January 21st, 2014 § § permalink
I love making custom tea blends for people. Whether it’s an herbal sipping tea or a strong medicinal blend, there’s nothing like making a big batch of tea with someone in mind.
One request was for a rose and lavender tea. Seems like simple enough directions, but when I tasted just the two herbs together, I felt like it needed depth and a variance of flavor. Those flowers competed with each other and needed to be tamed a bit.
Triple Rose and Lavender
- 1 part Lavender flowers
- 1 part Rosebuds
- 2 parts Rose Hips
- 1/2 part hand-harvested Rose Petals
The rose hips added a hint of sweet and tart, and gave the brewed tea a smoky rose color. Rose hips weighed down the floral and fragrant blossoms allowing the taste can linger on your palate, rather than float away to the ethers. I used to use rose hips sparingly, but now I use them in much higher proportions and appreciate the flavor and nourishment they offer as a medicinal food.
I could’ve just used the rosebuds, but the Oregon rose petals impart such a different quality of rose flavor that I had to include them. Hand-harvest rose petals have a spicy, dryer, milder flavor than the standard rosebuds, and I find that they blend extremely well with other herbs while the rosebuds tend to dominate.
There is a general menstruation tea I make with Rose petals, Bai Shao (White Peony root), Yarrow, Raspberry and warming spices. The rose petals blend so nicely herbs that the rose taste is barely noticeable, if at all. Those foraged petals are quite a different animal than the concentrated buds.
The rose petals are varied, coming from different plants at different times. To me, this adds to their appeal all the more. Yellow, peach, mauve, pink, red, pale lavender and any shade in between. Oh, and then there’s the delicately curled pinnate rose leaves. The rose petals impart a wildness, albeit an urban wildness, to a cup of tea.
Herbal medicine is time and space medicine… I guess you could say locally grow food is similar (or herbal sipping teas?). I love knowing where my herbs came from, who harvested them, what the plants looked like when they were picked, and what the clouds looked like in the sky. Is it farfetched to think clouds and wind and the buzz of pollinating bees can be captured in herbs that were harvested that day? And when I sip that tea, does that snapshot of time resonate within my body and spirit?
November 13th, 2013 § § permalink
Here’s a gentle and tasty tea combining some of my favorite herbs to support the all-important brain-gut connection. It works on the nervous system and the middle jiao (digestion) to move Qi and ease stomach aches, increase healthy permeability and absorption in the gut, calms the emotions especially anxiety, is tonifying to worn-out adrenals, warms and increases circulation. » Read the rest of this entry «
September 18th, 2013 § § permalink
Teas tell a story, especially hand-harvested teas. Finding the penultimate Rose, camping with friends and harvesting fresh Skullcap as the last think to pack into the car, cutting Passionflower for a trailing bouquet with dahlias and sunflowers, magenta sunsets, petting kitties in the waning moonlight. » Read the rest of this entry «
July 22nd, 2013 § § permalink
When I worked at a co-op in the health and body care section, I noticed that every year around November, bottles and bottles of elderberry products would fly off the shelves. Elderberry has earned a reputation as a cold and flu herb, especially for the dreaded influenza, and rightfully so. It packs a powerful punch of anthocyanadins, helps the immune system do this. Studies have shown that it is effective at reducing the length of the flu by half.
Yet like most herbs, elderberry has depth and can be used in many situations. » Read the rest of this entry «
May 21st, 2013 § § permalink
Day 1 Tea: a lower jiao warming, blood and Ki Qi nourishing and ever-so-slightly Blood moving herbal tea. I made it originally to ease menstrual cramps, starting with Yarrow as my chief herb. I have had this blend around for a while, but am sharing it with a customer for the first time and really, like really, enjoying making a new batch. I am using a mix of purchased rosebuds and rose petals I have harvested from Portland.
Milky oats have been added to support the Kidneys (capital ‘K’ means a Chinese medicine concept and function), because I originally made this for someone with dysmennorhea with underlying Kidney Qi Xu (Deficiency), and I find Milky Oats to support the adrenals quite nicely. Grains are also mineral-rich, which can help reduce crampy pain and spasms. Sometimes during day 1 or longer, digestion can be messed up. Loose stools, upset stomach, crampy intestines along with the uterus. It is not fun. Milky Oats can help soothe the digestive tract, too.
Let’s see…what other glorious herbs are in here?
Rose Hips, Raspberry leaf, Cinnamon and Ginger, Hawthorne berries, Peony, and the blood-regulating Yarrow. It’s sweet, floral, tart, a little spicy and warm. Yum!
April 29th, 2013 § § permalink
It is getting warmer. And brighter. Things are green, really green. Rose and calendula are in bloom! They come home with me, flowers stuffed in pockets and lunch boxes, and those which are not dried or arranged in a vase go straight into a cup of tea. » Read the rest of this entry «
April 26th, 2013 § § permalink
Gan Mai Da Zao Wan is a Chinese formula from the Jing Gui (The Golden Cabinet), a medicine text written by Zheng Zhong-Jing in 220 AD. It is in the Calm Spirit category and its strategy is to tonify Heart Yin and Blood deficiency as it calms the spirit. » Read the rest of this entry «
April 4th, 2013 § § permalink
Even a Chinese medicine student knows Gui Zhi Tang is an really important formula. Gui Zhi is Chinese for Cinnamon Twig; Tang means ‘soup’ or ‘decoction’. It is named so because of the chief (representative) herb of the formula, Gui Zhi/Cinnamon. This formula is simple yet complex, and demonstrats the elegance of Chinese herbal formulation. I am not attempting to disseminate the theory behind this formula or its combinations, which I do not feel prepared to do as I am still exploring it as we speak, but instead will share a bit of my experience with this awesomely tasty and effective tea. » Read the rest of this entry «
May 19th, 2011 § § permalink
I’d like to share one of my favorite tea blends featuring skullcap and milky oats, two of my favorite herbs for reviving the nervous system. I like them individually as simples and do most of the time, but I also think they work well as a pair. Just the two of them, skullcap and milky oats, isn’t the best tasting tea I have ever had. I don’t mind them separately, but together? They need some depth, some warmth, some support and some flavor. Before I say more, take a look at the ingredients:
- 2 milky oats
- 1-2 skullcap
- 1 lemon balm
- 2 spearmint
- 1 chamomile
- 1/2 rosemary
- .25 ginger
- 1 rose hips
- 1 orange peel
I still struggle with what to call this tea. I first blended a variety of it for a friend of a friend, a new mom who was getting a little frazzled with the demands (and joys!) of a newborn on just a few hours of sleep each day. This mom’s birth was on the long side (40 hours or so), so she was exhausted from the get-go. Plus, she was selling her house, moving and remodeling the new one. Basically, this woman needed some nervous system support, with manifestations of feeling wired and tired simultaneously. For her I called it “De-Stress Tea”, and she reported in after about 2 weeks that her stress and exhaustion was declining, and she was starting to feel like her old self.
This tea also typifies a student burning the candle at both ends, so I have called it simply “Students Tea”. There’s a lot of mental energy being used as a student, not to mention late nights of studying (and/or partying). It is a delicate act to balance school, a social life, family, work and self-care.
Now I call it “Skullcap Om”, because of the chilled-out feeling I get from drinking skullcap. Buddhists monks use skullcap to prepare for mediation, and it has the ability to stimulate and relax at the same time. Skullcap clears the mind from circular thoughts – which become especially apparent when you are trying to fall asleep. Sometimes, this over-thinking is the only thing that prevents sleep; my body may be totally heavy and relaxed, ready for sleep, but the mind races on. I say that it stimulates because I become more aware of my senses, and my body wakes up and comes into present time. Here’s a little something I wrote about skullcap
a while back.
The four members of the mint family featured in this tea, skullcap, lemon balm, spearmint and rosemary, are well-known nervines. I love bringing mints together in a tea, especially picked fresh from the garden. That being said, I don’t want to drink only mints all the time, since as a group they are light, airy and cool. I happen to be light, airy and cool myself, so I need a little ginger, cinnamon, licorice, fennel and the like to anchor that dispersing mint nature. Combining them with the sunny sweetness of another nervine, chamomile, adds a little variety to the aromatic mints and directs the tea towards the middle burner/digestion.
Rose hips , ginger and orange peel are added for flavor, but they also direct the tea around the body a bit, orange peel and ginger again with affinities for the belly. I am not sure where rose hips would ‘go’ in the body, the heart maybe, blood vessels? I hesitate because I haven’t figured rose hips out yet. They are a bit sour and sweet, and thus astringe and tone, they are chock-full of nutrients in true red berry style, add color to an otherwise plain green tea, and they taste delicious. What don’t they do?
Milky oats (the tops of the oat (Avena sativa
) plant harvested while in the “milky” stage) is a great restorative, for the brain, emotions and body alike. I love, love, love oats. When I was interning at an herbal retreat center, I bought a half pound of locally grown milky oats and drank a quart of the tea every day. The milky oats (combined with the luxury of working in a herb garden at the top of a mountain for three months) completely revived my energy, body and emotions.
I bring this tea up because I need it right now! My brain is on overload, so much that I can’t seem to muster the energy to make this tea for myself. With doing this post, I am reminded of the strengthening these herbs bring to a worn-out system.
June 24th, 2010 § § permalink
Why do I use herbs more when I am sick then when I am well? Perhaps because most of what I know about herbs came from reading about how to help the body in times of illness. At the point at or just prior to the start of a health imbalance, I reach out for more pointed botanical support and either restore vitality or get sick, convalesce and then restore vitality. Herbs help us regain a sense of wholeness, or offer something we are lacking.
Even the herbs I use preventativly to build reserves, like the nourishing, vitamin- and mineral-rich plants like nettle, raspberry leaf, alfalfa or even supportive roots such as dandelion, burdock and yellow dock to give me something. Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with the quest for support, well-being, and wholeness. It’s kinda part of the whole point of herbalism. Indeed, there is an inherent need to be engaged with consistently taking care of ourselves with food, rest, exercise and so on, just to make it through the day (otherwise we could end up like the guy from Super Size Me).
One of the first herbal medicine books I read (and thoroughly adored) was Rosemary Gladstars’ Herbal Healing for Women. I particularly enjoyed her “Joy Tea”, (with hawthorne berries, leaf and flower, hibiscus, cardamom and more) not only because it was delicious, but because she suggested to be drink it in times of joy, like celebrating the birth of a baby. I made a big batch and gave it to friends and family for he holidays.
What about sipping tea without any expectations? How would my favorite herbs change if I didn’t want some specific action in return?
I tried chamomile, figuring it is a good place to start since it is often a beverage tea. I tasted this perennial favorite herbs of mine in a new way, to my surprise it was bitter in a sour, even when it was still hot. Hmm…
I tried skullcap tea. Yes, I use dried skullcap even thought I have heard it is not nearly as effective as when it is fresh. In the past, it has ‘worked’ by making me sleepy and quieting a million-thoughts-a-minuet mind. I waited to see if that would happen without needing it to (nothing happened).
I was feeling like tinkering around with my dried herbs and tried to make a licorice spice tea. The key word is “tried”; it tasted flat.
Then next day I got a great idea: how about a tea bag from a store bought tin! Perfect. I never expect them to do anything except be warm and tasty and easy. I picked rooibos, and it was good. I realized I was thirsty swallowed a pint of it in one drink. Damn, it was serving a purpose: hydration.
Finally I came to my senses. It’s full-on summer time, the garden in in full bloom, why not gather some fresh herbs for my ‘tea for when everything’s perfect’ tea. I gathered whatever looked good: heart’s ease pansy, catmint, thyme, mallow flowers, spearmint and bee balm, placed them in a jar, poured on some hot water, drank a while later. It spicy, minty and delicious.
Perfection is a relative term, and certainly not the rule. I don’t strive to be “perfect” or feel bad when I am not. To me, perfection is a more like contentment, a state when I don’t need anything and am reminded to simply appreciate things around me and offer gratitude for them being the just the way they are.
February 10th, 2010 § § permalink
At first glance, sun teas (also known as solar infusions) may seem out of place along side medicinal infusions and decoctions. Most people associate sun teas with iced beverage teas, peppermint or green, sipped in the shade in the middle of summer. I am going to stretch the meaning of medicinal to envelope good-tasting teas. When it is hot in the summer, what can be more medicinal than cooling, invigorating mint tea, or passion-taming rose petals, or cleansing red clover berries, or thirst-quenching hawthorn?
Solar infusions take advantage of the sun to warm and infuse the tea, rather than heating water. They are typically made outside, in a big pitcher or jar out on a stoop (with a cover to keep out bugs). The time it takes to steep varies. Here are general directions to work off of:
- Place about twice as much dried or fresh herbs as you would use for an infusion in a pitcher and cover with tap water. 6-8 tablespoons dried tea for 4 cups water, for example.
- Let steep outside in the sun for about 4 hours.
- Strain, drink, enjoy! You may serve with ice, or place in the fridge to cool for later.
Sun teas remind me of the sweetness of summer. Gather a few leaves here, some flower petals there, cover with water and let it absorb the sun’s rays. Aromatic or sweet herbs make good solar infusions, hence the classic mint tea. Lemon balm, spearmint, lemon grass, bee balm, catnip, raspberry leaves, choke cherry leaves, yarrow flowers, red clover blossoms, holy basil, roses and linden flowers are some of my favorite local plants to pick fresh and prepare as a sun tea.
January 4th, 2008 § § permalink
Do you ever let you nose, eyes or hands formulate a tea blend without asking your mind if that “makes sense”?
Sometimes these impromptu, sensual creations may be just what we need.
On New Year’s Day I decided to get to work right away on organizing my dried herbs. I opened one of the three cupboards where bags and jars of herbs are scattered about, pulled out a two bags that occupied me for the rest of the evening. Enough organizing…I’ll have plenty of time to tidy up my herbs later, right? (Note to self: get on the bottle and bags…that’s what I said last New Year’s!)
I found about an ounce each of lavender and safflower. The red and purple looked so vibrant together, especially against the backdrop of an overcast Minnesota winter day. Each of the herbs are essentially the flowers of the plant, similarly tubluar yet delicate in shape. I added another flower, one with a slightly bitter, resinous quality to mellow the taste of the blend; calendula. Don’t get me wrong, it didn’t mellow that much, after all calendula is another vibrant flower with it’s own sunny qualities.
After admiring the sunny-red-purpleness in the jar, I steeped my tea blend. With beverage blends, I steep for under an hour, but I was still following my intuition and made a medicinal infusion instead. Four hours later I strained and sipped, the taste was both one entity and separate parts that cascaded through my senses. The gritty-sweet lavender was the high note, which I felt in my head, on my palate, in the back of my neck. The moving yet fullness I felt from the safflower was the middle taste. I didn’t feel it in any place in particular, but simply that it was everywhere uniting my limbs to my body. The sip ended with the a calendula slightly bitter centering I could feel on the bottom of my stomach, up through my side body to the lymph nodes in my armpits where it lingered. I tasted calendula in every part of my mouth; between teeth, across the map of the tongue, in the epithelial cells, on the palate.
The overall feeling of the tea was one of cellular cleansing from the center of my body out and emotional peace without much thoughts. I tried to think about how the tea was making me feel and promptly decided to “stop thinking about how I feel, just feel!”. In a way it cleared my mind, not with clarity of thoughts but a reduction of them. A pretty good state of mind to start the new year with…