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).
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.
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.