Dried herbal tea preparations are daily staple and a mainstay in this doctor’s natural medicine cabinet, but nothing beats a tea made with fresh herbs. Herbs plucked straight from the garden have a bright ‘alive’ taste that I absolutely love. There are also a ton of health benefits derived from freshly cut herbs since fresh herbs are even more dense with antioxidants than most fruits and vegetables. This summer we’ve been enjoying frequent cups of fresh mint, dandelion leaf, and nettle teas on warm summer evenings out in the backyard. It’s the perfect way to wrap up a busy day and celebrate the end of gardening season.
To make a fresh herbal brew simply throw a handful of fresh herbs into a tea pot or french press and pour in some boiled water that’s been cooled for a few minutes (about a cup of fresh leaves is sufficient to brew two cups of tea). Filtered water makes a big difference here since fresh herb teas have a more subtle taste than their dried counterparts. These are my current favourite backyard herbs to use in fresh tea preparations:
- Mint: If you’ve ever tried growing mint in your garden then you already know that it is very very easy to grow in this climate. We’re always left with tons of extra mint leaves at the end of the summer and fresh mint tea is one of my favourite ways to use it all up. A traditionally ‘cool’ herb, I often prescribed mint to my patients in the spring and summer months to help bring balance to the body when temperatures begin to increase. Mint can also help you digest your food & detoxify more effectively by improving the flow of bile from the liver to the small intestine where it breaks down dietary fats.
- Dandelion: I’m sure you’ve already noticed a ton of these annoying little yellow flowers popping up in your garden. Dandelion is everywhere this time of year, and while it may be a pain in your yard it can be a wonderful healing tool. Dandelion is a natural diuretic, and is traditionally used to support the liver & kidneys in order to efficiently eliminate toxins.
- Sage: Fresh sage has a peppery flavour that always reminds me of the early fall and pairs especially nicely with fresh lemon juice. In addition to being super tasty, this medicinal plant has demonstrated positive effects on cognition in Alzheimer’s treatment and lowering blood pressure. Sage is traditionally used as a tonic for the female reproductive system due to it’s slight estrogenic effects and is the perfect summer tea for anyone suffering from night sweats & hot flashes.
- Nettle: Wild nettle is abundant in Ontario in the late spring and summer. It’s one of the most nutrient dense plants on earth, containing iron, chlorophyll, selenium, magnesium, potassium, calcium, vitamins A, C D, K, and some B vitamins. Nettle leaf has a gentle laxative & diuretic effect, so it can help the body get rid of accumulated waste via the digestive system and kidneys. Just be careful when harvesting fresh nettles; stinging’ nettles are given this name for a reason. If you touch any part of the fresh plant with bare skin is will leaving a painful sting that can last four hours. Boiling the leaves will remove the stinging component so just be careful when harvesting and place the leaves directly into your hot water.