Nothing warms the body and soul like holding a steaming mug, inhaling its subtle scents as you slowly sip. Why be limited to caffeinated beverages when the herb world can bring flavor, nutrients and health benefits?
Herb tea offers an opportunity during busy days for time out, reflection and even affirmation. One might think, “I’m nourishing my immune (or digestive, nervous, etc.) system, ” while drinking. The brain, being in close proximity to the nose and tongue responds to the message of the aromas.
Teas are available in tea bags and provide convenience for an on-the-go lifestyle. Herbs available in loose bulk form (from health food and herbal stores) make a wider world of herbs available, and minimize packaging. Bulk herbs are a good value and offer the opportunity to select exactly what you desire. You may even have a few wild things in your backyard (providing pesticides haven’t been used in at least a couple of years) that can be used as tea!
Store dried herbs in a glass jar or a non-plastic airtight container and label. Storing herbs near light and heat (such as in windowsills and above the stove) can deteriorate the herb quality quickly. Keep teas in a cupboard where they can be protected to better conserve their flavors and therapeutic properties. Nature will provide more herbs the next year, purchase no more than you are likely to use within the year.
When making tea, use fresh cold water. Avoid aluminum cookware, which is a soft metal and can come out in the tea. Best choices are glass, cast iron, stainless steel or unchipped enamel.
For those that can’t be bothered with tea strainers, you may find tea balls or infusers in shops where herbs are sold. These are perforated utensils that can be filled with herbs, and placed in a teapot or pot of water for about ten minutes. This work best for leaves and flowers. Tea can be enhanced with a touch of honey or a squeeze of fresh lemon.
Expand your herbal repertoire. Herbs can have potent effects and just because something is natural, it is still wise to learn about their properties. A few user-friendly herbs might include:
Anise seed (Pimpinella anisum) is a member of the Apiaceae (Parsley) Family. It has a lovely licorice- like flavor for those who enjoy sweets and don’t want the calories. Anise seed aids digestion and freshens the breath.
Chamomile flowers (Matricaria recutita) are members of the Asteraceae (Daisy) Family and have been used to calm anxiety way before Peter Rabbit’s mother gave him some chamomile after his stressful day at Mr. McGregor’s garden. The flavor is pleasantly bitter with an aroma reminiscent of apples. Chamomile calms the nerves and stomach.
Ginger root (Zingiber officinale) is a member of the Zingiberaceae (Ginger) Family. This relative of cardamom and turmeric is zippy and warming. It improves poor circulation that results in cold hands and feet. It is one of the best herbs for improving digestion and nausea (including motion sickness). Consider this an ally after a large holiday meal.
Lemon balm leaf (Melissa officinalis), a member of the Lamiaceae (Mint) Family has a lemony flavor loved by most everyone. Lemon Balm has long been said to lift the spirits yet calm overactive children and improve focus.
Raspberry leaf (Rubus species), a member of the Rosaceae (Rose) Family, and relative of apples, strawberries and peaches has a flavor similar to black tea, though without the caffeine. It is rich in minerals like calcium, magnesium and iron.
Rose hips (Rosa species) another Rose Family member have a tart taste and are natural sources of vitamin C and flavonoids that help strengthen the body’s capillaries.
Peppermint (Mentha piperita) is one of the many delectable members of the Lamiaceae (Mint) Family and fresh tasting. It has been used for thousands of years as a gentle stimulant, and to calm upset stomachs.
Invite some of your favorite friends over for a tea party and have a toast to a great fall.
You don’t have to be a tease to enjoy a variety of teas!
What are some of your favorite herbal teas?
For more ideas, check out the many recipes in my book, Healing Herbal Teas.