Boost Your Immune System

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto


As the novel coronavirus was lighting up Washington State, one of my besties told me, with great relief, that she’d just ordered $1,600 in wine. 

Another California-based friend called to let me know that Sonoma wineries were waiving shipping fees – and said she was annoyed that Trader Joe’s limits purchases of Two Buck Chuck to one case at a time.  

I just read “High Anxiety in America over Covid-19” (1). The American Psychiatric Association found that half of U.S. adults report high levels of anxiety.  Eight percent reported drinking more alcohol or taking other drugs/ substances to help cope with the stress. People also report sleeping less, fighting more with loved ones and having trouble focusing on anything beyond the pandemic.

A liquor cabinet, wine cellar or basement full of booze is one antidote to anxiousness as we guard against the novel coronavirus. Is it the best?  

Eight recommendations to boost immunity from Harvard Health, include these (2):    

  • minimize stress
  • if you drink alcohol, do so in moderation
  • get adequate sleep

Research shows that over time stress, excess alcohol consumption and lack of sleep lead to adverse effects on the immune system (3,4,5). Alcohol may help you relax and get to sleep but interferes with the quality of that sleep. Too much caffeine can interfere with sleep too. So can eating too much, especially close to bedtime. The Sleep Foundations offers suggestions to improve your ability to rest in “Sleep Guidelines During the COVID-19” (6).     

For ideas on managing mental health during Covid-19, check out the podcast interview with Lynn Burfka PhD of the American Psychological Association (7). She tries to follow her own advice by keeping to a regular schedule, getting daily exercise, choosing a healthful diet rich in fruits and vegetables “and not just carbo-loading” (For more on diet check out my blog post Eat Well to Boost Your Immune System). And, Birfka highlights the importance of finding new ways to stay connected with friends and loved ones.

To keep my social connections alive, I’ve set up video-call happy hours with friends and family. For one occasion, I created this cocktail, Hibiscus Citrus Margarita, in two versions, one with and one without booze.  Take your choice.

Photo by Lorelle Del Mattol

The cocktail was inspired by a pot of hibiscus tea and a jar of candied hibiscus flowers in my pantry. Warm or iced, herbal teas can be soothing caffeine-free tonics to sip throughout the afternoon and into the evening. I set some aside in the fridge for the cocktail.

I’ll never forget the hibiscus tea I was served on a family farm in Egypt. It’s enjoyed around the world as a beverage, in foods and medicinally. Potential health benefits of hibiscus include lowering blood pressure and other cardiovascular and health benefits linked to the powerful antioxidant action of the anthocyanins (pigments like those in berries), other flavonoids, polyphenolic compounds and phenolic acids (8,9,10,11).

Make a hibiscus tea with dried hibiscus flowers or with a tea blend that includes them. The internet is full of wonderful hibiscus recipe ideas using hibiscus, from goat cheese & hibiscus tacos to sorbets and more (12).

Connect, stress less, rest well and sip smart.

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

Hibiscus Citrus Margarita

Delicious with or without tequila. The no-booze version calls for Citrus Grove Seedlip non-alcoholic spirits, available online.  If you don’t have it, leave it out and adjust the other ingredients to your taste. Another favorite cocktail is my Mojito.

Makes 1 cocktail

For rim of glass:

Wedge of lime

1 teaspoon turbinado or other coarse sugar

Big pinch of kosher or other coarse salt


1 strip mandarin orange zest

1 hibiscus flower in syrup, optional

¼ cup cold, strong hibiscus tea

¼ cup cold Seedlip Citrus Grove (for no-booze version) or a shot or more  of your favorite tequila

Juice of 1 mandarin orange, about 3 tablespoons

1 tablespoon lime juice

2-3 teaspoons simple syrup or agave syrup

1-2 ice cubes

Lime wheel, optional

  1. On a small plate, sprinkle sugar and salt in a circle the size of the rim of your glass.  Rub lime wedge around the rim of your cocktail glass; dip rim in sugar mixture. 
  2. Twist mandarin peel to release volatile oils and drop into bottom of glass. Add drained hibiscus flower.
  3. In a cocktail shaker, combine tea, Seedlip Citrus Grove or tequila, mandarin juice, lime juice and agave. Add ice. Cover and shake well to chill and blend. Strain into glass. Garnish with lime wheel, if desired.
  4. Enjoy.


  1. High Anxiety in America Over COVID-19. Pauline Anderson March 28, 2020.Medscape. Medical News. Psychiatry News.
  • 4.Alcohol and the Immune System. Dipak Sarkar, Ph.D., D.Phil., M. Katherine Jung, Ph.D., and H. Joe Wang, Ph.D.  Alcohol Research 2015; 37(2): 153–155.

© Lorelle Del Matto 2020

lorelle About lorelle

Crazy about cooking, eating and sharing good food – my work and leisure revolve around the kitchen. As a culinary dietitian my professional life encompasses nutrition counseling and education, recipe development, product development, food and nutrition writing, marketing communications, corporate test kitchen and consumer affairs management, food styling and work as a product spokesperson.

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