Herbal infusions have been drunk throughout the centuries – both for their medicinal and culinary properties – after all, our common ol’ cuppa (the black tea which came over from the Far East) is just a herb infused in water. Herbal infusions can consist of just one herb, or can be blended with a number of different herbs to produce a range of tantalizing tastes.
“They made a good deal of camomile tea, which they drunk freely to ward off colds, to soothe nerves, and as a general tonic. A large jug of this was always prepared and stood ready for heating up after confinements. The horehound was used with honey in a preparation to be taken for sore throats and colds on the chest. Peppermint tea was made rather as a luxury than a medicine, it was brought out on special occasions and drunk from wine-glasses…” ~ Flora Thompson – Lark Rise to Candleford
So you’ve tried the herb tea-bags from the supermarket and weren’t that impressed try using loose dried herbs, preferably organic, or fresh herbs (you’ll need to double the quantity of herb used if using fresh) and discover a myriad of new herbal remedies and refreshing drinks.
How to Make a Herbal Tea:
To make your own delicious cup of herbal tea simply place a teaspoon of dried herb [or herbs if you’re using a blend of herbs] into a tea-pot, caffetiere, or suitable loose-tea holder and pour on freshly boiled water. Infuse covered for 5 mins or so [roots and tough herbs may need to infuse for longer], strain and serve. If you’re making herbal tea for more than one person, add more dried herb just as you would with loose tea or tea-bags. For medicinal brews you may need to double the amount of herb and leave to infuse for longer – generally at least 5 – 10 minutes.
There are number of ways you can sweeten your herbal tea – why not try honey or maple syrup instead of sugar; or a shot of apple juice; dried orange or lemon peel; a bruised clove (particularly effective when a cold or sore throat threatens – cloves are wonderfully antiseptic) or add a cinnamon or licorice stick.
Not All Herbs Lend Themselves to Teas
Feverfew is so strong it is not suitable for infusions – whilst others, although suitable, should only be consumed in small quantities, such as Yarrow. Others, like Chamomile, can be safely consumed in quantities of 5 or 6 cups a day. Obviously poisonous herbs should be avoided completely, and your health condition and any medications you are on should be taken into account – Rosemary and Sage, for example, should not be taken by epileptics, persons suffering from high blood-pressure, or during pregnancy or breast-feeding; Valerian root should not be combined with sleep-inducing medicines; and Hops should be avoided by anyone suffering from depression. Always check up on any herb you’re thinking of using, if in doubt ask your doctor or health professional – and remember that even the safest herbs should, like most things in life, be taken in moderation.
Ready for That Cuppa Yet? Here’s a Small Selection of Herbal Teas to Tempt You
Balm or Lemon Balm Tea
A delicious, lemon scented tea, refreshing and calming, and a tonic for mind and body. Soothing for stomach upsets and spasms, especially those connected with emotional worries or stress. A cup of Balm tea can calm palpitations and is a soothing remedy for ‘butterflies’ and nerves. It is also a gentle herb suitable for children, where it can be used to calm anxious or excitable children and soothe headaches. Balm is also a useful remedy for chicken pox and shingles – not only as a tea but also as a wash to soothe irritated or inflamed skin.
A refreshing tea which counters acidity and helps cleanse the system. Dried blackcurrant leaves need to be soaked for an hour or so in cold water before making an infusion, they will also need to infuse for slightly longer than some herbs – at least 10 minutes, and you may prefer to use 2 teaspoons for one cup.
Calendula / Marigold Tea
The bright orange petals of the Marigold flower can be drunk as a tea to help remedy nettle rash and skin problems. It is also useful for remedying digestive infections and fungal problems such as thrush.
As long as your cats don’t get to this one before you. Catnip tea was apparently a favourite country tea long before the black tea (which is now the nation’s common cuppa) arrived from the Far East. A nerve-tonic, useful for keeping colds at bay, as well as ensuring a restful sleep. It is useful tea for soothing nervous headaches and is a good digestive aide, nerve relaxant, cold preventative, and hiccup remedy. Catnip is a gentle herb and makes a suitable drink for children and will help soothe feverish chills.
Perhaps one of the most well known of the herbal teas – Chamomile is a wonderful boon to hay fever and asthma sufferers, being markedly anti-allergenic – leave to infuse covered and inhale the steam before drinking. It is also useful for calming stomach spasms, relieving morning sickness, easing indigestion, bloating and hiccups. A cup of Chamomile tea last thing at night can ensure a good night’s sleep. Another gentle herb Chamomile is useful for relaxing over-tired children and offers a gentle remedy for teething.
The leaves and petals of the humble Dandelion make a diuretic tea for treating fluid retention and urinary infections. Unlike most diuretics, which leach potassium from the body, Dandelion is rich in potassium. It is also a valuable liver tonic.
A delicious, cooling tea, and one of my first choices for warding off colds and ‘flu. Elderflower is also a popular folk remedy for hay fever sufferers and should be drunk a couple of months before and throughout the hay fever season – preferably sweetened with local honey. Particularly tasty blended with Raspberry Leaf.
Fennel Seed Tea
A spicy tea useful for relieving windy digestive systems. Fennel Seed tea was reputedly drunk (and the seeds eaten) by the Anglo-Saxons to dampen the appetite and ward off hunger-pangs, it is also a folk remedy for relieving the aches and pains of flu.Crush 1 teaspoon of seeds and infuse covered for 10 mins.
Good for headaches, poor circulation, and lapses of memory. Hawthorn was widely used in the past to bulk out more expensive teas – the following recipe for a popular country tea mix is taken from Barbara Griggs’ The GreenWitch : “2 parts of dried Hawthorn leaves to 1 part each of Sage and Balm; or equal parts of Hawthorn, Sage, Balm and Blackcurrant leaves”.
A sleepy brew most useful for insomnia relief. Hops are not recommended to be taken internally by anyone feeling low or suffering from depression.
If you’ve over indulged on the alcohol the night before, an infusion of Lavender flowers makes an ideal cuppa for calming the throbbing pain of a hangover. It also soothes the digestive system and assists the liver.
A mild-flavored, delicate tea widely drunk all over Europe and valuable as an anti-spasmodic and sedative to the nerves and digestive system. A soothing remedy for headaches, particularly those caused by nervous tension. Drink in the evening to relax, or after a meal as a digestive.
Nettles really are one of Nature’s little gems, they have so much to offer us and are full of vitamins and minerals. Nettle tea is a superb detoxifying, cleansing tonic for the whole body, and is particularly beneficial to the liver and kidneys, and can help sooth eczema and irritated or inflamed rashes and skin conditions. Nettles are anti-allergenic – try blending them with chamomile for a hay-fever remedy – and the anti-inflammatory and cleansing properties make it an ideal regular cuppa for sufferers of arthritis. Nettle tea is also a valuable remedy for anemia caused by heavy menstrual bleeding.
Some people find Nettle tea rather bland in flavor, but nothing a dash of honey or lemon can’t solve, or try blending it with a more aromatic herb such as Lemon Balm.
A refreshing cuppa which will soothe stomach cramps, spasms and bloating, calm nausea and headaches, and makes an excellent after dinner digestive. Maurice Messegue, a French herbalist, proclaims it is as “a balm for the entire digestive tract.” Peppermint tea works well as an iced drink, decorate with a sprig of fresh mint – or add a fresh Peppermint leaf to ice-cubes before freezing.
Peppermint tea should not be drunk too often – and should not to be given to children under the age of 5.
Raspberry Leaf Tea
Another personal favourite, raspberry leaf is a refreshing and soothing tea, which blends well with elderflower. Raspberry Leaf is commonly recommended during the last 8 – 10 weeks of pregnancy to strengthen the uterus muscles and encourage easy labor. For this reason it should not be drunk before the last 8 – 10 weeks of pregnancy (please seek advice from your midwife or healthcare practitioner). Raspberry Leaf can also be drunk to relieve diarrhea.
Red Clover Tea
A mild and sweet-like-honey flavor tea which is high in calcium and has a demulcent quality making it useful for acid indigestion relief. Reputedly soothing for asthma and respiratory problems. Red Clover has an age-old reputation as a cancer preventing herb. (The flowers contain the anti-cancer compound genistein). Blends well with Raspberry Leaf.
A light and clean tasting cuppa for getting you going in the morning. Rosemary is a great herb to refresh a lagging mind and keep your memory sharp, it also makes a pleasant migraine remedy.
Rosemary tea should not be drunk too often and is not suitable for epileptics. Do not use during pregnancy or if breast-feeding.
Quite an acquired taste! Good for warding off colds and ‘flu, but if you can’t bring yourself to drink it a Sage infusion makes an excellent gargle for sore throats. Also useful for menopausal women suffering from night sweats and hot flushes.
Sage tea should not be drunk too often and not more than 3 cups a day. Sage is not suitable for epileptics and should not be used during pregnancy or if breast-feeding – Sage tea is a traditional folk remedy for labor and is also used to encourage the milk flow to dry-up after breast-feeding.
Makes a good tonic for exhaustion, and drunk as a cold tea can help relieve headaches. Thyme tea is also useful at relieving urinary infections and water retention and is a popular folk remedy for flu with muscle aches and pains. Good for chest problems and for treating asthma – for the wheeziness, and shortness of breath symptoms, Andrew Chevallier (Encylopedia of Medicinal Plants) suggests an infusion of 15g thyme and 15g nettles to 750ml of water – which should be sipped throughout the day. Thyme tea can also provide relief for hay fever sufferers and is considered to helpful in maintaining vitality, particularly in old / third age.
Valerian Tea – (another favourite with the felines)
A natural sedative, and an excellent remedy for insomnia…but very pungent! I would suggest blending this herb with other relaxing [and pleasantly aromatic] herbs such as passion flower, limeflower, chamomile, or lemon balm, and a good teaspoon or two of honey! Valerian tea is also good for relieving nervous irritability, tension headaches, and menopausal problems, or to relieve bronchial spasms and smoker’s cough.
Valerian should not be taken if already using sleep-inducing medication.
You may like to blend two or more herbs together – here are a few tried and tested favorites at Gaia’s Garden:
Lemon Balm & Chamomile
A refreshing and calming blend, and a tonic for mind and body. Soothing for stomach upsets and spasms, especially those connected with emotional worries and indigestion.
Red Clover & Raspberry Leaf*
A soothing, pleasant tasting blend. (*Raspberry Leaf is commonly recommended during the last 8 – 10 weeks of pregnancy to strengthen the uterus muscles and encourage easy labor. For this reason it should not be drunk before the last 10 weeks of pregnancy.)
A refreshing and soothing blend of Peppermint and Catnip (rich in antioxidants). A soothing after-dinner cuppa which may help ease headaches (particularly those associated with digestive problems). Not for children under 5.
Nettle & Lemon Balm
Just the thing to throw of Winter’s shadow and bounce into Spring. A detoxifying, cleansing, tonic brew! The Lemon Balm is soothing on the stomach and uplifting for your emotions.
The herbal remedies mentioned in this article are not intended to replace professional advice. Any medication you are on should also be taken into consideration – always check with your healthcare professional if you are on prescription drugs before taking herbal remedies. Seek professional medical advice before taking herbal remedies if you are pregnant, epileptic, have a serious health issue, or are taking prescription medication.
Gillie Whitewolf has an affinity with herbs and a passion for nature, along with an insatiable appetite for creating – from herbal remedies and wildcrafts to visual and aural arts. Gillie also runs Gaia’s Garden, a place to explore the world of herbs and the natural magic of mother earth. http://www.gaias-garden.co.uk