I'm hoping that 2018 will be the year I finally kick my caffeine habit once and for all. In the process of cutting back, I've realized two things: My morning coffee had become my time to take a moment for myself, and I have yet to discover a decaf substitute as satisfying as a rich cup of joe. It's taken some trial and error playing around with the herbs and plants I love so much, but four 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. Here is my new morning go-to, and a few other energizing herbal concoctions that might work better for your tastes.
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. It's rich, creamy, a little bitter, and loaded with health benefits. It features 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 ½ 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 curcumin 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. 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.
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 its benefits, I always opt to use the whole plant, which also helps me to feel more connected to the natural world.
2. Roasted Dandelion and Chicory Roots.
Chicory root and dandelion root have long been used as coffee substitutes, and they both taste an awful lot like coffee once roasted. Even better, you can prepare them the same way you make your morning brew: in a drip maker, French press, or whatever other method you are accustomed to. Bonus: Both roots are rich in vitamins and minerals and support liver and kidney function.
This blend can also help remove toxins from the blood, thereby making it a good purifier. It increases bile secretion, decreases inflammation, and may be beneficial in treating UTIs, arthritis, high blood sugar and regulating your weight. I use equal parts of the two roots, but if that is too bitter for you, try two parts dandelion, which has some sweetness, with one part chicory. One tablespoon roots to one cup water is a good ratio. Feel free to add a pinch of cinnamon before brewing, and throw in a splash of milk or nut milk.
3. An Eleuthero, Rhodiola, and Licorice blend.
Individual adaptogenic herbs vary somewhat in the way they work—some are more calming, others more fortifying, others good for stamina—so the key is finding the balance between them. I've found that 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 Nettles, Alfalfa, and Watercress blend.
This fortifying herbal blend of three nutrient-rich green plants is full of vitamins and minerals, making it a wonderful way to start off 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—including B12, which is unusual for plants. Alfalfa is also high in protein and can raise HDL (the good cholesterol). Finally, watercress is a good blood cleanser that contains compounds shown to inhibit carcinogens. It has more iron than spinach, more calcium than milk, and more vitamin C than oranges.
All three plants contain 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 oat straw, horsetail, and red raspberry leaf. One heaped tablespoon of herb per cup of water is a good ratio.
Curious about what happens when you give up caffeine, alcohol, AND sugar? Find out here.