A Strong Brew: Making Medicinal Tea


There is more than one way to make tea.  Tea can be made with carefully heated water to the right temperature with a specific allotment of time for steeping.  Some teas are loose leaf, some are bagged; some left to steep for five minutes, others until the drinker remembers to remove the tea from cup or pot.  Making medicinal tea does not require any skills beyond making a regular cup of tea, except, perhaps, more patience and more tea.

First, let’s figure out why you would make a medicinal tea versus a daily cup of tea.  Medicinal teas are often for acute conditions such as a cold, sore throat, upset stomach, or headache.  A daily cup of tea, on the other hand (or in the other cup!), would usually be for tonifying the body, nervous system support, general stress relief, and nutritive value.  While I might take an adaptogenic herb such as Sacred Basil Ocimum sanctum daily for its ability to normalize body functions and keep me in balance, I would take an herb like Elder flower Sambucus nigra for a short period when I felt the onset of a cold to help stimulate my immune system with its antiviral actions.

The primary differences between a daily cup and a medicinal cup of tea is dosage and length of brewing.  While the general recommendation for a regular cup of tea is 1 teaspoon per 1 cup of water, for a medicinal dose we would use a tablespoon per cup.  Also, for a medicinal cup we steep herbs for 6 to 8 hours to allow for a greater degree of constituents of the herbs to be pulled out into the water.  I like to make a medicinal jar of tea (about 3 to 4 cups) before I go to bed, drinking it throughout the next day.  After straining out the tea, if making loose leaf, or removing the tea bag, you can choose to reheat the tea.

Drinking 3 to 4 cups daily for up to a week and sometimes longer is generally recommended for medicinal teas, but pay attention to specific instructions that may come with your tea, your neighborhood herbalist or your own research.  You might try preparing the following herbs as medicinal teas for the colds that may come our way this fall season:

Elder flowers and berries Sambucus nigra: Antiviral and good for the first-stage symptoms of colds and the ‘flu.

Fennel Foeniculum vulgare: For colds, coughs, congestion, and asthma.  Also useful as a laxative and general relief of indigestion.

Blue Violet leaf Viola odorata: Anti-inflammatory and good for coughs, bronchitis, and asthma.  A good respiratory tonic.

Sage Salvia officinalis: Great for sore throats and also useful for digestive issues.

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