Yin-Yang teaches all things in balance. In other words, while some sweating is appropriate, excessive sweating can deplete the Bodily Fluids. Jin Ye Xu, or Deficient Bodily Fluids, can result in Dryness thorughout the body taking form of cough, constipation, sore throat, painful urination, excessive thirst, and exhaustion. But don’t worry. One simple and delicious way to combat Summer Heat is Smoked Plum Iced Tea.
Wu Mei, or Black Plum, is a TCM herb with a deliciously sweet, sour, and smoky profile. Officially, it is Sour in taste, which means it astringes or stops leakage of fluids or qi. Leakage of Lung Qi can mean a cough, whereas leakage of Large Intestine Qi may look more like diarrhea. Additionally, Wu Mei generates fluids and alleviates thirst. You’re starting to see why this is the key ingredient for this Summer drink. Perfect to pair with a spicy meal that leaves you panting. Recent studies have also shown the herb to have anti-cancer properties and inhibit ascites carcinoma.
The second key herb in this drink is Shan Zha, or Hawthorn Berry. Shan Zha is slightly warm in temperature and Sweet and Sour in taste. As mentioned above, Sour taste means the herb astringes or stops leakage. The Sweet taste strengthens the Spleen and Stomach which promotes digestion and fights fatigue. You can see some of these effects play out in how the herb is used. It is associated with over-eating or Food Stagnation, bloating, and constipation because of its ability to increase digestive juices and fluids.
Lastly, the two supporting herbs are Gui Hua and Gan Cao. Gui Hua are little flowers with an slightly sweet and aromatic nature, meaning they gently awaken the the Shen or Spirit and open the orifices: mouth, nose, and eyes. Gan Cao is known as the great harmonizer. It is used in countless formulas to bring the disparate herbs together, working as one. One way it does this is by its ability to “detoxify” the toxic effects of some stronger herbs. In this formula, however, we don’t need to worry about toxins in the other herbs. Instead, it’s detoxifying action is preemptively applied to any of the alcohol or spicy seafood you may consume on Summer nights to prevent food poisoning or hangover. Even if food poisoning is not a concern, this drink is regularly consumed with spicy food thanks to Gan Cao’s ability to clear heat or relieve inflammation.
Though this drink begins to be popular in the hot Summer months, it remains a staple through the season of Autumn as well. According to the Five Elements Theory, Autumn pertains to the Metal element and is associated with the Lung & Large Instestine systems and the Dryness pathogen. With all the astringing and fluid generation capabilities of this drink, it makes sense to keep it on the menu for the Autumn months.
But enough talk about the herbs. Let’s drink!
Smoked Plum Iced Tea | 乌梅汁
24g Wu Mei
12g Shan Zha
12g Gan Cao
1 liter Water
Pinch of Gui Hua
Optional: Rock Sugar to taste
- Wash the dried herbs. Combine the Wu Mei, Shan Zha, and Gan Cao in a mesh colander and rinse under boiling water.
- Add the herbs to a pot with 1 liter of cold water. Turn on the fire, bring to a boil, simmer for 25 minutes.
- If adding rock sugar, add now while still hot. Stir until dissolved.
- The drink can be served hot as is, or cooled in the fridge and served over ice. Garnish with a sprinkle of Gui Hua a nice pop of color and aroma. Enjoy!