Limonana - An Arabic Refreshment With Health Benefits
By: Blanche Shaheen/ Arab America Contributing Writer
Recently a catchy Arabic song by Toni Qattan took the Middle East by storm called “Yalli Bet Heb Na3Na3” or “We love Mint.” This song reached massive popularity, not only because the chorus was catchy, but also because the Arab world has a love affair with mint. This herb not only adds a refreshing taste to endless Middle Eastern salads and savory dishes, but there are numerous health benefits outlined below:
The Health Benefits of Mint
- Aids Digestion Mint encourages the stomach to produce more bile and triggers the mouth to produce more saliva and digestive enzymes. This is one reason why mint tea is recommended for indigestion and stomach aches.
- Helps eliminate mucus from the airways and lungs, thus relieving asthma and other congestion.
- Freshens breath and helps in dental hygiene by inhibiting the growth of bacteria in the mouth, which is why mint is added to toothpaste, mouthwashes, and even dental floss.
- Cools your body — Consuming mint causes your body to slightly lower its temperature, a great pairing with a glass of fresh cold lemonade.
- Natural antioxidant helps to detoxify your liver, stimulating liver function when this organ is overloaded
- Great for your skin — Mint’s anti-inflammatory properties not only work on the inside but on the outside too in helping clear up acne.
- Helps fight cancer — New research has found that mint attacks the blood vessels of cancer tumors, starving cancer to death by blocking its supply of oxygen and nutrients.
A great way to incorporate more mint into your life is by infusing it into your lemonade. Walk into any cafe or restaurant in Palestine, Syria or Lebanon and you will inevitably see Limonana or mint lemonade on the menu. The word “Limonana” is a combination of the word lemon with the Arabic word “nana,” which means mint. The traditional drink is a combination of copious amounts of fresh lemon juice, fresh mint, simple syrup and ice whirled together into a frothy pale green summer drink. Sometimes even orange blossom or rose flower water is added for an exotic touch. It is truly astounding how just the simple addition of mint can transform lemonade into another level of refreshment as well as a healthy elixir! While cafes use copious amounts of sugar, I have found that liquid stevia is a great substitute. Not only do you eliminate the need to make a simple syrup for this drink, but you enhance the beneficial properties of the mint while eliminating extra calories and sugar. Lemon juice works well to cut any bitterness out of the stevia.
For a video on how to make Limonana, watch below:
2 ½ cups water
Juice of two large lemons
A Handful of fresh mint
2 Drops of Orange Blossom Water (optional)
A few drops organic liquid Stevia to taste
Handful of ice
Add all of the ingredients to a blender, mix until the mint is pulverized and the drink is frothy. Serve immediately. Serves 4.
Blanche Shaheen is a journalist, food writer, and host of the cooking show called Feast in the Middle East. She specializes in Arab cuisine of the Levant and beyond You can check out her cooking video tutorials and cultural commentary on growing up Arab American on her Youtube channel. Her recipes can also be found here.