There’s a knack to brewing the perfect cup of herbal tea-tea that tastes like ambrosia instead of last night's dishwater, and has the strength to refresh you without calling to mind a dose of drain cleaner.
Packaged China (Thea sinensis) teas, with clearly spelled-out directions, don’t pose much of a problem. But because herbal teas are brewed from petals, roots, seeds, or flowers, as well as leaves-alone or in combination-they require more know-how. Once you master a few simple methods, though, it's easy to brew a cup of herbal tea with appealing aroma and satisfying taste.
The first thing you need is patience. If you don't allow ample time for brewing, you'll end up with faintly flavored hot water instead of tea. Second, you'll need to make use of your sense of taste. Unlike Thea sinensis teas, herbal teas do not darken as they become stronger, but remain light green or amber. The expert tea-brewer gauges the strength or weakness of herbal tea by taste rather than sight. Third, you'll need the proper brewing utensils. Basically this means a pot (preferably an enameled one with no chips) for boiling water, a teapot, a teacup, and an infuser for immersing the tea in the water, a strainer, and a mortar and pestle, or grinder, to crush roots and seeds just before brewing them.
An infuser is a device that holds the tea ingredients, keeping them contained while boiling water is poured over them, so they do not flow into the teacup. Infusers are usually ball-shaped, with pin-sized holes all over their surface, and they unscrew or unhinge to open, enabling you to lock the tea ingredients inside them. Most infusers come in two sizes-one-to-two cups or six-to-eight cup. If you prefer, you can place loose ingredients into the teapot, add boiling water, and pour through a strainer to keep tea ingredients out of each cup.
The best teapots are made of china, earthenware, glass, silver, or stainless steel. Some teapots have strainers built in over the base of the spout, so you can use loose ingredients and the pot will strain the tea as you pour. Avoid tin or aluminum pots, they tend to impart a metallic taste to the tea, and never heat a teapot directly on the stove.
Depending on the type of herbal tea you're brewing, you'll use one of two methods, infusion or decoction.
Brewing by infusion
Most teas made from leaves, petals, and flowers are prepared by infusion. Infusion allows the oils in these parts of the herb to be released gently; if the herbs were boiled, the oils would evaporate.
Infusion of leaves, petals, or flowers:
1 teaspoon of dried herbs, or 3 teaspoons of freshly picked herbs to 1 cup boiling water
To infuse tea, rinse the teapot with boiling water (to heat it) and dry it thoroughly. Place tea in the pot, either loose or in its infuser, pour boiling water over the tea, and allow the mixture to steep for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the delicate flavors are released. Then strain and serve. You may add or subtract herbs according to your personal preference.
If you're using freshly picked herbs, bruise the leaves gently by crushing them in a clean cloth. This will help to release aromatic oils.
Some herbal tea experts say infused herbs should be removed and discarded as soon as the tea is made. Others believe the tea can steep for as long as a day or two.
If the herbs are allowed to sit, use boiling water to warm up the cold tea and/or dilute it if it has become too strong. A word of caution: if herbs are allowed to stand more than a day or two, they release tannic acid into the tea. Tannic acid is great for curing leather, but isn't good for delicate stomach linings. As one expert advises, "If you want your tea to be stronger, use more tea, not more time."
Brewing by decoction
The decoction method is used mainly for seed and root teas, whose oils are more difficult to release. Herbal teas prepared by decoction generally tend to stay fresher than teas prepared by other methods.
Decoction of seeds:
I tablespoon of seeds to 1 pint (2 cups) of boiling water
Bring water to a boil in an enameled pan placed over a high heat. Add the seeds, reduce the temperature, and allow the mixture to simmer gently for 5 to 10 minutes. Then quickly strain the tea and serve it.
Seeds should be well crushed to bring out their oils. A mortar and pestle do the job nicely, or you can wrap the seeds in a clean cloth and crush them with a wooden mallet or rolling pin. You can also grind them in the type of small electric grinder used for grinding coffee beans.
Decoction of roots:
1/2 ounce of dried roots to 1 pint (2 cups) of boiling water
Add the powdered, ground, or crushed dried root to boiling water, reduce the temperature, and simmer for as long as it takes to brew the tea to your taste.
Ordinarily, decoction of roots takes about 20 minutes, and less if you've powdered them. A good rule of thumb is that tea will probably be ready when the water has been reduced to 1/z pint (1 cup). Remove the root at this time.
To make iced teas, prepare them as outlined above, and then cool them in the refrigerator.
To make a gallon (20 servings), pour 1 quart of boiling water over 2 ounces of dried herbal tea (about 3/4 cup), or over 6 ounces of bruised fresh leaves. Brew 5 or 6 minutes. Stir and strain into 3 quarts of cold tap water. Serve over ice cubes.
Herbal tea concentrate for a crowd
If you want to make leaf, flower, or petal tea for a crowd, you can make a concentrate in advance, then dilute it when you're ready to serve. Here's how:
For 40 to 45 cups, bring 1 1/2 quarts of cold water to a full rolling boil. Remove from heat. Immediately add 1/4 pound of loose, dried herbal tealeaves, petals, or flowers, or 3/4 pound of fresh herbs. Stir well to immerse the leaves, then cover. Let the brew steep for 5 or more minutes. Strain the concentrate into a teapot. When you are ready to serve, boil water and add it to the concentrate in cups, preparing it to taste.
For hundreds of years, American Indians have used the sun as a source of heat to brew herbal beverages without boiling away the natural flavor. The sun's infrared and ultraviolet rays heat the water but keep it below the boiling point. Flavor is released from the herbs, but not from the oils and acids that can give tea an acrid taste if it isn't drunk soon after brewing. This method also saves energy.
Take a large glass bottle, preferably one with a glass cover that enables the sun's rays to reach the contents easily (an old-fashioned canning jar works well). Fill the jar with water, and add tealeaves. Set the jar in the sun for 3 to 6 hours, depending on the intensity of the rays (affected by time of day) and the time of year. Remove tea residue from the water as soon as you bring the jar in from the sun. This method doesn't work for seeds and roots, which require boiling water to release their flavors.
Enhancing tea's taste
Most herbal teas are brewed to be drunk without sugar, honey, or molasses, which mask their delicate flavors. But some herbs are more tart than others, and you may want to add a sweetener. Elderberry leaves or cut fruit sweeten and add a nice flavor. So does a bit of licorice root. Dried orange peels and tangerine rinds can also be used.
Teas can also be sweetened or flavored with other teas. After you've been experimenting with herbal blends for a while, you'll find you can create and brew your favorite herbal teas quickly and easily.
Creating tea blends
Here comes the fun part-when you can combine two, or three, l for many herbs to create teas that will delight your taste buds. Single-herb teas can be lovely, but you will be delighted with the results if you experiment by combining a few leaves of one herb and a few of another, just as people have been doing since the beginning of time.
You may not be ambitious enough to blend twenty-five or thirty herbs and spices as commercial herbal tea packagers often do. They are trying to create tastes that will appeal to the widest segment of the market, and they do an admirable job. These prepared teas, however, often contain exotic tropical herbs or spices that can’t be grown in your garden.
But with what you can grow you can create some pretty special beverages. And they will have the distinction of being your creations; brewed from plants you've grown and processed yourself.
The Chippewa Indians are said to have invented the first tea bag. They would tie some herbal leaves into a little packet, using a long strip of bark to hold everything together, and then dunk it into boiling water until they had brewed palatable tea.
Today, if you'd like to mix elaborate blends and store them in bags for convenient use, you can buy empty bags that are sealed with a hot iron after you've doled out 1 teaspoon of your magic mixtures for each cup of tea.
You can also buy or make little cloth bags with drawstrings to store measured portions of your special blends. This guarantees consistency in the herbal brews, because the blends don't settle as they would in a canister.
In January 1774, a month after the Boston Tea Party, one "Philo Aletheias" wrote in the Virginia Gazette, "If we must through Custom have some warm Tea once or twice a day, why may we not exchange this slow poison which not only destroys our Constitutions but endangers our Liberties and drains our Country of so many thousands of Pounds a Year for Teas of our own American Plants, many of which may be found pleasant to the taste, and very salutary." He then recommended seventeen different herbal teas, including these two-herb blends:
Sweet marjoram and a little mint; mother of thyme and a little hyssop; rosemary and lavender; clover with a little chamomile; sage and lemon balm leaves ("joined with a little lemon juice"); goldenrod and betony (with honey)
These were all good herbal teas for the Colonists, and are good today. (They also drank China tea taste likes Labrador tea, bee balm, and New Jersey tea-which were preferred by less adventurous tea-drinkers who wanted to stick with familiar tasting beverages.)
All two-herb blends should be mixed according to personal preference, using equal parts of each herb, or more of one you like better. The blends outlined here should be brewed by infusion (1 teaspoon of dried herb, or 3 of fresh herb to 1 cup of boiling water) unless the ingredients used are entirely seeds or roots. If this is the case, brew by decoction (1 tablespoon of crushed or ground seeds or root, placed in 2 cups of boiling water and simmered until the water has been reduced to 1 cup).
Other two-herb blends that have stood the test of time include:
Agrimony with licorice
Alfalfa seed with mint
Alfalfa leaf with lemon verbena
Alfalfa leaf with red clover blossoms
Angelica root with juniper berries
Coltsfoot with horehound
Chamomile with hibiscus flowers
Dill seed with chamomile flowers
Elderflowers with peppermint
Elderflowers with yarrow
Fenugreek with alfalfa
Fenugreek with mint
Hibiscus flowers with rose hips
Licorice root with any other herb
Marigold petals with mint
Mullein with sage
Mullein with marjoram
Mullein with chamomile
Pennyroyal with any of the other mints
Peppermint with spearmint
Rosemary with hibiscus flowers
Strawberry leaves with woodruff,
Sage with lemon verbena
Yarrow with peppermint
If you'd like to experiment with these blends but don't have all the ingredients, you might consider buying loose dried herbs and testing them before you decide whether to include them in your garden. Or buy those that won't grow in your area and combine them with those you can grow.
It was only a matter of time before more adventurous tea-brewers began blending three herbs. Successes included this blend, said to be an effective remedy for hangovers and nightmares:
3 parts thyme
1 part rosemary
1 part spearmint
Another good tea, which combines fruity and woodsy tastes, is this:
1 part strawberry leaves
1 part blackberry leaves
1 part woodruff
For an attractive pink tea with a lemon-spice aroma and taste, try:
1-part hibiscus petals
1-part rose hips
1 part lemon verbena
Add a touch of cinnamon to give a spicy accent.
Toby Chamberlain of California, a distributor of little vellum tea bags for herbal enthusiasts who grow and package their own teas, recommends this blend:
1 part dried alfalfa leaves
1 part dried peppermint leaves
1/2 part crushed caraway seeds
Gradually your taste will begin to develop so you can judge how herbs will work together. Soon you'll know which ones enhance or complement each other, and which impart sweetness or extra tang.
Here's a good seed blend. The anise and fennel give it a licorice taste, while the coriander and caraway add an extra tang, refreshing, with a pleasant aftertaste. (I have one of those small coffee grinders that grind enough beans for a single serving. It works perfectly on herbs that need pulverizing to bring out their essential oils.)
For this one, I measure 1/2 teaspoon of each ingredient into the grinder, powder the seeds, and then infuse the resulting mixture:
1 part fennel seeds
1 part anise seeds
1 part coriander seeds
1 part caraway seeds
Measure 1 teaspoon of the seed mixture, infuse in 2 cups of boiling water, cover, and let cool.
This one comes close to tasting like China tea, because of the bee balm and birch:
1 part ground birch leaves and twigs
1 part peppermint
1 part savory
1 part bee balm (bergamot)
Infuse 1 teaspoon of the mixture in 1 cup of boiling water.
For a minty and sweet multi-herb blend combine these:
1 part catnip
1 part chamomile
1 part marjoram
1 part spearmint
Infuse I teaspoon of dried herb mixture in 1 covered cup of boiling water for 10 minutes. Sweeten with honey if desired.
This aromatic blend has a woodsy, bittersweet scent and taste that makes a refreshing iced tea as well:
1 part sage
1 part rosemary
1 part hyssop
1 part peppermint
1 part marjoram
2 parts thyme
Infuse in boiling water, let stand a few minutes, then enjoy.
Experimentation resulted in this tasty combination, a tangy brew similar to China tea:
1-part rose hips
1 part hibiscus
1 part alfalfa leaf
1 part blackberry leaves
I grind the rose hips and hibiscus, then add the other ingredients, and infuse I teaspoon of blend for each cup of boiling water.
A multi-herb blend with a citrus-like taste, this tea is especially refreshing when you add a touch of dried orange peel:
1 part chamomile
1 part rose petals
1 part spearmint
2 parts lemon verbena
Infuse, using 1 teaspoon of the mixture to each cup of boiling water.
A touch of orange peel and cinnamon enhance the flavors of this tea:
1 part hibiscus flowers
1 part rose hips
1 part lemon verbena
1 part peppermint
Infuse to taste.
Headache Tea Formula
Mix equal parts of each herb. 1-1/2 tablespoons of the mix to 1 1/2 cups hot water.
Equal parts, 1-1/2 tablespoon herbs to 1 1/2 cups hot water
Tummy Ache Tea
Peppermint tea in proper proportions, 1 tsp honey
When combining fresh and dried ingredients, I use this rule of thumb for bulk: 1 part dried equals 3 parts fresh. With this tea, for example, I use 1 teaspoon dried hibiscus, and 1 teaspoon dried rose hips (both of which I grind to help release the tastes quickly). Then I add about 3 teaspoons of fresh lemon verbena from my garden, and 3 teaspoons of fresh peppermint. Since this adds up to 4 teaspoons of dried ingredients, I infuse the mix in 4 cups of boiling water.
Here's another blend that is found in old-time herbals:
1 part meadowsweet
1 part betony
1 part raspberry leaves
1 part agrimony
Infuse. Sweeten this one with honey or sugar.
To experience an old-fashioned root beer taste, try this combination:
1 part sassafras bark
1 part licorice root
1 part sarsaparilla root
1/2 part wintergreen leaves
Grind the bark and roots. Add the wintergreen, and steep for 10 minutes in boiling water. Sweeten with honey or sugar.
My favorite creation is this apple tea, which provides a medley of tastes:
1 tsp. Ground dried rose hips
1 tsp. Ground dried hibiscus flowers
1 tsp. Dried chamomile flowers
4 large fresh apple geranium leaves
While the mixture is steeping in 4 cups of hot water, I add a pinch of nutmeg and a pinch of cinnamon. The apple geranium gives a slightly tart taste, so I also add honey to sweeten.
I try all kinds of herbal combinations, making one teacupful at a time, then refining, sweetening, adding an ingredient here, or subtracting one there, until the brew seems just right. I write down the proportions of each ingredient.
You can do this, too. Soon you'll have many favorite herbal tea recipes, with at least one for each friend or family member.
Teas with spices, fruit, and liquors
Herbal teas go well with many spices, fruits, and liquors, and have been served this way over the centuries. Here are a few old-time recipes:
Cloves and rose hips give a slightly bitter taste to this blend:
1 tsp. Rose hips
3 tsp. Dried lemon balm
Infuse in 2 cups of boiling water, and steep for 10 minutes. Sweeten with honey or, for a tangier tea, add lemon juice.
Simple, sweet, and lemony, this blend is very soothing:
2 tsp. Dried lemon balm
1 tsp. Honey
Infuse in 2 cups of boiling water for 10 minutes.
A combination which has a lavender aroma and minty taste when you're drinking it, but an aftertaste reminiscent of a China tea:
1 tsp. Rosemary
1 tsp. Lavender
1 tsp. Lemon balm
1 tsp. Spearmint
1 tsp., cloves
Mix the ingredients, and infuse 1 teaspoon of the blend for each cup of boiling water.
Mace gives the usually soothing valerian tea a sharper, almost peppery taste:
1 tsp. Valerian root
1 pinch of mace
Infuse to taste in 1 cup of boiling water.
A combination that's good when flavored with orange peel is this blend:
1 tsp. Wood betony
1 tsp. Dandelion leaves
Infuse in 2 cups of boiling water.
Herbal tea ingredients spice up alcoholic drinks as well. Over the centuries many herbs have been added to wine-woodruff, for example, gives May wine its distinctive taste. By experimenting, you can create strawberry and blackberry flavored wines, as well as others. Crushed hawthorn berries are good addition in wine or brandy.
Here's a cooling tea and liquor combination: Brew hibiscus tea until it is rich red. Then add ice until the mixture becomes light red. When thoroughly cooled, add a jigger of anisette to each glass.
Chopping up and steeping 2 ounces of freshly gathered angelica stems and leaves in 2 pints of good brandy for 5 days can make an angelica liqueur. Then add 1 tablespoon of skinned bitter almonds ground to a pulp, stir, and strain the liquid. Add I pint of syrup made by boiling 2 cups of sugar in 1 cup of water for 5 minutes. Filter and bottle.
Tarragon liqueur can be made by steeping 4 teaspoonfuls of fresh tarragon leaves in I pint of brandy for 5 days. Then make syrup of 1/3 cup of sugar boiled in just enough water to dissolve it, and add to the blend. Before bottling this mixture, add I ounce of orange flower water.
Purists may argue some of these combinations aren't truly teas, because the herbal ingredients are not infused in hot water. However, dictionary definitions of infusion and tea often mention herbs being steeped "in liquids." While the semanticists argue, you can try them out. These recipes are slightly more ambitious, and their success depends on long periods of steeping.
Dandelion tea becomes a tasty wine with this recipe:
16 cups of dandelion flower heads; 1 gallon water; 2 oranges; I lemon; 1 oz. Ginger root; 4 pounds sugar; '/z oz. yeast; I egg white (optional)
Use only fresh dandelion blossoms from which you have removed all stems otherwise the wine will be bitter. Slice the oranges and lemon. Place dandelion heads, water, oranges, lemon, and ginger (crushed and tied in a muslin bag) in a pan, and bring the mixture to a boil. Boil for 20 minutes. Strain and add the sugar. If the mixture isn't clear, add the white of an egg. Place the yeast into the mixture, and let set for a week. Then strain and bottle, capping the bottles loosely for a few days, then more tightly. Let this blend stand for 6 months before using.
If you start elderflower wine today, you can enjoy it 6 months from now:
4 cups fresh elderflower blossoms; 3 gallons water; 9 lbs. sugar; 2 tsp. lemon juice; I yeast cake; 3 lbs. raisins
Boil the water and sugar together, and then pour over the blossoms. Allow to cool, and then add lemon juice and yeaSt. Put the mixture into a crock, and let it stand 9 days. Strain through cheesecloth, and add the raisins. Put the mix back into the crock, and allow it to stand for 6 months. Then strain and bottle.
Herbs with China tea
You can experiment with all herbs in combination with the China teas. Here are a few favorites: 1 bag of China tea; 3 cloves, 2 rose geranium leaves. Steep in 1 cup of boiling water.
Honey and mint give a sweet, cool taste to this combination:
1 tsp. green tea
3 tsp. fresh mint (or 1 tsp. dried mint)
1 tsp. honey
Infuse in 2 cups of boiling water.
Raspberry leaves give a tart, fruity taste to this combination, so you may want to sweeten it with honey or sugar:
1 tsp. China tea
1 tsp. dried raspberry leaves
Infuse in 2 cups of boiling water.
Bee balm makes this blend aromatic and tasty:
1 part China tea
1 part bee balm (bergamot)
Infuse 1 teaspoon of mixture to each cup of boiling water.
A warm, sweet, and slightly lemony taste characterizes this tea:
1 part China tea
1 part hibiscus flowers
Infuse. This blend is particularly good when iced.
For those who want the taste of coffee but no caffeine, here's an old-time substitute, used when imported coffee beans were not available:
1 tsp. ground roasted dandelion root
1/2 tsp. chicory
Infuse in 1 cup of boiling water. This combination tastes a lot like coffee and is good either black or with cream and sugar.
Here are two favorite punches made from herbal teas:
Lemon Balm Punch: Pour 2 quarts of boiling water over 2 big handfuls of fresh lemon balm leaves. Allow to steep for 20 minutes, then strain. Add 2 tablespoons of honey and allow the mixture to cool. Just before serving, add ice and 1 quart of ginger ale. Float sprays of mint on top. Serves about 15.
Mint ale (a popular punch with the French): 1 cup equal parts orange mint, apple mint, and spearmint; 2 cups boiling water; 2 tbsp. sugar; 1 large bottle of ginger ale; juice of 1 orange and 1 lemon Infuse the mint in the 2 cups of boiling water. Cool and add the other ingredients plus ice. Float sprigs of apple mint on top of the punch.
As you can see, you can make endless numbers of creative and tasty beverages with herbal teas. Try these and concoct your own!
Herbs for Tea
Alfalfa is also known as lucerne, buffalo herb, and, because of its bluish or purple flowers, purple medick. A leguminous plant, with roots that go deep into the soil, it is a rich source of fourteen of the sixteen principal mineral elements, particularly iron, phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium. Alfalfa also contains vitamins a, d, e, g, and k. The herb is said to give racehorses speed and athletes stamina. It is also believed to relieve arthritis and other twinges and pains, to stimulate appetite, to build the body, and to help in the treatment of alcohol and drug addiction. Alfalfa is thought to aid digestion and elimination and to help cure peptic ulcers.
Part used for tea: leaves and seeds.
Taste: bland, tastes like newly mown hay. It is usually blended with mint, lemon verbena, red clover, or honey.
Leaves, by infusion: 1 teaspoon of dried herb or 3 teaspoons of fresh crushed herb, to 1 cup of boiling water. Steep to taste.
Seeds, by decoction: crush 1 tablespoon of seeds, and add to 2 cups of boiling water. Reduce temperature and allow mixture to simmer gently for 5 to 10 minutes.
Angelica is also commonly known as masterwort, archangel, Holy Ghost plant, and St. Michael’s plant, since it blooms on his day (may 8) in many parts of the world. Believed to be native to Syria, angelica is said to be a remedy for colds, coughs, pleurisy, flatulence, rheumatism, and fevers.
Part used for tea: leaves, seeds, sometimes roots.
Taste: resembles china tea in flavor, with a slight celery taste. If seeds or roots are used, they're often boiled along with juniper berries. Leaf tea is good with honey or lemon.
Leaves, by infusion: 1 teaspoon of dried herb, or 3 teaspoons of fresh crushed herb, to 1 cup of boiling water. Steep to taste.
Seeds or roots, by decoction: crush or grind 1 tablespoon of seeds, or 1 ounce of root, and add to 2 cups of boiling water. Reduce temperature and allow the mixture to simmer gently for 5 to 10 minutes or longer to taste.
Pronounced with emphasis on the first syllable, anise is sometimes called aniseed, and was widely used in the sixteenth century as mousetrap bait, since mice could not resist it. Many humans find it irresistible, too. Originally from Greece and Egypt, anise traveled with the Romans to Europe and England and was one of the first herbs to be brought to America. It is widely cultivated. Anise tea is considered helpful in the treatment of asthma, colic, bronchitis, and nausea. It is also believed to promote milk production in nursing mothers, to induce sleep, and to bring on menstruation. It is widely used as a flavoring agent in candies and liqueurs.
Part used for tea: leaves and seeds.
Taste: aromatic and sweet with a licorice-like taste. Good brewed with warm milk and drunk just before going to bed.
Leaves, by infusion: 1 teaspoon of dried leaf, or 3 teaspoons of fresh, crushed leaf, to 1 cup of boiling water. Allow to steep.
Seeds, by decoction: crush or grind 1 tablespoon of the seeds, and add to 2 cups of boiling water. Reduce temperature and allow mixture to simmer gently for 5 to 10 minutes.
Other names for this herb are lemon balm, balm mint, blue balm, cure-all, dropsy plant, honey plant, melissa, and sweet balm. Balm is a symbol of sympathy and gentleness. Linnaeus named it melissa, the Greek word for "bee," because of bees' attraction to it. Common in the Mediterranean area and the near east, it is also naturalized in some parts of the united states, where it grows wild in fields and gardens and along roadsides. The ancients believed balm tea would ensure long life. It is also thought to relieve colic, cramps, bronchial catarrh, dyspepsia, and some forms of asthma. As a warm infusion, it is used for migraine and toothache, and for the headaches and dizziness of pregnancy. And balm tea is also said to dispel melancholy and sadness.
Part used for tea: leaves.
Taste: lemony, refreshing.
By infusion: pick leaves that have not set flower buds. Do this early in the day, while the leaves are still rich with aromatic oils. Use 2 teaspoons of dried leaves or 4 teaspoons of crushed fresh leaves. Place in a warmed porcelain pot, pour in 1 cup of boiling water, and steep to taste. Can be flavored with sugar, honey, and/or a twist of lemon.
Basil, also known as common basil, St. Joseph’s Wort, and sweet basil, is found wild in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. It is the focus of a centuries-old controversy: some attribute evil powers to it, and others hold it as an object of sacred worship. Its name, which rhymes with "dazzle," derives from basileus, the Greek word for "king," and it is highly esteemed in the east, where it is planted outside Hindu temples. In Crete, however, basil is considered an ill omen and an agent of the devil. The herb's usefulness is generally associated with the stomach and related organs. Basil is believed to relieve stomach cramps, enteritis, constipation, vomiting, and gastrointestinal catarrh. It is also believed to promote lactation in nursing mothers.
Part used for tea: leaves.
Taste: spicy, clove-like flavor.
By infusion: use 1 teaspoon of dried herb or 3 teaspoons of fresh, crushed herb. Cover with 1 cup of boiling water and flavor with honey if desired.
Bay is known by many other common names: laurel, Grecian laurel, Indian bay, sweet bay. It is an evergreen bush or tree, found both wild and cultivated around the Mediterranean Sea. In ancient Greece, laurel leaves were used to make crowns for Olympic heroes and poets, and the tree was considered sacred to the god Apollo. Bay grows widely in the Pacific Northwest and in other warm-temperature and subtropical climates. It is not winter hardy, and it must be grown as a pot plant in colder climates and taken indoors during the cold seasons. Bay tea is used as an astringent, and it is said to aid digestion, relieve flatulence, and stimulate appetite. It is also believed to protect the user from witchcraft and to ease the pains of childbirth.
Part used for tea: leaves.
Taste: pungent, almost bitter. Can be sweetened with honey.
Caution: only laurus nobilis and magnolia glauca varieties are used as foodstuffs, and both are said to have narcotic properties, so they should be used sparingly. Native laurels are poisonous and should not be used at all.
By infusion: use 1 teaspoon of dried leaves or 3 teaspoons of fresh crushed leaves. Cover with 1 cup of boiling water, and steep to taste.
Bee balm is known by other names: bergamot, Oswego tea, monarda, blue balm, scarlet monarda, high balm, low balm, mountain balm, and mountain mint. The genus name monarda honors the sixteenth-century Spanish botanist and physician Nicolas Monardes, who wrote about medicinal and useful herbs. Bee balm is a true American wildflower and a member of the mint family. Its native habitats are moist areas and stream banks, and it is found from Georgia and Tennessee northward and as far west as Michigan and Ontario. The red-flowered monarda was known to the American Indians and early settlers, who made a hot beverage of the leaves and flowers. It became a special favorite after the Boston tea party, since it was the closest taste substitute for china tea. Bee balm is said to relieve nausea, vomiting, and flatulence. Because it is rich in a substance called thymol, which has a pungent taste and odor, the herb is used extensively in modern medicine and dentistry as an aromatic antiseptic.
Part used for tea: leaves, flowers. Be sure to wash flowers well in order to float out insects lurking in the deep corollas.
Taste: aromatic, minty.
By infusion: steep 1 teaspoon dried leaves or flowers in 1 cup of boiling water for 15 minutes. Strain. Add honey to flavor.
Pronounced with emphasis on the first syllable, betony also goes by many other common names: lousewort, bishopwort, purple betony, and wood betony. The botanical word for this herb comes from the Greek word stachys, meaning, "spike," because of the arrangement of its blooms. Betony is native to open woodlands and heaths from Scotland to the Mediterranean and from Spain to the Caucasus. Sir William Hookers (the first director of the royal botanical gardens, kew, surrey) claimed the English name betony is a corruption of the Celtic words bew ("head") and ton ("tonic"); the herb's tea is believed to relieve nervous headaches and tension. Older herbals claim betony purifies the blood and is a fine, natural painkiller. In European monasteries, it was used to treat shortness of breath. The Saxons believed chewing betony leaves before a party would prevent drunkenness, and an infusion was supposed to prevent bad dreams.
Part used for tea: leaves.
Taste: pleasant, warm, astringent. Slightly bitter, so you may want to sweeten with honey.
By infusion: 1 teaspoon of dried leaf or 3 teaspoons of crushed fresh leaf. Place in a porcelain pot, cover with 1 cup of boiling water, then steep to taste. Don't overindulge - betony tea made from fresh leaves can have a rather intoxicating effect!
This herb is also called cherry birch, sweet birch, or white birch. The word birch is said to come from the Sanskrit bhurga meaning "tree whose bark is written on." birches have long been a symbol of the return of spring, and several species are found throughout cooler parts of the northern hemisphere. Coleridge called the birch "lady of the woods." the oil in birch tea is believed to purify the blood, relieve rheumatism, and expel worms. A standard infusion is used to treat skin complaints, including stubborn cases of acne, itching, and eczema.
Part used for tea: leaves, twigs, or bark.
Taste: like wintergreen in flavor, very aromatic. Birch tea can be sweetened with honey.
By infusion: if using leaves, 1 teaspoon of dried leaves, or 3 teaspoons of crushed fresh leaves, to 1 cup of boiling water. Steep to taste. If you're using twigs or bark, measure 3 teaspoons of fresh or dried herb, crush it, and allow more time for steeping, so oils can be released from the tougher fiber.
Common names for this herb also include brambleberry, cloudberry, dewberry, goutberry and thimbleberry. One botanist termed the blackberry "the plant of Venus in Aries," and said, "if any ask the reason why Venus is so prickly, tell them 'tis because she is in the house of mars." blackberry bushes are found worldwide and are often cultivated. Rubus villosus, the type of plant most commonly used for tea, is a shrubby vine found wild in hedgerows, woodlands, and by streams. The tannic qualities of the leaves have made it a long-standing home remedy for diarrhea. The tea is believed to relieve inflammation of the intestines and catarrhal disorders, and it is popularly used as an astringent or tonic. Others feel it helps to purify offensive saliva, cool the blood, and cure anemia and general debility.
Part used for tea: leaves.
Taste: tangy and pleasant with a cool, refreshing aftertaste. Commonly sweetened with honey. A favorite combination is equal parts of the leaves of blackberry, strawberry, and woodruff.
By infusion: cover 1 teaspoon of dried leaves, or 3 teaspoons of fresh leaves, with 1 cup of boiling water. Steep to taste.
Pronounced to rhyme with "porridge," borage is also commonly called burrage and common bugloss. Borage grows wild in the Mediterranean countries. It once had a reputation for dispelling melancholy and giving courage, so the ancient Greeks put it into their wine. It is also believed to have some calming effects, useful for treatment of nervous conditions, and the leaves are said to stimulate lactation in nursing mothers. Borage is thought good for reducing fever and restoring vitality during recovery from illness. Because it enhances perspiration, it is also credited with some antidotal effect against poisons. Astrologers place borage under Jupiter’s realm and under the zodiac sign of Leo, the lion.
Part used for tea: leaves, flowers.
Taste: pleasant, cucumber-like. Some say it is cooling, others that it's spicy hot. Try it yourself to judge.
By infusion: 1 teaspoon of dried leaves and/or flowers or, preferably, 3 teaspoons of fresh herb gathered in the morning just after the dew is off the plants, when the oils are strongeSt. Crush the fresh herb with a clean cloth to help release aromatic oils. Add 1 cup of boiling water, and steep to taste.
(sanguisorba minor or poterium sanguisorba)
Burnet is pronounced with emphasis on the first syllable. There's some confusion about this herb, with many botanists referring to two cousins, salad burnet and garden burnet, by the same names. Both varieties have been valued for their healing qualities. Growing in sheltered valleys in Europe, North America, and Asia, burner is supposed to slow the flow of internal and external bleeding, and legend says king Csaba of Hungary used it to help heal the wounds of 15,000 soldiers after a great battle. Burnet tea is also reputed to have been drunk by American soldiers during the revolutionary war on nights before they were to enter battle to help keep them from bleeding to death if they were wounded. The herb is also believed to be an aid in relieving dysentery. At one time, it was used to flavor wine.
Part used for tea: leaves.
Taste: cucumber-like (similar to borage) if fresh, new leaves are used; less cucumber-like and nuttier if leaves have been dried.
By infusion: 1 teaspoon of dried leaves, or 1 tablespoon of fresh crushed leaves, steeped in 1 cup of boiling water.
Often called by its German name, kummel or kuemmel, this plant's crescent-shaped seeds are reputed to strengthen the memory and to prevent lovers from being fickle. The ancient Greeks prescribed caraway tea for pale young girls, in the belief it would bring color to their cheeks. Caraway seeds flavor kummel liqueurs, which many people make themselves by steeping 2 tablespoons of crushed caraway seeds and 1 cup of powdered sugar in 1 pint of brandy. This mixture is shaken daily for a week, after which it is strained and used. Caraway tea is believed to stimulate appetite and digestion, to promote the onset of menstruation, to relieve uterine cramps, and to increase lactation. It has also been used for flatulent colic in infants and as a stomach settler for those who have taken nauseous medicines.
Part used for tea: seeds.
Taste: warm, sweet, biting.
Seeds, by infusion: grind or crush 1 teaspoon of seed. Cover with 1 cup of boiling water. Steep to taste.
Seeds, by decoction: use 2 teaspoons of ground or crushed seeds to 1 cup of water. Boil briefly, then cover and steep for 10 minutes. Strain.
Sometimes called catmint, catnep, catrup, catswort, field balm, and nip, this herb, as we all know, is irresistible to cats. They will search it out, roll over and over in it, and ecstatically spread it everywhere. A member of the mint family, catnip, when brewed in tea, is thought to relieve upset stomachs, bronchitis, colic, spasms, flatulence, and acidity. It has also been used to treat hysteria, nervousness, and headaches, and as an enema. Originally native to Europe, catnip is now found wild in many parts of the United States.
Part used for tea: leaves.
Taste: aromatic, minty.
Caution: there has been talk in some quarters that catnip tea should be drunk sparingly. At least one medicinal-plant expert believes that catnip contains a hallucinogenic substance that affects humans as well as cats. The food and drug administration, however, does not include catnip on its "hit list. "
By infusion: use 1 teaspoon of dried herb, or 3 teaspoons of fresh herb, with 1 cup of boiling water. Make sure the mixture is steeped only and not allowed to boil.
Other names for anthemis nobilis include roman chamomile, garden chamomile, ground apple, low chamomile, whig plant, manzanilla, and maythen. Roman or English chamomile is the plant most often used in herb gardens. It is the emblem of the sweetness of humility. Pronounced "kamomeel," the word chamomile comes from the Greek kamai, meaning "on the ground," and melon, meaning "apple," for ground apple. The Spanish word, manzanilla, also means "little apple." when bruised or walked on, chamomile produces a delightful apple-like odor, making it one of the oldest favorites among herbs. Shakespeare's Falstaff said of it, "the more it is trodden on, the faster it grows, yet youth the more it is wasted, the sooner it wears." this, perhaps, derives from the ancient Egyptian belief that chamomile prevented aging. Tea prepared from the flowers is thought to be a moderate sedative. It is also soothing for indigestion and good for flatulent colic, fever, and restlessness in children.
Part used for tea: flowers.
Taste: light, apple-like.
By infusion: 1 tablespoon of fresh flowers or 2 teaspoons of dried flowers to 1 cup of boiling water. Steep for 1/z hour or to taste.
The name chrysanthemum comes from the Greek words chrysos, meaning "gold," and anthos, meaning "flower." native to china, the original wild, delicate white or yellow blossoms were about the size of a dime before hybridization and selective cultivation made possible the many showy varieties we associate with the plant today. Cultivation of the chrysanthemum began more than 2,000 years ago in china, where it is considered the flower of immortality. Tea made from dried flowers was served to Chinese emperors, and today the best grade tea flowers go for as much as $30 a pound. The chrysanthemum is also the imperial emblem of Japan. The flower was not introduced into Europe until the middle of the eighteenth century. It was brought to America in 1798. The Chinese and Japanese cultivated the perennial varieties, and it is these that are used for tea.
Part used for tea: flowers. For a sweet tea, use only petals.
Taste: tangy, aromatic, similar to the taste of artichoke hearts. Sweeten with honey or sugar.
By infusion: cover 2 teaspoons of dried petals, or 3 teaspoons of fresh petals, with 1 cup of boiling water. Cover, and steep to taste.
Pronounced like "Sicily," this herb goes by other names as well: sweet cicely, myrrh flower, sweet chervil, anise fern, and shepherd's needle. Throughout Europe, cicely is found in hedges, on the edges of woods, and on mountainsides. Its botanical name, myrrhis, comes from the Greek and means "perfume." however, though the plant is strongly scented, there is no recorded history of its being used for its scent. Old herbals do mention that cicely leaves can enhance a salad. Medicinally, it is believed to be a general tonic and appetite stimulant, and is considered mildly laxative. It is also believed helpful in treating coughs. In ancient times, a root decoction boiled in wine was administered in case of bites by poisonous snakes, spiders, and mad dogs.
Part used for tea: leaves.
Taste: sweet, anise-like.
By infusion: 1 teaspoon of dried leaves, or 3 teaspoons of fresh leaves, to 1 cup of boiling water. Steep to taste.
Clover goes by many other names: red clover, wild clover, broad-leafed clover, and purple clover. In ancient times, it was believed that those who carried a triple-leaf clover should be able to detect witches, sorcerers, and good fairies. Christians thought the three-part leaf a symbol of the trinity and designed many of their churches and church windows in that shape. The blossoms are believed to be a cough remedy. The tea is also believed to stimulate the liver and gall bladder, and people with constipation or a sluggish appetite have been advised to take it in some cases. Children pluck the blossoms and suck the sweet juice out of them, and in Shakespeare’s time the flowers were called "honey stalks" because they were liked so much by bees. Clover is found throughout meadows all over North America and Europe.
Part used for tea: blossoms, usually dried. Air-drying rather than oven drying is recommended.
Taste: delicate, sweet.
By infusion: add 1 teaspoonful of the dried flowering tops, cut small, to 1 cup of boiling water. Steep to taste. Clover tea is good with some dried rose hips, lemon, wild mint, or, of course, clover honey.
Common names for this herb include British tobacco, bullsfoot, butterbur, coughwort, flower velure, foal's foot, horse foot, horse hoof, bull's foot, ginger root, donnhove, and filius ante patrem. Native to Europe and Asia, but naturalized elsewhere, including the United States, coltsfoot is found in pastures, along stream banks, and on embankments. In the eighteenth century, coltsfoot pancakes were a popular delicacy, particularly on Shrove Tuesday. A few tablespoons of dried leaves were soaked in water for about 5 minutes, drained, and added to the pancake batter. Coltsfoot tea is believed to be a cough remedy and to relieve cases of bronchial catarrh, hoarseness, and clogged breathing passages. Herbalists as far back as Pliny and Dioscorides regarded it as the best herb for lung and thoracic complaints. In times of tobacco shortages, it was also smoked. The herb is rich in calcium, potassium, sulfur, and vitamin c.
Part used for tea: leaves and flowers.
Taste: fragrant, strong, somewhat like sweet potatoes.
Leaves or flowers, by infusion: blossoms should be collected as soon as they open, leaves when they reach full size. Use 1 teaspoon of dried, or 3 teaspoons of fresh, leaves or flowers. Steep them in boiling water for 30 minutes. The tea is especially good when brewed with horehound or marshmallow.
Leaves, by decoction: for colds and asthma, 1 ounce of dried leaves in 1 quart of water, boiled down to 1 pint. Strain, and sweeten with honey.
Some common names for this plant are healing herb, blackwort, knitbone, wallwort, knitback, consound, ass ear, yalluc, boneset, gum plant, bruisewort, slippery root, salsify, and common comfrey. In the middle ages, comfrey was used mainly as a poultice believed to heal-hence its names "boneset" and "bruisewort." the crusaders believed it would repair broken bones and battered bodies. A rootstock decoction is believed to make good gargle for hoarseness, inflammation of the throat, and bleeding gums. As a tea, it is also considered beneficial for digestive and stomach problems, excessive menstrual flow, and intestinal difficulties.
Part used for tea: roots and leaves.
Taste: slightly bitter. Lemon balm, apple mint, or honey is usually used to sweeten.
Roots or leaves, by infusion: use 2 teaspoons of ground or crushed rootstock in 1/z cup of boiling water, or 1 teaspoon dried (3 teaspoons fresh) leaves in 1 cup of boiling water. Steep to taste. The roots can also be brewed with an equal part of dandelion root to make an herbal "coffee."
Roots, by decoction: boil 2 teaspoons of crushed or ground rootstock in 1 cup of water.
Other popular names for this widespread plant are priest's crown, swine's snout, blowball, cankerwort, lion's tooth, white endive, dent-de-lion, wet-a-bed. Considered a weed by farmers and gardeners, it is found throughout the northern hemisphere, growing in meadows, fields, ditches, and the most fastidious gardener's lawn. The name dandelion arose from the plant's deeply incised leaves. In French, dent de lion means "lion's tooth." dandelion tea is said to help prevent and expel kidney stones, and it is also taken to stimulate liver and gallbladder activity. The root is believed to affect all forms of secretion and excretion from the body, removing poisons, and acting as a tonic and stimulant as well. Dandelion tea is also believed to alleviate rheumatism.
Part used for tea: leaves and root. The leaves should be gathered when young and tender.
Taste: the leaf has a robust, grassy aroma and a bland taste. It is good when blended with mint, or when served cold. The root is bitter, with a coffee-like taste. Roasted and mixed with ground chicory, it is sometimes used as a caffeine-free coffee substitute.
Leaves, by infusion: steep 1 teaspoon of dried, or 3 teaspoons of fresh, leaves in 1 cup of boiling water. Or take 2 teaspoons of leaves and root, and steep to taste in 1 cup of boiling water.
Roots, by decoction: 4 ounces of fresh root or 1 ounce of dried root bruised or ground, and placed in 2 pints of water. Boil down to 1 pint, and strain.
Dill, whose other names are dillweed, dilly, and garden dill, received its name from the Norse word dilla, which means "to lull." magicians used it to cast and ward off spells. It was called the "meeting-house seed" by American colonists, who nibbled it to prevent hunger while they spent long hours in church. During the middle ages, a bit of dill drunk in wine was believed to enhance passion. Dill tea is a popular remedy for an upset stomach, and it is also used to stimulate the appetite. A decoction of the seed is said to overcome insomnia and pains caused by flatulence. Chewing the seeds is thought to get rid of halitosis. Native to western Asia, dill now grows widely in the grain fields of Spain, Portugal, and Italy.
Part used for tea: leaves gathered early in summer or seed gathered in late summer and early fall.
Taste: seed tea-sharp, pungent; leaf tea-milder.
Seeds, by infusion: steep 2 teaspoons of crushed seeds in 1 cup of boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes.
Leaves, by infusion: add 1 teaspoon of dried, or 3 teaspoons of crushed fresh, leaves to 1 cup of boiling water. Steep to taste.
Common names for this herb include blackberried European elder, boor tree, ellanwood, European elder, black elder, country ellhorn, and German elder. In the past, this shrub or tree was regarded as magical and was believed to dispel demons. Undertakers once carried pieces of elder to protect them against the numerous spirits they might encounter in the course of their work. In Europe, men doffed their hats in the tree's presence and offered prayers to the elder "mother" before gathering her berries. Christians believed elder to be the wood of the cross. Its honey-scented flowers were considered sacred to the Scandinavian goddess of love, Hilda. In the early herbals, hot elder tea was listed as a mild stimulant, dispelling colds, catarrh, and flatulence, and promoting perspiration. When served cold, it was considered a diuretic. The north American elder, widespread in the United States, is similar in appearance and properties.
Part used for tea: flower heads.
Taste: sweet, honey flavored. Often combined with thea sinensis, peppermint, yarrow, or other herbs.
By infusion: add 2 tablespoons of flowers to 1 cup of boiling water. Steep to taste.
Common names for fennel are wild fennel, sweet fennel, fenkel, and large fennel. Fennel grows wild in the Mediterranean area and in Asia Minor, but is extensively naturalized and cultivated in the United States. Like its close cousin dill, it was also used in medicine and sorcery, and was mentioned frequently by Pliny. Both the seed and root are considered excellent stomach and intestinal remedies. Fennel is believed to arouse appetite, to relieve spasms, flatulence, colic, and abdominal cramps, and to expel mucous accumulations. The seeds have been a symbol of heroism. Seed tea boiled in barley water is thought to stimulate the flow of milk in nursing mothers.
Part used for tea: seeds, picked before they scatter at the touch. Also, leaves picked before the plants have blossomed.
Taste: delightful, reminiscent of anise, peppermint, and licorice.
Leaves, by infusion: pour 1 cup of boiling water over 2 teaspoons of dried leaves or 3 teaspoons of fresh leaves. Steep to taste.
Seeds, by decoction: crush 1 tablespoon of seeds, and add to 2 cups of boiling water. Reduce temperature, and allow mixture to simmer gently for 5 to 10 minutes.
Also called bird's foot or Greek hayseed, this herb is one of the oldest-known medicinal plants. Its use dates back to the ancient Egyptians and Greeks. It was believed to strengthen those recovering from an illness or suffering from tuberculosis, and it was also taken for bronchitis, colds, or fevers. Some consider it an aphrodisiac. The Indians call the fenugreek leaf methi and use it in their cooking. Health-food enthusiasts find the seeds excellent for sprouting. And, in Greece, the seeds are boiled and eaten with honey. Fenugreek is believed to give strength to pregnant women and to increase lactation. The seeds of this legume are plentiful: each pod contains sixteen of them.
Part used for tea: seeds or leaves.
Taste: pleasant, bitter, reminiscent of maple and vanilla.
Leaves, by infusion: cover 1 teaspoon dried, or 3 teaspoons fresh crushed leaves with 1 cup of boiling water. Allow to steep. Drink by itself or with other herbs such as alfalfa or one of the mints.
Seeds, by decoction: 1 teaspoonful of seeds to 1 cup of boiling water, boiled until the seeds are tender. For extra nutrition, don't strain the tea, and eat the seeds. This tea is very good with honey or lemon.
Flax also goes by the names linseed, common flax, Mary’s linen cloth, flax seed, and lint bells. The source of linen, flax is native to all Mediterranean countries and is widely cultivated in the United States and Canada. It is also found wild along roadsides and in waste places. The crushed seed is often used in granola-like cereals and breads; the seeds are quite high in nutrition. Flax seeds have been considered effective in treating coughs, catarrh, and lung and chest problems, as well as digestive and urinary disorders. In the past, the fresh herb was applied as a poultice for rheumatic pains and for softening hard swellings. An ailing baby would sometimes be laid upon the ground in a flax field and sprinkled with flax seeds. The seeds were then planted where the baby had lain, and it was believed he or she would recover as the seeds sprouted.
Part used for tea: seed.
Taste: soothing, gelatinous.
Caution: seeds that are going to be brewed should be thoroughly ripe and should be soaked overnight in water that is then discarded. Immature seed contains some irritant properties and can cause poisoning.
By decoction: crush or grind I tablespoon of the seed, and boil in 1 quart of water until 1/z quart remains. Strain. Add honey and molasses to taste.
Also called gas plant, bastard dittany, burning bush, diptam, dittany, false dittany, and white dittany. Fraxinella is native to Europe and Asia and is found as far eastward as china. It is sometimes cultivated as a garden ornamental in the northern United States. The volatile, scented oil of the flowers gives off a vapor on summer evenings, and if a match is lit nearby, the vapor will flash. A decoction of the root is believed to relieve fever and stomach cramps, and a decoction of the root and seed is used to treat kidney and bladder stones, to bring on menstruation, and to alleviate hysteria. Tea brewed from the root, leaves, or seed was popular with the American colonists.
Part used for tea: root, leaves, and seed.
Taste: the white-flowered variety has a lemony fragrance and taste. The pink-flowered variety is less lemony but has an added taste of almond and vanilla.
Caution: contact with the fraxinella plant can cause skin irritation if the skin is exposed to sunlight after contact.
Leaves, by infusion: the leaves are best when dried, using 1 teaspoon of dried leaf to 1 cup of boiling water. Steep to taste. Refreshing.
Seeds or roots, by decoction: use 1 tablespoon of crushed or powdered seed or root to 2 cups of water. Boil down to 1 cup. This method produces a more medicinal tea.
Scented geraniums of the genus pelargonium, also called stork's bill, were first brought to England from the Cape of Good Hope around 1632. By the late 1700s, Dutch and English navigators had imported countless varieties for enthusiastic gardeners. Shortly after 1795, the French discovered that oil from some varieties of rose-scented geraniums could be used as a less expensive substitute for attar of roses in perfume making. To this day, rose geraniums are grown in large amounts for this purpose-approximately 1 pound of leaves produces 1 gram of oil. Not much has been written about the medicinal qualities of the pelargoniums, whose name means "stork's bill" and derives from their elongated seed cases. Most have astringent properties. One herbal says they are valuable in treating dysentery and stomach and intestinal ulcers.
Part used for tea: leaves.
Taste: depends on variety within the family, each of which has its own taste and scent. Favorites are apricot, strawberry, apple, rose, peach, lime, lemon, orange, nutmeg, almond, licorice, and coconut.
By infusion: fresh leaves have more flavor, but most varieties dry well, too. Use 1 teaspoon of dried leaves, or 3 teaspoons of crushed, fresh leaves, in 1 cup of boiling water. Steep to taste, and enjoy.
Other names for this plant are American ginseng, tartar root, man's health, ninsin, five fingers, seng, five-leafed ginseng, and redberry. American ginseng is occasionally found wild in the rich, cool woodlands of North America. It was prevalent there until its decimation by avid hunters of the sought-after root. Much ginseng is now grown under cultivation in Wisconsin. Ginseng is a plant of mystery and superstition, evoking legends of fortunes made and lost overnight. Since before 3000 BC, the Chinese have valued the root as a cure-all. They have used extracts as a general tonic, curative, strength builder, and-most importantly -an aphrodisiac and sexual rejuvenator. Initially, only the emperor, his household, and his favored friends were allowed to use this herb. The name ginseng comes from the Chinese jen shen, meaning "man-root," and derives from the root's resemblance to the human shape.
Part used for tea: root, usually dug in fall.
Taste: parsnip-like. Bland; sweeten with honey or sugar.
Special: place ginseng root (most are 4 to 6 inches long) and 1 quart of water into a closed glass or earthenware (not metal) container. Place this container into another pot that is also filled with water, and boil the root slowly for 2 to 3 hours, until the water in the outer ginseng pot is reduced by half. Strain and drink immediately. Do not store the tea for more than a day, as it loses its potency. Use the root several times until you feel it has lost its power. Then place it in a jar of honey for several weeks until you have ginseng honey and a candied root you can chew on, for the last bit of flavor.
This plant is also known as blue mountain tea, sweet scented goldenrod, anise-scented goldenrod, bohea-tea, and wound weed. More than eighty species of goldenrod are found in the United States, and while several (including S. Virgaurea and S. Canadensis) make good tea, it is solidago odora that sacrifices the showiness of the other goldenrods' blossoms for its strong scent, making it both tasty and fragrant. The botanical name solidago comes from the Latin solidus, which means "whole," and agere, which means, "to perform," a reference to the healing powers of the herb. American Indians made good use of these qualities: the Zunis chewed the blossoms and slowly swallowed the astringent juice to alleviate sore throats; other tribes used infusions of flowers and leaves for fevers and chest pains. Early white settlers in North America believed goldenrod tea would relieve urinary obstructions and dropsy, and would stimulate perspiration.
Part used for tea: young leaves and fully opened flowers.
By infusion: cover 1 heaping teaspoon of dry herb, or 3 teaspoons of fresh herb, with 1 cup of boiling water. Steep for at least 10 minutes. Strain and sweeten to taste.
Hawthorn's other names include mayblossom and thornapple. A symbol of hope, the hawthorn shrub or tree, is considered sacred by some, and it is believed to have formed Christ’s crown of thorns. The botanical name comes from the Greek word kratos, which means "strong," and was given because of the hardness of hawthorn wood. The pilgrims' ship mayflower was named for this herb. Hawthorn has always been especially regarded as a heart tonic, and its value is now under medical investigation, particularly in regard to its old reputation as a reliever of angina pectoris and abnormal heart action. Hawthorn has also been considered an artery softener, helpful in treating arteriosclerosis. Early American settlers used the tea to relieve kidney ailments and nervous conditions, including insomnia, giddiness, and stress.
Part used for tea: flowers, berries.
Taste: flowers are sweet-scented and bland. The berries are tart and fruity (similar to a crab apple).
Flowers, by infusion: steep 2 teaspoons of herb in 1 cup of boiling water.
Fruits, by decoction: use 2 teaspoons of crushed fruit with 1 cup cold water. Let stand for 7 or 8 hours, and then bring quickly to a boil and strain. Sweeten both teas with honey.
Common names for this plant are musk seed plant, muskmallow, and target-leaved hibiscus. Hibiscus flowers are a favorite for cooking purposes in Africa, the Far East, the Caribbean, and other tropical areas. Africans also make "karkade," a pleasant, tart beverage, by steeping 1 teaspoon of hibiscus flowers and 2 cloves in 1 cup of boiling water, then draining and adding honey to taste. Egyptians chew the seeds to relieve stomach problems, sweeten the breath, and soothe their nerves. They also consider hibiscus to have aphrodisiac powers.
Part used for tea: flowers.
Taste: tart and slightly lemony. The tea has a pale, ruby color.
By infusion: measure 1 teaspoon of dried flowers or 3 teaspoons of fresh flowers. Cover with 1 cup of boiling water, and steep to taste. The longer you steep, the redder the tea will become. This brew is very good in combination with rose hips. Can be served hot or cold.
Common names for the hollyhock are althea rose, malva flowers, rose mallow, and purple malva. The flower of the hollyhock is cultivated for its beauty as well as its medicinal qualities. The plant is not known in the wild and is thought to have arisen in cultivation. The Egyptians used the leaves in cookery. Hollyhocks were brought to Europe at the time of the crusades, and were cultivated in France by the duke of Orleans, and in England by lord Burlington. Tea made from the blossoms is believed to soothe inflammation of the mouth and throat, and a vapor bath of it is thought helpful for earaches. The tea is also said to be beneficial for chest complaints and an aid to digestion.
Part used for tea: flowers.
Taste: the whole-flower tea can be tart and bitter. Petal tea, however, is tangy without bitterness, and most refreshing.
By infusion: 1 teaspoon of dried flowers or petals, or 3 teaspoons of fresh flowers or petals, to each cup of boiling water. Steep to taste.
The hop, commonly named northern vine and bine, has been used since the fourteenth century, chiefly to brew beer. Before then, people drank mead or ale beverages made from fermented honey or barley and flavored with ground ivy, yarrow, broom, wormwood, and other herbs. The hop grows wild in Europe and western Asia, and is cultivated in the United States. In Spanish the plant is called flores de cerveza, meaning "flowers of beer." the Romans ate young hop shoots like asparagus. The cones found on female plants are used to make beer, the pulp is used to make paper, and the fibers of the plant are made into linen. Female-flower hops tea is believed to induce sleep, improve the appetite, and aid against alcoholism. It is also recommended for nervous diarrhea, flatulence, and intestinal cramps. Hops' narcotic qualities are also considered a cure for uncontrolled sexual desires and a quarrelsome nature.
Part used for tea: female flowers (hops), leaves.
Taste: slightly peppery, yet mild. The tea is light yellow.
Caution: because of lupulin's narcotic qualities, drink hops flower tea in moderation, and avoid prolonged use.
Leaves, by infusion: 1 teaspoon dried leaves, or 3 teaspoons of fresh crushed leaves, in 1 cup of boiling water. Steep to taste.
Flowers, by decoction: place 1 heaping tablespoon of hops flowers (cones) in 1/z pint of cold water, bring to a simmer for 2 or 3 minutes. Steep well. Strain. Hops quickly lose their effectiveness when stored, so use them fresh.
Horehound is also called hoarhound, marrubium, and white horehound, and ancient Egyptian priests called it the seed of Horus, bull's blood, and eye of the star. Recommended in John Gerard's herbal of 1597 as an antidote for "those that drunk poyson or have been bitten of serpents," horehound tea is also suggested for pulmonary afflictions and as a useful standby for bronchitis, coughs, and colds. In' Wales, infusions are used externally and internally to cure eczema and shingles. Because of its bitterness when unsweetened, horehound is sometimes thought to be marrob, one of the five bitter herbs mentioned in early writings as being eaten by Jews at Passover.
Part used for tea: leaves. Pick on a clear, dry day before the sun gets too hot and before blossoms have formed.
Taste: bittersweet, musky. Combines nicely with coltsfoot. Usually sweetened with honey or some ground ginger root.
By infusion: 1 teaspoon of dried leaves-or 3 teaspoons of fresh herb, crushed to release aromatic oils-to 1 cup of boiling water. Steep to taste.
Native to southern Europe and ranging eastward into central Asia, hyssop is also called the sacred herb. Its name is said to come from the Greek word azob, meaning "a holy herb," because it was used to clean temples and other sacred places. It is also said that ancient Egyptians and Hebrews used hyssop to cleanse lepers and that a prayer of king David was, "purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean." some scholars believe hyssop was dipped in the lamb's blood that marked the doorposts on Passover eve. Others, however, think that a variety of marjoram or savory may have been used, rather than what we call hyssop today. Through the ages, hyssop has been a popular remedy for coughs, consumption, asthma, and pulmonary complaints. A decoction is supposed to fade black eyes and bruises, and hyssop tea is thought to calm the nerves and regulate blood pressure.
Part used for tea: green tops of the herb-leaves, stems, and flowers.
Taste: bitter and minty, with a slight musky odor.
By infusion: add 1 teaspoon dried hyssop tops and/or flowers to 1 covered cup of boiling water for 10 minutes, or longer to taste. Strain and sweeten with honey.
Sometimes called poet's jasmine, this vine-like plant with its captivating scent is native to warm parts of the eastern hemisphere. It can be grown outdoors in the southern United States, but must be taken indoors in winter in cold weather areas. The name is derived from the Persian yasmin, and the summer jasmine of our gardens is a species native to Persia and northern India. When it was introduced to Europe in the mid-sixteenth century, it was grafted onto a hardier Spanish variety. Many think the scent of jasmine arouses erotic instincts, and a few drops of jasmine oil, massaged on the body along with almond oil are believed to overcome frigidity. The essential oil of jasmine is used in the perfume industry, and the herb is grown extensively near canes and grass in the south of France. In India, jasmine is believed a remedy for snakebite. An infusion of the leaves is thought to alleviate eye problems.
Part used for tea: flowers.
Taste: fragrant, sweet.
By infusion: 1 teaspoon of dried flowers, or 3 teaspoons of fresh flowers, covered with 1 cup of boiling water and steeped to taste. Because of the euphoria aroused by jasmine's distinctive scent, it's hard to tell if it is the taste or the odor of this tea that makes it so delightful.
Juniper is also called melmot berries, horse-saver, and bastard-killer. Legend has it that it was a juniper bush that hid the infant Jesus from Herod's army. This is possible, since the strongly aromatic shrub is found in dry, rocky soil in Europe and Asia, as well as in North America from the Arctic Circle to Mexico. If you crush a juniper berry, you will smell the odor of gin and, indeed, the making of gin is the main commercial use of this herb. The word gin comes from the French word for juniper, genievre. Juniper tea is said to relieve digestive problems resulting from an underproduction of hydrochloric acid, and it is also believed to be helpful for gastrointestinal infections, inflammations, and cramps. Juniper is also considered a diuretic.
Part used for tea: ripe female berries.
Taste: spicy, bittersweet, fragrant with an alpine-like tang, similar to that of gin.
By infusion: steep 1 teaspoon of dried, or 2 teaspoons of crushed fresh, berries in 1 cup of boiling water for 5 to 10 minutes. Strain, and enjoy.
(ledum latifolium or l. Groenlandicum)
Other names for this plant are continental tea, swamp tea, marsh tea, bog tea, Hudson’s bay tea, and moth herb. During the revolutionary war, this herb was a popular substitute for china tea. Native to Canada and Greenland, where it grows profusely (hence one botanical name, groenlandicum), it can also be found in cold, moist places in the northern areas of the United States, Europe, and Asia. Eskimos and the Indians of eastern Canada used this tea extensively; as did explorers, trappers, and settlers who found imported teas hard to come by. An untidy-looking shrub, labrador tea is similar in appearance to a straggly rhododendron. Its tea stimulates the nerves, and is believed to alleviate the pains of rheumatism, gout, and arthritis.
Part used for tea: leaves gathered throughout the year, except when the plant is flowering. Flowers.
Taste: delicate, fragrant. Similar to china tea.
Caution: more than 1 or 2 cups of this tea can cause drowsiness and possible poisoning.
Flowers, by infusion: steep 1 teaspoon of dried flowers, or 2 teaspoons of fresh flowers, in 1 cup of boiling water.
Leaves, by decoction: crush 1 tablespoon of dried leaves, and add to cup of boiling water. Cover and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes.
(lavandula vera, l. Silica, and other species)
The name of this popular purple flower comes from the Latin word lavare, meaning "to wash." the ancient Greeks and Romans used lavender in their bath water because of its fresh, clean scent. The attractive lavender flowers are also used in potpourris, sachets, and flower arrangements. The bitter but aromatic leaves are used as seasoning in southern European cooking. As a medicinal plant, lavender is believed to help cure insomnia, nervousness, heart palpitations, and halitosis. It is also used to alleviate flatulence, fainting, and dizziness. Originally native to the Mediterranean, the lavender shrub is cultivated throughout the United States and Europe.
Part used for tea: flowers. Pick when blossoms are at their prime, and strip them from their stems.
Taste: cooling, sweetly aromatic, exotic flavor.
By infusion: 1 teaspoon of dried blossoms, or 3 teaspoons of fresh blossoms, to 1 cup of boiling water. Steep to taste.
(aloysia triphylla, formerly lippia citriodora)
Also called verbena, lemon-scented verbena, verveine citronella, and herb louisa, lemon verbena is native to Peru and Chile-the Spanish call it yerba luisa-but it was introduced to England and North America by the Spanish during the eighteenth century. In France, it is popularly served as tisane de verveine. Verbena's essential oils are considered beneficial as a mild sedative and cooling balm that will help drive away fever. Verbena is also believed to aid digestion.
Part used for tea: leaves, preferably gathered when the plant is blooming.
Taste: warm, lemony. Often added to black thea sinensis teas, and also combines nicely with alfalfa.
By infusion: put 1 teaspoon of dried verbena leaves and tops, or 3 teaspoons of fresh herb, in 1 covered cup of boiling water. Steep for 15 minutes. Strain. Flavor with honey if you like. Good hot or iced.
Other names for this plant are licorice root, black sugar, sweet licorice, and sweet wood. The botanical name comes from the Greek glukus ("sweet") and rhiza ("root"). It is said that chewing on licorice root instead of candy has helped many people to stop smoking without gaining weight; licorice contains no sugar. Babies have been given a hard (but not fibrous) piece of washed root to help them cut teeth. Licorice is found on dry, stony land; it grows wild in southern and central Europe and parts of Asia. Spain is the principal exporter of stick licorice. In Arabia, finely powdered root is used to dry up discharging parts of the skin, to dry blisters, and to absorb all kinds of watery fluids. Licorice tea is also a favored remedy for bronchial and stomach problems -coughs, mucous congestion, and peptic ulcers-as well as for bladder and kidney ailments.
Part used for tea: root.
Taste: sweet, anise-like. Thirst-quenching.
By infusion or decoction: use 1 teaspoon crushed or powdered rootstock to 1 cup of boiling water. Steep, or simmer to taste. Serve hot or cold. Added to other herbal teas, licorice will sweeten the brew naturally.
(tilia europaea and other species)
Linden, also called lime, European linden, European lime tree, basswood, and winged flowers, is one of the best known and loved herbs for tea. It is found wild in forests and on mountain slopes in Europe. Now cultivated in North America as well as Europe, it is popularly used for lining streets and driveways because of its uniformity. The tea is considered useful in treating colds, influenza, and sore throats. It is also used to relieve mild bladder and kidney problems. Linden tea is said to be good for the skin, helping to keep freckles and wrinkles from appearing. It is also supposed to stimulate hair growth, calm the nerves, and promote sleep.
Part used for tea: flowers, which should be gathered when they smell strongly of honey. Once the scent fades, they are too old to use.
Taste: similar to chamomile, with a sweet, warm, apple like taste. Highly aromatic.
By infusion: steep 2 teaspoons of fresh flowers in 1 cup of boiling water for up to 10 minutes. Or use 1 teaspoon of dried flowers.
(tagetes species, also calendula officinalis)
This common plant has been called many other names: calendula, golden flower of Mary, marybud, gold, summer's bride, sun's bride, solsequia, holygold, and pot marigold. The plain marigold or French marigold (tagetes species) is the flower we see in such abundance of variety in hot sunny gardens throughout the United States, while the pot marigold or calendula is a simpler flower that thrives in cool weather. According to legend, this was the flower favored and worn by the Virgin Mary. This marigold of old was a single flower, probably pale yellow. Today hybridists have produced a fantastic range of double-flowered and multicolored varieties, particularly of the plain marigold. In Brittany, it is believed that a girl who walks barefoot over marigolds will learn the secret language of the birds. Gypsies believe marigolds to be one of the ingredients necessary to see fairies. Marigold tea is rich in phosphorus and vitamin c. It is astringent and induces perspiration. Many believed it to be useful in treating gastrointestinal problems-ulcers, stomach cramps, and colitis-and to bring down fever, prevent vomiting, and heal boils and abscesses.
Part used for tea: flowers, gathered in the morning after the dew is off. Petals can be used alone for a more delicate tea.
Taste: slightly bitter and saffron-like. Petal tea is not as bitter. Sweeten with honey to taste.
By infusion: 2 teaspoons of dried flowers or petals, or 4 teaspoons of fresh herb, to each cup of boiling water. Steep for 5 to 10 minutes. The tea is bright yellow.
Marjoram is also called oregano, sweet marjoram, knotted marjoram, and garden marjoram. It grows wild in the Mediterranean area and in Asia. Greek legend has it that marjoram's sweet scent comes from the touch of the goddess Aphrodite, who first cultivated the flower. As a symbol of happiness, marjoram was formed into garlands to crown brides and bridegrooms. It was also planted on graves to ensure eternal bliss for the departed. And, in the middle ages, marjoram was considered a magic charm against witchcraft. Closely related to true marjoram (oregano, origanum vulgare), sweet marjoram (o. Marjorana) is more delicately flavored. Its camphor-like and tannic properties are believed helpful for gastritis and for children's colic.
Part used for tea: leaves.
Taste: sweet, warm, mellow. A flavor that resembles a blend of thyme, rosemary, and sage.
By infusion: 2 teaspoons of fresh herb, or 1 teaspoon of dried herb, in 1 cup of boiling water. Steep to taste.
Also called lace-makers-herb, steeplebush, bridewort, dollof, meadsweet, meadow queen, pride of the meadow, and meadowwort, meadowsweet is found wild in damp woods and fens, and on wet rock ledges and riverbanks, in Asia and Europe. This sweet-scented flower was the favorite of queen Elizabeth I, who had it scattered over the floors of her private apartment. In Britain, it was also a custom to strew houses with the herb for wedding festivals. Herbalist John Gerard believed this practice wise, saying, "for the smell thereof makes the heart merrie and joyful and delighteth the senses." however, because the perfume of meadowsweet is so heavy, it was believed in other countries that the herb had soporific powers associated with death, and it was considered unlucky to bring meadowsweet into the house. The herb has been used to treat diarrhea and colic. Because it contains salicylic acid, it is said to be a remedy for influenza, respiratory tract problems, gout, rheumatism, fever, and arthritis. It is also recommended for dropsy and bladder and kidney ailments.
Part used for tea: young leaves gathered before flower buds appear. Also flowers and roots.
Taste: sweet and delicate, very aromatic.
Leaves or flowers, by infusion: place 2 tablespoons of the fresh leaves or flowers, or 1 tablespoon of dried herb, in 1 cup of boiling water. Steep to taste.
Roots, by decoction: boil 2 tablespoons of dried, crushed rootstock in 1 cup of water. Or soak the dried rootstock in 1 cup of cold water for 6 hours, bring it to a boil, and steep for 1 or 2 minutes.
There are about thirty varieties of mint found in temperate climates throughout most of the world. These include spearmint, peppermint, orange mint, apple mint, and pineapple mint. Each species is characterized by its soothing, aromatic, refreshing, and distinctive odor and taste, and each has its own degree of bite. Peppermint, for example, is one of the strongest, and the aroma of its crushed leaves symbolized hospitality in ancient Greek and roman homes. According to Greek mythology, the nymph Minthe was discovered in the arms of Pluto by his wife, Persephone, who crushed the little creature savagely under her foot. Pluto then metamorphosed Minthe into a sweet-smelling plant. Ancient Hebrews covered their synagogue floors with mint leaves, and athletes perfumed their bodies with the leaves to give them power. Mint teas are believed to relieve cramps, coughs, poor digestion, nausea, heartburn, and abdominal pains, as well as headaches, vomiting, and other ailments attributed to nerves.
Part used for tea: leaves.
Taste: clean, refreshing, delicately fruity. Aromatic.
By infusion: 1 teaspoon of dried leaves, or 3 teaspoons of crushed fresh leaves, in 1 cup of boiling water. Steep to taste. Mint is a popular addition to less tasty herbal teas-alfalfa, for example. All the mint teas are good either hot or cold.
Of mugwort, whose other names are felon herb, sailor's tobacco, smotherwood, apple-pie, and old uncle Harry, John Gerard’s herbal of 1597 says, "the traveler or wayfaring man that hath mugwort tied about him feeleth no weariness at all." the pilgrims believed this, too, and it was said that a man who kept mugwort leaves inside his shoes could walk forty miles in a day. Greek legend has it the centaur Chiron taught the goddess of hunting and the moon the uses of mugwort, and she was so pleased with the herb that she gave it her name, Artemis. A strong tea made from the flowers and top leaves is thought to dissolve gallstones, regulate the menstrual cycle, and promote appetite and digestion-all because of mugwort's beneficial effect on bile production.
Part used for tea: flowers, leaves. Some people brew a root decoction as well.
Taste: tangy, refreshing. It was a favorite in England before oriental tea was introduced.
Caution: drinking more than 1 or 2 cups can lead to symptoms of poisoning.
By infusion: 1 teaspoon of dried leaves or flowers, or 3 teaspoons of fresh herb, covered with 1 cup of boiling water. Steep to taste.
Pronounced to rhyme with "sullen," this popular plant has about thirty common names-including great mullein, lady's foxglove, velvet plant, shepherd's herb, old man's flannel, Jupiter’s staff, Aaron’s rod, candlewick, Jacob’s staff, and witch's candle-possibly because its towering height, sometimes 8 or 9 feet, makes it hard to ignore. General Agrippa, who served under Caesar Augustus, wrote that the overpowering fragrance of the plant was a deterrent to demons. Early Greeks and Romans dipped flower heads of the dried stalks in tallow and used them as torches. The tea is considered beneficial for pulmonary disturbances-coughs, asthma, bronchitis, and hay fever. It is also used for sedation and pain relief and alleviation of cramps and gastrointestinal catarrh.
Part used for tea: flowers, leaves.
Taste: tea from the flowers is sweet; from the leaves, slightly bitter. Both are highly aromatic.
By infusion: steep 1 teaspoon of dried, or 3 teaspoons of fresh crushed leaves or flowers in 1 cup of boiling water. Be sure to strain this tea well in order to eliminate the fine hairs that cover the plant. Sweeten to taste.
This plant is also called common nettle, stinging nettle, great stinging nettle, Indian spinach, bad man's playthings, and hoky-poky. Native to the northern hemisphere, it is now found all over the world in waste places and roadsides. In Scandinavian mythology, nettles were sacred to the god thorn, so families threw these plants on the fire during thunderstorms to keep their homes from being destroyed by his lightning. Despite the hazards involved in harvesting it, the rich iron, protein, and vitamin content of the nettle makes the effort worthwhile. The tea is believed to stimulate the digestive system and increase lactation in nursing mothers. Its astringent qualities are said to relieve urinary disorders, rheumatic problems, and colds.
Part used for tea: young leaves, dried.
Taste: bland, but good with a little mint or other sweetener. The tea is light green.
Caution: when handling or harvesting nettle plants, be sure to wear gloves in order to prevent severe stinging, itching, and blistering where the plant touches the skin. Once the greens are cooked or dried they lose their poisonous quality, but never use old leaves uncooked, for they induce symptoms of poisoning and can cause kidney damage.
By infusion: use 2 teaspoons of dried, crumbled nettle leaves per cup of water. Steep 5 to 10 minutes.
New jersey tea
Also called liberty tea, redroot, jersey tea, mountainsweet, walpole tea, and wild snowball, this plant is the source of a good caffeine-free tea that tastes like thea sinensis. New jersey tea is commonly found in dry, sandy, or gravelly soil in woods and thickets ranging from Maine southward to Florida and Texas. After the Boston tea party and during the American Revolution, it was one of the teas favored by settlers and soldiers who were boycotting china teas because of the prohibitive taxes the British had placed on them. The tea is believed to relieve chest problems -bronchitis, whooping cough, consumption, and asthma. It is also used as a gargle to alleviate throat and mouth irritations.
Part used for tea: leaves.
Taste: similar to oriental teas made from thea sinensis.
By infusion: steep 1 teaspoon of dried leaves, or 1 tablespoon of crushed fresh leaves, in 1 cup of boiling water. The dried leaves give more of the oriental tea flavor. Cream and sugar improve the taste.
Oregano is also called wild marjoram, wintersweet, mountain mint, and winter marjoram. Origanum is thought to be the old Greek name for the plant, and means "delight of the mountains." closely related to marjoram, there is confusion as to which of the two is actually the "real" oregano. Old herbals don't offer much help; they tend to refer to all species of the genus as "organy " native to the Mediterranean regions, oregano is cultivated in the United States, Mexico, and Europe. It is believed to calm upset stomachs, headaches, indigestion, and other nervous complaints, and it has an ancient reputation as an antidote to narcotic poisoning, convulsions, and dropsy.
Part used for tea: leaves.
Taste: similar to marjoram, but more intense and stronger in taste and aroma.
By infusion: 1 teaspoon dried leaves, or 3 of fresh crushed leaves, steeped to taste in 1 cup of boiling water.
This widespread herb is also called curly French parsley, carum, rock parsley, and common parsley. It is said that garlands of parsley were worn at Greek and roman banquets to absorb the fumes of wine and to help prevent intoxication. Rich in chlorophyll content, parsley was also eaten after dining to remove onion and garlic odors, a use that is still popular today. Originally native to southeastern Europe, parsley is now cultivated all over the world. One folk legend connects parsley with death-probably because parsley garlands were given as prizes for Greek and roman public funeral games that honored the deaths of important people. This ominous association continued into the middle ages, when it was believed parsley's wickedness could be overcome if the herb was sown on Good Friday under a rising moon. The tea is believed beneficial in the treatment of asthma, coughs, dropsy, menstrual difficulties, and urinary disorders.
Part used for tea: leaves harvested before the plants flower.
Taste: refreshing, with a cooling taste like that of fresh parsley. Rich in vitamins A, B, C, and K.
By infusion: 1 teaspoon of dried, or 3 teaspoons of fresh crushed leaves with 1 cup of water that has stopped boiling. Steep for 20 minutes. Don't boil the fresh leaves.
Other names for this herb are English pennyroyal and pudding grass. A member of the mint family, this more popular species of pennyroyal (there is an American annual version, hedeoma pulegioides, commonly called squawmint) seems to have the power to repel flea, mosquitoes, and other insects when it is rubbed on the skin. Linnaeus considered this power when he named the plant; pulex is the Latin word for "flea." the herb's odor and medicinal virtues come from pulegium, a powerfully aromatic essential oil. Despite its name, English pennyroyal is native to the near east, though it is now cultivated throughout Europe and North America. Old English herbals say it helps dispel flatulence, produce perspiration, and promote menstruation. It is also believed to relieve spasms and stimulate digestion.
Part used for tea: tops and leaves (before flowering).
Taste: strongly minty, sweet, aromatic. The tea has an amber color.
By infusion: 1 teaspoon of dried pennyroyal tops and leaves, or 3 teaspoons if using fresh herb, in 1 covered cup of boiling water. Strain, and flavor with honey if desired. Good in combination with other mint teas.
(rubus strigosus or r. Idaeus)
This shrubby plant, which is also called wild red raspberry, is native to the region from Newfoundland to Manitoba, and is found southward as far as New Mexico in the west and North Carolina in the eaSt. Historically, tea from raspberry leaves was given to pregnant women because fragrine, an active substance found in the foliage, affects the female organs of reproduction, especially the muscles of the pelvic region and uterus. Raspberry-leaf tea was also believed to relieve morning sickness and ease childbirth. The red edible fruit found on wild plants is smaller than that from cultivated plants, but just as tasty.
Part used for tea: leaves.
Taste: astringent, soothing, fruity, and aromatic.
Caution: because of their effect on the female reproductive system, the leaves have acquired the reputation of being aphrodisiac. The tea should be taken in moderation.
By infusion: 1 teaspoon of dried leaves, or 3 teaspoons of fresh leaves, to each cup of boiling water. Steep to taste. Can be sweetened with sugar or honey.
There are more than 10, 000 varieties of the rose-the flower of love-because this showy, aromatic, flowering herb has long been the favorite of hybridizers wherever it is grown. Sweet-smelling herbal tea can be made from the petals and rose hips of most varieties. Red rose petals are considered best for petal tea, and the most sought after rose hips come from wild varieties found on sandy beaches, roadsides, waste places, and fields throughout the temperate zones. Legend has it that all roses were white until Aphrodite pricked her foot on a rose thorn, coloring the flower with her blood. The Persian philosopher Zarathustra claimed the rose hip was mother of all nutritious fruits. Hips are noted for their high concentrations of vitamins a, b, e, k, p, and especially c-a cup of rose hips is said to contain as much vitamin c as 150 oranges. Flower tea is believed to fortify the heart and brain and to relieve female ailments, stomach disorders, and catarrh. The genus name rosa comes from the Greek word rodon, which means "red."
Part used for tea: petals gathered before the flower unfolds or hips gathered in early autumn.
Taste: hips-fruity, aromatic, pleasant tasting. Petals -delicate, exotic, fragrant, like sipping a cupful of flowers.
By infusion: 1 teaspoon dried, or 2 teaspoons fresh petals for each cup of boiling water. Steep to taste. Or grind dried hips into powder, and use 1 teaspoon per cup of boiling water. Steep for about 5 minutes, and add a little honey. Both teas are good hot or cold.
Rosemary is also called dew of the sea and Mary’s mantle. The symbol of friendship and remembrance, this evergreen shrub is said to bring luck and prevent witchcraft. It originated in the Mediterranean and is widely cultivated. Legend has it that rosemary flowers were white until the Virgin Mary hung her blue cloak over a rosemary bush; from that time on, they were blue. It is said the generic name derives from the Latin ros, "dew," and marinus, "of the sea." early herbalists believed wearing a sprig of rosemary could cure nervous ailments and restore youth, and the fragrant tea was thought to relieve flatulence, stimulate the heart, induce sleep, and alleviate headaches. Its rich scent makes it a favorite companion plant in vegetable gardens where it controls cabbage moths, bean beetles, carrot flies, and malaria mosquitoes.
Part used for tea: leaves, flowers.
Taste: piney and aromatic, like a fine incense. Good in combination with tansy.
Flowers, by infusion: 1 teaspoon of dried herb, or 3 teaspoons of fresh herb, to each cup of boiling water. Steep to taste.
Leaves, by infusion very strong: 1/2 teaspoon of dried or fresh herb for each cup of boiling water. Good with a little lemon or honey.
Also called garden sage and purple sage, this fragrant herb is an ancient symbol of wisdom. It grows wild in southern Europe and the Mediterranean, and is widely cultivated. Sage comes in 700 varieties, including pineapple sage, lavender sage, and others. A member of the mint family, its generic name comes from the Latin salvia, meaning "health." sage is rich in a hydrocarbon known as salvene, as well as in other essential oils. It is astringent, aromatic, stimulating, and bitter. Early herbalists believed sage to be of value in calming nerves, alleviating nervous headaches, and soothing sore throats. It has long been reputed to retard aging, enhance memory, and prevent hands from trembling and eyes from dimming. An ancient Latin proverb translates, "how can a man die when sage grows in his garden?"
Part used for tea: leaves.
Taste: aromatic, camphor-like, heartening, faintly bitter.
By infusion: cover 1 teaspoon of dried or fresh chopped leaves and tops with 1 cup of boiling water. Steep for 10 minutes. Strain. Sweeten with honey.
Also called American sarsaparilla, wild ginseng, wild sarsaparilla, and wild spikenard, aralia nudicaulis is a Native American plant. Pronounced "sassparilla" or "sarsparilla," it was used by the Indians to make a soothing, perspiration inducing tea that was believed to alleviate rheumatism, gout, and skin diseases. The herb thrives in the moist, shaded forests of southern British Columbia and northeastern Washington. American sarsaparilla tea is thought to promote healthy tissue growth for internal and external ulcers and wounds. Some people used to believe the tea would cure syphilis. A South American cousin, smilax ornato, is the evergreen vine used to make the sarsaparilla drink that was so popular in the late nineteenth century.
Part used for tea: the root, dug in autumn.
Taste: a bitter licorice flavor. Refreshing, fragrant. The tea has a reddish-brown color.
By infusion: stir 2 teaspoons of ground fresh root, or 1 teaspoon of dried crushed or powdered root, into 1 cup of boiling water. Steep to taste. Sweeten with honey or sugar, if desired. Good hot or cold.
(sassafras variifolium or s. Albidum)
Other names for this plant are ague tree, cinnamon wood, saxifras, and smelling stick. A member of the laurel family, the sassafras is native to North American woods. It was used by the Indians long before the first white settlers appeared, and it was one of the first exports from America. When the Spaniards returned from their 1512 voyage to Florida, they brought back news of sassafras, and the Spanish doctor Monardes wrote of it as a medicine and tea as early as 1569. In the past, it was thought infusion of sassafras bark created a "blood purifier," causing perspiration and urination. It was also believed to aid in the treatment of gout, arthritis, rheumatism, and dysentery.
Part used for tea: bark of the root; leaves.
Taste: root beer flavored.
Caution: the major chemical constituent of the aromatic oil in the sassafras root bark is safrole, which has been known to cause liver cancer in rats. Despite the continued popularity of sassafras tea, those who drink it should be aware that, until further research has been conducted on the effects of safrole on humans, they may be doing so at their own risk.
By infusion: 1 teaspoon of root bark in 1 cup of boiling water. Or 1 teaspoon of dried, or 3 teaspoons of fresh crushed leaves steeped in 1 cup of boiling water. Steep to taste in either case. Good with sugar and cream, hot or cold.
There are several varieties of savory, including summer savory (s. Hortensis), winter savory (s. Montana), yerba buena (s. Douglasii), bean herb, and bohnenkraut. Savory was believed to be the favorite herb of satyrs because of its pleasant peppery taste. Winter and summer savory are the two favorite varieties, and, of these, summer savory is more popular because it has a stronger flavor. Both, however, are deeply aromatic, because they contain caracol, a volatile oil. Savory is a popular condiment for less easily digestible foods such as cucumbers, turnips, and parsnips. The ancient Greeks called savory isope, and many wonder whether Old Testament references to hyssop were actually to savory. The tea is believed a remedy for diarrhea, asthma, colic, and digestive disturbances. In 1653, one herbalist, Nicholas Culpeper, recommended it to reduce deafness.
Part used for tea: leaves gathered before the plant blooms.
Taste: tangy, marjoram-like.
By infusion: 1 teaspoon dried, or 3 teaspoons of crushed fresh leaves to each cup of boiling water. Steep to taste.
Speedwell is also called veronica, common speedwell, gypsy weed, fluellin, the de l'europe, groundhele, Paul’s betony, and low speedwell. This plant is supposedly named for St. Veronica. When she wiped the face of Jesus with her veil as he walked the road to Calvary, it is said an impression of his thorn-crowned head appeared on the scarf and on the flowers she was wearing. The plant is established in dry meadows, woods, and fields in the eastern United States as far south as North Carolina and Tennessee. In Europe, where it is native, speedwell has a reputation for being a universal healer, but in other areas it is best known as a remedy for respiratory problems and stomach ailments. The tea is used to ease migraine headaches and as a gargle for mouth and throat sores. It is also used as a tonic to cure coughs, catarrh, and skin diseases. Speedwell is used in the manufacture of vermouth.
Part used for tea: leaves or whole herb.
Taste: bitter, tangy. It was once a universal substitute for china tea.
By infusion: cover 4 teaspoons of the flowering herb, or 2 teaspoons of the dried herb, with 1 cup of boiling water. Steep to taste.
Other names for this fruit-bearing plant are wild strawberry, hautboy, wood strawberry, woodman's delight, and mountain strawberry. It is said that this plant is the symbol of foresight. In ancient times, people thought the wild strawberry had powers against demons, but today we think of it primarily for its abundant alkali and vitamin c content. The Okanogan Indians of the Pacific Northwest used dried, pulverized leaves to promote healing of the navel of newborn babies. Linnaeus wrote that he cured his gout with fresh wild strawberries. It is believed a tea made from the leaves relieves anemia, lack of appetite, and undue sweating, and prevents miscarriage and menstrual irregularities. It is also thought to relieve diarrhea and jaundice.
Part used for tea: leaves.
Taste: cooling, strawberry flavor. Good in combination with woodruff.
By infusion: cover 3 teaspoons of crushed fresh leaves, or 1 teaspoon of dried leaves, with 1 cup of boiling water. Steep for about 5 minutes. The fruits also form the basis of a refreshing hot or cold summer drink. Crush 1 tablespoonful of berries in a cup, and add boiling water.
This herb is also called stinking Willie, traveller's rest, buttons, alecost, wild agrimony, goose grass, parsley fern, and hindheal. Tansy's botanical name comes from athanasia, the Greek word for "immortality," and it is one of the bitter herbs the Jews were ordered to eat at Passover. Puddings and cakes made with tansy were also traditionally eaten to celebrate the end of lent, and the herb was used by the ancients for embalming. Tansy grows wild all over Europe and the United States, and it contains tannin, resin, thujone (a chemical component of sage), and tanacetin, which give it its own taste. Herbalists used it to expel worms from the intestines, produce perspiration, and promote menstrual discharge.
Part used for tea: leaves and tops.
Taste: bitter, lemony. Can be sweetened with honey. Good in combination with rosemary.
Caution: in moderate doses the herb has a mild, tonic effect, but in larger quantities-more than 1 or 2 cups-it can be violently irritating and narcotic. Use with caution -tansy can be poisonous!
By infusion: 1 teaspoon of dried, or 2 teaspoons of fresh crushed leaves and tops. Cover with 1 cup of boiling water, and steep for a short period only. Serve tansy tea weak, and drink it in moderation.
Pronounced "time," this popular herb is also called common thyme, broad-leaf English thyme, black thyme, garden thyme, shepherd's thyme, and mother thyme. Kipling wrote of the "wind-bit thyme that smells of dawn in paradise," but he was hardly the first to sing its praises. Thyme was a favorite of the early Greeks and Romans, and the roman poet Virgil praised honey drawn from thyme, saying the mountains "hymettis in Greece and hybla in Sicily were so famous for bees and honey because there grew such a store of thyme." Christian tradition holds that thyme was among the herbs in the manger bed where the Christ child lay. Herbalists considered thyme a strong antiseptic and thought it could calm the nerves, alleviate indigestion, and clear the mucous membranes. It was also thought to overcome shyness-the generic name thymus is believed to be a derivation of the Greek thymon, which means "courage."
Part used for tea: leaves.
Taste: pungent, spicy.
By infusion: 1 teaspoon dried leaves and tops, or 3 teaspoons of fresh crushed herb, in 1 covered cup of boiling water. Steep for 10 minutes. Strain and flavor with honey. A pinch of rosemary in the brew gives added zest.
Valerian is also called garden heliotrope, all-heal, setwall, capon's tail, phu, vandal root, and St. George s herb. While the flowers of this herb are pleasantly fragrant, the rest of the plant is not. Herbalists Galen and Dioscorides aptly called it "phu," because of its pungent, unpleasant aroma. Cats and rats, however, delight in valerian's odor. It is suggested this herb was the secret power the legendary pied piper of Hamlin used to rid the town of its rats. Herbalists have recommended this tranquilizing herb for all nerve related ailments-migraine headaches, hysteria, vertigo, anxiety, insomnia, hypochondria, and nervous convulsions. The name valerian is believed to come from the Latin valere, meaning "to be powerful" or "of well-being." native to Europe and Asia, it is represented nearly throughout the world by related species.
Part used for tea: root, harvested in fall.
Taste: soothing, strongly scented.
Caution: the sedative qualities of this tea make it a time-honored antidote for insomnia when taken in small doses. However, if more than 1 or 2 cups are drunk daily, in large or frequent doses, the herb is dangerous, producing reverse effects-nervous agitation, vertigo, muscle spasms, even hallucinations. It should be used sparingly.
By infusion: 1/z teaspoon of ground or powdered dried valerian root in 1 cup of boiling water. Steep for 10 minutes or to taste. Strain. Flavor with honey or an aromatic spice -mace is a good one.
Also called partridge berry, periwinkle, spiceberry, checkerberry, deerberry teaberry boxberry, wax cluster, Canada tea, and mountain tea, this small, creeping evergreen is a native of southern Canada and the United States. The leaves contain oil of wintergreen and are sharply astringent and aromatic, making them a favorite flavoring agent; wintergreen is a common ingredient in homemade root beer. The common names "deerberry" and "partridge berry" were coined because deer and partridge also know a good thing and love to eat the plant's berries. It's said wintergreen tea is good for many kinds of aches and pains, from headaches to rheumatism. It is also used to alleviate colds and fever.
Part used for tea: young leaves.
Taste: wintergreen flavor, cooling and refreshing.
By infusion: cover 1 teaspoonful of crushed or chopped leaves with 1 cup of boiling water. Allow to steep for a few minutes to release the maximum amount of oil of wintergreen.
Other names for this plant are sweet woodruff, master of the woods, moth-herb, wood-rose, woodward, wood rova, and muge-de-bois. The fresh, woodsy odor of woodruff, strongest when the plant begins to die away after flowering, has given it many of its common names. For example, the old French name-muge-de-bois-means "wood musk." German may wines are steeped in woodruff twigs and owe their fine aroma and taste to the chemical coumarin, in which the herb is rich. In medieval times, woodruff was hung in bunches with roses, box, and lavender on the feast days of St. Peter and St. Barnabas. The herb is supposed to repel insects, which is why it is sometimes called moth-herb. Herbalists believe the tea is a good remedy for kidney and bladder troubles (especially obstructions and stones, liver congestion, and gall-bladder difficulties. It is also recommended in cases of dropsy and insomnia.
Part used for tea: dried leaves.
Taste: resembles Darjeeling tea. Mild, sweet, with a woodsy taste. Good in combination with strawberry.
By infusion: 1 teaspoon dried leaves in 1 covered cup of boiling water. Steep for 15 minutes. Strain and sweeten to taste with honey.
Yarrow is also called old man's pepper, knight's milfoil, soldier's woundwort, nosebleed, devil's plaything, bloodwort, hemming and sewing, staunchweed, carpenter's weed, thousand seal, and sanguinary. Yarrow's Latin name, achillea millefolium, derives from Greek mythology: before the siege of troy, the centaur Chiron told Achilles of the plant's healing virtues so he could use it on his warriors' battle wounds. Millefolium means "a thousand leaves," and refers to yarrow's finely cut foliage. An important first-aid treatment through the centuries, yarrow's astringency is thought to stem the flow of internal and external bleeding. Herbalists also have faith in yarrow tea to induce perspiration, cleanse the system, and cure a bad cold. Straight dried yarrow stems are "thrown" by Chinese fortune-tellers before consulting the I-Ching, the book of changes, an ancient guide to oracular wisdom.
Part used for tea: leaves and/or flowers gathered during summer and fall.
Taste: mildly astringent. Somewhat like a mild sage tea. Pale yellow in color.
By infusion: 1 teaspoon dried yarrow leaves and flowers, or 1 tablespoon of the fresh herb, in 1 covered cup of boiling water. Steep for about 10 minutes. Strain. Sweeten with honey to taste.