April 2012
The Herb Farm

Drink It!

Herbs Can Be a Welcome Addition to Tea

Water is tops on my list of beverages to enjoy on a warm, spring day. It quenches my thirst and replenishes all of the lost liquids from perspiring. It is the only truly healthy drink that cleanses the entire body and is a dietary requirement in order for all humans to live.

But when I want to take a break and after I have put the necessary hydration back into my body, I enjoy a cup of hot tea or glass of iced tea. There are many combinations of herbs I use for my teas, too. It’s more than just tea (Camellia sinensis) to me!

 


Yaupon (Ilex vomitoria) leaves are loaded with caffeine!

There is always a gaggle of natural ingredients in my kitchen (or garden) to throw together a tea for any occasion and there are many occasions warranting a drink of a fine herbal tea. I’ll list some of the herbs I keep on hand plus some of the ways people have used them. Keep in mind I neither recommend nor endorse the use of herbs in teas that I am about to list.

At the top of the list is native yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria). Next to yerba mate, it has just about the highest caffeine content of any plant in the Americas and this one grows wild in Alabama! Native Americans and early settlers have been making a black tea from the leaves of this plant for centuries. Parch the leaves, boil them, then strain the dregs. Add the liquid to regular tea, add a flavor enhancer from your herb cabinet or just drink it straight.


The lemon flavor and aroma of lemon balm adds a clean and refreshing taste to your tea.

 

Anise (Pimpinella anisum) is a flavor enhancer for herbal tea and should never be confused with the spice, Star anise. Anise, along with fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), has a licorice flavor.

Other flavor enhancers like the lemons, as I like to call them, include the following:

• Lemon verbena (Aloysia citrodora) offers a distinct lemony flavor and is sometimes used as a lemon (the citrus) substitute in standard teas.

• Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) is more widely used in cooking, but is also used in teas. Caution should be used when handling this grass as it has been known to cause dermatitis in some people. The oil from this plant is also used as a pesticide and insect repellent.

 


Add catnip to your chamomile tea for a relaxing nightcap.

• Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is actually a mint used in baking and the flavoring of ice cream. It is also a popular flavor enhancer in many combinations of herbal teas.

• Lemon zest (Citrus x limon) makes a great addition to most iced teas as well as hot ones. Steep or float a curl of zest in any tea for a fresh taste. Remember to only use the zest and not the white citrus membrane as it has a bitter flavor.

Mints make excellent flavor enhancers in herbal teas. Catnip (Nepeta cataria) has been used in teas to soothe an upset stomach. Apple mint and pineapple mint (Mentha suaveolens and Mentha suaveolens ‘Variegata’) impart a fruity flavor. Spearmint (Mentha spicata) and peppermint, a hybrid mint, offer a fresh aroma to teas that are both pleasing to the nose and palate.

Pineapple sage leaves (Salvia elegans), wild rose petals (Rosa virginiana), sassafras roots (Sassafras albidum), sliced coconut (Cocos nucifera), coconut water, orange blossoms, lemon blossoms and cinnamon all make great flavor enhancers for herbal teas.


Spearmint leaves enhance the flavors of any herbal tea.

 

Borage (Borago officinalis) leaves and flowers are used to give teas a fresh flavor. The flowers are sweet and the crushed leaves have a mild cucumber flavor.

Chamomile, rose hips, hibiscus flowers, orange zest, satsuma juice, red clover, blackberry leaves, dandelion root, licorice root (Glycyrrhiza lepidota), bee balm, dill, chrysanthemum, ginger root, and even rosemary and thyme have a place in the world of herbal teas! Some of these herbs are growing right outside your door.

All of these herbal tea combinations can be sweetened with crushed stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) leaves, too!

 


Standard tea plant (Camellia sinensis)

There are numerous more herbs that can be used to make teas; I only listed the ones I know about without doing much research. Herbal tea can be made to refresh, relax, stimulate or for many other purposes.

Teatime is more than just a snack and a glass of Earl Grey on the rocks. It’s more than a cup of steeped Camellia sinensis with a cube of sugar. Tea is everything!

Next time, we’ll have more on flavors from our backyard.

Until then, drink plenty of pure water (and a little tea) and breathe in and out!

Thanks for reading!

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As always, check with an expert, like your doctor, before using any herbal remedy.