Now that the 12 days of Christmas have come to an end, it’s time to plan out those New Year’s resolutions – for real this time. If the “new you” for 2014 includes getting healthier, here’s an easy place to start: herbal teas.
Most loose-leaf teashops will allow you to sample one-cup servings, so stock up and start January with 12 days of tea, each one offering a variety of unarguable health benefits.
Day 1: Echinacea Leaf
You may recognize Echinacea as the little pink, prickly flower that grows out in your front landscape. Widespread across central and eastern North America, Echinacea was used first by Native Americans as an herbal remedy for respiratory issues. Today, Echinacea is still perhaps the single strongest fighter of the common cold. A daily cup of tea made from Echinacea leaves allows the herb to build up in your system, combatting that vicious onslaught of winter wallows.
Try with: cinnamon, mint, ginger
Day 2: Hibiscus Petals
Higher in Vitamin C than oranges, Hibiscus flowers are native of Angola, but cultivated across many tropical regions. The deep red petals have a sweet, refreshing flavor and are used worldwide to support upper respiratory health and blood pressure. Hibiscus is commonly used with lemon balm and St. John’s Wort to dissolve restlessness.
Try with: elderberries, orange peel
Day 3: St. John’s Wort
The medicinal uses of this flowering herb were first recorded by Hippocrates in ancient Greece and have since been used to counter depression and other mood disorders. St. John’s Wort is native to northern Europe (“wort” is the Old English word for plant), but now commonly grows in the US on the dry grounds of roadsides and meadows.
Try with: ginger, lavender, chamomile
Day 4: Passionflower
Stress is not just an inconvenience; stress can be the cause of many health problems and discomforts, such as weight gain, weight loss and insomnia. Passionflower naturally contains flavone chrysin, so it works similarly to pharmaceutical anti-anxiety medications. The herb can be taken as needed by infusing one teaspoon in boiling water, steeped for about ten minutes, or regularly before bed to help promote a restful sleep.
Try with: lavender, lemon balm
Day 5: Fennel Seed
Fennel Seeds brew a flavorful, licorice-like cup of tea, and after a heavy holiday meal, it’s the perfect remedy. Fennel Seed acts as a digestive agent, as well a nutrient extractor. The light brew is also very effective with animal companions as an appetite enhancer as well as an oral antibacterial.
Try with: ajwain seeds, coriander
Day 6: Yerba Mate
Yerba Mate is the only caffeinated tea included on this list, and for good reason. The tea, traditionally served in a hollowed-out gourd, is a South American beverage made from steeping the stems and leaves of the plant directly in the water. Although some of you may be set in your coffee-drinking ways, Yerba Mate is a great alternative for that morning kick, and without the jitters, too. Rich in antioxidants, amino acids and polyphenols, Yerba Mate actually increases the ability to focus, without the headaches and stomach aches associated with caffeinated beverages.
Try with: cocoa and milk thistle
Day 7: Linden Blossom
Tea made from Linden Blossoms is a fast and effective remedy to headaches and muscle aches. As it contains some of the same vitamins as Passionflower, and gives off a light, pleasant aroma, Linden can also help reduce anxiety.
Try with: Passionflower, mint
Day 8: Chrysanthemum
These late-summer blossoms don’t only look pretty on the front porch; Chrysanthemums also contain high amounts of beta carotene usually found in yellow fruits. Tea made from Chrysanthemum flowers can be traced back to ancient China, where it was used as a natural coolant. Today, Chrysanthemum is known for its long list of vitamin and mineral content, which is higher than most fruits and vegetables. The little yellow flower is helpful in treating skin problems, promotes bone and dental health and slows the aging process. The Chrysanthemum is sometimes called The Flower of Eternal Youth.
Try with: Jasmine flower, rosehips
Day 9: Kava Kava Root
Kava was named by the explorer Captain Cook, and it means “intoxicating pepper.” It has been used for thousands of years by Pacific Islanders, but the herb has only recently increased in popularity in the United States. Kava is by far the strongest (and most expensive) tea on this list; the kavalactones directly affect the brain, numbing physical pain. Kava is extremely effective in the aid of sleep and restlessness. Kava powder should be steeped raw in milk for 30 minutes and then filtered and enjoyed in very moderate amounts.
Day 10: Skullcap
The Skullcap herb comes in two varieties, American and Chinese, both of which are very different. American Skullcap’s primary use is to promote relaxation, and after the holiday bustle, who doesn’t need a day of lounging around with a warm cup of tea? Chinese Skullcap has cleansing and detoxifying properties, and has actually been used in treatment of Cancer patients.
Try with: Passionflower, St. John’s Wort, mint
Day 11: Slippery Elm Bark
The soft, fuzzy bark of the Slippery Elm tree is a quick relief for sore throats and related ailments. The extract from the wood creates a syrupy tea with a sweet flavor; it is as pleasant as it is useful. When combined with Licorice root, Slippery Elm bark makes a warm remedy for cold-related symptoms. The blend is also great at finding lost voices.
Day 12: Ginkgo Leaf
Ginkgo is one of the longest living tree species in the world, with a lifespan of about 1,000 years. Physically, Ginkgo leaf seems to improve blood-circulation, and, as a result, memory, attention, concentration and other brain activities. A cup of Ginkgo tea is also an effective aid in multi-tasking, so pack some for work or class. But be warned – the leaves themselves are very bitter, so be sure to blend with something a little sweeter.
Try with: licorice root, cinnamon chips