Healthy Drinks

Gut Health Hack: Sipping This Maple-Ginger Tea Before a Meal Works Wonders on Your Digestive System

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As we ease into the new year, turning our 2023 ins and outs lists into reality is top of mind for many. So, what's on tap? Whether you are embarking on your first-ever Dry January, curtailing your caffeine intake, or working towards balancing your gut microbiome, you can check all of these items off your list today thanks to this easy sparkling spiced non-alcoholic and digestion-boosting cocktail recipe.

On the latest episode of Plant-Based, Rachelle Robinett, a certified herbalist and the founder of Supernatural, teaches us how to make a refreshing booze-free drink packed with carminatives, which are herbs that help support gut health and digestion. And you can rest assured knowing that this functional beverage tastes delicious, too, thanks to ingredients like clove, orange, and ginger that’ll definitely have you saying, “pour me another.”

Why carminatives and bitters can help stimulate healthy digestion

If there’s one thing you take away from the latest episode of Plant-Based is that carminatives are the name of the game when it comes to gut-friendly drink ingredients. These digestion-boosting herbs include cloves, allspice, cinnamon, ginger, and black pepper. (And spoiler alert: Robinett's drink recipe spotlights all of the above.)

So, how exactly do carminatives work their magic on your microbiome? “One of the ways they work is that [carminatives] help relax the muscles in the digestive tract, and this can improve motility and ease cramps,” Robinett says. Many of these herbs (especially those in the mint family, like lemon balm and peppermint) are also filled with naturally occurring essential oils, aka volatile oils, which can also help promote healthy digestion and assist with constipation relief. (FYI: It’s important to note that the essential oils in this recipe are naturally found in the herbs and are therefore not as concentrated as those you'll find in stores, which shouldn’t be ingested deliberately without proper guidance.)

What’s more, this recipe also has other digestion-boosting properties thanks to the orange peel. Robinett adds this ingredient for both flavor and to give the drink a digestive bitter component, which can stimulate your taste buds to create more saliva, which in turn helps jumpstart your digestive system.

“Citrus in this recipe, specifically the peel or orange, is considered a bitter. Digestive bitters are great for digestion,” Robinett says. The compounds in citrus peels and other bitter ingredients, she explains, can "help stimulate digestive enzymes, gastric hydrochloric acid, and things we need to digest and absorb food properly."

How to consume these digestion-friendly ingredients for the most gut-boosting benefits

To get the most gut-healthy benefits from this nourishing beverage, Robinett says the most optimal time to consume this drink (or other drinks made with carminatives or digestive bitters) is before a meal. “Using digestive bitters before meals is a great way to prime your body and wake up your digestion to get to work on the big meal that’s to come,” Robinett says. And if you’re not exactly in the mood to drink your bitters for the day, she says you can eat them, too.

“Foods are also bitters, so any kind of food that’s bitter is acting as a digestive bitter to improve your digestion, so think like arugula, mustard greens, citrus peels, 100 percent cacao, and coffee,” Robinett says. These bitters can be added to recipes—like a gut-boosting arugula and sauerkraut salad or homemade preserved lemons.

But if you are in the mood for a super hydrating and delicious non-alcoholic drink to sip on, look no further. Check out the full episode to learn how to make this sparkling spiced digestion-boosting drink recipe and find step-by-step instructions below.

Sparkling spiced non-alcoholic cocktail recipe

Yields 4 servings

Ingredients
8 ounces filtered water
Peel of an entire organic orange
4-inch piece of ginger, broken into pieces
Seasonal spices of your choice, to taste (like cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, clove, cracked black pepper)
1/4 cup maple syrup
Sparkling water
Garnish

1. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine water, orange peel, ginger, and spices and simmer. Once the mixture is reduced by half, pour it into a small mixing bowl and the maple syrup. Stir to combine, and then set it aside to let it cool completely.

2. Once cooled, add a few tablespoons of the syrup into a glass filled with ice. Top with sparkling water, and add the garnish of your choice, like dried oranges and cinnamon sticks.

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