Lesson: Immunity and Popsicles

Lesson: Immunity and Popsicles
Jim Bruner | Mezzacello The posicle gets melted in hot water and activates the immune boosting response.

This lesson: Immunity and popsicles allows students to explore immunity and the chemistry of immunity. Students will explore the role biochemistry plays on health and illness. Specific immune boosters will be synthesized and added to liquids and sugars to create a tasty immune booster.

This lesson is a hybrid lesson/design challenge but the concepts embedded within it make it too complicated for just a design challenge. So bear with me on this one. Also you will need a source of liquid zinc and echinacea tinctures. I get them at any vitamin or health supplement store or from Amazon. They last forever and are really useful.

The liquid base for this exercise is lemon juice and water, but I LOVE Trader Joe’s Lemon, Ginger, and Echinacea drink. (the reviews for this product all highlight its amazing immunity boosting ability) You can use this in place of echinacea tincture, but getting a source of ionic zinc means you would have to pull nickel ions out of a coin. The zinc tincture is a better option here.


  • Potable Water
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Crystalized honey
  • Crystalized ginger
  • Echinacea tincture extract
  • Zinc tincture extract
  • Fresh muddled mint or mint extract
  • Red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper
  • Cinnamon (powdered or crumbled bark)
  • Apple Cider Vinegar (use Brandy for Adults)
  • A popsicle making kit like this
  • Or you can use ice cube trays
  • Toothpicks
  • Paper towels
  • A freezer
  • Saran wrap (if using ice cube trays)
  • An electrical source or a source of heat
  • A tea kettle electric or stovetop that can produce hot water


  1. Prepare the liquid portions of the mixture in a pitcher that pours easily
    • Prepare the lemon juice – or if using the echinacea, ginger lemon drink
    • Add in a 1/2 Tsp (teaspoon) of cayenne pepper or pepper flakes
    • Add the muddled mint
    • Add one cup of Apple Cider Vinegar
    • Stir very well
    • Do NOT add water at this stage
  2. Add a tsp of crystalized honey and crystalized ginger to your popsicle molds or ice cubes
  3. Into each popsicle mold or ice cube tray drop a few drops of the tinctures of zinc and echinacea
  4. Pour over the honey, ginger tincture with the lemon water vinegar solution to full
  5. If using the ice cube trays, cover them over with saran wrap, poke a toothpick through
  6. Put into a freezer and let it freeze up
  7. To test it, pour a cup of hot water and drop the popsicle or 2 ice cubes into the hot water
  8. Stir to melt and enjoy

There is a lot of biochemistry to unpack here. First take the time to discuss the phases of matter with your students. All three phases of matter are relevant in this lesson, solid, liquid, gas and all three are doing things to the chemistry of the popsicle.

There is also an acid and water base reaction taking place between the crystalized honey, vinegar, lemon and water. It’s not strong that it will destroy the zinc and echinacea though. The salt, mint and cayenne provide electrolytes and the lemon, zinc, echinacea and mint are critical for a healthy immune system.

Fun Fact:

This is also a very good medicinal tool for sick animals. The active ingredients in this mixture act as an electrolyte booster in animals. Bio systems evolved to need very similar nutrients. If you decide to use this for sick ducks or chickens – add a Tbsp of Wheat Germ and it will pep them right up!

The role of culture in this health drink

This liquified health drink is easily digested and absorbed by the human body and is almost universally healthy for everyone. I learned this trick twice in my lifetime in two completely different contexts and continents.

  1. I learned about the “Hot Toddy” in Alencon, Normandy, France on a student exchange. Drinking an immune booster like this is quite common in Normandy and I really liked the vinegar (or brandy) and lemon with the sweet tartness of the honey and ginger and cinnamon.
  2. I learned about this again here in Columbus, OH from my friends in musical theater. They also drink a hot toddy, but to it they add cayenne pepper, zinc, and echinacea because it empowers their immune systems to thrive so the show can go on.

Ask your students to reflect on how these two cultures came to the same conclusion but with slightly different solutions. What is different about the northern coast of France, and Columbus, OH? What is similar?

Why does the human body need such complex inputs and where do we get this nutrition normally?

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