Recipe Friday: Tea

Because ’tis the season, we have viruses and bugs and germs and cold etc., I am reposting this from a year ago:

RecipeFridayTea

Oh, how comforting is a cup of tea! Tea is one of my favorite things to do each day. I was introduced to hot tea by an English woman when I was in high school. She served it to me with 4 lumps of sugar and some cream. So delicious as all those sugars and carbs zipped straight to the pleasure centers of my brain! I was hooked on it as warm, comforting, and satisfying. I have since learned to curb my sweet tooth propensity and look more toward healthy options. I was doing well to make herbal teas with a bit of natural organic honey added until my friend was visiting and I noticed she didn’t put any honey in hers. “Oh,” I thought, “I guess tea doesn’t HAVE TO have sweetener in it at all!” This was a revelation to me. Well, we’re all still learning.

Of course, “a cuppa tea” in casual conversation may refer to a number of hot drinks: infusions, decoctions, herbal teas, green/black/oolong tea, etc. To get that out of the way, I first offer a glossary:

“Tea” technically refers to Camellia sinensis, the leaves of which may be made into  white tea, yellow tea, green tea, oolong, dark tea, and black tea, depending on how the leaves are processed.

“Herbal tea,” or tisane, refers to using the roots, leaves, seeds, bark, or flowers of plants to make a hot drink (stems don’t generally have much medicinal value).

Preparation of plant parts may be divided into

  • Infusion: herbs macerated and steeped in water
    • Quick infusion = 5 minutes in hot water: good for small amounts of herbs. These herbs do well in a quick infusion:
      • Chamomile
      • Sage
      • Peppermint
      • Thyme
      • Tulsi
      • Rosemary
      • Lemon verbena
    • Nourishing herbal infusions are steeped for longer periods, good for pulling out nutrients. Pour hot water over the herb, cover, and let sit for 8 hours or overnight. Some herbs good for nourishing herbal infusions:
      • Linden
      • Hawthorn
      • Plantain
      • Violet
      • Stinging nettle (the most famous nourishing herbal infusion)
      • Mullein
      • Oats
      • Red clover
    • Cold infusion: herbs are infused in cold water for 4 to 8 hours, often placed in a sunny window, can also be placed in the refrigerator
  • Decoction: simmering plant parts for a length of time (20 – 60 minutes)
  • Any of these may be gently re-warmed before you drink.

Cautions:

  • Always know your tea source. Choose organic brands. You do not want to drink teas made from chemically-laden plants.
  • Do not use aluminum pots or pans for preparing tea.
  • Avoid plastics.
  • Drink tea in moderation. Too much of anything is not healthy.
  • Some people are allergic to some plants. Avoid teas made from known allergens (although, some people are able to overcome allergies by ingesting small amounts at a time).

I use the term, “tea” to refer to hot drinks I make from plant parts.

I prefer loose tea, as it is easier to buy and store in bulk. I use mason / glass jars of varying sizes. It is best to store herbs in a cool, dark place. Label your herbs with the name(s) and date. I say name(s) because sometimes I mix herbs together in a big jar to avoid having to mix them every time I want to use them. Tea bags, however, are a convenient and clean way to make tea.

While I buy most of my herbs for teas, I grow a few. Each summer I grow peppermint in a pot; at the end of summer, I dry the leaves, crush, and store them. (I also grow stevia in the summer, and dry and grind the leaves to use as a sweetener.) We have four linden trees in our yard. I discovered them shortly after we moved into the house, and I was following my nose to the source of the rich, flowery scent. I was delighted to find that the flowers and leaves of the linden were not just for show, but were also medicinal. When it came time to prune the branches, we hung them in the garden shed until they dried, then I stripped the leaves and flowers, and stored them in a gallon glass jar.

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To make tea:

  • Use filtered water. Your water should be as pure as possible.
  • Bring the water to a boil, then let it cool only slightly.
  • Pour the hot water over the herbs into a cup or teapot. (How much herb? Whatever tickles your fancy at the time. Herbal teas are food, and it would be well nigh impossible to overdose. That said: Please drink responsibly.)
  • Cover the cup or teapot to contain the nutritive oils.
  • A hot pad underneath and a tea cozy atop will help keep everything at the right temperature.
  • After steeping, press the herbs to extract all the benefits you can from the plant parts.
  • Some teas lend themselves to mixing with other teas. Nettle, for instance, while extremely nutritious, tastes pretty “green.” Adding a bit of peppermint or lemon in with the nettle improves the experience.
  • Most people like to add a bit of sweetener to their tea. Honey is the favored choice, and it’s a good one (if you use natural, raw, organic honey) because you add more nutrition (and some say it’s a good way to prevent against seasonal allergies). Please don’t ruin your tea with off-the-shelf sugar. Sugar is like an anti-nutrient, and it grabs all your immune system’s attention for the duration of the digestion and processing of it out of your system. There are other, preferable, sweeteners available, like maple syrup, sucanat, and stevia. (See my post, https://maggietiggles.wordpress.com/2019/10/11/recipe-friday-treat-time-chocolate-mug-cake/ , for a discussion of sweeteners.)

Enjoy drinking your tea. Tea is soothing and nourishing: let it be so.

My favorite go-to tea is a mix of peppermint and stinging nettle. Stinging nettle is a fabulous source of magnesium (along with other nutrients), and many health-conscious writers advocate drinking it daily. [Rosalee de la Foret (at https://learningherbs.com/ and https://www.herbalremediesadvice.org/ ) claims that stinging nettle remains an unsung champion for improving health in many powerful ways. She advocates drinking a nettle infusion daily for general health, as it contains an amazing amount of nutrients that can support your energy level as well as the health of your bones, hair, and teeth.] Peppermint is great for the digestive system. We have our main meal at noon, and I usually have my peppermint/nettle tea afterward. Peppermint is best steeped quickly, and nettle is best steeped in a long infusion. I compromise both. I prepare my peppermint tea bag and my scoopful of nettle in a cup with simmering water, cover it with a small saucer, then put my tea cozy over the whole thing. I let it steep for about 20 minutes (sometimes much longer, if I forget about it).

Another tea I use often is a mixture of elderberry, hawthorn berry, mullein, peppermint, calendula, and stinging nettle. This is a good tea for hot/moist colds, but also good for boosting your immune system. Elderberry prevents viruses from replicating; hawthorn provides Vitamin C; peppermint is antimicrobial and antiviral; mullein protects mucous membranes from inflammation, thereby decreasing mucous secretions; calendula is antimicrobial and assists the lymphatic system; elderberry, hawthorn berry, and peppermint are immune-boosting. I either add the herb mixture to simmering water and continue to simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes; or prepare it as I do the peppermint and nettle.

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SO MANY herbs make well into teas (I have most of these at home). I culled the Internet for information, and found most of it at Dr Josh Axe’s site, draxe.com :

  • Green teas are made from leaves that have not been fermented, so they have higher levels of antioxidants.
  • Milk thistle: detoxifying, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, promotes liver and gallbladder health, good for digestion, soothes mucous membranes throughout the body, increases breast milk production
  • Burdock root: cleanses the blood (detoxifier), lymphatic system strengthener, skin healer, natural diuretic
  • Chamomile: antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, promotes tranquility, resolves digestive issues, treats insomnia, relieves mild pain
  • Jasmine green tea: just inhaling the beguiling fragrance is good for my soul. Jasmine improves mood, overcomes stress, and balances hormones.
  • Dandelion leaves: enhances heart health, boosts weight loss, supports liver function (besides making tea, dandelion leaves are a powerhouse of nutrition and are good for consuming, either fresh in a salad, chopped into a pesto, or sautéed with onions)
  • Dandelion root (quite tasty when the root is roasted): promotes good digestion, liver-healthy, benefits cholesterol, good antioxidant, antimicrobial
  • Yarrow: reduces inflammation (especially in the digestive tract), sedative to relieve anxiety or insomnia, stimulates blood flow, helpful for high blood pressure and asthma
  • Turmeric: powerful anti-inflammatory, relieves joint pain, enhances immune function, regulates blood sugar, helps manage cholesterol levels (drinking turmeric tea with pepper, honey, lemon, ghee, or coconut milk can enhance its properties)
  • Barley: cleanses the kidneys, treats kidney stones, flushes out toxins, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antioxidants to safeguard the body against cell damage, stomach pain relief, reduces sleep disturbances, reduces constipation
  • Red clover: benefits for menopause, bone and heart health, balances hormones
  • Moringa: anti-inflammatory; treats thyroid disorders, kidney stones, bacterial, fungal, viral and parasitic infections; high in protein, Vitamin A, potassium, calcium, and Vitamin C; antioxidant; balances hormones; helps improve digestive health; boosts liver function, helps detoxify the body; protects and nourishes the skin; mood stabilizer; protects brain health
  • Licorice root: adaptogenic herb (helps balance, restore and protect the body, helps you respond to any influence or stressor, normalizing your physiological functions), leaky gut remedy, anti-inflammatory, enhances the effects of other herbs to be more beneficial, helps with heartburn and acid reflux, helps with adrenal fatigue, boosts immunity, effective expectorant and soothing demulcent (helps with colds)
  • Matcha green tea: may help prevent cancer, promotes weight loss, speeds up muscle recovery in athletes, high in disease-fighting chatechins (a group of antioxidants), boosts energy, aids in reducing damage from UVB radiation
  • Hibiscus flower: tart, very high in Vitamin C and antioxidants, lowers blood pressure, supports healthy cholesterol and triglycerides, natural antidepressant
  • Ginger: soothes the stomach, enhances immunity, protects brain health, eases pain, increases weight loss, promotes blood sugar control
  • Echinacea: eases pain, functions as a laxative to help loosen the bowels, anti-inflammatory (especially helpful for rheumatoid arthritis), relieves upper respiratory issues, immune-boosting (helps relieve the flu, asthma, common cold, croup, strep throat, whooping cough), fights infection
  • Yerba mate: promotes energy, mental alertness, fights cancer and inflammatory diseases, high antioxidant count, anti-inflammatory, stimulates the immune system, kills colon cancer cells, contains a host of beneficial vitamins, minerals and other health-promoting compounds, reduces cholesterol levels, promotes weight loss
  • Linden: potent sedative, calming, relieves high blood pressure, soothes digestion

Recipe Friday: Elderberry Syrup

Welcome to my second Recipe Friday. (If you missed the first one, click here.)

It’s the season for prevention!

All year long is a good time to build up your immune system. (See my immune system pointers in this blog – along with Wardee’s Elderberry Gummies; some cold and flu remedies here; and a recipe for Vitamin C chews here.) But autumn is a good time to start your remedy-making, to make sure you’ve got medicinal therapies ready, and to give you and your family a boost to prepare for cold season.

Elderberry Syrup is one of the best-known remedies, and for good reason. Elderberries prevent viruses from replicating in the body, and so shorten the duration and severity of a cold or flu bug.

If you grow your own elderberry bushes, high five! You have an organic, natural, and accessible treatment available to you. [Note: Besides the berries, the elder flowers are also beneficial. Be sure to harvest no more than 1/5 of the flowers on any bush, to make sure you have enough berries in the fall.]

If you don’t have elder bushes, try local farmers’ markets. A third option is to buy dried elderberries at a health food store or online (vitacost.com or amazon.com are good sources). Make sure they are organic.

Ideas for using elderberries:

  • Take a dose of 1 teaspoon of elderberry syrup as soon as you notice a cold coming on; you can take it every two hours. Because this is food, you can take it as often as needed before or during a cold or flu.
  • Add some elderberry syrup to your daily drinking water.
  • Boil elderberries (fresh or dried) into a tea with other herbs, and sip.
  • Make elderberry gummies by adding unflavored (organic) gelatin. Pour into candy molds, or into a pan and then cut into dosage sizes. Organic gelatin is beneficial to your overall health and to your gut.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup dried elderberries
  • 3 cups of filtered water
  • 1 cup of raw local honey (or less, to taste)
  • Optional ingredients:
    • ½ cup dried yarrow leaves and flowers (Yarrow makes you sweat, and tricks your body into fighting the virus, even before it takes hold. It’s also beneficial for the lungs.)
    • ½ cup dried hawthorn berries (very high in Vitamin C)
    • Juice from a 2-inch piece of ginger root (juice it by pressing through a garlic press)
    • Orange or lemon peel
    • Cinnamon stick

ElderberrySyrup

Instructions

  • Simmer the elderberries and filtered water together in a covered pan for 30 minutes. (If you add more ingredients, such as the yarrow and hawthorn berries, add more water, 1 cup for every half cup of extra ingredient.)
  • Mash the elderberries (and optional other ingredients) with a potato masher (remove a cinnamon stick before mashing).
  • Strain the elderberries from the juice:
    • Pour through a fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth, then bundle up the elderberries in the cheesecloth and squeeze out all the elderberry juice.
    • Or use a potato ricer
    • ElderberrySyrupTools
  • Simmer the juice, uncovered, for another 30 minutes, to let it concentrate.
  • Allow the juice to cool until it’s just warm-hot.
  • Add the raw honey and stir thoroughly to incorporate the honey. Do not heat again.
  • (If making gummies, add ¼ cup gelatin for every 2 cups of liquid. Whisk in carefully so it doesn’t clump.)
  • If using, add the ginger juice.
  • [If making gummies, pour into molds or glass pan.]
  • Allow the syrup to cool.

Store in an airtight glass jar (i.e., mason jar) in the refrigerator.

Essential Oils Anti-Ick

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It is no news to those who follow me that I am an enthusiastic user of essential oils. Essential oils are good for your health! [Disclaimer: As with any product, test with a small amount to make sure you are not sensitive or allergic to the substance.] Because essential oils are made from plants, they are part of God’s gift in His creation, intended for our benefit. They work with our bodies, and do not contain harmful chemicals.

Think nothing can kill a virus? Think again: essential oils are proven to kill viruses, bacteria, and funguses. They can also act as anti-inflammatories.

Be sure to use a reputable source for your essential oils. At home, I use NOW brand and Vitacost brand.

How I use essential oils:

  • Diffuse
  • Serums
  • Roll-ons
  • Creams
  • Air freshener
  • Anti-bacterial spray
  • Cooking
  • Cleaning

Essential oils can be mixed with beeswax, cocoa butter, shea butter, a carrier oil (such as coconut oil, jojoba oil, olive oil, avocado oil, or almond oil), castile soap, vinegar, witch hazel, vodka, and / or honey to make an unlimited array of health-supporting remedies and treatments.

NOTE: Always use essential oils combined with a carrier oil if applying to skin or ingesting.

Ways to ingest:

  • cook with essential oils (no, cooking does not destroy most essential oils: most are processed with heat) add a few drops of, say, rosemary and thyme into your spaghetti sauce
  • add lemon oil into your smoothie
  • add to treats like frosting (lemon, orange, or peppermint add taste and zip)
  • bake into a dessert (lemon pie or bars, lavender bread, cardamom cookies, peppermint brownies)

Apply to skin:

  • combine with a carrier oil
  • rub on abdomen for quick uptake
  • smooth onto temples, shoulders, or neck for tension or headache relief
  • use as an antibacterial on scrapes and bug bites
  • combine with castile soap for shampoo and body wash

Clean:

  • lemon and orange are great at cutting grease, and smell so refreshing
  • essential oils kill bacteria in toilets, around sinks, kitchen counters, and baby’s room
  • combine with vodka and witch hazel for air freshening and killing germs on surfaces
  • use to wipe down handles, counters, keyboards, and common surfaces during cold and flu season

And you can always diffuse. Get a good-quality diffuser that will last for hours and incorporate a large room. And, get smaller diffusers for smaller rooms. Heck, they even sell diffusers for your car, and to wear around your neck!

Another way to diffuse is to add a few drops to an inhaler (like these: https://www.amazon.com/Aromatherapy-Essential-Portable-Reusable-Aluminum/dp/B07PP1WB4N/); or a few drops to a handkerchief or tissue.

My go-to websites for dependable information on essential oils are

Following is a list of essential oils that are antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory:

Antivirals:

Basil, bergamot, cassia, cinnamon bark, clove, cumin, eucalyptus, frankincense, geranium, helichrysum, myrrh, oregano, peppermint, rose, rosewood, sage, sandalwood, tea tree, thyme

Antibacterials:

Basil, bergamot, cassia, cedarwood, cinnamon bark, citronella, clove, dill, eucalyptus, geranium, lemon, lemongrass, marjoram, oregano, peppermint, rosemary, rosemary, spikenard, tea tree

Antifungal:

Cassia, cinnamon bark, citronella, clary sage, eucalyptus, fir, geranium, lavender, lemongrass, marjoram, oregano, peppermint, rosemary, rosewood, sage, spikenard, thyme

Anti-inflammatory:

Caraway, clove, eucalyptus, ginger, lavender, marjoram, oregano, peppermint, roman chamomile, tea tree, thyme, and turmeric.

Natural Medicine Opportunities

Just a quick share on a couple of free web opportunities that I came across, to enhance your knowledge of safe, natural remedies, and healthy ways to live:

https://homemedicinesummit.com/ begins Monday, October 14th. I’ve listened to several of the presenters before, and I believe they have good stuff.

https://essentialoilstransformation.com/ also begins Monday, October 14th. I have not heard most of these presenters before. Upon registration, you are eligible to receive several bonus gifts.