There are so many to choose from it would be difficult to pick a favourite, so how about I give you three of my favourite herbal teas for the summer.
Part used as a tea: Flowers and bracts (small leaves growing alongside the flower)
How to make it: Use 1 heaped teaspoonful to a cup, and allow to brew for at least 5 minutes. Lime flowers can be made in an open cup as a pleasant drink, though if you want to take advantage of its medicinal virtues make it in a closed container.
How much to use: It is a very safe herb and can be drunk by young and old alike. Drink up to a maximum of 5 cups a day.
Flavour and taste: Lime flower tea has one of the pleasantest aromas of all - bringing a scent of summer in to your room. Its taste is delicious, and it combines well with a little added peppermint.
Health Benefits: Having such a wide variety of uses Lime flower tea is one of the most valuable herbal infusions. It is a good 'cold', 'flu and fever' herb, helping to raise a good sweat, clear out toxins, and lower the temperature. Take plenty of the tea as soon as you feel the telltale signs of a viral infection, or combine it with elderflower to make a very effective herbal 'flu' mix.
Lime flower tea is specific for headaches, whether due to viral infection, or to tension and anxiety, and it seems to have a predilection for problems affecting the head, as it helps also in sinus congestion and earache. It is soothing and calming and can bring significant relief in panic attacks, and in stress related disorders such as palpitations.
Lime flower tea is also excellent for the circulatory and blood pressure helping the tone of the arteries and to lower blood pressure levels. Taken long term it can help in the treatment of arteriosclerosis, as it contains large amounts of natural chemicals called bioflavinoids, which improve the health of the lining of the arteries.
History and Folklore: Lime flower honey is considered one of the finest flavoured honeys in the worls.
A harsh classical Greek myth recounts how Philyra, a nymph, was mounted by Saturn in the guise of a horse and eventually gave birth to a centaur - Cheiron. So mortified was she by what happened that she begged the gods not to leave her amongst the mortals. The gods approved and transformed her into a noble tree - the Lime tree.
Part used as tea: Leaves
How to make it: Lemon Balm is best made with fresh leaves picked straight from the garden, but if these are not available dried leaves that have been carefully stored in an airtight container will be fine. Use a small handful of fresh leaves, or a heaped teaspoonful of dried herbs, per cup. Always make in a teapot as the flavour and health benefits of the plant lie mainly in the essential oil, and this will literally float away if the tea is made in the open air!
How much to use: Take up to 3 or 4 cups a day as wanted. In the short term, one can take a little more, to help relieve anxiety and worry.
Flavour and taste: Lemon Balm as its name implies has a delightful aroma and subtle lemon flavoured taste. It is one of the most pleasant herbal teas of all to drink - and it makes you feel good!
Health benefits: Lemon Balm is a calming and cheering herb. it is gently sedative to the mind and body, helping you to relax and unwind, and if you are feeling low, it will help raise your spirits and encourage you 'to take heart'. Unsurprisingly therefore, it is good for palpitations and other symptoms that arise when one is under stress. Lemon Balm is in short, a 'balm' to make use of whenever life is becoming more than can be coped with.
As well as this emotionally calming effect Lemon Balm has a number of other important uses. It has constituents in it which are anti-viral, helping against cold sores and feverish conditions. It also soothes the digestion especially where digestive problems are caused by stress and emotional upset - take Lemon Balm regularly for indigestion and acidity.
Lastly, Lemon Balm's sedative action on the body and mind makes it a very useful night time drink. Slightly stronger than Chamomile, it is often all that is needed to help through a patch of disturbed sleep.
History and Folklore: Lemon Balm has always been thought of as a revivifying herb. 'The London Dispensary' (1996) says; "An essence of Balm given every morning will renew youth, strengthen the brain, relieve languishing nature and prevent baldness"! Lemon Balm flowers are loved by bees, and its Latin name Melissa comes from the Greek word for 'bee'.
Part used as a tea: Flower heads - whole or crumbled.
How to make it: As a pleasant drink you can use a tea bag or a teaspoonful of the flower heads to a cup and make it in an open cup. However, for its medicinal virtues make Chamomile tea in a teapot or put a saucer on top of your cup while it brews. In this case use two teabags per cup, or a heaped teaspoonful of dried flowers. Allow to stand for 5-10 minutes.
How much to use: Use the quantities per cup as explained above, and take a maximum of 8 teabags, or 4 heaped teaspoons per day. Chamomile is very safe, has no known side effects, and is suitable as a herbal tea for young children.
Flavour and taste: Chamomile is not to everyone's taste, but if you have only ever have had a cup made from a single teabag it is worth trying a cup made from two teabags or a heaped teaspoonful of flower heads. This has a much more interesting apple flavour and is not insipid. To get the full flavour make sure you let the tea brew long enough.
Health benefits: Chamomile is known as 'Mother of the Gut' and it would be possible to write a whole book on its health benefits!
If you suffer from digestive weakness or any host of digestive problems - indigestion, heartburn, nausea, wind and so on - Chamomile may well be able to help/ Its sunny flower heads help relax the intestinal muscles so that griping and spasms such as colic are eased. They also gently stimulate the release of digestive juices so that you are ideal tea (ass honey if wanted) for young children and babies suffering from digestive problems. For breastfed babies, Mum should drink the tea and its benefits will be passed on through the milk.
Chamomile has anti-allergenic properties when it is brewed properly i.e. in a closed container. Brew up a strong cup and then inhale to help relieve hay fever symptoms and sneezing. Put it in a bath, or dab on as a lotion, for sore, angry or itchy skin. Use a warm but not hot for its soothing and calming effect helping to relieve to relieve bodily tension and encouraging a good nights sleep - especially in children.
History and Folklore: Women in ancient Rome took Chamomile to relieve period pains, and this is how it got its botanical name - Matricaria. Today there are better herbs for period pains e.g. Cramp Bark, but it can still be as effective as it was 2,000 years ago if taken as a strong tea.