Medicinal PlantsPlants

10-Plus Healthful Teas from the Herb Garden

What’s not to like about tea? And, what’s not to like about being healthy? For that matter, what’s not to like about growing plants to make healthy teas out the garden? Odds are, if you’re the type scrolling around on the pages of Permaculture News, you already have a load of useful plants for making medicinal teas growing outside in the garden (or maybe even inside).

Most of us think of tea in terms of green or black, but the fact of the matter is that herbal teas come in great variety and with a insane benefits. They can be used to wake up, to go to sleep, to settle stomachs, to boost immune systems, to relieve headaches, and even to take on the common cold. Some people even use teas to combat cancer or calm diabetes.

Herbal Tea (Courtesy of Charles Kremenak)
Herbal Tea (Courtesy of Charles Kremenak)

Truth be known, just about any herb comes with some sort of medicinal benefit, so it’s only amount of putting the right ones to steep at the right time. Hopefully, the following suggestions can help with that.

To Wake Up

Chai Tea (Courtesy of Drew Maust)
Chai Tea (Courtesy of Drew Maust)

Most of us turn to coffee to get the morning motor moving, but it’s not always the most environmentally-friendly option and has been known to cause the occasional health problem. While giving up coffee for good might be a no-go, consider using herbal teas to wake up sometimes. Mint and/or peppermint teas are known to enliven the brain, both through scent and through the fact that it prevents fatigue and memory loss. (Masala) Chai is another great herbal choice, but it requires a mixture of herbs — green cardamom being the dominant flavor, alongside ginger, black pepper, cinnamon, fennel seed and possibly more (clove, coriander, star anise)—that might not all be in the garden just yet.

*For those who just love the taste of coffee, dandelion root tea is sometimes substituted to provide the flavor but not necessarily the caffeine boost.

To Go to Sleep

Chamomile is the superstar of teas for getting to sleep, and generally any store-bought variety will include it. Valerian, however, is the root with research results to make it a must to include in a nighttime brew. Put them together and it’s bound to work. With chamomile, it’s all about the flowers, and valerian, though a large (150 cm tall) flower, is good for the root. If they are not already in the garden, here are some tips for growing chamomile, which has annual and perennial varieties, and valerian, the root of which can be taken from periodically.

To Relieve Headaches

For milder headaches, mint, which we’ve already established as good for the brain, works well for quick relief, but feverfew is the age-old remedy known to slay migraines if need be. It can be thrown into tea combinations—in this case, mint, ginger and feverfew with green tea—to work well with others, or it can be used to make serious infusion, steeping it in water for half an hour or more. Feverfew is a perennial herb (and insect repellent) that comes back year after year. Harvest them regularly and the bloom more.

To Settle Stomachs

Ginger (Courtesy of B.D.'s world)
Ginger (Courtesy of B.D.’s world)

Settling stomachs and relieving indigestion is one of the more common uses for tea, and ginger is probably the most recognized agent. It works well for stomach problems from eating as well as motion sickness. Peppermint also works really well for easing discomfort from indigestion, bloating, and flatulence. Combined, the two make a tasty tea for stomach issues. Despite being tropical, ginger grows really well indoors in containers, as does peppermint. For stomach issues relating to the menstrual cycle, raspberry leaf tea is said to be a great relief.

To Boost Immune Systems

Great press and proper studies are beginning to sing the praises of turmeric, which reputedly outperforms many popular prescription medicines in treating eye conditions, blood problems, depression and inflammation. In other words, turmeric will keep the body running right. Making a palatable tea with turmeric takes a few more ingredients (nothing that won’t be in the cupboard already) and many of which (cayenne pepper, cinnamon, ginger) also spike the immune system in the right direction. Finding fresh turmeric can be difficult (look in Asian markets), but again, despite being tropical, it can be grown in the garden then moved inside in the winter.

To Cure the Common Cold

It’s no surprise that ginger and peppermint (both good decongestants) appear again, as they are ubiquitous ingredients in quality herbal blends, but for something a little different, eucalyptus leaves are great to include in teas for cold and flu. Eucalyptol will help with loosening phlegm and chest congestion, as well as possibly destroys influenza. Echinacea (another immune booster) is also commonly used for fighting colds and especially flus, as is licorice and lemon balm. Mixing these flavors also doesn’t sound like a bad idea.

To Combat Cancer

Chili Cayenne (Courtesy of Maja Dumat)
Chili Cayenne (Courtesy of Maja Dumat)

Some of the herbs we’ve already mentioned are also viewed as cancer combatants. Turmeric, a sort of cure-all spice, is thought to be good for cancer because curcumin, a polyphenol within it, has been clinically shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Cayenne pepper, or any hot pepper really, apparently the hotter the better, are recognized as causing apoptosis, a condition in which unneeded or threatening cells are killed. Add some oregano (a super source of antioxidants) and garlic (another all-around super spice) to create a tea more like a soup broth, but with anti-cancer properties galore.

To Calm Diabetes

Sage tea, an absolutely delicious beverage, is known for helping to keep diabetes under control. It has hypoglycemic characteristics reduce blood glucose, and it helps with insulin. And, ginger, yet again, aids the body in dealing with glucose. Green tea is also well respected (for all sorts of things to be honest) as a preventative for developing Type 2 diabetes, and while tea plants are so common an addition in the herb garden, there is no reason they shouldn’t be. Apparently, green tea (one and the same plant as black) is easy to grow.

By no means is this an end to the teas at our disposal, simply by growing a vibrant herb garden, and by simply growing that herb garden, we can have a great supply of medicines to keep us healthy or revitalize our diminished health. Remember to use what’s growing and to grow what’s useful. Herbs of all sorts rank right up there.

Jonathon Engels

The financially unfortunate combination of travel enthusiast, freelance writer, and vegan gardener, Jonathon Engels whittled and whistled himself into a life that gives him cause to continually scribble about it. He has lived as an expat for over a decade, worked in nearly a dozen countries, and visited dozens of others in the meantime, subjecting the planet to a fiery mix of permaculture, music, and plant-based cooking. More of his work can be found at Jonathon Engels: A Life About.

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