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Claiming to make the ‘perfect’ cup of tea is a bit contentious, isn’t it?! cool I’m bold, but not bold enough to talk about black tea. I will talk you through how to make the perfect herbal teas so you get the most benefit when you drink them.

Some of you may already love drinking herbal teas. Others will take some convincing to try out herbal teas. Maybe you’ve had a past experience with an insipid cup of chamomile or some other blend in a tea bag. I’ll tell you straight up that more often than not, the tea bags aren’t a patch on the taste, colour and flavour of what you’ll get when you use loose dried herb. If you’re still not convinced, send me an email and I’ll send you some free samples of herbal teas to try.

WHAT MAKES A HERB A HERB?

Any plant used for healing or medicinally is called a herb. Trees, barks, leaves, flowers, seeds, berries, grains and roots are all used for healing or nourishment. There are over 2000 plants used in Western Herbal Medicine. Very often herbs we use in Western Herbal Medicine are weeds (especially in Australia).

Having said that, herbs don’t have to be thought of as only medicinal. EG culinary (cooking) herbs. Although culinary herbs often were used in cooking to help prevent illness from bacteria in the food or aid digestion.

herbal actions

Apart from preventative and culinary uses, herbs are used in specific conditions and for specific reasons. Herbalists describe the way herbs work in the body, or the effect that they have, as ‘actions’. There’s many herbal actions I often use with my clients who are feeling the effects of being stressed for a long time, like exhausted, cranky, or having trouble sleeping.

nervine tonic

Herbs with these actions increase the tone, vigour (strength) and function of the nervous system. They help relax and energise the nervous system. Which seems contradictory, but helps you get out of fight, flight or freeze mode, into rest and digest mode; while counter-acting the fatigue of chronic stress. To find out more about stress and your nervous system, look here.

Some examples of nervines include:

  • Oats
  • St John’s Wort
  • Gotu Kola
  • Skullcap
  • Withania
  • Vervain

Tonic

Like the nervine tonics, tonics boost tone, vigour and function, but they do this through out the body, rather than just for the nervous system. Some examples of tonics are:

  • Astragalus
  • Oats
  • Siberian Ginseng
  • Withania

Sedative

What I love about herbal sedatives is there’s a range from gentle, calming chamomile through to kava or california poppy – the sledgehammers of herbal sedative’s. You get all the benefits, like reduced nervous system activity, tension and hyper-reactivity, without any of the hangover effect or addiction risk.

Examples of sedatives are:

  • Oats
  • Chamomile
  • St John’s Wort
  • Lavender
  • Lemon balm
  • Passion flower
  • Skullcap
  • Vervain
  • Withania

Adaptogen

Here we have the modern heroes of the herbal world. Adaptogens increase the body’s resistance to physical, environmental, emotional and biological stresses. They help the body maintain normal function during short or prolonged stress. This protects the cells, tissues and organs of the body from the damage that comes from the increased inflammation and oxidation caused by cortisol and other stress hormones.

Some popular heroes include:

  • Astragalus
  • the Ginsengs
  • Gotu Kola
  • Shatavari (Asparagus)
  • Licorice
  • Bacopa
  • Withania

Other Herbal Actions

There’s so many herbal actions to describe the effect that herbs have in the body. Some others that I frequently use to help reduce the side effects of long-term stress include:

  • Immune modulator
  • Thyroid stimulatnt
  • Adrenal tonic
  • Anxiolytic (anti-anxiety)
  • Thymoleptic (mood-enhancing)
  • Digestive tonics
  • Bitters

Ok, enough about the actions, what are you going to drink and how will you make it?!

If you’re looking for a cup of calm, then look no further than something containing chamomile, passionflower, lavender, licorice, withania, oats (not for coeliacs), lemon balm, mint. You might like this, this or this.

MAKE PERFECT herbal teas

I’ve got five simple things for you to do to make the perfect (therapeutic) cup of tea:

  1. Choose the tea to support your mood, desired mood, or health goal;
  2. Gather your special pot or cup + tea infuser/reusable tea bag;
  3. Use pure, filtered water and a glass;
  4. Be generous with the amount of tea you use to make it therapeutic;
  5. Pour over the freshly boiled water, cover and steep for 10 minutes.

Check out the infographic below that expands this info, and pin it so you can refer to it another time!

THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN CHOOSING HERBAL TEAS

Watch the video to find out more about the herbal actions and other things naturopaths consider when prescribing to their clients. For example, when I’m prescribing, I consider:

  • overall health and what else is going on for the person (I might choose one herb over another because its actions cover off the main aim along with others);
  • the actions of the herb (how the herb impacts the body);
  • constitution (how strong or sensitive are they, which dictates the strength of herbs or dose I choose);
  • vitality (how depleted are they, do I need to go gently or use stronger herbs);
  • detoxification and elimination function;
  • sensory sensitvities and taste of the herbs;
  • likely compliance – does my prescription match their level of busyness, or capacity to do what I ask;
  • research and traditional use.

You can see there’s a lot to be considered when picking herbs, the form of the herb (tea, tincture, capsules or tablets), and the dose. Sometimes, this might be why you think, “oh I tried herbal medicine, or x/y/z, and it didn’t work”. Form and dose are incredibly important for both herbal and nutritional medicine. So, I’d encourage you to talk to your local herbalist or naturopath about which herbs will be best for you and your health goals.

So if you’ve had herbal tea in the past, please give it a second chance, and try again with some loose dried herbs. If you’re looking for some flavour suggestions for calm and clarity, check out this blog, or visit my shop to find my beautiful Glow range with a variety of tasty blends that are also good for you.

Now, it’s time for me to have a relaxing cup of tea. wink