Vegan Saint Hildegard’s Nerve Cookies (Nervenkekse)

  reading time: 4 min

Christmas is slowly approaching, and the dreariness and cold of winter lies ahead of us. Today's cookies are meant to provide you with a boost of energy and strength for the coming months.

The nerve cookies ("Nervenkekse") are inspired by the ancient recipe of the 12th century German Benedictine abbess and holistic medical practitioner St. Hildegard of Bingen.
She is still a well-known name in Germany today, and particularly valued for her medicinal writings that focus on holistic methods centred on spiritual healing as well as the healing powers of herbs, tinctures, and crystals.

St. Hildegard (1098 – 1179) apparently said the following about these cookies:

»Diese Plätzchen vertreiben alle Bitternis deines Herzens und geben deiner Gesinnung Ruhe und öffnen dein Herz und deine fünf Sinne und machen deine Stimmung heiter und reinigen deine Sinnesorgane und mindern in dir alle Schadsäfte (noxi, mali, infirmi humores) und liefern deinem Blut eine gute Säftezusammensetzung, machen dich leistungsfähig, stark und froh.«
W. Strehlow „Die Ernährungstherapie der Hildegard von Bingen“, 2003, S. 412 ff

(Freely translated: "These biscuits drive away all bitterness of thy heart, and give tranquillity to thy mind, and open thy heart and thy five senses, and make thy mood cheerful, and purify thy sense organs, and diminish in thee all noxious fluids (noxi, mali, infirmi humores), and supply thy blood with a good composition of fluids, and make thee efficient, strong, and joyful.")

Portrait of Hildegard von Bingen, German Abbess and physician. (source)

The main characters starring in these cookies are nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and almonds.
has a warming, antispasmodic, pain-relieving and nerve-strengthening effect. It also stimulates menstruation, and is used for stomach cramps, flatulence, and diarrhoea. In folk medicine, it is considered an aphrodisiac and a hypnotic. In high doses, nutmeg has a hallucinogenic effect, and can even be deadly poisonous when overdosed (but don't worry – you would have to eat about 3 whole nutmegs for them to be deadly! For cooking and baking, you usually only use a pinch, so you don't usually need to worry about it.). It is recommended to avoid nutmeg during pregnancy.
Cinnamon is not only a classic winter spice, it is also a powerful healing spice with warming and calming properties. As such, it promotes circulation and improves digestion. It is also antibacterial and antifungal. Since the more common Cassia cinnamon (cinnamomum cassia) contains a blood-thinning component called coumarin which can cause kidney, liver and lung damage when used regularly and/or in large quantities, it is recommended to use Ceylon cinnamon (cinnamomum verum) instead which contains significantly less coumarin.
Cloves are known to be powerful pain-relievers, such as for toothache pain. In the Middle Ages, cloves were considered to strengthen the liver, stomach and brain. They also have a stimulating, mood-lifting and energising effect.
Almonds are rich in vitamin E, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, copper and protein. Magnesium and protein in particular are great for your nerves.

These cookies are meant to strengthen the nerves and increase the ability to concentrate. According to Saint Hildegard, the cookies are to be consumed as medicine, not as dessert. Let food be thy medicine, right?

For that reason, it is advised to consume no more than 5 cookies a day for healing effects.


Preparation time: 30 mins (+ 1 hour resting time)
Main ingredients: spelt flour, almonds, margarine, nutmeg
difficulty level: easy
makes: 50-60 cookies
suitable for: vegan, lactose-free, wheat-free, soy-free, yeast-free


250 g whole grain spelt flour
80 g ground almonds (see notes below)

100 g vegan butter or margarine, soft
3 tbsp unsweetened applesauce
50 g organic coconut sugar or raw cane sugar
50 g deseeded dates, soft and chopped (see notes below)
5 g ground nutmeg
5 g ground cinnamon (Ceylon cinnamon is best, see intro text)
2,5 g ground cloves
a pinch of salt

(optional) 1-2 tsp adaptogen powder (e. g. ashwagandha, maca,
reishi, chaga, cordyceps ...)
(optional) 1 tsp organic orange zest


Start by combining the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl: whole grain spelt flour, ground almonds, raw cane sugar or coconut sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Mix well to combine.

To a separate bowl add the wet ingredients: butter or margarine, applesauce, chopped dates. Beat until fluffy, using an electric mixer.

Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, beating until everything is thoroughly combined. If you like, you can a
dd in some adaptogen powder and/or orange zest.

Then switch to your hands, and knead everything into a dense dough. Place in the fridge to chill for about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 180 °C / 350 °F.

Take out the dough. Roll out on a floured surface, about 0.5 cm thick. Cut out the cookies in the desired shape. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking tray.

Bake in the preheated oven at 180 °C / 350 °F for about 15 minutes. The cookies will be quite soft at this point, but will firm up once cooled down.

Once cooled completely, store in an airtight container.

These nerve cookies should be considered a remedy rather than a treat. Consume no more than 5 cookies per day as a non-pregnant adult.


- You can either buy ground almonds, or grind whole almonds in a stand mixer.
- To soften the dates, I soak them in hot water for 10 minutes.
- These cookies make a wonderful Christmas / holiday / birthday gift for someone who needs some support for their nerves and overall mood. However, make sure to not give these nerve cookies as a gift without the consumption instructions!

Looking for more healthy snacks? Check out some of my favourites:

Brain Boosting Snack Balls (vegan)