It’s fall! Last chance to harvest ingredients for your natural medicine chest. As the weather gets colder, it’s time to enjoy hot drinks too. So here are instructions for making teas, tisanes, and decoctions so that you can use them as daily medicine. But first some definitions.
tea – technically tea is the dried and prepared leaves of Camellia sinensis, a shrub. True teas include black, green, white, oolong, yellow and puer. Colloquially tea refers to anything we brew from leaves, flowers, roots, barks, or even animal parts, such as beef bouillon. I will use that term throughout this article.
tisane – aromatic or herb flavored tea. These are steeped in hot water for up to ten minutes.
decoctions – hot medicinal drinks usually made of tougher, fibrous materials that require simmering for up to 45 minutes to extract the medicine. Sometimes a double extraction is made, as in the case of some mushroom decoctions.
Other names for medicinal hot drinks are herbal infusions, infusions, or botanicals.
Knowing Your Teas
There are various types of teas. They are generally separated by the part of the plant that they derive from.
- Leaf teas: lemon balm, mint, lemongrass , and French verbena
- Flower teas: rose, jasmine, chamomile, hibiscus, and lavender
- Bark teas: cinnamon, slippery elm, willow, cat’s claw, and black cherry bark
- Root teas: ginger, echinacea, licorice, dandelion, and chicory
- Fruit/berry teas: raspberry, blueberry, peach, and apple
- Seed/spice teas: anise, cardamom, caraway, and fennel
Making tea can be as simple as throwing some leaves in a cup or as complex as creating an elaborate, Japanese, spiritual tea ceremony. Since it’s easy to create a simple, enjoyable ritual while drinking tea, my suggestion is to make it a mindful spiritual time to check in with yourself.
If you are using fresh leaves, flowers, or fruits put a handful (1/4 to 1/2) cup of herbs into a cup. If you are using dried leaves, flowers, or fruits, you will use much less. Pour boiling water over them. Cover and steep two to fifteen minutes, then enjoy.
If you are using seeds, spices, barks, or roots, place the tea in a pan that is not aluminum. (Aluminum is reactive and toxic. You don’t want to use this for any reason). The amount will vary from a pinch to several tablespoons per cup depending upon the substance. Bring water to a simmer. Typically you will simmer ten to forty-five minutes, but for some substances, it can be much longer.
Some Teas and Their Benefits
New to medicinal teas, tisanes, and decoctions and you want some suggestions on what to try? Here you go!
Ginger tea– Ginger is generally consumed before or after dinner as it’s a digestive soother. But that’s not all. It can reduce inflammation, fight respiratory problems, strengthen immunity, help with menstrual discomfort, improve blood circulation, and relieve nausea.
Green tea – I’m sure you’ve heard of green tea. It’s been a powerhouse of the tea industry for quiet a while now. It’s high in antioxidants and low in caffeine. Green tea has ant-inflammatory, fat burning, brain protection, and bacteria fighting properties. If you are looking for a daily drink, this could be it. Just go easy on the sugar.
Hibiscus tea – Hibiscus tea is my favorite. It has been known to prevent hypertension, lower blood pressure, reduce blood sugar levels, keep your liver healthy, help with menstrual cramps, help with depression, aid digestion and help with weight management. Its rich in Vitamin C, contains minerals such as flavonoids and has laxative properties.
Peppermint tea– Don’t want caffeine? Peppermint invigorates without caffeine. Some say it is cleansing, and it’s often used to aid in digestion. If you like peppermint, but it’s a bit strong, try spearmint. It’s very similar.
Rooibos tea – Rooibos comes from South Africa. It has no caffeine or oxalates, so if you are watching either or those, this could be your tea. Rooibos is high in anti-oxidants, may help your heart, reduce cancer risk, and help those with diabetes.
Of course, you can always make your own blends too. These are most fun when you have clear glasses and can see the water as it changes color. Tea drinking can be an easy and fun way to develop your animist lifestyle by getting in touch with the relationship between your food and your body.
What are you drinking?