Categories
Herbs and Herbalism

Herb Profile: Dandelion Root

I’m back with another herb profile about one of my very favorite herbs, this time being dandelion root! Dandelions may evoke visions of sunny spring days for many, but I’ve come to associate dandelion root with cozy, grounding autumn and winter brews. It’s such a simple and beneficial herb to use, and it’s definitely one of my main staples.

(Dandelion leaves are used as well as the root—in teas, as salad greens, in pesto, and more. The flowers are even used in making wine. But the root is my favorite part to work with, so that’s my focus for this post.)

The bitter and yet somewhat sweet dandelion root is usually harvested in the autumn. (If harvesting your own, make sure it is from an area free of weed sprays!) It can be used in a myriad of ways, but for teas and tinctures it is usually used dried and sometimes roasted. The roots tend to be cooling and drying, and offer benefits such as liver function aid, digestion aid, inflammation modulation, nutrition, and overall balancing and grounding.

Many herbalists prefer dandelion root in tinctures, but my favorite ways to work with it involve teas. Dandelion makes an excellent addition to or replacement for coffee! Roasted dandelion root and chicory, with or without additions like cacao nibs and cinnamon, make an excellent and healthy coffee alternative. I also love pairing dandelion root with herbal chai mixes—it adds an earthy grounding element and all kinds of healthy benefits.

One of my favorite dandelion root tea blends is one shared by The Herbal Academy, called Grounding Gratitude Tea. The mix of dandy root and tulsi, which offers a mildly stimulating, calm energy, along with warming ginger, is one of my go-to teas to make me feel at home in my own body.

So, are you a dandelion root fan? What is your favorite way to work with this lovely plant ally?

Categories
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!

Categories
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?

Categories
wheel of the year

Celebrate Lughnasadh!

In the northern hemisphere, the wheel of the year has turned to Lughnasadh! This August 1st sabbat marks the midpoint between Litha (summer solstice) and Mabon (autumn equinox). Even though Lughnasadh sits squarely within summer, it is the first harvest festival of the year and the kickoff to the harvest season. Lughnasadh is associated with abundance, as well as the sun, the colors yellow and gold, wheat, sunflowers, corn, berries, peppers, tomatoes, squash, beer, and bread.

Since my little wildlings’ schools start right around Lughnasadh, it’s a busy-but-happy time for us. Just like with Litha, I have some low-energy plans to help mark this sabbat in cozy, grounding ways.

Harvest Treat: Herbed Beer Bread

Bread-baking and enjoying is an essential part of Lughnasadh / Lammas (the other name for the day, which means “bread mass”). My favorite type of bread to bake, which is also thematically on-point for this sabbat, is beer bread. It is SUPER quick and easy, yet delicious, hearty, and rustic. It takes very few ingredients and the beer does most of the work for you—no yeast, proofing, or kneading required!

I’ve put together a Lughnasadh bread recipe Pinterest board that you can peruse and come up with a recipe that speaks to you! My plan is to start with a beer bread base using lemon beer, with some seasonally-specific additions, like possibly orange, pumpkin seeds, cardamom, cinnamon, and / or calendula. (Depending on how ambitious I feel this weekend!) These flavors are bright and sweet, with the citrus and spices sort of bridging the gap between summer and autumn.

Check this link for the Pinterest board!

Harvest Sip: Lughnasadh Sun Tea

If you have fresh herbs growing in your garden or window sill, now is the perfect time to harvest some and make a sun tea. But if you don’t have fresh herbs on hand, or you’re just wanting to try a new recipe, here is the potion I’m brewing for Lughnasadh:

3 parts green rooibos (or green tea)

2 parts tulsi

2 parts lemon balm (fresh or dried)

1.5 parts cinnamon chips

1 part dried orange peel OR some fresh orange slices

Dried or fresh pears, peaches, and/or lemon

Harvest Fun: Sunflower Picking and Harvest Decorating

Mr. Herbology Faerie likes to tease me by fake-complaining when I decorate the house for fall before September 1st. Which I usually ignore! This year will be no exception, though I do plan to hold off on pumpkins and leaves until September. Instead, I’ll focus on sunflowers, wheat, gourds, and yellow in honor of Lughnasadh. Decorating for the sabbats can be a cozy and therapeutic way to ground yourself in the season!

A fun family activity I’m hoping we squeeze in on Lughnasadh weekend is sunflower picking at a local flower farm. We went last year a little too late in the season to get any sunflowers; this year the plan is to head there in time for a sunflower bouquet for Lughnasadh.

Those are some of my low-key plans for celebrating Lughnasadh and the start of the harvest season! How are you planning to celebrate?

Categories
Herbs and Herbalism

Herb Profile: Rose

It’s June, herbology faeries! If you’re in the northern hemisphere like me, it’s the month of warming temperatures, lengthening days, bugs and blooms, and the summer solstice. Here’s hoping for lots of energizing sunshine to brighten the days!

I have decided to try something here on the blog and concentrate my focus on one or two plants per month. (It will probably depend on the month and my mood!) So, to start off June, let’s talk about a quintessential June plant—roses!

There are many types of roses, but in culinary and body care contexts it’s best to stick with strongly scented varieties. Use wild roses if you can! (And stay away from pesticide-treated and florist-bought roses.) You can use the petals, buds, leaves, and hips (fruit) of roses.

Roses are an age-old herbal ally, and are best known to represent love. Health-wise, they are great for your heart, pain, PMS, inflammation, blood pressure, stress, anxiety, and insomnia, so that’s not hard to understand! They are great tasting and mood-elevating, too. And rose hips are incredibly rich in vitamin C and are often used as in immune system booster. Roses are considered sour, drying, and cooling, with astringent, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and nervine properties.

And now, for the fun part: a few of my favorite ways to use rose!

Rose, lavender, and chamomile tea (alone or with other additions such as green rooibos, mugwort, green tea, lemon balm, and/or dried or fresh berries)

Rose and cardamom (with or without additions like mint, nettle, cinnamon, citrus, and/or fennel) tea

Rose, mint, and cacao nib tea

Rose-infused honey

Rosewater-infused desserts (cakes, scones, cookies, fruit salads)

Dried rose petals in skincare products and loose leaf incense


Which ways do you love to incorporate rose into your botanical creations?

Sources:

“Rose Monograph.” LearningHerbs, December 28, 2016. https://herbmentor.learningherbs.com/herb/rose/#botanically-speaking/.

de la Forêt, Rosemary. Alchemy of Herbs. New York: Hay House, Inc., 2017.

Categories
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?

Categories
Herbs and Herbalism Tea

My Top 5 Tips for Tea Blend Formulation

If you’re just embarking on your adventure in the wonderful world of herbalism, the idea of tea blend formulation might seem daunting. Or, maybe you’re such a creative soul, it seems like it will be a no-brainer of an endeavor? Well, I am here to tell you that…it can be both.

But fear not! That is what this post is all about. I have spent more than a year mixing up tea blends from others’ recipes, creating my own unique recipes, and taking herbalism courses on this very topic. Some of the tricks I’ve learned have come from experts’ wisdom, and many others have come from my own-trial-and error. Below I will share my favorite tips and tricks for developing your own herbal tea blends.

Tip 1: Try to stick to SIX ingredients or fewer.

I have discovered the hard way that too many ingredients can really muddle up an herbal tea blend. Sometimes, I just get too excited and can’t help myself, though! I feel like a funny old witch in a Disney cartoon, throwing a little of this and a pinch of that and the last dregs from that jar over there into the “cauldron,” my mixing bowl. But instead of cute sparkly puffs of smoke and fireworks shooting out, I am left with a weird tasting mixture that makes no sense. “Didn’t I put mint in here? I can’t even taste it!”

Don’t be afraid to have fun and experiment with your formulations. Don’t be afraid to follow your instincts and see where they take you. But try not to let them take you further than the six-ingredient mark. From my experience, if you add more than six different herbs, you begin to lose the ability to pick out the unique and special flavors and actions the different ingredients bring to the mix.

The big exception to this is with teas like chai. When you absolutely KNOW your ingredients have amazing synergy (HELLO cinnamon, anise, cloves, nutmeg, black peppercorns, allspice, cardamom, fennel…) you don’t have to be so mindful of not overdoing it.

Tip 2: Start with a theme, purpose, or base herb in mind.

It always helps to have a starting point. I find that a theme, a desired purpose for the tea to serve, or even just a base herb can be a great jumping-off point.

My personal go-to is to begin by thinking from a seasonal perspective. There is something very natural and hygge about living life according to the Earth’s cycles and seasons. I am almost always in the mood for an herbal recipe based around the season for that very reason. Is it the middle of the summer? A cooling mint and hibiscus sun tea on ice hits the spot. Has autumn arrived? A combination with cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and chamomile would be warming and soothing. You can’t go wrong with a seasonal blend.

If you want to think beyond seasonal themes, some other starting points could be based around a particular purpose you want the tea to serve. Maybe you have a wellness issue you’d like the tea to address, such as digestion, anxiety, or even a cold. There are herbs exquisitely suited for all those issues and more! Or maybe you want to base your theme around a special occasion (birthday tea party?), a holiday, or even a book/film/person who inspires you. Another starting point could definitely be culinary considerations–you can base a recipe around a particular taste you are craving. Pumpkin spice latte, anyone?

Finally, a super simple approach is to just choose a base herb as your starting point. Maybe you have an abundance of lavender growing in your herb garden? Or, maybe you are writing up a page on lavender for your herb journal? So, you choose to formulate a tea around that.

Tip 3: Mint Chocolate Chip Milkshake with Whipped Cream Topping.

Huh? I thought this blog was about herbs and tea?

Sorry–let me explain. See, many herbal educators use a version of a pyramid visual to explain tea formulation: the base herb that is the main, well, basis for the blend; the middle supporting herb that works together with the base; and the top accent or catalyst herb that adds balancing flavor or action to the mix. I know this system, and it makes sense, but I’ve come up with my own spin that is a bit more fun and really easy to wrap your brain around and remember. Hence, the Mint Chocolate Chip Milkshake with Whipped Cream method!

Here’s how it works–the mint is the main, direction-setting base herb. The chocolate chips are the super-essential supporting herb that just works perfectly with the base-slash-mint. And the whipped cream on top, the icing on the cake so to speak, is the accent/catalyst herb that adds that little something-something. See? Isn’t that a fun and easy way to remember it?

Tip 4: Don’t overthink it…but also start small!

At the end of the day, if you overthink the whole process of herbal tea blending, it’s going to suck all the fun out of it. So, if all else fails, just forget the rules and tips and go with the flow. Don’t be afraid to try something new! But…maybe stick with making a small amount for the first try of your new blend in case you don’t like it. As a rule of thumb, I tend to make about three teacups’ worth of a new blend at a time: enough to try it a couple times to make sure it’s good.

And don’t forget to write your recipe down as you go! Otherwise, you’re left sniffing that last little spoonful you have left, going through the herbs and trying to remember what went into it. Not that I know from experience. Nope, that has never happened to me. Not once…

Tip 5: Sticking to others’ recipes and recipe books is a totally legit method!

Maybe creating your own herbal tea blends is just not an ambition of yours. Maybe using others’ recipes is more your speed. If so, that is totally fine! And it doesn’t make you any less of an herbalist than anyone who does formulate their own blends.

Think of it this way: I love baking. But do I invent all my own cake, cookie, pie, and bread recipes myself? No way. I do not trust myself to understand the chemistry of baking well enough to make up my own recipes. Heck, I often just bake things from boxed mixes! But I still feel great and accomplished after baking something, whether I wrote the recipe or most definitely did NOT. And you can feel that way, too, if you utilize recipe books or online herbalists’ recipes to mix up herbal tea blends or any types of herbal recipes! It’s not a competition. It’s just getting more people enjoying making things with their own hands, and putting that creativity and ingenuity out into the Universe.

So, tell me: do you have any other questions about tea blending? Are you more ready than ever to hear my reviews of recipe books and my own shared recipes here? Or are you ready to dive into the herb jar with both hands? (I guess it had better be a pretty big jar, if that’s the case!)