Winter’s been a little lax for the last two months around here, so I’m guessing what we have now is meant to overcompensate for that. Now I admit I’ve been missing the real Winter – it really felt disquieting, this unnatural Autumn in December – but a temperature of -15 Celsius is a little much. Just sayin’.
I’ve been combating the weather with a hot water bottle and a lot of tea (with my adorable floating infuser – it’s a gift), perhaps the occasional cup of mulled wine. And this has led to a conversation, a few days before, that got me… thoughtful. The tea, that is, not the wine.
I was rather surprised to find myself face to face with someone who saw it important to voice their absolute disgust with the so-called “herbal tea”. Indulging in a long rant on how “silly people like you will swallow anything if it’s got the word ‘herbal’ and a picture of green leaves on it”, said person seemed adamant that there is no such things as “herbs”, just “grass and ordinary plants and suchlike that get suckers all excited”.
Well, there is a grain of truth there, inasmuch as herbs are “plants and suchlike” and mostly what separates those with medicinal uses from others is our own knowledge rather than their innate characteristics. But the exchange – unpleasant though as it was – got me thinking. Personally, when I say ‘tea’ I mean the evergreen shrub native to China, Camellia sinensis, and infusions thereof. It would not occur to me to make a chamomile or sage infusion and call it ‘tea’, but then again, this might be because of my general interest in herbalism.
But, etymology aside, why so much anger? Why the condescending attitude? It is fairly common, I must say, and I think I know what causes it. Let’s say someone gives me a glass of brown-ish liquid, strong-smelling, with black specks floating in it, and tells me it’s “good for you”. Well, depending on who it was, I might believe, or not. But I suppose that people expect something with a beneficial effect to be mysterious and exotic. Finding that You’ve been given a cup of something that grows in your back yard might be disappointing.
The problem is that these things really are good for You, or at least for some conditions, and applied consistently, these ‘herbal teas’ (what a silly term) can be of much help. But You have to know what are You drinking and why, so I’ve made a short list of the most common herbs that can be used in the form of a ‘tea’ for health benefits.
- common sage - salvia officinalis – a weak infusion, drank daily, can help with over-sweating ; sage infusions are also an effective disinfectant
- heartsease – viola tricolor – regular drinking of this infusion helps with skin diseases
- chamomile - matricaria chamomilia – sedative, good for headaches and insomnia
- beewort – acorus calamus – best used as a cold macerate, very helpful in long-lasting intestinal troubles
- lemon balm - melissa officinalis – mildly sedative
There are of course innumerable others, but the point is – herbal tea can be good for You, if used wisely, even though it’s just “grass and ordinary plants and suchlike.”