DRINKING A HOT CUP OF TEA on a cold day is very warm and soothing, brewing a jar of sun tea on a hot summer’s day and refrigerating for enjoyment later is refreshing and thirst quenching, but knowing how to create a tea that can medicinally heal yourself and your family is very smart and rewarding.
Please make note that foraging from the wild needs to be handled very carefully. Proper plant identification is extremely important because many of our wonderful and medicinal herbs in the wild
also have an evil twin, as we refer to them. A look alike that is toxic, poisonous, or even deadly. So it is with extreme care and knowledge that we harvest what we do from the wild.
For beginners we highly recommend joining someone experienced in the wild to assist you in properly
Identifying the plants. You could also take a class on identifying the plants, purchase seeds, and grow your own or purchase the herbs from such places as Mountain Rose Herbs.
Not all ingredients in a tea need to be foraged from the wild, they can be foraged from your garden, yard, flower bed, herb garden, plant pot on your windowsill, your local organic herb store, or online.
Not only do plants make great teas, but so do roots from plants, flowers, berries, bark, inner bark, and pine needles.
My favorite spring tea is put together by foraging violet flowers, dandelion flowers, and leaves and spearmint tea from our childhood that we have managed to transplant from Pennsylvania to Idaho and nurture. Although we drink this tea for flavor and enjoyment there are many benefits to this tea.
Violet flowers are edible with a delicate sweet taste. Violets are rich in vitamins A and C and have salicylic acid, which is similar to aspirin. The flowers also contain a compound called rutin which helps to strengthen capillary blood vessels. Violets have also been used in making teas to cure bronchitis, asthma,
heart palpitations and fevers just to name a few. Now keep in mind that the roots may cause vomiting and excessive amounts of the leaves may cause stomach upset and work as a laxative. The leaves, in moderation, work well as a diuretic.
Dandelion flowers, leaves, and roots are edible and make a great salad providing more protein than spinach. They are rich in vitamins A, C, E, and B-complex, iron, calcium, and potassium. Dandelion
can be used also as a laxative, improves appetite, and can tone the whole system. The roots have been reported to lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Spearmint, in addition to being a very flavorful tea, can be eaten alone, cooked or raw, but can also add great flavor to soups, jellies, sauces, and meats. It is warned to be cautious with spearmint if you are pregnant because of the high levels of pulegone which stimulates the uterus
Everything in moderation is wise with anything so the same would apply with our tasty teas and edibles. As you can see precaution is necessary and knowing your plants is very important because not all parts of the plants may be edible or usable. Elderberries are another perfect example of this and are one of my utmost favorites. The berries and flowers are edible, but the rest of the plant is poisonous.
It is also important when foraging elderberries that you only pick the berries with the deepest and darkest purple color because unripe berries or the strain with the red berries are poisonous.
Elderberries deep and dark in color provide vitamins A, C, calcium, potassium, iron, and have a high amount of antioxidants. They are a favorite from my childhood because of the jelly my Mother would make every year. Now I dehydrate them for winter teas and tinctures, make jellies, jams, syrup, and hope to someday make wine.
Your teas, plants, roots, flowers, bark, inner bark, and berries are best dried inside and away from direct sunlight to preserve their finest qualities. It can be easiest to use a rubber band around the stems and hang the plants upside down in a dust free place. I often use a small paper bag that I place the plants in upside down, band the stems and end of the bag together with a rubber band and hang on my indoor wash line.
The bag eliminates the dust collecting on my plants and provides a catch for the leaves as they dry. For the flowers and berries you can place them on dehydrator racks and dehydrate them. I use my dehydrator racks in my gas oven because the pilot helps dry my items nicely and because we are off-grid with 100% solar power this eliminates the unnecessary use of power. I am hoping to build an outdoor solar enclosed dehydrator to really be able to dry large quantities.
Below you will find a list of the herbs, plants, and spices that I like to regularly forage and keep on hand. Not all of them are used in my teas and I will be sure to make note of that because some of them I use in salves and tinctures which you can read more about in my other article. I could write a book on the benefits each of these plants offer, but I will just briefly touch on some of their uses and give you an idea of how useful these few plants can be.
Alfalfa: (tea) great for salads, is high in vitamins A, B, C, E, K and P, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, iron, and protein. It is a great form of antioxidants, can be used as an antibiotic and is an excellent form of food for animals and nectar for bees.
Arnica flowers: (NOT tea – topical ONLY - poisonous) help treat physical trauma, bruises, bunions, strains, sprains, some kinds of arthritis, and muscle pain.
Astragalus: (tea) great immunity booster.
Burdock root: (tea) edible, good for skin disorders and aides in swollen lymph glands.
Calendula: (tea) anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, antiviral, good for wounds, burns, skin issues including
diaper rash and chicken pox, eye wash and also good for swollen lymph glands.
Catnip leaf: (tea) good for fevers, indigestion, insomnia, cramps, colic, and diarrhea.
Cayenne Pepper: (tea) good for arthritis, sore muscles, alleviates pain.
Chamomile flower: (tea) aids in irritability, restlessness, insomnia, indigestion, gas, fevers, colds, and teething. Topically aids with hemorrhoids, minor abrasions, cuts, scrapes, and wounds.
Cinnamon: (tea) digestion, antispasmodic, feeling cold, antibacterial, menopause, kidney tonic, bladder tonic.
Cloves and clove oil: (tea) local anesthetic and antiseptic, toothaches, stomach upset, digestion, constipation, high in magnesium, potassium, manganese, iron, and selenium.
Comfrey leaf/root: (tea with great caution) used externally for healing of wounds, broken bones, pulled ligaments and sprains, varicose veins, relieves pain, swelling, promotes growth in muscle, cartilage and bone, healing, eczema, dermatitis, viral skin infections, arthritis, burns and internally with caution for coughs and ulcers.
Dandelion: (tea) great for poor digestion, water retention, and is a nourishing food.
Echinacea: (tea) antibacterial, colds, flu, sores, wounds, insect bites, and stings.
Elderberries & flower: (tea)antibacterial,colds, flu, burns,fever, and goodfor immunity.
Fennel: (tea) Colic, gas, indigestion, intestinal disorders, nausea, lactation booster, morning sickness, sedative, gout, kidney stones, water retention, heartburn, gargle for sore throat, and acidity.
Garlic: (tea) used for hypertension, fungal infections, candida, colds, flu, and bronchial congestion.
Ginger: (tea) good for colds, flu, poor circulation, cramps, spasms, warming, use for arthritis, motion sickness, nausea, gas, mucus and congestion, and vomiting.
Goldenseal leaf/root: (tea) anti-inflammatory and antibacterial, useful for treating wounds and skin conditions.
Hawthorn: good for heart health, poor digestion, and regulation of blood pressure.
Hops: (tea) anxiety, insomnia, restlessness, tension, irritability, excitability, cancer, bladder infections, intestinal cramps, nerve pain, high cholesterol, and ADHD.
Lavender: (tea) calming, soothing, relieves hemorrhoids, pain, has healing properties for wounds and skin conditions.
Lemon Balm: (tea) good for stress and anxiety, cold sores, colds, flu, fever, teething, melancholy, and insomnia.
Licorice Root: (tea) a good anti-inflammatory with effects that mimic cortisone without the side effects, treating asthma, bronchitis, and urinary tract infections.
Mullein: (tea) good for asthma and respiratory discomforts.
Nettle Leaf: (tea) nutritious and good for allergies, anti-inflammatory, skin conditions, asthma, edema, kidney disorders, low energy, hypothyroid, arthritis, and adrenal fatigue.
Peppermint: (tea) great for upset stomach, hiccups, bad breath, cold, flu, fever, sinus congestion, gas, nausea, and externally soothes itchy skin and inflammation of the skin.
Plantain: (tea) great for insect and spider bites, antibacterial, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, speeds recovery, prevents infection, pain, poison ivy, rashes, urinary infections, dry coughs, ulcers, and other GI inflammations.
Red Clover: (tea) a prevention and treatment for cancer, whooping cough, blood thinning, and a good blood cleanser.
Rosemary leaf: (tea)increased circulation, stimulates immune system, anti-inflammatory.
Slippery Elm: (tea) good for ulcers, sore throat, coughs, inflammation of the colon and respiratory system.
Spearmint: (tea) good in treating diarrhea, stomach and bowel troubles, colic, gas, coughs, toothaches and headaches. It is cautioned that pregnant women avoid spearmint.
St. John’s Wort: (tea) good in treating mild depression, sciatica and other nerve pain, cold sores and liver function.
Thyme: (tea) chest, respiratory, bronchitis, coughs.
Turmeric: (tea) antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-tumor, anti-allergic, antioxidant, antiseptic, appetizer, digestive, diuretic, anemia, cancer, diabetes, digestion, food poisoning, gallstones, parasites, poor circulation, staph infections, and wounds.
Valerian: (tea) good for insomnia, muscle spasms, uterine cramps, and nervousness.
Violets: (tea) laxative effect, mild hormone regulating action, bronchitis, asthma, heart palpitations, and fevers. Syrups are good for relieving sore throats and coughs. Poultices, salves, and lotions are good for treating bruises, rashes, boils, and eczema.
Wild Raspberry: (tea) a relaxant and stimulant for uterus muscles and is very useful in treating painful menstruation and it has been used to reduce labor pains and to increase milk flow.
Wild Rose: (tea) useful for bladder infections, muscle pain, colds, flu, grief and anxiety, burns, rashes, cardiac weakness, and depression.
Yarrow: (tea) PMS, reducing fever, fights colds and flu, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, urinary tract antiseptic, general recovery after sickness, good for wounds, colds, stop bleeding, varicose veins, and hemorrhoids.
As you can see these herbs have many medicinal values and to be able to enjoy a flavorful tea and also naturally medicating yourself is such a plus not to mention most of them can be found in your garden or backyard.
In addition to all the herbs and plants I also enjoy the flowers from dandelions, violets, tulips, thyme, sunflowers, squash, snapdragons, sage, rosemary, roses, red clover, mint, lilac, dianthus, dill, English marigold, fennel, geraniums, lavender, chrysanthemum, chives, chamomile, chicory and elderberry just to name a few. Often times you will find that the stems, unopened buds and stamen will cause bitterness. The flowers can be laid flat between cheese cloth and placed on dehydrator racks for easy drying. All these flowers above are edible and add flavor and color to salads and game dishes. Remember not all flowers are edible so it is important to do your research.
I mentioned my favorite spring tea, but I really have many favorites and find tea to be very relaxing on a stressful day. I love lavender tea and I enjoy mixing elderberries with chamomile tea. Allowing a cinnamon stick or two to simmer in a kettle on the stove for an hour or so will add a wonderful aroma throughout your home and provide you with a very tasty tea. When we are out hiking, pine needle tea is enjoyed regularly just because we can. I enjoy blending spearmint and chamomile after dinner to relax my stomach and myself from our busy days.
For my daily immune booster I combine a piece of astragalus, a cinnamon stick and 1 tsp of licorice in a kettle and bring to a slow boil. I remove it from the stove and place on the wood stove this time of year to just simmer for an hour or two and then everyone is required to have a cup of tea. Especially this year – the germs have been hanging around a bit longer with the unusual weather we have been experiencing.
When I can’t quite relax from a long day I will mix valerian and hops together to provide me with a really good night’s sleep. Another favorite in the winter is blending your pumpkin pie spices with some dried fruits such apples and cinnamon for a nice seasonal blend. Some dried fruit such as apricots and apples along with nettle works nicely too.
There is so much to learn, but as with anything if you start off slowly and small, it will not be as overwhelming for you. Add a new plant here and there and learn how it can aid you, what parts of the plant are usable and again be sure to do your research. Start a notebook and page for each herb and keep track of your findings. Visit my website regularly for my herb journals. Now stop and take time to smell the roses and enjoy a cup of tea.
Just a reminder that I am not a medical professional, nutritionist, herbalist or food scientist or an expert in anything other than living the “Simple Life” the way we chose to live it. All opinions and advice offered in this article are merely that of a mother and woman sharing my knowledge drawn from my own experiences and research. Please consult your own naturopath or general practitioner as good standard practice, use your own common sense and judgment as well as do your own due diligence.