3 Coffee Alternatives for Energy and Vitality

It’s been a several years now since I’ve kicked my coffee addiction now opting for a morning chai tea or sometimes a low or no caffeine option like the ones listed below. It wasn’t easy, and coffee has definitely been my greatest vice in life. I started drinking it at a young age after getting some of those sugary frozen drinks from Starbucks and discovering caffeine. I used to spend a lot of time at my grandparent’s house growing up, and I’d sit with my grandma in the morning while she drank her cup of coffee and watched morning shows. I remember it smelling sooo good, but tasting sooo bad (when I was young, but not for long ๐Ÿ˜ˆ). Drinking coffee is a deeply sensual experience and it’s easy to get triggered just by walking into a coffee shop. The smell, the warmth in my hand (or nice cold beverage in the summer), the bitter yet delicious taste. Mmm. Well, if you’re here, maybe you’re like me and wondered: “What else could replace this delicious morning beverage?” Below I’ll go through a few alternatives to coffee that are often used that you can explore when making your own blends and recommend a few of my favorite products, too.

1. Herbal Roots

There are a lot of commercially available blends of herbal roots, like roasted dandelion root, that have a similar flavor to the bean. If you don’t like the wired feeling that coffee gives you and want to build up more resilience and energy over time a blend of herbal roots and adaptogens might be a better choice for you. Coffee often leaves us feeling depleted and the highs and lows can make it tough to get through the day without drinking more. For some of us at this point, sleep becomes a challenge and the cycle continues. As for herbal roots, most commonly I see roasted dandelion root and chicory root being used in herbal coffee blends as the flavor profile is similar to coffee. However, you can use other roots such as burdock, shatavari, astragalus, ashwagandha, etc. to name a few. You may want to look at the herbal properties to decide which of these herbs would be best for you–are you going for effect, flavor, or a combination? All things to consider when deciding on your roots.

Dandelion Root

Dandelion root is the most often used root alternative to coffee. It has a roasty, nutty flavor reminiscent of coffee. It’s bitter, drying, and cooling–good for the liver and digestion. You’ll find it as an ingredient in detoxifying blends as well. It’s antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antitumor, antiviral, and antibacterial. For these reasons, many cultures have viewed dandelion as a tonic, and what a great choice to replace coffee with all these beneficial properties.

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As an aside, you know what has really been the reason that I feel like sharing herbal information? I feel like there are some big plant medicines out there that steal the light from some lesser known stars. And I've often felt that way in my life, I don't like the spotlight, but I know I am special in a lot of ways. So I relate to these lesser worked-with plant friends. The ones that are often seen as garbage to others are actually grand treasures. I know that herbalism has really gotten popular in the last few years, but my whole life I've been a plant person and I feel that we should really be looking at what plants and mushrooms grow in our regions, growing them ourselves if we can, and getting them from local growers when we're able to. Better yet, learn the native plants near you, learn their medicines, steward them. Make sure they don't go away. Help pick invasive species and use them as medicines. Cheers friends. 

Chicory Root

Chicory root is actually in the same family as dandelion–Asteraceae. It has a woody and nutty flavor, and it’s often added to coffee in New Orleans. It’s especially high in inulin, which if you look back at my article on gut health, is extremely helpful in rebuilding the gut and aiding in digestion. This may be a good option for you if you’re looking for an herb to support weight loss or help balance blood glucose levels.

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The Herbarium by the Herbal Academy

2. Cacao

Who wouldn’t want to drink a hot chocolate to get you going in the morning? This can be a delicious alternative to coffee, although it still does contain a small amount of caffeine for those looking to kick caffeine altogether this may not be the best choice or you may want to just add a small amount to a blend. Cacao is a rich source of antioxidants, polyphenols, and flavonoids. However, its treasured taste has led to myriad social and environmental issues. As with all resources from the earth, please make sure you’re sourcing from a sustainable, ethical place. Many cacao companies work with plantations that employ child labor, don’t offer fair prices to the farmer, or don’t work with farms performing proper agroforestry practices. With both coffee and cacao as commodities there are many unethical brands out there!

With all that being said, cacao has a long history of relationship in Mesoamerican indigenous cultures which is important to acknowledge. It has been seen as divine and used in ceremonies and rituals, it’s included in creation myths, used as currency, worked with as an offering–just to name a few. A part of healing yourself, I’ve found, is taking a moment of gratitude and reflection for all the time it took for certain foods to get to you. I think of the seed, of the tree, of the forest, of the farmer, of the processing, of the buyers/companies, of me buying the product, of those delivering the product, etc. What a blessing to even be able to have cacao! It takes a lot to get to you for consumption. If you want to know more about cacao, I highly recommend checking out my herbal teacher Damiana’s work on her Patreon here. She has offered a recipe for a cacao elixir.

3. Medicinal Mushrooms

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My personal favorite! ๐Ÿ„ Many medicinal mushrooms have that roasted, savory flavor that you might find in some coffee beans. Not to mention, mushrooms have many beneficial medicinal properties making them an excellent replacement for coffee if you’re looking for a healthier option. I find chaga to be the most palatable, however, there are some concerns with over harvesting this one so just again look at your sourcing. Reishi is also a great adaptogenic mushroom that you’ll see often in medicinal mushroom blends. Other mushrooms you’ll find in medicinal blends are turkey tail, lion’s mane, cordyceps, agaricon, and many more. Explore to your heart’s desire! Here though, I’ll mainly talk to chaga and reishi as I see them as the most excellent coffee replacements.


Chaga, like many mushrooms, contributes to immune health and wellness and contains polysaccharides. It has a sweetness to it that I think lends itself well to vanilla and other flavors. If you like a sweeter morning beverage, you might want to try out chaga in your blend. Chaga helps to promote healthy cell turnover and there is also research that it helps with some of the side effects of chemotherapy and cancer treatments and works synergistically to prevent cancer growth. Chaga is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory. There’s a long history of use for folk medicine in Russia and Scandinavian countries.


Reishi is one of my favorite mushroom medicines and it also has a very bitter taste similar to coffee. It seems to be most well-known in Chinese medicine as the “elixir of immortality.” It’s a lung tonic and there’s research showing it as effective in supporting or being an alternative asthma treatment. As most mushrooms are, reishi is also a immunomodulator and mushrooms in general are very supportive in immune health which could make them a great coffee alternative during cold and flu season as well as right now as covid is taking its toll on the population.

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The majority of modern medicines originate in nature. Although some mushrooms have been used in therapies for thousands of years, we are still discovering new potential medicines hidden within them.

Paul Stamets

Product Recommendations

If you don’t want to create your own blend, there are many blends already out there for you to try! I’m not an affiliate on any of these brands currently, these are what I recommend from personally trying each of these.

Rasa: Adaptogenic Coffee Alternative: Rasa is an herbal adaptogenic coffee alternative. They have a variety of blends, I’m linking to the original here. Many of the alternatives I’ve listed above are included in this blend, like dandelion root, chicory root, reishi, and chaga. My personal favorite blend of theirs is the “Spicy Rose Cacao.” I love that the spicy rose one includes schisandra berry which is both very delicious and very helpful to me as an adaptogen and women’s health tonic.

Harmonic Arts: Kickstart Elixir: This company is owned by some very well respected herbalists in Canada. This blend does have caffeine, but less than coffee. It includes yerba mate. It also has chaga, cacao, and roasted dandelion root among other ingredients. This one really gets the nutty flavor of coffee down in my opinion, however, I do think it needs some sweetness. This company has a few other elixirs you may want to check out on their site, but this one I’d say is best for those looking to replace coffee.

Cacoco Drinking Chocolates: Cacoco are delicious drinking chocolates from a company that makes sure to source ethically and pay farmer’s fairly. I’ve tried several of their drinking chocolates and they’re sweetened just enough with coconut sugar. This also isn’t just cocoa powder, this also has cocoa butter. Many of their products also contain other adaptogens and herbs, depending on what you’re looking for. I love the 69% Love Potion. ๐Ÿ˜œ

Rishi Tea’s Mushroom Hero: This blend is all the herbs and mushrooms I mentioned plus some other ones like licorice root, astragalus root, and maitake mushrooms. I think this one is deliciously savory. They also offer a loose leaf if you prefer that to the sachets. Rishi is one of my favorite tea companies, they have nice high end, single origin teas offered seasonally as well if you would like caffeine, but just less than coffee.

There are also a number of places you can get powders that you can add into smoothies, juices, teas, and other morning beverages. A few of these include the one I mentioned above the Kickstart Elixir, as well as Anima Mundi’s Adaptogenic 7 Mushroom Powder and Cacao and one of my herbal teachers Dr. Jacqui of Xรกlish Medicines also offers some herbal powders in her Etsy here or on her website here.

I’d love to try other blends and also promote more BIPOC and LGBTQIA owned businesses. If you have a product or know of a product that you think would fit on this list email me at mfmedicinals@protonmail.com. Lots of love to you all, and I hope you find what you’re looking for. ๐Ÿ’–

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Heart Opening Tea Recipe

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Tea for me is like the rising and setting of the sun. I have my ritual of drinking it when I wake and before I go to sleep. My morning tea is usually something stimulating, a chai tea with ginger or peppermint is sure to get me going. I’m not a morning person, so having a little help in the morning for me goes a long way. As for the evening, typically I’ll have chamomile hibiscus tea, and sometimes I’ll add some other ingredients to that. I really love a good heart opening, sensual tea for the evenings. Today, I was inspired to write a post as my tea was most delicious and made me feel delightful! ๐Ÿ™‚

My best teas usually don’t have ingredients measured out and I kind of just get into this flow where I intuitively grab the ingredients that seem right for that particular moment in time. I’d encourage you to try this once you have a good handle on herbs and their properties. Just as our best memories can’t be replicated, I believe there’s something to the magic of the moment and just going with what calls to you in a kind of meditative way. Finding joy in simple things, like making tea, can help us fight anxiety and depression. It’s all about the process, right? Not always about the final product or destination in life.

Want to learn more about herbal aphrodisiacs and heart openers? Check out Herbal Academy’s herbal aphrodisiacs intensive. I’m currently enrolled in this one!

Herbal Aphrodisiacs Intensive

Heart Opening Tea Recipe

Ingredients: Chamomile, Hibiscus, Hawthorn (berry, flower, leaf), Damiana, Elderflower, Rosehips, Cinnamon, Kava kava, Licorice root

Mostly chamomile and hibiscus, with a dash of everything else. I paired some heart healthy herbs like hibiscus and hawthorn with some loving and sensual herbs like damiana and kava kava. Check it out! โค I don’t really like giving measurements for tea, but I made about 3-4 cups worth and I’d say there was about this amount. Click the links below to be taken to the relevant product page at Mountain Rose Herbs:

Let Your Heart Bloom

In the Springtime, thousands of different kinds of flowers bloom. Your heart can also bloom. You can let your heart open up to the world. Love is possible–do not be afraid of it. Love is indispensable to life, and if in the past you have suffered because of love, you can learn how to love again.

Thich Nhat Hanh

My Top 5 Herbs from 2020

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Well y’all, we made it through one hell of a year! It’s been many moons since I’ve written on here, and to say the least…a lot has happened since then. While we’re all living in the reality of a Covid-19 filled world, I’m hopeful that next year will bring about some positive changes. To be totally honest, I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished much this year, but I think living and coping with the new reality has been enough for us all. This year we’ve all found refuge in certain comforts. For me that’s meant taking meditative walks around my neighborhood, reading sci-fi and fantasy mostly as a form of escapism, trail running (people-y-ness permitting), and drinking a nice warm cups of tea. Making tea blends and elixirs gave me some respite from the stresses of these days, and I’ll include some of top herbs of the year here. If you’re interested in learning about herbs, Herbal Academy is offering 25% classes through January 3, click here to learn more. To purchase any herbs mentioned below, please visit Mountain Rose Herbs.

1. Hawthorn

Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) is one of my favorite herbs, it’s a cardiotonic and also very delicious at that! I love to use hawthorn berries, leaves, and flowers combined together in teas. It also has a history of use in foods and drinks, like jams and wines, so you can explore with it as you would with other berries. Because hawthorn is specifically indicated for heart conditions and heart health–and stress/anxiety over time will weaken the heart–this was an especially helpful herb to have on hand in 2020. We could all use a little hawthorn medicine to replenish our hearts, to recover from the loss of our sense of normalcy, the loss of our loved ones, and the loss of our functioning society as we knew it before the pandemic. Interested in trying a product with hawthorn? I make delicious Elderberry Hawthorn Syrup.

2. Milky Oats

Milky Oats (Avena sativa), oh milky oats. Thank you for existing this year! Phew. Just thinking about milky oats’ medicine brings me a big sigh of relief. You’ll find milky oats as an ingredient in many nerve nourishing tinctures. Milky oats can help us when our nerves are fried, when we’re feeling on edge and tense, to ease on down. With all the fear, anxiety, and uncertainty we’ve experienced this year, milky oats would be a great herbal tonic to use over time to calm and replenish the nervous system. This year, I’ve used a number of tinctures that have included milky oats as well as in tea blends. I like to mix it into a lot of my daily drinks.

3. Elecampane

Elecampane (Inula helenium) is a pungent herb that is typically used for respiratory infections. As someone living in so-called California during Covid-19 and some of the worst fires this year, elecampane felt like a godsend! I received some elecampane infused honey from an herbal mentorship I’ve been participating in through Dr. Jacqui Wilkins, ND of Xรกlish Medicines. It’s delicious on its own, but I also love putting it into my morning chai. It makes breathing easier and feels as though it expands your lung capacity. This year, it’s been so hard to feel like I can take a deep breath and elecampane really helped me learn to breathe deeply again. Many of us this year have been walking around trying not to breathe, so I recommend communing and meditating with some elecampane medicine. I also think generally this herb would be an excellent one to have on hand in case you contract Covid-19 as it could help alleviate some of the symptoms commonly associated with the illness.

4. Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is a replenishing and calming adaptogen that helps us deal with long-term stress and exhaustion. Sounds like the perfect herb for this year, right? Additionally, many (including myself) find this herb to help with insomnia and restlessness. When you’re finding it hard to relax and are feeling on edge, a decoction or tincture of ashwagandha could support a restful nights’ sleep, help calm an agitated mind so you can be less emotionally reactive, and also increase your ability to concentrate. For these reasons, ashwagandha has been an indispensable herb for the year.

5. Damiana

Damiana (Turnera diffusa) enhances mood and sensation. Many use this herb as an aphrodisiac (learn more about herbal aphrodisiacs here), which I’d most certainly say that it is! But more than an aphrodisiac, damiana can pull us out of depression. Damiana helps us tune into our body, improving circulation, and our ability to sense the world around us. While it can help boost libido, I think it also helps us to remember what it’s like to find joy in simple sensations like the wind caressing our face, the textures of plants, the taste of a delicious drink, and maybe that touch we’ve been longing for in Covid-19 times. I tend to be in my head and thoughts a lot which can bring me anxiety in social situations and damiana in my experience really helps to ground us and bring us back into our body which in turn can improve our sociability.

That’s a quick rundown of my top 5 favorite herbs that I’ve used throughout 2020, I’d love to hear what has helped you through this year in the comments below. ๐Ÿ˜Š

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Elderberry and Hawthorn Syrup

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Here in California, it’s high summer (slowly turning towards autumn). The intensity of the dryness and heat can get to you and not only that, the subtle change in the seasons can often mean falling sick. Especially with the news of the Amazon burning, I thought it best to share my syrup recipe for a healthy heart and immune system. You’ll see that recipe at the bottom of this page. First, please donate to causes supporting the Amazon Rainforest such as Amazon Watch and the Rainforest Alliance if you have the means to do so ๐Ÿ™. Now it’s needed more than ever since at least 1,300 square miles of forest have been lost in the Amazon so far this year.

There are a few things you’ll need for good quality syrup. Good quality honey and herbs! ๐Ÿ™‚ I recommend getting local, organic honey (or other sugar substitute) if possible. My favorite local honey is Lover’s Lane Honey up in Northern California. Their honey tastes like liquid heaven! It’s caramel-y and just the right consistency. Back when I worked on a farm one summer, I had the pleasure of helping to harvest some honey. What an experience! I’d love to keep bees someday when I have land to do so.  โ€Ž ๐Ÿ

As for herbs, I typically get them from a local herb farm, if possible. Here in the Bay Area, I love Steadfast Herbs and the Sonoma Herb Exchange. Otherwise, Harmonic Arts, Starwest Botanicals, and Mountain Rose Herbs are also great sustainably sourced options! If there are places you can ethically wildcraft some berries, give thanks to Mother Earth! If you’re unsure of what it means to ethically wildcraft, I’d recommend reading La Abeja Herbs’ Wholehearted Wildcrafting article.


2 cups reverse osmosis filtered water: I always use filtered water for my medicines as tap water can have contaminants and heavy metals.

1/4 cup elderberries (dried, double if fresh)*: Elderberries are a very common berry used in syrups for immune health, especially around flu season. You’ll even see elderberry syrup sold as a common OTC remedy at alternative health stores and groceries. They’re alterative, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral, and highly nutritive.

1/4 cup hawthorn berries*: Hawthorn berries may be one of the most well known heart medicines. I love this plant, it has cute little red berries and it’s in the rose family, so it also looks so dainty and sweet with its little white flowers in the spring. It’s an adaptogen and also antioxidant-filled medicine. For anyone with heart ailments or irregularities, this may be a great medicine to use. โค๏ธ

2 tablespoons fresh ginger*: Ginger is typically used to treat upset stomach, but it’s a great support for your immune health as well during cold and flu season. It’s antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral, carminative, and helps to stimulate circulation.

1 cinnamon stick*: Some of the many beneficial properties of cinnamon include: alterative, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, anti-inflammatory. Cinnamon helps to increase circulation and digestion as well as calm menstrual cramps and also supports your recovery from colds.

1/8 cup rosehips*: Rosehips contain a very high amount of vitamin C. This is a very important winter food for many creatures. It’s a tonic and highly nutritive and antioxidant. It’s a wonderful addition to many sweet dishes to add additional vitamins and minerals.

2 tablespoons grapefruit zest (or other citrus zest)*: Similar to oranges, grapefruits are also loaded with vitamin C. They’re also a bitter tonic, nervine, and cardiovascular tonic. I love adding citrus to recipes with berries. Citrus contains pectin which is a prebiotic and will help to aid beneficial gut bacteria.

1 teaspoon vanilla extract*: Vanilla is a soothing and claming nervine. It’s also antioxidant rich and a carminative. I love the flavor of vanilla in sweet dishes, and its scent is definitely a mood-elevator for me personally.

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg*: Like many of the other ingredients, nutmeg is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, carminative, and expectorant. It’s also not well known that nutmeg is also a nervine similar to skullcap or lemon balm. I think the flavor of nutmeg adds a nice zing to this recipe.

2 tablespoons tulsi (aka holy basil)^: Tulsi is an adaptogen that has a gentle soothing effect while still being stimulating. It’s helpful in stressful times, both mentally and physically. It’s full of antioxidants and helps to normalize blood pressure.

2-1 ratio honey to tea: We’ve all heard “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” While this tea is tasty alone and doesn’t necessarily taste like medicine, the honey will add sweetness as well help to preserve the tea for a much longer period of time. Honey is antibacterial and also full of nutrients and antioxidants.

*Information from Kami McBride’s book The Herbal Kitchen (affiliate link).

^Information from Richo Cech’s book Making Plant Medicine (affiliate link).

Instructions for Herbal Syrup

  1. Decoction of hard herbs (roots, twigs, berries). Add ginger, cinnamon stick, rosehips, hawthorn berries, and elderberries to pot. Bring just below boiling and simmer for 20-30 minutes until liquid is reduced to about half. Cover pot.
  2. Once you’ve decocted the tougher herbs, turn off the heat and add in more delicate herbs (citrus zest, vanilla extract, nutmeg, and tulsi) and let them steep 10-15 minutes with lid on. 
  3. Strain liquid into measuring cup (take note of the amount), then pour into jar for storage. Add 2-1 ratio of honey to tea into the liquid in the jar and stir to dissolve. If your honey is a thicker consistency, you may want to combine in a double boiler at a gentle simmer to combine. Now, you have your syrup!
  4. Store for up to 1 year in the refrigerator.

This highly medicinal and nutritive syrup is delicious on its own or in sparkling water, tea, kombucha, salad dressing, pancakes, etc. Get creative! I’d love to hear what you add your syrup to in the comments below. If you’d prefer to purchase some, visit my Etsy shop! If you have any other favorite syrups, I’d love to hear about them in the comments. ๐Ÿ™‚

The Herbarium by the Herbal Academy