We know that tea has a long and storied history and is traced back to China from dates close to 3000 BC. And around here, we tend to talk about “tea” as the product of steeping the leaves of Camellia sinensis, which include the main varieties we’re familiar with, namely, black, green, white, and oolong.
But what if we extended our pedestrian understanding of “making tea” to brewing items that have tea-like properties once steeped (called “infusions”) but didn’t come from actual tea-leaves? We can learn much from cultures outside of English and American heritages and how they used infusions both medicinally and for enjoyment. While these teas are more properly called tisanes, for the sake of this blog, we’ll call them herbal “teas”.
If your feet and hands are cold all the time, it’s said that you can boil 2 cinnamon sticks and 1 teaspoon of whole cloves in 3 cups of water for approximately 15 minutes. Once strained, those who use this tea say if you consume 3 cups per day, you’ll warm up. I’m pretty sure my husband just perked up at the potential of having me be less-ice-cube-like when we climb in to bed at night.
If you’d like to combat a cold, traditional Chinese medicine says that making a tea from boiling a minced garlic clove, three slices of fresh ginger, a minced scallion, about 1 teaspoon of basil and a pinch of cinnamon (powder) in 3 cups of water for 5 minutes. When you drink the tea, prepare for bed and cover up. Chinese medicine says that this tea will make you sweat, which is the way to release the pathogens that are making you ill. The prescription is to drink 3 cups per day until your symptoms subside.
If you have ear-problems, Chinese medicine also has a cure: boil 4 cups of water with 1 tablespoon each of the following spices: oregano, cilantro, rosemary, cinnamon, and sage. Add to that 3 slices of fresh ginger and drink three cups per day to enhance your hearing.
Most of us recognize that ginger is good for settling upset tummies – we drink ginger ale ourselves and give it to our children when nausea hits. But more potent than a commercially-available ginger ale is making real ginger tea. Slice (or grate, if you keep your ginger root in the freezer like I do) two inches of ginger root in to one cup of water and boil it for 5 minutes. Strain out the ginger and sip the tea slowly – sweetening it with honey or agave nectar also makes it easier for children to consume.
While these herbal cures and teas aren’t exactly what most of us think of when we think of infusions and teas, they do have history and efficacy behind them. And since I’ve been battling a wicked cold, I think I might try the traditional Chinese tea with garlic, ginger, and the rest to see if I can get back to my normal self that much more quickly.
To read more of Sue’s great writing, head over to her blog, A Mother’s Heart!
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