This Ancient Digestive Tonic Massively Changed My Gut Health In Just A Week
I'm a well-documented lover of tea. As a person who eschews caffeine (which I find stokes my anxiety) and soda (with a kind "no, thank you" to all of that sugar), I rely on herbal teas to keep me hydrated and provide enough taste-bud-based entertainment to keep me from mindlessly reaching for my snack drawer. I'm also, like many wellness-interested people generally and anxiety-sufferers specifically, very interested in the health of my gut, which is often referred to as the "second brain."
Jasmine Hemsley, mbg Collective member, ayurvedic expert, and author of the East by West cookbook, explains: "CCF is a classic 'tea' of ayurveda, designed to balance out digestive discomfort and aid digestive capacity, which, according to ayurveda, is absolutely necessary to maintain good health." The letters stand for cumin, coriander, and fennel, the three ingredients in the concoction.
"Each of these seeds has its own long list of benefits, and when taken together as a decoction, it's a wonderful remedy for general digestive health," says Hemsley. Western studies back up the benefits of all three spices for aiding gut health, fighting inflammation, and even helping with weight loss. The CCF blend is also tri-doshic, meaning it works for any of the three dosha blends, or ayurvedic constitutions, but you can also customize the tea for your specific needs. "Cumin is very heating, so a pitta-type person or someone suffering with a pitta imbalance should be careful of consuming too much cumin, which can make their gastric situation worse, so reduce or omit if it's aggravating," explains Hemsley. "If your digestion is poor before eating a meal, you could add some grated ginger to increase your agni, or digestive fire, as a variation. You can also add some triphala powder (another powerful herbal remedy of three ingredients hence the 'tri') to your tea to make it more therapeutic, and even add some ghee and raw honey to make that more potent."
To reap all of those benefits, though, the way you prepare the tea is important. "Though we refer to it as a tea, tea is a word that really means the brewing of tea leaves while a tisane refers to gently steeped herbs," says Hemsley. "When it comes to these seeds, which are much more dense and robust than delicate leaves, a decoction is required. A decoction is a concentrated liquor resulting from heating or boiling a substance, especially a medicinal preparation made from a plant."
Hemsley recommends boiling the whole spices in a 1:16 ratio with water (so 1 cup of total spices would require 16 cups of water) until it's reduced to at least ½, and up to ⅛. You can then drink it immediately, or store it in your fridge, only heating up the tea in individual servings (ayurveda tends to frown on drinking cold liquids, as it quells digestive fire, so always bring the CCF to at least room temperature before sipping).
I made a big batch one Sunday, then stored it in a large Mason jar, using it to spike my room-temperature sipping water (a tip suggested by ayurvedic expert Sahara Rose) throughout the week. I also added a stick of cinnamon to the initial decoction, another suggestion from Rose, who finds it helps make the flavor far more palatable while further enhancing the health benefits.
If you're not one for making your own teas, you can also purchase CCF. Marvin Singh, M.D. buys his from Banyan Botanicals.
As for said flavor? I loved it. The earthy cumin layered with the spicy cinnamon and citrusy coriander, and the cinnamon added a warm, sweet note that brought everything together. It tasted like a blend of fall harvest spices and a bustling Middle Eastern marketplace. During the week I drank it, my digestion functioned in peak form, even when I ate foods that typically caused bloat, like chickpeas or cruciferous vegetables.
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Hemsley has found similar benefits in her own life. "As someone whose digestion takes a direct hit from any stress, this hot drink has been a savior." The benefits aren't limited to the CCF decoction either. "I also use these three spices regularly in my cooking and, if I'm flying and can't have my CCF decoction on me because of liquid regulations, then I'll carry some fennel tea bags for a carminative effect on my digestion and the calming effect on the mind," Hemsley says.
Making my weekly brew has become something of a ritual for me (and the purveyors at my local spice shop now have my cumin, coriander, and fennel ready when they see me come in). My digestion feels better, yes, but I also feel calmer, more grounded, and best of all, like I have something delicious to look forward to every day.