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ANYTIME, ANYWHERE Hot water makes a healthy drink
ANYTIME, ANYWHERE Hot water makes a healthy drink

WELLBEING Have some warm water laced with herbs or spices and see its effects on your health

It doesn’t look like an appetiser even when the man serving it is drop-dead gorgeous. Why would this movie-actor look-alike plonk a glass of red (yes!) and warm water on the table? For heaven’s sake, it’s a sizzling hot day!

The star waiter at the Ernakulam restaurant hears you gasp, turns around lazily and says without expression, “It’s warm water with herbs. Good for health. Try it.” You didn’t know restaurants had your health on their menu.

Warm water, yes, you’ve seen it around. You forced it down when you had that achy fever that wouldn’t go away.

Warm-to-touch water did seem to comfort the sand-papery throat and the racking dry cough. Musicians do carry it in flasks.

Hospitals don’t serve cold water with meals. In a lot of communities, water served with feasts on special days is always warm.

But when an entire state routinely sips herbal warm water, and restaurants don’t charge you for boiling and filtering it, you give it a closer look. And it isn’t plain warm water. What gives it colour?

“The red colour is from the Karingali (Khadira in Sanskrit) stick,” explained Dr. P.V. Radhakrishnan, Ayurveda Bhooshanam.

“Pieces of the tree are boiled in water. The essence is a blood purifier, has a cooling effect.” He likens it to sukku vellam (water boiled with dried ginger). “Hard foods like ghee and curds melt in warm water and are easier to digest. And ah, hot water contains no germs.”

Is hot water yech? Not your cup of tea? You can make it so. There are any numbers of add-ons for interesting concoctions. Ingredients to make a sizzling cup of hot water could be sandalwood pieces, sarasaparilla, nannari (satavari), athimaduram (yeshthy), dry dhania powder, jeeragam (cumin seeds) and cinnamon.

“Rotate these options,” said Dr. Radhakrishnan. “Sukku vellam (water) helps with digestion. Dhania pats down piththam (bile). Others remove thirst and tiredness, soothe throat and lungs. Separately or together. Choose them depending on the weather.” Didn’t grandma tell you honey with lemon in hot water eases a sore throat?

The French, Japanese and the Chinese know the benefits of a warm drink to round off a meal — as warm wine or as green tea. Japanese tourists routinely carry a flask filled with hot water as they hop from place to place clicking their Nikons. “Dip a teabag in it,” was the kindly advice.

In an interview, Dadamuni (Ashok Kumar) attributed moderately warm drinks to his long innings in movies. Kannan, a busy retailer always asks for a glass of warm water when he’s served a plate of oily snacks.

“It definitely helps digestion,” he said. “See that the hot water is in you, and not you in hot water.”

Does drinking warm water reduce stomach cancer risk as some people claim? We don’t know. But studies do tell us of the positive health results of catechin, present in green tea. Its bitterness prevents food poisoning, improves oral hygiene, controls cholesterol and blood pressure, reduces blood sugar. The Vitamin E in it is a good anti-oxidant that slows down the ageing process.

Researchers are beginning to prove that mild warm coffee can be a great stress buster. And no one questions the benefits of the herbs that go into this warm companion to your meal.

Easy to brew

A hot water health combo is the easiest to brew. It’s just 200 ml of purified water at slightly higher than ambient temperature. Boil water in a clean kettle, pour it into a drinking mug and try these alternatives with it. Stir in a small ball of clean jaggery that people in Bengal believe helps digestion. Drop black tea leaves and sugar or honey (optional) and let it soak for a while. Do the same with green tea leaves and a few drops of lemon juice.

Go for crystals of instant coffee, honey, ginger and lemon for weight loss and that zingy feeling. Sprinkle cocoa powder for on-the-spot energy or gently pour a thimbleful of brandy for an after dinner shot. Ensures a good night’s sleep.

Says army man Balvinder who has served in the forward areas, “Sip hot water any time during the day or night, particularly half an hour before or after the meals. It will drain all the toxins from the system. Dissolve the fat in the body. Act as laxative without any side effects.”

GEETA PADMANABHAN

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