Monday, November 23, 2009

herbal teas

Growing your own or foraging for herbal teas is a gratifying experience. Enjoying the bounty of your own garden infused in a delicious cup of tea is cool, fun, and easy. In the summer, herbal teas are nice to drink both hot and cold. Herbal teas can be made with one plant or a blend of plants, depending on taste, or desired effect. Many teas are not only a nice warm treat but have medicinal qualities to them meaning they can help cure what ails you. The following is a brief list of some of the herbs we grow here and use in various teas. Once again let me remind you an herbal tea is not the same as drinking black or green tea, there is a distinct difference and again there is no caffeine. Always be sure you know how to identify any plants you use for tea purposes.

Calendula (Calendula officinalis) flowers - bright yellow and orange flowers are constant bloomers and an exciting and useful addition to any garden. Calendula (also known as pot marigold) repels some insects in the garden so is useful to plant around other plants. Excellent for skin health and digestive support, Calendula is has a slightly bitter and saffron-like taste.

Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) leaves and flowering aerial parts - known for its use as a headache remedy, feverfew has little daisy-like flowers, and is a pretty addition to an herb garden.

Holy Basil/ basil (Ocimum sanctum) leaves - not the garden type basil, Holy Basil is considered an adaptogen, which is a plant that helps balance the stress response. Holy Basil may lift the spirits while increasing clarity of thought. A nice tea to drink in a blend with other herbs or on its own. Sweet basil is also a very soothing tea with some wonderful health benefits for treating fever and eye conditions as well as when mixed with witch hazel it can be used as a compress to treat head aches.

(Equisetum arvenses) aerial parts - a fun plant to grow because it kind of looks like horse tails (without the hair), growing through the earth in gentle spikes. Horsetail is a nice herb to support connective tissue as it is a rich source of vegetal silica and is used to improve skin health, nail strength, and urinary tract tail is one of the best herbs one could ever use in a shampoo.

Hyssop (Anise Hyssop) aerial parts while in flower - a lovely purple spike of a flower, hyssop attracts butterflies, hummingbirds and honeybees for its pollen. Hyssop makes a nice tea useful for supporting digestion, soothing lower respiratory tract irritation, and helping with fever management.

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) aerial parts - beautiful and fragrant, Lavender is highly aromatic and a useful support for the nervous system, especially where there is melancholy. Lavender is also used for pain relief and skin health.

Lemon Balm
(Melissa officinalis) leaves - prolific growing plant in full sun - you may want to put Lemon Balm in a container or contain it somehow. The leaves are a vibrant green, and when pressed, smell divinely like lemon. Rich in essential oils, lemon balm makes a delightful tea, and is nice for uplifting one's mood. Lemon Balm also has anti-viral properties due to the aromatic oils and is used to strengthen the immune system.

Lemon Verbena
(Alysia triphylla) leaves - very high in volatile oils, Lemon Verbena smells deliciously of lemon and is a delightful annual to grow in the garden and will reward you with teas through the summer. Lemon Verbena is used as a calming digestive and sleep herb, and would be great sipping while swinging in the hammock.

(Leonurus cardiaca) aerial parts - with small whorls of lavender flowers from mid-to-late summer, Motherwort is a pleasant addition to the tea garden and tolerates both sun and shade. Motherwort can be harvested from spring through fall, and is used to support digestive and heart health. Motherwort is a calming herb.

Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) aerial parts - Mugwort or Cronewort has spikes of whitish green flowers with deep purple steps and green leaves with silvery undersides. Mugwort is used often for menopause symptoms and digestive support.

Passionflower (Passiflora incarnate) aerial parts - an incredibly beautiful, unusual vine, passionflower will reward you with her spectacular beauty and medicinal value. Passionflower is a useful nervine herb, with mild sedative effects, making it a useful tea to relax after a long day or before bedtime.

Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) flowering aerial parts - the little blue flowers of Skullcap resemble little skulls wearing hats, thus the name of the herb. Skullcap prefers a well-drained moist soil and is quite a useful nervine herb used to soothe frayed nerves, irritability and anxiety.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) aerial parts - with lacy textured leaves and little white flowers, yarrow is an important medicinal plant, useful for respiratory conditions, gut health & muscle aches.

Rose hips make an excellent citrusy, tangy tea when brewed. Rose hips form at the base of rose flowers on rose plants, growing especially large and tasty on Rosa rugosa varieties. Allow roses to die naturally on the stem by not deadheading. As the hips form, they start out green, turn yellow and eventually ripen to a bright red usually after the year's first frost which is when you should harvest them . Rose hips are an excellent source of Vitamin C, pound for pound better than oranges. Rose hip tea is said to be a cure for bladder infections, headaches and dizziness and also provide a good amount of Vitamins A, D and E along with antioxidants.

Mint provides an excellent stand-alone flavor as well as a good kick for other teas. All kinds of mint from the Mentha genus, such as Orange bergamot, spearmint and peppermint, are exceptional herbs for tea brewing. Most people find mint hard not to grow, so this is a great "grow-your-own-tea" choice. Because it can be very invasive, it is probably best to grow mints in a container.

Sage teas are one of my favorites. Hot or cold,an herb of many talents
Known as a diaphoretic herb, hot sage tea will increase the flow of bodily
fluids (e.g. perspiration and delayed periods) and decrease the flow when
taken cold. Colds, flu, and bronchial afflictions benefit from hot sage's
ability to expectorate and increase sweating and elimination of toxins.
Cold sage tea arrests diarrhea. Cold sage tea is used to help stop night sweats during the menopausal years and can be used to assist in the weaning process when it is time to stem the
flow of milk in a nursing mother. In both stages, women want those bodily
fluids to stop flowing! Sage is to be avoided during pregnancy as it can
stimulate uterine contractions. Do not use cold sage tea while nursing so as
not to affect the flow of milk.

another favorite of mine is Mullein It is known for its ability to soothe coughs and relieve chest congestion. It works well in bronchitis-usually presenting harsh painful cough and the inability to expectorate the mucus. When mullein tea is used, most people find it extremely soothing, though not particularly tasty. It works as an expectorant, helping to liquefy the mucus, making it easier to cough it out. It also reduces the inflammation in the airway---reducing the irritation and the pain. People using the mullein tea usually recover faster than those who don't.

There are many varieties of thyme, but all contain the same natural medicinal properties in their volatile oil which contains thymol, an antimicrobial that helps with infections of the stomach, lung and throat. When the volatile oil passes to the kidneys, it works to disinfect urine and bladder conditions. he expectorant properties of thyme have made the herb popular as a natural herbal medicine for the treatment of congested lungs, whooping cough and bronchitis. It has also been used to reduce muscle spasms, especially those that narrow the tiny airways in the lungs, to help ease breathing, and other muscle tension. Colic, indigestion and flatulence have been treated by thyme and the herbal remedy is used as an external aid in disinfecting and healing wounds. Thyme combats parasites, such as hookworms and tapeworms, within the digestive tract. It is also useful to treat yeast infections. Also is noted for the treatment of hangovers and menstrual pain.

Chamomile Used as a tea, chamomile is known to relax smooth muscle tissue. In this way, it is useful in such things as calming a nervous stomach and relieving menstrual cramps. The tea is often used to promote relaxation and alleviate stress.

The list can go on and on. One can add strawberry leaves, dandelions, violets, raspberry, clovers staghorn sumac, birch bark, pine needles,st johns wort, japanese knotweed,, cinnamon and sassafras as well as many others to make a customized blend of herbal teas not just for enjoyment but for medicinal remedies as well.

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