Warming Tonic Tea

I asked Helen Carmichael to design a herbal tea specifically for use during Winter, with the accompanying aspects of the Chinese Five Element of Water in mind. These are her words and pictures:

Herbal teas are a great way to gently introduce herbal remedies into our diets. In winter as we turn our energy inwards we find that plants are there, ready to support us. This season is associated with the element of water, and is the time to harvest roots.

It’s no coincidence that traditionally we tend to consume root vegetables through the cooler months. You are probably familiar with nettle tea made from the leaves of this common plant, but did you know that you could also make tea from the roots? Nettle root is a stimulating winter tonic for the kidneys, and helps with all aspects of urinary health.

Ginger root is helpful for nausea, pain and dizziness; widely used to combat inflammation and with both warming and antioxidant properties. It pairs beautifully with star anise, a potent antibacterial and antifungal seed which is popular in teas as a digestive aid, and which eases coughs and sore throats. Cinnamon helps to regulate blood sugar while pink peppercorns (fruits of the Brazilian Peppertree) add further fruity warmth.

Nettle cropped

For my tea I harvested a fresh nettle plant straight from my garden, which I then scrubbed and chopped just like a root vegetable. You can also buy nettle root inexpensively from UK herbalists including Baldwins and Indigo Herbs All of the other ingredients are easy to find in good supermarkets.

This is your time to rest and rejuvenate. Get cosy under your favourite blanket, with a soothing cup of winter warming tonic tea.

best teacup

Recipe blend

  • 1 teaspoon of nettle root
  • 5 red peppercorns
  • 2 slices fresh ginger
  • 3 star anise
  • 1/2 stick of cinnamon

To use

Pop these together in a small, lidded saucepan with 2 mugs of water. Simmer for 10 minutes, then leave to steep for a further 5 minutes with the lid on.

Strain and enjoy. Optionally sweeten with 1/2 teaspoon of honey.

You can re-use the roots and spices in your pan again with fresh water at least one more time.


Herbal teas at this strength are highly unlikely to case health issues. However here are some important considerations: ginger interacts at a low level with medications used to slow blood clotting (e.g. warfarin, aspirin) and if you have gallstones it would be wise to chat with your GP before increasing your ginger intake significantly.

Nettle is generally considered very safe but is a diuretic. If you take lithium and want to use nettle frequently, please consult your GP. Because of its estrogenic properties, those with ovarian, breast or uterine cancer should not take star anise. Excessive intake of cinnamon can be damaging to the liver. Finally pink peppercorns are part of the cashew family – nut allergy suffers be aware.

For those who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or indeed anyone with concerns about the conditions listed above, the standard advice is to consult your GP or a medical herbalist.

Ginger and anise

Helen Carmichael has a background in science writing and a love of learning about the properties of plants. She also designs historically-themed video games.