Brew Your Own Herbal Teas
Most teas come from the Camilla Sinensis plant. The tea that comes from this plant is known as true tea. Depending on what part of the plant is used, a certain type of tea is used. For example, white tea is produced from young plants, whereas green tea is produced from non-fermented mature leaves. Black tea comes from fermented mature leaves.
Tea, in whatever form, is healthy for you. It contains powerful antioxidants which play a role in fighting damaged cells in your body. Drinking this beverage helps you lose weight, helps fight heart disease, helps relieve arthritic pain, and can prevent tooth decay. However, since many true teas contain caffeine, you may wonder if there is an alternative hot beverage which contains the same health benefits.
The answer is yes, there are caffeine free alternatives called herbal teas. These teas are infusions made up of different parts of plants and flowers including seeds, leaves, barks and flowers. Since these teas do not come from the Camilla Sinensis plant, they are not considered to be true teas. However, they still carry a powerful punch because of their many healing properties. As a matter of fact, the use of teas for medicinal uses dates back to Ancient China, India, Greece and Rome.
While you can purchase herbal teas which are already bagged or as a loose tea, think of the possibilities when you use fresh herbs from your backyard garden. Many herbs, while they spice up your meals, contain components that treat ailments and symptoms. For example, ginger is an excellent pain reliever and marshmallow (this is actually an herb) is excellent for coughs and other cold and flu symptoms. You need to have an understanding of which herbs will work best for your health ailment or condition. While it will be impossible to list every herb here, you can always do further research online or talk to a qualified herbalist.
Growing and Storing Herbs
Making herbal teas is not difficult at all. First, you are going to need some herbs. Your local grocery and health food stores carry a wide variety of herbs. You can order them online through sites such as eBay and Amazon. You can even grow them in your own backyard. While purchasing pre-made herbal teabags is an excellent convenience, you can become creative when using loose herbs, making a wide variety of combinations. If you do decide you do not have the time to gather herbs to make a cup of healing tea, you can still use the pre-bagged teas at your local grocery store. However, make sure you purchase tea that has been organically grown. These are not grown with toxic pesticides or chemicals.
If you are going to use herbs that you grow in your garden, you are going to have to know how to properly dry and store the bulbs, bark, leaves, roots, and seeds. You want to have an abundance of herbs available when you are craving that cup of tea. Directions on how to process your herbs:
- After you pick the herbs that you want to use, check over the plant. If there are any damaged leaves, pick them off and throw them away.
- Rinse the herbs under cold water to remove dirt, pollen, dust and debris. Pat them dry with a paper towel or cloth.
- Sort the herbs by separating the leaves, flowers, stalks, seeds and roots. Since each of these has different drying times, they will need to be dried separately.
- Once you have completed the above steps, you can start drying the herbs. One method is to tie herbs into small bundles and hang them upside down in a shaded area, away from direct sunlight. Wrap them loosely in a paper bag to prevent contamination from dust or dirt.
- Within 10 days the herbs should be dried. Test a leaf by crushing it in your fingers. If it breaks easily or crumbles, the herbs are dried.
Rack Drying Method
Another method is rack drying. Take a screen or stretch a piece of cheesecloth over a wooden frame. Put this in a shaded area, out of direct sunlight. If you have a cabinet in your kitchen that you do not use, this will also work fine. Place the herbs on it and turn the herbs several times a day to make sure the herbs dry. This process takes about 2 to 3 days. Check a leaf to see if it breaks easily or crumbles.
Storing herbs is even easier than drying them. All you need are clear glass jars, such as mason jars with tight-fitting lids, and a dark place away from sunlight to store them. While sunlight helps these herbs grow, it robs them of their healing properties. Many stores, including health food stores, sell bottles for this type of purpose.
Depending on the type of herbs you are drying and storing, some may last up to a year and others may last for a longer or a shorter period of time. Therefore, it is best to label each jar with the name of the herb and the date you put it in the jar. Make sure you use older herbs before using newer ones. If you see any sign of mold on a herb, throw it away.
When you are ready to brew your tea, make sure you use cold water. While you can use tap water, it is a better idea to use bottled spring water. Use a teapot that is either made of stainless steel, enamel or glass. If you use copper or aluminum, the insides can rust, which causes contaminants that may enter your healthy beverage.
Herbal Teas for Insomnia
Insomnia is an issue many of us face. Some of us may have the occasional tossing and turning in bed. Others struggle with this on a day-by-day basis. While there are many underlying conditions that cause insomnia such as stress, restlessness or having a hectic lifestyle, sometimes all you need is a cup of sleep tea.
What type of herbs should you use? The best ones are those that contain calming and relaxing properties. These properties help your body to relax. The more relaxed you are, the easier it will be for you to fall asleep.
Sleeping Herb #1: Lemon Balm
Lemon balm helps give your entire body an overall calm feeling. When you treat your insomnia with this herb, you are helping your body in other ways as well. When your body is relaxed, you have a reduced risk of having stress and tension headaches and having high blood pressure. Avoid this herb if you already have low blood pressure or are taking medications for blood pressure. Also, do not use this herb if you have hypothyroidism or decreased thyroid function.
Sleeping Herb #2: Chamomile
Drinking tea that contains chamomile provides relief from many ailments. Brewed and drunk for its calming and relaxing properties, this tea is made with fresh or dried flower heads. Not only is chamomile good for insomnia is also good with nervousness, muscle pains, menstrual pains and a good weight loss herb. Note: If you suffer from hay fever or are allergic to ragweed, avoid this herb.
Sleeping Herb #3. St. John’s Wort
This is a very effective drug in treating mild cases of anxiety and depression. Since you may get an upset stomach due to stress, the calming properties help relieve your stress and treat your stomach issues at the same time. Taking this herb before you go to bed helps you fall asleep quickly. You need to take this herb in moderation, no more than 300 milligrams three times a day.
Calming Tea Instructions:
- Add 2 teaspoons of lemon balm, 2-3 teaspoons of chamomile, 1-2 teaspoons of St. John’s Wort to a cup of hot water.
- Allow your tea to brew for ten to fifteen minutes before drinking.
- Drink up to three cups a day.
For an alternate variation, add 2-3 teaspoons of chamomile, 1 teaspoon of valerian leaves, and 1 teaspoon of spearmint to a cup of hot water. Valerian is “Nature’s Valium,” in that it helps calm you without you getting addicted to the herb. Along with its calming and relaxing properties, spearmint also makes a refreshing tasting tea.
Herbal Tea for Upset Stomach
We all suffer from an upset stomach once in a while. Sometimes it is due to illness, such as the stomach flu. Other times it is when you overindulge at the all-you-can-eat buffet. Other times it is when you are under stress and anxiety.
Stomach Herb #1: Peppermint
Many restaurants give after dinner mints after your meal. This is actually a tradition that dates back to ancient times when mint leaves were used as a stomach soother. The next time you feel stuffed to the bone after you enjoyed a five-course meal, do not bypass the dinner mint. It may relieve your stomach from any discomfort from overindulging.
Mint can be used to help individuals with relief from problems with their stomachs because they contain anti-viral properties. Just by chewing the leaves or allowing some leaves to steep in a cup of hot water for ten to fifteen minutes and drinking it as a tea is an excellent way to relieve you when you have a stomach bug. It is excellent for your digestive system because it contains menthol, which plays a role in soothing the digestive tract and stomach lining. Just two to three mint leaves go a long way in relieving symptoms of indigestion such as heartburn and bloating. It is also effective in treating the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and preventing stomach ulcers.
Stomach Herb #2: Lemon Balm
If you are suffering from the stomach flu, drinking a tea that contains lemon balm helps relieve you of vomiting. If you include lemon balm in your daily diet, the antiviral properties of this herb may protect from catching the stomach flu and other viral infections.
Stomach Herb #3: Fennel Seeds
Fennel is an excellent way to aid your digestive system. Its aspartic acids and phytoestrogens help relieve symptoms of indigestion such as:
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
For a stomach relieving tea, make a decoction of one teaspoon of fennel seed per cup of water. After it has simmered in a pan for a half hour, strain the water into another cup or glass bell jar. Add 1 teaspoon each of peppermint and lemon balm for each cup of the fennel seed decoction. Allow it to brew for ten to fifteen minutes before drinking. You can make extra and store it in the refrigerator and drink it as you need it.
Herbal Tea for PMS
Eight out of ten women suffer from premenstrual syndrome (PMS). The symptoms consist of both emotional and physical symptoms. The emotional symptoms include:
- Mood Swings
- Changes in Appetite
- Lack of Concentration
The physical symptoms include:
- Joint Pian
- Muscle Pain
- Water Retention
- Acne Flareups
PMS Herb #1: Nettle
When you hear the word nettle, you probably are thinking about the stinging plants found in forests. You are correct in that assumption. Therefore, if you plan on picking these plants, you will need gloves since the hairs on these plants do sting. Never eat stinging nettles raw; it can burn your tongue, mouth and do considerable damage to your inside. You will need to cook it in water until the hairs fall off. You might not think it will be worth it, but nettle has been used for thousands of years to treat many health ailments and conditions, including symptoms of PMS. (Note: You can also purchase nettle as a supplement in many health food stores. Nature’s Way is an excellent brand.)
Nettle contains anti-inflammatory properties. This is excellent for a headache and joint and muscle pain due to PMS. It also helps balance out the hormones in the body. When there is a hormonal imbalance in the body, many females suffer from the emotional effects of PMS.
PMS Herb #2: Peppermint
Peppermint is a natural pain reliever because it contains anti-inflammatory properties. To get rid of the pain of a headache and joint pain, massage peppermint essential oil into the hurting parts and watch the pain disappear. (Note: Most essential oils are meant for external use only. Never consume them because they can be can be harmful or fatal.) The calming and relaxing properties of peppermint will help you deal with the emotional symptoms of PMS.
For an excellent PMS tea add 2-3 dried nettle leaves (or break apart 2 capsules) to a cup of hot water and add 2-3 peppermint leaves. Allow it to brew for ten to fifteen minutes before drinking.
This tea is also excellent in treating the symptoms of menopause, which are similar to those of PMS.
Herbal Tea for Energy
A majority of us need an energy boost once in a while. You may have had a hard night and did not get the sleep that you needed. You may be on the go all the time and feel fatigued and need the extra energy to get through the day. Sometimes this may be only a once-in-a-while thing. Other times it is a day-by-day struggle. If you find yourself slugging down pots of coffee and guzzling monster energy drinks, think about drinking an energy herbal tea. Many herbs contain minerals and vitamins which are natural sources of energy. For an energizing tea, combine 1-2 teaspoons each of dried nettle leaves (or break apart two capsules) and raspberry leaves and 1 teaspoon each of licorice root and ginger into a cup of hot water. Allow it to brew for 10-15 minutes before drinking
These are just a few of the many healing teas that you can make with herbs. You can find more alternatives by doing online research or going to your local bookstore. If you do not have the time to get your own herbs, many stores such as Wegmans sell a wide variety of herbal and healing teas. Even though herbs are natural, use caution with them since some may interact with medications and supplements that you are already taking. If you are pregnant or nursing, talk to your doctor to find out which herbs are safe for both you and your baby.
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