Spring cleanse: Suffering something chronic? Try something tonic

My week-long spring cleanse ended yesterday. Whoot.

I reminded myself of some good habits to follow this week, and invented some new ones. To keep my mouth and brain from getting bored, I made a few things that taste great, have interesting texture, and support health. Particularly in the drinks department as wine and my hacked vodka were off the menu.

When I was a teenager, I had the opportunity to spend a year in India as an exchange student. I lived in a hill station in the mountains. It was a place that was once a military base for the British, and I lived in the Anglo-Indian cantonment left from the colonial period.

I finally learned what the word “bungalow” actually means, as my host family lived in a large, sprawling one–dark, cool and with wonderful architectural features. There was a resident cobra by the well in the garden, old growth trees, and lots of new experiences for me. For them too. I spent a year trying to explain what oregano was, since pizza wasn’t that common in India at that time, and I wanted to make one, except I couldn’t find oregano. Later, we all discovered it was a common herb that grew in the garden (after having a U.S.A pinch of it imported via airmail– yeah, that was OK back then).

It was one of the most illuminating years of my life.

My Indian family had owned the house since the 19th century, when an ancestor had a soft drinks factory in the back complex. His company made syrups for soda. Among the flavors he made was celery.

Really? Celery? Soda? Wow. Crazy colonial Brits and their mad-dog-in-sun ways in India, hunh?

Not too long ago, I saw a funny Alton Brown Good Eats episode about making celery seed tonic. Hmm, thought I. What might that be like? I tried it. It was remarkably refreshing, light and sophisticated. A great mixer, in fact.

So, I consulted one of my go-to references, Healing Spices by Bharat Aggarwal to find out what celery seed is good for in terms of health.


For starters, celery’s both an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. It’s great for gout. It helps with mosquito bites, with heart disease, with ulcers, with PMS symptoms. With liver disease. Bingo.

A cross-reference table in the book’s appendix mentioned other liver-strengthening spices included coriander seeds, among others. Juniper berries too, and rosemary, which gives me ideas for future experimentation.

Despite the fact that it’s freezing here again, it still feels like spring.

So I made a spring tonic.

Since I’m pretty much weaned off of sugar, it has no sweeteners in it. If you really want to know how to make a traditional celery tonic, see the recipe from Alton Brown, which is a simple syrup infused with celery seed. If you want to avoid carbs, stevia or erythritol would be good as sweeteners if you find the mix too bitter.

Here’s my version.

Something Chronic Spring Tonic


1/4 cup celery tonic (recipe below)

5 oranges – I used blood oranges, just because they were in the market, and they look awesome

5 limes

2 lemons

4 cups green tea – I used White Monkey from In Pursuit of Tea

large sprig of mint

pitcher/ refrigerator jar that holds about 2 quarts — you’re going to dilute this anyway, so smaller is fine. The pitcher shown here is 1.5 liters. Admittedly, I would normally use a 2-quart mason jar, but I was trying to impress you with the fancy pitcher, where I normally store drinking water.


Put celery tonic in pitcher

Squeeze the juice of 2 oranges and two limes, or to taste. Slice other fruit thinly, and arrange in pitcher. About halfway through the fruit, layer in some of the less attractive mint leaves, saving a nice sprig for the top

Add tea, and enough water to fill your container

Serve your jewel-like drink with sparkling water, and allow guests to make their own mix. The celery is slightly bitter, so about 1/3 to 1/2 mix to water is about right.

Celery (liver cleanse) tonic:

3 tablespoons celery seeds

2 tablespoons coriander seeds

1 quart distilled water.

Combine all into a saucepan, bring to a boil, and simmer gently for about 20 minutes (cooking the celery seeds will make them less bitter). Strain, and save in a jar in the fridge. Use a couple of tablespoons in a tall glass of sparkling water for a refreshing treat.



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