I’m going to dive in with my first real post and share something specific rather than rehash any Paleo/Primal precepts you can easily find on other blogs.
I’d like to do a post every week on tea, because man, I love me some tea! This has been a constant through all of my adult life. Sometimes, I just make do with pre-made herbal teas, but what I really love to do is buy herbs in bulk and mix my own. Even in college I would make jars of herbal tea blends to help boost brain power and give them as gifts to friends.
Why tea on a Paleo/Primal blog? It totally fits! The way I see it, it’s all about optimizing your health, and herbs are a great way to get some vital vitamins, antioxidants, and other medicinal and healthy attributes. You need to drink liquids, and water–while great–is kinda boring to me. Why not make your liquid intake do double duty? Plus you can also use the tea you’ve made when a recipe calls for liquid or in your smoothie!
So to start off Tea Tuesday, here’s a blend of herbs that boast memory and brain boosting power, plus some to help deal with stress–three things every writer wants, right?
Since this requires some advance prep, as well as a decoction and an infusion, I find it more practical to make this as an iced tea in a large amount instead of doing all this for one hot cup. I suppose you could make this, and then reheat a portion, but I haven’t tried that. The glass pitcher (which I found on sale at Michael’s) holds about 6 cups. Ideally, we should try to have about 4 cups a day of an herbal tea to realize its benefits, so this will last me through tomorrow. Sometimes, if I haven’t had a chance to make another batch, I’ll just top it off with more filtered water. It’s not as strong, but it’s better than plain water 😉 This recipe allows for some leeway like that, because typically you do 1 teaspoon of a dried herb per cup of water, and this is a little over double that amount.
Decoction: Where you let an herb simmer for at least 15 minutes. This is typically done with roots and barks which need this method to extract the goodness. The tougher, the longer it needs.
Infusion: What you normally think of when preparing tea–pouring hot water over herbs and letting them steep. This is done with the more delicate leaves and flowers. Remember it this way, if you’re in doubt whether to decoct or infuse: if it’s delicate, you don’t boil it.
Explanation on Prep:
The schisandra berries are a wonderful adaptogenic herb (more on that below) but the berries do come with tannins, so you’ll want to soak them in filtered water for at least 2 hours and then discard that water. You can also put them in the fridge the night before. I just keep my berries in the fridge in water so they’re handy. From what I understand, the good stuff only comes out under heat. If I’m wrong, please let me know.
Where to find:
If you live in a city large enough, you probably have a health food store (not Whole Foods) that sells herbs and spices in bulk form. You just fill up a baggie with however much you want! If that’s not an option, you can buy them off the internet, like at Mountain Rose Herbs. Some of the more common ones can even be bought at Amazon. If you can’t find all these, that’s okay. Read over what they do, and choose which ones you want. If you do use less, try not to go lower than 1 tsp per cup of water for total herbs used.
How to fit this into your writer life
It only takes about 5 minutes of prep work and then a 15 minute timer and a five minute timer, so there could be opportunities to fit this into your routine. How about as your ritual before you sit down to write for the day? That way you have some to sip on? It can also overlap with other tasks you already have to perform, like doing the dishes. Do the prep right before you start your normal task so it’s decocting while you’re doing something else. The benefits over time could really benefit you and help reduce stress and increase memory and mental clarity.
Herbs Used and their Properties:
DISCLAIMER: Due to the FDA and FTC laws on health claims, I need to make this very clear. None of the information in this post is to be construed as medical advice. I am not a doctor or certified medical practitioner of any sort. I am simply sharing my own personal experiences, and what I’ve gleaned from outside sources. Statements/products discussed have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease or illness. Every person is different and you should always consult your own certified health care practitioner before making changes to your current diet or before beginning any herbal or vitamin supplement regimen or exercise program. Also, if you’re pregnant or lactating, you should always consult your physician before using any medicinal herbs.
Schisandra berries (Schisandra chinensis), also known as Wu Wei Zi in Chinese Traditional Medicine. These little red gems have the following properties: Adaptogenic, antioxidant, antiinflammatory, astringent, antiasthmatic, hepatoprotective, immune amphoteric. It has a lot of amazing uses, but for the purposes of this tea blend, it’s included because it helps produce a calm, focused state of mind, and improves mental agility. It will stimulate you like coffee, but without the negative drawbacks of caffeine. What does adaptogenic mean? Basically it’s an herb that helps regulates your system over time, adjusting up or down depending on what your body needs. So in this case, it’s good for folks who suffer from nerve debilitation, chronic fatigue or adrenal exhaustion. Side note for all you fellow romance writers out there: it’s also prized as a sexual tonic for improving stamina! It’s been called “a superfood for the sex organs.” Schisandra is not recommended to use if you have an acute bacterial or viral infection. In animal studies, it has been shown to increase the effect of barbiturates, so use caution if you’re on those types of medications. For more info, visit this website. You can order them here.
Cinnamon. I’m using Cassia Cinnamon as the health benefits are more documented. For those who’ve heard that it has more coumarin, from what I understand, that’s fat soluble so boiling cassia cinnamon in water will only extract the good stuff. There are numerous health benefits in cinnamon, so much so that I try to incorporate it everyday. I even sprinkle some on my salad. But for this tea, it’s included as it apparently helps with alertness, mood and memory. You can order them here or here.
Ginger root. I buy the nice, plump roots organic at my local health food store, so I don’t have to bother with peeling off the skin. I just wash it and slice. It also has many wonderful properties and I now make fresh ginger root tea (hot) every morning when I wake up. Besides it’s many benefits, it also helps improve circulation and so will give you more energy.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), also known as Indian ginseng, is a calming adaptogen, antiinflammatory, antioxidant, antispasmodic, astringent, immune amphoteric, sedative (mild), thyroid stimulant. Like Schisandra, it’s also an adaptogen, and aids in relieving physical fatigue and nervous exhaustion. You can order it here.
Rosehips. I included these in my blend this week because I thought I might be getting a cold, and it is a good source of vitamin C. They are a superfruit, also high in Vitamins A, D, E, flavonoids, lycopene, and iron, along with antioxidants. Just a good herb to add to any blend 😉 You can order it here.
Peppermint. This is a wonderful herb, because it helps add to the flavor, but comes with its own benefits, including its ability to help with attention, memory, and concentration. You can order it here.
Rosemary. Because the whole description on this site for this herb fits perfectly into why it’s in this blend, I’ll quote it here:
The motto of the rosemary plant is “rosemary for remembrance.” Rosemary is rich in the anti-oxidant, carnosic acid, which dilates the cerebral vascular tissues. Studies have shown that even the smell of rosemary can improve memory performance in office workers. In fact, in ancent Greece, students would braid rosemary into their hair before taking exam. The scent of rosemary essential oil may be just what you need to get your through that sluggish afternoon at the office.
Rosemary helps to enhance memory, calm nerves, stimulates the circulatory system, and helps prevent the breakdown of neurotransmitters in the brain. It can be used as an essential oil for aromatherapy or it can be taking in pill or tea forms.
Ginkgo biloba. Another amazing herb. Well, they’re all amazing! See why I love herbs? Like ginger root, ginkgo helps with blood circulation and aids in enhancing brain function. It is known to enhance memory, uplift the spirit, act as an energy restorative, relieve tension and anxiety, and more. Because it’s been scientifically proven to increase blood to the brain, it’s often considered an herbal stimulant. Learn more. You can order it here.
American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) can be used to reduce stress and improve thinking ability and memory function. It’s also an adaptogenic herb that helps the body adapt to “stress, fatigue, anxiety and traumas from the external environmental influences and/or internal imbalance….Ginseng naturally promotes a happier outlook on life because of it’s [sic] effects as an adaptogen that help one to remain relaxed and centered during moments of chaos as they arise in our life” (source) You can order it here.
Can’t I just buy an anti-stress tea bag or supplement?
Seem like a lot of work? Sure, but it’s also in line with one of the precepts of Paleo/Primal, and that is to avoid processed food and getting back to real food sources. I think it’s fun, but it’s surely not something you have to do. I only offer it up as an alternative in case it intrigues you to explore on your own. To me, it’s worth it, because it’s cheaper and it’s also more likely to be more potent this way.
There’s no regulation concerning herbal supplements, and there’s been some recent scandals which revealed that some herbal supplements contain little more than powdered rice and weeds.
But what about getting your herbs via tea bags? Food Babe has an article which sheds light on the dangers lurking there: “Do You Know What’s Really In Your Tea?” Some bigname brands, even ones we think of as ‘healthy’ like Yogi, were tested positive for pesticide residue. She brought up some other issues, like GMO and ‘natural flavors.’ The takeaway there is, like everywhere, read the labels. Yes, even for teas. She also talks about how the tea bags themselves can be toxic, so either open the bags and brew like loose tea, or buy it already loose. The brands that seemed to be the safest were: Numi, Traditional Medicinals, and Rishi. I wish Stash had been included in the study, as that’s the brand at my little local coffee shop and I have their Lavender Tulsi tea every morning at work.
Stress and Brain Tea
Yield: 6 cups
Prep Time: 00:05
Cook time: 00:20
What about you? Do you like herbal teas too? Do you make your own blends from loose herbs or use tea bags, or both like I do? Is this type of post of interest to you? Do you have any questions or concerns about herbal teas?
This post is part of Thank Your Body Thursday blog hop!