I was a fairly typical kid in the 1970’s. Soda was not allowed in our house except for special occasions. Instead, I got my daily dose of Kool-Aid. Kool-Aid and Nestle ice tea were our main source of liquids when we needed something to drink. We even made popsicles with Kool-Aid!
That all changed when my family “went natural” when I was 16 years old. (See more of My Story here.) Out went the Kool-Aid, the ice tea, and even the milk. In came the reverse osmosis water and herbal tea. It took a little while to get adjusted, but it was not too bad once we learned there were a wide variety of tea options.
Here are a few of my current favorite herbal teas:
Mint Tea – This is a tea everyone should have in their pantry. It is great for digestion and it is known to sooth stomach aches. Peppermint and spearmint are also calming and support the immune system. Even more fun is to grow and pick your own mint leaves, especially since there are many species available for different tastes. You can use the leaves fresh off the plant, crush them slightly with your fingers and pour the hot water right over the leaves to steep.
Thyme Tea – This is my newest favorite. I actually discovered it when in Paris a couple of years ago. It is harder to find in the United States, but it is worth getting. (I got mine on-line.) Not only does it taste good but it is a great immune booster too. If anyone in the family starts feeling under the weather, this is our go-to tea. We make a big batch and we all drink it throughout the day.
Sage and Licorice – This was my favorite tea as a teenager and I still like it. Sage is very healing for the digestive system. Licorice root (the herb, not the candy) has gut healing benefits as well as anti-depressant compounds, adrenal regulators, and mucus-reducing components. And, licorice is sweet, so if you like a sweeter tea and want to avoid sugar this is a great alternative. I like to use loose herbs so that I can regulate the amount of licorice, usually using one forth the amount of licorice to the sage.
Chamomile – This is another tea we always have in the pantry. Chamomile is calming and it is especially good to drink after a hectic day or to help calm a child before bed.
Ginger and Lemon – This is actually my 9-year-old’s current favorite. (He also likes the thyme tea because he thinks it tastes like coffee.) Ginger is another great herb for the immune system and it helps with digestion. Lemon is alkalizing and soothing to the gut. You can buy dry ingredients or make the tea with fresh ones by steeping sliced lemon and grated fresh ginger. (To learn more about the benefits of lemon and drinking it first thing in the morning, see this article.)
Sweetening Your Tea
When I started drinking herbal tea years ago, we did not add any sweetener. I did not know any different, so I did not miss it. I would suggest doing the same, especially if you start giving herbal tea to your kids.
If you must sweeten the tea, the best options are licorice root (see above), raw honey (if over one year old), or a few drops of stevia. (Stevia can cause stomach upset for some, so make sure it agrees with you and use it sparingly.) Other more natural sugar options with a lower glycemic index is organic monk fruit or coconut palm sugar.
Finding the Right Brands
Not all teas are created equal. Be sure to obtain organic teas. Pesticides are often used on herb plants so you want to avoid those. However, even more importantly, you want to stay away from irradiated teas. Many mainstream companies irradiate their teas to kill any possible bacteria in the herbs.
The problem is that irradiation also breaks up the food molecules, which creates free radicals (and other toxins) and reduces the nutrient content of the herb, greatly reducing the medicinal effects of the tea. Organic is important.
You also need to be conscious of the type of tea bag used. If the tea bag is white, it has most likely been bleached and the chemicals used end up in the tea you drink. More importantly, most tea bags are made with polypropylene, a plastic that breaks down into micro-plastics that get in your tea when hot water is added and into your body when you drink it. (It also makes the tea bag non-biodegradable.) Conscious manufacturers usually mention these facts on their packaging.
(See more about the detrimental effects of plastic here.)
For this reason, it is optimal to use loose herbs, not tea bags when you can. All you need is a little strainer when pouring to remove the herb particles
Year Round Beverage
Teas are not just for the colder months. To me, sipping a good tea is a relaxing ritual year-round. Many are just as good or even better when chilled. Learn to experiment and see which ones you like best.
This article was written by Sharon Harmon, founder and owner of Life Design for Health. She has a passion for helping people find their way back to optimum health. Please contact Sharon if you would like to know more. There is a great deal of health-related information on her blog and website.