By Melissa Aurora Adlebush
are a mixture of herbs hitting the store shelves around the winter holiday season. The spices can be used to make a hot drink on a cold evening.
is a historical drink made with this spice mixture. It is mentioned in the holiday song “Here we come a wassailing” and refers to singing Christmas carols door to door wishing good health. While carolers were traveling, they would carry a cup of wassail to stay warm or be invited in for some wassail. The wassail often had alcohol added for extra warming and boisterous singing. Wassailing is a Twelfth Night tradition that has been practiced in Britain for centuries. It has its roots in a pagan custom of visiting orchards to sing to the trees and spirits in hopes of ensuring a good harvest the following season.
The ingredients in Mulling spices are the following:
Cinnamon, Clove, Nutmeg, Ginger, Cardamom, All Spice, and Orange Peel (which is sometimes added to the simmering bowl in the form of sliced oranges and lemons, or apples. All of these ingredients are not native to England and would have been shipped in by the spice merchants, and rather pricey. Recipes vary and you can exclude or include ingredients to taste or availability.
These spices can be added to Apple cider, red wine, orange juice or water to make tea, and are warmed together to infuse the flavors of the spice into the beverage. Besides the warmed red wine, other alcohols can be added. Brandy, whiskey, or bourbon are used, but you can add whatever your preference is.
These spices can also be simmered in a water bath on top of the wood stove, or on the kitchen electric stove to release their wonderful spicy aroma which fills the whole house with that cinnamon-ny holiday smell.
Besides tasting fantastic, these spices are also good for our health. Most of them are warming herbs and help to stimulate blood flow and maintain healthy organ function.
is proven to have a powerful anti-inflammatory effect, reducing swelling and restoring normal tissue function. This may help conditions like arthritis. The antioxidants in red wine and in cloves can also help reduce inflammation.
are also believed to have anti-viral properties, which is what we all need around this time of the year. The cloves are thought to help increase gut motility, as well as improving digestion. As a result, the cloves are thought to improve digestive problems, including indigestion, wind and constipation. The essential oil eugenol, found in cloves, has local anesthetic and antiseptic properties that can be used to help treat dental problems like toothaches.
can also help the cardiovascular system, as studies suggest it reduces cardiovascular disease and can boost heart function. The spice may help clear the liver and kidneys of toxins, and is particularly effective as a liver tonic. It is said to also help prevent kidney stones forming.
is a digestive aid and also helps with pain.
that you add to your Wassail is packed with vitamin C and will also keep you healthy in cold and flu season.
So, this winter season, pick up a packet of Mulling Spices and fill your home and your belly with the wonderful smell and taste of this traditional beverage!
Melissa Aurora Adlebush is the president of the Fox Valley Herb Society, and was the state champion of plant identification in 2004. She studied Botany and Ethnobotany at Northland College, Ashland. She teaches many classes all over the state. Melissa is an Herbalist and Owner of Aurora’s Apothecary where she grows most of the herbs that are put into their products. Aurora’s Apothecary is located at 1607 Richmond St., Appleton, and 9428 Cedar Court #3 in Fish Creek, Door County and 133 N. Broadway, Ste A, Green Bay