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)

1/8 cup organic elderberries, dried

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