Drink herbal teas for good health

by on 15/01/2013

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Most professionals agree that, as a nation, we drink too much tea and coffee. There are herbal tea substitutes which taste very nice. Why not try a few herbal teas and see if you can get into the habit of drinking them?

How to make a herbal tea

Herbal tea from leaves or berries: The usual method is to use one teaspoon per cup. Add boiling water to the pot and leave to infuse for ten minutes. This is longer than for regular (black) tea. Herbal teas do not ‘stew’ if left to infuse for a second cup.

Herbal Tea from roots or twigs: If you make a tea out of roots or twigs, these need a slightly different approach. The only ‘roots or twigs’ given in this article, are Licorice and Ginger. These are usually simmered gently for a few minutes to extract the taste and the benefits. You may also want to simmer seeds – such as Aniseed or Caraway for a couple of minutes to get the flavour when making tea with them. Both are great herbal teas to take after a meal.

If you want to get hold of a particular tea and can’t find it, then it is fine to use a combination tea, which contains the ingredient you want along with a few others.

Health benefits

  • Heart and circulation: hawthorn berry.
  • Stomach and intestines: meadowsweet, chamomile, peppermint, aniseed, caraway, slippery elm, licorice, ginger.
  • Nerves: motherwort, clover blossoms.
  • General detox: clover blossoms, motherwort, green tea, chickweed, nettle.
  • Women: raspberry leaf, motherwort, clover blossoms.
  • Immune System: pau d’arco.
  • Kidneys: parsley, buchu.

Herbal teas

Hawthorn berry or flowers

Hawthorn has a very strong reputation as a safe herbal tea for the heart. It also tends to normalise blood pressure. It is ironic that when scientists made a heart drug based on a plant, they chose the poisonous Foxglove (digitalis) as a starting point, rather than the benign Hawthorn. However, if you do have heart problems for which you are taking drugs, before taking Hawthorn, I would advise you to consult a practitioner who understands the actions of both drugs and herbs. One group of such practitioners in the UK are herbalists who have ‘MNIMH’ (Member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists) after their name. Hawthorn Drops are also available, which some people find more convenient than tea, or use to supplement their tea.

Chamomile

Chamomile has a reputation as a herbal tea for soothing the digestion. This is through its action as a muscle relaxant – it lessens tension in the gastro-intestinal tract. So, chamomile tea is a good one to use after a meal. It is safe for children – certainly as young as 2 years (give an amount relative to body weight as compared to an adult).

Peppermint

Peppermint herbal tea can be a stronger muscle relaxant than chamomile, so again it is useful to drink after a meal. It is also ‘anti-emetic’, which means that if you have nausea for any reason, it tends to calm this. If you find the taste too strong, then make it very, very weak – and you may then find it pleasant.

Meadowsweet

Meadowsweet does not have much taste, but it is a great herb tea for helping the stomach to digest food. Drink it half an hour before or after a meal. It has the reputation of balancing stomach acid. The feeling we interpret as ‘too much acid’ may, in fact, be caused by ‘not enough acid – at the right time’. So meadowsweet is a good tea to help here, as it is ‘amphoteric’ – it increases where there is too little, and decreases where there is too much. If you find it bland – add a little peppermint or chamomile. There are some digestive teas available which include meadowsweet in a blend.

Licorice

Licorice makes a soothing and healing herbal tea for the lining of the stomach and intestines. It is a good tea if you have a tendency to get ulcers in these places; it is not a complete treatment, though – see a natural healthcare practitioner for this. (The cause is usually related to stress. I know antibiotics are being used for treatment recently – but, in my view, these do not get to the underlying cause.) Licorice Capsules, Drops and Teas are available from various suppliers.

Slippery elm

Another great soothing herb for the gut (gastro-intestinal tract). If you have wounds (ulcers), spasm or inflammation anywhere in the gut, drink lots of slippery elm tea. This is ideal for IBS and colitis, for example – some users say”miraculous”. Slippery elm is very benign – that is, very safe. You can even make your slippery elm very thick – and apply it on the skin to help healing. Slippery elm has a reputation for being nourishing and easy to digest – hence its use to assist recovery from illness, and for the elderly.

Making slippery elm tea

Slippery elm comes as a powder (avoid the one with sugar added). In a largish bowl, mix a teaspoon of powder to a paste with cold water. Slowly add a cupful of hot water while whisking – otherwise you will get lumps. Pour into a cup. Add a little honey if desired.

Red clover

This is known for its ‘blood purifying’ effects – in other words, it is good for detox and general health. It also contains some ‘phytoestrogens’ – which make it beneficial for women – take it to help periods or menopause.

Nettle

Nettles have a reputation of being nutritious and also detoxifying. Nettle tea is thus a good general tea to use every day.

Aniseed, caraway, fennel

These teas are similar in that they are ‘carminative’ – they settle (‘calm’) the stomach after a meal. So, simmer a teaspoon of any of these, or a mixture, in a cup or two of water for a couple of minutes – and sip away! In the East, the raw seeds are often given in restaurants where – in the UK anyway – we get ‘mint imperials’. The seeds are healthier!

Ginger

Ginger tea is usually made by simmering a few slices of fresh ginger for a couple of minutes in water. Ginger, again, relaxes spasms, with the added property that it has an affinity for the abdominal area. So use it if you want to influence the abdomen.

Comfrey

Comfrey root is not available for internal use in the UK, because it contains chemicals called ‘PAs’. These caused liver problems for a very small number of people in Europe, so it was banned for internal use. However, the leaf does not contain these chemicals – so you can drink lots of comfrey leaf tea with official agreement. You should do this if you want to encourage healing in the gut, or anywhere else; if you have arthritis or rheumatism; if you want to settle the stomach. Comfrey is a fantastic herb – if in doubt, use it! As with many garden herbs, there are a number of varieties. The one used medicinally is Symphytum officinale.

Parsley

A great general aid for the kidneys. If you have kidney problems – consult a practitioner; but if you just want to give the kidneys a helping hand to keep them working well, regular parsley tea is a great idea. Use fresh parsley if you have it; or dried is easily available. Tastes great!

Buchu

Has antiseptic properties – and it does smell a little like disinfectant – aniseed-like. Women with cystitis can find this tea very beneficial if they suffer from cystitis. Buchu offers an antiseptic tea which can be drunk, and which makes its way through the kidneys and bladder. You can find combination teas with buchu as a main ingredient, which are perfect for this. Make a pint (half a litre) of tea with 2-4 teaspoons of the herbal mixture, and drink slowly throughout the day. This can also be used as a preventive. Buchu is available as an ingredient in a number of helpful formulations for the kidneys and bladder.
I think the smell of buchu is lovely. For general kidney support, you only need to make it quite weak. If you have an infection and need stronger help, make the tea stronger. If you prefer to take less tea, by all means make it much stronger, and add a good chunk of honey (to preserve and also mask the taste). Keep in the fridge and gulp down a tablespoon or so 3 or 4 times a day. This will keeps for several days in the fridge.

Raspberry leaf

Has a long-standing reputation of assisting childbirth if taken frequently during pregnancy. I don’t know of any proof… but it certainly won’t do any harm. It will often assist periods, so take it if you have pre menstrual tension or other menstrual symptoms; or during menopause. Also used to make a tea to gargle with for sore throat (Thyme is useful for a sore throat gargle too. Or mix the two. Store the excess in the fridge and it will keep for a couple of days. Probably best to warm to room temperature before use.)

Motherwort

Motherwort used to be used much more widely than it is today. It’s common name suggests its use for women – for whom it is beneficial. Its Latin name suggests its use for the heart – Leonurus cardiaca – a valuable tonic for the heart and circulation. But I remember its reputed benefit for the whole body and a long life; one ancient herbal says; “Drink motherwort tea and live to be a source of grief to waiting heirs”. ‘Nuff said! Combination tea with both raspberry Leaf and motherwort: If you can find this combination it is great for period problems or for menopause. The phytoestrogens in it can often tip the balance and help the body to balance up the hormones thus reducing symptoms. It is well worth trying for a few months. Of course, if you can it is better to see an alternative practitioner for a full diagnosis, as well as your doctor to help eliminate any serious underlying causes.

Chickweed

This ‘weed’ may be growing wild just outside your house. Chickweed tea is found to be good externally for many skin complaints. It will often reduce itching, and promote healing. It is often mentioned as helping weight loss – I am not sure of the mechanism here – but, again, if it replaces tea and coffee it’s all to the good. It has a general benefit for the body, helping with rheumatism and arthritis.

Pau d’Arco tea

This is a fairly ‘new’ herb to the West, which has come to us from South America. It was used by the Incas – and now their descendants – to boost the Immune System. I recommend its use for the same purpose.

Green tea

This is a preparation of ‘normal’ tea, which has health giving properties. It is taken – as are all these herb teas – without sugar or milk. Its reputation is of benefiting health generally, and in particular have antioxidant and anti-cancer properties. It is available in health stores, or Eastern shops. Drink it quite weak.

Change to ‘herbal’ today!

I hope you enjoy some of these herbal teas. Regular tea and coffee both contain caffeine – which is OK occasionally, but not in daily doses. Long term, caffeine is held by most in the holistic health professions to be debilitating – many believe it tires the adrenal glands (which give us our natural ‘fight or flight’ responses.)

Drink some herbal teas – they really will have positive effects on many parts of the body. And this practice will then stop you taking in so much tea, coffee, sugar and milk – all of which I am certain are bad for you when taken regularly every day.

You must look after your own health – you are the best person to do it – buy some herbal teas today!

Where to get herbal teas

Some of the teas I mention here are available from your grocer, though they may be quite old; fresher supplies are likely from a middle eastern store or health food store. Health food stores also have a range of more convenient herbal tea bag products.

There are other suppliers – try here or search for ‘herbal tea’ in a search engine.

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