Winter, 2000 - 2001
How to choose quality herbs for teas
by Colleen Hulett
In the past four years of formulating herbal tea recipes for customers, family and friends, I’ve noticed that most people tend to value herbs solely for their medicinal properties. They choose to drink them only when they are feeling sick, and ask me how long it will take them to work. They always seem disappointed or surprised when I suggest they drink at least three cups of herbal tea a day for at least one to four months for chronic problems, and to drink 1/4 cup of tea every half hour until acute symptoms are remedied. They are disappointed because they want their herbal teas to work immediately! Unfortunately this way of viewing herbal teas is extremely limiting and is far removed from the true nature of herbs.
The truth is that the potency of herbs is profoundly revealed in their daily use as a food and/or tea beverage. Herbs work best as daily preventative medicines because of their nutritious and gentle (but highly effective) detoxifying nature. Everyone who enjoys herbal teas will also add that their wonderful tastes and smells are uplifting to our spirits and are extremely important during timely breaks from daily stressful situations.
Determining Quality Herbs
One of the most valuable lessons I have learned from my Herbology studies is to use only high quality herbs. When I hear complaints from customers that herbs do not work for them, I usually find out that they have used poor quality herbs with no active ingredients left in them to heal-- herbs that were old and improperly dried or packaged. High quality herbs are very effective and when purchased should look, taste and smell almost like they do when picked fresh. The herb should retain the same colour as when it was fresh with very little colour variation. If you do not know the colour of the herb you are buying ask a trusted staff herbalist or consult a reliable book (with photos) written by an herbalist. Always smell your herbs before purchasing. They should have their trademark distinctive strong fresh smells. Please note that they do not necessarily have to smell ‘good’ but should at least have a smell. Herbs should taste fresh, strong, vital and distinctive. If a herb passes its colour, smell and taste test, then it should be very effective. But if it is not working and you are sure of its quality, there may be other reasons why it is not working– for example, it may not be the proper remedy for the situation.
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