Sidebar: This is not a post about herbal medicine, homeopathy, or even alternative vs mainstream medicine. I'm talking about controversy-free, safe, relatively common knowledge home remedies here. While I'm very interested in holistic medicine, I feel compelled to mention that natural does not equal safe, and education is extremely important on this topic. Which, again, I have no intention of tackling on my ramble-y DIY blog. ;)
Anyway. I'm not any kind of expert in the world of herbal teas. I've read up a little on a few things I use, but I don't hunt down specialty ingredients, or even hit up the Whole Foods bulk section. I use what's around, inexpensive, and easily obtained.
My first concoctions were made in high school in Bangkok, when I started making solo trips to the fresh markets. I learned the words for 'ginger root' and 'mint' and 'lime' - all very cheap and easy to find.
|Wikipedia says this is in China...apparently markets have better lighting there? :P|
Most of the time, though, I kept it to a potent, nearly instantly-attainable brew made with three ingredients: Ginger tea packets (available at 7-11), limes (always already cut up in the fridge) and honey. It was the tea equivalent of Boom Pow, and I used it to wake up if I was sleepy or foggy-headed while studying...or for anything else really. I don't even like ginger all that much in sweet applications (Mom: I know, I know, I'msorryaboutthebrowniesokay?!) but somehow that mixture did it for me. I proceeded to make it for friends, telling them that it would help their cold, headache, insomnia, brain fog, cramps, upset stomach, etc. And for the most part, it did help, but not for any particular reason other than that a hot cup of tea is almost always a good idea when you're under the weather, whether or not it contains [m]any actually healing ingredients.
|Yeah, that's right. Found at Halcyon Tea.|
However. Even though I haven't really gotten much into the world of specific herbal blends, I find it fascinating that there are common items in your pantry (or at least in your local grocery store) that actually have scientific evidence of their efficacy. I think it's absolutely worth educating yourself on these things, because if nothing else, it really comes in handy when you're looking for a gentle, safe way to alleviate the discomfort from common ailments.
The mixtures I use change, based on the need at hand and the ingredients I have. Recently, I brewed up a mixture for someone with an upset stomach. I did a bit of quick internet research, and thus informed, mixed up several tablespoons of fennel seeds, some sliced fresh ginger, and a mint tea bag. I brewed it for a good 15-20 minutes in my tea pot and strained it into a mug through a small mesh strainer. The fennel gave it a strong, slightly rank smell, even with the ginger and mint, so I added a good amount of honey and a small splash of lemon juice. The, um, patient reported relief not long after finishing a cup, so either it helped, or the whole...issue...had run its course.
Anyway. Give it a shot next time you feel under the weather! A little google-fu can lead to a lot of help, sometimes.
Alright, this post has officially rambled enough.
P.S. You know what? It's really hard to be delicate when telling a story about gas pains. Just saying.
A bit of information on some of the ingredients used in the aforementioned blend, just because it's fascinating:
Fennel: You know that bowl of candy-coated fennel seeds that Indian restaurants sometimes have? Fennel has been used for centuries for its diuretic, carminative, and generally helpful-for-digestion properties.
Ginger (fresh or powdered): Studies have shown (Yes. That is the Wikipedia page. But it links out, too.) ginger to be more effective than placebos in treating nausea from motion sickness, morning sickness, and chemotherapy. The spiciness sometimes helps headaches, at least in my experience, and is soothing with colds.
Mint: Peppermint, according to this page from the University of Maryland,, is magic. No really, it works as a mild decongestant, relaxes the muscles in the digestive system, has antibactiral/viral/fungal effects, and tastes awesome.
Lemon/Lime: Soothes sore throats, coughs, congestion; has some vitamin C; tastes good. Plus, Wikipedia's article on limes gave me this picture:
Honey: Sweet, and soothing. Also antibacterial: it releases hydrogen peroxide. No, seriously, I just learned this. What?!