Happy Holidays! I’m going to tell you about a homemade from-scratch holiday gift you can give to someone you love. As with all things I make, it’s easy and low cost. This post however, is a little different from any I’ve done, because it’s going to come with some medical warnings, and I would like you to take them seriously. I’m excited to tell you about homemade medicinal teas that you can make using backyard ingredients. Just be warned, these are just the same as medicines you might find on the pharmacy shelves, and because they do affect your health, I’m going to include the warnings. (I’ll also include the benefits – lots of them!)
To package the teas as a gift, fill a small glass jar with dried tea leaves, attach a note outlining the benefits and dosage of the tea, and include a tea ball.
Tea is a wonderful thing. Steeping and drinking a cup can usher in feelings of calm, stimulation, centerness, and more. Maybe you have a few different types of tea in your pantry. Perhaps black or green tea wakes you up every morning. You might reach for mint in the afternoon and kava in the evening. Whichever kind you choose, you are most likely aware that different teas have a different effect on your mind and body.
Looking back in history, people have been drinking tea for a long time – some estimates show this pastime is 12,000 years old. It hasn’t been used just for pleasure: medicinal use of tea is hardly a new concept. In fact medicinal tea was considered to be “real medicine” long before pharmaceutical companies set up shop and started popping out pills of all shapes and sizes.
There are some teas that can make you feel better when you’re ill, and I’ll tell you about four of them that use ingredients from your backyard (or farmer’s market): sage, thyme, red clover and white clover teas. Some of these you will have to pick next summer and preserve. Some will be available in fresh form at your local market. To make the teas, pick the herbs early in the morning (to retain as many oils as possible before the midday sun arises). For sage and thyme, tie the cut ends of the sprigs together with string or an elasic band. Hang upside down on a nail or hood to dry in a dark place. For the clover flowers, pick the flowers and spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet to dry for a few days. When they are completely dry, store them in a container with a tight lid.
Thyme tea is excellent for illnesses that affect the lungs, such as bronchitis and respiratory infections. You can cool the tea and use it to gargle when your throat is sore and swollen. Thyme is an antiseptic, so you can also use the cooled tea as a wash on cuts and scrapes.
Dosage: 1-2 teaspoons of dried thyme for every large cup of tea. Can be taken several times a day.
Red Clover Tea
Red clover is something I hadn’t gotten excited about until I entered my (ahem….) “glory years” of life. If the first number of your age is close to ‘4’, ‘5’ or ‘6’, this is something you will want to pay attention to. And I am not talking about people who are the age of my children- 4 and 6 years old.
Red clover, which grows wild in fields and seems to prefer being abused in order to flourish, contains a high number of phytoestrogens, which are similar to female hormones. If you need some help getting on track with your menstrual cycle, drink some red clover tea. Do you find that hot flashes pop up as you navigate your way through menopause? Red clover might help. It also improves circulation, clears respiratory illnesses, and helps to cleanse the liver.
*Warning: if you are a child-bearing female and you think you want to have [more] children, don’t drink red clover tea. It manipulates your hormones-great news if you’re done with your child bearing years and they’re making you feel “not right”, but not great news if you’re counting on those magical hormones to help you produce a new baby.*
Dosage: steep 1-2 teaspoons of dried flowers in a large cup of hot water for 30 minutes. Take 2-3 cups per day.
White Clover Tea
Do you want to be healthier all over? Would you like to have nicer hair, fingernails and toenails? When you get a cold, would you like it to go away sooner? Then you should drink white clover tea. It’s good for so many things and in essence, it cleanses our bodies and makes us healthier all over.
Dosage: Steep 1-2 teaspoons dried flowers in a large cup of hot water for 30 minutes. Take 2-3 cups per day.
This is the strongest tea I’ll tell you about and it comes with the most warnings. While the other teas I’ve mentioned here may take a while to have an effect on your body, sage tea works fairly quickly. If you are nursing, pregnant, or want to become pregnant soon, don’t drink sage tea. It can dry up your milk, cause contractions, and who knows what else. Sage is serious business. Just the same, if you have an illness and want to find relief, sage tea will deliver it, pronto.
Sore throat? Gargle with sage tea. Swollen ankle or migraine headache? Soak a washcloth in the tea and apply it to your ankle or forehead.
Want to stop nursing and dry up your milk, or lighten your menstrual cycle? Do you want to be smarter and think more clearly? Do you have a fever? Drink it.
Here is what you need to know about sage in a nutshell:
1. It’s serious business. Take it in SMALL doses (3-4 oz. or less) until you know what effect is has on you.
2. Use the Hot/Cold rule to decide how to use it. If you drink it hot, what is inside will come out. Extra water weight, menstrual fluids, lots of sweat, a runny nose… those come out. If you drink it cold, what’s inside will stay inside: breast milk, diarrhea, perspiration, mucus. Use good judgment.
3. When you experiment with sage tea, understand that you are tapping into many parts of your body with one beverage, and be respectful of the results. By tending to one symptom, you will invariably affect several others. Go slowly with sage. It’s a powerful, positive herb, but one that should be treated with caution and respect.
Dosage: Steep ¼ teaspoon dried sage in 4 oz. hot water. Drink with caution, no more than 4 oz. per day. Do not use sage tea for more than 5-7 days at a time.