Any tea drinkers out there?
How to Make Herbal Teas, Herbal Infusions and Herbal Tinctures
Learn how to prepare basic herbal remedies such as teas, infusions and tinctures, and try these three easy recipes to sip your way to better health or simply a more soothed state-of-mind.
By Rosemary Gladstar
February 9, 2012
“Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health” offers 175 natural, homemade remedies for everything from moisturizing dry skin to relieving cold symptoms to simply getting a good night’s sleep. Author Rosemary Gladstar guides readers through every step of the process, including growing and harvesting herbs, matching herbs to ailments and determining dosage.
The following is an excerpt from Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health by Rosemary Gladstar (Storey Publishing, 2008). In this inspirational guide to a greener, healthier life though caring for and honoring the body, you’ll find time-tested herbal remedies that are safe, effective and easy to prepare. Gladstar, a renowned herbal teacher and a driving force behind the contemporary herbalist movement, presents teas, tonics, oils, salves, tinctures and other natural therapies for dozens of common maladies and for promoting overall health and wellness at every stage of life. This excerpt is from the Appendix II, “The Art of Making Herbal Remedies.”
Herbal teas remain my favorite way of using herbs medicinally. The mere act of making tea and drinking it involves you in the healing process and, I suspect, awakens an innate ability for self-healing in the body. Though medicinal teas are generally not as potent or as active as tinctures and other concentrated herbal remedies, they are the most effective medicines for chronic, long-term imbalances.
The making of herbal tea is a fine art, but it is also blessedly simple. If you’ve never cooked a thing in your life, trust me, you can make a good cup of medicinal tea. All you really need is a quart jar with a tight-fitting lid, the selected herbs, and water that has reached the boiling point.
Herbal teas can be drunk hot, at room temperature or iced. They can be made into ice cubes with fresh fruit and flowers and used to flavor festive holiday punches. They’re delicious blended with fruit juice and frozen as pops for children.
After brewing, an herbal tea should be stored in the refrigerator. Left at room temperature for several hours, it will go “flat,” get tiny bubbles in it and begin to sour. Stored in the refrigerator, an herbal tea will be good for three to four days.
I seldom direct people to make medicinal teas by the cupful. It is impractical and time-consuming. Instead, make a quart of tea each morning or in the evening after work. The herb-to-water ratio varies depending on the quality of herbs used, whether they are fresh or dried (use twice as much fresh herb in a recipe), and how strong you wish the finished tea to be. I generally use 1 to 3 tablespoons of herb(s) for each cup of water, or 4 to 8 tablespoons of herb per quart of water, depending on the herb.
For a medicinal tea to be effective, it must be administered in small amounts several times daily. For chronic problems, serve the tea three or four times daily. For acute ailments such as colds, fevers and headaches, take several small sips every 30 minutes until the symptoms subside.
How to Make Herbal Infusions
Infusions are made from the more delicate parts of the plant, including the leaves, flowers and aromatic parts. These fragile plant parts must be steeped rather than simmered because they give up their medicinal properties more easily than do the tougher roots and barks.
To make an infusion, simply boil 1 quart of water per ounce of herb (or 1 cup of water to 1 tablespoon of herb). Pour water over the herb(s) and let steep for 30 to 60 minutes. The proportion of water to herb and the required time to infuse varies greatly, depending on the herb. Start out with the above proportions and then experiment. The more herb you use and the longer you let it steep, the stronger the brew. Let your taste buds and your senses guide you.
How to Make Herbal Tinctures
Tinctures are concentrated liquid extracts of herbs. They are very potent and are taken by the dropperful, most often diluted in warm water or juice. Because they are so concentrated, they should be administered carefully and sparingly. (For chronic problems, use 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of a tincture three times daily. For acute problems, use 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon every 30 to 60 minutes until symptoms subside.)
Most tinctures are made with alcohol as the primary solvent or extractant. Though the amount of alcohol is very small, many people choose not to use alcohol-based tinctures for a variety of sound reasons. Effective tinctures can be made with vegetable glycerin or apple cider vinegar as the solvent. Though they may not be as strong as alcohol-based preparations, they do work and are preferred for children and people who are sensitive to alcohol.
If you use alcohol as your tincture solvent, it should be 80 to 100 proof, such as vodka, gin or brandy. Half of the proof number is the percentage of alcohol in the spirits: 80-proof brandy is 40 percent alcohol; 100-proof vodka is 50 percent alcohol.
There are several methods used to make tinctures, but the traditional or simpler’s method is the one I prefer. Herbs, the menstruum (alcohol, vinegar or glycerin base) and a jar with a tight-fitting lid are all you need. This extremely simple system produces a beautiful tincture every time.
1. Chop your herbs finely. I recommend using fresh herbs whenever possible. High-quality dried herbs will work well also, but one of the advantages of tincturing is the ability to preserve the fresh attributes of the plant. Place the herbs in a clean, dry jar.
2. Pour in enough of the menstruum to cover the herbs, and continue pouring until the liquid rises 2 or 3 inches above the herbs. The herbs need to be completely submersed. Cover with a tight-fitting lid.
Note: If you’re using vegetable glycerin, dilute it with an equal amount of water before pouring it over the herbs. If you’re using vinegar, warm it first.
3. Place the jar in a warm location and let the herbs and liquid soak (macerate) for 4 to 6 weeks — the longer, the better.
4. Shake the bottle daily during the maceration period. This not only prevents the herbs from packing down on the bottom of the jar, but also is an invitation for some of the old magic to come back into medicine making. During the shaking process, you can sing to your tincture jars, stir them in the moonlight or the sunlight, wave feathers over them — whatever your imagination and intuition inspires.
5. Strain the herbs from the menstruum using a large stainless-steel strainer lined with cheesecloth or muslin. Reserve the liquid, which is now a potent tincture, and compost the herbs. Rebottle and label. Store out of the reach of children in a cool, dark location, where the tincture will keep almost indefinitely.
High-C Tonic Tea Recipe
A wonderfully refreshing blend, High-C Tonic Tea provides bioflavonoids and vitamin C in an organic, naturally biochelated base so that all of the nutrients are readily available for absorption. High levels of vitamins supplied in therapeutic dosages, such as commercial vitamins, may be useful to combat illness, but for daily maintenance, a more naturally occurring dose is better, especially for children.
4 parts rose hips
3 parts hibiscus
2 parts lemongrass
1 part cinnamon chips
Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container. To make a tea, prepare as an infusion.
Berry Good Tea Recipe
2 parts elderberries
2 parts dried hawthorn berries
2 parts lycium berries
1 part huckleberries or bilberries
1 part raspberry leaf
Mix together all of the ingredients. Brew as an infusion, using 1 tablespoon of the herb mixture per cup of water, and steeping for 30 to 60 minutes. Sweeten with honey if desired. Drink 1 cup daily.
Pick-Me-Up Tea Recipe
2 parts hawthorn berry, leaf and/or flower
2 parts nettle
1 part ginkgo
1 part licorice
1/4 part cinnamon
1/4 part ginger
Prepare as an infusion, using 1 ounce of herb mixture per quart of water, and allowing it to steep for 45 minutes or longer. Drink 2 to 3 cups daily.
Make Your Own Herbal Teas
Learn how to make different herb teas including: alfalfa mint tea, strawberry ginger tea, cinnamon rose hip tea, anise elderberry tea and celery leaf tea.
By Linda Slater
Most people think all teas taste about the same. But then, most people don't know what it's like to sit down after supper with a good book and a cup of steaming-hot tea ... brewed from fresh-grown herbs!
I began making my own herb teas about two years ago and have since learned that fresh tea blends are about as far removed (taste-wise) from plastic-packaged orange pekoe as homebaked bread is from the store-bought kind. So, if you haven't yet discovered herb teas for yourself, take it from me: You're missing out on a real treat!
My favorite tea makin's are alfalfa, lemon balm, mint (all kinds), rose hips, rosemary, and thyme, although zesty, mineral-rich teas can be brewed from almost any edible herb, wild or cultivated. (Note: The key word here is edible. Do NOT brew a tea from any plant that you cannot positively identify as being non-toxic.)
Herbs for tea are not hard to grow. Most do well in a sandy loam fortified with a small amount of compost. (I use a 2:4:1 mix of loam, sand, and sifted compost.) If — like me — you decide to grow some or all of your herbs in pots indoors, you'll want to make sure those containers have holes in their bottoms for good drainage. Or, if you prefer, you can grow your "tea fixin's" right in your vegetable garden. (I've successfully raised thyme, lemon balm, summer savory, catnip, and parsley this way.) In this case, be sure to plant perennial varieties well off to one side so that — come fall — you won't "forget" and plow them under.
Around this time of year, many tea ingredients can be foraged. Here in western Montana, for instance, I go up into the hills every spring to gather wild strawberry, raspberry, and huckleberry leaves, each of which lends a delightful tanginess (not to mention vitamin C) to otherwise-mild tea blends. (An elderly lady I know told me that the pioneers used to dig under the spring snow to obtain wild strawberry leaves. From these leaves the settlers brewed a "spring tonic" that supposedly gave them extra pep!)
I also forage clover blossoms and alfalfa (both of which can be found in fields and along side roads) and wild mint (which often grows around ditchbanks). If you don't know how to identify these or other wild-tea ingredients, ask an old-timer in your area to show you what's what.
One "flavor ingredient" I like to use in my teas is citrus peel. I buy only organically grown grapefruit, oranges, lemons, and limes for this purpose (since the rinds of the agribiz citrus fruits sold in supermarkets are often coated with pesticides and/or coal tar dyes) ... then — after grating the peel finely I set the tangy tidbits out to dry on paper towels.
The list of possible tea ingredients is very long ( much too long to present in this limited amount of space). Just so you'll have some idea of the possibilities, however, here are a few of the many plant materials you can use to make delicious hot (and cold) teas:
Fresh or Dried Leaves of:
•mint (all kinds)
Fresh or Dried Blossoms of:
Fresh or Dried Berries of:
If you're like me, you'll probably want to harvest a large quantity of leaves, blossoms, seeds, roots, or berries all at once and dry the cache for future use. Here's the procedure I use:
1.Gather leaves, berries, or blossoms in mid-morning, after most of the dew has evaporated. (If the leaves are dusty, wash them in cold water and drain or shake off excess moisture.)
2.Set the vegetation in a dry, warm place, out of direct sunlight. (Ole Sol's rays tend to damage the flavor of just-picked herbs.) I dry my tea ingredients in the attic during the summer months, but a drying box or a spot near a window would do just as well. The important thing is to lay the herbage out one plant deep on a clean paper towel, dish towel, or (if you have one) drying screen. (Don't pile the herbs up ... the ones on the bottom might become moldy.) To protect the tea makings from dust, lay more paper towels — or cheesecloth — on top of them.
3.Allow the plants to dry for about 10 days (longer, if they still feel moist), then store them in tightly closed, labeled jars.
Individual herbs can be used singly to brew refreshing, flavorful teas ... but the most fun — and the best teas — comes when you begin to experiment with herb blends. To make a blend, all you have to do is  select the herbs you wish to combine,  place them together in a jar,  cap the container tightly, and  store the jar unopened for at least 10 days before using its contents. (The last step is necessary to achieve the proper mixing of flavors and bouquets.)
The following are some of my all-time favorite herb blends:
Alfalfa Mint Tea
•1 cup of crumbled, dried alfalfa
•1 cup of crumbled, dried spearmint or peppermint leaves
(Note: Bee balm can replace mint.)
Lemon Mint Tea
•1/2 cup of dried peppermint leaves
•1 cup of dried alfalfa
•3 tablespoons of dried lemon balm leaves
•3 tablespoons of dried, grated lemon peel
Strawberry Ginger Tea
•1 cup of dried mint leaves
•2 cups of dried strawberry leaves
•1 tablespoon of powdered ginger
Cinnamon Rose Hip Tea
•1 stick of cinnamon
•1 cup of dried rose hips
•1 teaspoon of dried, grated lemon peel
•1/4 cup of dried lemon grass or lemon balm leaves
Anise Elderberry Tea
•2 teaspoons of anise seeds
•1 cup of dried alfalfa
•1 cup of dried elderberry blossoms
•1 teaspoon of dried, grated orange peel
Celery Leaf Tea
•1 cup of dried celery leaves
•2 teaspoons of thyme
•1 teaspoon of celery seeds
Cinnamon Clover Tea
•2 sticks of cinnamon
•2 cups of dried clover blossoms
•1 teaspoon of dried, grated orange peel
As a general rule, figure on about a teaspoon of dried herb(s) — more or less, depending on your taste — per cup of tea. (Double the amount of ingredients if you're using fresh herbs.) And remember that you can get more flavor out of the leaves, blossoms, and berries if you'll crush them.
When you're ready to "brew up a refresher", first warm your teapot with scalding-hot water. (This is an old trick my English grandmother taught me, and it really does result in better tea.) Then place your ingredients directly in the pot (or tea ball), pour boiling water into the container (or into your cup, if you're making just one serving), and let the tea steep a full ten minutes. Serve the hot drink "as is", or — if you wish — flavor it with grated fruit rind, lemon juice, or honey.
For a savory pick-me-up on a hot day, try serving your favorite tea "on the rocks" ... or mix the chilled infusion with one or more fruit juices to create a spicy "herbal punch". (I can't think of a more healthful, economical substitute for soda pop.)
If you ever find yourself with more tea makin's on your hands than you can use, you can probably sell them. I've sold some of my herb blends to local health food stores for 25 to 30 cents an ounce. (In fact, my last batch sold out the very first day it was offered!)
Whether you decide to sell your herbs or not, though, you're sure to enjoy the healthful, low-cost soda pop substitutes you make from them. In fact, once you've sipped some ice-cold (or steaming-hot) lemon-mint tea ... or strawberry-ginger tea ... or anise-elderberry tea ... or any of the other blends mentioned above
you may never buy orange pekoe again!
Lower Blood Pressure Naturally With Hibiscus Tea
Grow your own blood pressure medicine by adding a few hibiscus plants to your garden.
By Michael Castleman
Recent studies show that hibiscus tea can lower blood pressure as effectively as some standard hypertension drugs can. Hibiscus is widely consumed around the world as a ruby-colored, lemony beverage (it’s the main ingredient in Red Zinger tea). Hibiscus is safe and, unlike most blood pressure drugs, rarely causes side effects. Plus, hibiscus plants can be grown in much of the United States, so you can actually grow your own blood pressure medicine.
Hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa) has been used to treat high blood pressure in both African and Asian traditional medicine. In 1996, researchers in Nigeria confirmed this age-old wisdom by showing that hibiscus flowers reduced blood pressure in laboratory animals. Soon after, researchers in Iran showed the same benefit in people. After measuring the blood pressure of 54 hypertensive adults, the researchers gave them 10 ounces of either black tea or hibiscus tea for 12 days. Average blood pressure decreased slightly in the black tea group, but decreased a significant 10 percent in the hibiscus group.
Since then, several additional studies have confirmed this effect, including two that tested hibiscus head-to-head against standard blood pressure medications:
•Scientists in Mexico gave 75 hypertensive adults either captopril (Capoten; 25 milligrams twice a day) or hibiscus tea (brewed from 10 grams of crushed dried flowers — about 5 teaspoons per 1 to 2 cups water — once a day). After four weeks, the herb had worked as well as the drug, with both groups showing an 11 percent drop in blood pressure.
•In another study, the same researchers gave 193 people either lisinopril, (Zestril, Prinivil; 10 milligrams per day) or hibiscus (250 milligrams in the form of a capsule). After four weeks, the herb had worked almost as well as the drug: Blood pressure decreased 15 percent among those on the drug, and 12 percent among those taking hibiscus.
How does hibiscus lower blood pressure? Recent research suggests a combination of reasons: It has diuretic properties, it opens the arteries, and it appears to act as a natural angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor, which means it slows the release of hormones that constrict blood vessels. In addition, hibiscus boosts immune function and provides valuable antioxidants.
Dose recommendations vary from about 1 teaspoon of dried “flowers” (technically, the calyxes surrounding the flowers) per cup of boiling water up to the 5 teaspoons used in one of the Mexican studies. Steep five to 10 minutes. If you have high blood pressure, you should own a home blood pressure monitor. Take readings before different doses and retest an hour later to see what works best for you. Check with your doctor prior to taking hibiscus if you’re currently on medication to lower blood pressure — often a combination of an herb and a lower dose of a pharmaceutical provides the same benefit.