Warming up the Cold Season

Here’s two of my favorite cold season drinks to help warm you up from the inside out: fire cider from the Northeastern Appalachians, and Chai tea from India. Both of these drinks have their basic set of ingredients. But, like any good recipe, they gain character as you experiment with and personalize them. Enjoy! 

Fire cider was given its name, due to its fiery spicy contents, usually infused in apple cider vinegar. Simply fill a glass jar with equal parts of chopped up garlic, ginger, onions, horseradish, and cayenne or hot peppers. You can then add whatever herbs you may wish to infuse, such as bitters (ie. Burdock or Dandelion root), or berries (ie. Jujube dates or Manzanita berries). Just make sure that it’s mostly the base ingredients, so that it’s still spicy hot. Then, pack it all down with a fork, and cover with raw apple cider vinegar, with an extra inch of vinegar above the herbs. You can also add raw honey, for an extra anti-microbial, nutritive, and sweet boost. Let sit for 2 weeks, strain, then rebottle. Label, “Fire Cider” with red marker, and drink a shot glass full everyday as a general circulatory stimulant, digestive stimulant, and cold-season immune tonic. You can also integrate fire cider into your food in other ways, such as via salad dressing. Play with how many peppers or horseradishes you add, to modulate the heat to your preference. 

Taking the train all over India, I became accustomed to the sound of the Chai-vendor screaming, “Chai-ya, Chai-ya, Chai-ya!” in most towns I passed through. The basic ingredients of Chai include Cinnamon, Cardamon, Ginger, Clove, and Black Pepper. All of these plants are energetically warming, or circulatory stimulants, and digestive stimulants too. I like to mix other herbs into my Chai blends, depending on my desired herbal actions. Here’s one of my favorite recipes, developed by my friend and fellow herbalist, Lauren Stauber. This blend includes relaxing and uplifting Rose, decadent and sensual Cacao, and anti-inflammatory Tumeric, for an anti-oxidant, circulatory stimulating, digestive, and delicious Chai blend.

(Ingredients are listed in parts by volume, or proportions)

Cacao Tumeric Rose Chai

Rose petals 1 part

Cacao nibs 1 part

Cinnamon 1 part

Ginger 1/2-1 part to taste

Licorice 1/2-1 part to taste

Cardamon pod, crushed 1/8 part

Clove 1/8 part

Black pepper 1/8 part

Nutmeg (optional)

Tumeric powder, add 1/4-1/2 tsp per T of herbs

Decoct (simmer) 1 T herbs plus Turmeric per 1 C liquid, via the double-boiler method: fill a cup with liquid, set that into a pot of water, and boil the whole thing. Use full or up to 1/2-diluted dairy or nut milk to decoct herbs into. Add a spoonful of coconut fat, butter, or other oil to a less fatty milk, as this concoction needs fat, to be most effective. Simmer on a low flame for 10 – 20 minutes, covered. Strain, and sweeten with honey if you wish. Enjoy staying warm through the cold season!


(photo by Joy Kudasik from the last day of class with 7song last year, at the Northeast School of Botanical Medicine)