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Herbs and Herbalism Recipes

Herbal Spiced “Wine” Tea

Aside from chai, another beverage that I associate with autumn and winter is spiced or mulled wine. The warm, soothing-yet-spirited drink is rich with digestive, warming, and immune-supporting spices. Not to mention how festive and rooted it feels to share this deep, tart ruby liquid with others at a gathering in the colder months.

But! I very rarely imbibe actual spiced wine. Instead, I mix up a similar potion replacing the wine element with extremely beneficial harvest berries and botanicals. They add the same vibrant garnet color, along with nutritional and healing properties, without the alcohol content. An herbal substitute for mulled wine is also quicker and more convenient when you want this type of pick-me-up (any time of day!) and it can be shared with anyone.

You can make your own preferred version of spiced “wine” tea with various ingredients and methods! I’ll share my recipe with you here so you can either use it yourself, or use it as a starting point to concoct your own recipe.

Spiced “Wine” Tea

Rosehips: These tasty red jewels are ready for harvest in October in many locations. You can use fresh or dried (I always have dried rosehips on hand). They add a tart cherry type of flavor, vitamin C, and minerals that aid in heart health, circulation, pain relief, cholesterol and blood pressure health, and even pain.

Elderberries: Dried elderberries impart a deep berry flavor and amazing immune-boosting benefits. Aside from their antiviral properties, elderberries also have anti-inflammatory benefits. I am always conscious to be moderate with the amount of elderberries included, in case of possible digestive discomfort. (I’ve never experienced this side effect myself, but I’ve read that it can happen so I use caution.)

Hawthorn berries: Hawthorn berries add nearly magical benefits of not only boosting heart health in a physical sense, but also soothing and strengthening the emotional heart and aiding with anxiety.

Hibiscus: This is a go-to base ingredient in fruity, berry-flavored teas for me. Hibiscus is an excellent heart ally and gives the tea a full-bodied, cranberry-ish, and even wine-ish taste.

Orange peel, dried or fresh: Obviously vitamin C is a big part of spiced wine. But so is rich, strong flavor! Orange in some form is almost essential to this type of brew.

Spices – cloves, cinnamon, allspice, ginger: You can’t have spiced wine without your warming, grounding, immune-boosting spices! These add taste, physical and mental health benefits, warming cozy comfort, and synergy between ingredients. Of course, you can get creative and use your own favorite combination of mulling spices!

Optional – rooibos: Rooibos is an herbal ally I adore and use often to fill out and add body to teas while providing wonderful benefits. (See my rooibos profile post for more on this herb!)

You can play around with your favorite berries (even adding fresh or dried blackberries or cherries!), spices, flavorings, and even splash in apple cider for a fruity kick or ginger ale for a fizzy twist. It’s up to you how you concoct your festive, warming brew. Then enjoy it all autumn and winter on quiet afternoons or cozy family gatherings! Or take a thermos of it on your outdoor autumn adventures!

What additional or different ingredients are you going to try in your spiced “wine” tea? I’d love to hear so I can try them, too!

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Herbs and Herbalism Tea

Autumn Chai for Health & Grounding

Since tea is my preferred vehicle for herbalism and ritual, I thought today I’d touch on my favorite type of tea during autumn: CHAI. It is full of benefits befitting the season: digestive, circulation-stimulating, warming, anti-inflammatory, immunity-boosting, and so many more. And chai is extremely grounding, protective, and COZY.

So I’m going to touch on a few of my favorite chai botanicals, digging in with a bit of research and preparation ideas.

Origins

I of course have to begin with the origins of chai. Even if what we think of as the “traditional fall spices” that are included in chai go way back, neither the spices nor chai have Western origins. Masala chai hails from India, a centuries-old traditional and health tonic drink. While recipes can vary widely, the main basis includes black tea and warming spices (the words masala chai literally mean “spiced tea”). The Western world recognized the benefits and amazing taste of chai spices long ago and has adopted and adapted them in many ways (which connects to a long and complicated history of colonialism we won’t get into here today). But regardless, chai and its related spices come to us thanks to their ancient origins in India.

There are so many non-traditional and revised spins on chai out there, either to incorporate different flavor profiles or to address varying health concerns. Milk and black pepper are common and traditional ingredients which helps to make the nutrients more bioavailable, but I sometimes enjoy chai without milk or with plant milk. Some versions include berries, fruits, or different herb or tea bases. My favorite base ingredient isn’t even tea—it’s rooibos! But in general, the essential components combine to aid digestion, immunity, and more, making chai a boon to holistic health.

Components

I’ve recently done some research on the specific benefits of some of my favorite chai spices! Read on for a brief run-through of each:

Cinnamon – This warming, drying, pungent bark has anti-microbial, analgesic, antioxidant, and many other qualities and helps with digestion, cramping, regulating blood sugar, soothing sore throats and colds, and more. Folk tradition also holds to other benefits including protection, purification, energizing, healing, love, and prosperity.

Ginger – Another warming, drying botanical. Ginger is a healing powerhouse! It aids in everything from circulation, inflammation, digestion, pain, cramps, cold and flu, sore throats, nausea, heart health, energy, and many more. It is an energizing and synergy-boosting herb, in both health and folk tradition aspects.

Nutmeg – I had no idea of this until recently, but nutmeg is great for stress, anxiety, and insomnia. This pungent, warming, drying spice is also antispasmodic and anti-microbial, along with many other properties. It is also believed to aid in happiness, love, overall health, and psychic abilities, if that’s your thing.

Cloves – Cloves are great for your teeth and breath! They’re also known to be antiviral, antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, analgesic, anesthetic, and expectorant. Whew! These fragrant little powerhouses aid digestion, colds and flu, arthritis, pain, headaches, and spasms. Cloves are thought to offer protection, purification, general healing, and mental aid.

Other common chai ingredients include cardamom, allspice, anise, fennel, black tea, and peppercorns. Flavor or health variations can include turmeric, rose, mint, fruit like apple or orange, astragalus, echinacea, reishi…it goes on and on. Don’t be afraid to put your own spin on your chai recipes!

Preparation

Due to the hardy nature of the seeds, roots, barks, and such that make up chai, it’s often suggested to make a decoction with the herbs before combining with the tea component, rather than an infusion. A decoction is simple, though: just boil the ingredients on the stovetop for an extended period (it depends on how concentrated you’re going for, but it can be as little as 15-20 minutes), strain, and add to your brewed black or rooibos tea (if you’re not making a strictly herbal chai). Then top with plant or dairy milk if you like! A decoction tends to turn out more concentrated than a simple tea infusion, so that’s why you often add additional liquid to the mix after decocting. How much liquid you add depends on how long you simmer your decoction.

All that said, though, I often don’t have time to make a decoction and need a quicker cuppa! When this is the case, I grind the spices well with my mortar and pestle (you can use a coffee grinder, too) and steep for longer than I normally would with a simple tea infusion—as much as 10 or 12 minutes.

I could go on and on about chai—I feel like I already have in this post—but I think I’ll stop here for now! Are you a fan of chai? What ingredients do you like to incorporate? Which of the basic chai components is your favorite?

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Herbs and Herbalism

Herb Profile: Rooibos

I decided to start this series of herb profile posts with what may be a bit of an unusual choice. Rooibos is very widely consumed in tea form and is probably in some of the decaf tea bags in your kitchen cabinet right now! But it isn’t often high on the list of plants associated with herbalism. Yet, rooibos is one of my absolute favorite herbs, and one I would not like to live without! So, read on to learn more about this cozy and versatile plant.

A Bit of Background:

Rooibos grows mainly in South Africa and is a shrub-like plant. It is prepared much like tea leaves: regular or red rooibos is oxidized or fermented like black tea, whereas green rooibos undergoes a similar process to green tea. Their tastes and benefits are also quite comparable, with the main exception being rooibos is caffeine free and actually contains much higher levels of antioxidants than tea! Also, the taste varies in that rooibos has a bit of a sweet, cinnamon-y tartness that is absent in black tea.

Health Benefits:

Rooibos is purported to carry with it a host of benefits. Full of antioxidants and polyphenols, it is said to be an immune-boosting, inflammation-busting, blood sugar-regulating wonder.

On a personal and anecdotal note, I find both varieties of rooibos to be earthy, grounding, delicious, and cozy! It meets my standards of a highly hygge herb. I love drinking it hot or cold, any time of year.

Recipe Time!

It is hard to go astray blending rooibos with other herbs for tea blends. It is often my go-to base ingredient for anchoring tea blends and giving them a full-bodied, satisfying, cozy flavor. To get you started, here are a few of my favorite simple combinations for rooibos-based teas:

Red rooibos—

Rooibos + chai spices

Rooibos + chamomile + ginger

Rooibos + mint + cacao nibs + fennel

Green rooibos—

Green rooibos + tulsi + dandelion root + ginger

Green rooibos + dried fruit + chamomile

Green rooibos + elderflower + ginger + calendula

Are you a fan of rooibos? Or if you’ve never tried it, are you ready to now?