Being from the South, and loving every minute of it…it’s kinda in my DNA to love tea. Weirdly enough I don’t actually drink a lot of “sweet tea” even though I do love an icy cold glass every now and then. My favorite teas are hot herbal teas. I like them just for a yummy cup of goodness but I also prefer my herbal medicine delivered in this way. I’ll almost always choose tea as my method of using herbs over tinctures or capsules. There’s just something about the act of brewing a cup of tea that starts the whole healing process for me.
Most herbs are an acquired taste I have come to realize. Recently, I had a sweet young lady come into the studio for a very indulgent and pampering treatment her friend had gifted her. It was the end of the day and she had come from work so I asked her if she’d like to select an herbal tea to enjoy while she soaked her feet in a warm herbal bath before we began. She picked a lovely new chamomile blend I had with a little honey. I thought it smelled magnificent as it steeped and it made my whole treatment room smell amazing as well. After her treatment I was cleaning up and noticed her full cup of tea, now cold, sitting untouched. Hmmmmm how could that be? Reminds me of another time I suggested “Golden Milk” to my sister in law. I think that is one of the most delicious evening herbals there could be. She though it was disgusting…kinda like when I gave her my recipe for kale chips. I still laugh when I think about that!
My point is drink what you like. If you’re a Lipton tea kinda person then go for it. Orange spice, mixed berry, green tea, hibiscus…whatever your taste buds like, get some to keep on hand. The act of brewing and enjoying teas is a slow living lost art that we can all benefit from in our fast paced hectic lives. Slow down, have a cup of tea…you’ll feel better.
If you’re not a fan of herbal tea, particularly medicinal herbs, then mixing it with these store bought teas you like is a really great way to get them in ya. Don’t let the herb purists (also known as snobs) get in your head. If the herbal preparation you need if far too yucky to you to get down then you aren’t going to use it and you aren’t going to benefit from it. So….how are we gonna get it inside you? Make it taste good, right!
You’ve probably heard me say before that herbal wellness formulas are like medicine not like dessert. You don’t turn your nose up when Nyquil tastes bad because you expect it to be gross. Likewise, you can’t expect your goldenrod hayfever blend to taste like chocolate cake (hmmmm maybe I could figure that out though). Nonetheless you still have to be able to get it down. I’ve got a few suggestions to help with some really… ahem… potent, herbs and also a few of my own recipes that are both good and good for you. I promise!
How to Brew Medicinal Herbal Tea
Before I begin, I want to talk about the proper way to brew herbal tea. If you are just brewing tea for taste and pleasure then do it however you like. If you are taking tea as an herbal wellness formula then you don’t want to waste one drop. Here’s the basic method: boil your water first. Have all herbs ready in a tea bag, diffuser spoon or herbal mesh tea ball. Pour the hot water over the herbs, swirling to get everything going and cover it. I normally use the saucer to make a lid. This is really important so none of the volatile oils and essences evaporate out. This is called and infusion or a tisane. You need to steep for at least five minutes but ten is preferred. Squeeze the tea bag or herbs if possible and discard. You may need to reheat your tea if you like it pretty hot. Now you’ve got a potent herbal formula.
So how do I make these herbs taste good?
These are a few really beneficial and helpful herbs that really get the job done…but on flavor alone, not so much. Keep reading to find out how you can harness their herbal goodness but still enjoy the taste.
Nettles are my all time favorite do it all, powerhouse herb. What do they taste like? To me they taste green, but to most people they say it tastes like grass. Nettles are one of the most nutritious foods we can get. It’s full of vitamins, minerals and even plant proteins. Nettles help rebuild your blood levels, increase iron and other essential nutrients. They are excellent for anemia, healthy bones, low blood pressure and general fatigue and weakness. This is a go to for me after a nasty cold or when I’ve really over done it at work. Nettles help rid the body of uric acid therefore relieving gout and rheumatism. They are anti-inflammatory, anti-allergenic, anti-histamine, a kidney tonic, a diuretic…sounds pretty good, huh? So about the taste then, if you happen to be put off by the grassy taste, here’s what I like to do: add your nettles with an equal part peppermint. If you are using tea bags then use one bag of each per cup. One of my favorite brands is Traditional Medicinals. You can also try my trick which is adding a little honey and floating a slice of lemon on top. Every time you tip your cup up to sip, that fresh citrus smell just lifts you right up. Try adding a cup of nettle tea into your day. I guarantee you’ll notice a difference in your vitality.
Echinacea is a well known powerhouse for fighting illness but it does have a distinct taste and a kinda prickly on the tongue feel when it’s really fresh and potent. That’s actually a good thing because it lets you know that there are plenty of natural plant chemicals called alkylamides and that’s where the good stuff is. Normally echinacea is used to give a boost to the immune stsyem and acts as an immune stimulant. We use it to help fight colds and flu at the onset. Caution should be used if you have an auto-immune disease as your immune system is already in high gear and needs no stimulation (immune modulators for you instead, stay tuned). In addition to these common uses, echinacea is also used to fight viruses, stimulate white blood cell formation, clearing lymph nodes and increases healthy cell life. To make this slightly bitter herb more tasty try this combo: add one slice of raw ginger to your cup, a big slice of orange zest (or lemon), a bit of honey and a small sprig of fresh thyme. Let this steep for a good 5 minutes at least. Pour through a strainer, rewarm if needed and sip slowly. The thyme adds its own germ fighting properties and the ginger is warming, soothing to the respiratory and digestive system and acts as a natural anti-inflammatory.
Reishi mushrooms are quite possibly one of the most healing fungi I’ve used in my practice. I could write a whole post on why we need these mushrooms in our life. The benefits are nearly endless. Here’s just a snipet. Reishi is full of antioxidant properties, immune modulating and adaptogenic actions, helps to relax muscles, reduce cholesterol, aid heart function, ease chronic pain, reduce the effects of stress, improve sleep and is an overall health tonic. It is safe for most folks but as always consult your healthcare provider if you have concerns or questions. Reishi isn’t really good to eat although it’s considered an edible. It’s kinda like leather so I prefer to drop slices in hot broth and simmer in soups, then pull out before serving. You still get the benefit but you don’t need to eat it. There are water soluable and alcohol soluable compounds so when tincturing, I use a double extraction process to get out all the goodies. Today we’re talking about tea so here’s how I like to enjoy reishi tea. You can slow decoct your tea by simmering dried slices in hot water, covered for about an hour, adding water as necessary so everything is submerged. Strain and you’re all set. Many suppliers now offer reishi powder that blends easily into drinks like coffee or tea. It’s not too bad but there’s definitely an earthy taste there that still says it’s fungi. I think it blends well with the flavors of chai so I normally add a chai tea bag to my reishi decoction while steeping. If you are a chai lover then I really recommend going to Mountain Rose Herbs and purchasing one of their delicious chai blends. After I strain, I like to add a little honey and a splash of coconut milk. It becomes a delicious herbal drink like this. You can also freeze reishi tea in muffin tins and thaw as needed, add to other herbal teas for a healing boost and drop in soups and stews for a nutritional kick. I encourage you to give reishi a try. The benefits are too many to count and it’s easy to yummy up.
Dandelion root is another of my favorites. So powerful for digestive and urinary functional support but also really nice for liver and pancreas support to assist the body in natural detoxification. Dandelion works as a digestive bitter, a blood purifier, a diuretic, a liver protective and tonic to the digestive system. You can also put this little weed in your arsenal if you are dealing with hotflashes and menopausal symptoms this is an often overlooked helper. It’s actions on the liver are what helps us with the removal of excess hormone. Dandelion can also be used as a gentle laxative when you need to get things moving again. Fresh harvested dandelion root can be dried and lightly roasted for a nice nutty flavor. You can also buy it toasted/roasted or plain. It’s a taste thing and doesn’t affect the nutritional or healing benefits. I like dandelion hot or cold so I’ll share my recipe for both. Hot, it is delicious prepared like coffee and I’ve even seen it as a latte with thick frothy foam on top. YUM! I brew this version toasted for about five minutes then add a touch of cream and a little maple syrup or sweetener of choice. Now if you’re having a hotflash the last thing you want is a cup of hot tea, so I brew dandelion sun tea (or on the stove if it’s not nice out). Freshly harvested dandelion roots and leaves (blooms too if you have them) are great for this use. Just wash the roots well first. You can also purchase dandelion tea bags and I prefer untoasted for this use. Put your herb or tea bags in fresh water… about one cup fresh herb to two quarts water. Cover jar and sit out in the sun for several hours before straining. On the stove, pour hot, boiling water over the fresh herb or about three to four tea bags to two quarts water. Steep covered off the heat for about ten minutes. Strain. Now, the next part is purely taste but I like to skip the sweetener and add a naturally sweetened cranberry juice and some lemon slices. If you have fresh mint, drop in a few sprigs to enhance the cooling and refreshing properties. You can sweeten if you like as this is a tart one. Chill and sip throughout the day for all the benefits dandelion gives.
A few of my favorite blends to try at home
Here are a few of my personal favorite blends. I encourage you to play around with herbal tea blends. Use caution with store bought ones though because all to often they get their beautiful color and enticing smell from artificial additives. What’s the point of a natural herbal tea blend if you put all that fake stuff in it? Do some research, let your body and your tastebuds be your guide. Wellness is just a cup away.
I’m kinda “high strung” as my husband calls it and this gentle and most delicious blend has become a staple in my herbal cabinet. I brew it on days that I’m feeling frazzled, stressed and edgy. It’s also lovely at bedtime to unwind from a hectic day.
Simply add equal parts passionflower leaf and chamomile buds and steep for about five minutes. Sweeten with a bit of honey and sip the days stresses away. Using ready made tea? Just use one bag of each herb in your 8oz cup.
Turmeric, Ginger, Black Pepper (Golden Milk)
This is a comforting, warming nutritious blend that helps you relax and improves sleep. Add a thick slice of fresh ginger, a chunk of turmeric root chopped roughly and two black peppercorns to your teapot. If you have cardamom pods drop one in. This addition sends me to the moon. I looove cardamom. Fill with 8-10 ounces of coconut or almond milk and simmer for ten minutes but do not boil. Strain and sweeten to taste. No fresh ingredients on hand, no problem. Gaia herbs makes a powdered, premixed blend that you just spoon into your steaming milk. You’ll want to give this one a try. The health benefits are a long list and it’s just a comforting way to ease into the evening.
Kicked up Lady Gray
Lady Gray tea is one of my all time favorite teas. It’s the scent that gets me. The addition of bergamot oil elevates this tea to a whole different place. Elegant and uplifting. I take one regular black tea bag (Lipton or any brand), a big pinch of fresh or dried lavender buds, a heaping tablespoon of fresh or dried bee balm (oswego) and add to a just boiled pot of water. About 10-12 ounces. Steep off the heat for about five minutes. Now, here’s the magic…place one…just one drop of bergamot essential oil in your heat safe jar or other container (no plastic) and pour the very warm tea blend over it. The scent is instant happiness. Add a little honey and sip til your heart is content. I can usually get two cups of tea out of this so I strain it off into a mason jar and refrigerate what I don’t use. You can reheat on the stove or in the microwave. This is lovely in the morning or any time of day for a pick me up. Because of the caffeine it is best to consume no more that 6-7 hours before bed…or you can use a naturally decaffeinated tea. You can also purchase the store bought version of Lady Gray tea and add in the lavender and bee balm. Skip the bergamot oil as it is already in there.
No need for a fancy hat and crumpets…go get your tea time on! Pinkies up!