'Chai' is the word given to tea in many countries throughout Asia and Eastern Europe and it originates from ancient Sanskrit- one of the oldest languages in the world. The original tea beverage from the Camillia Sinensis plant species and has a history dating to around 4,000 ago. It has been called the "plant of Heaven".
The chai I'm talking about is an ancient Indian spiced tea, traditionally known as Masala Chai and is said to have dated back some 5,000 years ago. Its unique flavour comes from a blend of Ayurvedic herbs and spices. Ayurveda is the traditional Vedic Indian medicine which means "knowledge for life" and is said to be the sister science to yoga. Yoga has so much theory intertwined, it is considered a "science" or body of knowledge.
For those that know me well, they'll know I had an "interesting" experience with chai at the beginning of this year. I'll some it up really quickly... I went to a yoga retreat, which was really an undercover cult and the "guru" spiked the chai with opiates amongst other brainwashing techniques. How did I know the chai was spiked? Because I have an opiate allergy and started reacting badly, getting dumber, slower and more incoherent by the hour. The experience is of course far more dramatic and disturbing than I give it credit for and the reason why I'm mentioning it, is so other people may be very wary of the hidden agendas of some "gurus". . .
Back to the true medicinal benefits of chai! I woke up a bit sneezy, which is common at this transitional time of the year. The temperature starts to drop and your energy starts to draw inward. Believe it or not this is a massive shift that your system has to adjust to. The energy of nature changes direction, leaves change colour and fall off, flowers stop blooming, animals begin to hibernate, rain or snow everyday and of course the temperature. All of this and more because the sun moves further away from the Earth. See how much we need the sun for our health and sense of well being? It provides energy for our planet and it's animal and human life. Plants begin replenishing their energy reserves by drawing more nutrients from deep in the soil and the animals recharge their batteries by slowing down their daily activities. Same goes for humans, we need a little more sleep, a little more rest and a little less fun. Boo!
It's interesting how removed we are from these natural cycles because of artificial lighting, 24 hour conveniences, temperature control and so forth. No matter how "functional" our lifestyle has become, we need to take a little note of what the rest of the natural world is doing. In traditional Chinese medicine, the transitional time between seasons is where we are most susceptible to becoming run down. My symptoms today are a classic "wind-cold" syndrome, a slight drop in the temperature caused my body to work overtime, maintaining the delicate homeostasis balance and developed a head cold.
Masala chai is the perfect medicine for a little cold like this... There are literally hundreds and hundreds of masala chai recipes, each unique to the persons taste and needs. Cafes offer chai lattes, which are powdered, sugared chai mixes and unfortunately are nothing like the real thing (unless they're an awesome cafe). The real deal is a pleasure to drink, it really makes a great coffee alternative because it has a warming and energising effect when you drink it. It is also super easy to make!
Medicinal Chai tea recipe
I love adding vanilla to my chai mix, it gives it a sweet aroma plus it's my favourite spice/ smell of all time. Chai is great for soothing digestion, improving blood circulation, treating colds and flu, and improving energy levels. It really is like making your own custom blend medicinal beverage except it taste great.This particular recipe fixed my cold, so quickly! By the end of the day I was feeling good again... Other spice ideas are lemon, licorice root, goji berries, juniper berries, fennel, all spice, lemongrass, coriander, cacao and green tea.
1 star anise
8 cardamon pods
1/2 vanilla bean
1 cinnamon quill (or 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon)
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
3 bay leaves
1 of 2 slices of ginger
1 tablespoon orange peel
pinch of grounded nutmeg
2 teaspoons rooibos tea
2 teaspoons black tea (omit if you want it caffeine free)
6 to 8 cups water
Add all the ingredients (except tea leaves) to 6 to 8 cups of water and boil in a saucepan. Turn on low heat to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes then turn off the heat and add tea leaves. Let sit for a few minutes then pour through a strainer. Sweeten with honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar or stevia and pour your choice of milk and dust with cinnamon powder. I prefer mine with almond milk because it gives a more subtle taste allowing the spices to come through. Other milks you can use are soy, oat, rice and dairy.
Health benefits of some chai spices...
Bay leaves were used for adornment in ancient Rome. Expectorant, anti fungal, antibacterial and digestive properties, bay leaf has been used for cough, cold and flu remedies plus other respiratory disorders. It adds flavour to culinary dishes and has a strong aromatic effect on cooking.
Is a potent spice that needs to be used in small amounts because it is very volatile. It is an hallucinogenic, anti-inflammatory, anti-nausea, antispasmodic, carminitive and digestive stimulant. Nutmeg is not used much in the West because of their potential toxicity. It is mainly used in culinary dishes and medicinally it is used in Ayurveda.
Excellent for people with type 2 diabetes as it helps regulate blood sugar and lower blood pressure. It is naturally sweet and warming and has antibacterial, anti fungal, antiseptic and digestive properties. Cinnamon was also used in ancient Egypt and India. Good for colds, flu and digestive problems.
Popular in China, ancient Greece, Rome and the Middle East the ginger root has been used for culinary and medicinal use for over 5,000 years. Another plant with warming, digestive, anti fungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties plus carminative and circulatory stimulating effects on the body. Ginger prevents motion sickness and morning sickness. It thins the blood, elevates low blood pressure and lowers blood cholesterol.
Is native to Southern India and Sri Lanka is an aromatic, antispasmodic, warming, digestive stimulant properties. Used for respiratory problems, infections and digestive dysfunction. Was used in ancient Egypt for perfumes.
Originally from the Moluccas Islands (Indonesia) and the Southern Philippines, cloves are used in Ayurvedic medicine as an analgesic. Good for soothing toothaches and treating halitosis. It also has antiseptic, anti parasitic, anti fungal, antibacterial qualities, and can be used to kill intestinal parasites, fungi, and bacteria. It is used to induce or prepare for childbirth by stimulating and strengthening uterine contractions during labour.
Black pepper is an antioxidant and circulatory stimulant.