The weather can’t make up its mind here in upper East Tennessee. One week it’s sunny, we’re doing school lessons outside, and we’re driving around with the windows down, and then the next week it’s freezing, snow has covered the ground, and the wood stove is burning non-stop! While we’ve seen some glimpses of early spring here in the mountains, it’s still officially winter so I’m not getting my hope of sun and flowers up too high just yet. (Although, I was out pruning some plants the other day, and I noticed some buds forming on some plants so I did get a little bit excited!)
This past week has been one of the colder weeks so I decided to make some herbal mushroom hot chocolate for myself and the boys to sip on while doing the reading portion of our group school work each day. We read a lot of books, many of which I read out loud, so having something to look forward to during reading and to help keep your mouth and throat from drying out is extremely helpful. Plus, the kids love hot chocolate, and I love it when it’s healthified (yes, I know that’s not a real word!).
Below I’m sharing one of my favorite recipes for herbal mushroom hot chocolate as well as some of the health benefits of cacao and mushrooms. This recipe is easy to make, and it’s super healthy for you. I like to mix a large batch of the dry portion up at the beginning of winter and keep it on-hand for those times when we feel like drinking something hot and tasty.
Let’s Talk About The Health Benefits of Cacao
No one knows for sure where the cacao (Theobroma cacao) tree originated from, but we do know it’s native to Central America and northern South America. Cacao means “food of the gods,” and was used by the Mayans as currency, medicine, and enjoyment.
When it comes to cacao’s health benefits, we know the following things about it.
- It’s high in flavonoids and antioxidants—two things that studies show protect against heart disease by lowering blood pressure, increasing HDL cholesterol, reducing inflammation, and more!
- Dark chocolate is a well-known mood enhancer, but scientists can’t seem to figure out the science behind this particular effect.
- Studies have also revealed that cacao improves cognitive function in the brain. It’s speculated that this is due to its balancing effect on blood sugar and improved blood flow.
- Lastly, a recent double-blind study revealed that cacao helps reduce the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome when high-polyphenol chocolate was taken regularly.
(de la Forêt, 2017)
As you can see, cacao has plenty of evidence-based health benefits. It’s also known to have aphrodisiac properties, but I’m not sure if any studies support that yet! If you’re interested in learning more about the history and folklore of cacao, you’ll enjoy this Herbal Academy post.
But Meagan, Why Add Mushrooms?
Mushrooms have a lot of health benefits, some more than others. Setting their nutritional content aside, mushrooms have been traditionally used to support the health of almost all systems in the body (nervous, cardiovascular, digestive, immune, etc.). Modern studies are just now starting to confirm many of the anecdotal uses of mushrooms, but there’s still much to learn about these interesting fungi. Listing all the health benefits of mushrooms would make this post extremely long. If you’re curious about learning more, it would be best to research mushrooms individually to find their specific health benefits.
Adding mushroom powder to hot chocolate has become a popular way to incorporate mushrooms into your diet. It’s also a great way to hide the flavor of mushrooms for those of you who don’t like to eat them in your food. I like to use mushroom powder blends in my hot cocoa mix due to the fact that they incorporate nicely and are easy to use that way. You can use one specific mushroom if you’d like, but I like to use a blend of mushrooms in order to benefit from them all.
While most of the more commonly known “medicinal mushrooms” tend to be very nourishing and have no known toxicities or max dosages to them, some mushrooms have recommended dosages that fall within a certain range per day (Hobbs, 1995). Again, researching individual mushrooms will help you figure out their exact dosages. The powdered mushroom blend I use includes eleven mushrooms, and it’s such a minimal part of this recipe that you’d be getting nowhere near the max daily dose with a cup of hot chocolate.
Herbal Mushroom Hot Chocolate Blend
Now that you know how healthy mushrooms and cacao are for you, why wouldn’t you want to pair them together into a delicious drink?
This recipe is very adaptable so feel free to tweak it to suit your needs. Keep in mind that this isn’t your typical super-sweet hot cocoa with a light chocolate flavor. This one is rich and decadent with a frothy top! You can add more sweetener to taste, and if you prefer your hot chocolate on the creamy side, substitute some sort of milk in place of the water.
Herbal Mushroom Hot Chocolate
Adapted from The Alchemy of Herbs by Rosalee de la Forêt
Yields 2 servings
Dry Blend Ingredients:
- 1/4 cup 100% cacao powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
- 1 teaspoon mushroom powder blend
- 3 tablespoons chocolate protein powder (optional)
Wet Blend Ingredients:
- 2 cups water (or unsweetened cow or almond milk)
- 2 tablespoons fat (butter or coconut oil)
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon honey, to taste (or sugar-free sweetener of your choice)
- Add 2 cups of water (or milk) in a medium saucepan and turn the heat to high. When the water is hot (not boiling), remove the pan from heat. Pour your liquid into a blender.
- Add dry blend ingredients (or 1/2 cup of your premixed blend) into the blender along with your fat, vanilla extract, sweetener.
- Blend for 30-60 second until frothy. Pour into cups and enjoy immediately. Homemade whipped cream on the top is optional, but recommended!
Feel free to double, triple or even quadruple dry blend ingredient amounts to make a larger batch of the herbal mushroom hot chocolate blend. A half cup of this blend should be added to every 2 cups of liquid. Place blend in a labeled glass jar and store in a dark, cool area.
Enjoy, and here’s to enjoying the last days of winter!
- de la Forêt, R. (2017). The alchemy of herbs. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, Inc.
- Hobbs, C. (1995). Medicinal mushrooms: An exploration of tradition, healing & culture. Santa Cruz, CA: Botanica Press.