Adaptogen Chai

Ashwagandha Root (Withania somnifera)

Ashwagandha Root (Withania somnifera)

Winter is a time for nourishment and replenishment and the holidays, fun though the revelry can be, can also sometimes leave us feeling tired and depleted during a season when rest should be paramount. Enter adaptogens! A special class of herbs perfect for this time of year, adaptogens are known to work on what’s often referred to as the HPA Axis, or Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis, which is a complex and integral communication system between our endocrine and nervous systems. Herbs in this category restore frazzled nervous systems, improve energy, encourage proper hormonal rhythms, improve quality of sleep, and increase our body's resilience to stress. In short, they're veritable life-savers for folks trying to balance the stresses of everyday modern life. Adaptogens are tonic herbs safe for daily use, and they have a cumulative effect in the body- the longer you take them the more strongly you’ll feel their effects. They lend themselves incredibly well to food as medicine practices, and one of my favorite ways to imbibe is in an adaptogen-filled chai.

There are many adaptogens out there, but this recipe features Tulsi and Ashwagandha, two of my favorites that tend to be well-tolerated by most folks (NOTE: a few adaptogens, namely Rhodiola and Ginseng can be too stimulating for some folks and can cause headaches and insomnia at night). Both Tulsi and Ashwagandha are easy to cultivate as annuals here in the Northeast and I grow both in my garden, ensuring a good supply for winter teas and cooking. Both these herbs are not only adaptogenic, but also nervines, meaning they can calm and relax anxiety as its happening-a wonderful added bonus! The classic chai spices in this recipe-called carminatives in herbalism- aid digestion, ease gas and bloating, improve nutrient assimilation, contain antimicrobial essential oils, are enlivening and warming, and add a wonderful flavor. I also love adding medicinal mushrooms to my chai. Medicinal mushrooms contain immune-boosting polysaccharides called beta-glucans that give the immune system a good work-out, so it’s primed and ready when the body encounters true pathogens like viruses and bacteria. They’re an important part of my herbal routine that I would never want to be without! Feel free to make your own additions and subtractions to this recipe to suite you own needs in true kitchen medicine fashion. Read on for the recipe!

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Adaptogen Chai

1 tbsp Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum)
1 tbsp Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
1 tbsp Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor), Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum or G. tsugae), or Birch Polypore (Fomitopsis betulina) Mushroom
1 tbsp Chai spices (I love the pre-made blend by a company called Chai-Wallah or I'll often simply do equal parts ginger, cardamom and cinnamon)
1 can full fat coconut milk (or milk of choice)
3 cups water
Sweeten with raw honey to taste

Simmer it all covered for at least 10-15 min. Strain, and enjoy!

If you’re interested in learning more about all things kitchen herbalism, including adaptogens, medicinal mushrooms, the medicinal uses of culinary herbs, seaweed medicine, cooking with herbs and more, my new ONLINE series, Spice Rack Medicine, is OPEN for registration! Registration will be open January 8th-January 22nd and class start Feb 1st.

Learn More and Register for Class Here

Tulsi Wild Soda

Left to Right: Lemon Balm Kombucha, Wild Rose Soda, Rose Simple Syrup

Left to Right: Lemon Balm Kombucha, Wild Rose Soda, Rose Simple Syrup

Wild Sodas are a fun and easy way to make living, medicinal, naturally probiotic beverages. They can be made with 100% local ingredients, making them a wonderful example of “localvore medicine” that reflects the true terroir of the land while having a super small carbon footprint. I mostly make them in the warmer months, but they can be made year-round.  They can be made purely for taste preferences and pleasure, or the herbs can be selected based on desired medicinal effects- the choice is yours! Below I've shared a recipe for beloved Tulsi Wild Soda, but this same recipe will work for any aromatic herb like Anise Hyssop, Lemon Balm, Lemon Verbena, and so on.

Tulsi Wild Soda

12 tbsp fresh Tulsi/Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum) Flowering Tops- Leaves, Flowers, and non-woody Stems
1/2 cup Raw Honey (preferably local)
1/2 Gallon un-chlorinated water (well/spring water best).

Put your herbs in a half-gallon mason jar and fill the jar with cold or room-temperature water. If you are on city water and you aren't sure if it's chlorinated, it's worth a call to the town as not all town water supplies are chlorinated. Next add the 1⁄2 cup raw honey and mix well. It’s ok if it doesn’t all dissolve right away if your honey is crystallized, as it will dissolve on its own in a day or two. Cover with cheesecloth or a bandana or thin cloth so it can still breathe but bugs can’t get in, like fruit flies. Now you wait for it to start fermenting! The wild yeasts found in the air, on your plant material, and in the raw honey are working now to turn the sugars in the honey into CO2 (this is what makes it fizzy) and ethyl alcohol, but don't worry- this fermentation will be strained and refrigerated well before it reaches a high alcohol percentage. It’s important to stir it a few times a day during this time, and when it starts fizzing/bubbling when I stir it I know it’s started fermenting. Time to initial fermentation can be a few days to over a week depending on temperature. Once it starts bubbling, I usually let it ferment for another 8- 12 hours, and sometimes longer. It’s best to taste a little bit every day once it starts fermenting as a litmus test for when it’s time to strain. I like it start to taste sparkling and effervescent before I strain. Then I strain out the herbs, cap it, and let it sit out at room temperature to build carbonation. This timing can vary, but often 12-24 hrs is a good amount of time to build-up good carbonation. Then I put it in the fridge where it will last for months!

Tulsi and Echinacea Flowers

Tulsi and Echinacea Flowers

Tulsi is a calming nervous system tonic, digestive aid, and uplifting, mood-enhancing herb. While a Wild Soda isn't the most medicinally-concentrated way to prepare medicinal herbs, it certainly captures the essential oils and essence of the herb and in my mind is a way to enjoy your herbs as food as medicine. I consider 1 cup to be a medicinal dose. When I drink Wild Sodas I often add flowers to make a what I call a "fairy cocktail."  I also often add a dose of tincture or elixir to it give it a medicinal boost and enjoy as a fermented herbal mocktail. Some Wild Rose Elixir added to Tulsi Soda is divine!

I make Wild Sodas the same way I cook- I rarely follow a recipe and things never come-out quite the same way twice! I encourage you to approach wild sodas similarly. This recipe is meant to get you started. The water: honey ratio should always be followed but you can play around with herbal amounts to your liking! It’s fine to use a combo of fresh and dried herb too. Experiment and keep notes as you develop your favorite combinations. Keeping a kitchen journal of your fermentation adventures is highly recommended. Happy fermenting!


Elderberry & Tulsi Wild Soda

Elderberry & Tulsi Wild Soda

If you're interested in learning more about Kitchen Medicine my winter class series, Spice Rack Medicine, is OPEN for registration! Class meets 1 Sunday/month January-March. Topics include medicinal uses of the culinary herbs, food and herbal energetics and eating for your personal constitution, medicinal mushrooms, cooking with the tonic herbs, food as medicine, and more!

Learn More Here



Ashwagandha-Spiced Ghee

I was inspired to share this recipe after sharing it with a client this morning. This is my favorite way to take Ashwagandha and great for folks who are weary of taking tinctures, tablets and capsules.

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is a such a wonderful herb.  It comes to Western Herbalism by way of Ayurveda, where it is known as a Rasayana- a supreme tonic herb. It supports the nervous system and helps reduce stress and anxiety and, if taken over time, will promote restful sleep and good energy endurance during the days with fewer crashes and lows.   As an adaptogen, it also helps support an appropriate stress response, taking us from a chronic state of "flight or fight" into a state where we can better manage and roll with the day-to-day stresses of life.  It's a wonderful herb to add to your daily protocol for just about anyone living in the stress of our modern world! The addition of the spices in this recipe supports assimilation and digestion, and add a nice flavor too. It's so easy to make your own and can be a great part of a daily health routine.

Ashwagandha-Spiced Ghee

1 2/3rd cups ghee
1/2 cup Ashwagandha powder
2 tsp Ginger pwd
2 tsp cinnamon pwd
2 tsp cardamom pwd
2 tsp rose petal pwd
Raw honey to taste (optional)

1 2/3 cups ghee is the amount of ghee you will get from cooking down 1 lb of butter, and is also the same amount of ghee in the jar size it is commonly sold in. Combine the herbs and ghee in a pan. Put on low and mix the herbs into the ghee as it melts. Be careful not to burn the herbs. Heat gently for 4-5 minutes. Then pour into a heat-resistant jar, like a mason jar. Add raw honey to taste if desired. Stir occasionally as it cools to ensure that the herbs are evenly mixed into the ghee. A medicinal dose is 3 tsp/day. Eat straight, put on toast, add to warn grains, put in coffee or tea, or use for cooking.

Enjoy!