Trick or Treating is important work for young ghosts and ghouls, but cool fall nights can leave everyone chilled to the bone. So why not give the spooks and superheroes a warm welcome this Halloween with a cup of this sweet and spicy herbal brew?

The secret ingredient in this caffeine-free blend is rich black elderberries, which not only add their deep blood red color, but are high in Vitamin C to help scare away winter colds and viruses.  Hawthorn berries have been shown to support heart health and the spices – cinnamon, ginger, clove, star anise, and nutmeg warm and aid good digestion, a bonus with all that Halloween candy.

To create a good strong witchy brew, decoct the herbs by adding them to cold water and slowly heating to boiling point. Turn down the heat and cover for a slow simmer until the berries soften and the spices release their aroma and flavor.


  • 5 Tablespoons dried elderberries
  • 3 Tablespoons dried hawthorn berries
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick snapped in half (+ 1 more per serving  – optional)
  • ½” piece of chopped fresh root ginger (or ¼ t dried, ground)
  • 1 star anise (optional)
  • Zest of half an orange
  • 5 Cups water
  • Grating of nutmeg
  • Orange and Lemon slices to garnish
  • Honey to taste (optional)


  1. Place everything except the orange and lemon slices into your cauldron (or a large pot works well too).
  2. As soon as the brew starts to bubble, turn down the heat and cover with a tight fitting lid.
  3. Gently simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the berries soften and the spices release their aroma.
  4. Using a potato masher or fork, squash down the berries to extract all their juicy flavor.
  5. Strain and add honey if liked.

Makes 4 cups.

Serve in your spookiest cups or heat-proof glasses garnished with orange and lemon slices and pop in a cinnamon stick to stir.

I find the natural sweetness of the berries and cinnamon are enough for me, but feel free to add more or less honey according to taste. If you’re serving adults, add a slug of dark rum for a delicious warm autumn cocktail.

This recipe can also be adapted to make a delicious honey syrup cordial which keeps in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Simply leave off the lid at stage 2 and continue simmering until the liquid has reduced by about half. Squash and strain as above, then measure how much liquid you have and, while it’s still hot, add an equal volume of honey. Stir until all the honey has dissolved (you may need to briefly reheat) then bottle in a clean and sterilized glass bottle. Keep it in the refrigerator and serve by diluting 1 part syrup to 4 parts still or sparkling water. Or use hot water to for an instant warming, spicy tea.

Writer Paula Grainger is a highly regarded British Medical Herbalist. After graduating with first-class honors from The University Of Westminster, she created Lemon Balm, a popular Herbal Apothecary and Clinic in London’s Camden Town. She has worked with people of all ages using herbs to enhance their health and wellness and has a wealth of experience in communicating the power of plants through her workshops and writing. In 2011 she moved with her husband (the novelist Michael Marshall Smith) and their young son to Santa Cruz, California where, when she is not growing herbs or making herbal preparations, she continues to share her love and expertise of plant medicine with people on both sides of the Atlantic. Her first book INFUSE (co-written with Karen Sullivan) was published in Spring 2016.

For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, or to sell any product.