My latest blog for MindBodyGreen. Enjoy!
We are already in the second month of 2018, so if you're like most people, you are likely struggling to stick to your New Year's resolutions. For me, one of those resolutions has been to kick my caffeine habit once and for all. In exploring why my past attempts have failed, I’ve realize 2 things. First, the ritual of my morning cup of coffee represents a few minutes before fully starting my day when I can take a moment for myself, plan for the day ahead, or just sit and do the crossword with my hubby. Second, I have yet to discover a decaffeinated substitute as satisfying as a rich cup of joe with some half and half. It's taken some trial and error, but 4 weeks ago, I finally found a beverage that works for me and satisfies both my spiritual need for daily ritual and my physical desire for something delicious!
Since we're all so different when it comes to the flavors and textures we enjoy, try out these 4 herbal drink options and see what works best for you. If you like your coffee sweet, feel free to add a pinch of stevia powder (unrefined green powder) to these suggestions; it even offers some health benefits of its own by helping to balance blood sugar, blood pressure and weight.
1) Turmeric Powder with Ginger, Cinnamon, Black Pepper and Black Seed Oil
This is the drink that I have personally found to be the most satisfying when letting go of the coffee. It's rich, creamy, a little bitter and loaded with health benefits. It feature anti-inflammatory powerhouse turmeric as the main ingredient, but feel free to mix and match whatever other herb powders you enjoy. I start with a heaping teaspoon of turmeric powder and about a 1/2 teaspoon each of ginger and cinnamon, along with a couple of grinds of the pepper mill. Then, I fill the mug with hot water, add 1 teaspoon of black seed (Nigella) oil and almond or other nut milk to taste.
The curcurmin and other healing properties of turmeric are fat soluble, so it's important to include an oil like black seed—which has a unique nutty flavor and a myriad of its own health benefits-or coconut oil for the turmeric to be most effective. Whole fat milk or nut milk will also do the job, and adding black pepper—which contains the active ingredient piperine—increases the bioavailability of the curcumin as well. But I want to stress that curcumin isn’t all that turmeric has to offer! Even though curcumin is the most popularly known component of turmeric, it’s also loaded with many other bioactive components. To take full advantage of all of it's benefits, I always opt to use the whole plant, which also helps me to feel more connected to the natural world. This warming morning beverage aids digestion, is anti-inflammatory, can calm nausea, and can help to balance blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
2) Roasted Dandelion and Chicory Roots
Both chicory root and dandelion root have a long history of being used as coffee substitutes, and both surprisingly resemble the flavor of coffee once roasted. Even better, you can prepare them the same way you make your morning coffee: in a drip maker, French press or whatever other method you are accustomed to. Both roots are rich in vitamins and minerals and support liver and kidney function, making this drink a great way to start the day!
This blend also aids the liver and kidneys in removing toxins from the blood, thereby making it a good blood purifier. It increases bile secretion, decreases inflammation and may be beneficial in treating UTIs, gout, arthritis, high blood sugar and regulating your weight. I use equal parts of the 2 roots, but if that is too bitter for you, try 2 parts dandelion, which has some sweetness, with one part chicory. Feel free to add a pinch of cinnamon before brewing and milk or nut milk as you prefer. One tablespoon roots to 1 cup water is a good ratio.
3) An Adaptogenic Blend of Eleuthero, Rhodiola and Licorice
Simply put, adaptogens help our bodies adapt and moderate the physical and mental effects of stress. While individual adaptogenic herbs vary somewhat in the way they work—some are more calming, others more fortifying, others good for stamina—the key quality for all of these plants is balance. I encourage you to study and experiment with adaptogens because let's face it - we are all stressed to some extent.
These are three adaptogens that work particularly well together to start the day. The mood lifting herbal blend of rhodiola and eleuthero (commonly known as siberian ginseng) enhances overall health and can increase mental clarity, work productivity, energy, stamina, attention span and memory! Add about 4 tablespoons of this blend to a quart of hot water and steep overnight in a mason jar for a great morning pick-me-up. If you like the sweet, anise flavor of licorice, you can add a tablespoon of Licorice as well; Licorice is another powerful adaptogen that is especially supportive of the adrenal glands, which get depleted from the effects of stress. Strain out the combination in the morning and drink your homemade herbal tea at room temperature or gently reheat. (Please note, licorice is not recommended if you have high blood pressure.)
4) A Nourishing Green Blend of Nettles, Alfalfa and Watercress
This fortifying herbal blend of three nutrient-rich green plants is full of vitamins, minerals and trace minerals, so drinking them is a wonderful way to get off on the right foot each morning. Nettles support adrenal and kidney function and help combat allergy symptoms, while alfalfa is known as the "Father of all Foods” and has the full range of B vitamins—even including B12, which is unusual for plants. Alfalfa is also high in protein, can raise HDL—the "good cholesterol”—and reduces plaque in the arteries. Finally, watercress is a good blood cleanser containing compounds shown to inhibit carcinogens. It has more iron than spinach, more calcium than milk, and more vitamin C than oranges.
All three plants contains phytonutrients with a plethora of disease-preventive properties. Like the previous combination, this blend is best steeped overnight to extract as many vitamins and minerals as possible, creating a nourishing herbal infusion that’s ready first thing in the morning. If you want to keep things fresh and interesting, experiment with the flavors and properties of other nourishing herbs such as oatstraw, horsetail and red raspberry leaf to name a few. One heaped tablespoon of herb per cup of water is a good ratio.
Giving up caffeine does not have to mean sacrificing your morning pick-me-up drink! These coffee substitutes can quickly kick your new caffeine-free lifestyle into gear, and these herb blends even come with additional health benefits! Which herbal blend is your cup of tea? Try them all and let me know in the comments!