Here in Vermont we have already seen a few decent snowfalls this winter. Of course, just mentioning the word snow, my mind automatically drifts over to sledding, and inevitably winds up thinking about that warm cup of hot cocoa post excursion. I think it's safe to say that for most people hot chocolate stirs up many nostalgic memories of childhood. While Swiss Miss served me well in my youth, I now prefer to concoct a healthier, medicinal version of this favorite winter beverage.
Winter is Vata season and hot chocolate is a great antidote to the chilly and crisp weather happening outside. Being naturally cold, dry, and light, Vata dosha is pacified by sweet, warm, oily, heating and grounding substances. Together the ingredients in Ayurvedic hot chocolate serve as a balm for the often harsh realities of winter.
Warm milk is especially beneficial this time of year, particularly if you are feeling ungrounded and anxious. In Ayurveda, milk (preferably organic and raw) is considered a sattvic food. Sattva is the quality of virtue and goodness. Sattvic foods help to create balance, stability, and harmony. Milk is said to help build all seven tissues while calming the mind, nerves, and emotions.
In our Ayurvedic hot chocolate recipe, we use four key ingredients: ashwagandha, cinnamon, ginger, and cacao. Let's take a brief look at them.
Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb often referred to as the Indian ginseng. Also considered sattvic, it is one of the best rejuvenative herbs for muscles and bone marrow, as well as for those with vata constitutions. Ashwagandha is often prescribed to those with weakened conditions and tissue deficiency. It is highly recommended for those who are overworked, are lacking sleep, or are simply exhausted. Ashwagandha is soothing and promotes deep, dreamless slumber. This herb is heating, a perfect choice for the winter, but should be avoided during the summer.
Cinnamon is also heating and stimulates circulation, which helps warm up those fingers and toes. It also helps with digestion as well as opens up the respiratory system. Similarly, ginger promotes healthy digestion and circulation. Due to its health benefits, ginger is sometimes referred to as the universal "healer".
Finally, cacao, the raw form of chocolate, is loaded with health benefits. It is chock full of calcium and antioxidants, and thus supports cellular health. Cacao is one of the highest sources of plant-based iron, perfect during the cold months when we need that extra nutritional boost. It also has magnesium, which makes for a healthy heart and brain. It is thought that cacao works to naturally elevate the mood, a great antidote for the lack of sunshine during these winter months.
Together these ingredients coalesce into a perfect winter beverage. Prepare a cup to warm up, soothe the mind, nourish the body, and create strength and vigor. Winter is in full swing -- let this Ayurvedic hot chocolate be your hero this season.
Ayurvedic Hot Chocolate
- 2 cups organic whole milk or milk alternative
- 2 T Maple Syrup
- ¼ cup cacao powder
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp of ground ginger (optional)
- Pinch of ground cardamom (optional)
- 1 tsp ashwagandha
- In a medium saucepan, heat the milk over medium heat.
- Whisk in maple syrup and cacao powder until well blended and heated.
- Remove from heat, whisk in spices and ashwagandha -- whisk until foamy.
- Serve with a sprinkle of nutmeg or cayenne if you like a little kick.
Writer Lauren Sauer is a graduate from the Kripalu School of Ayurveda and a certified 500 hour Kripalu Ayurvedic Yoga Teacher. As an Ayurvedic Health Counselor, she is passionate about educating others to become their own health advocate, to live with the rhythms of nature and to simply slow down and breathe. She currently resides in the beautiful Berkshires as the intern with the Kripalu School of Ayurveda.
For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, or to sell any product.