How to make your own herbal tea
By Amy Crawford
The seasons are changing. Leaves are falling, the temperature is cooling. I love this time of year. There is much to be accomplished as the seasons change, and now is the time to be picking those leaves that flourished during summer, to ensure you have a cosy cup to warm up to in the coming months. I'll bet many of you haven't even considered making your own herbal tea. I know I spent most years of my life believing tea came out of a packet, when at the end of the day it's simply dried leaves. So simple a method and such a lovely process, yet so easily overlooked.
But firstly, I want to introduce you to my very favourite herbal tea, chocolate mint. For those of you are not familiar with choc mint - I'll firstly tell you it's NOT mint tea infused with chocolate, sorry. It's actually simply a variety of mint, with a hint of chocolate that is very well worth your $3 investment (at your local nursery). I actually received my first choc mint sapling in the post from a special friend in Jindabyne about a year ago - how is that for a gorgeously thoughtful gift? Anyway, it is now running rampant through a number of different pots in my backyard - believe me it takes NO ounce of skill to grow this plant.
So what are the benefits of mint tea?
Mint tea has a positive effect on the symptoms of indigestion. It has a calming effect on stomach muscles, and creates better bile flow which is important for fat digestion. When you consume mint, it moves food more quickly through your stomach. And in this way mint has been found to relieve the painful gas that is associated with digestive issues and Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
You have a greater chance of falling asleep if you are actually relaxed when your head hits the pillow, and drinking mint tea before bed is a great way to prepare yourself for a restorative night of good, sound sleep. If you are suffering from sleep deprivation, whether it be as a result of stress or muscle tension, you may want to try mint tea for that reason alone; it has been shown to battle sleep deprivation quite effectively.
Commonly used in cold and flu remedies, mint (and more specifically peppermint) has been found to kill bacteria and viruses. It also contributes to a calming, almost numbing effect, dulling the pains of an aching sick body. The menthol in mint tea effectively thins and breaks up mucus and phlegm and provides relief from coughs and congestion.
But don't wait until you're getting sick to consume this soothing beverage, mint tea has preventative properties too. This herbal tea provides significant amounts of potassium, calcium and vitamin B, all useful agents in the prevention and fight against cold and flu.
Not just beneficial for your insides, the mint herb is highly effective in topical creams used to treat a variety of skin issues. Examples include treatments for hives, rashes, poison oak or poison ivy. When applied to the skin, these ointments have a soothing and healing effect.
Ok, so now you know why this herb is good for you, head out into your gardens and pick those tea leaves. We need to have you drying them in preparation for the change of seasons and the cooler months ahead.
How to prepare your tea leaves
Simply cut the stems to the soil (never fear, you cannot destroy this plant, it will continue to grow) and, if you'd like to a have a cuppa there and then, you can steep a handful of fresh leaves in boiling water for 5 minutes and consume. Or, you may choose to dry them so you have leaves at your beck and call. To do this, I'd suggest throwing them in a pillow slip or mesh bag and hanging them on the line on a sunny day. Mine dried simply sitting on my bench in a bowl over some hot days. Once the leaves are dry and sufficiently crunchy, pick the leaves from the branches (they fall off more easily when dry). Simply store the leaves in an airtight container and add a heaped teaspoon per cup to your next pot of boiling water for a therapeutic and soothing beverage.
And here's me, eating chocolate... AGAIN! ;)