Teas for Health -How to Make Healthy Homemade Chai!

Since drinking herbal teas is one of my most favorite things in the world to do, I thought my first recipe post should be about them!  My first experiences drinking herbal teas began in my late teenage years when I sat with my Nana Belia having some te de manzanilla (chamomile tea) after I told her my stomach was hurting. Sometimes she would offer me peppermint tea as well.  To this day, the smell of chamomile takes me back to those wonderful old times sitting with her in her kitchen with the peach colored curtains hanging delicately in the window next to the table where all the Gallego family would share meals. I have a bottle a chamomile essential oil that I love to just take a whiff of sometimes and recall those days… 

The chamomile flower

People have been drinking tea for thousands of years for both taste and medicinal values.  What started out as a way to remedy a stomach ache has now become a way of life for me and my family.  While I like to drink traditional teas like darjeeling, oolong and green tea (which both my Mayo Clinic and Naturopath doctors have prescribed for me daily, because of its high levels of antioxidants) my favorites are herbal teas.  Interestingly, herbal teas are not really true teas since they do not come from the Camellia Sinensis bush.  Herbal teas are actually infusions of organic matter like spices, leaves, roots, flowers, etc.1  The Merriam Webster dictionary defines these infusions using the French word tisane which is “an infusion (as of dried herbs) used as a beverage or for medicinal effects” 

There is also a term called decoction which means that organic matter is boiled continuously for a period of time in order to extract the oils and healthy properties of the plant being used.  A decoction would describe the majority of teas that I make at home regularly I use them as daily immune boosters and to fight off viruses and bacterial infection. They may also be effective in cleansing harmful yeasts and intestinal parasites. I might use fresh ginger, fresh or dried citrus peels, cinnamon bark, cardamom seeds, dried elderberries or citrus leaves.  One of my favorites is lemongrass from our plant in the backyard!

Lemongrass plant in our backyard

Making teas (or decoctions) at home is a very simple process, you can purchase organic herbs online or at health food stores, or even better grab them out of your home garden! Wash thoroughly, chop or pound a bit with a mortar and pestle, boil and enjoy with raw honey or stevia if you desire.  

Some of the benefits of making these healthy beverages yourself are that you will be getting the freshest ingredients possible in your tea, and you will know exactly what has gone into every drop. No worries about chemicals lurking in tea bags either. Best of all it’s usually much cheaper than buying organic tea bags from the store!

I really do emphasize using only organic herbs in your teas. Non organic herbs are irradiated or treated with ethylene or propylene oxide gas to fumigate them before packaging. Also if you buy prepackaged teas, you’ll want to be careful about the actual tea bags used since many contain chlorine and other toxic chemicals used in production.  I have researched Stash brand teas and they state that their bags do not contain chlorine dioxide or epichlorohydrin.  Many teas (even organic ones) also contain “natural flavoring” the content of which is not disclosed on the package.  So I just prefer going with unsweetened to avoid any doubt.

So here is the recipe for my absolute favorite tea (decoction) that I make at home.  It can be enjoyed hot or cold, and has a ton of immune boosting elements in it!  Important caution: as with any herb, please consult your physician before ingesting to ensure that there are no contraindications with any medical condition or prescription drugs you may be taking. 

Chai mixture steeping. Can you see the wonderful oils on top from the herbs? This is where all the healthful properties are collected.

Becky’s Favorite immune boosting Herbal Chai:

1 gallon filtered water

About ¼ cup finely chopped or mashed fresh organic ginger root (if not available use a couple TBs of powdered ginger instead)

⅛ cup whole organic cardamom pods, mashed in a mortar/pestle including seeds

2-3 organic ceylon cinnamon sticks crushed

2-3 tsp organic whole clove then freshly crushed (remember clove is very spicy so start out slowly)

About 2-3 long lemongrass leaves chopped coarsely and mashed

Optional: ½ cup orange, lemon or grapefruit peels fresh or dried

Optional  3-4 lemon leaves mashed

Raw honey to taste

Boil water in a stainless or non reactive pot, at boiling point add chopped ginger, cardamom, cinnamon sticks and clove, bring to a medium boil for about 10 minutes.  After boiling, add lemongrass, citrus peels and lemon leaves, let steep covered for at least 20 minutes. Strain tea to serve. Add raw honey to pot if desired or add into individual servings to taste. Can be cooled and refrigerated 2-3 days in a glass container. Enjoy your tisane!

1 Green, Jeffrey, http://www.naturalaz.com/ARIZ/June-2019/The-Power-of-Tea


What Does Living Naturally Mean to Me?

First and foremost, living a simple and natural life to me can be summed up by what the Apostle Paul says in the book of Romans paraphrased here:  … Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him.  But here is a more nuts and bolts description of just a few of the things that I have done over the years to try to live a more natural life.  Some were simple changes, others took a little more time, and some I’m still working towards!

  1. Eating healthy whole foods as much as possible! Homegrown vegetables and homecooked meals are the best!
  2. Removing processed foods and refined sugars from our diet and choosing organic as much as possible, especially clean meats and dairy products.
  3. Removing toxic cleaning products from the house and replacing with natural cleaners.
  4. Not using a microwave – We removed ours from the house more than 10 years ago and have never missed it! Well actually the only time I miss it is the day after Thanksgiving when I want to heat up a plate of leftovers.  But I just heat it on the stove or in the oven.
  5. Trying to stay away from WiFi and cellular waves as much as possible -that can be challenging in today’s world.  We still run DSL in the house.
  6. Try to wear mostly cotton clothing, organic cotton being the best!
  7. Using very few skin care, makeup products, and commercial fragrances.
  8. Try to avoid watching too much television and/or internet
  9. Getting outdoors and exercising a lot! 
  10. Going gray naturally and loving being myself!

Why I Started this Blog

It’s been more than ten years that I have wanted to start an online blog. I remember the first time I saw Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s blog and I was hooked on her healthy cooking ideas and recipes and lively humor as well. I knew I wanted to do something similar, but honestly didn’t think I had the skills or the time with 4 young children at home. As I have grown older and the kids have become more self sufficient, I realized that now is the time to get started. I have been studying natural living themes and making my best attempts at living a natural life for many years, and I want to share what I have learned and experienced with you now. I hope that this page will serve as a resource for you and encouragement as you also live a natural life! -Becky


Hi I’m Becky Barranca

Thank you for visiting my blog! I am so excited to share what I love doing everyday with you here! My hope is that this blog will be an inspiration for living a natural and simple life, and provide information and resources for you to be able to do that. I am looking forward to sharing this journey with you!


My First Blog Post

About Me

I’m Becky Barranca, many know me by my maiden name, Rebecca Lynn Rodriguez.  I am a daughter of God, I like to call him Yahweh.  I’m married to Fernando Barranca the love of my life, and the mother of 4 beautiful children that we were blessed with. I am a daughter and a sister and a stepmom and have been blessed with a wonderful extended family. I am a 4th generation proud Arizonan of Mexican descent, so I enjoy a colorful culture that blends the rich heritages of both the USA and Mexico together.  I was in the life insurance business for more than 20 years, and now I dedicate my time to homeschooling my children, ministry work and a home bakery.

GROWING UP and now, I have always been drawn to nature and I spend a lot of time outdoors.  Like many in my culture, as a young girl, my grandparents taught me about using natural remedies for minor ailments.  My Aunt Carmen taught me about using malva (mallow) for hair and “bledo” (amaranth) and “verdolagas” (purslane) to make healthy green dishes for dinner.   My Tata Kiki taught me about grapefruit tree flowers to make tea and Nana Belia gave me “manzanilla” (chamomile) for tummy aches.  Auntie Marilyn taught me about using chaparral (creosote) for healing.   Using plants as nutrition and for possible healing of ailments has been a part of my life and culture since childhood.  I look forward to sharing what I have learned with you!

One common aspect of our Hispanic culture is that we LOVE our tortillas, sweet breads and sugary drinks! So in addition to learning about nature’s remedies, as a child I also enjoyed having fresh tortillas from Carolinas, pan dulce from Food City, which usually included my Tata Kiki’s favorite, cochitos!   Sometimes my cousins and I would try to sneak one of my Tata Vic’s Strawberry Barq’s sodas in a glass bottle.  But he always caught us lol!! 

Unfortunately for me, the refined carbs and sweets took a toll on my teeth resulting in lots of fillings as a young person. And I still struggle a bit with my weight, because I really do like bread!  But what I have changed now is that I don’t have as much of those things anymore, and I have found healthier alternatives to the refined sugars and grains.  Instead of soda, we drink fresh organic Jamaica (Hibiscus tea) sweetened with a little raw honey or coconut sugar. Instead of tortillas, we’ll have some Forbidden Rice (black rice) to complement our dishes.  As for the delicious pan dulces and cochitos– well we do splurge a couple of times a year!  Now though, we try to focus on grain free and organic desserts and sourdough breads at our home bakery Hollyhock and Nopal Bakery LLC.    

CANCER?  As I have grown older, I have learned more about healthy eating and living. But even though I have tried to live a healthy life for many years now, I’ve always been aware that just being human puts us at risk for cancer! My concern as a woman had always been focused on breast or reproductive organ cancers.  In fact, in the early 2000’s I ran a non profit organization that focused on Hispanic Women’s breast health issues.  I spent several years teaching on the importance of taking care of ourselves. Unfortunately through the years I have lost several friends to cancer and their passing has left scars on my heart. 

In early 2019, feeling very tired and thinking I had a thyroid imbalance, I went for a regular checkup and had my annual blood tests done.  I was shocked the following week when I was given a diagnosis of cancer! Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia.  I had never had anemia or blood issues and in fact had never heard of CLL. The next couple of months became a whirlwind of more blood testing and visiting cancer centers for specialist opinions. I even took a trip to Monterrey, Mexico to visit with one of the top hematologists there to get a third opinion and confirm the diagnosis. Now I’m under care at Mayo Clinic and SCNM and I am so thankful to God to say that this cancer is not aggressive and that most people live many years without needing treatment.  However, in the meantime because my immune system is under more stress, I tire easily and I need to be extra cautious and aware of my health. 

The cancer diagnosis has changed my mindset about life. It has reminded me that life is precious and we have to make the most of every moment! At the same time I know that God is able to heal me!  It has been quite a life change and a journey that I am just embarking on, and I hope you will join me as I walk through this and all the seasons of my life!   

Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.

— Oscar Wilde.