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 «
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oats have been added to support the Kidneys (capital ‘K’ means a Chinese medicine concept and function), because I originally made this for someone with dysmennorhea with underlying Kidney Qi Xu (Deficiency), and I find Milky Oats to support the adrenals quite nicely.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!
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.
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.