Eat Local! Herbal Tea
January 1, 2017
Tea has long been cultivated and used to treat medical conditions, and the health benefits of tea for heart disease and cancer prevention are well known. Three main types of tea are traditionally made from the tea plant (Camellia sinensis) native to China and India, which include white, green, and black tea. Each tea represents a various stage of processing of the leaves, with green tea being the highest in beneficial phytochemicals called flavonoids.
Herbal teas, on the other hand, are derived from various herbal plants and are not true teas. They are made by steeping the dried leaves, roots, and flowers of herbs. Some herbs provide immune system protection and can be grown right in your backyard, harvested, dried, and saved to make teas during cold and flu season. The following plants are perennials that are easy to grow in our area and can be dried for winter use:
Mint: Mint is a natural soother and can be used to treat upper respiratory tract infections, irritable bowel syndrome, nausea, headaches and body aches, asthma, fatigue, and is commonly used as a digestive aid. It is a hardy plant and easy to grow, but can quickly take over the garden so must be trimmed back. Mint leaves may be easily dried and used in teas.
Echinacea: Native to North America, Echinacea is an immune system booster, and the Echinacea purpura species appears to have the greatest benefit in reducing severity and duration of cold and flu symptoms. The Echinacea plant resembles a purple daisy-like flower, and its roots, leaves, and petals may be dried and used in teas and tonics.
Chamomile: Both German and Roman chamomile have been used for allergies, diarrhea, indigestion, anxiety, insomnia, menstrual cramps, and as an anti-spasmotic. German chamomile is an annual plant native to Europe while Roman chamomile is a perennial and grows shorter with more feathery leaves. Both produce small white petals which can be dried and made into tea. Roman chamomile adds a lovely apple-like fragrance and aesthetic appeal to the garden, and attracts pollinators.
Try this easy tea recipe if you feel sickness coming on. Echinacea typically requires a longer steeping time than other herbs to obtain the most benefit. Fresh petals and leaves may be used as well for a stronger flavor.
2 teaspoons raw honey
1 teaspoon dried mint leaves
8 oz. water
Directions: Bring water to a boil. Reduce heat, add Echinacea, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Add mint and honey about three minutes prior to removing from the stove. Strain leaves out and pour into a mug.
By Natalie Colla, RDN, LDN