Explore these twenty four commonly used herbs for tea blends and the health benefits of these plants.
Herbal Tea Recipes
Herbs for Tea Blends
Sipping a cup of herbal tea is time well spent
for reflection, pleasure, and enjoying the health benefits of
plants that have long served humanity. As we inhale the steamy
aromas when a teacup touches our lips, we have the opportunity to
take in the plant virtues that have been transmuted from the earth
and the sun. The following is a list explaining the qualities of
many of the herbs commonly used in herbal tea blends.
Alfalfa leaf (Medicago sativa) is an excellent
source of chlorophyll, vitamin C, and minerals; the herb has a
neutral flavor and helps improve anemia and digestion.
Anise seed (Pimpinella anisum). Anise is a
member of the parsley family and has a pleasant, licorice-like
flavor. Anise improves digestion, freshens the breath, calms
flatulence and nausea, and helps coughs due to its expectorant
Blackberry leaf (Rubus fruticosus) has a flavor
similar to black tea and is a source of blood-building iron.
Blackberry leaf has astringent properties and has been used to
treat diarrhea. Its refrigerant properties make it cooling to a
Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is a member of the mint
family. Though we’re more familiar with the herb’s effect on cats,
for humans catnip is a pungent, mild sedative that can help calm
restlessness, aid sleep, and soothe an upset stomach.
Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) has slightly
bitter, apple-scented blossoms that help relieve stomach distress
and headache. Chamomile is regarded as an excellent calming and
Chicory root (Cichorium spp.), when roasted,
provides a delicious coffeelike flavor—without the caffeine!
Chicory is mildly cleansing to the liver and colon.
Cinnamon bark (Cinnamomum verum) improves the
flavor of any herb it’s combined with, because it’s naturally
sweet. Cinnamon improves circulation and provides a feeling of
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale). Raw dandelion
root improves liver function. When the roots are roasted, they have
a rich, earthy, coffeelike flavor. The leaves are rich in iron and
are an effective potassium-rich diuretic.
Elder flowers (Sambucus canadensis) have a
mildly bitter flavor and increase perspiration by gently dilating
the pores. Elder flowers are also excellent for the prevention and
treatment of colds and flu.
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), another parsley
family member, is naturally sweet. Fennel helps stabilize
blood-sugar levels, thus curbing appetite. The herb relaxes the
smooth muscles of the digestive tract, which improves a wide range
of digestive disturbances, including flatulence and
Gingerroot (Zingiber officinale) is a pungent
herb that’s a supreme digestive aid. Ginger relieves nausea,
improves circulation, warms the body, and has antiseptic and
Hibiscus flowers (Hibiscus sabdariffa) have a
tart flavor and are rich in vitamin C. Hibiscus has a cooling
effect, which makes it an excellent choice in herbal iced teas. It
provides a beautiful rose color to a tea blend.
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), according to
German studies, acts on the portion of the brain governing the
autonomic nervous system and helps protect the brain from excessive
external stimuli, thus having a calming, anti-anxiety effect. Lemon
balm not only tastes pleasant but has antiviral properties, making
it suitable for colds and flu. It is considered an excellent herb
for children as well as adults.
Lemon verbena (Aloysia citriodora) is a
favorite garden plant. The aboveground portion, with its lemony
bouquet, has antiseptic properties and has been used throughout
history for digestive disorders, colds, and flu.
Mullein Leaves (Verbascum spp.) are added to tea blends for
their ability to relieve congestion, thus helping coughs, hay
fever, and sinusitis. Mullein has a bittersweet taste, reduces
inflammation, and soothes irritated mucus membranes.
Nettle leaf (Urtica dioica) is extremely rich
in nutrients, including iron and beta-carotene. Nettles improve
kidney and adrenal function, benefit allergies, and have a salty
flavor. Though you may have gotten stung by stinging nettle, drying
or heating the plant deactivates the sting. Oatstraw (Avena
sativa), the young stem of the oat plant, has a pleasant, sweet
flavor. Oatstraw is highly nutritive—it’s especially high in
calcium—and supports the nervous system, helping to relieve
depression, insomnia, and stress.
Peppermint (Mentha piperita) has a spicy,
cooling flavor. Long regarded as a remedy for stomachaches due to
its ability to reduce hypercontractability of the intestinal
muscles, it helps relieve nausea and flatulence. Peppermint has
antiseptic and diaphoretic properties, making it a great choice for
colds, flu, and fevers.
Raspberry leaf (Rubus idaeus) is rich in
nutrients, especially calcium, magnesium, and iron. It has long
been regarded as an excellent tonic for women during menstruation
and pregnancy. However, raspberry is also nourishing for men and
has a pleasant, black tea-like flavor.
Red clover blossoms (Trifolium pratense) are
considered helpful for aiding all of the organs of elimination,
benefiting the kidneys, cleaning the blood, expelling phlegm from
the lungs, and improving health in general. Its flavor is mildly
sweet and salty.
Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) tastes much like
black tea but contains no caffeine and is low in tannins. Rooibos,
a traditional South African beverage, is a rich, reddish brew that
is high in vitamin C, minerals, and antioxidants.
Rose hips (Rosa spp.) have a pleasant, tart
flavor, contain vitamin C, and have mild antiseptic properties to
help ward off colds and flu.
Spearmint (Mentha spicata) has a milder, less
medicinal flavor than peppermint but still aids digestion and
headaches and has mild antiseptic properties. It also makes a
delicious iced tea.
Yerba maté (Ilex paraguariensis) is a member of
the holly family. The herb’s astringent leaves are enjoyed for
their mildly stimulating, nutrient-rich (vitamins C and B, calcium,
and iron) and digestive-enhancing properties. Yerba maté contains
the constituent mateine, which is similar to caffeine but less
likely to interfere with sleep, cause anxiety, or be addictive.
Storing and Preparing the Herbs
Whether buying herbs in bulk from the health-food store or using
dried ones from your garden, store herbs in glass jars or
non-plastic airtight containers and label the containers with their
contents. Storing herbs in light and heat will quickly deteriorate
their quality. Keep teas in a cupboard, where they can be protected
from light and heat, to better preserve their flavors and
therapeutic properties. Nature will provide more herbs next year,
so it is best to purchase no more than you are likely to use within
When making tea, always use fresh, cold water. Avoid aluminum
cookware—aluminum is a very soft metal and tends to come out in the
brew. The best choices are glass, cast iron, stainless steel, or
unchipped enamel. Bring water to a boil, remove from the heat, and
add about 1 heaping teaspoon of herb tea per cup of water, or
simply add 1 tea bag. If using a teapot, fill it with boiling water
first and allow it to stand for 3 minutes to warm the pot. Drain
the water before adding the herbs and hot water. If you are using
fresh as opposed to dried herbs, triple the amount—fresh herbs
contain high levels of water and are less potent than dried. Allow
the herbs to steep, covered, for about 10 minutes. Remove tea bags
or strain after the tea has steeped to prevent bitterness. Honey or
lemon may be added for flavoring.
Nature provides a wealth of flavors, nutrients, and healing
properties when we enjoy herbal teas. There are many to sip and
Brigitte Mars, A.H.G., an herbalist and nutritional consultant
from Boulder, Colorado, has been working with natural medicine for
thirty years. She teaches herbal medicine through the Rocky
Mountain Center for Botanical Studies. Brigitte is the formulator
for allGoode Organics and the author of Addiction Free Naturally
(Healing Arts, 2001), Herbs for Healthy Hair, Skin, and Nails (NTC,
1998), Natural First Aid (Storey, 1999), and Dandelion Medicine
(Storey, 1999); www.brigittemars.com.