The Spicefulness of Homemade Chai

by Denise Reynolds
HAALo’s Enchantress of Spices

I’ve been drinking chai for years, but I was in for a treat when I travelled to India last year. I used to make it with commercial tea bags or occasionally with a bulk blend of dried gingerroot, cardamom seeds, and cinnamon bark chips. In the US we call this spicy infusion “chai” but in India, chai is just a general term for tea. Spiced tea is referred to as “masala chai.” It dates back 5,000 years to the ancient courts of Siam and India and can be a combination of many different spices.

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The more recent addition of black tea became popular in the early 1900s when the British started encouraging Indian factories to provide tea breaks for their workers in an effort to create a new market for their India-grown tea. It took about 50 years before the Indian people embraced black tea as part of their daily ritual. Though the British were disappointed by the minimal tea ratio to milk and spices, the addition of black tea stuck and masala chai with black tea is still a thriving cultural beverage!

HAALo-chai-cup-spices

During my stay in India, every morning after meditation and yoga, the entire group would eagerly await the masala chai, like it was the nectar of the gods. It was nothing like the chai I drank at home! This had a bright sharpness of fresh ginger that was soothed by the milk and sugar. Such excitement and radiant smiles as cups of chai were poured and passed around. Sharing this comforting drink with my sisters after our morning practice was such a treat, as it was for every meal. I loved the chai and the ritual of it all; the expectation after being awake for two hours, wrapping my chilly hands around the warm cup, and sipping the spicy sweetness of this traditional drink. Masala chai was available in every café, was served complimentary in some shops to encourage purchases, and there were chai-wallahs offering masala chai from carts every block or more.

When I came home I was determined to make authentic chai but without so much sugar as it is so heavily sweetened in India. I prefer to avoid sweeteners in my beverages all together, but the flavors of chai really don’t come together without at least a hint of sweetness. I experimented with different combinations of spices, milk, and sweeteners based on several “authentic” chai recipes I found online but kept coming back to the basic recipe from one of my retreat sisters: ginger, cardamom, and cinnamon.

HAALo-chai-friends

I love the treat and routine of making it for myself, grating the fresh ginger, popping the cardamom pods in the mortar and pestle, breaking up the Ceylon cinnamon, enjoying the way the house smells, straining it and pouring frothed milk over the top, sprinkling the top with cardamom and cinnamon powder, making it a beautiful gift to drink, exotic scents to smell, and warm nurturance in my hands. Making it for a friend is truly a tea ceremony for me; all goodness and love being infused into each step of the process, pouring it into pottery cups, and setting it on a tray with a few whole spices to make for a beautiful presentation. And, I learned that floating one of the simmered cardamom pods in a friend’s cup is a sign of favor! I encourage you to try the different spices and various amounts of each to see what you like best, as well as trying out the recipe below.

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Here are a few tips for experimenting:

  • Use a microplane grater to shred fresh ginger (leaving the peel on is fine)
  • Keep dried ginger root pieces on hand to use in place of fresh ginger
  • Try either Ceylon or cassia cinnamon
  • Pop open the cardamom pods to infuse the water with more of their flavor, keeping only the ones with dark brown/black seeds.
  • Authentic chai has the milk simmered in with the infusion for the last few minutes. I prefer to use almond milk (warmed) and add it after the tea is done.
  • For a real treat, froth your milk (for dairy substitutes try almond milk or canned coconut milk without additives) and sprinkle powdered cardamom and cinnamon over the top.
  • I like my chai with a bit more ginger and cardamom and would personally double the amount of these two ingredients in the recipe below.
  • Spices to try: ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, black peppercorn, pink peppercorn, star anise, clove, fennel seed, anise seed, allspice, vanilla bean.

HAALo-chair-2cups

Authentic Chai Tea
(serves 4)

4 black peppercorns
1 stick of cinnamon
6 green cardamom pods
6 cloves
2 tablespoons fresh ginger root, peeled and sliced
OR 1-2 tablespoons dried gingerroot pieces
1 tablespoon strong loose black tea or 2 black tea bags
3 cups water
1 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons brown sugar (or honey)

Put the spices together in a saucepan with the water and bring to a rolling boil. Cover, and let simmer 5 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let steep 10 minutes. Return to a boil. Remove from heat and add the tea, let steep 3 to 5 minutes. Strain mixture and return to saucepan. Add milk and sugar and stir for one minute over low heat. Serve immediately.

Available at HAALo

Ingredients for Recipe:

  • Dried ginger root
  • Cardamom pods
  • Cinnamon stick
  • Black peppercorn
  • Cloves
  • Loose black tea

Ingredients for experimenting:

  • Pink peppercorn
  • Star anise
  • Anise seed
  • Fennel seed
  • Loose green tea
  • Powdered cardamom for sprinkling on top
  • Powdered cinnamon for sprinkling on top

Tools:

  • Mortar and pestle
  • Mesh strainer

Denise-Reynolds-HAALo-sqDenise Reynolds, The Enchantress of Spices, is a culinary sensualist and founder of The Sensual Feast. She consults and teaches cooking workshops offering the opportunity to delight in the preparation, flavor, and deep nourishment of food as a gateway to pleasure and sensuality. Learn to experience the kitchen as sacred space and how, as we play in the kitchen, we have the opportunity to inspire our lives again and again with every meal. Check out her Facebook page The Sensual Feast for event details and the following video for a little taste of her classes. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5MXuMp1oA0

 

Garlic: Gateway to Health

by Megan Blumenstein, Integrative Herbalist at HAALo
Owner of Blüm & Brü Broths and Blüm Botanicals

Behind the counter when recommending herbs to people at HAALo I often recommend the use of garlic for many ailments and health concerns. I LOVE garlic and find that it is very effective in the treatment of many issues. Throughout this past winter and spring we saw many cases of very persistent sore throats, nasal congestion, conjunctivitis, fevers and rashes. Some of these cases were bacterial and some were viral, or both. In many or all cases, garlic would have been a great option for resolving these ailments. Garlic can be ingested in raw form or in a pill form. My personal favorite pill form of garlic is made by the company “Allimax.” We carry this amazing product at HAALo! I was introduced to this product years ago when I could not get over a chronic sinus infection. I took Allimax and it was resolved.

AlliMax

Allium sativum is native to central and southwest Asia, with a history of human use for over 7,000 years. It has been a staple in the Mediterranean region, Europe, Asia and Africa for food and medicine. In North America the native species are Allium vineale (known as “wild garlic” or “crow garlic”) and Allium canadense, known as “meadow garlic” or “wild garlic” and “wild onion,” are common in fields. All species of Allium contain the active medicinal compound Allicin, but it is said that Allium sativum has the highest content. This is the species that we commonly find in grocery stores and that supplements are made from.

Allicin is the main biological active compound found in garlic that is responsible for garlic’s health benefits. When fresh garlic is cut or crushed, a sulphur compound, Alliin (alli-een) combines with an enzyme, Allinase and a chemical reaction starts.The first compound that is formed is allicin. Unfortunately Allicin generated from fresh garlic is very unstable and when processed, quickly changes into a series of other sulphur-containing compounds, known as Thiosulphinates.

The company that makes Allimax uses a process to extract the allicin and effectively stabilizes the compound. The Allicin is captured in a liquid from and then quickly and carefully dried. It is claimed that other garlic or allicin supplements don’t have the same technique and much of the allicin is lost in the processing. You can increase the health benefits you receive from garlic by letting it sit after you’ve chopped it or crushed it. If you give your chopped/crushed garlic time to sit it will give the alliinase enzymes in garlic an opportunity to work on behalf of your health. Much of the allicin is lost in cooking. I recommend adding chopped raw garlic to your food at the end of cooking. Plus it is very tasty!

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So how exactly does garlic benefit us? Here are some amazing facts to consider:

  • Research has revealed that as allicin digests in your body, it produces sulfenic acid, a compound that reacts with dangerous free radicals faster than any other known compound.
  • Garlic is effective in killing antibiotic-resistant bacteria.  Scientists at the University of East London have shown that aqueous extracts of allicin are able to kill vast swathes of the so called “superbug” MRSA (Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus).
  • Garlic may help improve your iron metabolism. That’s because the diallyl sulfides in garlic can help increase production of a protein called ferroportin. (Ferroportin is a protein that runs across the cell membrane, and it forms a passageway that allows stored iron to leave the cells and become available where it is needed.)
  • Garlic is a great source of selenium.  Selenium is a trace mineral that is important to human health.  It is an antioxidant and is important in the production of active thyroid hormone.  It is needed for the proper functioning of the immune system.  Selenium deficiency has been linked with adverse mood states and increase in cancer risk.  Garlic is considered a “seleniferous” plant, meaning that is can uptake selenium from the soil.
  • Garlic has been found to reduce risk for heart disease including heart attack and stroke.
  • Garlic helps normalize your cholesterol and blood pressure. It significantly lowers LDL cholesterol levels by blocking the liver from making too much  LDL cholesterol. It lowers blood pressure by dilating and expanding blood vessels. It also prevents blood clots.
  • It protects against many cancers including brain, lung and prostate cancer
  • Garlic has anti-inflammatory properties. It reduces risk of osteoarthritis. It reduces pain and other symptoms in people with rheumatoid arthritis.
  • One of the oldest uses of garlic, however, is as an antibiotic. Garlic kills a range of microbes, including viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites, and can be effective against such conditions as athlete’s foot, thrush (a fungal infection of the mouth), viral diarrhea, and the ulcer-causing bacteria Helicobacter pylori. Only fresh garlic or supplements that mimic it have these effects.

As you can see, garlic is such an amazing plant! It has so many health benefits. Allimax, the garlic product in our store, can be taken regularly for preventative benefits. One capsule a day will do the trick. For more acute conditions, the dosage is higher. Here is the dosage for some of the more common ailments.

  • For a sore throat, you can actually dissolve the capsules and gargle in addition to taking 3 capsules per day.
  • For ear infections take 4 capsules per day for one week.
  • For athlete’s foot, take 2-3 capsules per day as well as rub the powder between the toes.
  • For candida, take at least 3-6 capsules per day for 2-4 weeks.
  • And for colds and flu, take 1-2 capsules per day.
  • At first sign of infection, take 4-6 capsules for a period of one week. Relief should be felt within first 24 hours.

The list goes on. Use Allimax (or your own raw chopped garlic) for animal bites, parasites, cold sores, thrush, etc. You can dissolve the capsules into a carrier such as aloe vera gel or an oil to apply externally. It is a really excellent product to take traveling with you to prevent or treat traveler’s tummy.

This product is very safe for adults and children. Tests show that one can take hundreds of capsules without any detrimental effects. Dogs however don’t digest the high levels of sulphur in garlic, so it should not be used for your doggy friends.

So come on in to HAALo and get some!  I find garlic to be one of my most used plant allies in my household. It is been continually effective in resolving many of my family’s health issues. From tooth infections to strep. I encourage you all to give it a try!

*****

meganMegan Blumenstein has a BA in Agroecology and is a certified herbalist. She has studied western herbalism and has completed her training in Integrative Herbalism, combining the traditions of Ayurvedic, Chinese and Western Herbalism.

 

Keep our Rivers Flowing: An Ayurvedic Approach to the Lymphatic System

by Monica Tomasi, Ayurvedic Practitioner and Herbalist

The Yuba River has a good healthy flow to it lately; it is such a great place to visit after a long hot day to cool down. In Ayurveda, our lymphatic system is referred to as rasa dhatu, meaning “the river of life.” Our lymphatic system acts very much like a river with a network of pathways where the lymph travels and it serves as one of the body’s main vessels of immunity.

The primary function of the lymphatic system is to shuttle away lymph throughout the body and the main lymph nodes are located in the armpits, groin, neck, belly and chest. Lymph is full of white blood cells which are like “Immune Warriors” and white blood cells tend to collect in the lymph nodes when we get sick. This is also known as an immune response, which may be coupled with symptoms such as pain, swelling or fever, and an increase of mucous to buffer inflammation.

When the rivers of our earth become polluted or stagnant, they can become smelly, slimy, toxic and become an unpleasant place to visit. Likewise, the lymph system relies on plenty of fluids to keep the lymph river flowing, along with bodily movement to channel the lymph throughout the body. Keeping the lymph rivers flowing is essential to balancing our immune system. Today I am going to talk about herbs that you can get from the local farmers market and at HAALo along with a few of my favorite herbal recipes to help heal the waters of your body.

Fresh-herbs-blog

VATA

The lymph is made up of primarily water element and when the water element or rasa becomes depleted, which can occur through dehydration or depletion of vital minerals or nutrients, it is considered a Vata imbalance.

If the lymph system is depleted, then the lymph nodes may feel firm to the touch like a tiny marble under your finger, which may be a warning sign of things to come if not worked with. Warm herbal compresses, daily self-massage with warm sesame oil, gua sha, moist steams or baths with Vata essential oils can be very helpful for working with Vata dryness.

Symptoms may include: Coldness, dryness, hard lymph nodes, anxiety and emaciation

Vata essential oils: Rose, clary sage, vetiver, helichrysum, jatamamsi

Fresh Herbs that reduce Vata are: Basil, coriander, dill, fennel, garlic, ginger, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, turmeric, licorice

 

PITTA

When pitta is out of balance it manifests as warm and inflamed mucous membranes and can lead to an inflammatory immune response localizing in the lymph nodes. Pitta needs to be soothed and cooled, and the mucous membranes needs to be nurtured or else Pitta will ravage the body like a wildfire.

The cucumber juice recipe in this article is just the thing to cool excessive pitta, along with staying out of the sun during the hottest hours. Going to the Yuba River as the sun is descending in the sky is a perfect opportunity for you to relax and to cool off any excessive heat accumulated throughout the day.

Symptoms may include: Swollen glands, painful lymph nodes, skin rashes, heat illnesses and anger

Pitta essential oils: Rose, lavender, frankincense, helichrysum, ravensara

Fresh Herbs that reduce Pitta are: Coriander, fennel, mint, parsley, turmeric, cilantro, aloe vera

 

KAPHA

When Kapha becomes out of balance there may be systematic swelling that can localize in the lymph nodes. To the touch the lymph nodes may feel swollen and may also feel cool to the touch.

A Kapha imbalance doesn’t need nutritive tonics such as the former two doshas, but it does need warming spices, vigorous exercise, gua sha and body scrubbing. The recipe for a body scrub is just the thing to warm up Kapha and to get motivation and movement of this sluggish dosha.

Symptoms may include: Swelling, fluid in lymph nodes, excessive mucous production, cysts and lethargy

Kapha essential oils: Grapefruit, cypress, rosemary, juniper, fir

Fresh Herbs that reduce Kapha are: Basil, coriander, fennel, garlic, ginger, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, turmeric, chilies

salt-blog

Coconut Summer Salt Scrub

Prep time: 15 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1lb. Sea Salt (refined)
  • About 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 20 drops essential oil (refer to lists for Dosha balancing)
  • Add a small handful of chopped fresh herbs, from Farmers Market or your garden (Optional, refer to herb lists for each Dosha)

Scrubs are used to move rasa and to add a luster and to beautify the skin. Using less oil creates more agitation of the tissues and more vigorous movement of the lymph. Always scrub vigorously, in circular movements around the joints and start from the peripheral parts of the body and move towards the heart.

A salt scrub can be done 1–2 times weekly before you shower or plunge yourself into the river.

Cucumber-blog

Cucumber, Lime, Mint, Juice

Prep time: 15 minutes
Yield: Makes about 1 quart

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 large cucumbers with peel, ends trimmed
  • Juice of 5 to 10 limes, depending on how juicy they are
  • A large handful of spearmint or mint leaves, from a Farmers Market or your garden
  • 1Tbs of rose powder for Pitta imbalance or 1Tbs of marshmallow root for Vata imbalance (we have these herbs at HAALo)
  • 1–2 soaked dates chopped
  • Approximately 1 cup of coconut water

Put first 3 ingredients in blender, and add enough water to fill 3/4 of blender. Hold the lid on the blender and purée until smooth. Place a mesh sieve over a bowl and pour the purée over it, extracting as much liquid as possible with a spoon.

Mix the herbal powder and the chopped dates into your elixir.

Roses are usually harvested before sunrise and they bring a cooling nature into your being, and marshmallow root helps lock in moisture on a cellular level.

Consider altering your internal climate with a cooling juice in the summertime. For people who have a ton of heat which can manifest in symptoms such as rashes, anger, hot flashes, inflammation and red hot skin, consider drinking this truly lovely and full-of-goodness, Pitta-reducing juice.

Monica-Tomasi-ayurveda-HAALoMonica Tomasi is an Herbalist, Certified Massage Therapist, Ayurvedic Practitioner and Mother from Northern California, who is dedicated towards sharing what has brought her fulfillment in life. Her love for healing modalities has taken her on a magnificent journey, and she finds herself happiest when she is learning or talking about Herbal Healing. Her highest calling is to use her Ayurvedic and Herbal knowledge, by making herbal formulas, guiding others into health and by having deep heart spaced connections with them.

Monica is taking steps towards a dream she’s had for a long time, which is to create a platform where she can find and connect with other Herb Nerds so they can share knowledge and “Nerd Out!” Monica shares her journey on her website and blog, and a podcast is on its way. She considers herself blessed because she is following her dharma – her purpose in life – and it brings her so much joy. What brings her even greater joy is sharing her journey with you.