Home » Tea as Medicine Part 3 – by Catherine Barnhoorn

Tea as Medicine Part 3 – by Catherine Barnhoorn

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By: Catherine Barnhoorn: Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, Mom to Mila (now 4 years old), and author of ‘Mila’s Meals: The Beginning & The Basics’.


As we head into the winter months our bodies naturally crave and desire warming and spicy foods (and drinks). We also need food that boosts our immune systems to fend off the viruses and bugs that come out to play at this time of year.

A powerful medicinal and warming tea is Chai Tea.

What is Chai Tea?

Chai tea is a powerful blend of tea, herbs and spices, which has been cherished for centuries in India where it is used to preserve health and increase peace of mind. In addition to improving digestion, chai tea enhances the immune system, fights inflammation and has antioxidant properties. It has also been suggested that it has antibacterial and anti-cancer effects.

Chai is made using different formulas, but there are a number of standard ingredients – black tea, being one of them. Since Carmien’s Chai Tea is made with Rooibos instead of black tea, your little one can enjoy it too. The other ingredients include cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, cloves and black pepper.

When looking at chai’s health benefits, it’s important to examine each ingredient in turn. While they act synergistically to increase each other’s benefits, each ingredient has powerful health benefits of its own.


As a summary of my previous post, Rooibos contains vitamins and minerals such as zinc, copper, calcium, manganese, magnesium, potassium and vitamin C. It has anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties and its antioxidants boost the immune system.


Cinnamon is known to have antioxidant, anti-diabetic, antiseptic, local aesthetic, anti-inflammatory, warming, and anti-flatulent properties. Cinnamon supports digestive function; relieves congestion; relieves pain and stiffness of muscles and joints; stimulates circulation; helps prevent urinary tract infections, tooth decay and gum disease and it is a powerful anti-microbial agent that can kill E. coli, Candida and other bacteria.


Ginger is well known as a remedy for headaches, menstrual cramps, motion sickness, nausea, indigestion, wind, colic, irritable bowel, loss of appetite, chills, cold, flu, bronchitis, poor circulation, and heartburn. Ginger tea is a useful remedy for morning sickness. Ginger aids digestion, reduces inflammation, boosts the immune system, and protects against bacteria and fungal infections.


Cardamom is considered one of the most valuable spices in the world due to its rich aroma and therapeutic properties. It aids digestion, supports the immune system, helps detoxify the body, improves circulation and may also fight respiratory allergies. It is used to treat
bad breath, tooth and gum decay, sore throats, constipation, indigestion, colic, and may help prevent hormone-induced cancers.


Medicinally, cloves are used for their anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and antioxidant properties. They are well known for their ability to relieve tooth and gum pain, but their many other benefits include: a digestive aid (stimulates enzyme production and
soothes the intestines); relief from asthma and bronchitis (acts as an expectorant); relief from muscle pain from injuries or arthritis and rheumatism; eliminating intestinal parasites, fungi and bacteria (including Candida); encouraging creativity and mental focus.

Black Pepper

Pepper has been in use for centuries for its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic, carminative and anti-flatulent properties.

(Be warned: Some prepackaged chai teas/chai tea powders, as well as those found in restaurants, can have large amounts of sugar added to the tea so it is always preferable to make your own. You can sweeten it with honey if you prefer it slightly sweeter.)

While a hot cup of Chai Tea is precisely what I enjoy sipping on in winter – Mila is not that keen! Another way to get this ‘medicine’ into her, is in the form of ice-cream (yes, ice-cream can be medicine too!)

And so here it is, my recipe for Chai Tea Ice Cream – gluten-free, sugar-free and dairy-free! (Remember sugar inhibits the immune system and dairy creates mucous – so you want to avoid these two things especially when your little one is ill.)


IMAGE CREDIT: Catherine Barnhoorn, ©Catherine Barnhoorn


Key: gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, vegetarian; egg-free; for adults too

Makes 1 l (1 qt.) and serves 6 to 8 adults

Mama’s Notes:
While conventional ice cream is considered a dessert or an occasional sweet treat, I feel compelled to share why I avoid it at all costs… it’s not because of the dairy!

Store-bought ice cream has to be one of the most processed artificial foods available on the market today. Some of the ‘ingredients’ commonly include: Calcium Sulphate (a common lab and industrial chemical); Polysorbate 80 (negatively affects the immune system and fertility); Magnesium Hydroxide (can be used as a deodorant, a whitener in bleaching solutions and it even has smoke-suppressing and fire-retarding properties); HFCS (GMO); Potassium Sorbate (a suspected carcinogen); Transfats; Soy Lecithin or Soya Lecithin (a GM waste product containing solvents and pesticides); Carrageenan (has been found to destroy human cells and are linked to various human cancers and digestive disorders).

Then there are the flavourings… here is a partial list of some “flavouring” ingredients found in store-bought ice cream:
• Diethylglycol – a chemical used instead of egg yolks. It is also used in antifreeze and paint removers.
• Piperonal – it is used in place of vanilla – and to kill lice.
• Butyraldehyde – a nut flavouring. It is one of the ingredients in rubber cement.
• Amylacetate – a banana flavouring. It is also used as an oil paint solvent.
• Benzyl Acetate – a strawberry flavour. It is a nitrate solvent.
• Castoreum – a smelly, oily secretion that is found in two sacks between the anus and the external genitals of beavers. It is also used to flavour candies, drinks, and desserts.

Homemade ice cream is something completely different! I sometimes offer it to Mila for breakfast! And no, not as a treat… but as a wholesome meal!

Besides the fact that there are no synthetic ingredients or high quantities of genetically modified sugars, the main ingredient in this ice cream (coconut milk) has anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial benefits. It contains high amounts of beneficial fat – including lauric acid, a type of fat rarely found in nature, which can only otherwise be found
in breast milk! Other nutrients found in coconut milk include: vitamins B, C and E, iron, selenium, sodium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus.

Chef’s Notes:

This makes a great Christmas dessert too (the spiciness of the chai somehow reminds me of Christmas!)


  • 800 ml (2 cans) full cream, preservative free, coconut milk
  • 2 T. arrowroot starch powder
4 chai tea teabags
  • ½ cup Xylitol or Honey (only use honey if your little one is older than a year)
  • 1 T. alcohol-, colourant- and preservative free vanilla extract


Place the arrowroot powder in a small bowl with a ¼ cup coconut milk. Whisk to combine well.
Place the remaining coconut milk in a medium saucepan. Add the teabags and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes to allow the tea to infuse. Remove the teabags.
Stir in the arrowroot starch mixture and cook for another 2 minutes, until it has thickened. Turn off the heat.
Add the xylitol or honey and vanilla extract and stir until it has all combined well.
Transfer the ice cream mixture to a mixing bowl, cover and allow it to cool (this could take up to 4 hours in the fridge, so perhaps do this overnight).
Transfer mixture to an ice cream making machine and follow the manufacturers instructions.
Serve immediately or transfer to a freezer-safe container and keep frozen until ready to serve.

Tip for making ice cream without an ice cream maker:

Place ice cream mixture in silicone muffin cups and freeze. When you are ready to serve the ice cream, take the solid ice cream out of the cups, chop into chunks and place in a food processor. Process the ice cream until it comes together in a ball (it will resemble breadcrumbs at first). Stop the processor and spread out the mixture evenly in the bowl, then process again if necessary until it becomes smooth (but not too soft).


If your little one is not a fan of the Chai flavor, substitute the Chai Tea for Carmién’s Creamy Vanilla tea. Alternatively, omit the tea bags entirely for a snow-white vanilla ice cream!

There are instructions for different flavoured ice creams in my book ‘Mila’s Meals: The Beginning & The Basics’.

Now you and your little one can enjoy a sweet ‘treat’ that is delicious AND nutritious! Enjoy!


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Catherine is Mom to Mila, a certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, an author and chef-in-constant training. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Psychology from The University of Cape Town; a diploma in Marketing and Visual Communications from The International Advertising Association; and a diploma in Health Coaching (INCH) from The Institute For Integrative Nutrition.

Catherine is deeply passionate about empowering parents to make informed decisions with regards to what they feed their children and themselves, and she firmly believes that food can be “the best form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.” Catherine sees her, and her daughter’s, food intolerances as a blessing which has led them down a path of learning, discovery and good health – which will hopefully stand them in good stead for years to come.

To follow their journey or to find out more about the book, visit www.milasmeals.co.za or ‘like’ their Facebook page

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