Relief: Ginger + Dark Sugar Tea

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Premenstrual syndrome and menstrual complaints can take many forms. It’s natural to gain a little weight and feel a bit different at that time of the month, but it should not be painful or interfere with life. Qi moves blood. When young women experience a condition of extreme yang energy, the yin can’t go through to balance it because their kidney qi is too weak. In addition to the strength of her qi, the state of a woman’s blood exerts an influence on her overall menstrual health and comfort. During her period, she loses blood, depleting qi energy. When qi is disrupted, cramps are the result. For a very emotional young woman, it may be that there is too much heat in her blood and her qi has been blocked. She may have premenstrual discomfort including breast tenderness, bloating, clotting, and mood swings, as well as cravings for yang foods like chocolate. Her uterus is too yin, or cold, with an energy blockage preventing yang energy from rising and providing balance.

At this time, she needs the traditional Chinese remedy of a soothing and delicious hot ginger and brown sugar tea. This tonic beverage is a time-honored example, according to Chinese medicine, of the way dark brown sugar in small amounts acts as a powerful lubricant in the body. It is effective in quickly bringing down the excessive yin of cramps and restoring a young woman’s yang energy. After a few sips, she will feel the cramps begin to lift away as her internal qi moves closer to the ideal healthful balance. It tastes delicious, but I must stress that this tea is a medicine, to be consumed twice or three times a day until a woman’s period is over, and then not again until the next cycle.

Those unfamiliar with traditional Chinese medicine may be surprised to learn that sweeteners such as Chinese black sugar or dark turbinado or muscovado sugar are regularly used as a remedy, especially for colds and menstrual issues. These dark sugars bring down yin, or cold. White sugar also has a role in Chinese medicine as a cooling remedy to bring down heat.

To make the tea, peel and slice a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger. Combine it in a small saucepan with 5 cups water and 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the sugar has fully dissolved and the ginger has given its flavor to the tea.