Herbal Teas For Your Health
Since the beginning of human history people have had a significant reliance on plants for both sustenance (food) and wellness (medicine). One method of using the nutritional and medicinal elements of plants is by brewing them into tea. To make the perfect cup of herbal tea all that is required is a pot or kettle to boil water in, a teapot or glass canning jar for steeping and a strainer. It is important to use glass, porcelain, or earthenware pottery for brewing because some metals can react with the herbs. Always warm the steeping container with hot water beforehand to prevent the tea from cooling off too quickly and to prevent the container from breaking. For straining the tea you can use one of the many strainers or tea balls available but the simplest is a fine-mesh stainless steel gravy strainer. If you do use a tea ball, use a big one.
Herbal teas can be brewed from many parts of the plants: leaves, roots, bark, seeds or flowers. They can be brewed alone or in combination. The different parts of the plants require different brewing techniques. Teas made from leaves or flowers are infused to protect the delicate oils from evaporating. To make an infusion, place the herbs in the warmed teapot or canning jar, gently pour the boiling water over the herbs, cover to prevent evaporation, steep for 10-15 minutes, and strain. Use one teaspoon of dried or 3 teaspoons of fresh, bruised herbs per cup of water.
Teas made from the roots, bark or seeds are decocted to release their properties. A decoction requires the roots or bark to be cut into small pieces. The seeds are bruised with a mortar and pestle or the back of a spoon. Place one half to one ounce of the prepared herb into a pot with 2 cups of cold water. Bring it to a gentle boil, reduce the heat, simmer for 10-20 minutes, and strain. To make a tea from both roots/bark/seeds and leaves/flowers make the decoction first then pour the strained decoction over the leaves/flowers and infuse.
Most herbal teas are delicate enough that a sweetener is not necessary but sugar or preferably local honey can be added. If iced tea is desired follow the same procedures as above but brew double-strength. After straining, chill for 30 minutes and pour over a glass full of ice.
Here is a list of the more popular herbs used in teas and their uses:
Alfalfa (Medicago sativa L) – High in A, K, and D vitamins, calcium, iron, phosphorus and potassium. Increases energy.
Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) – Helps with urinary tract infections, kidney stones, night-blindness, cataracts and varicose veins.
Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) – Aids nervous stomachs and indigestion.
Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea) – Good blood cleanser. Helps with tonsillitis and inflamed gums.
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) – Helps with indigestion and heartburn.
Feverfew (Chrysanthemum parthenium) – Good for migraines, arthritic pain, nausea, and depression.
Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) – Improves blood circulation in the brain.
Hibiscus Flowers (H. sabdariffa roselle) – High in vitamin C. Good cranberry-like flavor.
Horsetail (Equisetum hyemale) – Helps assimilate calcium. Good for circulation, bladder, liver, and glands. Nourishes nails, skin, hair, bones and connective tissues. Contains vitamin E, pantothenic acid, copper, manganese, sodium, cobalt, iron and iodine.
Jasmine (Jasminum officinale L) – Calming. Active against ringworm and tapeworm. Good flavoring.
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) – Relief from allergies, colds, flu and headaches.
Lemon Grass (Cymbopogon citrates) – Good for digestive problems, diarrhea, stomach aches/cramps and flatulence.
Mint (Mentha) – Antibacterial. Antiparasitic. Heals ulcers and improves concentration.
Raspberry Leaves (Rosaceae rubus) – Improves digestion. Helps clear intestinal waste. Prevents hemorrhages and diarrhea. Supplies iron, builds blood and increases energy.
Red Clover (Trifolium pretense trefoil) – Helps with respiratory and skin disorders. Acts as an expectorant for coughs. Relaxant for asthma.
St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) – Aids with depression. Good during menopause.