Is there anything better than a hot cup of chai on a chilly Winter’s day? This popular beverage from India traditionally incorporates black tea, aromatic spices, milk and honey, and is already a powerful digestive and immune tonic in its own right. However, add in some extra immune boosting herbs from the Chinese medicine pharmacopoeia and you have a recipe for a deliciously therapeutic superdrink!
Now chai is famously versatile and the amount of variations possible are virtually limitless, so there are no hard and fast rules about how to make this remedy. For example, If you like it extra spicy, add in more ginger and peppercorns, or if you prefer it without caffeine, make it with rooibos tea instead of black tea. I’ll provide a lovely basic chai recipe for you to work with, but what makes this version so special is that we are adding in two extra herbs - astragalus and reishi, that are powerful immunostimulants and tonics in the Chinese medicine world.
Astragalus (Huang Qi; Astragali Radix)
Astragalus is a powerful tonic herb that strengthens both the “qi” and “blood” in the Chinese system. This translates into increased vital energy levels as well as an improved immune response. Astragalus is said to strengthen the Lungs and ‘stabilise the exterior’ to protect the body from respiratory infections, as well as to possess a wider range of immunomodulatory actions that are currently being investigated further. However traditionally astragalus is contraindicated when there is an active external infection, so remember to only use this herb preventatively. The traditional daily dose of this herb is 9-15 grams in decoction (1, 2, 3).
Reishi (Ling Zhi, Ganoderma Lucidum)
Reishi has been called ‘the mushroom of immortality’, and there are many legends in the long history of Chinese culture linking it to longevity. It is a prized herb and tonic in the Chinese materia medica. Traditionally, it is said to tonify the “qi”, nourish the ‘blood”, strengthen the Lungs and calm the Heart. It has been shown to be a potent antioxidant and a powerful immune modulator that helps to protect the body from disease as well as improving strength and stamina. The traditional daily dose of this herb is 3-15 grams in decoction (1, 4, 5).
Now that you know a little about these amazing herbs, lets learn how to use them daily in a delicious way to prevent illness and improve your vitality.
Astragalus - Reishi Immune Boosting Chai
Makes 1 cup. Always try to buy organic herbs from a reputable source
2.5 cups of water
2 teaspoons of astragalus root
(if it is hard to measure with a spoon as it comes in different sizes, use a scale to measure out 10 grams)
1-2 slices of reishi
(I like to put 2 slices, but you might want to start out with 1 and see how you go with the flavour)
2 cinnamon sticks
1-2 teaspoons dried ginger
(depending on how spicy you like it. You could also substitute some fresh sliced ginger)
3 - 6 peppercorns (depending on how spicy you like it)
4 cardamom pods
1 teaspoon dried orange peel
1 black or rooibos tea bag
Milk to taste (dairy or non-dairy)
Honey to taste
- Crush the cloves, peppercorns and cardamom pods in a mortle and pestle
- Pop all the herbs in a pot with the water, bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes
- Turn off the heat and put in the tea bag for a few minutes
- Strain the mixture into a mug, add milk and honey to taste
- To save time and effort, and also to make a bigger amount, you can mix up the ingredients in a bigger batch ahead of time (with the exception of the reishi as it is too big - you can just add in the required number of slices each time you make it).
- You can also multiply the ingredients by the number of servings you want to make, and cook the mixture in a slow cooker overnight to wake up to wonderful immune boosting chai for everyone.
- For kids, make this with caffeine free tea and less spice.
Dosage is 1 cup per day for adults, and ½ cup per day for children over the age of 2.
I hope you do enjoy this wonderful version of Chai and it helps you fight off the Winter blues!
1. Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica: Bensky, Clavey and Stoger 2015
2. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Volume 136, Issue 3, 14 July 2011, Pages 457-464
3. International Immunopharmacology Volume 14, Issue 4, December 2012, Pages 463-470
4. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2014 Feb; 13(1): 32–44.
5. Medicinal Mushrooms: http://www.incapx.com/dox/medicinal-mushrooms.pdf
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