Any cozy cup of tea is likely to feel soothing when you’re under the weather or otherwise not at your best. But you can get an extra health-promoting boost from certain teas made with herbs and other natural ingredients, which practitioners of Chinese medicine have used for centuries.
To discuss healing teas, I contacted Ta-Ya Lee, DNP (doctor of nursing practice), a practitioner of Chinese medicine at Johns Hopkins Community Physicians in Baltimore. She explained that under the precepts of Chinese medicine diet therapy, the teas work by helping balance the five elements—earth, fire, metal, water and wood—that govern qi, the life force or energy that flows through everything in nature, including our bodies. When one or more of these elements is too high or too low, the resulting imbalance leads to health problems.
Anyone with severe symptoms should of course be seen by a health-care professional, Dr. Lee said, but milder conditions often can be relieved by drinking teas you make at home using the recipes below. All generally are safe, though you should check with your health-care provider before using them if you take a blood thinner or other medication, have a medical condition or are pregnant or breast-feeding.
The ingredients needed are available at health-food stores, herbal stores, Asian markets and/or online. Each recipe below makes two servings. Teas can be prepared in larger quantities, if desired, and stored in the refrigerator for up to three days—but for maximum therapeutic effect, teas should be reheated and consumed hot or lukewarm rather than cold, Dr. Lee advised. Drink one to three cups per day as needed.
Mixed Flowers Tea
Uses: Relieves constipation… acne… bitter taste in the mouth… irritability… and impatience. Best: Purchase dried, whole flowers from an herbal store or Asian market, Dr. Lee advised—do not use homegrown flowers or flower tea bags, and do not chop or crush the flowers before using. Ingredients…
1 heaping Tbsp. chamomile flowers
1 heaping Tbsp. yellow chrysanthemum flowers
1 heaping Tbsp. jasmine flowers
2 cups water
Preparation: Place all flowers in a teapot or similar container. Heat water to boiling. Pour hot water over flowers and steep 20 minutes. Filter out and discard solids. If desired, reheat before drinking and/or sweeten with honey to taste.
Uses: Relieves respiratory ailments (such as asthma, bronchitis and cough with phlegm)… and also promotes lustrous skin and combats pallor. Best: Use nuts that have been roasted without salt. Ingredients…
2 cup goat’s milk or soymilk, heated
Preparation: In a coffee grinder or blender, grind all nuts to a powder. Stir nut mixture into warm or hot milk… stir again as needed while consuming (so nut powders do not sink to the bottom of the cup). For convenience: You can grind a larger quantity of nuts and store the combined powders in a sealed jar… when ready to use, stir two teaspoons of nut powder into one cup of heated milk. Caution: Do not use nut tea if you have colitis.
Uses: This tea relieves fatigue… dizziness… cold hands and cold feet… overly soft stool… and bloating. Ingredients…
⅓ tsp. chopped dried American ginseng root
⅓ tsp. finely chopped dried red dates
2 cups room-temperature water
Rock sugar, optional
Preparation: Place ginseng, dates and water in a pot. Let soak for about 30 minutes. Place on stove and bring mixture to a boil… reduce heat, cover and simmer 15 minutes. Optional: Strain out and discard solids and/or add sugar to taste, if desired. Caution: Ginseng may not be appropriate if you have a blood pressure disorder or take a blood thinner, insulin, oral hypoglycemic agents or a monoamine oxidase inhibitor antidepressant—check with your doctor.
Uses: Relieves flushing… eases irritability… and promotes urinary and vaginal health. Note: This is the only tea for which Dr. Lee recommends using a tea bag because bulk fresh or dried dandelion would be too strong and bitter. Ingredients…
1 dried dandelion tea bag
2 or 3 whole red dates
½ dried lotus leaf, chopped
2 cups boiling water
Preparation: Place dandelion tea bag and other ingredients in a pot. Add boiling water… reduce heat… cover and simmer 15 minutes. Strain out and discard solids before drinking. Caution: Dandelion tea may not be appropriate for people with digestive disorders, diabetes or kidney failure.
Black Sesame Tea
Uses: Combats constipation… promotes kidney health… and helps maintain lustrous hair. Ingredients…
2 tsp. powdered, roasted black sesame seeds
2 cups soymilk, heated
Preparation: Place black sesame seed powder and soymilk in a blender and process until thoroughly blended. Drink warm.