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Brew these 10 garden-grown herbal teas to boost your health and immune system.
Using fresh garden herbs to make tea
It’s hard to imagine that my winter tea regime was set in motion on an early-summer morning. Gazing out my window this past August at the dark and rainy skyline I debated going on the Chilliwack Slow Food Cycle, which I had looked forward to all year.
Setting out solo, I made the commitment to try, for this was an important event to support, with many of the local farmers working hard on it. The first five kilometres were torrential – as I peddled my red mountain bike through the roadside puddles, rain was dripping off every inch of me.
Then, stopping to take shelter under large willows and farmers’ barns became a wonderful chance to slow the ride down and connect with others. Shortly after, the sky brightened up and sunshine smiled down on all of us “foodies” over the next 20 kilometres.
The ride proved to be a great success, and I returned home with a backpack full of organic beets, peppers, lettuce, carrots, hand soap and something for winter – natural sweet honey.
I have a favourite cup – a wide yellow pottery mug decorated with a dragonfly – purchased at the farmers’ market on Salt Spring Island. It holds a stainless-steel tea strainer perfectly on its brim and is large enough to warm my hands as I hold it. The ritual of the ceremony is as important as the herbs and honey that soothe our senses.
There is no nicer winter gift than a beautiful mug and strainer, a jar of local honey, and some homegrown herbs for tea. Include directions for steeping – a common amount is 7.5 mL (1½ tsp.) dried herbs, steeped for 5 minutes.
The honey farm, Chilliwack River Valley Natural Honey, was a fantastic stop, with delicious honey from the local wildflowers and demonstrations of honey cultivation and bee smoking.
In the quaint shop, buzzing with customers, a large selection of honey samples were offered up. I dove in toothpick after toothpick, sampling creamed and clear honey of all types: blueberry, sunflower, thistle, fireweed, maple and buckwheat. I was hoping to discover one that would complement my favourite herbal tea, lavender-mint. With fall approaching, and my bones still chilled from rain, I was also looking for a honey to soothe those inevitable winter sore throats.
In fact, for me, hot herbal tea with honey is an almost-daily staple—the garden-grown herbs energize my mood while restoring my calm, and their natural vitamins, antioxidants and minerals also increase immunity.
In the spring and summer, 15 mL (1tsp.) a day of clover and alfalfa honey in herbal tea helps calm my allergies, and in winter when a sore throat hits, warm lemon herbal honey water is a natural relief.
Dipping my toothpick, I tasted all the flavours, contemplating which one would serve me best, and after a dozen tries decided on sunflower. This sumptuous creamed honey is perfect for moistening the throat and sweetening any herbal tea. What a lucky find – I was absolutely delighted with this treasure to be tucked away until needed.
This winter, discover how herbal teas can help you relax, sleep better, boost your immunity, and connect you with friends and good memories – all of which help boost the immune system and protect against winter colds and flu.
Be creative and blend your home-grown herbs or take a visit to a specialty tea shop – herbal tea is an inexpensive natural investment in healthcare. With each cup you can be sure you are hydrating your body, warming your soul and boosting your health.
Also called tulsi, Ocimum tenuiflorum, (syn. O. sanctum) has strong antiviral, antibacterial and immune-building properties, and is high in antioxidants. Blend your own tulsi tea with Thai, lemon, cinnamon or any other basil. Like all the herbs in this list, holy basil can be grown in your garden and dried at the end of the summer for winter brewing.
Sweeten with local honey or pure maple syrup. This is an old remedy that when served hot helps to heal the body. A warming tea, it helps to stimulate the circulatory system and is loaded with vitamin C. Adjust to taste as desired – be careful not to make it too spicy!
Calming the nervous system, lavender tea is believed to strengthen the immune system. Infuse with green tea for added antioxidant benefits, or blend with mint for a delicious herbal explosion, my personal favourite.
Loaded with natural antiviral properties, lemon balm’s soothing aroma and taste works perfectly with honey to produce a natural sore-throat remedy. With sedative properties, this tea is believed to calm the nerves and induce rest, perfect for boosting the immune system.
Research indicates that this coneflower stimulates the immune system, waking it up and keeping it on guard. Aids in fighting off colds and the flu, and increases the defensive properties of our skin, helping wounds to heal more quickly.
Inhale the steam of this healthful tea to clear your sinuses. Packed with phytonutrients that function as antioxidants, it is a good source of vitamin C and A, and contains thymol, which impedes bacterial growth.
You can homegrow this on the winter windowsill in cold climates and all year in the garden in coastal areas. Parsley is cleansing for the blood and packed with vitamins and minerals to support the immune system. Boil with lemon and serve with honey to taste.
Contains vitamin B and phosphorus to support the immune system. Its cooling effect helps to relieve fever and natural mint fragrance can expel congestion in lungs.
With vitamin C, natural tannins and minerals, the leaf of raspberry has natural antibacterial properties. It is also believed to be an energy booster – blend with lemon balm for a tasty treat.
This is probably one of the oldest herbs used to produce a tea with natural health benefits. Loaded with vitamin C and antibacterial and immune-boosting properties it also delights the senses with the gentle essence of the rose.
Note: These teas should not be used by infants or pregnant women or those whose health is compromised; if you have any special health considerations, please consult a professional before using herbal remedies.