Recipes and pro tips provided by Lily Holmberg, Gaia Herbs Education Director, dedicated home herbal enthusiast, creator of amazing herbal recipes, and all-around plant fan!
The new year is upon us! The month of January, with its shorter, colder days, is often a time for personal reflection and contemplation, as we trade out our calendars and look to the months ahead. Few years have challenged us as much as 2020, and the pursuit of starting fresh and focusing on healthy habits is on many of our minds.
For many people, one of these healthy changes is the reduction or elimination of alcohol from their diet for a set period of time. In fact, according to Google Trends, the search term “Dry January” hit a score of 100 during the first week of January 2021, meaning this term is at its absolute peak of popularity, and confirming that sobriety is a wellness trend that people are embracing these days.
What Is Dry January?
December is usually a month marked by excessive consumption of food and beverages, including greater consumption of alcoholic drinks, for a large part of the population.
Dry January is a concept believed to have started in the U.K. around 2014, as a movement for people to kick off the new year by cutting out alcohol consumption — either for the entire month or a preset period of time.
Why Are People Embracing Dry January?
The Dry January movement is aimed at helping people start their new year feeling clearer, healthier, and more refreshed.
It is gaining in popularity year-over-year, as it allows people the opportunity to incorporate a healthy change in their life on a limited time basis, so they can see what their lives are like without alcohol.
Dry January provides people with an opportunity to evaluate the importance of alcohol consumption in their life. It is an undaunting way for people to experience how the absence of alcohol impacts their day-to-day, without being overwhelmed by a forever change. And with so many people now jumping on this bandwagon, it makes it easier to do so with the support of family and friends that have probably heard about this concept as well.
For some, this will be a temporary change and a chance to reset the body. For others, who enjoy the way their body feels without the consumption of alcohol, this may lead to longer-term dietary and lifestyle changes.
Health Benefits of Dry January
People that complete a Dry January have reported feeling a sense of accomplishment from achieving this goal as well as feeling better overall physically and mentally.
And it appears that science backs these personal findings. According to a University of Sussex study, over 70% of people who took part in Dry January said they slept better, and 67% reported more energy. In addition, more than half of study participants (58%) reported losing weight and 54% experienced better skin.
Our Favorite Herbal Mocktails for Dry January and Beyond
In the spirit of beginning again and nourishing our health, I present to you a few recipes that I love this time of year to renew the spirit and support the body. These recipes work great and are delicious at all times of the year, and can be especially helpful if you have decided to take on a Dry January.
Black Elderberry Fizz Immune Boost*
This past year reminded us of the importance of our immune system to our overall health. During the colder months each year, usually from around October through the end of March, I love using Black Elderberry Syrup wherever I can, as this syrup has been trusted by herbalists for generations to help maintain immune health.*
Gaia Herbs Certified USDA Organic Black Elderberry Syrup is made using organic Elderberries, fresh-pressed shortly after harvest, and it concentrates the juice from 14.5 grams of Elderberries into a single, tasty teaspoon.* It has a delicious flavor that is loved by adults and children alike, and it is made with just four clean whole-food ingredients.
For me, using it is often a simple thing—adding a splash of Black Elderberry Syrup to a cup of tea, drizzling a bit over a roasted veggie and grain salad, or enjoying a spoonful after a meal. Sometimes, especially when there is a need for levity, fun, and new traditions—even when it’s only a party of one—I love to elevate Black Elderberry to a new level.
This usually means looking around at what I have on hand, or can easily grab from the co-op down the street, and mixing up a batch of a special beverage that I can enjoy mindfully, out of the prettiest glass I can find. I usually reach for a vintage coupe glass to make it feel extra special and different from my normal day-to-day.
Black Elderberry Fizz Immune Boost Recipe*
- 1 cup sparkling water of choice
- 1 teaspoon Gaia Herbs Black Elderberry Syrup
- Garnish: A twist of citrus peel, rosemary sprig, lemon wheel, mint leaves
- Special glass
- Add ice to whatever vessel you are going to mix your drink in. I like a large canning jar for this, but lots of things could work.
- Pour your sparkling water over the ice and gently stir to chill completely.
- Add the Black Elderberry Syrup and stir until combined.
- Pour the sparkling water and Black Elderberry Syrup mixture into your glass.
- Garnish and enjoy!
Helpful Pro Tips from Lily:
- Sparkling water: I like citrus flavors for this recipe, but use what you have. Sparkling mineral water is also lovely.
- I love a vintage coupe glass, but dust off something you love like a distinctive cup and saucer, champagne flute, martini glass, tiny sake cup…all are fun to use and make your drink feel extra special.
- Make a batch to share: Just remember to increase quantities for sharing.
Calming Kava Cocoa
The first days of the new year are a wonderful time to visualize a healthy future and to think about the nourishing habits we want to build into the year ahead. Set the stage for this connection with your inner world by lighting candles, finding a comfortable place to sit, and adding other elements that bring you peace, such as music, aromatherapy, or a hot cup of tea.
To deepen my intention-setting experience, I like to light a candle or two and find a quiet place near my plants, books, and seed catalogs to cozy up with a nourishing drink that supports calm and relaxation as an act of self-care.*
I particularly enjoy the recipe below, which incorporates Gaia Herbs Kava Root liquid extract, for a light but indulgent beverage in the winter months. Made from ethically harvested Kava root from the Islands of Vanuatu, this powerful herbal extract is traditionally used to support relaxation and emotional well-being.* While I appreciate the benefits of Kava root year-round, I especially enjoy using it when the dark, cold days keep me indoors more than usual.*
This recipe also uses dark chocolate, which is rich in antioxidants that help support overall health.* And although it can be easy to think of dark chocolate simply as delicious and energizing, due to its natural caffeine content, it also contains theobromine, tryptophan (a precursor to serotonin and melatonin), and magnesium, all of which are associated with a positive outlook.*
You can make the recipe below without sweetener, as I do, or you can sweeten it with your choice of sugar, stevia, or monk fruit to your taste preference. Either way, enjoy the luxurious, relaxing vibes of this pleasurable drink!*
Calming Kava Cocoa Recipe
- 1 cup hot water or milk of choice
- 1 tablespoon high-quality dark chocolate (cocoa) powder, unsweetened
- 20-30 drops Gaia Herbs Kava Root liquid extract or Gaia Herbs Kava Root, Extra Strength liquid extract
- Optional: Sugar, stevia, or another sweetener of choice Optional but also nice: Powdered coconut creamer, coconut milk, or coconut cream
- Heat water or milk of choice to just under a boil.
- Add hot liquid carefully to a mug of choice.
- Add cocoa powder to the hot liquid and mix until combined.
- Add Kava Root liquid extract drops into your mug and stir gently.
- Add (optional) sweetener and/or coconut powder or another creamer of choice. Add small quantities and taste. Add more to find your perfect blend.
- Stir gently and enjoy!
Helpful Pro Tips from Lily:
- Use whatever milk you like. Please note that milks with higher fat content, like coconut or whole milk, will naturally be richer in flavor than water or lighter plant-based milks.
- I like using hot water for this recipe, but I always add powdered coconut creamer at the end. I like how this combination is both light and rich. If you have coconut creamer on hand, try it out and see for yourself.
- Have other creamers on hand? Use what you like. Hazelnut, vanilla, or peppermint-flavored creamers would also be fun to experiment with for this recipe.
- For many people, 1 teaspoon of sugar is probably a good place to start for sweetening this recipe. I actually recommend starting even lighter, with ½ teaspoon to begin and then increasing from there as needed.
- I’ve found that a few drops of stevia or a teaspoon of honey are also nice in this beverage. Use what you like and what you have in your kitchen and start small…you can always add more.
Embrace a Year of Small, Positive Changes
Wherever this year may take you, whatever this year may bring, starting the year off with a few delicious beverages nourishes the spirit, as well as creates space for self-care and ritual that can get lost all too quickly as time goes by and our resolutions and good intentions begin to wane.
Whenever you can, try to find a few moments to prepare a special beverage for yourself, then close your eyes, sip slowly, savor, and visualize your next journey around the sun.