When you’re sick, little is more comforting than holding a steaming mug of fragrant tea in both hands, warming your face with the hot steam. Somehow, no matter how rotten you felt before, you instantly feel just a tiny bit better.
Whether you are lucky enough to grow your own tea herbs, you purchase loose teas, or you use tea bags, your cabinet is not complete without the following ingredients. These teas are delicious and beneficial, with many different healing qualities. Considering that we most often turn to herbal teas for healing purposes, it’s especially important to purchase or grow organic herbs for this purpose. If your leaves are bathed in pesticide and then you add them to boiling water, instead of healing goodness, you are steeping toxins.
When making tea for medicinal purposes, be sure to steep the tea in a teapot with a lid, or to cover your mug while the herbs are steeping. This helps to make a more potent brew by keeping all of the healing oils in the tea, instead of allowing them to drift into the room. Most herbs should be steeped for about 10 minutes for maximum results.
There are many different herbs from around the world that have wonderful healing properties. I’ve concentrated this list on ones that can either be easily acquired and stored, or ones that can be easily grown in a backyard garden or a sunny window. Just like band-aids, antibiotic cream, or aspirin, these items are vital additions to your pantry, allowing you to dispense a hot, steaming, fragrant cup of nurturing in as little time as it takes you to boil water. Be prepared by keeping the following ingredients close at hand, and be self-sufficient by producing for yourself as many as possible (always the best way to make sure that the items were grown using safe, organic methods).
Mint tea is the classic herbal tea. Mint is an ingredient in many different commercial tea blends and is much-loved for its refreshing fragrance.
Mint is an herb that doesn’t just grow easily – it can quickly overtake your garden! For this reason, it is recommended to grow mint in either a container or its own bed. There are many varieties of mint and the healing properties are similar. Whether you grow peppermint or spearmint, the active component is menthol.
Caution: If you suffer from acid reflux, mint tea may worsen your symptoms. Mint has antispasmodic properties
Mint tea can be used to:
- Reduce congestion in a cold or flu sufferer
- Reduce pain and bloating from gas
- Reduce cramping from diarrhea
- Act as a mild expectorant for a chest cold or bronchitis
- Induce sweating, the body’s natural cooling mechanism. This is a natural way to reduce a fever
- Relieve nausea without vomiting
This homely root is an ingredient in many natural cough, cold, and nausea treatments. Instead of giving your child gingerale when they are suffering from an upset stomach (and all of the HFCS and artificial flavors that come in it) brew up a nice cup of ginger tea sweetened with honey for a real dose of soothing ginger!
Ginger is a tropical plant that is apparently not difficult to grow indoors. It requires excellent soil, warmth, humidity, and filtered sunlight.
Caution: It’s not recommended to exceed 4 grams of ginger per day – components in the herb can cause irritation of the mouth, heartburn and diarrhea if taken in excess.
Click HERE to find a recipe for a delicious honey-ginger cough syrup that can also be the basis for a night-time hot toddy.
Ginger tea can be used to:
- Reduce nausea
- Prevent or treat motion sickness
- Warm the body of someone suffering from chills
- Induce sweating to break a fever
- Soothe a sore throat
Chamomile tea should be steeped a little longer than other herbal teas in order to get all of the medicinal benefits. This soothing, slightly apple-flavored tea has mild sedative properties. The petals of the tiny flowers are where the medicinal values lie.
Chamomile is easy to grow from seeds. Start them in the late winter and transfer outdoors when the risk of frost has passed. Once the plants are well established, chamomile can thrive with little water during hot weather. When buying your seeds, note that German chamomile is an annual and Roman chamomile is a perennial.
Caution: Chamomile tea should be avoided by people who take blood thinners. As well, those who suffer from ragweed allergies may also have an allergic reaction to chamomile, as the two plants are related.
Chamomile tea can be used to:
- Relieve anxiety
- Induce sleep
- Soothe mild nausea and indigestion
- Relieve a cough from throat irritation
Cinnamon doesn’t just smell like a holiday in a cup, it is anti-bacterial, antiviral, and antifungal, making it an excellent all-around remedy for whatever ails you. Cinnamon is a wonderful source of immune-boosting antioxidants.
Cinnamon is the fragrant bark of a tropical evergreen tree. This article from Mother Earth Living says that the trees are surprisingly easy to grow indoors in large pots.
Try this delicious winter beverage:
- 1-1/2 tsp of cinnamon powder or a cinnamon stick
- 1 tea bag
- honey to taste
- Milk to taste
Stir cinnamon powder well into boiling water and steep for 8 minutes. Add a tea bag and steep for 2 more minutes. Stir in honey and warm milk.
Cinnamon tea can be used to:
- Increase blood flow and improve circulation
- Reduce nausea
- Ease stomach discomfort, bloating, gas and indigestion
- Warm the body of someone suffering from chills
- Soothe a sore throat
- Reduce cold symptoms
Lemongrass is another herb that is loaded with healing properties. The spiky, easy-to-grow plant has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-parasitic, and antifungal properties, making it helpful in treating a plethora of ailments.
You can actually root the lemongrass that you buy at the grocery store to start your own patio lemongrass farm. It grows beautifully in a large pot, making it a good herb for the apartment windowsill farmer to cultivate. It can be grown year-round indoors.
Lemongrass tea can help to:
- aid in digestion
- calm nervous disorders and anxiety
- aid in the treatment of high blood pressure if a daily cup is enjoyed
- dilate blood vessels and improve circulation
- act as a mild diuretic to reduce fluid retention
This lovely flowering plant is probably the pinnacle of herbal preventatives. Echinacea is not only anti-bacterial – but it stimulates the body’s immune system to fight off bacterial and viral attacks. The medicinal properties are in the leaves and the purple flowers.
Echinacea is also known as the “purple coneflower”. The plant has deep taproots and is somewhat drought resistant. It is a perennial. Sow seeds outdoors in the early spring before the last frost. These plants like full sun and they don’t like too much moisture.
Echinacea tea can help to:
- enhance the immune system
- relieve pain
- reduce inflammation
- provide antioxidant effects
- shorten illness time for sufferers of the common cold
Rosehips make a tart, tangy pink-colored tea. They are the seed-filled pod at the base of a rose blossom, giving you a practical reason to have more rose bushes in your garden. It mixes well and enhances the flavor of any berry or fruit-flavored tea.
Rosehip tea can help to:
- provide a nutritional supplement of Vitamin C
- improve adrenal function
- boost the immune system
- provide minerals such as calcium, iron, silicon, selenium, natural sodium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, phosphorus and zinc
- increase energy
- heal tissues and cells
8. Blackberry leaf
Dried blackberry leaves give a luscious fruity flavor when steeped in boiling water. Not only are they the basis of many delicious teas, they are loaded with a beneficial component called tannins. (Bonus tip: add a blackberry leaf to a jar of pickles when canning – the tannin helps to keep the pickles crisp.)
Caution: Excess consumption of blackberry leaves (or anything containing tannins) can cause liver damage.
Blackberry leaf tea can help to:
- provide vitamin C
- treat diarrhea
- reduce pain and inflammation from sore throats
- provide an antibacterial effect against H pylori, the bacteria that causes stomach ulcers
- provide immune-boosting antioxidants
- provide high levels of salicylic acid, which gives them similar properties to aspirin, such as pain relief and fever relief
- reduce inflammation of the gums
Cloves are a wonderful addition to herbal tea just for the taste. Not only is the flavor delicious, but cloves have been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments. The multipurpose little seed packs a mighty punch with its antiviral, antifungal, antimicrobial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Cloves are the dried buds of a flowering evergreen tree that is native to Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, and Madagascar. They are generally imported and, unfortunately, are not easy to cultivate in other climates or greenhouse atmospheres.
Caution: In high amounts cloves can cause liver damage, blood in the urine, diarrhea, nausea, and dizziness.
Clove tea can help to:
- provide pain relief – it is a powerful analgesic
- break up mucous and work as an expectorant
- provide a fragrant decongestant in a steaming cup of tea
- treat strep throat or tonsillitis – it relieves pain and provides a wash of antiviral and antibacterial components
10. Lemon Balm
Lemon balm, also known as Bee Balm, was first recorded to have been used by the ancient Greeks as an overall tonic for good health. It is an ingredient in the old world Carmelite water, a recipe created by Carmelite nuns in the early 1600s to treat headaches. (The traditional mixture also contained coriander, lemon-peel, nutmeg, and angelica root.)
Lemon balm is easy to grow and produces throughout the summer. The more you harvest, the more it produces. It is perennial in warmer climates. Lemon balm like rich moist soil with organic compost and partial shade in the hottest part of the day. It is another one of those herbs that can take over a garden, so plant it in a confined area.
Lemon balm tea can help to:
- fight off viruses – it was used historically against shingles, mumps, and cold sores
- calm anxiety and nervousness
- aid in sleep
- aid the digestive system by reducing spasms and quelling heartburn
- reduce nausea