Many Cubans have learned the various medicinal powers of the herbs and foods that grow in Cuba to naturally treat their aches and pains.
anti-stress drink at Finca El Paraíso
The Anti-Stress drink made and served at Finca Agroecologica El Paraiso, in Viñales, Pinar del Rio, Cuba. Photo: Cynthia Carris Alonso

Earlier this year, I shared a wonderful flan recipe by my friends at the family-run Finca Agroecológica El Paraíso, an organic farm and paladar run by Wilfredo García Correa and his daughters, Rachel and Rosalba. As its name suggests, this place is a little piece of paradise with fertile, nutrient-rich soil and spectacular landscape views of the lush valley and famous mogotes—unique geomorphological formations typical of the Viñales Valley in western Cuba. 

The rows of vegetables, herbs, and flowers on the farm were meticulously planted according to Wilfredo and his team’s extensive knowledge of which plants should grow side-by-side for a successful harvest and which plants need more space to keep invasive sprawl to a minimum.

Finca El Paraíso
Finca Agroecologica El Paraiso, in Viñales, Pinar del Rio, Cuba. Photo: Cynthia Carris Alonso

In the early 1990s, when Cubans lost aid from the Soviet Union, including fertilizer and pesticides for farming, Cuban food became organic by default. Cubans now realize that it is much healthier to grow and eat organic foods, so they are encouraging farmers like those at Finca Agroecológica El Paraíso to continue growing produce organically.

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Additionally, the loss of aid from Russia combined with the tightened U.S. economic embargo and restricted trade policy has significantly limited Cuba’s access to basic medicines, many of which we take for granted, such as anti-acids for stomach aches or pain killers for headaches and stress. 

So, many Cubans have learned the various medicinal powers of the herbs and foods that grow in Cuba to naturally treat their aches and pains. As a result, the family owners of Finca Agroecológica El Paraíso created a medicinal Anti-Stress drink made from natural and organic herbs grown in their own garden!

Finca Agroecologica El Paraiso, in Viñales, Pinar del Rio, Cuba. Photo: Cynthia Carris Alonso

During these challenging times, everyone could use a little anti-stress drink! My co-author and test kitchen chef, Valerie Feigen, and I translated the unique and tasty recipe from Finca Agroecológica El Paraíso made with five medicinal herbs for you to try in your own kitchens.

The Finca uses its own herbs in this delicious and refreshing anti-stress drink. Drink up, and relax!

Anti-Stress Drink (Bebida Anti-Estrés)

Serves 4

  • 2 cups pineapple juice
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh peppermint leaves
  • 1 teaspoon minced anise leaves
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh spearmint leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon minced fresh lemongrass (see Note)
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon honey, or more to taste

Combine the pineapple juice, basil, peppermint, anise, spearmint, lemongrass, and coconut, in that order, in a blender, and blend vigorously to puree. Pour over ice and then into 4 glasses. Decorate each with the cinnamon and honey.

(Note from El Equipo: You can find this recipe and others in the author’s cookbook, A Taste of Cuba.)

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Cynthia Carris Alonso is the author of two books about Cuba and has been photographing the island since 1992. She is a photographer, photo editor, and researcher and has worked for internationally-renowned magazines, books, and websites such as Time.com, ABCnews.com, Newsweek, BusinessWeek, The New York Times, Rhythm Music Magazine, People en Español, Scholastic and Vanity Fair. In 2016, Cynthia Carris Alonso covered President Obama's historic visit to Cuba, as the two countries continued working toward normalizing relations. With rare access to Cuba, Alonso has photographed Cuba's most famous musicians, covered news events and daily life of the Cuban people on assignment, and documented their unique and mysterious culture, people, passions and spirit of survival. Cynthia’s first photography book, Passage to Cuba, was published by Skyhorse Publishing in 2015. Her latest book, A Taste of Cuba (Apollo Publishers, 2018), celebrates the wonderful taste of Cuban cuisine, as well as the sites, colors, and energy of the Cuban culture. Alonso has given speeches about photography, journalism and Cuba. She has appeared on television and in the press, as a Cuba consultant giving interviews in both English and Spanish. Cynthia is married to Cuban writer José Luis Alonso, and they live in New York City with their daughter.

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