Steeped in history, herbal teas offer health benefits and good old-fashioned comfort. The herbs listed here are commonly used in the culinary world, but can also be steeped as a tea for a concentrated and powerful tonic to boost immunity, aid in preventative care or help to alleviate discomforting symptoms.
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
A member of the mint family, this beautiful garden herb offers a delicate, healthful dose of tea goodness. Lemon balm contains a number of active compounds, such as polyphenols and flavonoids that provide savory health benefits.
This herb can help reduce stress and anxiety, while improving mood. Lemon balm is a mild sedative that can be effective for insomnia by instigating the body’s relaxation response. It also acts as an antioxidant, potentially reducing oxidative stress, and has demonstrated potential to enhance cognitive function and memory by enhancing the activity of acetylcholine.
Lemon balm can be steeped from fresh or dried leaves, and is usually available in grocery stores in ready-to-drink tea pouches. The flavor is a delicate lemon, slightly tangy and subtly minty. Drink often to obtain its health benefits.
Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
Native to the Mediterranean region and immortalized in Greek mythology, peppermint offers a soothing tonic while, according to Roman natural philosopher Pliny, symbolizes wisdom and hospitality.
Peppermint won’t improve your ability to be hospitable or wise, but those romantic sentiments allude to is calming, healing properties. Peppermint is a naturally-crossed hybrid of spearmint and watermint, with savory notes of menthol and pepper.
This herb contains rosmarinic acid, an allergy-inhibiting antioxidant that blocks the product of leukotrienes. Perillyl alcohol is another compound in peppermint that inhibits the formation or growth of cancer. Additionally, the menthol in peppermint relaxes smooth muscles of the digestive tract, which relieves spasms, such as those from irritable bowel syndrome.
Peppermint tea can be steeped from fresh or dried leaves, and is found ubiquitously in grocery stores in tea bags.
Savory is an aromatic, tender herb that is a member of the mint family. There are various types of savory, with the two main cultivars being winter savory and summer savory.
Winter savory is bitter and pungent, and is used mainly as a cooking spice. However, as a strong tea, winter savory can help to alleviate gas, coughing, congestion, digestive upset and menstrual discomfort.
Summer savory has more of a sweet flavor, reminiscent of marjoram. Traditional (folk) medicine used summer savory to treat digestive issues due to its warming properties. Summer savory is also known as an aphrodisiac.
In general, savory is a rich source of potassium, niacin, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, zinc and calcium. Make a powerful tea tonic from fresh or dried leaves. This herb is also available in ready-to-drink tea bags in many health food stores.
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
Fennel is a root bulb with a long history of use as a medicinal plant around the Near East and the Mediterranean region. Herbalists associate the following medicinal effects: relieves/expels gas, relieves/soothes pain, relieves intestinal cramps/spasms, and is a stomach strengthener and toner.
Medical research indicates that fennel contains high amounts of anti-cancer coumarin compounds, which may reduce inflammation and prevent further cancer development. Fennel is also known to induce breast milk production in breastfeeding women.
In stores, fresh fennel bulbs can be found in the produce department, where any part of the bulb can be used to make a tea. Fennel tea is also sold in tea bags.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
Since ancient times in Europe and Asia, dandelions have been renowned as a health food and medicine. Dandelions offer a toning effect on the body with a rich array of medicinal compounds that promote weight loss, improve blood sugar, promote diuretic activity, and improve liver function.
Its flavor is slightly bitter, though warm and comforting. Its roasted roots are reminiscent of coffee. All parts of the dandelion plant can be used to make a tea: roots, leaves, stems and flowers, or a combination of these.
If you pick dandelions yourself, be sure to wash all parts and scrub the roots. Various versions of dandelion tea are available in stores in tea bags.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
A member of the ginger family, turmeric has been used in China and India for medicinal purposes for centuries. Its main therapeutic properties come from its curcumin content, which acts as an anti-inflammatory and has antioxidant effects.
Additionally, experimental studies have demonstrated that curcumin combats tumors trying to arise in skin, breast, colon, liver, prostate and stomach cancers.
Turmeric tea can be steeped from its fresh roots available in produce departments of health stores or from its dried roots available as tea bags. It brews a cup of warm, slightly pungent and spicy tea.