This adaptogen chai tea recipe is my go-to tea for immune system support, especially in the fall and winter! It’s warming, soothing, nourishing and super tasty when you add the right amount of sweetness. While you can use any kind of adaptogens you like in this tea, my original version of this recipe includes two Ayurvedica adaptogens: ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) and shatavari (Asparagus racemous).
Every winter, I’ve noticed lots of different people seem to ask me similar questions like: “What are the best supplements for immunity?” and “How can I boost my immune system naturally?”
Well, if you know me at all, you can probably guess that I almost never have just one simple answer, because…
- There are literally hundreds of answers and
- IT DEPENDS!
In the world of nutrition, health, and herbal medicine, it’s rarely ever “cookie cutter” or black and white! One size does not fit all. For example, it’s not always a good thing to “boost” (stimulate) our immune system if it’s over-active or out of balance to begin with.
- For example, people with Crohn’s disease or rheumatoid arthritis would be doing themselves a huge disservice if they started taking elderberry syrup which stimulates the same branch of the immune system which is already over-active and can lead to an excessive release of cytokines (a type of inflammatory chemical mediators in the immune system).
- People with thyroid imbalance (especially hypothyroidism) may be making their problems worse by adding green tea into their daily regimen because it contains high amounts of fluoride (a halogen) which blocks iodine absorption in the body.
Adaptogen herbs for immune system modulation
But there is a certain category of herbs, called “adaptogens“, which actually have a unique “plant wisdom” in that they work WITH the body: they help bring it into balance! (There are dozens and dozens of adaptogens out there with different qualities and personalities.)
These magical plants have the unique ability to work WITH our body, unlike medicine or certain other trendy foods/supplements, which are either “uppers” or “downers” (over-stimulating us or suppressing us in one way or another).
Benefits of adaptogens
Adaptogens all come from different plant families and different parts of the world, but a few things they have in common include:
- They’re known to reduce the stress response in the body
- They help to balance our immune system (if it’s under-active, they boost it; if it’s over-active, they bring it down)
- They’re super anti-inflammatory and have anti-aging / disease-preventive properties of all kinds
This simple, easy recipe fuses herbs we already know and love (cinnamon, ginger, cloves and cardamom…timeless!) with a few of my favorite adpatogens: ashwagandha root*, and/or shatavari root (both Ayurvedic herbs known to reduce stress and increase stamina, without any caffeine!).
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), which translates to “the smell and strength of a horse” is one of my favorite plant allies… and the reason is not in the name! 😉
It’s an Ayurvedic herb used for supporting people with iron-deficiency anemia, enhancing sleep, reducing anxiety, increasing strength & stamina, and balancing the immune system as an “immune modulator” or immune tonic (1)! It’s also been found to naturally increase fertility levels in men, it’s a mild diuretic and can have a simulating effect on the thyroid as an FYI (1).
- Ashwagandha is a nightshade, so proceed with caution if you have any kind of nightshade intolerance!
Shatavari (Asparagus racemous), literally translating to “she who has hundreds of husbands”… is another of my favorite herbal allies! (Again, I promise it’s not because of the name.) 😀
In addition to balancing the immune system as an immune tonic, shatavari is known to increase energy and stamina (like it’s sister herb, ashwagandha) as well as promote fertility/libido, soothe and protect the gut lining, promote hydration (unlike ashwagandha which is a mild diuretic) and it’s also very anti-inflammatory (1).
I could talk for weeks straight about these and other herbs, but we don’t have that kind of time!
Please know that I’m a proud affiliate for Starwest Botanicals, which I choose as a primary sources for my herbal ingredients. I also often source my ingredients and share links from Mountain Rose Herbs. Both of these companies offer organic and ethically harvested products, and they use best-practice by making sure not to store their herbs in the light which reduces the potency of the herbal medicine at a faster rate.
That said, if you make purchase from any of the Starwest Botanicals product links I share, I wanted to give you a heads-up I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you!
Adaptogen Chai Tea for Immune System
- Liquid measuring cup and measuring spoons
- Medium stove-pot
- Fine sieve or tea strainer
- Mason jars for storage
- Mug(s) for sipping!
- Combine all ingredients in a medium sauce pan over medium heat.
- When it starts to bubble, reduce to low, cover loosely and simmer for ~20 minutes.
- Let it cool then strain out all the herbs.
- Sweeten with 1 tablespoon of raw honey or real maple syrup (or sweetener of choice).
- Add some milk or unsweetened milk substitute of choice to lighten the bite!
- For a high-energy adaptogen tea option without any caffeine, you may like to replace the ashwagandha or shatavari with "Siberian gineseng" (eleuthero) which has a mild flavor and will boost your energy for a while!
Adaptogen tea and herbs for immunity: bottom line
As a functional dietitian-nutritionist, clinical herbalist and subsequent lover of all things plants, I can literally talk for hours and hours about adaptogens and the different ways to incorporate them into your life!
Making chai tea with adaptogenic herbs like ashwagandha and shatavari is a fun, empowering way to support a healthier immune system, happier hormones, and a more balanced stress response.
There are tons of other amazing resources and types of adaptogenic herbs which may also be a great addition to your kitchen cabinet! This tea recipe doesn’t even hit the tip of the iceberg.
While ashwagandha and shatavari are not for everyone, remember there are always alternative options. Finding your own best “plant allies” or “herbal allies” is something that takes time!
- What kind of experience have you had with herbal medicine?
- Let me know, and feel free to share the link to this recipe with anyone you know who might enjoy it! 🙂
- Winston, D., & Maimes, S. (2019). Adaptogens: herbs for strength, stamina, and stress relief. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.