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Why buy Herbal Tea: Part II

Once you try herbal tea, chances are good that you’ll like them enough to keep drinking them.  Herbal tisanes are very flavorful, almost calorie-free, and packed with so many healthy compounds that many herbals are considered “super foods”.  Any visit to your local supermarket or specialty foods store will most likely result in the discovery that whole aisles are dedicated to true teas and herbal tea blends.  There are all sorts of interesting flavor combinations out there, and blends that combine herbals with similar effects to achieve maximum results (for example, just about every major tea manufacturer offers at least one herbal blend that is intended to soothe and relax you before you go to bed). 

These pre-packaged blends are a great place to start.  They give you the opportunity to try out a large variety of flavor profiles and to learn what benefits best fit your needs.  But no matter how big that aisle is, eventually you’ll exhaust all the options available there.  When that happens, skip the supermarket altogether and head for your local tea shop.  If you’re a true fan of herbal tisanes, the tea shop will open up a whole new world of beverage opportunities.  First of all, tea shops generally deal in loose teas and herbals, rather than the pre-packaged varieties.  Loose herbals are much more flavorful, they are comprised of higher quality plant parts, and you have more freedom to experiment and find the perfect proportions in your steeped infusions. 

You’ll also be able to experiment with new blends and adventurous flavor of tea ingredients combinations.  Sure, some combinations are obvious, like lavender and vanilla bean or cardamom and cinnamon, but once you’re familiar with the flavor profiles you love, you’ll have a lot of fun mixing them to discover delicious new blends.  If you’re not sure where to start, ask the proprietor of the tea shop; he or she will undoubtedly have some great blend ideas to get your started.  Are you ready to take your herbal drinking to the next level?  Try growing some of your own herbs.  Many herbs, like chamomile, rosemary, mint, and lavender, grow easily in a variety of different settings.  They’ll thrive in your backyard herb garden, but they’ll also be perfectly happy in an indoor or box garden.  To turn your herbs into herbal infusion blends, simply pick the leaves, petals, or fruits when they’re mature; left alone in an undisturbed area (with little or no direct sunlight), they’ll dry up all on their own.  Different herbs require longer drying times, and can vary from a few days to a few weeks.  You’ll know they’re ready when they crumble easily.  Then, just crush the dried pieces, place them in a labeled, airtight container, and store them in your pantry for up to a year – if they last that long.

The options in herbal tisanes are endless.  Whether you buy bagged blends, mix flavors from your tea shop, or grow your own herbs, you’ll always have several delicious tisanes ready to steep.

Why Buy Herbal Tea?

If you look in your closet right now, you’d probably find a variety of different clothing items.  You may have some shirts that are similar, but your collection is most likely made up of a wide range of styles and fabrics, and a rainbow of colors.  Similarly, your pantry is probably stocked with an assortment of options in each category.  Maybe you have several different snack foods, a variety of herbs and spices, or a selection of convenience foods in different flavors and cuisines.  Whether you’re considering your wardrobe or your kitchen, or any other area of your life for that matter, you acquire a variety of items because you want to be prepared for different situations.  The same outfit that’s appropriate for a day at the office might not work for a nice dinner out.  You may be in the mood to wear black one day, and feel like wearing a bright color the next.  Likewise, you stock your pantry and refrigerator with lots of food options so that you have a choice; you can find something that is appealing, no matter what you’re in the mood to eat.

A well stocked herbal tea collection should be approached just as you approach filling your closet or your kitchen; choose a variety of different options, across a few broad categories, so that you know you’ll always have something to suit your mood.  Not only are herbal infusions incredibly healthy, they are available in a huge array of flavors.  In fact, the choices when it comes to herbals might just be so wide that it becomes overwhelming.  If you feel like there are too many options to consider, you might be tempted to stick to the one brand or blend that you know, and forgo the rest of the possibilities.  But if you stick to only one herbal infusion, you’re missing out on some fantastic flavors, and some really valuable health advantages.  How can you branch out and expand your herbal collection without fumbling through the tea aisle of your supermarket for an hour? 

First of all, think about adding to your collection one herbal at a time.  Try looking for an herbal in a different flavor profile than the one you already have at home.  Look at the options you have, and consider which category each belongs in:  floral (like hibiscus or orange blossom), fruity (like peach, berry, or apple), spicy (like cinnamon or Chai), or earthy (like rooibos or chamomile).  Once you’ve determined what flavor profiles you already have, experiment with a new flavor.  Or, try a new blend that mixes something you know you love with something you haven’t tried yet.  If you’re apprehensive about committing to a big box of prepackaged infusion bags before knowing whether or not you’ll like the flavor, seek out a local tea shop.  They are becoming more common all across the country, and they have huge selections of loose herbals (and true teas) that you can purchase in small quantities to taste.

Chamomile Herb Tea And Its Powers

Historical evidence suggests that chamomile was valued for its medicinal properties as far back as the ancient civilizations of Egypt and Greece. It was commonly used to treat a host of ailments, from anxiety to indigestion.  Chamomile herb tea continued to be highly regarded throughout the Middle Ages, when it became indispensible for other reasons, as well.  Its strong, pleasantly pungent aroma made it the ideal “strewing herb”; it was scattered on the ground in public places as a primitive air freshener.  Chamomile was also important in breweries, and was used prior to the wide availability of hops to give beer its characteristic bitterness.  Throughout centuries of use, across several continents, chamomile continued to be valued and respected as an important part of medicine.

Many ancient “healing” techniques have been proven ineffective, or even harmful, by modern science; bloodlettings, the use of leeches, and magic spells have all been replaced by treatments that actually work.  Chamomile, however, is quite different.  Ancient healers trusted it, without any real knowledge of how or why it worked.  Instead of proving it ineffective, scientific research has instead led to documented evidence of the properties of chamomile that make it a legitimate wellness remedy for a number of conditions.  Perhaps most commonly known for its soothing properties, chamomile contains compounds that can relieve muscle spasms and relax the nerves.  These compounds can ease the discomfort of mild aches and pains and provide an effective relief from stress and anxiety.  Research has also shown that chamomile metabolizes into phenolic compounds, which have antibacterial and immune-boosting properties.  It has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.  The active components in chamomile make it an ideal remedy for the symptoms of ailments like the common cold, allergies, insomnia, and arthritis.  A topical salve made from chamomile can also be effective in treating conditions like eczema and hemorrhoids. 

Chamomile has powerful medicinal properties; when consumed regularly, its effects are compounded.  However, consuming a chamomile infusion won’t ever be confused with taking medicine.  It has a distinctive flavor; it’s light, slightly tart, and fruity.  If the flavor of chamomile by itself doesn’t suit your palate, you can still enjoy this healthy beverage in one of the many flavor blends available from a number of different brands.  Chamomile mixes very well with many fruit infusions like peach and berry, as well as earthy herbal flavors like jasmine and lemongrass, and floral flavors like orange blossom and hibiscus.  No matter what your taste preference is, there’s a chamomile tea that you will love.  Enjoy a chamomile tisane any time you want to relax and feel better; consumed regularly, chamomile is an important part of your natural journey towards a healthier life. Because it’s an herbal infusion, chamomile is completely caffeine-free and a great way to encourage a restful and restorative night’s sleep; steep a cup of pure chamomile or an herbal blend and drink about half an hour before going to bed.  Healthy, natural chamomile is a daily treat for a better life.

Regular Loose Leaf Tea or Chai?

While many Americans are very familiar with the popular spicy Chai tea from India, few people are aware of one of its key flavorings:  cardamom.  A relative of ginger, cardamom has been a valued and widely used spice in Asian culture for centuries.  The cardamom plant produces pods, which contain the seeds.  It is these pods that are harvested so that the seeds can be used in culinary and medicinal applications.  There are two categories of cardamom plants; one produces smaller, light green pods and the other produces larger, brown or black pods.  Both varieties have a warm, mildly spicy flavor that adds depth to both savory and sweet dishes in many Asian cultures, most notably Indian.  Cardamom is the spice that gives Chai tea its distinctive, vanilla-like taste.  In terms of price, only vanilla beans and saffron are more expensive than cardamom; its cost is indicative of the demand for cardamom, as well as the limited areas in which it grows.  Cardamom is indigenous to India and Nepal, although it has been successfully cultivated in other warm, tropical regions.  While purchasing whole cardamom pods is preferred to preserve freshness, it is the seeds inside the pod that yield the health benefits.

Cardamom has a well established history as an important medicinal spice.  Pods can be chewed whole, or the seeds can be crushed and steeped in boiling water to create a bold, spicy infusion.  Cardamom is very high in antioxidants, particularly phenolics and flavonoids.  Regular consumption of cardamom tisane can promote healthy tissue function and fight free radicals.  These same antioxidants help to fight inflammation, so cardamom is a common component of holistic remedies for arthritis.  It is also commonly used as a digestive aid; the same essential oils that give cardamom its distinctive spicy flavor also encourage healthy function in the stomach and intestines.  It has been shown to be effective against all sorts of digestive problems, from nausea to flatulence.  It may also relieve cramping due to antispasmodic properties.  Cardamom is a natural detoxifying agent; it can help to clear out harmful waste compounds and allow your body’s organ systems to function more efficiently.  Its anti-bacterial properties have long been used in dental care; cardamom can help heal infections in the teeth and gums, and can curb halitosis (which is often the result of bacteria in the mouth and digestive tract).  Cardamom may have been the first teeth-whitening agent; ancient Egyptians steeped strong infusions for just that purpose.

The vast collection of health benefits attributed to cardamom is enough reason to add this exotic spice to your infuser.  But an even more compelling reason might be its unique flavor.  The delightful warm spice of cardamom is wonderful alone, and pairs well with a lot of other flavors.  Add cardamom to black tea (true tea) for a morning pick-me-up that is more flavorful than gourmet coffee.  Or, blend cardamom with cinnamon, ginger, or vanilla for a delicious personalized mix.  Cardamom is so tasty you’ll forget how healthy it is.

Herbal Tea Blends – How It Benefits You

From the buzz and popularity around “super foods” to a wide range of vitamin supplements, Americans can’t seem to get enough of the trends in health and nutrition.  The vitamin industry alone boasts hundreds of formulas:  multivitamins, isolations of specific vitamins, vitamin combinations designed to target particular conditions and concerns, kids’ formulas, and compositions aimed at every stage of adulthood and activity level.  Most supermarkets and health food stores have whole aisles devoted strictly to the wealth of vitamin products they offer.  But what could potentially provide as many, if not more, health benefits are frequently found a few aisles away:  herbal tea.

Technically, herbals teas aren’t actually teas; they come from a wide variety of plants around the world, but not the camellia sinensis plant that is the exclusive source of true teas.  The vast range of plants that can be made into herbal teas, or tisanes, offer as vast an array of vitamins, chemicals, and compounds that are proven to offer myriad health benefits.  For everything from occasional discomforts to chronic conditions like diabetes, there are teas that can ease severity and relieve symptoms of a host of ailments.  Stomach upset, nausea, and digestive problems can be relieved with a tisane of ginger, peppermint, licorice root, or lemon.  The antihistamine and immune-boosting properties of Echinacea makes it the ideal choice for fighting cold and allergy symptoms.  Some tisanes, like chamomile, have soothing and calming characteristics; tisanes of Rhodiola and ginseng provide a boost in energy and vitality.  Passionflower and lavender may alleviate the nagging pain of a headache. 

While many conditions are incurable, herbal tisanes have been shown to be beneficial in helping to manage them and promote health.  Diabetes, for example, can be very difficult to manage.  Spikes in blood sugar can lead to a host of related health problems.  Several herbals can help a diabetic manage his or her condition.  Fenugreek may absorb excess sugar, preventing it from getting into the system; raspberry and bilberry infusions can help to lower blood sugar.  Herbal infusions are helpful in easing the symptoms of a number of other chronic conditions, like irritable bowel syndrome, eczema, fibromyalgia, arthritis, and anxiety.  Some herbs can relieve colic and digestive issues in infants; others can boost lactation for nursing mothers.

Tisanes are ideal treatments for a wide range of conditions and maladies.  But they also offer preventive properties.  Most herbals contain antioxidant compounds, which are known to destroy the free radicals that have carcinogenic characteristics.  Nutrition experts recommend consuming foods high in antioxidants to help in the fight against cancer; most agree that getting your antioxidants, vitamins, and nutrients from natural, food-based sources is preferable to taking expensive supplements.  Herbal tisanes are a convenient and easy way to load your diet with a variety of compounds to promote a healthful life.  And unlike vitamin supplements, tisanes are delicious, too.  They are available in a wide variety of flavors, from fruity choices to spicy options like cinnamon or ginger and a host of blends.