herbal gift giving

Stumped about what to give for the holidays? Here are some herbal treats you can easily make and share that will not only be unusual and fun but also help your loved ones’ health, too!


An oxymel is simple as it’s only made with herbs, vinegar and honey. Hawthorn is especially good for heart issues and yet the Chinese specifically use the berries to aid digestion, particularly of meat and fats. Hawthorn has cardiovascular benefits for hypertension, high cholesterol and other heart imbalances. Vinegar and honey also have healing properties, so the combination of all three makes a healthy treat. Given what most people eat during the holiday season, this is truly a tasty and beneficial gift to give. If you have any rosehips on hand, this is another oxymel you could make instead or as well. For the recipe and directions, go to Michael’s November blog: https://planetherbs.com/blogs/michaels-blogs/hawthorn-oxymel/.


Who doesn’t love biscotti? It’s not too sweet, has a crunchy texture and the flavors can vary from interesting to delicious and even surprising. This recipe is one example. It uses three forms of ginger – fresh, powdered and crystalized (candied ginger). This triple power of ginger improves digestion, alleviates nausea and motion sickness, warms the body and guards against colds and flu (unless you eat too many at a time that is!). Plus it does this in a fun and tasty way. Gift these in a glass jar or tin and tie with a bow. Your loved one will be pleased indeed.


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (barley flour is less dampening)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 5 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup sugar (organic coconut sugar recommended)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. ginger powder
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh grated ginger
  • 1/3 cup crystalized (candied) ginger, chopped into small bits


  1. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk together flour and baking powder.
  3. Beat butter and sugar together at medium-high speed until light and fluffy.
  4. Reduce speed to low and add eggs, one at a time. Beat gently until mixed.
  5. Using a spoon, mix in all three forms of ginger .
  6. Stir in flour mixture.
  7. Dust the parchment with flour, spoon dough on top and refrigerate for 30 minutes (this step is important as otherwise the dough can be sticky and difficult to form).
  8. Adjust oven rack to middle and heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  9. Take dough out of fridge and using floured hands, form a 12 “ long roll (dough will spread during baking).
  10. Bake for 12 minutes, rotate baking sheet and bake another 12 minutes or until dough is slightly golden.
  11. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes (dough will be soft). Using a serrated knife, cut roll into ½ inch slices. Arrange ½ inch apart on baking sheet.
  12. Reduce the oven heat to 275 degrees F and bake another 12 minutes.
  13. Remove baking sheet and very gently flip biscotti (they can be fragile and easily break now).
  14. Put baking sheet back in over and bake another 12 minutes. Remove and transfer to wire rack.
  15. Cool thoroughly before storing in a sealed glass jar or tin.


The Chinese have long made their weekly soups into medicine by adding herbs when cooking them. In fact, the herbs are changed according to the current weather, season, climate, and health needs of the family members. In this way, the soup helps people stay healthy so they don’t get sick. Prevention truly is the best medicine.

Cooking with Chinese herbs can be as simple as substituting lycii (go ji) berries for raisins in hot cereal or oatmeal cookies, or adding a few sticks of astragalus when cooking grains. It may also be more creative, making highly nutritious soup stocks with specific herbal formulas. Example herbs particularly good for this are astragalus, jujube dates, Chinese wild yam, lycii berries, lotus seeds and lily stamen.

It is best to soak the herbs for several hours before cooking them and then add them and the soaking water into the soup when cooking it. However, if there is insufficient time to do this, they may soaked a shorter period of time, or not at all. Many of the herbs can be eaten and are quite delicious. If the herbs haven’t been soaked, be sure they are well cooked before eating – easy to chew and swallow. Others are strained out and discarded if they are fibrous, such as astragalus, or may taste unpleasant to you. In the following recipes it is indicated whether to eat or discard the herbs.

You could easily combine several great herbs for a medicinal winter soup and package them together with the recipe for an unusual gift. There are many possibilities that you can choose according to the desired effects. Here are a few you can make:

Astragaus and Lycii Berry Soup

Strengthens digestion, lungs, liver and kidneys, strengthens eyesight and boosts immunity.

  • 1/2 pound any lean meat
  • 1 ounce astragalus root
  • 1 ounce lycii berries
  • grains and vegetables as desired

Make soup, cooking Chinese yam and lycii berries with meat, grains and vegetables in water. Before eating, pick out astragalus sticks but eat lycii with rest of soup.

Dong Quai and Lamb Soup

This warms the body, builds blood and energy, strengthens digestion and treats menstrual pain and insufficiency.  It is traditionally eaten by women for three days after each menstrual cycle and for ten days after childbirth. Women who have stopped bleeding may choose a day of the month to ritually eat this soup to strengthen their blood.

  • 1 ounce dong quai root
  • 1/2 lb. lamb
  • ginger slices to taste
  • grains and vegetables as desired

Cook all ingredients together until lamb is tender. The dong quai is bitter and so it may or may not be eaten with the soup.

Lotus Seed, Lily and Pork Soup

For strengthening digestion and the kidneys, this soup promotes mental stability and treats dry coughs, neurasthenia, leucorrhea, diarrhea, seminal emission, wet dreams and excessive menstrual loss.

  • 8 ounces lean pork
  • 3/4 ounce lotus seeds
  • 1 ounce lily
  • grains and vegetables as desired

Cook lean pork in water for 2 hours. Add herbs, grains and vegetables and cook 45 minutes. Herbs may be eaten with rest of soup.



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