During these challenging times, it’s nice to make use of the bounty nature makes available in your yard or neighborhood. In this post, I explain how to make herbal tea from things you can find growing wild or in the garden. I also give tips on making it from store bought teas.
Herbal teas are great because they’re generally calorie-free or very low-calorie, free if made from items you find in your yard, neighborhood, or save from food waste, and an interesting, flexible, and healthy drink to add to your beverage repertoire.
- Don’t use plants you don’t know are safe or can’t identify. Some plants are poisonous, but I haven’t included any easily confused options on the list below for safety.
- Make sure you select flowers or herbs that aren’t sprayed with chemicals.
- Make sure to rinse off any dirt to eliminate any heavy metal contamination if you don’t know what type of soil the flowers or herbs are grown in.
I live in California, so there are plenty of flowers and herbs available or in season to use for herbal tea.
Examples of Herbs and Flowers for Herbal Tea:
- Mint, basil, or lemon balm
- Calendula flowers
- Pineapple guava (aka. feijoa) flowers
- Citrus (e.g., lemon, orange, kumquat, lime, grapefruit, etc.) flowers and zest
- Chamomile flowers
- Bee balm flowers
- Wild or cultivated rose petals or rose hips
- Red clover
- Leaves and fruit from raspberry, blackberry, blueberry and wild or cultivated strawberry plants
- Pine needles (taste from the tree to see if you like the taste, use only a small amount to accent tea made with the other options listed here)
If you have citrus, pineapple guava (aka. feijoa), or other fruit shrubs or trees and don’t want to reduce your fruit harvest, you want to use the flower petals only, ideally from flowers that have already been pollinated. To check, you can look up pictures online about what pollinated flowers of your plant look like. Alternatively, place a sheet underneath the plant and shake the branches. Petals from pollinated flowers tend to fall off of citrus plants easily. You can also pay attention to the life cycle of the flowers. Those that have been on the plant for a couple days are usually ready to remove petals from.
When making herbal teas, the length of steeping time depends on what part of the plant you’re using. General tea making instructions include bringing water to a boil, then adding your tea ingredients, stirring and resting for a specific length of time (aka. steeping). For teas made with leaves, flower petals, and other delicate plant matter, steep for 2 min for green tea leaves, 3 min for black tea leaves, 5 min for herbal teas made with herbs and flower petals. For items that are more hardy, like rose hips, bark (e.g., cinnamon sticks), or roots (e.g., ginger), you will need to simmer these items in the water for a length of time that depend on whether the item is fresh (less time) or dried (more time) as steeping won’t be enough to extract the flavor from them. Look up your particular hardy ingredient to find the time needed for simmering.
When preparing tea to drink warm, use roughly the following amounts per 1 cup of boiling water; for iced tea, use about twice as much per cup:
- 1-2 tsp dried leaves
- 2-3 tsp dried flower petals
- 10 leaves or 2 tbsp packed or torn fresh leaves
- 1-2 tbsp fresh flower petals
- 1-2 tsp dried hardy ingredients (e.g., roots, bark/sticks, rose hips)
- 2-3 tsp fresh hardy ingredients
When preparing Iced Tea:
Make tea as you would for serving warm but use half as much water (or twice as much tea/herbs), then cool and pour over ice. (There is an example recipe, below.) The goal is to make it twice as strong as hot tea. Optionally, garnish with fresh versions of the what you used to make the tea. If desired, sweeten to taste with sweetener of choice.
I prefer to make options that don’t require sugar for health reasons. The items given as examples of herbs and flowers to use above are not bitter so don’t need as much (or any) sweetening compared with other options that might be available where you live.
Culinary Medicine Tip: if you grew up drinking sweet tea, try making tea with slightly less sweetener than you are used to having each time you brew it. This is a good way to slowly acclimate your taste buds to less sweet drinks. It helps if you are also cutting back on added sugars and artificial sweeteners in the rest of your diet. Most people can work to adapt their tastebuds over time to less sweet foods and drinks. Doing this gradually helps most people to enjoy the flavor of foods and drinks more than making abrupt changes. The same is true for those trying to reduce salt intake.Print
Herbal Iced Tea
- Cook Time: 10 min
- Total Time: 2+ hours to cool
- Yield: 1.75 quarts/liters 1x
- 8 cups water
- 2 cups mint or other leaves
- 2 cups flower petals, optional
- Sweetener to taste, optional (see text above for more on this)
- Wedge of lemon or orange, or fresh herbs to garnish, optional
- Boil water in a pot. Add herbs/leave and flower petals (optional); stir and remove from heat.
- Cover and steep 5 minutes.
- Strain into a 2 quart pitcher and cool in the refrigerator for 2 hours or more.
- Serve poured over ice. Optionally, sweeten to taste (I don’t sweeten mine), and garnish as desired.
- Serving Size: 8 oz
- Calories: 0
- Sugar: 0
- Sodium: 0
- Fat: 0
- Saturated Fat: 0
- Unsaturated Fat: 0
- Trans Fat: 0
- Carbohydrates: 0
- Fiber: 0
- Protein: 0
- Cholesterol: 0