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Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Rejuvenating Herbal Concoctions

Rejuvenating Herbal Concoctions

Established in 1991 by the International Herb Association, National Herb Week–the first week in May–is an opportunity to explore and celebrate the thousands of herbs used in cooking, medicine, and homeopathy since at least 3,000 B.C. The Greeks used parsley to cure stomach ailments (something still practiced today), and Romans reportedly used dill to purify air in banquet halls. Ancient Greeks and Romans crowned their heroes with laurel and dill.

In ancient China and other places, herbs were said to be imbued with magical properties, such as Artemisia. Later, in the Middle Ages, the French rubbed babies’ stomachs with Artemisia juices to protect them from the cold.

Brought to North America by early settlers, herbs were used to flavor, cure illness and disease, burn for their olfactory advantages, preserve meat prior to more modern preservation techniques, dye homespun fabrics, and more.

Today, the World Health Organization estimates that 80% of the world’s population relies on herbal products for at least part of its healthcare, with the use of herbal supplements on a marked uptick over the past 30 years in part because of the rising cost of Western medicine.

With herbs high in antioxidants, purchasing closest to the projected date of use will help ensure they are the most potent. If you grow them, horticulturists advise picking in the morning but before the sun is hot for the best flavor and storage quality. When cooking with fresh herbs, as opposed to dried, experts recommend adding them in the last few minutes, depending on their delicacy, to preserve their flavor.

But what about herbal drinks? While using herbs to prepare flavorful dishes is a given, records also date back many thousands of years with herbs found both as liquid remedies and refreshments. Herbal teas have been popular for thousands of years and though most of us reach for the little box on supermarket shelves, in fact they are fun and easy to make by steeping selected (non-pesticide sprayed) herbs, often with edible flowers, fruits, etc.

Some herbal drinks are used to relieve headaches–feverfew (though hard to get) and rosemary are most often used for this particular purpose– or manage other medical issues and/or or increase vitality. Ginseng–belonging to the celery, parsnip, and carrot Araliaceae family and used widely today–has been noted as a potent energy drink with anti-stress properties. Sliced, fresh ginger root in boiling water or tea can ameliorate nausea and has even been recommended following chemotherapy treatments.

Other examples of fragrant herbal drinks, some with spices and edible flowers, include lemon balm and spearmint; lavender, basil, and lemon balm; rose geranium and lavender with cinnamon sticks; and rose petals and lemon thyme with sliced ginger root and raspberry vinegar. Herbs contain antioxidants, enzymes, minerals including calcium, iron, and more. Herbal drinks are known to detoxify and strengthen the immune system.

For National Herb Week and beyond, try these yummy herbal drinks for vigor, variety, and a little adventure!

Basic Herbal Drink Recipe
Use one tablespoon of fresh herbs or one teaspoon of dried herbs per cup of water. When using spices, err on the side of too few rather than too many–for example 5 or 6 whole cloves, 1 or 2 cinnamon sticks or 2 or 3 slices of fresh ginger root.

Place herbs in a non-aluminum bowl and boil the water. Pour the boiling water over herbs and steep for 10 to 15 minutes. If you plan on adding sparkling water, steep for 30 to 45 minutes for a more concentrated drink. Strain and discard herbs. Add a tiny bit of honey or juice to sweeten if desired, and then add a few drops of vinegar and sparkling water or wine (optional).

Rosemary Tea (for headaches)
Add 1 rounded tablespoon rosemary to 1 1/2 cups water inside French press. Let steep for 10-15 minutes. Drink 1/2 to 1 cup, 2 to 3 times per day. Can also be used for prevention if headache is coming on.

Alfalfa Mint Tea
1 cup crumbled, dried alfalfa
1 cup crumbled, dried spearmint or peppermint leaves
Add boiling water and steep as usual. Flavor with honey, lemon, other fruit, etc.
Cinnamon Rose Hip Tea
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup dried rose hips
1 teaspoon dried, grated lemon peel
1/4 cup of dried lemon grass or lemon balm leaves
Add boiling water and steep as usual. Flavor with honey, lemon, other fruit, etc.

3 comments

1 Carole { 05.08.13 at 2:52 pm }

I have used Herbs all my life,my grandmother taught me the good uses .My husband is a chef & uses them in all his recipes.

2 Darcy Ludeman { 05.08.13 at 10:49 am }

I have been growing Non-GMO all organic herbs for a few years now. Use them in cooking, and making herbal tea’s. Love being able to have my fresh herbs in my gardens & containers. Easy to grow, easy to use.

3 Kathryn { 05.08.13 at 9:08 am }

My husband doesn’t care for either Basil or Rosemary – so rather than use in food or beverages I plant in containers on our deck and keep fresh cut pieces around the house for natural ‘air fresheners’, every time I walk by my rosemary bush I just gently pull one of the branches thru my hand – fragrance lasts a good long while.

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