One of the great joys of gardening is herbs. They are easy to grow and if you read my earlier post, drying them for use in cooking or teas is uncomplicated. I like to dry enough herbs to have a supply on hand to sustain our household through the long Wisconsin winter. One of the best uses of the herbs is tea. There is nothing like a hot cup of tea from your own dried herbs on a cold winter night. And if you study the medicinal qualities of various herbs, you can use them to relieve ailments and symptoms. For me, herbs can also include plants that some consider weeds.
An example of this is the humble dandelion. I've learned to weed the garden and save the dandelions I pull for drying. When pulling up the dandelion, I try to get the entire tap root. The whole plant is worth saving. This also means I've stopped using chemicals on my garden in order to use the dandelions in my teas. Stopping the use of chemicals has also had the added benefit of helping increase the bees and beneficial bugs that visit my garden. But I digress. You can brew whole dandelion plants or use just the leaves, roots, or stems to make your tea. Dandelion tea is very high in vitamin A and may offer many other health benefits since the dandelion plants contain many natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds. Best of all, these benefits are free if you pick this weed. (You can purchase dandelion tea but why bother?)
Another "weed" that I use in herbal tea is goldenrod. In our area, goldenrod is a perennial plant. It is well-known for its healing properties. And it's an old wive's tale that goldenrod causes seasonal allergies. Both the flowers and leaves can be used in teas. I collect goldenrod from the fields and wild spaces around my home. For winter tea drinkers, it is said to relieve cold symptoms.
Another ingredient to dry for your herbal teas is the silk from your corn on the cob. Most people throw out the corn silk without realizing it's health benefits. Corn silk has been used as a medicine for many generations. It is taken to treat or alleviate the symptoms of bladder infections, inflammation of the urinary system, inflammation of the prostate, and for kidney stones. So, it can't hurt to add corn silk to your herbal tea. I simply use the corn silk like any other dried herb.
From the garden, I use lots sage in my teas. Sage is super easy to grow and dries nicely. It is rich in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds. Sage is known to promote oral health and is said to improve blood sugar control. Another great herb is lavender. Always have lavender in your garden. The bees love it and the blooms last a long time. Dried lavender is best known for sachets and potpourri however it makes a lovely tea to help calm nerves. It is especially nice to help you relax before going to sleep. Another cottage secret is to add lavender to your sugar jar, or to a separate canister of sugar just for that purpose. The lavender imparts a nice taste to cakes and cookies. (Also to homemade lemonade, but this is usually a summer treat.)
Hopefully today's musings will inspire you to start planning your own tea party! I recommend reading up on each of these herbal ingredients and any potential side effects. It's also good to make sure you have no allergies to any of them.