Many people come to me and ask questions concerning herbs and its uses. From teas and their medical uses to the magical uses. They are tired of the pharmaceutical companies and the chemicals they sell poisoning their bodies with side effects. Many want natural alternatives for health. Some are wanting the natural magical remedies’ and there meanings. I am going to share some of the history and current uses and the “how two” of herbs based on the most frequently asked questions.
Brief histories on herbal teas start back in China in the 350 A.D. Chinese scrolls were written by man named Lu Yu. This parchment is, The Classic of Tea. In Lu Yu’s parchment, he explains the cultivation, processing, and uses of tea. There are so many blends of teas and uses. Lu Yu said there were thousands and thousands of different teas. The scholar also claimed the brewing of the first cup of tea was an accident.
In 2737 B.C the Chinese Emperor Shen-Nung was boiling some water, a common way to purification even back in those ancient days, when some leafs from a nearby bush blew unnoticed into the pot. He covered the pot and set it aside. When he smelled the aroma of the brew, he took a sip. The rest is history. The herbal tea was born.
Buddhist monks introduced the drinking of tea to Japan around 800 A.D. The Japanese call tea the “froth of Jade, the elixir of morality.” Old pharmacopoeias indicate that four out of five hundred teas, was believed to be a medicinal drink.
By the end of the 16th Century the Japanese turned tea drinking into a fine art. A Japanese tea ceremony, called “cha-no-yu, has a very elaborate and great social and religious significance. They enter the ceremony on their knees into a tearoom named cha-s**tsu. It’s designed so you must enter on your knees so you start the ceremony in humility. Many books in the Japanese culture have been written on this ceremony explaining the tools and different blends used. One of the most famous is, The Japanese Way of Tea. Author Sos**tsu Sen describes the ceremony which he calls “The Path to Serenity.”
Jumping in time I now bring you to the Tea Trader’s. The use of tea gradually spread from all of Asia to the rest of the world. It wasn’t until the seventeenth century that explores and traders of the Netherlands, France, Portugal and Britain with there clipper ships started the craze for tea in Europe. The seamen who drank tea suffered far less from dysentery. Than the sailors who drank the water straight from the barrel. Due to the boiling water process brought its use to the attention of the royal Navy.
Queen Elizabeth enjoyed tea so much that she drank it with her morning meal plus instead of the more customary time. The Royal physicians reported King Louis XIV of France specialty brewed tea soothed the Kings headaches. The custom of taking tea took hold when Catherine of Portugal came to London to marry Charles II in 1662. Her dowry included the port of Tangier, which became the tip of the British Iles, the
Empire in Africa and the island of Bombay.
Charles promptly leased Bombay to the newly founded East India Company. This became a highly successful shipping company and vehicle for traders. Although China was still the major producer India was the second runner up.
When royalty and upper classes took to serving four o’clock tea or “high Tea” was in the 1800s. That’s when the fancy tea services came into being. The typical hand made service was made of silver. Including both tea and coffee pots, milk and cream pitchers, a pair of tea caddies a sugar bowl with tongs, teaspoons and small trays to lay them out on, a tea strainer, mote spoons and cups and saucers all arranged on a huge tray. There was a urn with hot water placed on another tray. Because the urn was large swinging cradle so that “Milady” did not have to struggle to lift the weight when serving guest. Ladies kept there very expensive supply of tea and sugar under lock and key.
By today’s standards the price paid for China tea in the mid 16oos topped out at around 2,600.00 per pound. Because tea was so expensive smugglers brought the teas to the masses of common folks. It didn’t take long before tea was a national drink for Great Britain.
By the eighteenth century tea was popular in Britain and the Far East. When British citizens emigrated to the New World they brought tea cuttings with them but the climate was inhospitable to them. But the British were use to there “High Tea Time” so they had the leaves shipped. History already tells the tale of 1767 when the British King levied a tax on tea. The colonist grumbled and threw a shipment of tea in the harbor in protest in 1773. We know this as the Boston Tea Party.
In the United States in the 1900s three innovations in the tea service and packaging came into being. A New York tea merchant named Thomas Sullivan packaged individual samples of his teas into small silk bags. His customers loved the simplicity of the idea of brewing a single cup of tea and thus the tea bag was born. Note; TEA COMPANIES DON’T HAVE LITTLE SILK BAGS ANYMORE IT WASN’T ECOMONICAL. BUT WE STILL USE THE LITTLE SIL BAGS. I LOVE MY SILK BAGS. WE PUT ALL KINDS OF FUN THINGS IN THEM.
Then in 1904 Richard Blechnden was selling tea at the St. Louis Fair on a hot day. No one was buying it so he poured fresh brewed tea over ice. It was an immediate sensation. Then there is the instant tea that is a American invention and was marketed in 1948.
Herb teas are brewed from plants valued for there aroma, taste and seasoning as well as their ability to cause certain subtle changes in the body. Herbs were brewed for healing long before they were taken purely for enjoyment. Today some herbs have crossed the boarder lines of medicine to beverage and even magical. That happened when the term “herb tea” was broadened to encompass those delicious blends that include fruits, berries, spices, and other pleasurable ingredients. SUGAR, CINNAMIN, PEACH RASSBERRY.
You might think that these blends all start with a basic herb chamomile, for example, but that’s not always the case. Chamomile, although is one of my favorite, brews into a bland tea and is often used as the base herb in a blend. There are other popular base ingredients. Rose hips are usually the basic tea base in a fruit flavored blend. Smoothly roasted grains often form the base for the heartier herbal tea blend. Blended herb teas can be richly fruity with hints of apple, orange and lemon grass. They can be sweet and spicy with cinnamon, cloves, and more. With one of the mints as base ingredient herb teas they become refreshing pick me ups. Still other blends invite sleep with a mild flavor of the soothing and calming herbs like Chamomile.
Coffee drinkers might like the roasted grains and other selected spices like Yerba Mate that origins are from Brazil. It has raw caffeine that doesn’t make you shack like coffee and taste wonderful roasted with cinnamon or one could add Carob providing just a hint of chocolate. There are so many sipping teas around that it just boggles the mind.
If there isn’t anything you want or desire please wait. Close your eyes and remember back in 2737 BC in china. Over a open fire see the boiling pot of hot water. Now envision leafs blowing in the wind and falling into the pot of hot water. Can you see Shen-Nung turning as he smells the brew. Smelling the wonderful aroma and imagining the taste. Smell the tea bag I gave you. See him take that first taste for the first time in history. The birth of the herbal tea! I THINK MOTHER EARTH WAS VERY PLEASED THAT DAY. Don’t You? I wonder what the leaves were. Maybe Gen Sin, or Ylang-ylang or maybe some Jasmine or rose. The future holds the past in its hands. The knowledge is vast are broad to where your choices are never ending.
In the beginning of the recorded history of natural medicine and healing teas were 5000 years ago. Although, medical plants were used earlier. Long before there were any written records there were healers. The healers of primitive times were priest and priestesses, the shamans and witch doctors, the medicine men and women were believed to be able to commune with the Great Spirit of the cosmos. They discovered by trial and error which plants were suitable as food and valuable medicinal qualities. The healing plants were dried and stored for use as needed. Medicinal plants and herbs were used to help the wounded and seriously sick, but were administered along with incantations, frenzied dancing and loud banging of the drums. (Does this sound familiar to anyone?) These activities were to attract the benevolent intervention of the Gods and drive away the negative spirits. The patients were at peace and rested well knowing that the healer had called forth there Gods on there behalf to intercede. So the Ancient healer ended up treating both the mind and the body. They were the original holistic physicians.
In current day, physicians are starting to study the ancient healing systems of both China and India. This is a continued practice of highly refined form of natural medicine that is completely compatible to the human body. Both China and India are based on the strong foundations of healing teas.
Skipping the rest of the history on other cultures and jumping straight to how herbal science went to medical science. The public has almost lost the old ways of medical teas and remedies. People are just now beginning to research the history of the herb and what it can do. Medical science has never lost sight of what Mother Earth has laid out for resources. Over 70 percent of today’s drugs are derived from natural substance. Many of these have been used for millennia in the ancient healing system.
For example the drug digitoxin, used as a heart stimulant, comes from the common foxglove (digitalis purpurea). This drug must be used with great care and has many side effects. On the other hand foxglove tea has been used against heart disease for thousands of years. The opium poppy (Papaver somniferous) offers important pain relieving analgesics and narcotics, including morphine, codeine and thebaine, plus muscle relaxers and the age old treatment for diarrhea.
Long before aspirin existed various parts of the willow were used as anti-inflammatory agents and relief from pain. Years ago, scientist confirmed that the salicin derived from the willow family relieves pain, and reduce inflammation and lowers fever. The herbalists knew the properties of the willow and have used it ages before.
That was then and this is now. There are millions of species of plants on Mother Earth. Two thirds of all plant species flourish in the tropical rain forest, yet entire species are disappearing at alarming rates as civilization comes closer to the forest. Fifty thousand plants and animals are being lost each year. There are dedicated people working frantically to save specimens of threatened plants from disappearing rain forest. The National Cancer Institute reports 70 percent of the plants identified as useful in the Treatment of cancer are found only in the rain forest.
Fortunately we still have a wide variety of effective natural medicinal herbs available to us, including many that have survived since ancient times. There are many ways to use nature’s medicines. No matter what method is employed, the idea is to release extract, and activate all the useful properties of the plant. For the most part that’s accomplished with liquid. In other words, even poultices, and ointments start as teas.
A word of caution is never use tap water. There are too many chemicals in tap water that can interact with and alter the properties of healing tea. If you brew up a cup and find you don’t like the taste of a particular tea, be aware that the addition of anything may interact chemically to change the properties of the brew. Even honey will affect the working quality of the tea, but if you simply must add something put a drizzle of honey in it.
INFUSION is term you might hear allot with teas. Infusion is just another name for tea. When you put a tea bag in a cup of hot water, you’re making an infusion. This is the easiest and most common way of preparing a healing tea. If you are using loose herbs, the general rule of thumb is to use equal parts. Drink about a pint a day to bring beneficial energies into your life.
I hope you enjoyed the lessons on the herbs and May the Goddess blesses you with good health and happy crafting.