Charge up your iced tea with common herbs and plants to boost your health and immune system, and help you ward off colds and flus, cramps, stomach ailments, and more. Add them to iced or hot tea for a refreshing and healthy beverage.
All of the ingredients below have a history of being used for healing purposes. According to chef Nephi Craig, White Mountain Apache and Navajo, “Pre-contact, we were expert farmers, hunters, gatherers, fishermen and cooks.”
While these herbs could be bought at a health food store, there is a reason to forage for them. Tom Seymour, author of Foraging New England: Edible Wild Food And Medicinal Plants, said that in every instance, wild plants are more nutritious than cultivated plants. Wild plants grow on soil of their own choosing, rather than cultivated plants, which are forced to grow where they are put, he said.
There are thousands of different plants that will yield a delicious and healthy tea. Here are some of the most highly recognizable. Ask your elders if you are curious about more. Also, make sure all plants are gathered from an area that has not been exposed to pesticides or toxic chemicals. If you plan on storing the plants, be certain they are completely dry or they will mold.
Mint is refreshing and has many medicinal qualities. Crush a few fresh or dried leaves and add hot water. Let steep for a few minutes, then add honey or drink plain. Drink hot or pour it over ice for a refreshing iced tea. Medical News Today celebrates mint for its abundant antioxidants. Another article on Organic Facts states that mint aids digestion and stomach discomfort, reduces fevers, and has a multitude of other uses.
According to Herb Wisdom, rose hips contain 50 percent more vitamin C than an orange, and enough vitamin A to heal scars from acne and burns, and are believed to prevent cancer and heart disease. A few weeks after the petals have fallen off the rose, a tart, round fruit, appears. Nibble them right from a wild rosebush or crush and boil them, then strain them for tea.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, recognizes the use of echinacea. An article on their website states, “the Kiowa chewed ground roots for coughs and sore throats, the Cheyenne chewed roots for colds or took infusions of leaves and roots for sore mouth and throat, and the Choctaw made a tincture of it as a cough remedy.”
Many tribes also chew the root to alleviate toothaches and infections. Seymour called echinacea an immune system stimulant, and suggested using the leaves and petals for tea, so the plant’s root is preserved. “Wait until September. That is when the plant is at its most powerful. Pick a few leaves and a few petals, and air dry them in a large basket. When they are good and dry, put them in a jar. When I want some echinacea tea, I use a teaspoon of the dried stuff. Just add boiling water,” Seymour said.
Raspberry leaves are known to sooth some of the discomforts of pregnancy and menstruation. Boil crumbled, fresh leaves when the plant is flowering, or dry them and store them for the winter. The tea is plain, so add some mint and raspberries for flavor.
Katsi Cook, Mohawk, of the Indigenous Women’s Network, said raspberries and leaves are rich in iron and contain phosphorus, potassium, magnesium—all of which assist in organ health, and in particular, women’s reproductive organs. During labor and after childbirth, raspberry tea eases contractions and reduces the chance of hemorrhage. Raspberry tea also enriches a mother’s milk supply. Mix the leaves with mint and add honey for flavor.
Mullein grows beside railroad tracks and in parking lots. The plant has soft, furred leaves with a tall spike. Small yellow flowers grow on the spike in an irregular pattern. “It can grow taller than a person; the flower stalk is maybe 10 inches long and is never completely filled with flowers,” Seymour said. When dried, the leaves can be smoked as a tobacco substitute. The little yellow flowers can be soaked in a jar with olive oil, and stored in a dark place for at least a month or two. Seymour swears that four or five drops of the oil in an ear will cure an earache. The leaves can be used as a bandage, and the dried crushed flowers can be taken as a tea to treat a cold or cough, or to help fall asleep. This one may be more medicinal than flavorful.
Both red clover, which runs from pink to purple, and white clover are nutritious, if bland as a tea. Add some mint for more flavor. Herb Wisdom states that red clover shares characteristics with raspberry for women’s health, but it is also thought to be helpful in reducing the chance of developing prostate problems. Clover is also believed to act as a blood thinner. To brew it, pick a few of the flowers and pour boiling water over them. Let it steep for a few minutes. The purple flowers and leaves can be dried and stored for winter teas, Seymour said.