Making Herbal Teas

Boost your health with homemade herbal tea blends.

| November/December 1997

Wonderfully Warming Winter Tea Recipe

Nothing warms the body and soul like holding a steaming cup of herbal tea and inhaling its aroma as you sip. Herbal teas comfort us on cold winter days, coax us out of midafternoon lethargy, and calm us down at bedtime.

Herbal teas contain important health benefits, as the table on in the images gallery shows. But for me, the health benefits of herbal teas go beyond nutritional calculations. Health-food stores offer a wide array of forms in which to take medicinal herbs, including capsules, tablets, and tinctures, but teas offer something more. Preparing and drinking teas affords us the opportunity to take time out from hectic days, to slow down and spend a bit of time on ourselves. Rather than swallowing a couple of capsules with a gulp of water as we run out the door, the time spent drinking herbal tea—even ten minutes before heading off to work—can be used to think about the tea’s value, as in, “I’m nourishing my nervous system,” or, “I’m strengthening my immune system.”

The ritual of taking care of oneself can be enriching. Further, when we drink herbal tea, the brain, via the nose and tongue, receives sensory messages that we identify as aroma and flavor. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, aromas and flavors are believed to have a direct effect on the body: The sweet aroma and flavor of fennel care for the stomach and spleen, for example, whereas the pungent aroma and flavor of gingerroot help improve lung capacity and health of the large intestine. Viewed in this way, when we sip an herbal tea, we receive immediate benefits.

Making teas: Some practical tips

Tea bags provide convenience for a fast-paced lifestyle. In order for the herbs to be bagged, they must be ground using a very fine cut. But this process can allow flavorful and therapeutic essential oils to evaporate more quickly than if the herbs were left in a more whole form. And, when herbs sit for months before being bagged or being made into tea, the chance for these oils to escape increases.

To avoid losing the essential oils, you may wish to make your teas with unprocessed herbs available in bulk at natural food stores. Bulk herbs often are less expensive than commercial tea bags, not to mention that you will have a wide variety of flavors to choose from to concoct your own preferred blend. If you’re lucky, you may have fresh herbs growing in your garden, and they are wonderful to use in making an herb tea. They can be dried for year-round use.

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