by Tara Bone, contributing writer
For centuries humans have used plants to treat illness and soothe the body. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine used herbs to treat patients, and perhaps your grandmother used herbal remedies. Of course we know Peter Rabbit’s mother gave him a dose of Chamomile tea and sent him to bed, but what do we know about herbal tea in our fast-paced, modern lives?
Tea lingo can be confusing, so keep reading before you decide herbal tea isn’t for you. You may be surprised at what health benefits could be growing in your own backyard.
According to The Tea Association of the USA, there are different types of teas. Black, Green, White and Oolong teas are all made from a plant called Camellia sinensis. The differences among these teas occur from the way they are processed. There is caffeine present in all of these teas because they come from the camellia sinensis plant.
Black Tea: Fully fermented tea. Tea leaves are withered and experience a long fermentation period that produces a strong flavor. Can be addictive.
Green and White Tea: Tea leaves are only steamed and then dried, without a lengthy fermentation period.
Oolong: Leaves are picked and then intentionally bruised by shaking. The leaves are fermented for a short time. Often this is the type of tea served in Chinese restaurants.
Herbal Teas: Sometimes referred to as a Tisane or an herbal infusion. Herbal teas DO NOT contain leaves from the Camellia plant family; therefore there is no caffeine present. Herbal infusions contain pure herbs and flowers.
Herbal Teas: a tailor-made multivitamin for your body
Known for their ability to heal, herbalists and health experts like Joshua Choate, owner of Natural Philosophy Organic Market and Yoga Studio in Logan, encourage the use of herbs. In times of sickness and health, “herbal tea should be the first food to think of,” Choate said. “It is the best multivitamin you can get.”
What makes an herbal infusion interesting is that an “herb contains 100 to 1,000 different components within it” Choate said. The entirety of this goes into the body to promote healing. Choate compares herbs to 1,000 pebbles thrown into the ocean that interact with the whole body for a desired outcome. According to Choate the biggest benefit to herbal use is that they “get nutrition directly into the blood stream” so the nutrients can be easily used.
Each herb has specific nutrients that can heal specific ailments. Because of this there are thousands of recipes that can be tailor-made to treat a body’s unique health. When customers come in to Natural Philosophy, Choate said he often recommends specific herbs to fit a customer’s health needs. Whether it’s sleeping problems, anxiety, food cravings, or diabetes – there is a specific formula that will nurture the entire body and go to the specific part of the body that’s struggling.
As spring comes, look around at the plants that surround you. Although stores like Natural Philosophy offer a wide-range of herbs, you can grow and dry herbs from your garden. Even a pesky dandelion is full of vitamins and could be used in your next cup of tea.
Josh’s Top Three Herbs
All three of these herbs can be dried and steeped for an herbal tea.
Alfalfa: Also known as “The King of Grains.” If you’ve ever tried to pull an alfalfa plant, you know their roots run deep with access to deep soil. Excellent all-around multivitamin.
Yarrow: Ancient Greeks, Native Americans and Chinese medicine practitioners all used this powerful herb. Has a wide-range of uses, some include circulation improver, blood pressure regulator, anti-inflammatory, cleanser, and digestion aide.
Comfrey: Use if there’s any problem with the bones or flesh. Comfrey gives the body the right stuff to regrow and heal.
For more information about Natural Philosophy Organic Market and Yoga Studio, visit www.naturalphilosopy.life.
Choose herbs to suit your mood
To relax: use chamomile, lemon balm, or catnip
To uplift: use lavender, thyme, or spearmint
To soothe a cold: use eucalyptus, ginger, cinnamon, and/or licorice root
To boost the immune system: use elderberry
Combine herbs, spices, or sweeteners to find the perfect combination for you.
How to Make an Herbal Tea or Infusion
What you’ll need:
- Herbs! Purchase in bulk or use small herbal tea bags. Could also use dried herbs from your garden.
- Teapot, cup or jar. This is something to allow the herbs to steep in. It can be as simple as a mason jar and a small strainer (if not using tea bags) or as fancy as an infusion cup (see www.teavana.com for infusion products).
- Bring water to a boil
- Place desired herbs in teapot, cup or jar
- Pour boiling water over herbs, cover and allow to steep or hot soak 5 – 15 minutes
- Strain water from herbs if not using a tea bag
- Add honey or sweetener