Herbal DIY gifts for the holiday season
Recipes and photos by Anna Marie Beauchemin
Clinical Herbalist, East Bay Herbals
As an herbalist and chef I’m always looking for creative ways to share the culinary magic of herbalism. Here are three recipes that allow you to share the healing magic of herbs in a way that is simple, relatable, and of course, delicious. These creative spice blends for warming seasonal beverages and medicinal soups make unique and healthy DIY holiday gifts, perfect for a cold winter’s day.
Note: Mix one batch at a time to ensure that each recipient gets the proper proportion of ingredients.
Edible East Bay has created printable labels and other items you can use to construct your gifts. Find the downloadable pdfs here.
Adaptogenic Hot Cocoa
This whimsically delicious hot cocoa is fortified with the power of medicinal mushrooms and herbs. The blend uses both reishi mushroom (an adaptogen known for supporting the immune system), and lion’s mane (a medicinal mushroom used to help support cognitive function), making this concoction an ideal match for full-body support. Throw in the mood-boosting potential of cacao (the unprocessed version of cocoa), and you have yourself a sweet yet medicinal treat.
Yield: Packs into a 4-ounce mason jar and makes 2 cups of hot chocolate
3–4 tablespoons cacao powder
½ tablespoon cocoa powder
½ teaspoon lion’s mane mushroom powder
½ teaspoon reishi mushroom powder
2–3 tablespoons organic raw sugar or
1 pinch cinnamon powder (optional)
To assemble: Place all ingredients in a 4-ounce mason jar and mix together. Download and print the labels here or make your own with the following directions for the gift recipient.
Directions for recipient: In a small saucepan over low heat, warm 2 cups milk of choice taking care not to scald. Add contents of jar and whisk until combined. Ladle into mugs and top with freshly whipped cream, if desired.
Warming Herbal Chai
One of my favorite wintertime remedies, this classic tea blend is packed full of herbs traditionally used for both their warming and digestive properties. I drink this chai to help soothe my nerves on a busy morning, as a midday treat, or as a warm cuppa at the end of a cold, damp day.
Yield: Packs into an 8-ounce mason jar. Makes 2–3 cups of chai
3–4 tablespoons loose leaf black tea (darjeeling or assam)
1 2- to 3-inch cinnamon stick
5–8 cardamom pods
5 whole cloves
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1½ teaspoons fennel seeds
1½ teaspoons ginger powder
To assemble: Seal black tea into a small envelope (or make the origami tea packet shared online with this article). Place the filled packet inside the mason jar. Add all other ingredients to the jar. Download and print the labels here or make your own with the following directions for the gift recipient.
Directions for recipient: Set aside tea packet and combine all other ingredients in a small saucepan with 2 cups water. Simmer gently, partially covered, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from the heat, add contents of reserved tea packet (if desired), cover, and steep 5 to 10 minutes. Strain out tea and herbs. Gently rewarm liquid. Stir in milk of choice and honey to taste.
Enjoy two of herbalism’s best-known immune-supporting and adaptogenic medicinals—astragalus and reishi—in your bone broths, stocks, soups, and stews. I use these herbs all winter long to help support my body through the cold and flu season. Pair with the other healing herbs in this blend and the ingredients in any classic bone or veggie broth, and you have a combo that packs a serious punch as a staple in any seasonal medicinal kitchen.
Yield: Packs into an 8-ounce mason jar. Enough to flavor 1 batch of broth
3–5 dry sprigs of thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves)
2 slices dried astragalus root (3-inch size pieces)
1 slice dried reishi mushroom (2- to 3-inch size piece)
1–2 teaspoons black peppercorns
2–3 bay leaves
3–5 garlic cloves (optional)
1 10-inch-square piece of cheesecloth
1 small piece of cooking twine
To assemble: Place all ingredients inside the mason jar. (You may need to break the astragalus and/or reishi slices so they
fit into the jar.) As a nice finishing touch, you can include a small piece of cheesecloth and a short piece of twine for making a bouquet garni with the herbs. Download and print the labels here or make your own with the following directions for the gift recipient.
Directions for recipient: Place ingredients for your favorite bone or veggie broth into a large pot and add the contents of this jar. Add enough water to cover the ingredients and gently simmer until the broth is done. The herbs can be left in for the full duration of cooking and can be strained out with all other ingredients before using the broth.
Not sure where to find the herbs mentioned here? Many can be purchased online at Mountain Rose Herbs, but if you live in the East Bay, find them at Lhasa Karnak or Alembique Apothecary in Berkeley, Five Flavors Herbs in Oakland, or Harvest House in Concord.
For more DIY herbal ideas plus information on herbal consultations and workshops, visit eastbayherbals.com.
Note: The information presented in this article has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, and is for educational, historical, and research purposes only. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease and should not be used as medical advice. If you have a medical concern, please seek out a qualified health care professional, and always consult your physician before adding herbal supplements into your diet, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, or on medication.
Anna Marie Beauchemin is a trained clinical herbalist, educator, and writer based in Martinez, California. She works throughout the SF Bay area offering herbal consultations, workshops, and trainings. She loves writing about the intersection between the culinary and medicinal worlds and creating seasonally relevant herbal recipes. Learn more at eastbayherbals.com.