One of our "ancient Chinese secrets" in Asian medicine is that black pepper happens to be an incredibly powerful medicinal masquerading as steak seasoning. It's a classic example of the pantry being a medicine cabinet.
When Yogi Bhajan brought Kundalini Yoga to the US, he also created the Yogi Tea company as a way to get black pepper into Western stomachs. Almost all the blends he put on the market had black pepper in them because, as an Aryurvedic medicinal, it treats a wide variety of disorders such as digestive issues, parasites, and blood purification. And on top of that, it stimulates the immune system.
Though it's more commonly found on meat or eggs in the West, black pepper is a staple ingredient in Indian chai, a spiced tea that includes other "warming tonic" herbs such as cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and star anise. In Chinese medicine, black pepper is known as Hu Jiao, a powerful herb used to warm the middle and alleviate cold-type abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting.
I was able to get my hands on the black pepper tea recipe that Yogi Bhajan gave to his students to keep their immune systems strong. It mixes the best of seasonal cooking, Ayurvedic medicine, and traditional Chinese herbalism; it's also simply damn delicious.
The recipe combines a decoction of black pepper with pomegranate, which has been used since the dawn of time. An antioxidant found in pomegranates called punicalagin has been shown to stop the flu virus from replicating and spreading. That means this little decoction not only looks out for your stomach (which is where 80% of your immune system lives), but it also kills the flu virus if it finds its way into your system. Consider this part of your autumn arsenal against cold and flu!
Sneaky Yogi Pepper Pomegranate Brew
Since the decoction needs some cool-down time, it's best to start the process before you retire for bed. This recipe keeps well in the refrigerator; if you have storage room, you can double the ingredients to brew a larger batch so you don't have to make it as often.
- 1/4 cup black peppercorns
- 1 container of any size of pomegranate juice
- 6 cups water
- Mix the peppercorns with the water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Once the decoction is boiling, turn the flame down to a simmer and cover the pot.
- Let the tea simmer for 20 minutes, then turn the stovetop off.
- Allow your decoction to cool down overnight on the stove with the lid on.
- Strain the peppercorn tea into a container in the morning and put in the fridge.
Twice a day, mix 1/2 cup of your tea with 1/2 a cup of pomegranate juice and imbibe!
Yogi with a Twist
If you live in a city with access to an international grocery store or a Middle Eastern market, there's a product called "Pomegranate Molasses" that is an excellent alternative to the pomegranate juice for this recipe. The juice often has a lot of sugar and is watered down; however, the molasses is highly concentrated and will often have little to no sugar. The twist would be to mix 1/2 a cup of the peppercorn tea with 1/2 a cup of boiling water and dissolve the molasses in the hot tea water. As an Asian Medicine practitioner, this is my preferred method since we don't generally allow for cold drinks - especially in cold weather. Kalustyan's on Lexington Avenue and 28th Street has several different brands and enough peppercorn to bring you into the 22nd century.
Would love to know your experience: Did brewing the peppers make you sneeze? How did you feel afterwards? Let us know in the comments below!