Herbal teas have probably been around since ancient men discovered fire and ancient women got to grips with the art of cooking whatever edibles happened to be in season or which could be foraged and dried for later use.
The first recorded use of herbal teas, however, was in China as long ago as approximately 2,700 BC, when a variety of such teas were regularly drunk for their medicinal properties as well as purely for the pleasure of their taste.
Drinking herbal brews — these are made from the flowers, seeds, leaves, roots, bark and fruits of certain plants — has long been the ‘in thing’ all over the world and, whilst black and green teas made from the actual tea plant, may have eclipsed herbal teas at times, a quick trip to almost any grocery store these days more than amply demonstrates that herbal teas are very much around and still very much in demand.
The basic ingredients of many such herbal teas can easily be grown at home — some requiring actual garden space and others being perfectly at home in suitable pots/containers — and drying the necessary plant parts is, in our climate, usually no problem at all.
In the case of leafy plants, like variously flavoured mints, basils, lemon balm and sage, it is a simple task of harvesting stems, in their prime, and either tying them in small bunches to hang up and dry in a cool, airy and dry place or of laying them in shallow baskets, or on sheets of newspaper, for drying, turning them over a couple of times a day until they are dry enough to crumble at a touch.
Rich in antioxidants, minerals and vitamins, herbal teas can help your mind relax and refresh as well as aiding with a number of other issues
Such drying should always be done in the shade and never in full sunlight, which burns them up, evaporating any essential oils and other goodness they naturally contain.
Flowers for use in herbal teas, such as rose petals, chamomile flowers, lime blossom, orange blossom and jasmine flowers, should also be spread out on shallow baskets or newspapers and dried in the shade.
Seeds, aniseed being a prime example and cumin seeds being another one, are left to ripen on the plant and then, after being harvested, are also spread out, in the same manner as flowers, until you are certain they are totally dry.
Once you develop a knack for it — and the herbal knowledge required backing it up — you can use a variety of ingredients to create your own herbal blends, to match your moods and specific requirements and have great fun in the process.
Making a herbal brew is easy: simply put the selected herbal ingredients in a warm teapot — you will learn the amount that suits your taste buds with practice but best start out with small amounts — pour in boiling water, leave to infuse for about five minutes, then pour into cups. Add a sweetener if necessary. And there you have it!
All dried herbal parts are best stored in airtight containers, preferably kept in a relatively cool place: properly dried herbal ingredients can be stored for at least one year, some for much longer, before losing their aromas and strength.
Here are some details about the most commonly used herbs suitable for use in herbal teas:
Chamomile — a great sleepy time tea, as it is a soothing, relaxing, stress reducing, stomach settling and all-round calming tea which, by the way, also improves skin, nail and hair health and is claimed to fight cancer.
Lime blossom — boosts the immune system, soothes and calms nerves and is generally beneficial.
Lavender — eases migraines/headaches, lowers temperatures, breaks fever and relieves stress and tension.
Basil — improves digestion, relieves chest infections, settles upset stomachs and reduces fevers.
Mint — aids digestion, settles stomachs, relieves acidity and acts as a general tonic.
Fennel — helps in digestion, eases headaches, increases appetite and is claimed to boost brain power.
Ginger — soothes inflammation, cures colds, clears chest congestion and lowers bad cholesterol.
Ginkgo Bilboa — cleanses the body of toxins, relieves stress, battles depression, improves heart health and aids mental health too.
Thyme — is good for the treatment of coughs, colds, influenza, bronchial complaints and sore throats.
Cinnamon bark — good for the digestive system, aids brain power and boosts the immune system.
Lemongrass — lowers blood pressure and reduces cholesterol.
Dandelion — is diuretic and helps in weight loss and bone strengthening.
Eucalyptus — energy boosting, fights chest and sinus infections, soothes inflammation related to arthritis and rheumatism.
Rosemary — relieves headaches, reduces mental stress and prevents colds.
Jasmine — aids weight loss, increases metabolism and lowers cholesterol.
Hibiscus — lowers blood pressure, reduces stress and assists weight loss.
Lemon balm — reduces insomnia and is calming for the nerves.
Oregano — helps against osteoporosis and helps skin rejuvenation.
Rose petals — is helpful for general detox.
**Different herbs have different properties and it is strongly recommended that these individual properties are fully checked out before use. If in doubt about the identification and properties of any herb, please do not use it without first seeking expert advice and guidance. It is also important to ensure that all herbs for teas have not, at any point, been chemically treated/sprayed with pesticides, etc. The writer is not responsible for a reader’s mistakes.*
Published in Dawn, EOS, August 16th, 2020