Tuesday, January 24, 2006

My Journey with Herbal Teas...

Herbs are one of my passions. God was so creative and so generous to give us plants that are not only beautiful and have lovely scents, but they flavor our food, heal our bodies and clean our skin, hair and homes.

Herrick Kimball recently posted about drinking peppermint tea....peppermint that he grew, cared for and harvested himself. He asked me to share a bit about my herbal teas and I am happy to do this.

When it comes to gardening, we grow just about all the "normal" garden food. But I go a bit crazy when it comes to lettuce (42 varieties), tomatoes, (250+ plants, over 20 varieties) and herbs (too many to count!).

I grow herbs for beauty, flowers, flavor, pest control, soaps, cheeses, animal care, cooking and to use medicinally. Herbs have almost no disease or pest problems. They are easy to grow, require little care once established and are very forgiving of us forgetful farmers. I grow them (from seed) because I know how they were cared for, I know they were harvested clean (no bugs, bird droppings, mouse parts etc.), dried properly and stored properly. This is important for health but especially so if you are using them for medicinal purposes.

When I started growing herbs for teas, I used one herb at a time. I grew peppermint to make peppermint tea - great for tummy upsets and for sinus/allergy problems. I grew spearmint because it is one of my favorite flavors. I grew lemon balm to make "country" lemonade and for its ability to relieve stuffy noses, calm digestive upsets and soothe the nerves. I used lavender to relieve depression and headaches. Chamomile was my first choice for its calming influence on my children and for helping them sleep easier. And the list goes on. It takes very little fresh herb to make a cup of tea. A couple of chamomile buds, a clip of lavender stem and blossom or a handful of lemon balm leaves...delicious. We drink them both hot and cold depending on the time of year and the purpose for the tea.

As time went on, I began combining herbs for different purposes. It seems that I always get started on learning something new because a need arises in my family. I don't like to go to town much and I am not a big shopper...so....instead of running to the local health food store I began to study. One of our family was having trouble sleeping...I had purchased Sleepytime tea at the grocery store and I checked the label....chamomile flowers! Well, I had those in the garden and began to harvest and use my own. What a great feeling...and the taste....so much better. I use them fresh during the summer but I also dry the abundance for winter use.

Next, I began to put lavender and chamomile together on those sleepless nights...even more effective! As I learned more about herbs, I found that there were many other herbs that helped with relaxation and sleep. Passion flower because it calms the mind...peppermint because it helps the smooth muscles to relax, oatstraw because it also relaxes muscles...and there were others....lemon balm, catnip, valerian and more! By studying, experimenting and pleading with the family to try it "just one more time"...my Sleep EasyTea was born. Add a spoon of honey or a pinch of Stevia (green not white!!) and it is a delicious end to a busy day.

We had also been purchasing Echinacea tea to help support our immune systems. I felt challenged to see if I could become self-sufficient in this. I planted Echinacea...you need to wait 2 to 5 years before harvesting the root.....what a lesson in patience! During this time of waiting, I began using red clover both as a tincture and a tea - great for upper respiratory support. I also used peppermint to help clear the sinus passages....and burdock root, as grandma used to say, is "good for what ails you"! By the time the Echinacea root was ready to harvest I knew that I could add these other herbs, along with a few more, to make my own Immune Support Tea. This is not a tea we drink on a regular basis but I keep a canning jar of it on hand at all times and when we travel....if someone starts with a sniffle, upset tummy etc., we all begin drinking the tea. We have found that "bugs" don't spread from one to another quite so easily and the duration of illnesses seems to have shortened. I still enjoy a cup of red clover tea (use a couple of red clover blossoms) but the combination of herbs seems to be a lot more effective.

I created an "Energize Me" tea to help get the circulation pumping and to help the brain's ability to focus on the tasks at hand. Sure helps me on those "foggy" mornings when I just can't seem to get it in gear! But my MOST important creation (at least for me!) is my Remember Me Tea!

Seems like after I turned 40 (quite a few years ago) my brain got a bit "leaky" as my youngest says. (Aren't children a gift from God for the purpose of keeping us humble?) I would walk into a room and forget why I was there....I would get lost in the middle of a conversation (and I was the one doing the talking!) and I would read a chapter in a book, and re-read it, and re-read because I couldn't seem to retain it. Now you must understand that my Dad passed away a few years ago from Alzheimers.....so this really scared me. My oldest boy, in college at the time, kept encouraging me and telling me it was just stress.....what a great kid! But I was still worried so I started researching herbs for memory....and the whole process started over again! Many of these herbs had very exotic names, Gingko, ashwaganda, gotu kola....and some were herbs that I was already growing...peppermint, red clover, spearmint and others. After drinking 2 cups a day for several weeks, I realized that I wasn't forgetting quite as much and I seemed able to keep my focus and retain information much easier. This tea is a staple in my life now. I mix it up by the gallon!

Recently, I listened as some people in my local organic gardening group were talking about their difficulties in getting to sleep, remembering things etc. Many had been to the health food store without finding help. I asked this group if they would be interested in purchasing some of my teas...all organic and I explained what I had been doing for my own family for some time. The response was favorable so I began selling my teas in 1 oz and 2 oz packages. It is much cheaper for them than the health food store or the grocery store and it is organic...something that they can't get elsewhere. It appears that herbal teas will be a good addition to the other things I sell... herbal soaps, herbal salves and the Perpetual Gardening Calendar that I wrote. I will be speaking in February in a neighboring state to the Council of Boy Scout Leaders for that area...it will be a good way to "test the waters" for selling herbal teas.

It amazes me that I can start with a project aimed at helping my family and remaining self-sufficient at the same time...and then, years later, watch it turn into an avenue of income for the farm. Isn't God amazing?!

I encourage you all to begin to harvest your own herbs (you ARE growing herbs right?!) and use them for teas.... hot or cold.... for healing or just for the pure enjoyment of drinking the fruit of your labors.

I think I will head for the kitchen and put the kettle on...a cup of Sleep Easy Tea sure sounds good right about now.

Night ya'll!


  1. But I go a bit crazy when it comes to lettuce (42 varieties), tomatoes, (250+ plants, over 20 varieties)

    Good night! You're not kiddin' when you say crazy!

    20 varieties, 250+ tomato plants? I bet you harvest a lot(!) of tomatoes. Wow!

    I had to comment. Now I'll go back and read the rest of the post :)

  2. I would walk into a room and forget why I was there....

    Been there, done that (about a thousand times ... LOL)

    Note to self: save all the herbs posts and add to your aspirations!

  3. JFC,
    Yes it IS a lot of tomatoes - we harvest by the bushel! But, outside of fresh eating (and we eat a ton of them fresh during the season....sandwiches, salsa, salads, etc.)I do can all of our own spaghetti/pizza sauce, ketchup, & whole tomatoes and then I like to put at least a bushel in the freezer to make salsa with during the winter months. It tastes SO much better than canned salsa! And the colors are beautiful, orange, red, pink, purple, green, yellow, striped...sigh...my mouth is watering!

  4. What a wonderful post! Another herb enthusiast! But you're much farther ahead on the learning curve than I am! I planted my first herbs a few years ago, but have no where near all that I want! I tried growing Echinacea, and it died on me, so now I'm trying it again! Perserverance!

    Do you sell your teas in tins loose or do you put them in teabags?

    I'd be interested in your recipes for salves. I've concocted a few, but they don't seem right! ;-) (If you don't mind sharing!)

    Bless you for your wisdom!

  5. The only tea we ever really make is sassafrass. I know it's supposed to be somewhat carcinogentic, but we drink it irregularly. Man, talk about good!

    Have you ever made any blueberry tea? I bought some at the store, loved it, and started thinking, since I have over 800 blueberry bushes, that I shouldn't be having to buy this. I've never been able to find a recipe, and don't have much of an idea how it's done...any idea where to start?

    You mentioned Gingko...do you have a tree? I hear it's supposed to be effective and it's simply gorgeous. They'll live for ages (literally). I'd love to get one.


  6. HH, It is wonderful that you are growing and using herbs. You are embarking on a delightful journey :) I sell my teas loose and recommend using a stainless steel screen infuser. Although I don't give out any recipes that help provide income on the farm, I would be glad to answer any questions and help to point you in the right direction :)

    James, I do have a Gingko tree - they are beautiful but be sure you get a male...the female puts off fruit that smells like rotten meat.

    Blueberry tea....yummy! I would use both the leaves (known as Bilberry) and the fruit. I would use fresh in season and then I would dry them and store them for winter sippin' by the fire! You could add some green tea if you want a little kick of energy or some chamomile if you want to drink it before bedtime...let me know how you like it :)

  7. How do you use your own herbs in soap? I just started making soap and it's great! My brother has been doing it for years so I had some help starting.

    Do you distill the oils?

  8. Clint,
    I use cut herbs in different soaps, and then powered herbs, mainly for color, and sometimes I make a hot oil infusion with herbs and use that as part of my oil in the soap. I also use essential oils but those I purchase.

  9. Good ideas! Do you color with crayons? I didn't find a place for crayons on the Sage lye calculator, so I listed the grams as Soy Wax. It works.

  10. Clint,
    I never use crayons. My soaps are made with all natural ingredients that are healthy for the skin and hair. I do know soapmakers that use crayons, although Crayola does not recommend it. I just prefer not to put those chemicals on my family's skin. I use only herbs to color my soaps.

  11. I understand completely not giving out recipes! But I can always try! :-) Wish you were closer so that I could come over and ply you with questions!

    I'll email my questions to you so that I don't take over the comments!

  12. What an inspirational post! I've been using herbs for years to doctor my family and am so excited to be able to raise and process my own now that we have some land. Do you make your own tinctures as well? What would you consider the most important medicinal herbs to grow? How much of your acreage do you used for your herb garden? I hope to grow what we use most often but don't want to get in over my head since I'm new at this. Think I'll go have a cup of tea! God bless.....Emily

  13. Hi Emily,
    I do make a my own tinctures and medicinal salves also.
    I have my herbs planted everywhere - don't have a "formal" herb garden- the annual herbs I plant in the midst of the vegetables. I add more each year - I try not to add more than 5 or 10 new ones because the learning curve is too great. I want to use what I grow.

    Herbs to start with, Comfrey, Calendula, Chamomile, Lavender, Feverfew, Horehound, Mullein, St. Johns' Wort, Rosemary....Lemon Balm....Look back in my past posts - I am sure I have written about what to start with and why.

  14. Thank you for answering my questions. You've named several herbs I do use quite a bit. I like the idea of having perennial herb patches here and there; as a matter of fact, one of the previous owners here already had a bit of echinacea growing. I'll check through your archives for more info. God bless! Emily

  15. In a long ago post you mentioned an ice cream maker...I have scanned the archives and cannot find it...what brand is it that you recommend? I enjoy your posts very much,inspiring!

  16. I'm interested in growing herbs, but unsure of where to start. Should I buy seeds or plants?
    Thank you! I've enjoyed your posts a lot.

  17. Anonymous,
    You will find it at http://www.rivalproducts.com/support_files/whtmt.aspx
    It is by Rival and called White Mountain.

    I would go with seeds - much cheaper - and very easy to raise, and you will know that there are no chemicals on them :)


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