Thursday, June 14, 2012

Daily Herb-o-Scope - Tea Time

There is a simple and satisfying beauty about a cup of tea. When that warm cup of herbal tea hits your lips, it warms and soothes the entire body; however, a cup of tea provides more than comfort. For thousands of years, tea was the main way to internally take plant medicine and today it is still enjoyed by cultures all over the world.

Tea is not as potent as tinctures, which are concentrated forms of the herbs. Only within the last 100 years has there been a push to tinctures and more potent extracts, but this doesn't mean that teas are any less effective. Water extraction or tea is a great way for our body's to get the minerals from the plant, a necessity for health maintenance. Tea is also easily assimilated by the body, allowing the plant medicine to quickly enter your system and they are particularly amazing at helping with chronic, long term issues. They also help to keep us hydrated.

Herbal teas are also very versatile. They can be made using so many different plants and can be served are any temperature, including frozen. Adding fruit juice to a tea brew and freezing it into Popsicle makes an excellent remedy for young children or anyone young at heart. You can also brew a large amount at one time and store the tea in an airtight jar in the refrigerator. This way you don't need to go through the whole process every time you want a cup of tea. A batch of tea can usually last 3-4 days in the refrigerator; however, if you start to see little bubbles in your tea after it has sat for a few days, the fermentation process has begun and its time to brew a new batch. In general, I use 1-3 tablespoons of dried herb per cup of water, depending on the herb, the intention of the tea (healing or pleasure) and my taste buds at the moment. If you are using fresh herb, use twice as much. You may want to grind the herb before tossing it into the water. This creates more surface area and a better brew but it is also harder to strain out the particles.  Infusions and decoctions are two methods for brewing tea.

An infusion is made when you are using the delicate parts of the plant. This includes the flowers, leaves and twigs or roots containing delicate essential oils (valerian, ginger, osha, etc.). To make an infusion boil water, add your herb to the boiling water and immediately remove the pot from the heat, cover with a lid and let the tea steep for at least 30 minutes. Because these parts of the plant readily give up their constituents into the water, there is no need to simmer the plant material. You want to make sure you are putting a cover on the pot so that essential oils or important constituents don't escape with the steam. The longer you steep the tea the stronger it will be. Dosage for medicinal teas is usually several cups a day for long term, chronic issues, And several sips every 30 minutes for acute issues.

A decoction is made from the tougher parts of the plant, like the roots, seeds and bark. These parts must be simmered on a low heat because it is harder to extract the good stuff from the plant into the water. To make a decoction, place the herbs in a pot, cover with cool water and place the lid on top. Then slowly simmer the herbs on a low to medium heat for a least 20 minutes, remember that longer means stronger which usually equates to more medicinal and more medicinal tasting.

Solar and Lunar Teas
Another way to experience the wonder of herbal teas is to make a Solar or lunar tea. Mose people have had experience with sun tea in the summer, by putting loose herb or teabags in a glass jar filled with water and letting the sun brew the tea. I find this method of brewing to be wonderful because I feel that the healing properties of the sun penetrate the tea. Lunar teas tend to be very magical and mystical. The tea is not as strong as a sun tea but the quality is strangely effective. To make a lunar tea, its the same process as a solar tea but instead of setting it in the sun, set it under the moon, preferably when it is full or close to being full. I like to match my solar and lunar teas to the purpose of the tea. If my blend is to energize my body or my mind, help with circulation or heat up my system I prefer to make a solar tea. If my tea blend is to calm anxiety, help with sleep or cool an overheated system I like to make a lunar tea.

Overall tea is an amazing beverage with so many possibilities. So many different herbs can be used to make an enjoyable and medicinal brew.


Green, J. (2000). The herbal medicine-makers' handbook: a home manual. Freedom, Calif.: The Crossing Press.

Levy, J. d. (1997). Common herbs for natural health (Rev. expanded ed.). Woodstock, NY: Ash Tree Pub.

Mars, B. (2007). The desktop guide to herbal medicine. Laguna Beach, CA: Basic Health Publications.

Duke, J. A. (2000). The green pharmacy herbal handbook: your comprehensive reference to the best herbs for healing. Emmaus, Pa: Rodale Reach.

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