05 January 2010

herbal teas:: quite possibly a new obsession

Sometime last year, I became mildly obsessed with herbalism. Maybe it began when I was visiting a dear friend in Oakland who has become something of an herbalist herself, but I asked her what kinds of medicinal plants I should plant in my garden. I started small...some lavender, calendula, chamomile, peppermint and spearmint, along with some other herbs that definitely have medicinal properties (rosemary, thyme, sage). By the end of the summer, I had grown a mini-arsenal that I dried and have finally picked off the stems and stored in jars.

In addition to the herbs that I grew myself, I've been stocking up my pantry with more from a great local natural foods store. At the recommendation of my friend, I purchased two books that have so far proven to be excellent. The first, Growing 101 Herbs that Heal, is mostly for gardening and was really helpful when I was deciding which herbs I wanted to grow myself. It does include some recipes for how to use the herbs too, but I found it most helpful for information on growing herbs.

The second book, Rosemary Gladstar's Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health, well, it's just amazing. This book is all recipes on how to make everything from cough syrup to face cream. I haven't yet tried out any of the body care recipes, but I certainly hope to soon. And I just finished off a small jar of "Rosemary's Perfect Cream" that my friend gifted me and I think I need to make myself some more. I have signed up for a winter skin remedies class at my local co-op in a couple of weeks, so that might be the answer! These are two books I would highly recommend, but what I would also recommend is checking some out of your local library to see what you like, then go buy the ones that seem worth keeping around!

The main herbalist thing I've gotten into so far, though, is tea. I've concocted a fairly standard tea that I think is good for daily drinking. It includes burdock root, red clover, peppermint (from my garden!), nettle leaf, and lemon balm. {This is the mixture in these photos}. I've been trying to brew a pot of these every other day or so and just have it on hand to drink a little cup each day.

It's been really exciting to experiment and learn about the different properties of the different herbs. I've tried a headache tea with feverfew, and a throat coating tea with marsh mallow root. I'm also brewing a headache tincture with feverfew and lavender (imagine my surprise to discover that there just happened to be feverfew growing in the yard at our old apartment!). In fact, I need to strain that tincture, it's been a little bit too long brewing....

Even though it's January (and freaking freezing outside, literally) I am starting to dream about my garden this year. I do hope to plant more medicinal plants. I'm also hoping to find some places where I can wildcraft some of the herbs I use the most. I know there's a ton of nettle growing around here that most people probably wouldn't miss...


  1. Mmm, I'm thinking about the garden too. And that second and last shot are my favorites. xo

  2. julia, this is sooo right up my alley! i love this post and reading about your experiments. i could (and perhaps should) write several posts about mine as well. i'd love to keep reading about your experiences, keep em comin!

  3. this topic thoroughly interests me, though i know nothing about it. thanks for sharing your thoughts on the subject.

    i have a friend in town who also brews all sorts of teas and tinctures, i'm going to ask her to help me get started on a few teas of my own, thanks to being inspired by this post!

  4. I also have a dear friend (who used to live in SF) who is an herbalist. We place joint orders with Mtn Rose + she always orders a ton of stuff + gives me sample bags (like a pusher!). I'm really into nettle based teas right now, especially the one I make with raspberry leaf. I let the leaves soak overnight in a French press (which hasn't seen coffee in over a year).

    I was thinking about seedlings the other day

  5. i became really interested in making my own teas and using herbs as medicine after working in an herb garden last summer with an experienced herbalist. she had all kinds of amazing tips and stories. just last night when we were bundled up under covers, i told T that i was ready to start planting again. too bad we'll have to wait til may.

  6. julia, thank you so much for recommending these books! luke is in charge of the university of MO sustainable farm this spring & summer. we plan to put together a list of herbs to grow there & these ideas are perfect. i really want to check out those books, too because it seems like they have some really great ideas!

    thanks so much! you are the coolest :)

  7. you're making your teas?!
    that's awesome, and inspiring!

  8. oooh I want to check out these books! The tea sounds really yummy, I might need to try it!

    I am starting to dream of my future garden, as well.