You can save a lot of money by blending your own teas from loose leaf herbs instead of buying the conveniently bagged and boxed ones at the store. Besides, I love having bulk herbs on hand for flavoring meals, soap-making, and healing teas/salves/compresses.
Here is a list of several herbs that are great to keep on hand for tea blends:
- Chamomile – this is a naturally sweet flower that has a faint apple-like flavor. It gives a great aroma and is very soothing. It is antispasmodic (good for relieving cramps), has anti-inflammatory properties (alleviating arthritis and injuries), and is a natural sedative. Many “bed-time” tea blends include a large portion of chamomile. This is one of my very favorite tea herbs!
- Mint (Peppermint, Spearmint, Chocolate Mint, etc.) – this herb is only second to chamomile in world-wide popularity. It is renowned for it’s digestive aid and makes a great tea for those suffering from indigestion, heartburn, and nausea. I also find that it helps to clear my sinuses when I have a head cold. Besides the medicinal value, this is also a delicious-tasting tea that comes in a myriad of flavor variations.
- Licorice Root – this oft-overlooked herb is a powerful healer and is really tasty! I never wanted to try it because I can’t stand black licorice flavor and I mistakenly assumed that was what licorice root tasted like. Well, the black licorice flavor comes from anise – not licorice root! Although anise and licorice are related, this herb is mildly sweet without the spice that those like me despise. Here are just a few of licorice’s healing properties: This herb has many anti-depressive compounds (it’s a natural pick-me-up!), flavonoids (healing compounds), and phytoestrogens (helpful for hormone regulation). It is known to heal ulcers and inflammation in the digestive tract. It boosts the immune system to help fight off viruses. It alleviates chest infections, asthma, and coughs by soothing irritation and also has expectorant properties. Licorice root also discourages plaque build-up in arteries and contributes to heart health.
- Red Raspberry Leaf – a wonderful herb for women. It helps relieve PMS, menstrual pain, and heavy periods. It is also associated with pregnancy and childbirth as it strengthens uterine muscles, relieves morning sickness, and helps to prevent miscarriage. As with any medicinal herb – consult with your doctor before taking during your pregnancy to make sure it’s right for you!
- Lemon Balm – calms anxiety and nerves. This hardy perennial helps to lower blood pressure and makes a calming tea. You can brew this with valerian to really help with stress, insomnia, and anxiety.
- Stinging Nettle – this is an amazing healer. It’s high mineral, vitamin, and iron content make this a great addition to tea to help treat anemia and fatigue. It is a natural diuretic, which means that it helps to rid the body of excess fluid retention and aids healing for bladder infections and kidney stones. Because of it’s toxin-ridding abilities, this is a wonderful herb for women during PMS, menopause, and pregnancy. It has long been used by new mothers to increase milk production. It is a natural treatment for benign enlarged prostate. Stinging nettle is also used to treat seasonal allergies, asthma, and hives to good effect. After doing some research to learn more about this healing herb, I realized that I just can’t categorize EVERYTHING that it helps to treat. If you’d like to see more about stinging nettle, a good website to check out is Dr. Christopher’s Herbal Legacy. It is truly amazing . . . I think I’ll be adding nettles to a lot more of my tea blends!
- Rose Hips – provide one of the best natural sources for vitamin C. On top of this, they are also a good source of A, D, E and B-complex vitamins, iron, calcium, minerals, and tannins. They boost the immune system and help combat stress.
- Stevia Leaf – a natural sweetener that does not upset blood sugar levels or add calories. I have a major sweet tooth and although I will always love honey with my tea, I have been experimenting adding stevia to my blends to help me cut out the extra sugar. Note: I have found that I prefer stevia leaf over stevia leaf powder (the green stuff, not white!). The powder seems to cloud up my tea and make it look slightly murky.
Herbal Tea Blend Recipes
“Bedtime” – this is my take on one of my favorite store-bought blends
3 parts licorice root
3 parts mint (peppermint and/or spearmint)
2 parts chamomile
2 parts red raspberry leaf
1 part St. John’s wort
1 part cinnamon
1 part rose hip
1 part stevia leaf
1/2 part lavender
Sprinkling of cardamom (unground)
Sprinkling of dried orange peel
Sprinkling of valerian root (this is optional but can help with sleeplessness)
Lemon Mint Tea
Equal parts lemon balm, mint, and lemongrass
Equal parts chamomile and spearmint.
Variation #1: For a fruity/lemony kick, you can add dried hibiscus leaves.
Variation #2: 2 parts nettles, 2 parts mint, 1 part chamomile, 1 part rose hip
Equal parts hibiscus, rose hips and mint.
I’m sure you can tell that chamomile, peppermint, and spearmint are some of my favorite flavors. If you don’t want to mix up a tea blend, each of these herbs is also great as a stand-alone. Remember, if you want to get away from using sugar or honey to sweeten your teas, try mixing in a little stevia leaf with your tea.
I like to store my dried herbs in mason jars. It is important to keep them dry and away from light so the jars need to be kept in a dark cupboard or pantry. Some people cover their jars with dark socks to help protect from light. Also, like any long-term food storage, you want to keep them away from heat. Don’t store them in a cupboard over the stove!
Fly Guy and I love to drink different teas – green tea, white tea, and herbal teas. We’ve found that the easiest way to use your loose-leaf tea is to get a self-straining cup. I try to find as many ways to cut corners as possible and separating my tea blends into small tea bags just isn’t realistic for me. I’d never use them! We have had these mugs from Teas Etc. for almost 2 years. They’re easy to use – just add your desired amount of tea to the cup, pour hot water in to fill and then screw on the straining top. If you’re hitting the road, they also come with a screw-on lid so you can fix it, go and let it steep on your way.