Take Two Cups of Tea and Call Me in the Morning

There is a little Bed and Breakfast across the river in Illinois about an hour from St. Louis where I live. It’s pretty standard as far as Bed and Breakfasts go-an old Victorian with period furniture, a library and fireplace, and lots of Raggedy Ann dolls scattered about the place. (It’s located in the town where Raggedy Ann and Andy were born.) The owners are friendly and the breakfast was unique and tasty. This B&B sits right in the middle of Amish country and the meal featured country ham from the store right down the street. The best thing about the place though, is the flower and herb garden that sits in the back. Fresh herbs and edible flowers picked just minutes before they’re consumed are served with the fresh pastries, eggs and ham. But the thing that I was probably most impressed with was the large glass pitcher of Lemon Balm tea that appeared on a table in the main hallway every morning. It was hot during our visit and even though sitting in the garden underneath a shade tree brought a cooling breeze and a moment’s respite from the heat, there was something about the tea that soothed the back of the throat and dried the sweat from your brow. The only way to describe it was that it left a cool slickness in your throat that lingered for quite some time. The glass pitcher was large, but we found ourselves asking for refills several times throughout the day. When we got home, we planted some lemon balm in our own garden and tried to replicate the experience. Our tea was good, but it just didn’t seem to have the same refreshing quality.

If you rely on a couple of cups of coffee to wake you up in the morning, take a Pepcid with your lunch, a couple of pills for your afternoon headache, a sinus tablet, and a sleeping pill or a couple of drinks of alcohol to get to sleep, you might consider trying a more healthful alternative: herbal teas. Herbal teas don’t pack the immediate wallop that some over-the-counter medications do, but most of them also carry a lot less risk of side effects.

Regular tea is made from the dried leaves of the Camellia sinensis, which is an evergreen shrub with white flowers. Herbal teas, on the other hand, are made from plant parts such as the roots, bark, seeds, and stems. Technically they are not really “teas” but rather herbal infusions of the plant. You can get herbal tea bags in any supermarket, but the loose parts of the plants that are available in health food stores are usually of higher quality and have more of the active ingredients in them. You can also pick your own, but make sure that they are certified organic, or from your own garden, because others may contain pesticides that may be dangerous. Here are a few of my favorites:

Licorice has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, soothe upset stomachs, and control coughs. You may consider licorice before reaching for the Pepto or Robitussin.

Another good remedy for relaxing the stomach and calming the over active “monkey brain” when trying to go to sleep is chamomile. Use 1 tablespoon of flowers per cup of boiling water.

Lemon Balm is not only great at the B&B, but it also can relieve tension, help you get to sleep, and even help a mild case of the blues. Use 1 tablespoon per cup of boiling water. Hint: Lemon Balm is pretty easy to grow in your garden. We harvest some at the end of the season and freeze it for future use.

Peppermint is a great way to ease nausea, indigestion, and gas. Use 1 tablespoon of mint per cup of boiling water.

Rosemary cannot only season your roast, but it can also ease some kinds of stress-induced headaches. Rosemary is a mild vasodilator that can help the constricted blood vessels that cause a tension headache. Use 1 teaspoon per cup of boiling water.

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