How to easily make life-boosting elixirs and tonics at home (DIY)
What exactly is an “elixir”?
Elixirs have been prized and sought-after throughout history. Many cultures recount stories about the pursuit for the elixir of life – a liquid concoction supreme that would give man eternal life by curing all diseases and prevent aging itself. Alchemists throughout the ages and from various cultures sought out how to create this elixir of life, by trying different creations, some even including mercury and other unsavory ingredients.
In ancient China it was believed that the elixir of life was ingesting precious stones such as jade or hematite would deliver the attributes of the stones – ever-lasting life and healing.
In India, the elixir of life, Amrita, has been described in ancient scriptures In India, the elixir of life, Amrita, has been described in ancient scriptures that if anyone were to drink just a drop, would gain immortality.
Fast-forward to today and the word “elixir” is something less understood or defined. Does a simple herbal tea count? How about a bulletproof coffee? Making elixirs is equally an art as much as a science with endless permutations only limited by your own creativity. But all elixirs have one thing in common: they are immensely potent sources of nutrition and deliver unparalleled medicinal value. By learning how to integrate these into our daily life, we can not only prevent disease, but also optimize the vibrancy of our life, health and cognition!
What is a health elixir?
Today we know well that ingesting mercury isn’t ideal, nor drinking amrita will give us immortality. Instead we brew up elixirs to support our health, usually starting with a tea, which is a hot water extraction of one or many herbs with a range of medicinal benefits. Then, most importantly, we will add a potent blend of superfood extracts to give the elixir the unique medicinal effect we are intending to create.
While a tea may provide some energy, it lacks caloric density to be considered a significant source of energy for the body. A health elixir is generally a medicinal tea with added superfood extracts that has been transformed into a food or light meal due to the addition of fat, carbohydrates, and protein.
So the very basic equation for a health elixir is:
elixir = tea + medicinal extracts + calories (fats, carbs, protein)
This combination turns a medicine into food and food into medicine. Health elixirs serve as a delicious delivery vehicle for all of the medicinal herbs and superfoods that one wants to get into their bodies.
What’s wrong with the normal caffeinated beverages like coffee and black tea?
For many, these caffeinated beverages taken regularly or in excess can cause imbalances and drain the adrenals — the energy reserve of the body — over time. When you drink caffeine, stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol are released into the body, shifting us into the “fight or flight” mode. This may feel good initially, but in the long term, this can really drain the body, further worsening the underlying vitality of the system. Because of all the stress that so many of us are under these days, our adrenal bank account is already running low. Caffeine is like taking a credit card or loan out, feels good at first, but actually puts us further into debt!
What is an “adaptogen,” and what are the benefits?
Adaptogens are so named because they help us “adapt” to stress by normalizing physiology regardless of the direction of the imbalance. So not only can they bestow energy and vitality to the body when in need, they can relieve anxiety and improve stress resilience at the same time. Instead of draining the bank account further like caffeine, they allow you to collect savings for a rainy day! They are tonics that strengthen the body, with each individual adaptogen having benefits for a different array of systems. The other important property of an adaptogen is that it can be taken on a regular basis without causing harm or imbalance. (It’s always a good idea to rotate adaptogens every few months to minimize the reduced medicinal effect that can happen with every day use over time. Like many other things, including our food, variety is our ally!)
How can I create a health elixir?
Elixirs can be personalized, fine-tuned, and intelligently crafted medicinal foods.
There are different categories to include when making your own unique health elixir blends:
Tea: The liquid portion can be any herbal or caffeinated tea, or even just hot water. My favorite tea bases, which are pretty versatile, are Holy Basil and Gynostemma. Holy Basil is prized in Ayurveda and has a nice, robust, balanced flavor. Gynostemma has many of the medicinal nutrients of ginseng but is brewed easily in leaf form with a natural sweetness.
Medicinal powders/extracts/tinctures: Cacao, Maca, Reishi, Ashwagandha, Shilajit, Lucuma, Matcha, Turmeric (see expanded list below)
Fats: Coconut oil, MCT oil, Ghee, Flax oil, Grapeseed oil, Nut milks/creamers, Cacao Butter
Proteins: Collagen, Nut milks, Chia seed, Coconut manna, Vegan protein blend
Carbs/Sweeteners: Stevia and Monk Fruit extract are good options for people trying to avoid sugar completely. Other options are small amounts of maple syrup, honey, agave, dates, berries (goji), or licorice tea.
Spices: Cinnamon, Cardamon, Ginger, Vanilla extract, Chai spices, etc.
What are elixirs used for?
Before setting out to create your health elixir, first decide the purpose of this drink. What healing in the body are you looking to support? Or how do you feel right now, and what kind of boost do you need?You can create health elixirs to:
- Encourage weight loss
- Reduce inflammation
- Balance hormones
- Encourage sleep
- Diminish stress and anxiety
- Wake you up in the morning
- Give you an energy boost
- Help you wind down
- Complete your day
- Improve your focus
- Improve your creativity
- Help open clogged arteries
- Increase your virility
Even with a refined focus, your health elixir will serve more than one purpose and have numerous benefits for your health thanks to the great complexity and potency of the ingredients used.
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What kind of medicinal herbs should I use use?
There are different categories of herbs based on their properties that you may consider experimenting with. One word of caution, don’t overdo it. Some of these herbs are very potent and have strong flavor profiles, so start small, especially when combining, and work your way up to the flavor and effect you enjoy. Most of these will come in powdered extract form, but tinctures of these herbs could be used as well if you don’t mind the small amount of alcohol. Regardless of the form, make sure it comes from a reputable source that has been tested and is free of toxins, contaminants, and fillers!
Adaptogens: ashwagandha, maca, ginseng, eleuthero, holy basil, rhodiola, reishi, schizandra, cordyceps
Anti-inflammatory: ginger, turmeric, boswellia, cloves, devil’s claw, cat’s claw
Antioxidants: raw cacao, cloves, matcha, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, blue butterfly pea
Calming: lavender, passionflower, vanilla, catnip, chamomile, lemon balm, CBD
Cleansing/detoxifying: milk thistle, lemon, ginger, turmeric, dandelion root, schizandra, cayenne
Digestive support: anise, cardamom, lemongrass, peppermint, slippery elm, marshmallow root, fennel, chamomile, gentian, ginger
Energy/Focus: cacao, bacopa, rhodiola, chaga, green tea, cordyceps, ginkgo, ginseng, shilajit, gotu kola, lion’s mane
Hormone balancing: ashwagandha, shatavari, black cohosh, maca, schizandra, mucuna
Immune boosting: astragalus, reishi, cat’s claw, lemon, rose petal, turkey tail chaga, echinacea, elderberry
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A Deeper Look Into Some of My Favorites Medicinal Herbs
Cacao: Great for the mind, but also the arteries
Cacao is known to stimulate the mind but also help open clogged arteries. It has a compound called theobromine in it that is in the same family as caffeine. It has large amounts of minerals in it and has the highest naturally occurring source of magnesium… something we are all very deficient in in modern times.
Cacao also contains 40 times more antioxidants than blueberries! Because of these properties, it is used to lower blood pressure and clear out the plaque in the arteries. At higher doses, cacao affects neurotransmitters to enhance mood significantly and is used in ceremonial ways in South/Central American cultures. It includes or helps produce serotonin, dopamine, phenethylamine (“the love molecule”), and anandamide (“the bliss molecule”) to just name a few.
Curcumin: Used for its medicinal purposes for centuries
Curcumin is a biologically active polyphenolic compound found in turmeric. Mounting evidence from preclinical studies demonstrate that curcumin modulates numerous molecular targets and exerts antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and neuroprotective activities. Turmeric is a root that has been used for thousands of years by many cultures for its potent anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and modern research has shown a plethora of additional benefits against cancer and autoimmune diseases. Adding in this amazing phytomedicinal superfood into our diet can be very beneficial for our overall health… and this is an easy way to get it in!
Reishi: Immune booster
Reishi mushrooms is used in herbal medicine as a cooling adaptogen where it helps your body adapt to stress. Reishi is an important component of the traditional medical systems of China, Japan, Korea, and other Asian countries where it has been revered as the “mushroom of immortality,” used for more than 2,000 years to increase energy, stimulate the immune system, and promote health. Reishi’s many polysaccharides, antioxidant properties, and beta-glucans can help boost your innate immunity. Though it can stimulate the immune system, it can also dampen its action in cases of autoimmunity to stop the body from attacking itself. Truly one of my favorites!
On our virtual dispensary, I feature my favorite elixir ingredients. Log-in to Fullscript to see all of my favorites. If you are not a current patient, please register to see Dr. Morcom’s favorite superfoods.