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Mulling spices

As the weather begins to cool, we enter the season of warmth and hospitality, delicious food, and festive celebration. Mulling spices offer the perfect way to compliment this season, as well as add delicious scents and flavors to your home and holiday festivities!

Going back in time, Wassail is the 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.

Interestingly, “wassailing” is a Twelfth Night tradition that has been practiced in Britain for centuries. It has roots in a pagan custom of visiting orchards to sing to the trees in the hope of ensuring a good harvest the following season.

The ingredients in mulling spices are the following: cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, ginger, cardamom, allspice, and orange peel (which is sometimes added to the simmering bowl in the form of sliced oranges, 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 due to availability.

These spices can be added to apple cider, red wine, orange juice, or water to make tea. They are warmed together to infuse the flavors of the spice into the beverage. Besides the warmed red wine, other alcohols can be chosen as a base for the beverage. Brandy, whiskey, or bourbon are used, but you can add whatever your preference is.

Additionally, the spice blend 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 to fill the whole house with that cinnamon-y holiday smell.

Besides tasting fantastic, these spices are also so good for our health! Most of them are warming herbs and act on the body to stimulate blood flow and help organs function better.

  • Cinnamon has been shown 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.
  • Cloves 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 toothache.
  • Nutmeg can also help the cardiovascular system as studies suggest it reduces cardiovascular disease and can boost heart function. Nutmeg 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 from forming.
  • Ginger is a digestive aid and also helps with pain.

The fruit that you add is packed with vitamin C and will also keep us 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 brew!


Melissa Aurora Adlebush is the president of the Fox Valley Herb Society and was the 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 Herbalist and Owner of Aurora’s Apothecary where she grows most of the herbs that are put into their products.

Aurora’s Apothecary brings the purest form of herbs, teas, tinctures, and topicals to help with maintaining your body, as well as an endless supply of homegrown and handmade items for any occasion. Aurora’s Apothecary has locations in Green Bay, Appleton, Fond du Lac, and Fish Creek. Visit for more information.

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