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Under the weather? Don't go out into public and buy a sugar bomb. You can make a healthier version in no time.

Elizabeth Laseter
January 26, 2018

If you hadn't heard, cold and flu season, is particularly bad this year, which means people are scrambling for immunity boosters and throat-soothers wherever they can get them. And it turns out one surprising place to find something medicinal is Starbucks.

RELATED: Here's Why the Flu Is Especially Bad This Year

It's called the Medicine Ball. You may have seen this steamy concoction on Instagram under the hashtags #starbucksmedicineball or #starbuckscoldbuster.

What exactly goes into a Medicine Ball? The recipe is fairly straightforward—hot water, steamed lemonade, a combo of Teavana’s Jade Citrus Mint Green Tea and Peach Tranquility Herbal Tea, honey, and an optional pump of peppermint syrup.

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Originally part of Starbucks’ secret menu, the Medicine Ball went viral in 2016 after a customer posted about it on Instagram. Also dubbed the “Cold Buster,” the drink’s sudden popularity led to its addition on the permanent menu last year. It’s now known as Honey Citrus Mint Tea, but you can still order the drink by its former moniker. 

Hardcore devotees are calling the jazzed-up hot tea a cure-all for the common cold (that’s a pretty big claim!). Take a dive into the Instagram universe and you’ll find comments such as, “It’s THE BEST!” or “Miracle cold cure, every single time.”

To get a taste of the Medicine Ball insanity, we ordered one at our local Starbucks. Our barista gave us a look when we ordered it—like she’d made her fair share of these things.

We decided to add the peppermint syrup (because why not go all the way?). At the suggestion of the barista, we opted for two pumps instead of the standard four. For a Grande size (which is 16 ounces), the total was $3.58.

The flavor? Ack. The drink was cloyingly sweet, with very little tea flavor. If there is a next time, we'll definitely hold the Peppermint syrup.

Despite the hype, we’re passing on the so-called miracle brew. Here's why:

1. It’s Just Too Sweet.

Without the peppermint syrup, a Grande packs 33 grams of sugar. The bulk of the sugar comes from the lemonade (which is full of added sugar anyway). For each pump of syrup, you add five grams of sugar to your drink. Given that four pumps is the standard amount for a Grande, you could be adding nearly 20 grams of sugar!! And for a 16-ounce beverage, 53 grams of sugar is simply too much.  

2. You Can Make a Better (And Better-For-You) Version at Home.

Yes, you can recreate the Medicine Ball in the comfort of your own home. Even better, you can make it in your pajamas, without heading out and infecting other people. It’s just as soothing, and it’s significantly lower in sugar. Instead of lemonade, use fresh lemon juice. You’ll get that refreshing, citrusy twang without the added sugar. Plus, you’ll get plenty of sweetness from a drizzle of honey. If you prefer a peppermint flavor, infuse your tea with fresh spearmint as it boils.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 Green Tea Bag
  • 1 Peach Tea Bag (or any fruit-forward flavor you prefer)
  • Lemon Juice 
  • Honey
  • Optional: Fresh Spearmint Leaves

After the tea is brewed, add the lemon juice and honey to taste, and remove the spearmint if you used it. Voila!

3. If you’re sick, don’t go to Starbucks—stay home!

The flu virus is highly contagious. If you aren’t feeling well, trekking to your local Starbucks is the worst thing you can do. A trip to the doctor will serve you better.