It’s almost January. If you haven’t caught a cold by now, chances are that you probably will. Before I go any further, let me just go on the record: before I had children, I went 8 straight years without catching a cold. True story. If you’re familiar with the types of germs that lurk inside of schools – my kids have brought them all home. Thanks, kiddos.
With the colder temperatures starting to bear down on the northeastern United States, our bodies and immune systems need a little boost. Thankfully, our loving earth provides us with the perfect ingredients to protect and heal us from illness.
Please consult with a physician if you are pregnant, nursing, or have a medical condition before using herbs of any kind. Below is a recipe for herbal tea and should not take the place of medicine as prescribed by a doctor.
Elderberry is one of those powerful little berries that can be found growing wild across much of the United States. However, unless you are well-versed in which types to forage (some are poisonous!), I suggest purchasing them. Make sure they are organic, culinary-grade. Check your local health food store, buy them online, or if you are like me and live near a herb farm, certainly go there.
Let me take a moment to tell you about this charming little farm, Well-Sweep, located on a quiet rural road in Port Murray, New Jersey. It’s home to one of the greatest collections of herbs and perennials in the United States. There’s a fable-like medicinal herb garden and a more formal flower garden with several labyrinth-like brick paths that lead to a copper sundial; my children love to take different paths to see who will reach the sundial first. In the summer, the air is heavy with the aroma of basil and mint and jasmine.
However, on this wintry day, there are patches of snow and ice on the frozen ground, and the herbs and flowers of summer have been cut-back and covered. Still, the crows from the roosters fill the air, the sheep lazily graze, and the farmer’s friendly dog is more than happy to greet us. There’s a sign directing us toward their little barn shop, or, as it is now temporarily known, The Christmas Shop.
On this particular morning, my children and I happen to be the only ones there, so the farmer offers to unlock the barn door for us. She switches on the lights as we walk in and Christmas music begins to play, swelling-up beautifully in the little barn. She sweeps the floor as we take our time selecting from an assortment of herbs, berries and spices. I mention that I am planning to make my favorite winter tea, and she is thoughtful to double check that I have chosen organic, culinary-quality ingredients. All the while, my children stand beneath the ceiling of hanging dried flowers, with their necks straining upward and their eyes and mouths opened-wide in amazement.
Well-Sweep is one of the most charming little places ever and if you have an opportunity to visit, I highly recommend that you do.
Ok, getting back to our tea. If you don’t know a lot about elderberries, they pack a serious punch. They contain impressive amounts of vitamins A, B, and C, which helps support our immune system and bio-flavonoids that destroy the ability of cold and flu viruses to infect our cells. You’ll often find elderberry in syrup form in many health food stores to help ease and prevent cold symptoms. Often though, these syrups are loaded with sugar. My winter tea recipe is sweetened only by the berries and spices themselves.
I upped the ante to super-duper level by adding rose hips. Rose hip is the ruby-red plump berry just below the rose petals on a rose bush, it’s basically the “hip” of the rose. Rose hip has a significant amount of vitamin C, in fact it has three times the amount of citrus fruit, and is therefore highly regarded for its medicinal use.
In many cultures throughout the centuries, rose hip has been revered as holy and sacred. Here’s an interesting tidbit, during the Middle Ages, Catholics used them as prayer beads – hence the name, The Rosary. To this day, rosary beads are still shaped to resemble rose hips. Who knew? Careful though, don’t eat a whole berry! The red flesh is fine to nibble on, but the hairy seeds inside must be discarded as they can lead to severe itching. Yikes! It makes me itchy just writing that. Luckily, we’re just making tea.
Last, but not least, I’ve added whole cloves. Just a few. While most spices are great sources of antioxidants, did you know cloves rank as the most abundant of them all? Well, now you know.
I like to drink this tea after a deep chill, to help regulate my body’s core temperature. With cold & flu season upon us, I’ll often have a cup in the evening, before bed, when the house is peaceful and quiet so I can savor the aroma and the sacredness of the ingredients I am providing to my body.
Oh, by the way, I asked my 5-year-old if he’d like to be included in the photos for this recipe. He graciously declined, but excitedly offered me his stand-in instead. Really? Yup, you’re right buddy, no one will ever know the difference.
Elderberry & Rose Hip Healing Tea
1 teaspoon dried organic elderberries
2 tablespoons dried organic rose hips
3 organic whole cloves
1 cup of boiled water
- Add berries and spices to a heatproof bowl or a ceramic tea pot;
- Pour 1 cup of boiled water over ingredients, cover and steep, 15 minutes;
- Strain into teacup and enjoy! Sweeten if desired.
Boil enough water in a kettle to make as much tea as desired. 1 cup of boiled water per the ingredients listed.