Anne Salazar, RH (AHG)
In the universe of plant (herbal) medicine there are multiple ways to ingest the nutritional and medicinal benefits of the plants. The choices include encapsulated herbs, tinctured herbs, and teas.
Typically, the stronger tasting herbs made up of roots, barks, and seeds are found in tinctures (potent liquid extracts), while the leaf and flower plant parts are utilized as teas (aka infusions). The roots and denser plant parts can be made into a decoction (a type of strong tea) which involves simmering the herbs over a period of time. This has been part of Traditional Chinese Medicine for hundreds of years. For the purposes of this article, we will be focusing on infusions
Infusions tend to be palatable, or even quite delicious. The term infusion signifies the use of hot water poured over the plant matter and left to steep covered; ten minutes or more to bring out the medicinal and nutritional benefits. In doing so, the recipient becomes immersed in the power and benefits of the plants. It is no coincidence that the standard definition of the word ‘infusion’ is “To fill with an emotion or quality”-- a direct relationship occurs between plant and consumer. It is a deeply personal experience.
A Historical Remedy
Tea is considered by many as “First Medicine''. The earliest verbal record of herbal teas dates back to 2737 BC in China. In written history, we can find records of herbal tea that go as far back as the third century AD. It is also widely known that indigenous peoples from all over the world were using herbal teas as medicine for thousands of years. There are multiple benefits in using tea as medicine 1. For instance, infused herbs are easy on the digestion and are therefore easy for the body to absorb. In addition, because you are participating in a mindful ritual in creating the tea, you are involved in a closer relationship with the plants. This allows for the opportunity to garner an even greater desire to explore, learn, and benefit from them. This falls into the herbalist tradition of learning from plant allies and building community with this knowledge.
Quality Is Key
There is a beauty and synergy in creating teas for individual purposes. When a tea is blended just for you, a direct relationship is created. And when you go through the steps of making the tea, the relationship deepens. Obviously, it is important to use the best quality herbs; organic and fresh. It is also important to use good quality water. Since the herbs and water are infused, which concentrates the benefits of the tea, we need them both to be sourced thoughtfully.
There are multiple benefits that can be derived from drinking herbal teas 2 . You can drink tea for an acute condition such as a stomach ache or as part of a detoxification process, or you can drink a daily tea for multiple long term benefits such as nutrition, focus, relaxation/stress relief, antioxidant benefits, sleep, digestion, etc. And it's important to note that teas/infusions can also be made for the bath. Bathing in strong herbal infusions of herbs such as chamomile, rose buds, and lavender can up your bathing game exponentially! The possibilities are wide, and the benefits are endless.
Personally, I look forward every morning to putting together my tea, and enjoying it as I begin my day. This has been a ritual for me for several decades. My blend has shifted over the years, depending on my needs and goals. But the actual process of making and consuming the tea has never changed, and has always been a very special part of everyday life.
Common Herbs for Tea
Although there are thousands of herbs that can be used as medicine, it is important to note that unlike conventional/pharmaceutical medicine, plants are multi-faceted in their medicinal properties; they are never for just one purpose/condition. It is best to know the many uses of one herb, rather than one use for many herbs. They are all high in bioavailable antioxidants and flavonoids. With that in mind, below is a sample list of a few herbs that I personally use and love in making teas-
Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica): this ubiquitous herb can easily be called one the most nutritious plants we have. It has always held an important place in my personal blend. When dried, it makes a delicious and nutritious tea. Among its many benefits are blood cleansing and blood building, high in assimilable iron and other important minerals. It is rich in chlorophyll. It has antihistamine benefits 3, it can enrich a mother’s milk/lactation, and is known to be anti-inflammatory 4.
Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora): another herb that has always been in my own blend, Skullcap is known for its calming qualities 5. It nourishes the nervous system, and is generally grounding. Anyone who experiences long term stress, or has challenges with anxiety can benefit from this plant. Its nutrients include Calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, zinc, vitamins B1, B2, B3, and C.
Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica): Known in China as a ‘miracle elixir of life’, it is a blood purifier, combats stress and depression, and is anti-aging– particularly for the brain 6.
Oatstraw (Avena sativa): This herb is made from the grasses that produce the oatmeal you eat for breakfast. It strengthens bones due to its high content of bioavailable calcium and magnesium, soothes the nervous system, stabilizes blood sugar, relieves depression by nourishing your pancreas, liver and adrenals, and keeps your teeth strong.
Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum): has been used to support a healthy response to stress, maintain blood sugar levels within a normal range, promotes longevity, nourish the mind and elevate the spirit. It exhibits impressive adaptogenic activity, and has broad-spectrum action that helps to maintain homeostasis 7.
These are but a few examples of the wonderful herbs that can be infused for the benefit of the body, mind, and spirit. Blending them together creates great synergy, and allows their benefits to expand. Tea making and drinking are a fantastic and fun way to support and maintain your total well-being!
Custom Herbal Teas at Remedy
I am very excited to announce that at Remedy we have recently begun to carry dried herbs specifically for the purpose of customized tea blending! So we will be able to support your health through this process. Please come in and see us, and our herbal team will be happy to put together a blend just for your personal needs. We can also add this, when appropriate, to your protocol when you come in for a private consultation. Whatever your needs, we are here to serve.
1.Poswal, F.S., Russell, G., Mackonochie, M. et al. Herbal Teas and their Health Benefits: A Scoping Review. Plant Foods Hum Nutr 74, 266–276 (2019).
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4..Ernst E, Chrubasik S. Phyto - anti-inflammatories. A systematic review of randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trials. Rheum Dis Clin North Am. 2000;26:13-2.
5. Awad R, Arnason JT, Trudeau V, et al. Phytochemical and biological analysis of skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora L.): a medicinal plant with anxiolytic properties. Phytomedicine. 2003;10:640-649.
6.Gohil KJ, Patel JA, Gajjar AK. Pharmacological Review on Centella asiatica: A Potential Herbal Cure-all. Indian J Pharm Sci. 2010;72(5):546-556. doi:10.4103/0250-474X.78519
7..Cohen MM. Tulsi - Ocimum sanctum: A herb for all reasons. J Ayurveda Integr Med. 2014;5(4):251-259. doi:10.4103/0975-9476.146554