drink tank

TO GOOD HEALTH

Wellness tonics for a healthier gut, relaxation, and more.

WRITTEN BY CLAIRE CUDAHY
PHOTOS BY JEN SCHMIDT

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Tamsin Edwards preps ingredients for wellness elixirs at the Elevate Wellness Center in South Lake Tahoe

Open up a cooler at your local convenience store and you’ll see the usual suspects: Coke, Mountain Dew, and Red Bull, to name a few. But wait, what’s that? Coconut water? A green smoothie? Kombucha?

For decades, sugary sodas and overcaffeinated energy drinks have dominated the beverage market, but that’s changing (albeit slowly, in the case of certain roadside establishments).

“With the cultural messaging that we’ve had, it’s all about five-hour energy shots and Monster Energy drinks. We’re always pushed to hyper-stimulate, but now people are becoming more aware and putting more emphasis on wellness and self-care to have longevity in life,” says Melinda Choy, owner of The Elevate Wellness Center, which offers holistic family medicine in South Lake Tahoe, including massages and acupuncture, alongside its apothecary and tea bar.

“People are making different choices for certain reasons,” Choy adds, “and one of them is really looking at food as being medicine rather than taking pills every day.”

Drink and be healthy

Wellness tonics are the latest health trend to make its way into the mainstream market. The beverages are mixed using natural ingredients — such as herbs, spices, roots, probiotics, and mushrooms — and designed to help the body by improving digestion, alleviating stress, reducing inflammation, or fighting fatigue.

Despite the recent rise in popularity, healers and herbalists in Asia, South America, and beyond have used wellness tonics for thousands of years to treat ailments and promote good health.

At Elevate Wellness Center, Choy sells a range of prepackaged wellness tonics. Her best seller is Golden Milk by Raw Revelations, which contains a mix of turmeric root powder, whole saffron, black pepper, coconut milk powder, and a slew of other herbs and spices. Mixed with hot water and blended, the brew is designed to assist the body with maintaining healthy inflammation levels.

Powdered forms of reishi, known in traditional Chinese medicine as the mushroom of mortality, is another popular ingredient in tonics, Choy says. Though research is limited, components of the mushroom are believed by many to stimulate the immune system and lower cholesterol.

In Reno, Kristen Jaskulski runs Sol Kava Bar, an alternative to the many alcohol-serving establishments in the Riverwalk District. Sol serves up drinks made by steeping ground kava root — a plant found in the South Pacific — in water. Kava is consumed throughout the region for its relaxing effects and recently has found footing in the U.S.

“I have always been interested in functional foods. I had serious brain surgery as a teenager, so I’ve always sought out things that would help with my own personal healing,” Jaskulski says. “I had severe anxiety issues, and when I found kava, it was actually on the big island in Hawaii, and I’ve loved it ever since.”

Patrons of Sol may sample other tonics and elixirs made with popular wellness ingredients, including apple cider vinegar, used to pack a punch of gut-friendly probiotics; maca, a root for boosting stamina; cacao, to promote happiness and circulation; and other adaptogenic herbs.

“It’s my way of teaching people about what’s good to put in their bodies as alternatives to the mainstream products that we have on the market,” Jaskulski says.

Jaskulski and Choy agree: People are paying more attention to what they’re consuming, and the potential of functional beverages is huge.

“There is no way of doing it wrong,” Choy adds. “It’s about finding the right taste for what you like and being able to keep that up as a part of your daily routine.”

*Wellness tonics include active ingredients that could interact with or affect medications. Please consult a doctor before consuming.

Claire Cudahy is a Zephyr Cove-based writer whose idea of a good time is sampling olive oil, touring farms, and learning how to make pasta. If she’s not daydreaming about how to get a goat cheese creamery off the ground, she’s probably out hiking around Lake Tahoe. You can reach her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Recipes

Wake Up It’s Morning Tonic
(courtesy of Tamsin Edwards, office manager, Elevate Wellness Center in South Lake Tahoe. Serves 1)

8 ounces warm water
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 to 3 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
Pinch of cinnamon
Raw organic honey, to taste

Add ingredients to cup, mix, and enjoy.

Nourishing Nightcap Elixir
(courtesy of Tamsin Edwards, office manager, Elevate Wellness Center in South Lake Tahoe. Serves 1)

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1 cup unsweetened nut milk
1 cup hot water
1 to 2 teaspoons cordyceps mushroom powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 to 4 teaspoons golden milk powder
1 teaspoon ghee
Pinch of cardamom or cinnamon
Raw organic honey, to taste

Add ingredients to cup, mix, and enjoy.

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