Herbal Teas

I have been mixing and experimenting with medicinal teas for almost thirty years.  I was originally inspired by the Beat writers who lauded the wisdom of the East—from meditation to Budism to Art and teas.  My first concoctions were mixtures of green teas, with jasmine, chrysanthemum and other flowers.  I eventually found my way into medicinal wild plants and early American formulas for health and relaxation.  I would forage in our local forest preserve to identify and harvest native plants and herbs that I would dry and make into teas.  Most of these early experiments yielded less than tasty beverages.  The operative word was BITTER.

I eventually began exploring the eastern traditions more rigorously beginning with taiji, chi gong, accupuncture and of course herbs.  By this time I was living on the west coast and so I was fortunate to have lots of local options for acquiring authentic herbs from chinese apothecaries.  I stepped up my understanding of western herbs and teas as well and eventually worked out my own system that combined what worked and made sense to me from both perspectives.

I have about 30 herbs that I routinely use for making tonics, medicinal teas and mostly, just plain refreshing and nourishing beverages.  I’ve got maybe ten or so standard blends that I use quite a bit.  In this post I’d like to share probably my most favorite blend.  I call it “Healer’s Tea”.  It is made with Dendrobium, Licorice, Skullcap, Damiana and Peppermint.  Dendrobium and Licorice are eastern herbs and the others are considered western.  Dendrobium is a yellow flower with a spongy white inside.  It should have bright yellow buds and not be broken up or dusty.  It is best to use chinese licorice, sliced, and good quality licorice will have a dark yellow color and be sweet to the taste.  Skullcap may just be my favorite western herb.  Although it tastes a bit like grass, it has a very calming effect and is an excellent nervine.  Damiana is my daughters favorite, it is also relaxing and has a magical and tantalizing aroma.  A dash of peppermint gives this blend a nice refreshing finish but be careful not to use too much because it will make the tea bitter.

I call this tea “Healer’s Tea” because the main action of the Dendrobium is to restore energy, especially energy expended in healing or giving of one’s self.  In Ron Teeguarden’s fins book on chinese herbal teas, he writes, “Thos who perform one form or another of the healing arts will find that a cup or two a day will increase their power and endurance”.  Also known as “orchid and licorice” tea, you can make this yourself by decocting the Dendrobium and Licorice for about twenty minutes and then steeping this mixture with the other herbs for about five minutes.  I like to use a French Press for steeping my teas, as it is a convenient way to filter out the loose teas by simply pressing down on the screen.  Enjoy!