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…