There’s not much that beats an aromatic, piping hot cup of tea on a cold winter day. Now that old man winter has us in his icy grip, our thoughts naturally turn to soothing, healing drinks that prop us up during hibernation time.
The two most common methods of tea preparation are infusions and decoctions. For an infusion (leaves and flowers), steep the herb, using a tea bag, tea ball, or loose tea, in water that’s been boiled; for a decoction (roots and barks), simmer the herb for one hour.
For convenience, you can make either infusions or decoctions in large batches and store them for up to a week in the fridge. They can be enjoyed cold, straight out of the fridge, although for certain illnesses a warm (reheated, if necessary) tea is beneficial, such as to reduce chills or induce sweating. Keep the tea in a tightly sealed container, preferably glass.
Too Much Shopping Tea
Gotu kola leaf (Centella asiatica) is used extensively in Ayurvedic medicine as a rejuvenating tea. It perks up the mind and senses and gives you that extra oomph for that one more day of fighting the shopping hordes. Ho shou wu root (Polygonum multiflorum), which has a nice earthy flavor, has a similar role
in Chinese herbalism.
Sick Day Tea
Herbal teas offer a wealth of excellent options for treating miserable respiratory viral infections. Diaphoretic, or perspiration-promoting, herbs release waste materials and relieve congestion. Peppermint is a classic example. Drink them hot.
Cooling herbs are used to reduce fever and inflammation. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) advises chrysanthemum flower (Chrysanthemum morifolium) and honeysuckle flower (Lonicera japonica) teas, both of which are also strongly antimicrobial—and they taste great. Western herbalists turn to boneset leaf (Eupatorium perfoliatum) for cold and flu symptoms. Drink hot.
When the main symptom is chills, use teas that promote a “warming” effect in the body. Try holy basil leaf (Ocimum sanctum), which is favored in Ayurveda for reducing mucus in the lungs and nasal passages. Holy basil (aka Tulsi) helps kill microbes and stimulate the immune system. Holy basil also has strong anti-stress benefits. Scientists report that holy basil is an antioxidant, with a high flavonoid content, so it helps to heal damage from chronic stress. In animal studies, Indian researchers found notable anti-stress effects that balanced stress hormones and normalized the size of the stress-fighting adrenal glands. Asian people relish holy basil as an everyday tea.
Cinnamon bark is a tasty and effective warming diaphoretic that can help sweat out a bug. Feel free to add it to any sick-tea combo. And speaking of spicy, an ancient Ayurvedic decongestion treatment involves boiling 10 peppercorns in 1 cup of milk. Drink the spicy milk down in a gulp, and be prepared to breathe easier!
Holiday Stress Tea
Lavendertea can help you slip into a stress-free zone. It’s been popular in Europe for a while, and it is now making its way out West as more people discover its calming effects. The aroma alone has been shown in studies to help ease frazzled nerves and induce relaxation.
Holiday After-Dinner Tea
Around the world, herbalists use the seeds from numerous members of the parsley family (Apiaceae) to treat gas and indigestion from overeating. Fennel seed is the premier remedy, with dill seed a close second. Infuse 2 tablespoons of either seed for an effective and delicious drink after that 5,000-calorie meal.
Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa, DN-C, RH, is president of the American Herbalists Guild and author of The Way of Ayurvedic Herbs.