A delicious blend of black tea and warm spices gives chai a depth and complexity that is both familiar and exotic. Many of these spices have reputations as alternative therapies for a variety of conditions, including such cold symptoms as sore throat. Tea itself, which is packed with healthy compounds, both supports good health and soothes the irritation that causes scratchiness and hoarseness. Because a condition that appears to be a simple sore throat may signal a more serious condition, consult a physician before attempting to treat a sore throat and loss of your voice at home.
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The chai most Americans are familiar with is based on an Indian spice tea called masala chai. Black tea is simmered with such spices as cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg, to which boiled milk is added. Masala chai has been used medicinally in the Ayurvedic tradition since India's Vedic Period, which spanned 1500 B.C. to 500 B.C. Today, masala chai is a staple Indian beverage.
Classic Chai Preparation
There's no one correct way to make chai. Traditionally, Indian families have concocted their own brews based on their individual tastes. Packaged chai mixtures are widely available in stores. But you can make an authentic brew with several peppercorns, a cinnamon stick, several green cardamom pods and cloves and sliced ginger root boiled together with enough water to cover the spices. After simmering the spices for five minutes, remove them from the heat and allow them to steep for 10 minutes. Then return the mixture to a boil, remove from the heat again, and add two tea bags. Steep for three to five minutes. Strain the tea, add a cup of milk and sugar to taste. Return the tea to the stove. Stir the mixture for one minute, until it's heated through. Star anise and vanilla bean may also be used in the spice mixture.
Chai for Sore Throat and Irritation
Several of the spices in chai may help a sore throat heal. For example, cinnamon, cloves and ginger are rich in essential oils that many have antimicrobial properties. They also support good circulation, which encourages quicker healing. Nutmeg and cardamom may relieve irritation by helping to keep your throat moist. Star anise contains an ingredient used in the antiviral medication Tamiflu. And, even without the addition of spices, black tea is a soothing beverage high in antioxidants that promote good health.
Tips for Using Chai for a Sore Throat
Very hot and very cold beverages can further irritate an already sore and scratchy throat, so don't drink your chai until it has had a chance to cool. If you find iced tea more soothing, you may drink chai cold, but avoid ice. In addition, consider watering your tea down a bit. Make the full-strength brew to maintain a pleasing proportion of spice to tea, but weaken the chai with water to avoid having too-strong tea or too-strong spice further irritate your throat.