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Yogi Tea, the Perfect Everyday Beverage

By Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa

Ayurveda is the holistic healing system of India, the name translating from Sanskrit as “the science of life.” Ayurveda is a huge collection of interrelated practices that encompass literally every aspect of a person’s health and lifestyle. This physical, mental and spiritual health system emphasizes the science of longevity in particular, while focusing on promoting good health throughout that lengthened life, of course. Yoga, another part of the science, is the mental and spiritual development side of promoting human evolution.

Ayurveda is likely the oldest continuing healing system on the planet, sometimes called “the mother of all healing.” According to scholars of Ayurveda, this system is the origin of most healing systems in today’s world; all Asian medical systems evolved from the core of Ayurveda. Although historians debate the dates surrounding Ayurveda, some authorities maintain that there is evidence for written records going back 5,000 years for Ayurveda and an oral tradition going back for thousands of years previous. Ayurveda offers us a framework for understanding the body and how to best support health over a lifetime.

Ancient peoples experienced the world through their senses. There were no microscopes or MRIs, so they categorized remedies based on their sensory effects. These sense experiences were coordinated into a systematic way to predict the effect of therapies. If an herb made you hot, it was designated a “hot” herb, for example. Expanded to include all possible metabolic actions, these concepts for the basis of an extensive system of “energetics.”

Herbs are the primary medicine of Ayurveda. When diet adjustment is not enough, herbs are the next step. Many outstanding herbs are used in South Asia, and they are categorized just as food would be, by their energy effects. Each herb can be matched to the needs of the person at the particular time. And Ayurvedic herbal medicine is not something you wait until a crisis to use. Better to prevent problems, so daily herb use is a good choice. Enter Yogi Tea.

Yogi Tea was introduced to America by Yogi Bhajan, a yoga teacher from India, in 1969, long before anyone had heard of exotic chai. He served the concoction to his first American yoga students, who coined the name out of respect. This 6-herb beverage, besides being tasty, has a plethora of healing benefits and is a great staple to add to your daily routine. Essentially a mildly warming circulation enhancer, it bumps up disease resistance, stamina, liver health, and digestion. All six spices are mildly warming, yet still well tolerated by almost everyone. Most of us, as we age, tend to develop a cooler, less efficient digestive system, so mild warming digestive spices act as anti-aging advantages. In Ayurvedic thinking, the air element is the destructive metabolic force in the body, and healthy herbal warmth offsets its potential damage to the organs, especially the bones and nerves.

Some like it a little hot. On the whole, warming herbs promote digestion, and black pepper is an excellent example. Though it’s little respected here, it is one of the most valued herbs in Asia. Black pepper is said by some to be the best detoxifying herb in Ayurveda. Piperine, a main active constituent, has a reputation for increasing bioavailability and absorption of nutrients. In one study, scientists measured the absorption of turmeric active ingredients. Administering the turmeric along with piperine increased bioavailability by 154 percent, and reduced the time for absorption by half.

Peppercorns have a general affinity for the respiratory system. Black pepper targets that system where it is an excellent remedy for releasing mucus, such as sinus congestion.

Ginger root, called "the universal medicine" in Ayurveda, is one of the best investments you can make in your health. And it's so simple. This root is delicious, inexpensive and easily available, as well as some pretty serious medicine. Ginger is a time-tested remedy for stomach upset, motion sickness, indigestion and nausea.

In an experiment with 28 patients, ginger reduced the delayed nausea of chemotherapy and reduced use of antiemetic medications.[1] The scientific literature lists well over 200 studies on ginger for nausea, making it by far the most popular nausea remedy. A 2017 paper again validated ginger as having multiple properties for upset tummy.[2]

It reduces gut spasms, absorbs and neutralizes toxins in the GI tract and boosts digestive juice secretion, including bile and saliva.[3] This spicy root contains ingredients that soothe the gut and aid digestion by augmenting peristalsis. A study of colitis found that ginger reduced inflammation and injury, apparently through anti-inflammatory and antioxidant actions.[4]

Among its many uses, ginger helps to lower blood sugar, and treats closely related cardiovascular conditions. Ginger lowers blood fats, including triglycerides, reduces oxidation of LDL and prevents arterial plaque. Research finds that an ounce of ginger root per day produced a significant lowering of blood cholesterol.

More traditional ginger uses:

  • Arthritis, especially osteoarthritis
  • Promoting menstruation (starting a late menstrual period)
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Cold and flu
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome

Cloves are widely used medicine in Asian herbalism. They promote circulation in the lungs and the stomach. Clearly, they are warming. They treat cough, and enhance digestion. Herbalists use cloves to promote fluid flow in the lymph system. The volatile oil is a powerful analgesic that can help with muscle pain, rheumatism and arthritis. Clove is valuable for relieving bronchitis and asthma and has special benefit for nerve function, which, in Ayurveda, means that it reduces the air element. It is included in Yogi Tea largely for that reason.

Cinnamon is a very mild herb that is well tolerated by a broad variety of people, as it is a pungent, sweet and hot herb. It increases general vitality, warms and energizes the body as a whole, counteracts congestion, stops diarrhea, improves digestion, relieves abdominal spasms, is antirheumatic and aids the peripheral blood circulation. [5] [6] [7] Cinnamon’s warming property also makes it a very good choice to promote menstruation. Cinnamon enhances circulation to the uterus, so the warm relaxing blood can relieve the cramps. As you would imagine, cinnamon is often used together with other warming herbs, like ginger, for this symptom.

Cardamom is used in herbal medicine to treat enuresis (involuntary urination), spermatorrhea, phlegm, indigestion and gas. This herb has a warming, anti-mucus action, so is particularly appropriate in lung formulas. It removes mucus from the stomach and lungs, as well as being good for reducing high excess air element.

Studies have shown that cardamom has pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory, and antispasmodic effects.[8]

Black tea has become well known for a long list of health benefits, especially as an anti-aging remedy. Adding a cup of Yogi Tea to your daily routine not only satisfies your taste buds and replaces less healthy drinks, it adds a veritable herbal pharmacy to your cup.

Yogi Tea
This is the original recipe given by Yogi Bhajan:

For each 8 oz. cup, start with 10 oz. of water. For convenience, make at least 4 cups at one time.
For each cup of boiling water, add:
3 whole cloves
4 whole green cardamom pods
6 whole black peppercorns
½ stick cinnamon
Optional: 1 slice of fresh ginger root
Boil for 20-30 minutes, then add ¼ tsp. any black tea.
Let sit for one or two minutes and then add ½ cup milk and reheat. Strain and serve with honey to taste.

[1] Levine ME, Gillis MG, Koch SY, Voss AC, Stern RM, Koch KL. Protein and ginger for the treatment of chemotherapy-induced delayed nausea. J Altern Complement Med. 2008 Jun;14(5):545-51.

[2] Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2017 Jan 2;57(1):141-146.

Ginger-Mechanism of action in chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting: A review.

[3] McCaleb, Robert S., Herb Research Foundation Encyclopedia of Popular Herbs, Prima, Roseville, california, 2000.

[4] El-Abhar HS, Hammad LN, Gawad HS. Modulating effect of ginger extract on rats with ulcerative colitis. J Ethnopharmacol. 2008 Aug 13;118(3):367-72. Epub 2008 May 15.

[5] Dhuley JN Anti-oxidant effects of cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum) bark and greater cardamom (Amomum subulatum) seeds in rats fed high fat diet. Indian J Exp Biol 1999 Mar;37(3):238-42

[6] Mancini-Filho J, Van-Koiij A, Mancini DA, Cozzolino FF, Torres RP Antioxidant activity of cinnamon (Cinnamomum Zeylanicum, Breyne) extracts. Boll Chim Farm 1998 Dec;137(11):443-7

[7] Kurokawa M, Kumeda CA, Yamamura J, Kamiyama T, Shiraki K Antipyretic activity of cinnamyl derivatives and related compounds in influenza virus-infected mice. Eur J Pharmacol 1998 May 1;348(1):45-51

[8] al-Zuhair H, el-Sayeh B, Ameen HA, al-Shoora H Pharmacological studies of cardamom oil in animals. Pharmacol Res 1996 Jul-Aug;34(1-2):79-82

Karta Purkh ("K.P.") Khalsa is one of the country’s foremost natural healing experts, the recent President Emeritus of the American Herbalists Guild, and director for the National Ayurvedic Medical Association. He mentored in Ayurveda with Yogi Bhajan for 32 years. K.P. has presented over 200 times at professional conferences, has written over 3,000 articles on health topics and is the author or editor of 30 books on health, including his latest, The Way of Ayurvedic Herbs. He teaches Ayurveda, herbalism and nutrition at two naturopathic medicine Universities. K.P, who worked as the senior research scientist and herbalist for Yogi Tea for 30 years, is the only American to hold the title Yogaraj in Ayurveda. K.P. is also the first person to be dual-credentialed in herbalism (RH) and Ayurveda (AD). Visit K.P.’s website by clicking here.


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This article appears in: 2018 Catalyst, Issue 24: Sacred Moments