How To Make Herbal Medicinal Tea
Sure, you’ve made a cup of tea before: boil some water, add a teabag, leave it in the water for 3 minutes, and then sip. But if you want to make your own teas for healing (rather than just straight enjoyment), here are some tips to help you make the most from your herbal infusions. But first we’ll look at the difference between tea and herbal tea.
What is Tea?
The leaves we usually call tea – black tea, green tea, white tea, oolong, and even pu-erh – are suprisingly all from one plant with the latin name Camellia sinensis. There are different harvesting, drying, fermenting, and processing methods, all of which contribute to whether it becomes black, green, white and so on.
But there is a whole other world of ‘herbal tea’ that can be enjoyed. Herbal tea can be made using an endless variety of different plants (exluding Camellia sinensis). Herbal teas can vary widely in flavor, color, and medicinal potency.
What is Herbal Tea?
Herbal tea is tea made from any plants other than Camellia sinensis. Herbal teas are sometimes called tisanes. The method to extract their flavors and medicinal properties is through either an infusion or decoction. The infusion method is much more common and means steeping the plant matter in freshly boiled water. This is how most people have made tea in the past with a tea bag. The decoction method means adding plant matter to a pot of actively simmering water for a more extended amount of time. More delicate plant parts (like flowers and leaves) are made using the infusion method in a french press or tea pot, whereas more robust plant parts (like barks and roots) are made by decocting in a pot on the stovetop.
Herbal tea can be made from a variety of plant parts. For example roots or rhizomes (ginger, astragalus, dandelion), flowers (lavender, rose, chamomile), leaves (mint, red raspberry leaf, lemon balm), fruiting bodies (reishi, maitake, lion's mane) as well as barks and stems (cinnamon, wild cherry bark).
Choosing Herbs for Medicinal Tea
Our practice will provide you with a blend of herbs that is either created specifically for you, or will be one of our signature formulas. Our herbs are from reputable sources that offer high-quality herbs that are freshly dried and organically grown, which means the teas are full of active constituents that we rely on for medicine.
If buying your own herbs, be sure to find herbs that are not yet expired. If you have a natural foods store that you like, check their bulk bins to see what options are available. If it’s a busy store, the stock will be rotated quickly, and herbs are likely to be more fresh. If you’re unsure about the freshness of your local bulk bins, order online from a reputable company like Mountain Rose Herbs or Frontier Co-op. Whenever purchasing any herbs or spices, choose organically grown always.
5 Steps to Make an Herbal Medicinal Tea Infusion
1. Procure good quality herbs as mentioned above. Since this is an infusion, make sure your herbs are leaves, flowers or very fine or powdered roots/barks. If the plant matter is too thick and tough, an infusion will not pull out much in the way of medicinal constituents.
2. In general the ratio for medicinal tea is 1 Tablespoon of dried herbs to 1 cup of freshly boiled water. If using fresh herbs, the ratio is usually 1 Teaspoon of fresh herbs to 1 cup of fresh boiled water.
3. Using freshly boiled water to cover the herbs makes sure you get the most potent infusion. Once the plant matter is submerged, stir the herbs to ensure water is in contact with all the surfaces of the herbs. Then cover the herbal tea in order to keep the volatile oils inside the cup while steeping. These oils contain some of the medicinal qualities, and need to stay inside the brew. While your tea will still taste lovely without covering, it will have much less potency. It will also stay warmer!
4. The brewing time for herbal tea is significantly longer than regular tea. For medicinal herbal teas, it is recommended that you steep for 15 minutes (covered, of course). This ensures a full range of extraction, and gives you the most powerful brew. You can definitely steep your medicinal tea for less time, but it will be more like a tea for enjoyment rather than a medicinal drink.
5. Once steeped for 15 mins, strain and enjoy hot or iced. If saving for later, place tea in a glass container if possible (I like mason jars for this) and store in the fridge. Herbal tea can be consumed up to 24 hours after brewing is completed. After that time it loses potency.
OVERNIGHT INFUSION METHOD: Some herbs may benefit from a much longer steep time (think 8-12 hours) and can easily be brewed overnight. Water soluble mineral rich herbs such as stinging nettle, raspberry leaf, red clover and oatstraw are good examples of herbs that benefit from a long steep time. You can use a French press (preferably one that’s cleaned well, so you dont have a coffee flavor), or you can steep in a glass Mason jar. Add your herbs, cover with freshly boiled filtered water, stir, cover and steep overnight for up to 12 hours. Strain the herbs, and it’s ready to drink. You can sip on it at room temperature, refrigerate to cool it down, or warm gently on the stovetop. Store in fridge if not consuming immediately in the morning.
If the tea seems particularly bitter or strong-tasting, you can add some fresh squeezed lemon juice, stevia, or a drop of honey.
If you want to sip your tea all day, you can make a concentrated batch and then add it to a larger bottle of water. Whether you make a regular or concentrated batch, it’s best to enjoy your herbal infusion within 24 hours.
My Favorite Tea Making Tools
The Tealyra Peak Ceramic Infuser Mug is my go to tea mug for so many reasons. It is big enough that it holds a little over two cups of liquid (19 oz), it has a cover to steep medicinal tea properly and once you are done steeping you can put the strainer inside the lid of the mug to keep it from making a mess! The large strainer also allows for ample room for the herbs to infuse, allowing you to get the most out of your medicinal tea. Less crowded herbs = A more complete steep. Materials are ceramic and stainless steel, no plastic parts.
The Hario Cha Cha Kyusu "Maru" Tea Pot is both elegant and practical. A large steeping basket makes for lots of room for a more complete steep of your herbs, while the clear glass allows you to enjoy watching your tea brew. It holds three cups of liquid, enough for you and a friend, and is perfect for brewing flowering teas as well. Materials are glass and stainless steel, no plastic parts.
The Vero Chambord French Press holds 4 cups of liquid, is made of glass and stainless steel and is perfect for a larger infusion and overnight brews. Perfect for homemade french press coffee as well. Brew one large batch of tea and sip on your herbs throughout the day, just remember to stick in the fridge once pressed. No plastic parts!
The Secura Stainless Steel Double Walled Kettle is the one I use in my apothecary for many reasons. First off, it has no plastic parts that are in contact with hot water at all. As far as I know this is the only kettle that meets that requirement on the market today. Most have at least small components that are plastic either on the lid or in the pouring spout. It’s also sleek, fast to boil and large. I’d recommend it to anyone.