The wonderful word of herbal teas can seem a bit daunting if you’re new to it and don’t know where to start. So we asked Becky Sheeran to give the lowdown on some of the more common varieties to help you tell your rooibos from your hibiscus.
Tea is my solution for pretty much everything. When I think of herbal teas, I think about how great it is that something so simple can bring about so many health benefits and also so much tranquillity.
BENEFITS OF DRINKING HERBAL TEAS
Anyone that drinks a lot of tea (like me!) will benefit from drinking herbal teas just by cutting out the caffeine. Herbs were used hundreds of years before medicine to help heal ailments such as upset stomachs or depression – even now, herbal remedies are still used alongside prescriptions and I’m convinced that they also have health benefits.
Herbal teas are cheap to make (you can make your own blends from a handful of herbs), they can be served hot or cold, and drinking them helps to keep you nice and hydrated. Here’s a little bit more about some of my favourites and why you should be stocking up on them.
Chamomile tea is one of the most common herbal teas. It’s an infusion of dried flowers from sweet chamomile plants. It’s got a very gentle flavour and is has been previously used for nausea, digestion and relaxation. In the 1600s it was prescribed to help anxiety. So if you’re stressed, try swapping your coffee for chamomile and see if you notice the difference.
Peppermint tea, an infusion of peppermint leaves, is one of my favourites. I love having this at the end of the day or after a big meal to help with digestion. It smells incredible, especially if you can get your hands on fresh mint tea. Peppermint oil is a popular herbal remedy thought to help with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, so try drinking peppermint tea after dinner and see if you notice a difference.
Then you have ginger tea, which comes from ginger root. It’s an acquired taste, but once you’ve made it you can add things like lemon or honey to soften the taste. Some claim that it’s good for your skin, hair and circulation – and others even suggest that it’s great for getting rid of bad breath!
Rooibos is another really popular herbal tea. It comes from the shrub Aspalathus linearis which only grows on the slopes of Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. The locals have been drinking it for hundreds of years but it arrived in Europe in the 1900s. It has a mild and aromatic flavour, is red in colour, and has a really distinctive smell.
Lemongrass tea is made from a perennial plant with thin long leaves. It’s also called fever grass and can be found in lots of Asian countries. It smells amazing, very much like lemon but a little sweeter and with less tang. A delicious way to make this is infused with green tea.
Finally, another of my faves is hibiscus tea. It’s made from dried calyces of the hibiscus flower which are a really deep red colour. It tastes a little bit like cranberry and can be drunk hot or cold. It contains antioxidants, and health benefits aside, this looks awesome if you love taking pictures of food and drink.
Now to the important bit – how to make it. If possible, try to get your hands on fresh ingredients, if not, dried herbs will do. You’ll need a teapot and tea strainer or a French press to make it in.
Bring water to the boil and leave it for around 30 seconds which is just about the right temperature to make herbal tea. If you’re using dried herbs you need about a teaspoon for each cup. If it’s fresh, you’ll need about a handful. Pour the water over the herbs and make sure they’re covered with a tea towel if the steam can escape so you keep as much of the goodness in. It’s best to leave it for around 10 minutes which allows the flavours to really infuse. If you want a really strong boost, some people leave it for an hour or more.
Strain it, sit back and relax. If you want, you can add a slice of lemon or a teaspoon of honey to sweeten it. And if you’ve got any left, you can even cook with it or water your plants with it! I have so much fun making herbal tea and I hope you will too – cheers!