There's not much that beats an aromatic, piping hot cup of tea on a cold winter day. Now that old man winter has us in his icy grip, our thoughts naturally turn to soothing, healing drinks that prop us up during hibernation time.
The two most common methods of tea preparation are infusions and decoctions. For an infusion (leaves and flowers), steep the herb, using a tea bag, tea ball, or loose tea, in water that's been boiled; for a decoction (roots and barks), simmer the herb for one hour.
For convenience, you can make infusions or decoctions in large batches and store them for up to a week in the fridge. Keep tea in a tightly sealed container, preferably glass. They can be enjoyed straight out of the fridge, although for certain illnesses a warm (reheated, if necessary) tea can help reduce chills or induce sweating. But that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the benefits of a hot cuppa. Here are a few of our recommendations for the best teas for common winter concerns.
Herbal teas offer a wealth of excellent options for treating miserable respiratory viral infections.
Too Much Shopping Tea
Gotu kola leaf (Centella asiatica) is used in ayurvedic medicine as a rejuvenating tea. It perks up the mind and senses and gives you some extra oomph for that one more day of fighting the shopping hordes. Hoshouwu root (Polygonum multiflorum), which has a nice earthy flavor, has a similar role in Chinese herbalism.
Sick Day Tea
Herbal teas offer a wealth of excellent options for treating miserable respiratory viral infections. Diaphoretic, or perspiration-promoting, herbs release waste materials and relieve congestion. Peppermint is a classic example. Drink them hot.
Cooling herbs are used to reduce fever and inflammation. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) advises chrysanthemum flower (Chrysanthemum morifolium) and honeysuckle flower (Lonicera japonica) teas, both of which are antimicrobial-and they taste great. Western herbalists turn to boneset leaf (Eupatorium perfoliatum) for cold and flu symptoms. Drink hot.
When the main symptom is chills, use teas that promote a "warming" effect in the body. Try holy basil leaf (Ocimum sanctum), which is favored in ayurveda for reducing mucus in the lungs and nasal passages. Holy basil (aka Tulsi) helps kill microbes and stimulate the immune system. Holy basil also has strong anti-stress benefits. Scientists report that holy basil is an antioxidant with a high flavonoid content, so it helps to heal damage from chronic stress. In animal studies, Indian researchers found notable antistress effects that balanced hormones and normalized the size of the stress-fighting adrenal glands. Asian people relish holy basil as an everyday tea.
Cinnamon bark is a tasty and effective warming diaphoretic that can help sweat out a bug. Feel free to add it to any sick-tea combo. And speaking of spicy, an ancient Ayurvedic decongestion treatment involves boiling 10 peppercorns in 1 cup of milk. Drink the spicy milk down in a gulp, and be prepared to breathe easier!
Holiday Stress Tea
Lavender tea can help you slip into a stress-free zone. It's been popular in Europe for a while, and it is now making its way West as more people discover its calming effects. The aroma alone has been shown in studies to help ease frazzled nerves and induce relaxation.
Holiday After-Dinner Tea
Around the world, herbalists use the seeds from numerous members of the parsley family (Apiaceae) to treat gas and indigestion from overeating. Fennel seed is the premier remedy, with dill seed a close second. Infuse 2 Tbs. of either seed for an effective and delicious drink after that 5,000-calorie meal.
Throat Shield Rapid Relief Herbal Tea
Heather's Tummy Teas
Organic Fennel Tea Bags
Tulsi Gotu Kola Tea
Honey Lavender Stress Relief