Tea for two
    Tea for two

    Through the years I have found certain herbs to be remarkable in their ability to give effective, quick, and often astonishing, relief of many a common ailment. Making an infusion of the fresh, organically grown plant, and sipping it quietly and slowly often does more to ease the condition than a lot of serious medications, and I have proved this over and over again.

    Children respond particularly well to herbal teas, as do animals. Often one can include the teas in a favourite fruit juice, or, in the case of animals, offer a bowl of tea alongside their drinking water. People generally wrinkle their noses at the thought of a herbal tea, but if it is well made and sweetened, if liked, with a little honey, it is not only delicious but also so quick to bring relief that one can become quite fanatical about the wonders of herbal teas! I certainly am, and very rarely drink any other form of tea.


    The tea of leaves from this plant, Camellia sinensis, is the world’s most popular beverage, and yet no one thinks of tea in its many forms as a herb, even though it has been used in Chinese medicine for 5 000 years. Tea from the dried leaves is the most popular variety among Western drinkers. Perhaps this is because black tea blends are more suited to the addition of milk and sugar.

    The Chinese plant is used to produce Keemun, Lapsang Souchong, Oolong and Yunnan teas. Most Chinese tea drinkers do not add milk or sugar. In
    India, the best-known teas are Darjeeling, Assam and Nilgiri. Ceylon tea is from Sri Lanka and is light with crisp citrus undertones. The most common blended black teas for Western drinkers include English Breakfast, Earl Grey and Irish Breakfast.

    Masala chai is also popular, and is black tea that is brewed to be strong with a combination of spices and diluted with milk and sugar.


    Herbal infusions comprise fresh or dried herbs, spices, roots, seeds or flowers that are infused in hot water. Most herbal infusions are caffeine free.

    How to make the perfect cup

    For best results, use fresh, organically grown leaves or flowers. The easiest way to obtain these is from your own garden. Dried herbs (dried in the shade, never in a microwave or in the sun) can also be used, as long as they are not older than 10 to 12 months. After that, the leaves and flowers taste dry and dusty! The standard brews for herbal teas are as follows:

    • When using leaves and flowers
      Take 1⁄4 cup fresh leaves and/or flowers and pour over this a cup of boiling water. Allow it to draw for three to five minutes, then strain. Sip slowly.
    • When using bark and seeds
      Use approximately one or two teaspoons of seed, e.g. aniseed, or one tablespoon of bark, e.g. cinnamon. Pour over this a cup of boiling water, allow to draw for five minutes, then strain.
    • Doses for children
      1⁄2 cup or even 1⁄4 cup, and give a baby two teaspoonful at a time. Lemon balm, chamomile and fennel are invaluable children’s herbs.
    • Doses for animals
      Add a cup of strained herbal tea to two cups of water in a bowl alongside their water or food bowls.

    Tea for two

    • Make sure you consult your doctor before starting a home treatment – these herbal teas are in no way meant to replace the doctor, or any medication you are taking.
    • It is always safest to use one individual herb at a time, as mixing the herbs often dissipates their efficacy. However, although it is advisable to drink just one cup of a specific herbal tea a day, you can drink several cups of different herbal teas throughout the day.
    • During an acute illness, such as flu or a cold, you can take a specific herb three to four times during the day to ease the condition. Under normal circumstances, a general rule is to take only one of a kind daily for 10 days, then give it a break of three or four days, then continue, repeating this pattern.
    • Herbs are far more powerful than we realise and can accumulate within the body. So it is best to take a variety and also to take them in moderation.
    • Very importantly, all herbs must be organically grown with no chemical fertilisers or sprays whatsoever, as the herb is immediately absorbed by the body and it needs to be 100% pure. Also, be sure that no irradiated spices or seeds are used, and never dry the herbs in a microwave. It is best to use fresh herbs, but if you have to dry them, do so by hanging them up, or by spreading them on newspaper in the shade and turning them daily. Store dried herbs in a screw-top glass bottle and don’t keep them for longer than three months. After that they’re not palatable.

    Above all, enjoy this remarkable way of absorbing the health-giving properties of nature’s little miracles. Herbs make all the difference to our health and state of mind; they lift our spirits and give us never-ending interest. Relish every sip of herbal tea!


    Lemon and honey can be added to most herbal teas. They are both hugely important in the building of health, and honey is the best natural sweetener.

    Honey makes a wonderful unwinding, calming, soothing and relaxing addition to herbal tea. It contains a mass of mineral salts, amino acids, vitamins and natural, easily digested sugars. Honey is a sleep inducer and a natural disinfectant and painkiller. It is surprisingly often used as a country remedy spread onto open sores, scratches and grazes – many a horse has had a honey wound dressing that the vet has recommended. Manuka honey is particularly good.

    Honey has antibacterial and antiviral properties, and it helps to ease diarrhoea, asthma and sore throats. Old-fashioned sage tea with honey and lemon is still a popular sore-throat treatment today.

    Lemon is a wonderful addition to herbal teas as it brightens hair and rejuvenates the scalp, tones and deep cleanses the skin, clearing blemishes and spots, and even helps us to grow strong nails and tough cuticles! It has also been used for centuries as a cold remedy, due to its vitamin C content.

    When added to hot water, it also soothes the stomach. A slice of lemon adds a fresh flavour to herbal tea.

    Given the value of adding honey to your herbal tea, it is advisable to grow your own organic lemons. The Cape rough-skin lemon withstands a lot more cold than other lemon varieties, but if space is a problem, the Meyer lemon does exceptionally well in a huge pot in full sun.



    Ginger, Zingiber officinale, is one of the world’s best medicines, and makes one of the most delicious herbal teas. Pour a cup of boiling water over 1⁄4 cup of thinly sliced fresh ginger, mash it gently and add a teaspoon of honey. This infusion is such a warming, destressing, comforting and refreshing elixir that you will easily become addicted!

    Ginger tea aids the circulation and thus soothes chilblains, and it has anti-inflammatory and antiseptic qualities. It settles nausea, stomachache, flatulence and gripey colic, knocks colds and flu on the head, warms, revitalises, soothes a fever and a throbbing headache, and eases aching muscles and that chilled-to-the-bone feeling, and will generally help make you feel good all over.

    I am never without a root or two in my fridge, and have found that a cup of ginger tea with honey first thing in the morning warms and settles the stomach, especially if there is a taxing or anxiety-filled day ahead. And at the end of that frantic day I don’t switch on the percolator, I switch on the kettle for ginger tea, which soothes all the troubles away.

    Growing your own

    Growing ginger is fun as well. Just tuck a piece or two with an ‘eye’ on it into well-dug, well-composted soil in full sun and watch it grow. When the leaves and pretty, scented, edible flowers fade and die down your root will be ready to dig up carefully. Wash it well and leave it to stand for two weeks before using it. It will mature to its fabulous flavour during that time.


    Green tea originated in China and is made by steaming and drying the leaves of the tea plant, Camellia sinensis, without fermentation. Although it has been used in Chinese medicine for five centuries it was only in the 1970s that scientists became aware that people who drank green tea had greater protection against strokes, cancer, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart attacks and infections (particularly respiratory and urinary).

    Green tea’s powerfully antioxidant phenols boost the immune system and ease chronic coughs, colds and sore throats, and repair cell damage that occurs in the beginning stages of heart disease, cataracts, macular degeneration and other degenerative conditions like cancer (where it inhibits the formation of tumours).

    Tea for two Green tea

    Green tea has anti-tumour properties as well as antibacterial, diuretic and astringent properties, and even rinsing and gargling with green tea will help to clear mouth infections and slow down decay of the teeth and other dental problems.

    Cooled green tea makes a wonderful beauty aid, and a big pot added to the bath will soften the skin and ease tension. I like my green tea like the old Chinese Emperor did over 5 000 years ago – dried straight from the bush – not rolled or sweated or processed, just plain dried. This is my favourite way of making green tea.

    green tea tonic


    Never use any plant as a tea unless you are 100% sure of its identification. Many plants are poisonous; in some cases certain parts of a plant may be edible, while other parts may be poisonous. When in doubt, leave out.

    The author and publishers take no responsibility for any poisoning, illness or discomfort that may result from information contained in this article or due to the incorrect identification of a plant.

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