The Art Of Tea Drinking & Plant Therapy
Have you noticed that tea houses and fine china are muscling their way back into cafe’s like untapped treasure?
Tea drinking in recent times…
After all the hoo-ha of technology and social media, climbing the career ladder and juggling the ordinariness of suburban life, we’ve come to the screeching realisation that we’re missing out on smaller, slower and more intimate moments – like drinking tea.
Because our impulsive, punchy habits that enable us to keep us moving with the frenetic pace of living – think coffee, alcohol, pills, spin classes – are pretty lousy coping mechanisms for the quickening of our existence.
We snap, gram and tweet every dull moment, living our version of a Hollywood motion picture… But we’re losing the primordial skill of being Slow. Slowing down. Being Still.
For all that might kill us today, I think the prospect of waiting in a space of nothingness would be the hardest to suffer. Why? because if we’re not running at life with well-squatted butt cheeks are we getting anywhere at all? At least nowhere anyone cares about.
Being slow is not productive, conducive or active enough for our postmodern busy-ness, but I think it’s the experience of stillness we seek. And where coffee is about speeding up and increasing productivity, tea is a tender gesture of self-love. It doesn’t tick a ‘to do’ box. It’s is about ritual and restoration.
Tea has un-earthed a tiny little loophole in our society and it’s precious – Time.
The tea loitering in most household pantry’s (aka Lipton, Bushells, Madura, Twinings) are the closest brush we’ve had with the vast history and tradition of tea – a long way from the fields of Sri Lanka, India and China.
Should you dig deeper beyond black or green tea, there’s a world of remedies to discover with many botanicals.
Did you know that you can literally use the humble cuppa to manage urinary or respiratory infections like coughs and colds, and even to treat worms (ewww)?!
Your standard ‘cuppa’ vs herbal tea therapy
We’re now seeing a resurgence of traditional ‘Herbal Tea Wisdom’ in the market and that excites me, because I’m one of those herb geeks whose alchemy heals people.
There’s an art in designing tea with a therapeutic objective – the right amount of compounds to affect a response in the body, and a flare for visual and sensory appreciation. It requires not only skill, but a deep respect for the botanical properties of the ingredients and the quality of herbs you use.
How herbs are grown and harvested bears a monumental difference in the quality of the blend and the effectiveness of the remedy.
It might also be said that how we prepare, brew and sip our tea is all part of the therapy of tea and of stillness. A stillness that invokes a biological response in the body too.
Where major tea company’s entice your senses with apple, strawberry or lolly-like aroma’s, traditional Herbalists will keep their intentions aligned with a purpose. Perhaps this is the small but significant divide between Tea and Tea Therapy.
So if you’re interested in a therapeutic outcome you might like to ask yourself, what is the intention you have in purchasing a tea? If your intention is beyond flavour alone you may be pleasantly surprised.
Before we plunge into the pelagic depths of herbal wisdom, it would be wise to consider the chemicals used in the cultivation of plants/herbs that are not organically grown. These nasty residues remain in the plant material and ultimately become a part of your tea. Understandably, smaller 3rd world countries like Sri Lanka are producing enough Ceylon tea for the world’s thirst and demand often results in less desirable agricultural methods.
So if you consider yourself a herbal tea buff know that organic herbs are essential. And if you are looking to treat a condition, then organic medicinal grade herbs are essential.
Understanding plant therapy
Blending herbs (or plant therapy) to effect a treatment is to participate in a tradition that dates back to the time of Cleopatra, steeping plant material in hot water extracting alkaloids, volatile oils and compounds that heal, warm, soothe, stimulate or sedate the body.
Liquorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) for example, is a neutral to cool herb and its actions are expectorant, anti-inflammatory and adaptogenic (tonic).
Other favourite and well-known roots are Dandelion, Ginger, Turmeric and Maca – all with distinguishable pungent, bitter or sweet flavours that greatly influence the foundation of a tea.
You can also incorporate seeds like Fenugreek and Fennel, that act to soothe mucous membranes, ease digestion and even stimulate breast-milk flow. They add an earthy and robust flavour that are both pleasant and warming.
Most florals are delicate and lose their pigment, briefly staining the colour of the water at the start of brewing. They contain natural emollients and antioxidants that soothe irritated tissue, and contain a distinct fragrance that adds a feminine and nurturing twist to most blends. Some favourites of mine are Rose, Lavender, Calendula, Blue Mallow and Corn-flower.
Leaves contain a legion of compounds and flavours we all recognise like the classic Peppermint and Spearmint with their high content of volatile oils (menthol). Lemon-balm, Ginkgo and Brahmi are some of the leaves used in herbal preparation to create a healing response, as a result of their tannins creating astringency; and volatile oils that provide antiseptic and antibacterial properties. Many household, culinary herbs like coriander, parsley, thyme, sage, basil and mint are pungent and strong in favour due to their volatile oils, and it’s this pungency where the quality and effectiveness of the herb is. Hence the role they play in therapeutic tea therapy.
See also: A Guide To Reiki Energy Healing
We can go beyond sprinkling these greens on our evening meal, to using them medicinally to support the health of our body.
Tea & plant remedies to try
To get started, here are 4 simple tea and plant remedies that you can try for yourself. Visit your local health food shop or herbary to collect the ingredients, which are best used in a dried form unless stated.
Sore throat remedy
Note: Make this as a gargle and use morning and night after brushing teeth.
- 1 tsp of Thyme leaves
- 1 tsp of Sage leaves
- A pinch of Slippery Elm powder
- 1/2 tsp of Manuka honey OR Blackstrap molasses
Brew as a tea and steep for 7-10 mins. Allow to cool to room temp before gargling…
- 1 tsp Peppermint leaves
- 1 tsp Ginger root
- 1 tsp of Calendula petals
- 1 tsp of Marshmallow root
Steep for 7-10 minutes and allow the cup to cool slightly before drinking.
See also: FREE Plant-Based Recipe eBook for nutritious meal ideas and see how your digestion responds.
- ½ tsp Lavender
- ½ tsp Passionflower
- ½ tsp Calendula petals
- ½ tsp Lemongrass
Steep the dried herbs in boiling water for 7-10 minutes and allow the cup to cool slightly before drinking.
Thyme & allium sativa cough syrup
- 1 White onion
- 4-6 sprigs of fresh Thyme
- Raw Manuka honey
- A slice of fresh Turmeric (optional)
Halve onion and place into a small bowl. Add other ingredients and drizzle 1-2 tbsp of honey over the top. Cover, store in a cool place and leave for 24 hours. During this time the onion will sweat and blend with the honey and other ingredients making a homemade cough syrup suitable for children with sore throats and dry cough. Take a tsp at night before bed.
Integrating time, stillness and plant therapy into your life
You don’t need to be a fancy-schmancy, cauldron burning, toad simmering, high priestess to blend your own medicinal tea. You only need to play with dried herbs and seek to balance the flavours you like. Then you can begin to learn about what those herbs do, and likely uncover your natural affiliation towards them.
See also Traditional Chinese Medicine 101
To get started, I suggest visiting your local health foods shop to gather a few basics including:
- Calendula petals
- Peppermint root
- Liquorice root
You can build on these as you play around with different flavours and effects.
Your tea cupboard will start to look less like the packaged tea aisle in Woolies and more like the experimental and adventurous cupboard of a fancy-schmancy, cauldron burning, toad simmering, high priestess…..and that’s totally in right now.
Now I want to hear from you. Got a question about plants and tea therapy? Or have you used tea as therapy? Share your comments and queries with me via the comment section below. I can’t wait to hear from you.
P.S. Who is the coffee addict; the always sick person; the stressed person, or the tea lover in your life? Share this article with them now and gift them a copy of our free natural remedies eBook! They’ll thank you for it later.