One of the cornerstones of herbal medicine is herbal tea. It’s probably something that is familiar to you, perhaps you’ve had a cup of chamomile tea to soothe a stomach ache, or a cup of peppermint tea for nausea, or even a warming, spicy cup of ginger tea for fighting off a cold.
Today I’m going to talk tea with you.
Teas work well with children for a variety of reasons: they are often pleasant tasting, making them easy to consume; they provide a gentle dose of herbal medicine; and they are a great way to introduce herbs to adults and children alike who may not be familiar with using herbs as medicine.
Teas are easy to make and can be easily adapted depending your needs from it. Not just for drinking, teas can be used externally as herbal washes for cleansing wounds or soaked into a cloth to apply to sprains and strains as a compress. They can even be frozen to use as a skin soother or made into popsicles for cooling your children off from the hot, summer sun or a hot, wintery fever.
There are a variety of ways to make teas and I will go over some of those today. Next week I’ll talk about herbal infusions, which are another great way of utilizing herbs.
What is a tea?
Technically, a tea is made with a green or black tea but has become a common name used for all sorts of drinks using plants, just as “kleenex” has become a common name for tissue. Herbal teas are also known as tisanes or diffusions. Like a green or black tea, herbs are added to hot water using a tea bag, tea ball, or muslin bag and steeped for 15-30 minutes. Generally 1-2 teaspoons of dried or 3-4 teaspoons of fresh herb are used though sometimes larger amounts are called on. We make a tisane when using stems, leaves, and/or flowers.
If you want to make a tea out of harder materials such as barks, seeds, or roots, a decoction is made. 1-4 tablespoons of dried herb are simmered for 20-45 minutes to help extract the medicinal constituents from the harder plant materials.
Blending herbs together for tea
Making your own teas is a lot of fun! Kids love this process and it’s a great way for them to explore and learn about the uses of herbs.
Create a tea blending session by pouring some herbs into individual bowls. Think about the blend you are trying to create. For instance, if you want to make a nice digestive blend, set out bowls of chamomile, lavender, peppermint or spearmint, dried ginger, sage, rosemary, thyme, plantain, calendula, and fennel.
For the most part, you will want to keep your teas sorted by tisane (leaves, flowers, stems) blends or decoction (roots, seeds, barks) blends but adding a bit of decoction herbs to a tea blend is fine, just know that they may not be as strong, depending on the herb. Both ginger and fennel are pretty flavorful and will still come through in a tisane.
Get a larger bowl to use as your mixing bowl and let your kids dive in. Encourage them to smell each herb, and even taste a piece of it. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, make a small batch of tea for each individual herb to sample.
Match flavors that are similar but don’t be afraid to combine new flavors together. Add some of the more pleasant tasting herbs such as mint or chamomile in with less flavorful herbs such as the calendula and plantain.
Be sure to write down the amounts of each that you mix together. Try combining 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of each herb you’re adding. Again, you might want to make a sample brew before mixing together larger quantities. This will allow you to tweak the recipe without having to commit to a large amount of blend.
Once you’ve hit a blend you like, store it in a labeled jar. You should list all the herbs in the tea, what the tea is for, and how to make the tea.
Keeping a tea journal
Keep a tea journal that lists all your experiments, adjustments, final recipe and any taste notes, especially if you have picky children! If one likes the tea but another doesn’t, make a note of that and try to find out which herb they are not liking so you can adjust the flavor accordingly. Lastly, be sure to write down any observable results. This can be as simple as “it helped our tummy ache go away quickly” or “it took two cups of tea to help me feel better”.
You can use a journal for this, or print off our free 2 page printable for each tea recipe and add them to a three ring binder. You can slide the two together in a clear plastic sleeve for quick future reference that will stay dry while being used – just pull it out of the binder while you are referring to it, then tuck it back in when you are finished!
Once you have a tea blend you like, the sky’s the limit! You can make your blend and serve it hot or cold, pour it into popsicle molds to use on hot, summer days or when your child is running a fever, or sweeten it to make into a syrup for soothing sore throats.
You can make ice cubes out of blends made for skin ailments such as sunburns, insect stings, or sprains and strains.
I hope this gives you inspiration to create tea blends with your kids! they are fun and easy to make and kids love them.
Do you use herbal teas? Do you blend your own? Tell me in comments what your favorite herbal blend is!