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Grow Your Own Herbal Teas

There are so many great reasons to grow your own herbal teas. Having a range of herbs on your doorstep, each with varying flavours and health benefits, is the main one. You will also have fresh organic tea available whenever you feel like having a cuppa. By growing your herbs organically, you are avoiding hidden pesticides and herbicides, as well as saving yourself money. And finally you are reducing waste and reducing the environmental footprint involved in bringing tea from a commercial grower to your kitchen.

As long as you have a few different plants growing you will always have a cup of herbal tea available for yourself or when visitors pop by. Here are some of our favourites.

Lemon Verbena (Aloysia citrodora):

Photo by Skyprayer2005

Plant: This hardy deciduous bush will grow in most climates. It prefers subtropical and tropical climates, but can grow in cooler climes when planted in a warm sunny spot. It will go dormant in a cold winter and can survive a light frost. It prefers a well-drained soil, rich in organic matter. It is a great bee attractant.

Tea: To make the tea, harvest the leaves and either crush them fresh or dry them and store in a cool dry place. Place about 10 fresh leaves or a teaspoon of crushed dried leaves, in a cup. Pour boiling water over the top and steep for several minutes.

Benefits: Lemon verbena is said to help with sleep, inflammation and the reduction of mucus and respiratory congestion. And most importantly it tastes delicious, with a strong lemony flavour.

Chamomile: German (Matricaria chamomilla) Roman (Matricaria recutita)

Photo by Ruud Morijn

Plant: There are two main types of chamomile: German and Roman. Both have similar properties but vary in the way they grow. Roman chamomile is perennial, can be grown as a groundcover and is propagated by cuttings, whereas German chamomile dies off in winter and needs to be replanted from seed or left to self-seed in the garden.

Chamomile likes a sunny spot in the garden and is best planted at the end of spring.

Tea: Use the flowers for tea. Both German and Roman chamomile flowers have a yellow centre with white petals. Pick the flowers when fully open. Place the whole flower into the cup in an infuser and steep in boiling water for five minutes or more. Flowers can be dried for later use.

Benefits: Chamomile tea is great for helping induce sleep and alleviate insomnia. Chamomile also helps reduce inflammation and soothes upset stomachs, improving digestion. It is a relaxant and can help with anxiety.

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)

Photo by Robyn Rosenfeldt

Plant: This hardy plant is a member of the mint family. It is a perennial plant that dies back over cold winters but will come back again in spring. Being a shallow rooted plant, it is a good companion plant for fruit trees. It likes partial shade and a rich moist soil.

Tea: Harvest leaves as needed. Leaves can be harvested and dried for use over winter. Place a handful of leaves in a pot and steep in boiling water. Cover to keep in the steam as this helps retain the beneficial effects.

Benefits: Lemon balm helps with anxiety and insomnia. It can also help with cramping and bloating and ease menstrual cramps.

Native Rosella (Hibiscus sabdariffa)

Photo by Freelanceman

Plant: It is a member of the hibiscus family. It prefers warmer climates and is perennial in warm temperate, arid, subtropical and tropical areas. It is a hardy plant that will grow in most soil types. It needs five or six months of warm temperatures to produce calyces (fruit). Plant as soon as the soil is warm to give plants maximum growing time. Will die off in frosts.

Tea: Tea is made from the calyces, which are high in calcium, iron and magnesium, and create a strong pinky-red colour in your tea with a fruity flavour. Pull off and use the outer part of the calyx and steep in boiling water.

Benefits: High in vitamin C, native rosella can help in combatting colds. This tea is said to reduce blood pressure and has antiseptic and antibacterial qualities.

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)

Photo by Peter Radacsi

Plant: English lavender is the best variety to use for tea. This is a hardy plant that doesn’t like wet feet, so it needs a well-drained soil. Plant in full sun. English lavender prefers a drier climate and can tolerate frosts.

Tea: Tea is made from the lavender buds. If using fresh lavender, use four teaspoons per cup of water, or one for dried. Place in the bottom of a cup, pour boiling water over the top and steep covered for several minutes.

Benefits: Drinking lavender tea can help with sore muscles so it’s good to drink after exercise. It can also help aid digestion and relieve insomnia, stress and anxiety, as well as respiratory issues. It is not recommended for pregnant women.

Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea)

Photo by Robyn Rosenfeldt

Plant: Also called purple coneflower because of its cone shaped flowers with long pink/purple petals. Echinacea is a perennial plant that dies back in winter and comes back in spring, flowering in spring and summer. It prefers full sun in cool climates and afternoon shade in places with hot summers. Echinacea likes a rich soil, so add compost over winter.

Tea: Although the root can be used, the leaves and flowers are most commonly used for herbal tea. It can take up to two years before you get flowers. Harvest flowers when the buds begin to open. Harvest leaves at any time. Spread leaves and flowers out to dry, either in a warm dry spot or in a dehydrator. Place two tablespoons of dried echinacea in a cup and steep for several minutes. You may like to add honey or other herbs for taste.

Benefits: Boosts the immune system and helps prevent colds and flus. Can help with ear infections and bronchial infections.

Peppermint (Mentha x piperita)

Photo by Kongsky

Plant: Peppermint is a very hardy plant that if left alone runs the risk of becoming a weed and taking over. Best planted in a pot to control its spread. Peppermint can be grown in tropical and arid climates through to cool temperate. Peppermint dies down in winter and reshoots in spring.

Tea: Harvest the top leaves, crush and steep in boiling water for several minutes. Can be enjoyed as a refreshing iced drink in summer.

Benefits: Drinking peppermint tea can relieve headaches and menstrual cramps, help with digestion and bloating, clear sinuses and improve mental clarity.

Calendula (Calendula officinalis)

Photo by Robyn Rosenfeldt

Plant: Calendula is a hardy self-sowing annual flower. Plant late summer–early autumn. It prefers temperate and subtropical areas. Calendula have a bright orange flower, although some varieties have yellows and pinks too. Calendula can tolerate a range of soils and likes full sun. The flowers are great for bees.

Tea: Harvest the flowers for tea. It is best to harvest in the morning when the flowers are fresh and open. Either pull the petals from the plant and use fresh, or dry the flowers whole and then pull the petals off and place in a jar. Steep petals in hot water for several minutes.

Benefits: Calendula is used both in teas as well as salves and tinctures as a remedy for many ailments. Drunk as a tea, it can help treat constipation, gastrointestinal and menstruation problems, soothe a sore throat and act as an antiseptic for blisters or gum disease.

Please note: If you are pregnant or have any illness or disease, please research the contraindications related to these plants before use.


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