When you’re sick, little is more comforting than holding a steaming mug of fragrant tea in both hands, warming your face with the hot steam. Somehow, no matter how rotten you felt before, you instantly feel just a tiny bit better.
Whether you are lucky enough to grow your own tea herbs, you purchase loose teas, or you use tea bags, your cabinet is not complete without the following ingredients. These teas are delicious and beneficial, with many different healing qualities. Considering that we most often turn to herbal teas for healing purposes, it’s especially important to purchase or grow organic herbs for this purpose. If your leaves are bathed in pesticide and then you add them to boiling water, instead of healing goodness, you are steeping toxins.
When making tea for medicinal purposes, be sure to steep the tea in a teapot with a lid, or to cover your mug while the herbs are steeping. This helps to make a more potent brew by keeping all of the healing oils in the tea, instead of allowing them to drift into the room. Most herbs should be steeped for about 10 minutes for maximum results.
There are many different herbs from around the world that have wonderful healing properties. I’ve concentrated this list on ones that can either be easily acquired and stored, or ones that can be easily grown in a backyard garden or a sunny window. Just like band-aids, antibiotic cream, or aspirin, these items are vital additions to your pantry, allowing you to dispense a hot, steaming, fragrant cup of nurturing in as little time as it takes you to boil water. Be prepared by keeping the following ingredients close at hand, and be self-sufficient by producing for yourself as many as possible (always the best way to make sure that the items were grown using safe, organic methods).
In no particular order…
Mint tea is the classic herbal tea. Mint is an ingredient in many different commercial tea blends and is much-loved for its refreshing fragrance.
Mint is an herb that doesn’t just grow easily – it can quickly overtake your garden! For this reason, it is recommended to grow mint in either a container or its own bed. There are many varieties of mint and the healing properties are similar. Whether you grow peppermint or spearmint, the active component is menthol.
If you suffer from acid reflux, mint tea may worsen your symptoms. Mint has antispasmodic properties
Mint tea can be used to:
◾ Reduce congestion in a cold or flu sufferer
◾ Reduce pain and bloating from gas
◾ Reduce cramping from diarrhea
◾ Act as a mild expectorant for a chest cold or bronchitis
◾ Induce sweating, the body’s natural cooling mechanism. This is a natural way to reduce a fever
◾ Relieve nausea without vomiting
A large handful of fresh mint leaves (organic) or from your garden
A kettleful of filtered water (about 2 to 4 cups depending on how strong you want your tea)
Honey to taste
1. Roughly tear the leaves with your hands and place them in a small strainer placed over a teapot or glass bowl.
2. Bring the water to a boil and pour over the leaves. (The water should cover the leaves in the strainer)
3. Gently bruise the mint leaves with the back of a wooden spoon or a muddler to release the oils.
4. Cover the teapot or bowl and let the leaves steep for at least 5 to 10 minutes, then remove the strainer pressing on the leaves to extract as much liquid as possible.
5. Pour into tea cups or mug and sweeten with honey or sugar to taste if desired.
This homely root is an ingredient in many natural cough, cold, and nausea treatments. Instead of giving your child gingerale when they are suffering from an upset stomach (and all of the HFCS and artificial flavors that come in it) brew up a nice cup of ginger tea sweetened with honey for a real dose of soothing ginger!
Ginger is a tropical plant that is apparently not difficult to grow indoors. It requires excellent soil, warmth, humidity, and filtered sunlight.
It’s not recommended to exceed 4 grams of ginger per day – components in the herb can cause irritation of the mouth, heartburn and diarrhea if taken in excess.
Ginger tea can be used to:
◾ Reduce nausea
◾ Prevent or treat motion sickness
◾ Warm the body of someone suffering from chills
◾ Induce sweating to break a fever
◾ Soothe a sore throat
• 1 Tbsp. fresh grated ginger
• 2 cups filtered water
• 1 Tbsp. raw honey or pure maple syrup
• ½ lemon, juiced
Peel the ginger root with a peeler or with the back of a spoon.
Grate the ginger with a grater/zester. If you slice it, slice it thin and use more.
Infuse the ginger; if you add cinnamon, mint, camomile or cayenne, add it here.
If you are using a saucepan, bring the water to a boil, add ginger and turn off heat. Put the lid on it and let it steep for 10 minutes.
If you are using a teapot, add ginger in the teapot and pour boiling water in it. Let it steep for about 10 minutes.
If you are using a saucepan, strain the water to remove the ginger.
Add fresh lemon juice and natural sweetener if you like. Stir and enjoy!
If you want a cold tea, let your tea cool down, store it in the fridge and add ice cubes before serving.
Chamomile tea should be steeped a little longer than other herbal teas in order to get all of the medicinal benefits. This soothing, slightly apple-flavored tea has mild sedative properties. The petals of the tiny flowers are where the medicinal values lie.
Chamomile is easy to grow from seeds. Start them in the late winter and transfer outdoors when the risk of frost has passed. Once the plants are well established, chamomile can thrive with little water during hot weather. When buying your seeds, note that German chamomile is an annual and Roman chamomile is a perennial.
Chamomile tea should be avoided by people who take blood thinners. As well, those who suffer from ragweed allergies may also have an allergic reaction to chamomile, as the two plants are related.
Chamomile tea can be used to:
◾ Relieve anxiety
◾ Induce sleep
◾ Soothe mild nausea and indigestion
◾ Relieve a cough from throat irritation
• One chamomile teabag or 1 heaping teaspoon loose-leaf chamomile tea or dried chamomile flowers
• 8 oz. (about 250 ml) fresh, delicious water, brought just to the boil
• Optional additions to taste, such as honey, lemon, or mint
1. Add the teabag or loose-leaf tea to your favorite cup or mug. (If you’re using loose-leaf tea, an infuser or infuser mug is a great idea!)
2. Cool the just-boiled water slightly (chamomile tea is best when steeped in hot – not boiling – water), and then add to your cup.
3. Let your chamomile tea steep for 5 to 10 minutes (herbal teas tend to improve with longer steeping times to bring out their best flavor and fullest benefits).
4. Remove the teabag or loose tea leaves.
5. Optional – Add extras, like sweetener, lemon, or mint, if you wish (a dollop of organic honey is a healthy, delicious addition to chamomile tea.)
6. That’s it! Now, sit back, relax, and savor your comforting, fragrant tea and its many health benefits!
Cinnamon doesn’t just smell like a holiday in a cup, it is anti-bacterial, antiviral, and antifungal, making it an excellent all-around remedy for whatever ails you. Cinnamon is a wonderful source of immune-boosting antioxidants.
Cinnamon is the fragrant bark of a tropical evergreen tree. This article from Mother Earth Living says that the trees are surprisingly easy to grow indoors in large pots.
Cinnamon tea can be used to:
◾ Increase blood flow and improve circulation
◾ Reduce nausea
◾ Ease stomach discomfort, bloating, gas and indigestion
◾ Warm the body of someone suffering from chills
◾ Soothe a sore throat
◾ Reduce cold symptoms
Ingredients: (Serves 1)
1. One cinnamon stick, or 1 – 1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon powder
2. Sugar/Honey (optional)
3. A teabag
4. Warm milk (Optional)
Put the cinnamon stick in a cup. Alternatively, use 1 – 1 1/2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon powder.
Boil a cup of water.
Add the boiling water to the cup with cinnamon & let it steep for about 10 minutes. (Or boill a cup of water with the cinnamon at medium heat for about 10 -15 minutes… discard the cinnamon after).
Add the teabag. Soak the teabag for 2-3 minutes before removing it.
Add sugar / sweetner for a sweeter taste & Milk (optional)
Squeeze some fresh lemon if you want…
Lemongrass is another herb that is loaded with healing properties. The spiky, easy-to-grow plant has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-parasitic, and antifungal properties, making it helpful in treating a plethora of ailments.
You can actually root the lemongrass that you buy at the grocery store to start your own patio lemongrass farm. It grows beautifully in a large pot, making it a good herb for the apartment windowsill farmer to cultivate. It can be grown year-round indoors. Check out this article for more information.
Lemongrass tea can help to:
◾ aid in digestion
◾ calm nervous disorders and anxiety
◾ aid in the treatment of high blood pressure if a daily cup is enjoyed
◾ dilate blood vessels and improve circulation
◾ act as a mild diuretic to reduce fluid retention
Ingredients: (Serves 1)
2 lemongrass stalks
A pinch of ground cinnamon
Honey or sugar to sweeten (optional)
1 tea bag
Juice from ½ lime
1 Cut off the root end of the lemongrass stalk and remove any of the any dry outer leaves. Gently bruise the base of the stalk with a rolling pin.
2 Tie the lemongrass in a knot and place in a cup with cinnamon and sweeteners if using.
3 Pour in the boiling water. Add a tea bag and remove as soon as the water is golden brown.
4 Add lime juice to taste and serve with a lemongrass stirrer
This lovely flowering plant is probably the pinnacle of herbal preventatives. Echinacea is not only anti-bacterial – but it stimulates the body’s immune system to fight off bacterial and viral attacks. The medicinal properties are in the leaves and the purple flowers.
Echinacea is also known as the “purple coneflower”. The plant has deep taproots and is somewhat drought resistant. It is a perennial. Sow seeds outdoors in the early spring before the last frost. These plants like full sun and they don’t like too much moisture.
Echinacea tea can help to:
◾ enhance the immune system
◾ relieve pain
◾ reduce inflammation
◾ provide antioxidant effects
◾ shorten illness time for sufferers of the common cold
Ingredients: (Serves 2)
2 cups boiling water
1 teaspoon dried echinacea fresh edible flower (or roots)
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger
1 lemon, juice of, freshly squeezed
1 teaspoon honey (or more to taste)
1. In a teapot, pour the boiling water over the echinacea and chopped ginger.
2. Cover and steep for 10-15 minutes.
3. Add lemon juice and honey and stir to mix. Strain and pour into 2 mugs.
4. Serve warm and enjoy!
Rosehips make a tart, tangy pink-colored tea. They are the seed-filled pod at the base of a rose blossom, giving you a practical reason to have more rose bushes in your garden. It mixes well and enhances the flavor of any berry or fruit-flavored tea.
Rosehip tea can help to:
◾ provide a nutritional supplement of Vitamin C
◾ improve adrenal function
◾ boost the immune system
◾ provide minerals such as calcium, iron, silicon, selenium, natural sodium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, phosphorus and zinc
◾ increase energy
◾ heal tissues and cells
Ingredients: (Serves 2)
12-15 rose hip berries
2 1/2 cups water
Place washed rose hips into a small pot and cover with the water. Bring the water to a boil and let boil 3-5 minutes. Turn off the heat and use the back of a spoon to smash open each rose hip. Let them steep in the water for 20 minutes. Turn the heat back on to warm the tea. Pour through a coffee filter into two mugs. Enjoy!
8. Blackberry leaf
Dried blackberry leaves give a luscious fruity flavor when steeped in boiling water. Not only are they the basis of many delicious teas, they are loaded with a beneficial component called tannins. (Bonus tip: add a blackberry leaf to a jar of pickles when canning – the tannin helps to keep the pickles crisp.)
Excess consumption of blackberry leaves (or anything containing tannins) can cause liver damage.
Blackberry leaf tea can help to:
◾ provide vitamin C
◾ treat diarrhea
◾ reduce pain and inflammation from sore throats
◾ provide an antibacterial effect against H pylori, the bacteria that causes stomach ulcers
◾ provide immune-boosting antioxidants
◾ provide high levels of salicylic acid, which gives them similar properties to aspirin, such as pain relief and fever relief
◾ reduce inflammation of the gums
For the Dried Blackberry Leaf:
1kg young, green, blackberry leaves
For the Tea:
250ml (or 1 cup) boiling water
1 tsp dried blackberry leaves
brown sugar or honey, to taste
When picking blackberry leaves for drying pick the young green leaves then split the leaves themselves from the spiny mid-rib. Arrange on a plastic sheet and place in direct sunlight for an afternoon to try. Alternatively arrange on baking trays and place in an airing cupboard for up to five days or a cool oven over night to dry.
Once dry, place the leaves in a jar, seal and store.
To make the tea place the leaves in a warmed teapot, pour over the boiling water then set aside to infuse for 5 minutes. Pour through a strainer into a teacup, sweeten to taste with sugar or honey and serve.
Cloves are a wonderful addition to herbal tea just for the taste. Not only is the flavor delicious, but cloves have been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments. The multipurpose little seed packs a mighty punch with its antiviral, antifungal, antimicrobial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Cloves are the dried buds of a flowering evergreen tree that is native to Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, and Madagascar. They are generally imported and, unfortunately, are not easy to cultivate in other climates or greenhouse atmospheres.
In high amounts cloves can cause liver damage, blood in the urine, diarrhea, nausea, and dizziness.
Clove tea can help to:
◾ provide pain relief – it is a powerful analgesic
◾ break up mucous and work as an expectorant
◾ provide a fragrant decongestant in a steaming cup of tea
◾ treat strep throat or tonsillitis – it relieves pain and provides a wash of antiviral and antibacterial components
Ingredients: (makes 2 cups)
2 cups of water
1 teaspoon whole cloves
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Few drops of lemon juice
Agave nectar or honey (optional)
Lightly crush the cloves and put into a saucepan with the nutmeg and cinnamon
Add a cup of water and heat to boiling. Turn the heat down and simmer for 2-3 minutes
Turn off the heat and let steep (sit) for 5 minutes
Pour through a tea strainer and, if using, add the lemon juice or honey or both.
Drink and enjoy!
10. Lemon Balm
Lemon balm, also known as Bee Balm, is as an overall tonic for good health. It is an ingredient in the old world Carmelite water, a recipe created by Carmelite nuns in the early 1600s to treat headaches. (The traditional mixture also contained coriander, lemon-peel, nutmeg, and angelica root.)
Lemon balm is easy to grow and produces throughout the summer. The more you harvest, the more it produces. It is perennial in warmer climates. Lemon balm like rich moist soil with organic compost and partial shade in the hottest part of the day. It is another one of those herbs that can take over a garden, so plant it in a confined area.
Lemon balm tea can help to:
◾ fight off viruses – it was used historically against shingles, mumps, and cold sores
◾ calm anxiety and nervousness
◾ aid in sleep
◾ aid the digestive system by reducing spasms and quelling heartburn
◾ reduce nausea
Ingredients: (Makes 1/4 cup tea blend, enough for 4 cups of tea)
2 tablespoons dried lemon balm
1 tablespoon dried oat straw
2 teaspoons dried, seedless rosehips
1 1/2 teaspoons dried orange peel
1/2 teaspoon dried lavender
Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container
To make tea: For 1 cup of tea, pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 rounded tablespoon of the tea blend. Cover and steep for 20 minutes. Strain and sweeten with honey, if desired.
You could also infuse all 4 cups at once (a quart mason jar works well) and sip it throughout the day.
What do you keep in your herbal medicine cabinet? Why is it an important natural remedy for you? Please share in the comments section below!