Now that Fall has arrived and Winter is around the corner, I’ve been organizing my herbs to create some teas with what’s left of last year’s herb stock. Otherwise, it’s to the chickens or the compost pile and they’re not ready for that yet. Spring and Fall are the time to dig roots and I like to simmer dandelion root for use as the hot liquid portion of an herbal infusion or tea. In other words, after simmering the roots for twenty minutes or so, I remove the mixture from heat and pour in additional fresh and/or dried herbs to steep for another fifteen minutes. After that, I strain and drink the tea.
There are other approaches, but this is the simplest and quickest method to combine a decoction (simmering roots) with an infusion. Plus, the advantage of decocting some dandelion root is that we have the added cleansing effect of the root along with whatever herbs we’re using. As the season progresses, if we’re not as active and we eat foods that don’t move easily through our bodies, then we benefit from some cleansing herbs. Anything having to do with the liver is a great start.
Dandelion, nettle, and red clover are my go-to herbs for liver cleansing. There are others as well, yellow dock root and burdock root among my favorites, but since dandelion and red clover are prolific on my property I use them as a foundation for many of my teas. Nettle doesn’t grow without my help and my patches are still establishing themselves although this year yielded a large gallon freezer bag full of dried nettle leaf. If I need more, which I will, I’ll need to order it.
I like to add some comfort herbs to most of the teas I make and this year I’ve been blessed with a fair amount of marshmallow leaf. I’m allowing the root systems to grow before digging any but I may be able to take some next fall. In the meantime, the leaf is wonderful for respiratory symptoms as well as digestive problems so I like it in my teas. I typically craft teas that are multipurpose in nature, so they cover the bases as it were.
If you have access to fresh chickweed or cleavers, they make a nice addition to the tea adding a diuretic aspect to our pre-winter cleansing. I have some cleavers that came back up in a pot on my deck and I’ve been gathering fresh cleavers for my morning teas for the last couple of weeks. Cleavers typically die out early in summer around here, so finding them growing again was a blessing!
Additional herbs to add a lighter and sweeter flavor include the mints, chamomile, and lemon balm. I like a lemony flavor and scent and lemon balm is perfect for that, as is lemongrass. My mints did fairly well this year with the spearmint patch in the medicinal herb garden doing the best. However, if you haven’t experienced chocolate mint, do so. It’s prolific and yummy. Really.
After decocting the dandelion roots for twenty minutes and removing the pan from the element, I added the remaining herbs (healthy pinches work well), put the lid back on and allowed it to steep for an additional fifteen minutes. I added some elderberry tincture to my cup to help combat any influenza I might become exposed to and sat down and drank a lovely cup of herbal tea.
Herbal teas can be simple or complicated but the teas I love the most are those I make from plants that are dismissed as weeds. There really is nothing like wandering about my yard, gathering the perfect dandelion leaves, or a bunch of moist chickweed to add to my morning tea. It’s a blessing like no other.