Plant a Tea Garden
Plant in a sunny spot. Herbs require a sunny location and should receive at least 6 hours of sun a day
Locate your tea herb garden in a well-protected area so that drying winds don’t wilt newly planted seedlings. Space herb plants appropriate to their growth habits so that they’ll have plenty of space to spread out.
Mulch around the base of the herb plants to discourage weeds and to help retain soil moisture.For troublesome spreaders such as mint, cut the bottom of the pot out and sink the pot with plant in it, into the ground.
What to Grow
Mint tea is a wonderfully refreshing drink. You can experiment with your favorite mint types–try peppermint (M. piperita), spearmint (M. spicata), orange mint (M. aquatica citrata), pineapple mint (M. suaveolens), and a lot of other flavors. You use the fresh leaves or dried to make tea. Just steep in boiling water. Add a sprinkle of sugar or honey to sweeten.
Bergamot (Monarda didyma) infuses the sweet, citrus taste that is the distinguishing flavor of Earl Grey tea. Add both the leaves and the flowers of this plant to black tea to make your own version of this traditional English tea.
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is one of the most beloved scents and flavors. It has a slighty sweet taste and infuses tea with a flowery flavor. Steep the flowers in boiling water.
Anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) makes a tea that tastes like a licorice drop. This anise-flavored plant bears fragrant and tasty leaves. Clip a few off and use about 2 teaspoons in a cup of boiling water.
Lemon verbena (Aloysia triphylla) is the perfect tea for lemon lovers. Clip and cut about 2 tablespoons of the fresh leaves and add to a cup of boiling water. Allow to steep for about 5 minutes.
Buying Herbs For Tea
Top-quality dried herbs can be bought via mail order and from health food and specialty herb shops. When buying bulk herbs from a store, look for those marked “organic” or “wildcrafted” (picked from the wild). Commercially grown herbs are often sprayed with pesticides. Check the smell and color of the herbs, too. “If a dried herb doesn’t remind you it was once alive,” says Oakland, California-based herbalist Alan Seller, “it probably has little left in it for your life.”
You can also grow and dry your own herbs. Chamomile, sage, lemon balm, catnip, feverfew, passionflower, rosemary, and yarrow are just a few herbs that are easy to grow from seed. To dry herbs naturally, hang small bundles of them in a dark, warm, dry room and let them dry until they’re brittle-a few days to a few weeks depending on whether they are leaves, flowers, or roots. Be sure they don’t become moldy. When completely dry, store in an airtight jar or plastic bag.
Brewing Herbal Teas
Herbal teas are generally prepared by making either an infusion or a decoction. The infusion method is used for herbs with medicinal properties in their leaves, flowers, or stems, while decoctions are made from the roots and bark.
Herbalists recommend one to three cups of herbal tea a day for the full medicinal effect, so a quart is a convenient amount to brew at a time. To make an infusion, place two to four tablespoons of dried herbs in a glass, ceramic, enamel, or stainless steel container. Boil a quart of water; then turn off the heat until the bubbles die down. Poor the water over the herbs, cover, steep for at least 10 minutes, and strain.
To make a decoction, use the same herb to water ratio as in an infusion, but place the herbs directly in the pot with cool water and let them sit for an hour. Then bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for at least 20 minutes. Remove from heat. For maximum effect, let the herbs steep for at least an hour before straining.
The difference between drinking herbal tea for pleasure verses healing power is often in the taste. Many herbs, such as peppermint, chamomile, lemon balm, and passionflower, are naturally sweet and mild, while others, such as echinacea and goldenseal, are quite bitter. A little honey, lemon, orange peel, or anise seed can always be added to improve the flavor.
Use two to four tablespoons of dried herbs for each quart of water or one tablespoon per eight ounces (for a single cup.) Measurements are given in “parts” so you can adjust the strength. Each recipe makes a quart of tea but can easily be adapted to a cup.
Jean Victor Lindsteadt is a freelance writer and editor from Mill Valley, CA. Jean enjoys writing gardening books and growing her own tea herbs. For More Herb Information or a list of qualified herbalists in your area, write or call the American Herbalists Guild, P.O. Box 1683, Soquel, CA 95073; (408)464-2441. Or the American Botanical Council at P.O. Box 201660, Austin, TX 78720; (512) 331-8868
Recipes For Healing Teas
Cold and Flu Tea
1 part peppermint
1 part yarrow
1 part boneset
1 part elder flower
A few drops of vinegar and honey to taste
Place two to four tablespoons of the herb mixture into an empty glass, ceramic, or stainless steel container. Boil a quart of water; pour over herbs; cover; steep for at least ten minutes, then strain. The tea will become more bitter the longer you brew it, so feel free to adjust the vinegar and honey to taste.
1 part valerian
1 part passionflower
1 part skullcap
To make a quart of tea, place two to four tablespoons of the herb mixture in a glass, ceramic, or stainless steel container; boil water and pour over herbs; cover and steep for at least 10 minutes; strain.
1 part oatstraw
1 part linden flower
1 part lemon balm
1 part passionflower
Place two to four tablespoons of herbs in a glass, ceramic, or stainless steel container; boil water and pour herbs; cover and steep for at least 10 minutes; strain.
1 part horsetail
1 part alfalfa
1 part nettle
1 part red clover 1 part red raspberry
Licorice, orange peel, or anise seed to taste
Pour a quart of boiling water over two to four tablespoons of herbs; cover and steep for at least 10 minutes–even overnight; strain.
Laxative Tea – Drink At Bedtime
1 part senna leaves
1 part buckthorn bark
1 part anise seed
1 part fennel seed
1/2 part licorice root
Steep 1 tablespoon in 1-1/2 cups boiling hot water for 10 minutes. Sweeten as desired
2 parts peppermint leaf
1 part fennel seed
1 part anise seed
1/2 part ginger root
Steep 1 tablespoon in 1 cup boiling water. Sip slowly.
Immunity Booster – three cups a day during cold or flu
2 parts echinacea root
1 part hyssop
1 part peppermint leaf
1 part thyme
Steep 2 tablespoons in 1 cup of boiling hot water.
1 part marshmallow root
1 part mullein
1 part licorice root
1 part blue malva flowers
Mix in equal parts. Steep 1 teaspoon in 1/2 cup boiling hot water. Sweeten with honey or rice syrup.
Ginseng Tonic Tea – for fatigue
1 part white Asian ginseng root
1 part red Asian ginseng root
1/2 part Chinese licorice root
1/2 part Chinese red jujube date
Steep 1 tablespoon in 1 cup of boiling hot water.