One of the most pleasant ways to create a relationship with herbs is through herbal teas. This is probably the most comfortable and familiar way for most people. While herbalists tend to think of tinctures, and functional medicine practitioners tend to think of encapsulated products, most people new to herbs are going to start with teas.
I love recommending teas because they take time to make and to drink. This is the opposite energy from a pill. It shifts the mindset from “quick fix” to “let’s take some time here”. The ritual itself is healing. An act of self-care and of conscious living. Stop and smell the rose bud tea.
However, the herbs in the tea can be truly medicinal of course! Especially for gastrointestinal and for respiratory disease, what is in the cup matters. So we want to get the most out of those plants. They are giving us their gifts, let’s respect that by using them efficiently and with purpose.
Here are a few tips to get the maximum medicinal effects from your herbs.
1. Volume matters. I like using infusions baskets and other reusable devices. You can also use the large teabags like these that you fill yourself. Try to use a heaping teaspoonful for every 6-8oz of water. Make sure there is room for the plant material to float around. If it is bunched together, it isn’t able to release all that good stuff into the water.
2. Time matters. For medicinal teas, steep for minimum of 10 minutes. This is a strong cup of tea! It would probably unpleasant for most people to steep black tea this long. It really increases the tannins and it can result in a funky mouth-feel. But for a well-balanced herbal blend, this amount of time is usually fine. You may need to experiment a bit to find the balance between maximizing medicinal value vs. palatability. I generally leave my plant matter in my tea. I don’t take it out at all.
3. Cover it. Put something on top of the cup while the tea is steeping. This keeps some of the volatile oils from quickly evaporating away. Those little compounds are sensitive and fleeting, and powerful. Keep them in the cup by placing a lid or saucer or “tea hat” over your cup.
4. What you add doesn’t take away. If you need to add some honey to get your tea in, then do it. Like Mary Poppins says. ::Just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down! In the most delightful way!:: Or maybe some Stevia alternative. But you can also try salt with some brews. Maybe milk or cream. Or Keto style butter and coconut oil. Or add some other aromatic herbs like mint to make your blend more palatable.
For teas and infusions intended for small animals, here are a couple more hints:
1. Make it for yourself and serve it to them too. This is an easy way to add in some extra antioxidants or health-boosting benefits to your pet’s plate. When you make yourself something healthy, just set some aside for your furry friend. Pour it over the food when you serve it. Some pets may be picky, so try it with a small amount of food and tea first to see how it goes. Most pets will tolerate it quite well.
2. Freeze ahead of time. Many teas freeze and thaw well. For special medicinal brews treating specific health conditions, you can make the tea in bulk and freeze in ice cube trays. Take out a few cubes long enough before a meal that they will thaw out. Easy to portion appropriate to the size of the pet.
3. Mix with milk. Many pets love milk. Mixing very strong brews with pet milk may encourage some pets to drink it separate from food. This is especially helpful in debilitated animals that are not taking solid foods well. I recommend specifically goat milk for this. Ideally “real” fresh unpasteurized pet milk such as the Answers Pet products. Pasteurized milk can be problematic for many pets.
What are your favorite pet teas? Any tips for how you get them to drink them?