Garden Therapy: Use Herbs for Healthy Teas

Brew a cup of herbal tea to enjoy—or make yourself feel better.

Photo By: National Garden Bureau

Photo By: Amanda Snyder/W. Atlee Burpee & Co.

Photo By: Proven Winners

Photo By: National Garden Bureau

Photo By: W. Atlee Burpee & Co.

Photo By: Rob Cardillo Photography/W. Atlee Burpee & Co.

Photo By: Rob Cardillo Photography/W. Atlee Burpee & Co.

Photo By: Chris Brown Photography/Proven Winners

Photo By: National Garden Bureau

Photo By: National Garden Bureau/Alf Christianson Seed Co.

Photo By: Proven Winners

Photo By: National Garden Bureau

Photo By: National Garden Bureau

Calendula

Orange and yellow calendula blooms are pretty in the garden, but when dried, they can be added to boiling water and steeped for about 15 minutes to make tea. Strain the tea before using; it’s traditionally been used to relieve sore throats.

Editor's note: This article is not intended as medical advice. Always consult a professional healthcare provider before trying any form of therapy or if you have any questions or concerns about a medical condition. The use of natural products can be toxic if misused, and even when suitably used, certain individuals could have adverse reactions.

Orange Mint

Citrusy-smelling orange mint tea is best when served cold. Brighten its flavor by adding fresh orange and/or lemon juice and garnish with slices of fresh oranges and lemons. This is a refreshing beverage for warm summer days.

Bee Balm

Practitioners of folk medicine often turn the flowers of bee balm (Monada didyma) into a poultice for bee stings. The leaves and flowers can also be brewed into a tea that's thought to help sore throats and headaches. 'Pardon My Cerise', shown here, is an ornamental bee balm.

Thai Basil 'Siam Queen'

Thai basils are stronger than sweet basils, and this variety, 'Siam Queen', has a licorice flavor. Part of the mint family, basils are often made into teas and used to treat upset tummies. For extra flavor, steep a tablespoon of grated lemon peel and two teaspoons of black tea leaves in your basil tea. 

Catnip 'Nepeta cataria'

Herb gardeners often suggest catnip tea for insomniacs and headache sufferers. This member of the mint family has a faint, minty fragrance and small, lavender blooms. Use three or four teaspoons of fresh leaves for tea, or one teaspoon of dried catnip leaves.

Eucalyptus 'Silverdrop'

Made from ground eucalyptus leaves, eucalyptus tea may lower blood sugar and relieve bronchitis, although researchers warn there's not enough evidence to prove its benefits. Consult your doctor before using this herb. Eucalyptus tea should not be consumed for several weeks before a surgery. Do not give eucalyptus tea to children or use its oil on them. 

Lemon Verbena

Make a light, refreshing tea with leaves from mint and lemon verbena plants. Use one or two handfuls of each, allowing them to steep for a few minutes in water that is brought almost to a boil. Lemon verbena leaves can be dried and stored for later use.

Thyme

Sometimes used as a holistic treatment for coughs and colds, thyme tea can be sweetened with honey. This variety, ‘Elfin’, is used as an ornamental; its tiny leaves grow slowly, filling in the spaces on a path or walkway. Choose common thymes for culinary uses.

Lavender

Relax with a cup of tea made from deliciously fragrant lavender flowers. Although studies have been small and limited, research at the University of Maryland Medical Center suggests that lavender tea may help relieve insomnia and stress, among other conditions.

Coriander

You may hear coriander called coriander or Chinese parsley; it’s often considered both an herb and a spice. Some people dislike the strong aroma of the leaves, and say they taste soapy. Others brew the fresh leaves into a tea that's believed to aid with digestive problems.

Echinacea

You can buy commercially-prepared echinacea to make tea, but beware. WedMD warns that some echinacea teas may be mislabeled and may contain harmful or even toxic ingredients. Some gardeners make their own tea by brewing a teaspoon or two of dried echinacea in boiling water and adding honey for sweetening. These plants are often used to fight flu and other infections. Shown here: ornamental Big Sky 'Summer Sky' Coneflower Echinacea purpurea x paradoxa.

Agastache

With its chartreuse leaves and purplish bottle-brush flowers, Agastache foeniculum 'Golden Jubilee' is a pretty ornamental for a sunny garden. Dried, young Agastache leaves are aromantic and can be steeped to make a minty tea.

Yarrow

Bitter-tasting yarrow (Achillea millefolium) has been used as as folk remedy to treat colds and flu and to lower fevers by inducing sweating. Tea can be brewed from the leaves or flowers, but you'll probably want to add honey or another sweetener. Like many herbs, scientific studies have not proven yarrow's medicinal benefits, so always consult a physician before using it, and do not give it to children.

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