Surviving the Holidays with Herbal Teas
Holidays are a wonderful time to get together with family and celebrate life's blessings. And, it's also the time that same family drives you crazy! To make the holidays even more interesting, the flu likes to run rampant this time of year too. This year, include in your survival plan some DIY tea blends with herbs from the garden. The rich, aromatic herb blends will keep everyone peaceful and healthy this year. Brew up a big pot of tea for everyone to enjoy or make individual blends
Using Herbs For Tea
Tea blends from the grocery store use dried herbs for convenience and shelf-stability. Tea can be made from fresh herbs, though, too, and create a different, richer experience. Dried herbs have a stronger taste since the flavor is concentrated. Fresh herbs are obviously fresher though they usually have a milder flavor profile. In fact, many taste quite different from their dried counterparts.
Use a combination of dried and fresh for a seriously potent tea blend!
Herbs For Tea
Chamomile – a proven reducer of anxiety and stress
Sage – for sore throats and general body weakness
Rosemary – to stimulate brain function and moderate mood
Mint – wakens up the mind
Catnip – promotes relaxation
Rosehip – uplifts immune-system
Lavender – reduces tension
Thyme – relieves sore throats and calms the stomach
Beat the Stress Tea
Take a deep breath, curl up in a cozy spot, and inhale the aromatic wonder of this tea. Add sweetener and choice of milk to your liking.
No More Stress Tea: 2 parts Chamomile, 1 part Catnip, 1 part Lavender
Flu Fighter Tea
Tackle the flu in two ways. Use one tea blend to fight the tired, achy feelings and another at bedtime for some quality rest. Add sweetener and choice of milk to your liking.
Fight the Tired Tea Blend: 2 parts Mint, 1 part Rosemary, 1 part Thyme, squeeze of fresh lemon
Sleep Well Tea Blend: 1 part Lavender, 2 parts Chamomile, 1 part Rose Hip, 1 part Sage
Take only what you need at the time. Removing too many leaves at once can kill the plant. If you have a large plant, trim off bits at a time and dry them in a dehydrator or hang them in a cool, dry place to dry.
Growing Herbs & Flowers for Tea
This versatile flower can be grown outdoors in the spring or summer and can also be grown indoors in the winter. It needs a minimum of 4 hours of indirect sunlight. Chamomile is an annual; harvest when the flowers are in bloom.
Plant seeds 1/4” deep in a 12” pot with good drainage holes. They need temperatures of at least 68F to germinate. A heat mat or spot near the radiator will do the trick. When they have their second set of leaves, thin the seedlings to one every 2”. Keep the soil moist yet not soggy, and in 60-90 days, you'll have flowers to harvest.
Sage & Thyme
Sage and thyme plants are perennials in zones 5-8 and annuals in other locations. Plant seeds in a pot so they can be brought inside if needed. They are both drought-hardy, lightly frost-tolerant, and generally tough plants. In cold climates, the plants will go dormant in the winter. They can be brought inside at this point to continue growing.
Plant a few seeds 1/4” deep in a medium-size pot with drainage holes. To germinate, place on a heat mat or put on the windowsill. Once they have sprouted, place them near a sunny window, so they get at least 6 hours of light. Don't let them get direct light, though, or the leaves may burn. Once the seedlings have 3 true leaves, thin them to just one plant. Sage and thyme plants will grow to the size of the pot. They benefit from repotting every few years. Only water when the soil is dry to the first 1/2” of soil. Be careful not to overwater them.
A perennial that grows slow and sturdy, in addition to adding fragrance to tea, it also makes the house smell wonderful. This shrub will expand to fit the pot you plant it in. Because it is a perennial, it can remain outdoors year-round in temperate climates. Alternately, it can be grown in a pot and overwintered indoors. Make sure it gets lots of sun and don't overwater. It needs a thorough watering only when the top 1/2” of soil is dry.
It is best to plant rosemary from cuttings or to get a plant at a farmer's market or gardening store. Growing from seed is often unsuccessful.
Catnip and Mint are perennials in the same family, and their growing requirements are the same. For variety, peppermint, wintermint, or spearmint make great additions to herbal tea, as well.
All members of the mint family will spread all over a garden if you let them. And, even if you don't! Always plant them in pots. Sow seeds 1/4” deep in a pot with drainage holes. Place on a heating mat to germinate or put in a warm, sunny windowsill. Once they sprout, move them to an area with indirect light 6-8 hours a day. They can tolerate some shade. Keep soil evenly moist without letting it dry out but also not letting it get soggy. Harvest often to keep the plant looking its' best. The pots can be left outdoors or brought inside for continuous winter growth.
Rosehips are the fruit of the rose plant that occur after flowering. A lot of modern hybrid varieties don't produce fruit anymore, so be sure to choose a variety that still does. Rose plants are a perennial in zones 5-7 and will do fine planted outside year-round. In other zones, the rose can be set in a planter and moved indoors as needed. Use a 5-10 gallon container will good drainage.
Rose bushes are hardy and once established will only need occasional watering during dry spells. They won't produce much fruit in the first year, so be patient. They are usually ripe enough for picking after the first frost. They should be red and a little soft without being mushy. Cut open the fruits and scrape out the seeds. Leave the “hips” to dry, and once they are completely dried, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer.
A tall, bushy tender perennial, lavender will grow indoors or outdoors as long as it gets enough sun. It is easiest to get a cutting or start from a garden center. The plants average between 1-3' in height, so be sure enough room is allotted. Space outdoor plants 2-3' apart. Indoor plants need to be in a south-facing window for at least 8 hours of sunlight. Lavender struggles in cold climates, so if you live in a place with snow or frost, bring the plant indoors before the first frost. Harvest entire stems when a minimum of half the flowers has opened.