in the kitchen: there’s an herbal tea for ‘that’
Afternoon tea, anyone?
For generations, people had no choice but to live off the land and work with what Mother Nature gave them. Lucky for them, our planet was fully equipped with all of the ingredients necessary for a fruitful life.
Several of those ancient remedies continue to be whipped up to this day, which speaks to their potency. One of my favorite magical herbal mixtures is none other than herbal teas. Not only is cuddling up with a cozy mug of organic goodness a gift to your taste buds, but it’s also a mega treat for your body.
Herbal teas, otherwise known as tisanes (pronounced tea-zahn), are not to be confused with regular teas. Interestingly, the word ‘tea’ really only accounts for the mixtures derived from the camellia sinensisplant. This includes black tea, white tea, oolong tea, and green tea. Herbal teas, on the other hand, are essentially just infusions (or decoctions) from any other plant that is brewed in hot water and thus, creates a sizzling bev.
These soothing concoctions have been around the block a few times and can be definitively traced back to Ancient China and Egypt, where they were consumed for the same medicinal and sheer enjoyment reasons.
Pro-tip: Using muslin bags and loose-leaf tea is an easy way to reduce your footprint and lessen the amount of waste you produce.
What’s your type?
There are a slew of tisanes that fall under the herbal umbrella, all of which are categorized based on the part of the plant they come from.
Leaf: lemon balm, mint, lemongrass and verbena
Flower: rose, chamomile, lavender, and hibiscus
Bark: cinnamon, slippery elm, and black cherry bark
Root: ginger, chicory, and echinacea
Fruit/berry: peach, blueberry, raspberry, and apple
Seed/spice: fennel, cardamom, and caraway
I’m here for the benefits (and the taste).
I love the way tisanes taste, but I’d be lying if I said the benefits didn’t play a role in why I drink it on the daily. Here are a few of the biggest draws for me:
Aids in digestion: can help ease bloating, nausea, cramping, and diarrhea.
Try chamomile, peppermint, fennel, or ginger.
Diuretic & laxative: helps eliminate toxins from the body, which in turn relieves stress on the gastrointestinal system, kidneys, and liver.
Try dandelion, hibiscus, or hawthorn.
Boosts brain health: Adding teas to your diet can help prevent oxidative stress in the brain. It is also credited with boosting focus and concentration.
Try rosehip, ginger, or rooibos.
Relieves stress, anxiety, & sleep issues: Certain teas can help relieve stress and anxiety which in turn helps lower levels of depression, boost energy, and reduces inflammation. By reducing inflammation, you can decrease gastrointestinal distress as well as arthritis, headaches, and hemorrhoids.
Try chamomile or valerian for stress & sleep-related results.
Try turmeric, peppermint, eucalyptus, or ginger if you’re solely looking for tisanes with anti-inflammatory properties.
Antioxidants: In layman’s terms, antioxidants neutralize and remove the free radicals from the bloodstream, which is crucial to our well-being. Herbs naturally contain antioxidants which provide solid benefits when consumed. With that said, every herb is created differently thus antioxidant levels vary depending on the type of herbs used in each tisane.
Try elderflower, lemon balm, or thyme for a tea rich in antioxidants.
It’s brew time.
There are two ways to make and indulge in herbal teas.
Infusion: This method is simply pouring the boiling water over the herbs. Remember to strain out the berries or plants, although there’s no harm in swallowing a few.
Decoction: This method of preparation is commonly used for root, bark, and berry tisanes, as the longer boiling time extracts more of the flavor from the ingredients. It consists of placing the plants in the water to boil and boiling 2/3 of the water away, creating a rich, thick mixture.
The low-down: my faves.
Now that we’ve covered the herbal tea basics, I’ll give some personal insight on what my favorites teas are and why. As mentioned in previous posts, I try to avoid prescribed or over-the-counter meds at all costs and usually turn to herbal or holistic remedies instead. Recently, herbal teas have been huge players in my healing game.
These are the MVPs:
Peppermint: This tea never fails to put some ‘pepp’ in my step. Similar to one of my other favorite, fennel, peppermint is great for soothing an upset stomach. It’s one of my most-consumed during the colder months as it’s a natural decongestant, which helps clear out your sinuses. Added bonus: it’s refreshing and lowers stress and anxiety levels.
Fennel: I’ve struggled with digestive issues for a while (bloating, cramping, nausea) and fennel tea has helped significantly in alleviating those nasty feelings. It also has antispasmodic effects, which come in handy if you’re a menstrual cramp sufferer.
Chamomile: Relaxation mode kicks in immediately at sight of a steaming cup of chamomile tea. Herbal teas are naturally caffeine-free, so they’re perfect to enjoy around bedtime. Last week I had a cup of chamomile right after I applied lavender oil and right before I hit the hay and, I kid you not, I had the best night sleep I’ve had in years. Another fun fact about chamomile tea that many people don’t know is that it helps lower and regulate blood sugar levels.
Echinacea: Okay, so Echinacea tea isn’t in my rotation– yet. After doing some research, that’s going to change real quick. It has some impressive immune system-boosting qualities and has been proven to reduce cold and flu-like symptoms. On top of that, it’s known to relieve pain related to swollen joints and muscles. Sign me up.
Chamomile tea being enjoyed from one my favorite mugs, courtesy of Goodwill ($2.99).
It’s officially tea time on the west coast.
That’s my cue. Cheers!