What’s Your Cup of Tea?

Steeped in tradition, teas can help what ails you

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Elise and Jeff Higley grow all the ingredients for their teas at Oshala Farm in Applegate. Photography by David Gibb.

Are you feeling jittery, sleepless or bloated? Are you catching a cold and having trouble breathing? Does your immune system need a boost? If your symptoms are mild, tea might be just the beverage to help you feel better.

Eastern medicine has relied on teas for centuries as a way to keep people healthy or help them heal. Westerners started catching on to the great taste and health benefits of teas a little later, but better late than never.

Types of teas

There are basically two types of teas: tea and herbal tea. The main types of tea from tea leaves are green, black, white, pu-erh and oolong. Health researchers have found that they all contain antioxidants called flavonoids that might help against free radicals that can contribute to cancer, heart disease and clogged arteries. Teas also have caffeine and theanine, which can boost mental alertness.

Herbal teas aren’t really teas from tea leaves but blends of herbs, flowers, spices, barks, roots and berries. Different herbal tea ingredients can have different effects on the body. Remember “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” by Beatrix Potter? The bad little bunny was all stressed out after being chased around Mr. McGregor’s garden. Peter’s mother gave him chamomile tea to calm him down and then put him to bed.

Treating with teas

Elise Higley and her husband, Jeff, grow all the ingredients in their hand-blended, 100% organic herbal tea blends on their Oshala Farm in Applegate. About 80% of teas in the United States are imported, Higley notes. “I really wanted to use domestically grown plants,” she says of her tea blends.

When buying tea, Higley recommends checking where it is grown. “If I don’t know where it’s coming from, I look for organic,” she says. It’s also important to get fresh tea. “Over time, plants lose their potency,” she explains. “If you’re looking for medicinal benefits, you’re going to want to use as fresh as possible.”

Owen Jurling, owner of Healing Point Acupuncture in Jacksonville, is a licensed acupuncturist who also recommends teas to his clients. He uses Chinese herbs to help with pain, viruses, stress and strengthening the immune system. “We have a variety of different formulas for different parts of the body,” he says. Some of his patients prefer to get their health care from alternative medicine while others are looking to supplement their Western-type medical care. “We get people from across the board,” he observes. “Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are becoming more accepted.”

Teas are a better beverage choice than sodas or juices, Higley believes. They are a tasty drink for keeping hydrated and also have medicinal properties. “Teas can be used for a variety of purposes,” she notes. “If you’re looking for a specific benefit, teas can be used for that purpose.”

If you have a mild health issue that needs to be addressed, a certain type of tea might help. If your symptoms are moderate to severe, seek professional medical help.

Health benefits and tea ingredients

Calming aid: Chamomile, hibiscus, catnip, skullcap, milky oats, English lavender,  passionflower, tulsi

Sleeping aid: Valerian, hops, poppy, skullcap, passionflower, milky oats, chamomile, English lavender

Mild depression/anxiety aid: St. John’s wort, valerian, rhodiola rosea, passionflower

Digestion aid: Marshmallow root, mint, calendula, fennel

Constipation relief: Senna, marshmallow root, calendula

Menstrual pain relief: Motherwort, raspberry leaf, pennyroyal, milky oats, yarrow

Immune-system building: Echinacea, elderberry, elder flower, nettle, burdock root

Respiratory support: Elder flower, elecampane, rose hips, fennel, mullein, red clover, calendula, mint, thyme

Calcium supplement: Comfrey, alfalfa, nettle, mint, horsetail, basil, milky oats

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More to Explore

Tea preparation

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There are two basic ways to make tea. The first way is by infusion in hot water with a prepackaged tea bag or putting loose tea in a stainless-steel tea ball. The second way is by decoction. That’s where you simmer the loose tea in a pan of water and then strain it. This works well for loose herbal tea with dense roots, barks, seeds and berries. Recommended times for steeping or simmering are usually printed on the packaging.

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