Sweet foods can evoke sweet feelings of holiday cheer: hot chocolate, spiced lattes, and seasonal soups and stews. Adding tonic foods that strengthen immunity to recipes is a cleverly conscious comfort food hack that can make those foods even more powerful—so that when we eat them, we’re feeding our bodies, our souls, and the health of our immune system.
Mushroom Magic: Chaga, Reishi and Coriolus
These top three tonic medicinal mushrooms have a long history of traditional use as well as a proven track record in cuisines and traditional systems of medicine around the world for thousands of years. Their modern use in the US has been increasing in the past 20 years. There are numerous studies showing that mushrooms possess remarkable biologically active compounds with measurable protective effects on our physiology.
Reishi, chaga, and coriolus (also called turkey tail) have powerful anti-viral properties. They contain high levels of beta-glucans, which are compounds that keep Killer T cells on guard; killer T cells are one of the key cells of our immune system. These mushrooms also possess a kickass antioxidant called ergothioneine that helps lower inflammation systemically. That means that all of your pieces and parts have another awesome layer of protection.
The Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine published a study in 2005 reporting that mushrooms contain “compounds and complex substances with antimicrobial, antiviral, anti-tumor, antiallergic, immunomodulating, anti-inflammatory, anti-atherogenic, hypoglycemic, and hepatoprotective activities.”
In the wild, these mushrooms need to have strong antibacterial and antifungal defenses to survive. They in turn pass these beneficial compounds on to us to protect our human cells.
These stellar mushrooms have even displayed the ability to abolish some of the deadly multi-antibiotic resistant bacterial strains and microorganisms responsible for gut and skin problems. Did you know that penicillin and streptomycin are also mushroom extracts? Medicinal mushrooms have also been shown to protect our DNA from damage and can stop cell mutation while protecting our healthy cells.
Numerous scientific studies have confirmed that astragalus has antiviral properties and stimulates your immune system, demonstrating that it can aid in the prevention of the common cold or seasonal flua. Astragalus root is a mighty herb and has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for millennia. On a culinary note, it also blends (much like chaga), with chocolate and coffee as it leans into those flavors beautifully.
Astragalus improves many aspects of qi, including the “Protective Qi,” which is a part of the immune system, and “Upright Qi,” which supports the body against the forces of gravity.
Astragalus has been shown to have modulating effects for Th1/Th2 immune imbalances. It contains a number of tonic saponins, including Astragaloside IV, which is used in the patented supplement TA-65® and has been shown to slow down the shortening of, and even increase the length of telomeres.
Cold weather stresses our immune systems and can stimulate a cold sore breakout in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. A 2004 study evaluated the effects of astragalus on Herpes Simplex Type 1 and found that the herb has obvious inhibiting efficacy. In the Chinese Medical Sciences Journal they reported that astragalus is able to inhibit viral and bacterial growth in mice.
Raw Manuka Honey
Manuka honey is made by bees who pollinate the phytochemically active Manuka bush, which grows in New Zealand and Australia. This form of honey is a remarkable healer. Topically, a little Manuka honey mixed with colloidal silver can cut the healing time of a cold sore in half. The higher the potency of the Manuka the more power it wields. The honey’s potency will be indicated by a plus sign and a number, such as +16, +24 right on the front of the jar.
An old-school sore throat soothing trick is Manuka honey and fresh lemon juice in equal parts to swish and gargle. We don’t normally use raw honey in a hot drink or in baking as it loses its efficacy when heated.
All of these badass herbs can be in your biohacking arsenal of well-being year round.
JingSlinger Haute Chocolate
One of the great things about this hot chocolate recipe is that you can cleverly cloak the earthy, bitter-tasting medicinal herbs. Both discerning adults and persnickety kids drink it down and ask for more without detecting the cellular superfood upgrade they just guzzled. Once you chose the function you desire (in this case immunity), you can then use the appropriate functional herbs that lean into the flavor of the chocolate.
1 cup (250ml) coconut milk
1 cup (250ml) water
3 tbsp cacao powder
1 tsp cacao butter
¼ tsp cinnamon powder
¼ tsp vanilla stevia
¼ tsp chocolate stevia
¼ tsp toffee stevia
1 tsp xylitol
Jing It Up! (Optional additional superfood ingredients)
1 tbsp ghee/coconut oil
2 tbsp collagen powder
(If you can only find capsules of these herbs, no worries
simply open and empty the capsules into the blender)
½ tsp reishi mushroom powder
½ tsp chaga mushroom powder
½ tsp turkey tail (coriolos) powder
½ tsp astragulus
½ tsp vanilla powder
Sling It Up!
In a small pot, heat the coconut milk and water to a soft boil. Add your base ingredients into your blender, as well as any of the Jinged It Up options, and the sweeteners (or your other sweetener) of choice. Pour your hot liquids into the blender, put the lid on, hold the lid down tightly making sure the vents can still breathe, and blend on the lowest setting, gradually ramping it up to a high blend and blending well, for 30 seconds. Serve hot or cool down in your refrigerator and serve cold with coconut whipped cream.
Important Note: Whenever using any hot liquid in your blender, your blender will build up pressure quickly. Make sure you have a towel over your lid and begin blending on your lowest setting, before bringing it to a pulverizing high speed. Otherwise you might be painting your ceiling with your elixir!
Vanilla Bean Shortbread Cookies
Is it really possible to enjoy holiday cookies that enhance ingenious immunity? Yes! This sugar-free, gluten-free superfood shortbread recipe is a one-bowl-one-spoon quick-and-easy recipe from start to finish. It’s the answer to the traditional butter/sugar shortbread cookie AND it is both vegan (if not made with ghee) and paleo.
1½ cups (160g) blanched fine milled almond flour
2 tbsp arrowroot flour
3 tbsp xylitol powder/sweetener of choice
2 tbsp organic full fat coconut milk
3 tbsp Nutiva superfood shortening or ghee
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp vanilla stevia
½ tsp psyllium husk powder
? tsp sea salt
Jing It Up
2 tsp pearl powder
1 tsp maca powder
1 tsp MCT oil
? tsp vanilla bean powder
Preheat oven to 350°F/177°C. This recipe will fill either an 8×8” or a 9×9” parchment lined cookie sheet to make cookie bars or simply roll out the dough to about ¼ inch thick and cut with cookie cutters into the desired shapes.
*Chef Note – If you want to make a single large cookie that you cut into pieces after baking, you can simply form the dough into your pan of choice with your hands until evenly distributed. This does not require you to chill it in the refrigerator before forming the dough or to use a rolling pin.
Add all the ingredients in a medium bowl and stir with a spoon until a pliable, soft dough forms. Shape the dough by hand into a thick disk. Wrap in parchment paper tightly, place in a plastic bag and chill in the refrigerator until slightly firm, about 10 minutes. Place the chilled dough between two pieces of parchment on a flat surface and begin to flatten with the palm of your hand or a rolling pin. Rolling pin rings will help you get the right ¼-inch thickness.
Remove the top parchment and either cut into shapes or pat and smooth the dough to fit the shape of the pan. Place in the oven on the center rack to bake at 350°F/177°C for about 30-35 minutes, or until golden and firm to the touch.
Cool and either dunk or decorate with the melted chocolate. Add nuts, coconut flakes and any other topping you desire to make the cookie or cookie bar wonderfully your creation. We encourage you to play with your food!
To dip these cookies for chocolate-coated superfood treats, melt your favorite sugar-free chocolate chips or bar on the stove in a double boiler and stir in a half-teaspoon of each of the tonic immune mushrooms. We definitely recommend using the double boiler method (we personally do not microwave anything).
Joy Coelho and Jay Denman (the JingSlingers) are tonic herbalists and superfood specialists who have a combined 30+ years of conjuring up culinary magic. Together they customize optimum health protocols and menus for their star-studded clientele who grace the Red Carpet from the Oscars to the Grammys. Their cookbook Food with Benefits debuted in early 2016 and is a #1 Amazon Best Seller. jinslingers.com