Embracing Tea - Part 2
A few year back I had a lightbulb moment when I realized that I could grow and use my own plants for herbal remedies. We began to plant flowers and herbs specifically for drying and storing to use in future teas.
We’ve grown German Chamomile for the past two years for the purpose of plucking the tiny daisy-like blossoms. Once dried (I do this by leaving them sitting on a tray lined with cheesecloth), I add the blossoms to a jar and keep them ready for anyone with tummy troubles. A tea made by steeping dried chamomile blossoms in warm water contains anti-inflammatories that ease digestive upset. The herbal tea is also useful to anyone looking to ease the discomforts associated with menstrual symptoms or simply needing an immune system boost.
Another help for tummy troubles, and one that is readily accepted by my children, is peppermint tea. Like chamomile, peppermint tea will soothe stomach ailments; concentrated peppermint oil is even used as a treatment for people suffering from IBS. And like chamomile, peppermint can also ease menstrual symptoms and strengthens the immune system. It has the added benefits of relieving pain, increasing bile production, and soothing colicky babies. Oh yeah, all of this while leaving you with fresher breath.
We grow peppermint in a planter box on our deck that provides easy access to the plant for use in our cooking. When peppermint is in the blush of growth I cut off stems for drying. To dry them, I bundle the stems together with an elastic band and put them into a paper bag punched with holes, which I hang upside down to dry. The paper bag is necessary to permit air and moisture to escape while also keeping dust from collecting and catching any broken, dried leaves from the dried herbs. I hang the bags in a dry, warm spot and wait, checking after several weeks to see if the mint is completely dry. When ready, I strip the leaves from the stems and put them into a jar for storage until needed.
We have a ready supply of Echinacea growing in our gardens. Commonly referred to as Big Purple Coneflower (Echinacea Purpurea), it’s a common plant in flower gardens. It’s also a plant with a history. The first people to discover and use echinacea were native North Americans. They used the plant to treat snake and insect bites, heal old wounds and burns, and reduce fevers. Sucking or chewing on the root alleviated sore throats, coughs, toothaches, and infections. Pioneers learned from their native neighbours and used the plant as well to treat a range of ailments. Near the end of the 19th century, echinacea’s renown crossed the pond and Europeans were introduced to its healing properties.
This past summer I collected and dried the leaves, buds, and roots of echinacea. I dried them by laying them upon a simply-made drying rack and leaving them for several weeks. The drying rack is also the spot where we dry chamomile and calendula flowers. Once dry, the pieces went into glass jars for storage. Already this year I’ve had several cups of echinacea tea when symptoms of the common cold appear in our house. Echinacea improves the immune system to be able to fight off the cold virus quicker, which lessens the duration of a cold and the severity of its symptoms. We also take echinacea in pill form following their prescribed dosage schedule for the duration of the cold. Echinacea works best when taken at the first sign of a cold and then for the next 7 to 10 days.
Armed with our homegrown chamomile, peppermint, and echinacea dried and ready for steeping, we’re prepared to combat the minor discomforts that the winter season bring our way.