Herbal Tea - why would you drink it? Apart from the taste and fact that herbal tea contains no caffeine people use herbal teas for health benefits. Herbal medicine has a great tradition throughout Europe and herbal tea is just an extension of that. In many cultures herbal teas would always be recommended to deal with insomnia, sickness, stress etc
Whilst you can buy really good herbal teas - and there is nothing wrong in that - its also easy and actually fun to make your own and customise blends to suit you. In the summer months its as easy as picking fresh herbs from your garden or windowsill and infusing them in hot water. In winter use half the amount of the dried herb. You can also buy dried herbs to use in your tea in just the same way you would buy them to use in cooking.
Drying herbs is easy. Simply let the leaves, flowers or seeds of your chosen herb dry in a well-ventilated area, out of the direct sun, and keep turning them every day until they are completely crisp to the touch. Of course, if you own a dehydrator its even easier! Once dry store in airtight containers or jars and keep in a dark place for up to a year.
So what herbal teas should you consider using and why could they benefit you? Here are my favourites:-
Peppermint - This is the one that I start most mornings with. Not only does it soothe the stomach it is believed to relieve stress and muscular tension. It is, of course, great for the digestion and helps with bloating so that is definitely another bonus. Drinking peppermint and green tea is meant to be good for boosting the metabolism so maybe worth trying if you are dieting, particularly as I find mint helps beat my cravings for sweet things! To make tea use 2 tsp of dried crushed leaves or 2 tbsp of fresh leaves in a cup of water. cover with a lid to retain oils and brew for 10 mins. Drink freely.
Do not drink if you a hiatus hernia.
Sage - Sage is not one of my favourite teas at all, but I drink it (with lots of honey or maple syrup) because its brilliant for menopausal women - helping with brain fog, osteoporosis and fighting off the blues. Traditionally, its been used to help with respiratory and mouth problems (cool the tea and swish it about in your mouth to help clear bacteria and mildly take the edge off any pain). Put 1-2 teaspoons of leaves in a cup of boiling water and leave for 10 mins. Drink up to 3 times a day.
Do not consume sage if pregnant.
Lemon Balm - Lemon Balm is a wonderful calming herb, a great one to use when wanting to reduce stress or anxiety and aid sleep. I often drink this tea at night mixed with some chamomile as I find it really does help send me to sleep. Do be wary of drinking too much of this tea if you have a thyroid condition. Try a teaspoon of leaves in a cup and infuse for 10 minutes. Drink up to 2 times a day.
Do not use if you have a thyroid condition or low blood pressure.
Chamomile - Chamomile is probably the herbal tea that most people turn to for help with insomnia. It is high in antioxidants and in particular flavones which are being studied because of their potential of lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels. There are many anecdotal claims that drinking chamomile tea is soothing to the stomach and the gastrointestinal tract meaning that a heavy meal has less impact on your ability to sleep. Use t tsp of flower heads in a cup of boiling water and steep for 10 mins. I prefer it mixed with lavender and lemon balm. Drink up to 3-4 times a day.
A few people find chamomile gives them headaches so stop using if this happens to you.
Fennel - Probably another of my favourite herbal teas. You make the tea with the seeds of this one (though in season you can add some fennel flowers or leaves as well). It helps with indigestion but also IBS, menstrual cramps and bloating. Use 5g of seeds, lightly crushed in a cup of just boiled water. Steep for 5 mins, strain and add honey or maple syrup if desired. Drink freely.
Do not drink this if you are pregnant as it stimulates the menstrual flow (hence why it is good for period cramps).
Lemon Verbena - Possibly my all time favourite tea with its lemon sherbet-y smell. It has powerful antioxidant properties and is wonderful for gently uplifting the mood. Meant to be good at fighting obesity and supporting the respiratory system. 2 or 3 leaves in a cup of boiling water is perfect. It works well with other leaves such as lemon balm, thyme, rose petals and of course peppermint.
Ginger - OK, I know ginger is really a spice but I just couldn't resist including it here. I like my ginger tea with lemon and it is the tea I am most likely to turn to if I am feeling nauseous. Pregnant women often drink ginger tea during their first trimester in order to counteract morning sickness. Its another herbal tea that is rich in antioxidants and is thought to ease headaches and migraines, reduce blood pressure and is an anti inflammatory. To make slice of 3-5 slices of fresh ginger root, steep for 10 mins in boiling water and add honey and lemon juice to taste. Drink up to 2-3 times a day.
Lavender - Lavender tea is very perfumed and floral. It is known for helping us to relax and aiding sleep. There are numerous studies show that lavender lowers stress and anxiety as well as blood pressure. This is, however, not a tea everyone is going to like simply because it is so floral so I often mix it with other herbs - particularly lemon balm or lemon verbena. Use 1-3g of dried lavender flower heads per cup of boiling water. Steep for the usual 10 minutes. Drink up to 2-3 times a day.
There are of course many more herbal teas and if you follow me on social media (links on homepage or in footer) then I often give recipes and blends there.
Whilst the recipes above are all for using herbs from scratch please do not underestimate some of the really good herbal teabags out there and don't be afraid to combine them a mint tea bag with a lemon verbena one for example. Yes you'll make a double batch but maybe you save a cup for later or share with a friend.
I do hope that this is a good starting point or beginners guide to herbal tea. We are incredibly lucky in the range of herbs that we can grow in this country and this is a wonderful way both of using herbs more frequently and benefiting from their amazing properties - a lot of which we seem to have forgotten about in today's modern world.