An Herb and Spice Holiday Season

Oh the sights and smells of the winter holiday season. As the days get colder, shorter and darker our physical and energetic body feels the need to rest. The process of journeying inward can lead to stagnation. That is why winter traditions incorporate the aesthetics and medicinal properties of certain plants. Spices known to stimulate a sluggish digestion, move stuck energy, “heat” the body and increase circulation. As scents, decor, medicine, drinks or sweets-these ideas will fill this time of year with festivity, warmth, coziness, comfort and good health as your gather to celebrate with loved ones.. Many of these recipes are fun to try with kids.

Saffron Winter Holiday cake

Pomander Ball-draw a design onto an orange with a ballpoint pen. Using. a toothpick poke regular holes along the line of your design. Insert whole cloves. (optional) cut a length of ribbon and make a loop, tie a knot. Use a brad or thumbtack to attach it to your orange

Traditional Chai Tea


A one inch piece of fresh ginger coarsely chopped

1 cinnamon stick broken and crushed

1/2 tsp of black peppercorns

1/2 tsp of whole fennel seeds crushed

2 TBSP of loose black tea leaves

3 cardamon pods crushed

3 star anise pods crushed

2 cups of milk or substitute

Packed of brown sugar or substitute to taste.

Place 2 cups of water to a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and add your spices and ginger. Simmer tea for 1/2 an hour. Strain and reserve liquid. Add liquid “milk” and sweetener back into your original pan. Heat for 3 minutes. Serve immediately.

Spice Ornaments


1 cup applesauce

2 TBSP cinnamon power

2 TBSP ground clove powder

2 TBSP ground cardamon powder

2 TBSP ground allspice powder

2 TBSP nutmeg powder

3-4 Tablespoons of white school glue


Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

Place all of the ingredients into a large wide bowl.

Use a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to mix ingredients with a rubber until the “dough” comes together.

Divide the “dough” into 4 parts. Roll a part in between two sheets of wax paper until it is ¼ inch thick. Don’t roll any thinner or they may crack in the oven.

Cloth trivet stuffed with play sand and ground spices. Releases a lovely smell/aromatherapy when a hot beverage is placed on top.

Stove top potpourri


3 cups of fresh orange peel coarsely chopped. Oranges with a thick peel work best.

1/4 cup of whole cloves

1/4 cup of fresh, fragrant conifer needles

3-4 cinnamon sticked broken and crushed

5-6 larger star anise seed pods crushed

1/8 tsp of powdered allspice

12 fresh juniper berries

3 fresh bay leaves crushed

7 green cardamon pods

fresh cranberries or ross hips for added color (optional)

Place all ingredients in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer on a very low temperature for 30-60 minutes. Check the water level frequently to prevent scorching/burning. Adding more if necessary.

Incense-finely powdered spices combined with flower petals and leaves. I like to toss a teaspoon on top of incense burner or outdoor fire pit.

Kidney Rub Oil-infuse olive oil with warming spices like bay. Apply at bedtime over both kidneys. You can add a hot water bottle or heating pad as well. There will be a big improvement in symptoms related to “kidney deficiency”.

Immunitea/aide-a hot or cold beverage of turmeric powder, lemon juice, fresh ginger ,feverfew and honey. Perfect for boosting the immune system, supporting blood circulation, and reducing inflammation. Can be used to lesson symptoms related to water retention, joint pain/stiffness, poor circulation, cold hands/feet, and respiratory illnesses.

Orange Peel Oxymel


Candied Orange Peel

Gluten Free Gingerbread

Conifer Cookies

Mulled Apple Cider


3 large cinnamon sticks broken/crushed

4 cardamon pods crushed

6 star anise pods crushed

4 whole nutmeg crushed if possible

pinch of allspice powder or 1 TBSP of allspice berries

2 TBSP of crystalized ginger chopped

2 TBSP of dried currants

2 TBSP of fresh lemon zest

1/4 cup of fresh orange peel chopped

3 TBSP of whole cloves

2 TBSP of whole peppercorns

6 cups of apple cider or juice

maple syrup if desired for sweetness (depends on the sugar content in the apples used for pressing).

Place all ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer on a very low temperature for 30-60 minutes. Check the liquid level frequently to prevent scorching/burning. Adding more if necessary. Mulled drinks are wonderful when prepared outside over a big fire or stored in a thermos when engaging in cold , winter activities outdoors.

Other ideas to explore-spiced roasted nuts, a homemade pumpkin spice candle, essential oil infused pinecones, cookies/baked goods made with spices, and garlands/decorations made with cinnamon sticks etc.

Published by blackbirdsbackyard

My backyard botanical pharmacy is located in Boulder Colorado. I began studying herbal medicinewhen I was 12 years old. In college I studied subjects like anthropology, microbiology, anatomy and physiology, After graduation I decided to go to midwifery school. I attended births and had a small practice until I retired early in order to be a mother full time. I have always had an herb garden, gathered plants and made my own healing formulas with plants. Over the last 30 years there have been many teachers and I have attended dozens of workshops. I am one of those people who is always reading, studying and learning. In 2019 I was called to practice as an herbalist professionally, using "plant spirit medicine" and bio-energetic ( 5 element)healing techniques. I feel that there is a big need in the community for my skills and talents. I hope to inspire others to start their own backyard pharmacies as a solution to species extinction and the healthcare crisis in America. Healing has also become a spiritual practice and way for me to feel balanced and connected with nature. I consult with clients in person, teach classes (adults and kids), give tours of my garden and offer apprenticeships. Health, joy, meaning, and support are everyone's birthright.

%d bloggers like this: