Hello there, fancy joining me for a cuppa?
My morning often starts with the ritual of making myself a cup of tea. There is something about this ritual that gets me set for my day ahead. It’s no accident that when there’s a problem to solve, a shock to get over, a discussion to be had, a plan to be made, or whatever else it might be, we Brits put the kettle on for a good old-fashioned brew.
This ritual in itself – boiling the kettle, spooning tea into the teapot, preparing the cups, letting the tea sit and develop its flavour – is a wonderful way to concentrate the mind and centre the spirit. Even if you don’t go to the extent of using a teapot, and prefer teabags, as you are performing the simple, everyday task of making a cup of tea your mind is focused on this one activity and all other thoughts and problems are left to one side.
I’m sure you’ve heard about the wonderful benefits of drinking green tea, but don’t let this forget the advantages of the medicinal properties of the many delicious herbal teas available today.
Chamomile has antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory and mild sedative properties. For anxiety or insomnia, add a cup of chamomile tea directly to warm bathwater (see, you don’t even need to drink the tea in order to get beneficial effects!) and sip another cup while enjoying a relaxing soak. Chamomile is also helpful in reducing indigestion and intestinal gas and in healing stomach ulcers.
Peppermint helps to soothe irritable bowel syndrome, nausea and other stomach-related ailments by calming the abdominal muscles and improving the flow of bile, which aids in digestion. Peppermint is also said to cure minor cases of bad breath.
Elder flower contains healing compounds, including flavonoids, tannins and glycosides which help “break” a fever and reduce mucus production, so it’s ideal for the common cold or the flu.
Spearmint has a milder flavour than its cousin peppermint but often is more effective in easing nausea and vomiting due to its healing compounds, such as bitters, tannins and volatile oils.
Ginger root contains plant compounds, such as volatile oils and alkaloids which help ease travel sickness and feelings of nausea, improve digestion (if taken after a meal) and reduce mucus that accompanies a cold or the flu.
Licorice root is an excellent antiviral agent that fights many viral ailments, including sore throats, coughs, bronchitis and the common cold. But avoid using licorice for more than 10 days if you have high blood pressure — the herb can affect blood pressure levels.
I’m an absolute devotee of herbal teas. I’ve never been a fan of coffee or “regular” tea, but I’ve found herbal teas to be comforting to the mind as well as the body. Here are some of my absolute favourite blends…
Chamomile, vanilla and honey – as we’ve seen, traditionally, camomile has been used to help you relax. The added honey and vanilla give these sedative properties a little boost with their comforting scents and flavours. I love this blend just before bed to let the cares of the day drift away and get me ready for a sound night’s sleep.
Nettle and fennel seed – even way back in the 10th century, people were writing about the cleansing properties of nettle and fennel. This blend is very cleansing to the system and helps with detox.
Lemon and ginger – as I mentioned above, ginger is great for all sorts of complaints, but I find the blend with lemon is perfect after a meal, as ginger has traditionally been used to aid digestion. If I ever feel the beginnings of a cold or sore throat coming on, I add a teaspoon of honey to this blend to get the most from the lemon’s infection-fighting properties.
You can brew your own teas using fresh or dried herbs. A general rule of thumb is to use two teaspoons of dried herbs per cup of tea. Use double if you’re using fresh herbs. All you have to do is add the herbs to a teapot, pour over boiling water, and allow to sit for at least five minutes to allow the flavour to infuse into the water. It’s a good idea to keep the teapot warm while the tea brews so that you don’t end up with cold tea.
Alternatively, you could try any of the millions of blends available ready-made in teabags which can often be found in your local supermarket. Or look online. Twinings and Teapigs are two great brands who offer a wide variety of choice.