Brew Healthy Tea from Kitchen Herbs

Sage, thyme, and other kitchen staples can be the basis of healthy, tasty teas.

February 25, 2010

Rosemary and other cooking herbs make great, soothing teas.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—The short, dark, chilly days of winter can make us long for something hot to sip in the evenings. And though you could start planning the number of tea bushes you'll plant to grow your own tea one day, chances are you’re looking for more immediate relief. A windowsill herb garden could be the answer.


"Most people don’t take full advantage of the herbs they have in their kitchens," says Leslie Alexander, a registered herbalist with the American Herbalists Guild and co-owner of Restoration Herbs in northwestern Pennsylvania. She says anything from sage to rosemary to ordinary basil can be used to make enjoyable, natural herbal teas. All you need is to steep a few teaspoons of the herb for several minutes. "The length of time depends on the herb in question," she notes, but 10 to 15 minutes normally does it.

While herbs and herbal supplements can interfere with certain drugs such as heart disease or thyroid medications, a single cup of herbal tea won't come with a high enough dose to cause harm, says Alexander. However, drinking three or more cups a day could be a problem, so if you plan on drinking a lot, check with your pharmacist or doctor first.

Whichever type of herbal tea you brew, just be sure to enjoy it, says Alexander. "Part of being healthy is getting the nutrients from our food,” she says. “The other part is taking pleasure in it."

Keep reading to find out which herbs make the best and healthiest teas.

Here are six common herbs, along with simple directions for quickly turning them into healthy, tasty teas.

#1: Sage. Often recommended by herbalists as a salve for sore throats, laryngitis, and tonsillitis, sage may also boost your mood. To brew sage tea, place two teaspoons of sage leaves into a teapot, add a cup of boiling water, and let steep for 10 minutes. Try pineapple sage for a tropical twist.

#2: Basil. The primary ingredient in Indian Tulsi teas, basil is another proven mood booster. "Holy basil, Tulsi basil, Thai basil—they're all are pretty marvelous for making tea," says Alexander. As with sage, steep one to two teaspoons of basil leaves per cup of water for 10 to 15 minutes. Look for interesting, tasty flavors such as chocolate and lemon.

#3: Thyme. Instead of reaching for that nasty, goopy cough syrup, try an herbal tea concocted from thyme. German researchers have found that thyme acts as an expectorant (an agent that loosens mucus in your chest), so keeping a thyme plant on hand could help with coughs and colds this time of year. Steep two teaspoons of fresh thyme in a cup of water for 10 minutes.

#4: Rosemary. Central American folk healers may have used rosemary as an insect repellent, but contemporary herbalists believe it helps with upset stomachs, headaches, and bad breath, among other ailments. Regardless, if you simply love the smell of rosemary, enjoy a tea made by steeping one teaspoon per cup of water for 10 to 15 minutes.

#5: Peppermint. Many believe that peppermint and spearmint teas help settle your stomach after a heavy dinner. There's also evidence that peppermint can help with headaches because it calms muscle spasms. Brew it by steeping one to two teaspoons of dried or fresh peppermint leaves per cup of water for 10 minutes.

#6: Parsley. Nope, it's not just for garnishes anymore. A study in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine found that parsley may help lower your blood pressure. Another study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology reported that parsley may decrease allergy symptoms. To make parsley tea, brew two teaspoons of the leaves or the roots, or one teaspoon of crushed seeds, per cup of water for 10 minutes.

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