One of my favorite winter treats is a warming herbal chai latte. The sweet and spicy indulgence is a delicious self care practice I like to do when the weather is freezing and I am stuck inside for most of the day. Herbal chai lattes are surprisingly simple to make at home and can be done in a matter of minutes. The flavor is a much more powerful alternative to the chai concentrate you would typically get at a coffee shop. And infusing whole warming spices the traditional way into your herbal chai latte offers much more medicinal benefits.
One thing to be aware of with our favorite chai spices like cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon, and allspice is that they all grow in regions that are far away from the west. That means sourcing these herbs ethically and sustainably should be mindfully considered. I feel like there are many things that can substitute these herbs that grow wherever you are located. I am curious to experiment and taste test some wild plants this year so I can come up with a herbal chai that has spices that are unique to my region. You never know what you will discover in the wild plant kingdom.
Lets look closer at these warming herbs to see what they have to offer and see why they are such a cherished commodity that have caused so many wars.
Allspice is a spice that tastes like all of our favorite spices in one. It grows on a small shrub called a pimento tree and is native to Jamaica. Allspice is the only spice native to the western hemisphere. Whole allspice berries have a much stronger aroma and flavor compared to ground allspice. Keeping it whole and grinding it yourself will add a lot more flavor to chai and other recipes.
Medicinal properties include antiviral, antibacterial, analgesic, anesthetic. Fighting off infection and offering pain relief. Jamaicans use allspice for colds, stomachache, high blood pressure, menstrual cycle, indigestion, flatulence, and other digestive issues. It also stimulates blood flow and helps warm the feet. Allspice also helps with athletes food and is anti-fungal. As well as anti-inflammatory and relieves sore muscles, painful joints, and rheumatoid arthritis. The berries are also antioxidant with 25 active phenols that help fight oxidized cell damage that can lead to heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s and other diseases.
During the middle ages black pepper was considered the king of spices. It was only reserved for the wealthy and was part of the fuel that started the spice wars in the 15th century. The best tasting pepper berries com from the Malabar Coast in India. The berries are rich in piperine a compound that invigorates your tastebuds and stimulates your nose hairs. Ayurvedic physicians use black pepper everyday as a cure for many diseases including. diarrhea, arthritis, insect bites, tooth decay, sunburn, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, lung disease, colon cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer and so much more. When the piperine stimulates the tastebuds it triggers the pancreas to start secreting digestive enzymes while toning the intestines, and speeds up the time it takes for food to move through the digestive tract.
Cardamom has always been one of the worlds most expensive spices and is known as the queen of spices. it grows in India in the mountainous rainforests of the Cardamom Hills. In the Middle Ages a few cardamom pods cost as much as a poor mans salary. There are 25 volatile oils that give cardamom its one of a kind aroma. The most medicinally active constituent is cineole which is best known for its stomach soothing abilities. In the East cardamom has been used to treat respiratory ailments like asthma, bronchitis, colds, flus, bad breath, colic, constipation, diarrhea, lowers blood pressure, and it prevents blood clots. It is anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic which is how it helps calms upset stomachs.
This spicy sweet favorite helps control blood sugar, which makes it a great choice to add to all your baked cookies, pies, cakes, and desserts. Cinnamon has the power to help with blood sugar control, lowers risk factors for those who are pre-diabetic, it protects the heart from artery clogging, controls metabolic syndrom, helps with polycystic ovary syndrome, fights off microbes, bacteria, fungi, and cancer. Cinnamon comes from the bark of a tropical evergreen tree. Cassia cinnamon is known as Chinese cinnamon and true cinnamon is called ceylon cinnamon or Sri Lankan cinnamon. I personally buy my cinnamon in bulk on Amazon and it tastes much better than what I find at the grocery store.
Cloves are the dried flower bud from a tree native to the islands Malukus in Indonesia. Most of the cloves now a days are imported from Brazil and Madagascar. The compound of Eugenol provides a numbing effect and is used for tooth and gum aches. Eugenol also fights bacteria and viruses throughout the body. Clove oil is also known to prevent mosquitos from bitting.
Clove also stops blood clots and is anti cancerous. Traditional uses include uses for infections, indigestion, nausea, gas, diarrhea, bloating, colic, muscle spasms, skin problems, acne, ulcers, sores, to aid memory and as a aphrodisiac. During the Han Dynasty they used cloves as a toothbrush and breath mint. Cloves have a bloody history in the 16 hundreds when the spice wars were going on, the Dutch took over the spice islands, burned all the clove trees, hid the new growing place, and killed anyone who tried to smuggle the seeds. No herbal chai latte spice mix is complete with out fresh cloves.
For thousands of years ginger has been used in ancient China, India, Rome, and the Middle East for nausea among other things. It can help many different forms of nausea like motions sickness, morning sickness, nausea after surgery and nausea after chemotherapy. Ginger is rich in phytonutrients called gingerols that are antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, ani-bacterial, antiviral and anti-disease. Researchers have found this effective with arthritis, cancer, migraine, asthma, heartburn, stomachaches, high cholesterol, and can help prevent heart attacks and stroke. Ginger flavor can range from mild to hot. Most of the ginger is shipped from Hawaii to the US. I enjoy adding extra ginger to my herbal chai latte recipes to help with my digestion and because I love the taste of ginger.
Myristicin is the sweet volatile oil that makes up the unforgettable nutmeg flavor. It is also found in carrots, celery, and parsley. Nutmeg trees grow abundantly on the island of Grenada in the Caribbean. Traditional healers use nutmeg for stomach cramps, diarrhea, headaches, troubled emotions, to stimulate mensuration and soothes hemorrhoids. Many different studies have found its effectiveness against skin cancer, anxiety, depression, poor memory, low sex drive, high cholesterol, and can help prevent convulsions. Most common uses are sprinkling the fresh ground nut on rum punch. And also using nutmeg infused butter for arthritic pain. The sheath of the nut is also used as a spice that is called mace and has a more tart flavor.
How To Make Herbal Chai At Home
As you can see there is a lot of health benefits to drinking the traditional masala chai. Which means spiced tea in India. By making it a herbal chai latte you are adding even more benefits and flavors. Recently I made a chai with hawthorn, juniper, and reishi, and oolong tea for an extra boost of medicine. But you can add whichever herbs are calling to you.
To make chai the traditional way you must first roast the whole spices in a pan until they are aromatic. Then you boil the whole spices in milk. Stirring frequently, decoct the herbs anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes depending on how strong you like it. Then use pure cane sugar or date syrup to sweeten it. This is a quick and easy way to have a mug of herbal chai everyday in the winter time.
You can also make a chai concentrate to have on hand by decocting the herbs in water. Then you can more quickly make a chai latte by warming half of the concentrate with milk. I then like to use this concentrate in my food. By adding it to oatmeal, baked goods, and any other thing I can think of. It is a great way to add powerful herbal medicine to my daily rituals. I encourage you to try it. I also encourage you to try using aged ceremonial teas in your chai for even more unique flavor.
Read more content about the healing powers of herbs here.