Teas With Special Preparations
Latin Name: A symbiosis of Gluconacetobacter xylinus, lactobacillus and any of a variety of yeasts.
Parts Used: A mushroom-like zoogleal mat, also known as a slime growth (Yum!)
Preparation: Fill a large-ish container with sweetened black or green tea. Place the kombucha on top and cover well to keep dust or other particles from entering. Allow to sit for approximately two weeks. During that time, the kombucha will eat the sugar and turn the tea into what tastes like a slightly fizzy, mildly vinegary apple cider.
A side product of this process is a daughter kombucha growing on top, which you can then use to produce more kombucha. Because of this, it’s generally far cheaper to make your own kombucha tea.
Uses: Various medical studies suggest kombucha has antioxidants and helps to clean the liver. People also claim it sharpens eyesight, improves skin elasticity, aids digestion and increases energy.
Latin Name: Ilex paraguariensis
Parts Used: Leaves and (sometimes) stems
Uses: Primarily known to boost your energy, this herb also functions as a gentle pain reliever for headaches, neuralgic pain, and depression, and can even be useful in treating diabetes.
Preparation Method: The traditional method for drinking yerba is with a mate, a traditional cup made of wood or a hollowed out gourd. Fill the maté about half full with dried plant matter, add sugar if you wish, and then slowly pour hot, but not boiling water over the herb and drink with a metal straw called a bombilla. Some people like to add other fresh herbs underneath the dried, such as mint, lemon balm, or sage. You can refill and reuse the maté over and over, even sharing with other people, until the bitter taste of the herb dilutes.
Unfortunately, there’s much misinformation about many of the herbs used and sold widely around the world. That probably doesn’t matter much if you’re taking one of the milder herbs to cure something minor, but if you’re experiencing a serious medical or mental health condition, you need to know what you’re taking and why. When taking herbs that have potentially serious side effects, always research the herb and check with your doctor if you are pregnant or taking other medications.
Saint John’s Wort
Latin Name: Hypericum perforatum
Parts Used: Leaves and stems.
Uses: It’s widely talked about as an anti-depressant, which often leaves people thinking they can take St John’s wort regularly to life their mood. While in part true, St John’s wort is better used for nervous system related conditions and as a powerful antiviral. It can also help in a variety of medical conditions from cold sores and shingles to migraines to relieving and preventing viral flus. It works on viruses by temporarily changing the nature of the cell wall, thus making it more difficult for viruses to enter the cell. This is ok short term, but you do not want to take this herb daily for longer than two weeks.
Saint John’s wort can help alleviate stress and help you relax, usually if related to anxiety and nervousness, but since there are so many other herbs – such as chamomile, lemon balm, valerian, and catnip – that have similar properties, it’s generally best to use these more gentle herbs and save the St John’s wort for when you really need it.
Preparation Method: Steep the herb in hot water and drink as a regular tea. You can also make a tincture by allowing the herb to sit in alcohol for two weeks, decant the liquid and use by the dropperful in other teas.
Latin Name: Cannabis sativa
Parts Used: Leaves, stems and seeds
Uses: This very old herb is known to come originally from China and has an impressively wide range of applications. It has been used to cure depression, jaundice, ease pain and colic, menstrual pain, migraine, headaches, asthma, glaucoma, nausea and vomiting, epileptic seizures and is also used in cancer treatments.
Preparation Method: Since THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, is not water soluble, you cannot simply steep the herb in hot water to release its medicinal properties. It must be vaporized, heated in fat or smoked to receive the full benefit of the herb. It should be noted, though, that smoking generally has negative side effects that outweigh the medicinal benefits. You can also cook or steep the tea in milk. This is the basis of making bhang, a beverage from the Indian subcontinent made with milk and ghee and used during the festival of Holi.
Latin Name: Piper methysticum
Part of Plant: Root
Uses: I include this herb on the list mainly because so many people do take kava kava without knowing the implications and indications
Originally used and prepared by shamans in the Pacific islands as both a spiritual and medicinal herb, kava kava is best known in modern days to relieve depression. While that is most definitely a possible use for the herb, the idea of taking this narcotic-like substance daily to relieve stress and anxiety is simply dangerous. Kava kava’s effects range from a feeling of well being to more serious side effects such as paralysis and unconsciousness. You should only use this herb if you know what you’re doing, and it is not to be taken while pregnant. I’ve never found a time or reason that kava kava is preferable to another herb, thus this is the only herb on the list with which I do not have personal experience.
Preparation Method: The roots must be ground to a pulp and then soaked in cold water to draw out the active ingredients.
What are your favorite herbal remedies? Let us know in the comments!
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Leigh Shulman is a writer, photographer and mom living in Salta, Argentina. There, she runs Cloudhead Art, an art & education group that creates collaborative art using social media to connect people and resources. You can read about her travels on her blog The Future Is Red
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