Spicy Dandelion Root & Reishi Hot Cocoa is my favorite spin on a classic cold-weather beverage. While this recipe is definitely more involved than stirring a packet of Swiss Miss into hot water, it only takes about 10 minutes to whip up and is well worth the extra bit of effort.
Unlike pre-packaged hot chocolate mixes, this healing beverage is made with herbs & whole food ingredients. Which means that in addition to tasting delicious, this cocoa is rich in protein, healthy fats, and essential nutrients.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) root lends a deep, earthy flavor that rounds out the taste of cacao. It’s also an excellent rejuvenating tonic herb that is rich in vitamins & minerals — like calcium, magnesium, iron, and vitamins A & C — and boosts the overall health of the digestive system, particularly the liver (Gladstar 326-327).
Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) has been valued in Chinese medicine traditions since ancient times. More recently, it has been shown to have “anti-aging” properties, including inhibiting cell damage due to its antioxidant effects, modulating immune system function, and slowing neurodegeneration, which contributes to diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s (Wang, et al.). Studies have also found that reishi helps to prevent damage to the liver and kidneys (Shieh, Y H et al.).
Ají (Capsicum pubescens), cayenne (Capsicum annuum), and other spicy peppers are incredibly beneficial to health and vitality. They boost digestion and circulation. They promote heart health. They have been shown to possess “anti-cancer” properties. A 2020 study even found that consuming spicy peppers regularly improves overall life expectancy. To read more about the many benefits of hot peppers, click here.
Cacao (Theobroma cacao) is well known for its delicious flavor, but it also has an array of health benefits. It is rich in antioxidants and nutrients, including magnesium, iron, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus. Studies have found that it improves heart heart and cognitive function and helps to modulate inflammation. It is mild stimulant that improves energy levels, boosts mood, and has even been shown to reduce anxiety. Consuming cacao regularly is also beneficial to overall skin health, helping to reduce photosensitivity and improving circulation and hydration of the skin (de la Forêt, “Cacao”).
Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum & Cinnamomum cassia) adds deliciously sweet and spicy flavor. It’s a warming herb that boosts circulation and digestion. This well-loved culinary spice also has nutritional benefits, as it is a source of manganese, calcium, and iron (de la Forêt, “Cinnamon”).
Gelatin is rich in protein, antioxidants, and essential amino acids. It is nutrient dense and is a source of calcium, magnesium, folate, choline, & selenium. It boosts collagen and thus, improves skin and joint health. It supports the integrity of mucosal lining in the intestines, protecting the digestive tract from damage and helping to prevent issues such as leaky gut. It also strengthens bones and improves their ability to absorb calcium.
Cream provides fat-soluble activators which help the body to assimilate and utilize minerals and water-soluble vitamins. Studies have also shown that cream is an excellent source of easily absorbable vitamin A (Fallon 16, 197, 569). Cream is primarily saturated fat. While often demonized, in reality saturated fats are essential to bone health, boost immunity, allow cell membranes to function properly, protect the liver from toxins, improve the body’s ability to utilize essential fatty acids, and help protect against potentially dangerous bacteria in the digestive tract (Fallon 11).
To make this nourishing, herbal hot cocoa you will need:
- 1 oz fresh dandelion roots, chopped roughly — or substitute about 1/3 oz of dried root
- 3 tsp reishi mushroom powder
- 1/2 of a fresh ají pepper — substitute a pinch or two of cayenne pepper powder, depending on how spicy you want your cocoa to be (or omit entirely if you don’t like spicy foods)
- 500 ml water
- 4 Tbsp raw cacao powder (not to be confused with cocoa powder which is less nutritious and often contains added sugars)
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 3 Tbsp panela (or brown sugar)
- 1-2 Tbsp organic beef gelatin powder
- A pinch or two of sea salt
- 1/3 cup cream
This recipe makes 2 servings.
In a small pot, combine the dandelion root, reishi powder, and ají/cayenne pepper. Feel free to omit the spicy pepper, if that’s not your thing. Add 500ml of water, cover the pot with a lid, and gently bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and let simmer for about 10 minutes.
While the tea is simmering, prepare the rest of the ingredients. Add the gelatin, cacao, cinnamon, panela, and salt to a heat-proof pitcher. I like to use a large (1000 ml) Pyrex measuring cup. Next, add the cream and whisk together, until there are no clumps and the mixture is smooth.
When the tea is done simmering, remove it from the heat and strain into the measuring cup. Whisk together, until fully combined.
Divide the hot cocoa up between two mugs and add a cinnamon stick or homemade marshmallows for an extra special touch, if you’d like.
Share a cup of this rich, healing beverage with a friend or loved one. Or scale the recipe up and serve it at a holiday get-together.
Clay, Kristine. “Ají (Capsicum pubescens).” Sierra y Cielo. September 24, 2021.
Cleveland Clinic. (2020) People Who Eat Chili Peppers May Live Longer, Study Says. Retrieved from https://newsroom.clevelandclinic.org/2020/12/31/people-who-eat-chili-peppers-may-live-longer-study-says/
de la Forêt, Rosalee. “Cacao Benefits.” Herbs with Rosalee. https://www.herbalremediesadvice.org/cacao-benefits.html
de la Forêt, Rosalee. “Cinnamon Health Benefits.” Herbs with Rosalee. https://www.herbalremediesadvice.org/cinnamon-health-benefits.html
De Pietro, MaryAnn. “10 health benefits of gelatin.” Medical News Today. November 6, 2019. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319124
Fallon, Sally. Nourishing Traditions. New Trends Publishing, Inc., 2001. 11, 16, 197, & 569.
Gladstar, Rosemary. Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health. Storey Publishing, 2008.
“Health Benefits of Cacao.” Nourish by WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-cacao
“Health Benefits of Gelatin.” Nourish by WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-gelatin
Jin, Hai et al. “Protective effects of Ganoderma lucidum spore on cadmium hepatotoxicity in mice.” Food and chemical toxicology : an international journal published for the British Industrial Biological Research Association vol. 52 (2013): 171-5. doi:10.1016/j.fct.2012.05.040
Shieh, Y H et al. “Evaluation of the hepatic and renal-protective effects of Ganoderma lucidum in mice.” The American journal of Chinese medicine vol. 29,3-4 (2001): 501-7. doi:10.1142/S0192415X01000526
Wachtel-Galor, Sissi, et al. “Ganoderma lucidum (Lingzhi or Reishi).” Chapter 9. A Medicinal Mushroom. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. Boca Raton, FL. CRC Press/Taylor & Francis, 2011. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92757/#NBK92757_pubdet
Wang, Jue, et al. “Emerging Roles of Ganoderma Lucidum in Anti-Aging.” Aging and Disease. 2017 Dec; 8(6): 691–707. Published online 2017 Dec 1. doi: 10.14336/AD.2017.0410