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!

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Summer 2015

It's been a beautiful, busy summer- too busy to blog much in-fact!  Its been full of travel, harvesting & medicine-making, time with my daughters and family, swim-dates, and teaching.  But I did manage to get a lot of pics and commentaries on the Milk & Honey Herbs Facebook page, and here is a wrap-up (and condensed version) all in one place!

Summer Nervines

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Blue Vervain (Verbena hastata)
Family Verbenaceae
This is a potent nervine of summer, blooming late July and August. Blue Vervain is deeply calming and is a relaxant nervine, useful at night for insomnia and during the day for mild to acute anxiety. Its strong bitter components support the liver (a major organ of elimination and detoxification) and help us process all of our "stuff"- be it physical or emotional. This same liver-supportive action also makes it a useful ally for treating hormonal imbalance and I love using it to treat PMS, menstrual cramps, and menstrual irregularity- what an herb! The tea is quite bitter so I prefer to make a tincture out of this one. Look for it growing in wet meadows with Goldenrod, Boneset and sometimes Cattail.


Milky Oat Tops (Avena sativa)
Family Poaceae
I was beyond thrilled to discover my oat patch in the milky oat stage! This is the same grass that gives us oatmeal, and when the seeds are harvested in the "milky stage" it makes one of the absolute finest restorative nerve tonics one can find.  It's a staple in my herbal practice and I use it for folks with anxiety and an over-all "frazzled" feeling in their nervous system. I also love it in combination with Skullcap (Scutellaria lateraflora) for withdrawal symptoms in those dosing down in meds, quitting smoking, and the like.


St Johnswort (Hypericum perforatum)
Family Hypericaceae
I am so in love with this plant! I use it mostly as a nervine (although it is a also a great hepatic), especially for those experiencing nerve pain, which the plant is a specific for. It has a long history of use in ancient herbals for "dispelling evil influences," which to me speaks to its well-known action as an anti-depressant. The flower essence (which is AMAZING!) helps with protection, especially if you suffer from nightmares, and also treats shock and burn-out that comes from a weakened energetic field. Anyone who knows the botany of this plants knows that the perforations in the leaf are a signature for this......think "perforations" in the energetic field.

Calendula Harvest

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Calendula officinalis

Calendula in olive oil. Oils are great base preparations that may then be used to make salves, creams, body butters, salt or sugar scrubs, or just used on their own. Calendula is an amazing wound healer, as well as an anti-microbial and anti-septic, and makes a fabulous all-purpose salve

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Calendula Flower Essence. Brings warmth and compassion to communication.

Elder Flower Cordial

Elder Flowers (Sambucus canadensis) contain enough natural yeast to make a "wild fermentation." This brew is just Elder Flowers, local raw honey, lemons, and water! Just be sure not to wash your fresh Elder Flower, as it will wash off the beneficial microbes that make fermenting with these particular flowers so easy!




Wild Edibles walk at Red Fire Farm Tomato Festival

Wild Edibles walk at Red Fire Farm Tomato Festival

Beautiful visiting students from the  Spiral Program  at Dig In Farm   

Beautiful visiting students from the Spiral Program at Dig In Farm


Saying good-bye to summer, and looking forward to the gorgeous, resplendent Fall!