Do you take Tea with your Asthma? Included: A great recipe for Chai.

Patient Expert

I'm a tea girl.

When I feel a little wheezy, caffeine, tea in particular, seems to calm my asthma symptoms. I wouldn't take a tea break in place of medication, but if my chest starts to feel tight due to an allergic situation I can have some tea and usually avoid heavy medication. [And I must leave the allergic situation, natch]. There's some research to back me up on this.   However I'm basing my statement on my personal experience rather than research.

Do you have a similar experience with tea? Or coffee? Has either of these caffeinated drinks saved you in a pinch?

Last week an Indian friend and tabla player Nitin came over for some Chai and cookies. You may have already heard of Chai; you may have even tried some at Starbucks.

However, until someone has made it for you by hand and with care, you haven't had Chai.

I had my first cup in 1998 at an Indian vegetarian restaurant. The owner had his cook make us a fresh batch. One taste and I was a goner: tea, milk, cardamom, ginger and maybe a clove or two. I could've had three cups.

Last week, when Nitin arrived with a mini-mortar and pestle and his special tea concoction, I was psyched. I made some peanut butter cookies and in combination with his Chai, we had an East meets West party.

Here's his secret Chai recipe: it's all to taste. The secret is constant stirring to make sure all the ingredients are incorporated.

Nitin's Chai

Water - 1 cup per person

Assam tea leaf powder* 1-2 teaspoons per person to taste

2-3 pods cardamom per cup of water to taste

A few slices ginger root to taste [optional]

1-2 cloves [optional]

1% milk [any milk can be used including Lactaid] to taste

Sugar to taste [I use raw unprocessed sugar]

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Bring water to a hard boil. While water boils, crush cardamom with mortar and pestle or by pressing the flat of knife down on the pods to break them open and expose the seeds. Add the crushed pods and seeds to the boiling water. If you're adding ginger and cloves, do so now. Also add the tea leaf powder. Let water, tea and cardamom boil and stir.

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Allow tea to steep until desired color of mixture: typically dark brown but depends on taste. Add milk and stir until you get the right color: anywhere from beige to café au lait. Add sugar to taste. Stir and taste and adjust accordingly. Drain the mixture over your teacup or mug.

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Where to get the Assam tea leaf powder: you can get this online or at your local ethnic market. Wagh Bakri Assam Tea is choice but any black loose tea leaves will do in a pinch.

Gluten-free Peanut Butter Cookie Recipe [WARNING: Contains PEANUTS]

Adapted from this site:

1 cup of peanut butter [I use Smucker's all natural but any all natural will do]

1 cup of granulated sugar [I used raw brown sugar]

1 egg [I use an organic large egg]

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Preheat the oven to 350°.Cream the peanut butter and sugar in a bowl. Add the egg. Mix until it is all well combined.Roll a teaspoon of the sticky dough into a ball. Place on a nonstick baking sheet. With the tines of a fork, press lightly into each ball to create an impression.

Bake in the oven for approximately 10 minutes until golden at the edges. Don't overcook as burnt peanut butter is quite unpleasant. You will know the cookies are done when they don't crumble when you move them, but still a little soft and the kitchen smells fragrant. Take the tray out of the oven and let the cookies rest for at least five minutes. Afterwards, transfer them to a cooling rack or clean plate.


Read more of Sloane's blog:

The Alexander Technique: Better relaxation, better asthma control

More on Gluten-Free foods

Cleaning your house -- is it hurting your asthma?