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Tea is Medicine

by Caileen Vermilyea |

Tea began as medicine 

& grew into a beverage.

- Okakura Kakuzo - (Japanese medical scholar)

What is medicine? 

Let's start with a terminology pallet cleanser to clear the air. Medicine that is real, lasting, and beneficial for well being is not a quick fix, it’s not a band-aid, and it certainly is not limited to a substance’s effect on the physical body alone. There are potential disastrous side effects from relying on the simplicity of our cultures current conception of "medicine".

Medicine is a tool that brings us more in alignment with our true selves, which is not only physical, it is just as much mental, emotional, and spiritual. We are constantly adapting to our environments, which are often high paced and disconnected from the natural world. 

The “take a pill” quick fix modifications, which many take to heart, are furthering our disconnection with the healing power of nature. Meanwhile, beside our distracted eyes and turned backs is Mother Nature. She is still there, providing a generous expression of medicine for human beings. Her vibrant blossoms and colored leaves calling for our attention. I invite you to look around for a moment, find a window if you must, and take a moment to acknowledge her. Do you think that perhaps medicine infused from her flowers, leaves, bark and roots may be of value? There is much to discover about what herbal medicine offers us.  

tea. herbs. cozy. medicine. herbal medicine.

The purest & most simple way to experience the healing power of herbs is through the act of making tea.

Immerse your senses in the experience. Notice the texture of the aerial parts, the toughness of the roots, the density of a mushroom. Enlighten your eyes to the diversity of color in an herbal blend. Heighten your experience by enjoying the scent of an herb you will soon taste. Listen to the energy of the plant. And finally, take your first sip slowly. Truly taste it. This journey through the senses touches the physical, the mental, the emotional, and the spiritual components of you.  

There are a few points of guidance that will help you to discern which herbs to use for teas and how to use them. Firstly, there are two basic types of tea making:

Infusion is the most well known and works well for light aerial parts of herbs, such as leaves, petals, and stems. The minerals and medicinal compounds these herbs have are most easily and effectively extracted into water. Add about a teaspoon of herb per cup of boiled water and allow to infuse for 5-10minutes. With more bitter herbs, like mugwort or hops, allow to infuse for about 3 minutes.

Decoction is better suited for heartier herbs, roots, berries and mushrooms. Because these parts are more dense, they need a greater extraction method. Bring water to a boil, add about a teaspoon of herbs per cup of water, and allow to simmer for 10-20 minutes. If you’re using particular dense herbs, consider using a crockpot and cooking similarly to a broth overnight.

Cold water extraction

As in all things, there is an exception to the rule. While hot water is most often the go-to for extraction, there are times cold water is preferable. If you are looking to make a tea to heal irritated mucosal tissue, you will want to use herbs that have a high mucilaginous quality to them. In herbal medicine, we call this quality demulscent. Some examples are marshmallow root, plantain, and slippery elm. With these gooey gems, you will want to combine cool water and a tbsp of herb/cup in a jar overnight. Patience and time is required to extract the healing goodness. 

Let's make some tea!

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