Mother Earth Living

Warm Up with Winter Drinks

Herb-enhanced, hot beverages take only minutes to make, but these winter drinks can keep you toasty for hours.
By Letitia L. Star
December/January 2012

Herb-enhanced hot beverages take only minutes to make, but can keep you toasty for hours.
Photo by Kati Molin
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When days grow darker and the winds sharper, venture in from the brisk outdoors to sip herb-infused hot winter drinks. Let these enticing aromas fill your home and lift your spirits.

Winter Drink Recipes 

Mulled Wine with Herbs
Mulled Pomegranate-Apple Cider with Rosemary, Thyme & Bay
Peppermint Hot Chocolate
Spicy Hot Cocoa
Elderberry-Ginger Tea
Turmeric-Black Tea Brew
Lavender-Lemon Hot Toddy 

What’s a warming herb? 

“The phrases ‘warming’ and ‘cooling’ are traditional ways to classify herbs and their actions. A warming herb is one that causes increased blood flow and a warming sensation,” says Jaclyn Chasse, N.D., medical director of the Northeast Center for Holistic Medicine.

“Warming herbs are typically used for ‘cold’ conditions such as skin disorders, circulatory disorders, arthritis and joint pain,” she says. “They also can stimulate the immune system. Ginger and garlic are two well-known warming herbs. Others include cayenne, black pepper, cinnamon and cardamom.”

Warmth & Comfort 

Share fall and winter cheer with mulled wine or fruit juice—all deliciously fragrant with herbs and spices. Gather in the kitchen to enjoy socializing with family and friends over warm mulled herb beverages, or just sit by the window and watch a wintry world from your warm, aromatic perch.

These winter drinks are perfect for holiday entertaining. Here are some party-worthy favorites with health-enhancing ingredients:

Red wine or Concord grape juice. Both are loaded with health-promoting flavonoids, which give grapes, elderberries and pomegranates their blue, red and purple pigments.

Pomegranate. “This popular fruit has flavonoids and proanthocyanidins which can help protect cells and their DNA from damage,” Chasse says. “It also has some anti-inflammatory benefits and is high in many vitamins.”

Hot Chocolates and Cocoa 

Sweet and super-simple, these dessert drinks also are good for you:

Dark chocolate is rich in age-fighting flavonoids and antioxidants that can protect cells from free radical damage. It also helps release the brain’s feel-good hormones.

Peppermint. “Mints are usually considered cooling, although they can certainly feel stimulating,” Chasse says. Peppermint and dark, rich chocolate create an uplifting, awakening brew.

Hot chili peppers support circulation and can speed up your metabolism. They also are high in vitamin C. They get your blood moving—great for people with blood-flow issues and cardiovascular health problems. They also are great used topically for pain management. The constituent capsaicin can “train” the pain receptors and help to decrease pain.

Festive and Fun Chocolate Drinks 

The ultimate guilt-free chocolate recipes appear in the beginning of this article. They’re recipes almost anyone can enjoy—even those with health challenges or who need to avoid refined sugar, dairy or high saturated fat.

Want to splurge? For decidedly decadent versions of both chocolate recipes, substitute 1 to 2 tablespoons of superfine white sugar for the natural sweetener. Substitute cream or half-and-half for the soymilk (or water). Add semisweet chocolate chips or bar chunks along with the cocoa. And top your hot chocolate with miniature marshmallows or whipped cream.

Did You Know? 

Technically, hot chocolate contains actual chocolate, which is made with sugar. Traditionally, hot cocoa is made only with cocoa and not chocolate.

Healthy Herbal Brews 

Warming herb drinks also can keep you healthy during challenges of colder months:

Elderberries. Traditionally associated with autumn, elderberries add a striking seasonal touch and a rich berry taste to teas.

“Elderberry, like pomegranate, is high in flavonoids,” Chasse says. “One unique benefit of elderberry is its antiviral action, which can be used to prevent and treat colds and viral illness.”

Ginger. This versatile, warming herb can be used in any variety of tea.


Try These Ingredients for Winter Drinks 

These four teas and a sipping chocolate are ready to serve as ingredients for your warming winter drinks.

• Tantalizing: Winter Spice Tea by Mountain Rose Herbs, $25.00.

• Subtly Sweet: Cranberry Orange Tea by Frontier Natural Products Co-op, $35.00.

• Indulgent: Rich & Dark Sipping Chocolate by Theo Chocolate, $10.00.

• Fruity: Caramel Apple Herbal Tea by Tea Garden & Herbal Emporium, $5.99.

• Refreshing: Moroccan Mint Loose Herbal Teasan by Numi Organic Tea, $9.99.


Where to Find Winter Drinks 

Mountain Rose Herbs
Pumpkin Pie Spice, Winter Spice Tea, bulk herbs for mulling, and organic flavoring extracts. Firefly Chai made with red rooibos can be used to make a warming cider or spiced cocoa.

Frontier
Original Cider Maté (cinnamon, allspice, orange and lemon peel, nutmeg, star anise, cloves, fenugreek and ginger) and Mulling Spice (cinnamon, orange peel, allspice, cloves and ginger). Many herbal teas or chai mixes including: Organic Warming Crimson Berry Tea (hibiscus, red chiles, cranberries, lemon oil, cayenne and citric acid), Organic Indian Spice Herbal Chai (cinnamon, fennel, ginger, anise, cardamom, cloves and black pepper), and Guardian Spirit Tea (organic burdock root, organic sorrel, organic slippery elm bark and rhubarb root). Also many loose-leaf teas and bulk herbs and spices. 

Ten Thousand Villages
Fair-trade coffee, teas and chocolate at retail stores and online.  


Fair-trade Chocolate 

Fair-trade chocolate means the cocoa was purchased for more than the market average price from small-scale producers. The idea is to allow small-scale farmers to compete by improving the equality of international trading conditions, especially in developing countries.

Coco-Zen
Mint Truffles with peppermint essential oil; Chai Truffles with cinnamon essential oil, cardamom, clove, ginger and nutmeg. 

Sjaak’s Organic Chocolates
Dark Chocolate Lavender Truffles, Mint Bites and Mint Mills. 

Theo Chocolate
Loose Mint Ganache with fresh spearmint and peppermint, Classic Mint Dark Chocolate Bar, and Fig Fennel & Almond Bar. Also try the Chipotle Spice Sipping Chocolate.

Learn more about fair trade chocolate, coffee and other food: Global Exchange: Cocoa, Fair Trade USA, and Fair For Life.


Letitia L. Star is a freelance writer and recipe developer who frequently contributes to The Herb Companion. 


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