I have spent the last few months in my community newspaper focusing on Essential Oils and their benefits as well as their warnings. So, I wanted to lighten up the conversation to talk about the herbs and and flowers that can be used fresh from your garden to brew up a summertime favorite – Iced Tea! Or in the world of afficiandos – Tisanes.
A Bit of History First
Herbal Teas are actually not tea at all, they’re tisanes, a pleasant French word that means’ herbal infusion.’ Tea is, properly, a plant originally from China: Camellia sinensis. How the word came to be used as a descriptor for any hot drink in which leaves were infused or decocted, we are not sure, but it is an accepted term in today’s world.
Tea is, of course, an infusion, but not all infusions are tea. If it doesn’t contain actual tea leaves, it should not be called a tea. The original word tea itself (te and its Cantonese equivalent, cha) have specifically meant Camelia sinensis in China since at least the eighth century CE. That’s what they meant when traders started bringing the mysterious herbs back into Europe
Types of Herbal Teas (Tisanes):
There are real, herbal teas: a very few teas include both camellia sinensis and other plant products, such as Jasmine. But Earl Grey – which includes the essential oil of bergamot – is not a “herbal” tea because it lacks a herb, which is by definition, the “… the leafy green parts of a plant (either fresh or dried).” Orange teas on the other hand, are more properly called “spice” teas because spice is “a product from another part of the plant.
Tisanes can be made from just about anything: roots, bark, berries, dried fruits, herbs, flowers, mushrooms, seeds, etc. They are often chosen for a specific medicinal or therapeutic soothing benefit that they have identified with use. Tisanes are what most people reach for when they are not feeling well. Because they will make you feel better!
Tisane Gardening: Growing Your Fresh and Unique Brew
There is something extremely satisfying about being able to sip a tisane lovingly grown in your own garden. Cultivating your own garden is simple!
I found this List extremely helpful in starting my own Tea Garden from Jill Ettinger @ Organic Authority. Try harvesting these herbs and plants for your sipping pleasure:
- Mint: Leaves; calming, digestive.
- Rosehips: Buds after bloom has died; vitamin C boost.
- Lemon Balm: Leaves; calming and relaxing.
- Chamomile: Buds; relaxing and soothing tummy.
- Echinacea: Buds; immune support.
- Milk Thistle: Buds; detoxification.
- Catnip: Leaves; calming.
- Lavender: Buds; calming and soothing.
- Nettles: Leaf; detoxifying, nourishing.
- Red Clover; Buds; purifying, detoxifying.
- Lemongrass: Stalk; calming, relaxing, digestive aid.
Lavender, orange spice thyme, lemon balm (often touted as a mild anti-depressant), and catnip make wonderful additions to a tea garden. For a particularly soothing tea, try combining chamomile, lavender and catnip. In humans, catnip has been found to help relieve both anxiety and insomnia. Be creative. Freshly ground cinnamon, orange rind and rose hips are also wonderful enhancers.
To make a tisane, simply boil 1 quart of water per ounce of herb (or 1 cup of water to 1 tablespoon of herb). Pour water over the herb(s) and let steep for 30 to 60 minutes. The proportion of water to herb and the required time to infuse varies greatly, depending on the herb. Start out with the above proportions and then experiment. The more herbs you use and the longer you let it steep, the stronger the brew. Let your taste buds and your senses guide you. Add local honey or fresh fruits to sweeten your elixer. Sit back and enjoy!
Once you’ve assembled the herbs you enjoy, you’ll find creating your own tisane is a snap in the garden. What are you growing?