Herbal Teas – herbal remedies for home use
Healers and herbalists in ancient and not so ancient times prescribed herbs as teas as it was the most effective way to administer medicinal herbs. Preservation of herbs using vinegar or alcohol was rare, so herbs were dried at the end of the growing season for use over the following months. Dried herbs aren’t viable for as long a periods as extractions and tinctures made with vinegar or alcohol, but are no less effective in the short term.
Therapeutic Grade is Best
When I talk about herbal teas I’m referring to therapeutic grade herbal teas, not the ones you buy in the supermarket, or even the health food shop. However, a good quality herbal tea purchased from a reputable source can be delicious and provide some therapeutic benefit.
A true therapeutic grade herbal tea is as powerful as a tincture, tablet or capsule, and needs to be treated with care and respect. Never have more than 3 cups a day of a particular herbal tea, unless prescribed by a herbalist or naturopath.
Like tinctures, tablets & capsules herbal teas can be prescribed & taken as a single herb or as a blend. Pleasant tasting herbs, such as peppermint or liquorice, may be added to the blend to make the tea more palatable.
Making Herbal Teas
There are 2 ways of making a herbal tea – an infusion or a decoction.
An infusion is when the herbs (fresh or dried) are put in an infuser or teapot, hot water is poured over and the herbs left to steep in the water for 5-15 minutes, depending on the herb. A standard 250ml cup of herbal tea you will need 1 teaspoon of dried herb or 2 teaspoons of fresh herb. The amount may vary depending on the herb used to make the tea. Dosage is usually 2-4 cups per day, again depending on the herb. Infusion is used for soft products like leaves and flowers.
A decoction is when herbs are added to a pan of water and simmered for 10-20 minutes. Use 20g dried or 40 g of fresh herb, add to 750ml of cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for the required time. Strain then drink. The mix will reduce to around 500ml, and make around 3 doses of herb tea. Roots, seeds, bark, berries and twigs are generally prepared using a decoction. The most common herb I’ve prescribed as a decoction is fennel seed – wonderful digestive properties.
Focus on the Intent
Making a herbal tea is a ritual. I like to focus on the preparation and brewing process while making a herbal tea. I’m making something that is doing to be good for me and help me be well, so I think about that while I’m waiting for the tea to be ready. It’s very soothing to do this. I tell my patients to do the same.
Simple Tea Blends
Ginger root and peppermint – chop or slice a 2.5cm piece of fresh ginger, add 1 teaspoon fresh peppermint (or ½ teaspoon dried). Add 500ml boiling water and steep for 10 minutes. A great digestive tea.
For a sore throat or really snotty cold, finely chop enough fresh thyme to make 1 teaspoon of herb, add 250ml boiling water, steep for 10 minutes, drink while still hot. You can add honey to this to make it a bit sweeter.
Put 1 teaspoon fennel seeds in 500ml cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Drink while warm – you’ll get 2 medium cups from this. This is a lovely tea to have after a big meal, or a ‘fatty meal’ (roast pork or similar). It will help settle the feeling of having overeaten as well.
Mix ½ teaspoon dried chamomile with ½ teaspoons dried lavender. Add 250ml boiling water and steep for 10 minutes. Drink before bed for a relaxing sleep.