Brrr!  Its cold outside, and what better way to warm up than with a hot drink.

Winter_iceWhile any hot drink will warm your hands and maybe your throat, when you’re chilled to the bone, you need something that raises internal heat.

Different herbs and tea can be classified as hot, warm, neutral, cool, or cold according to Chinese medicine. The trick is, knowing which is which.  Many of these you can identify on your own: think about the cool, refreshing taste of mint versus the spicy, warming sensation from ginger.

Hot and warm teas and herbal infusions will warm you up from the inside, as well as release the chill from your hands.  So what are some popular hot or warm teas and herbs?

Hot Teas

steaming_Belight_teaThe teas we think of as ‘dark’ teas tend to be the warming teas.  By contrast, green and white are considered neutral or cooling teas, and therefore are better suited for summer.

  • Of course, black teas helps to stoke the internal fire.
  • highly-oxidized oolong (above 60-70% oxidized) would be a better winter choice than a lightly oxidized oolong (sub-40%).
  • Likewise, pu-erh tea (found in Belight Tea), particularly the aged/ripened varieties, is a warming tea.

Warming Herbs

When we want ‘tea’ that’s not made from the Camellia sinensis plant, we turn to herbs and steep them in hot water to make an infusion or tisane. Here are a few herbs that can be steeped into an warming wintertime infusion:

  • You can throw fennel seeds into a pot of boiling water for a warming brew that also reduces flatulence and settles the stomach.
  • Likewise, add some rosemary to a hot cup of water.
  • If you like licorice flavor, try star anise in hot water.  Or just go for the alcoholic version: Sambuca.
  • Gouji BerriesGouji Berry, the small bright orange raisin-like fruit is a great addition to any infusion for its warming nature and Qi-nourishing properties. Most people prefer to rinse once in hot water before steeping for a tisane.
  • Jasmine is also warming, but not jasmine green tea because the cooling nature of green tea would cancel out the warming properties of the jasmine.
  • Confusingly, spearmint, but not peppermint is warming, due to its intensely pungent flavor.
  • Dried mandarin orange peel is not only warming, its also good for women’s time of the month.
  • Fresh peeled ginger is warming, while dried ginger or ginger with the peel on it tends toward the hot side.  This is also one of my favorite ways to stave off a cold–drink it at the first signs to reduce or even eliminate symptoms.  Note: even if its winter, if your tongue is bright red (with no coating), avoid the hot versions of ginger: fresh peeled is sufficient.
  • Hawthorn (found in Belight Tea), is also a China wintertime favorite, and supports metabolism and digestion of fats and proteins.
  • Rosebud_TeaRose bud/flower is commonly available at Chinese herbal shops or an Asian grocery. Besides being warming, its also good for women; plus, it just looks really pretty.
  • One of my favorites is boiled cinnamon–I love the flavor and warming nature, and its good for blood sugar balance.
  • Winter is also a good time to steep some ginseng for its warming, nourishing properties.

For your tea and herbal infusions, though I personally wouldn’t add sugar to my tea, if you do, here’s what you need to know:  Honey and white sugar are both cooling.  Brown sugar, molasses, maltose, and palm sugar are all toward the warming side.

Enjoy these drinks to help radiate warmth from the inside out during the cold months of winter.