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Herbal Tea

Herbal Tea Overview
Herbal tea is not technically a true tea, as it does not derive from the Camellia sinensis plant (i.e. the plant that is used to create black, oolong, green, and white teas). Instead, herbal tea is an infusion or blend of various leaves, fruits, bark, roots, or flowers belonging to almost any edible, non-tea plant. In Europe and other areas of the world, herbal teas are commonly known as tisanes.

Herbal teas have existed for a very long time, but have surged in popularity over the past several decades thanks to their vibrant flavor, as well as their myriad mental, emotional, and physical health benefits. In an increasingly stressful and chaotic world, herbal teas present an opportunity to go back to basics and focus on wellness through a holistic approach. Because they can be created from almost any combination of natural ingredients, there are a vast number of herbal tea varieties Each with their own flavor qualities and health benefits. Herbal teas are most commonly consumed hot, but they can also be chilled and served over ice, depending on your preferences.

How to grow herbs for teas

General Planting Instructions

Starting Seeds Indoors:

Sow herb seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before outdoor planting date in spring using a seed starting kit. Sow seeds ¼ inch deep in seed starting formula. Keep the soil moist at 70 degrees F. Most seedlings will emerge in 14-21 days. As soon as the seedlings emerge, provide plenty of light on a sunny windowsill, or grow seedlings 3-4 inches beneath fluorescent plant lights turned on 16 hours per day, off for 8 hours at night. Raise the lights as the plants grow taller. Incandescent bulbs will not work for this process because they will get too hot. Most plants require a dark period to grow, do not leave lights on for 24 hours. Seedlings do not need much fertilizer, feed when they are 3-4 weeks old using a starter solution (half strength of a complete indoor houseplant food) according to manufacturer’s directions. If you are growing in small cells, you may need to transplant the seedlings to 3 or 4 inch pots when seedlings have at least 2 pairs of true leaves before transplanting to the garden so they have enough room to develop strong roots. Before planting in the garden, seedling plants need to be “hardened off”. Accustom young plants to outdoor conditions by moving them to a sheltered place outside for a week. Be sure to protect them from wind and hot sun at first. If frost threatens at night, cover or bring containers indoors, then take them out again in the morning. This hardening off process toughens the plant’s cell structure and reduces transplant shock and scalding.

Sowing Directly in the Garden:

Herb seeds can be planted after the danger of the average last harvest date. most herb seeds can be directly sown after all danger of frost has passed. Direct sow in average but well drained soil in full sun at the recommended planting time. Remove weeds and work organic matter into the top 6-8 inches of soil; then level and smooth. Sow seeds evenly and cover with ¼ inches of fine soil. Firm the soil lightly and keep evenly moist. Seedlings will emerge in 14-21 (unless stated otherwise) days. If direct sown, thin to 12 inches apart (unless told otherwise) when seedlings have at least two sets of leaves.

Planting in the Garden:

Select a location in full sun where water drains quickly after a rainfall. Prepare the bed by turning the soil under to a depth of 8 inches. Level with a rake to remove clumps of grass and stones. Dig a hole for each plant large enough to amply accommodate the root ball. Carefully remove the plant from its pot and gently loosen the root ball, if tight, with your hands to encourage good root development. Place the top of the root ball even with the level of the surrounding soil. Fill with soil to the top of the root ball. Press soil down firmly with your hand leaving a slight depression around the plant to hold water. Use the plant tag as a location marker. Water thoroughly, so that a puddle forms in the saucer you have created. This settles the plants in, drives out air pockets and results in good root-to-soil contact. Chamomile may also be grown in containers. Make sure the potting mix is light and well drained. Use a mix for succulent plants, or add perlite to improve drainage. Do not allow plants to dry out, but never let the soil stay wet. A clay pot is recommended as it drains well. Keep weeds under control during the growing season. Weeds compete with plants for water, space and nutrients, so control them by either cultivating often or use a mulch to prevent their seeds from germinating. Mulches also help retain soil moisture and maintain even soil temperatures. For herbs, an organic mulch of aged bark or shredded leaves lends a natural look to the bed and will improve the soil as it breaks down in time. Always keep mulches off a plant’s stems to prevent possible rot. Keep plants well-watered during the growing season, especially during dry spells. Plants need about 1 inch of rain per week during the growing season. Use a rain gauge to check to see if you need to add water. It’s best to water with a drip or trickle system that delivers water at low pressure at the soil level. If you water with overhead sprinklers, water early in the day so the foliage has time to dry off before evening, to minimize disease problems. Keep the soil moist but not saturated. Monitor for pests and diseases. Check with your local Cooperative Extension Service for pest controls recommended for your area.

Harvesting Your Herbs

Harvest when flower petals are no longer flat but arch backwards. Harvest the flowers and leaves, remove the stems, and allow them to dry. Spread on a cheesecloth or a window screen in a dry, shady location. When thoroughly dry, store in a tightly sealed glass jar in a dry, dark location, such as a cupboard. Label each harvest with date and herb name. Most flowers, leaves, and some seeds may be used to make tea. Dried herbs in storage can last 6-12 months. Dried herbs in the freezer can last 1-2 years.

Harvesting Your Seeds

Collecting herb seeds from your favorite herbs can be a fun and rewarding pastime. Growing plants from seed is not only easy but also economical. Once you have the method down you will have a cost efficient way of ensuring a garden full of herbs year after year. Seed harvesting provides an opportunity to preserve your beautiful herb garden to replant next year or share with friends and family. Some gardeners also enjoy developing their own seed strains or hybridizing their plants by seed saving. Knowing when to harvest garden seeds is the first step to saving plants for future use. Once flowers begin to fade at the close of the season, most flower seeds are ripe for picking. Seed harvesting should be done on a dry and sunny day. Once seedpods have changed from green to brown and can be easily split, you can begin collecting flower seeds. Many people choose to gather seeds while deadheading plants in the garden. Use clean and sharp garden scissors to cut the pods or seed heads from the plant and place them into a paper collection bag. Label all of your bags so that you do not forget which seeds are which. It is important to use only paper bags, as seeds can spoil in plastic. Once you have collected your seeds, you can spread them out on a screen or a piece of newspaper and dry them at room temperature for a week. Collect seed pods when they are mature and dry but just before they open. Dry your seeds completely before packaging them. The drier seeds are, the longer they will store. Storing seeds that are less than 8 percent moisture provides the optimum long term seed storage. You can dry seeds or seed pods in the oven on a cookie sheet as long as the temperature is less than 100 F. (38 C.). Keep seeds in a closed container such as a sealed mason jar. Place a cheesecloth bag of dry powdered milk at the bottom of the jar and put the jar in the refrigerator or freezer for long term seed storage. Label the contents clearly and date it as well. For seeds that will be stored for only a season, place the container in a cool, dark location. you can also store seeds in brown paper bags or envelopes are great to store dry seeds. Label all envelopes accordingly. Store seeds in a cool and dark spot for the winter. A temperature around 40 F. (5 C.) is best. Do not crush or damage seeds or allow seeds to freeze or overheat while in storage. Keep seeds dry at all times. Herb seeds general have the best germination rates if used with 12 months of harvest.

How to Steep Herbal Tea
Steeping herbal tea is easy. Simply heat fresh, filtered water to a rolling boil, and set aside about one teaspoon of herbal tea (or one tea bag) per six-ounce cup. Pour the heated water over the tea, and allow to steep for 5-7 minutes. Then enjoy sip by sip, savoring the flavor and taking note of any mental or physical wellness benefits that you notice. Experiment with steeping times and tea concentrations to find your preferred method.

Chamomile Tea

  • 1 tsp dried german chamomile flowers, 1 tsp dried roman chamomile flowers, 1 tsp dried or fresh perilla frutescens leaves or flowers and 2 cups hot water.
  • Mix chamomile flowers and perilla frutescens leaves or flowers in hot water and let it infuse for 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Strain and serve.
  • Optional: Add lemon juice or honey to flavor it.

Chamomile Lavender Tea

  • 1 tsp dried german chamomile flowers, 1 tsp dried roman chamomile flowers, 1 pinch dried lavender buds, 1 tsp dried or fresh perilla frutescens leaves or flowers and 2 cups hot water.
  • Mix chamomile flowers, lavender buds, and perilla frutescens leaves or flowers in hot water and let it infuse for 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Strain and serve.
  • Optional: Add lemon juice or honey to flavor it.

Smoothing Stomach Tea

  • 1 tsp dried german chamomile flowers, 1 tsp dried roman chamomile flowers, 1 tsp dried Lemon Balm leaves, 1 tsp dried fennel leaves, 1 tsp dried spearmint leaves, 1 tsp dried or fresh perilla frutescens leaves or flowers and 2 cups hot water.
  • Mix chamomile flowers, lemon balm leaves, fennel leaves, spearmint, and perilla frutescens leaves or flowers in hot water and let it infuse for 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Strain and serve.
  • Optional: Add lemon juice or honey to flavor it.

Sleepy Time Tea

  • 1 tsp dried german chamomile flowers, 1 tsp dried roman chamomile flowers, 1 tsp dried Lemon Balm leaves, 1 pinch dried lavender buds, 1 tsp dried or fresh perilla frutescens leaves or flowers and 2 cups hot water.
  • Mix chamomile flowers, lemon balm leaves, lavender buds, and perilla frutescens leaves or flowers in hot water and let it infuse for 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Strain and serve.
  • Optional: Add lemon juice or honey to flavor it.

Chamomile Mint Tea

  • 1 tsp dried german chamomile flowers, 1 tsp dried roman chamomile flowers, 1 tsp dried peppermint leaves, 1 tsp dried mint leaf bee balm, 1 tsp dried or fresh perilla frutescens leaves or flowers and 2 cups hot water.
  • Mix chamomile flowers, peppermint leaves, mint leaf bee balm leaves, and perilla frutescens leaves or flowers in hot water and let it infuse for 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Strain and serve.
  • Optional: Add lemon juice or honey to flavor it.

Lemon Balm Tea

  • 2 tbsp  dried or fresh lemon balm leaves, 1 tsp dried or fresh perilla frutescens leaves or flowers and 2 cups hot water.
  • Mix lemon balm leaves, and perilla frutescens leaves or flowers in hot water and let it infuse for 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Strain and serve.
  • Optional: Add honey to flavor it.

Detox Tea

  • 1 tbsp  dried or fresh cilantro sprigs, 1 tsp dried or fresh sage leaves, 1 tsp dried or fresh clary sage leaves, 1 tsp dried or fresh basil leaves, 1 tsp dried or fresh lemon basil leaves, 1 tsp dried or fresh cinnamon basil leaves, 1 tsp dried or fresh peppermint leaves, 1 tsp dried or fresh spearmint leaves, 1 tsp dried or fresh lemon grass leaves, 2 tsp dried or fresh perilla frutescens leaves or flowers, and 6 cups hot water.
  • Mix cilantro sprigs, sage leaves, clary sage leaves, basil leaves, lemon basil leaves, cinnamon basil leaves, peppermint leaves, spearmint leaves, lemon grass leaves, and perilla frutescens leaves or flowers in hot water and let it infuse for 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Strain and serve.
  • Optional: Add honey, cut oranges, ginger root, chili flakes, or cut lemon to flavor it.

Cinnamon Basil Tea

  • 2 tbsp  dried or fresh cinnamon Basil leaves, 1 tsp dried or fresh perilla frutescens leaves or flowers and 2 cups hot water.
  • Mix rosemary leaves, lemon balm leaves, lemon grass leaves, lemon basil leaves, and perilla frutescens leaves or flowers in hot water and let it infuse for 5 to 8 minutes.
  • Strain and serve.
  • Optional: Add honey to flavor it.

Lemon Balm Tea

  • 2 tbsp  dried or fresh lemon balm leaves and 2 cups hot water.
    Gently roll the leaves into a ball with your hands. Breaking them up a little helps release the essential oils and aroma
  • Mix lemon balm leaves in hot water and let it infuse for 8 to 10 minutes.
    Strain and serve.
    Optional: Add honey to flavor it.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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