Brrrr! These winter days can be very chilly! There are plenty of warming spices to help ward off winter’s chill, and you likely already have many of them in with your other kitchen spices. Keep reading for some home remedies for warming up on cold days!
But first, what do I mean when I say warming spice? A warming spice is any spice that acts as a stimulating tonic for the cardiovascular system. Some work by opening up the blood vessels a bit, some by increasing heart rate, and some by stimulating vessels to work more effectively. Examples of warming spices include: Cinnamon (Cinnamonum sp.), Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum), Black Pepper (Piper nigrum), Cayenne (Capsicum annuum, C. frutescens), and Ginger (Zingiber officinale).
Although these spices can have potent therapeutic activity, they are very safe when used at typical food dosages for keeping you warmed up. You can also experiment with sprinkling cayenne powder in shoes to keep your feet warm. If you have very sensitive skin I recommend testing a very small amount before using a lot in your shoes.
You may recognize some of these spices from the popular beverage, chai tea. Typically this beverage has a base of black tea leaves, but if you are making some for kids or want to avoid caffeine, you can also purchase it or make it with rooibos or astragalus root. Home blends are easy to prepare (keep reading for a recipe), and you can also order pre-made blends from my dispensary (just search ‘chai tea’ after you log in). If you are making a home blend, don’t be afraid to add, substitute, or try different things. I’ve tried adding turmeric, nutmeg, and even some native plants like wild ginger and devil’s club. Just use what you have and enjoy experimenting with variations. If you decide to really get into making different blends, you can purchase bulk ingredients from local shops, or order them online.
To make a home blend, combine 1 cinnamon stick, 6 whole cardamom pods, 6 whole cloves, 1 inch fresh peeled ginger root (or ¼ tsp dried), 1 tsp whole black pepper corns, and 1 Tbs astragalus. Add to a pot with 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to steep, covered, for 10 minutes. Bring back up to a boil. Remove from the heat and add 1 Tbs. Black tea or rooibos. Allow to steep covered for 3-5 minutes. Strain out the herbs and reserve the liquid. What you have now is a base that you can cool and refrigerate to make chai with any time you want! It keeps in the refrigerator for 5 days. You can also keep going with the next steps if you want your hot mug of chai now.
The next step is optional, but the traditional method is to prepare chai with a little sweetness and milk. If you are preparing the whole batch above, return it to a clean pot and add 1 cup of milk of choice, then warm back up on low. Pour into mugs and sweeten with honey to taste. This batch makes about 4 servings. For a single serving, ¼ cup of milk is about the right amount. You may need to experiment a bit to find out how spicy you like it, or how much milk tastes good to you.
I hope you have enjoyed reading about these warming herbs and spices! As usual, this blog is for information only, and does not constitute personal medical advice. Please make an appointment if you would like to learn more about how herbs can be used to increase your personal health and well-being.
Dr. Tremblay holds degrees in horticulture, plant ecology and ethnomedicine, and a doctorate in naturopathic medicine. Her diverse background and personal experience with chronic disease gives her unique insights and experience in providing naturopathic care for patients. Read more >>