With coronavirus in the news and spring more than a month away, local purveyors of plant-based drinks report business remains brisk.

“We have a lot of people coming in this time of year looking for cold cures or immunity boosters,” said Jesse Lamon, who co-owns Wanderlust Juicery in Freeport.

It’s the same story at herbal apothecary Homegrown Herb & Tea in Portland, where herbalist Sarah Richards prescribes both standard mixes and custom blends tailored to particular symptoms.

“There are lots of people coming in looking for blends because they’re coming down with a cold,” Richards said. “The energy of the season is high Kapha with a lot of heavy, cold and damp energy that contributes to seasonal lethargy and chest colds. Things don’t flow in the winter the way they do so easily others times of year.”

The cure, according to Richards and others, is “herbs and foods that warm you and get your digestion moving.”

Ingredients that contain big doses of antioxidants, such as lemons; or possess antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties, such as garlic and ginger, are popular go-tos during cold and flu season.

“This winter, we’re doing a ginger-lemon shot that sells really well,” said Bryna Gootkind, who co-owns LB Kitchen, with locations in Portland’s West End and East End.

In Belfast at The Alchemist Plant Based Wellness Cafe, co-owner Linda Prichard said the ginger-turmeric-garlic shot is a steady seller at this time of year, while the similar turmeric-ginger shot at Wanderlust is “very popular,” according to Lamon.

Lamon also recommends Wanderlust’s Brazil nut mylks as a preventative, saying “Brazil nuts are a great source of selenium, which boosts immunity.”

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Ellen Kanner at Dobra Tea in Portland’s Old Port said at this time of year customers order a lot of the Immuni-Tea blend, with echinacea, schisandra, dandelion and nettles, and the Throat Soother, with raspberry leaf, slippery elm and mullein. The latter is also popular year-round with singers.

I asked each of these experts to share the details of one of their top-selling seasonal elixirs that can heal, tame or help prevent cold and flu. Here is what they recommend.

CBD Hemp Chaga Chai, Dobra Tea, 89 Exchange St., Portland

Calling it a “huge hit this winter,” co-owner Ellen Kanner said this hot chai contains a traditional masala chai spice blend (packed with antimicrobial power) mixed with either steamed cow’s milk or vegan coconut milk. The star ingredients are antioxidant-packed chaga mushroom powder and Maine-grown hemp flowers, which contain the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound cannabidiol (CBD) along with other flavonoids, terpenes and phytochemicals.

A Simple Winter Tonic from Homegrown Herb & Tea in Portland. Photo by Avery Yale Kamila

Simple Winter Tonic, Homegrown Herb & Tea, 195 Congress St., Portland

Herbalist Sarah Richards recommends this blend for all constitutions (or “doshas” in the Ayurvedic tradition). It’s made with echinacea, elderflowers, lemongrass, ginger and ginseng and is brewed with slices of fresh ginger when ordered hot in the tea shop. Richards also sells the blend in bulk or in sets of individual tea bags. “Ginger is warming,” Richards said. “Echinacea is clarifying and cleansing. Ginseng cleanses the blood and eliminates excess fluid. Elderflowers are an excellent remedy for lung infections and congestion. I often add a little extra this or that for a custom tweak.”

Blue Chai, LB Kitchen, 249 Congress St. & 231 York St., Portland

LB Kitchen’s (very) Blue Chai. Photo by Hilary Weber

The bright blue color of this drink comes from superfood blue spirulina, a fresh-water algae rich in anti-inflammatory compounds, and butterfly pea flower, an herb packed with antioxidants. The two are part of a premixed powder blend containing ashwagandha, matcha and astragalus, all adaptogenic herbs said to lessen the effects of bodily stressors. Chai is added along with either steamed almond or oat milk. “Blue spirulina is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet in terms of its mineral profile and having more protein than any other plant by volume,” co-owner Bryna Gootkind said.

Cold and Sore Throat Tonic, The Alchemist Plant Based Wellness Cafe, 9D Beaver St., Belfast

A soothing drink for those with a scratchy throat, this juice can be served warm to provide extra comfort. It is made with juiced lemons and ginger mixed with apple cider vinegar, cayenne pepper and honey or – for a vegan version – maple syrup. “I had three people yesterday that said, ‘I have a tickle in my throat and my head doesn’t feel right,’” said co-owner Linda Prichard, who recommended this tonic for all three. “Apple cider vinegar helps alkalize blood and ward off any illness that might be taking hold. And I love that a single lemon has a thousand times the vitamin C you need in a day. It’s cheaper than vitamin supplements.”

Immunity Booster Juice, Wanderlust Juicery, 4 Mechanic St, Freeport

Those who feel run down or know they’ve been exposed to illness often order this juice, according to co-owner Jesse Lamon. “We call it an immunity booster, but it’s also good for recovery,” Lamon said. Juiced lemons, pineapple, ginger and turmeric are mixed with coconut milk. “Turmeric is anti-inflammatory and good at relieving muscle aches and pains,” Lamon said. “It’s good for circulation and healing injuries. The anti-inflammatory benefits help you feel better when you’re sick.”

Avery Yale Kamila is a food writer who lives in Portland. Contact her at

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Twitter: AveryYaleKamila

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