Arizona Foraging for Medicinal Teas

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Herbal teas are an excellent way to heal and strengthen our bodies. Once you know how to use the powerful herbs growing in your own backyard, you begin to see the world around you in a very different and self-sustaining light. Springtime, in particular, is a beautiful season for collecting herbs for your apothecary. You don’t need much, and once you have dried and jarred your supply, you can simply open the cupoard and mix your teas when needed.

Note: I highly recommend two books to master your foraging in Arizona: Southwest Medicinal Plants by John Slattery, and Medicinal Plants of the American Southwest by Charles Kane. They both go much deeper into the chemistry and specific uses for each plant I mention, and hundreds more.

Morbi vitae purus dictum, ultrices tellus in, gravida lectus.

FORAGING

APOTHECARY

WILDCRAFT

PREPARE

How to Turn Herbs into Tea

Drying Herbs for Tea

Tea made with dried herbs taste very different than with fresh herbs. In my experience fresh herbs seem to be grassier and less palatable than dried, so it is beneficial to have a supply of dried on hand. Dried herbs properties are also concentrated by weight because most of the volume in the leaves is water. If you do use fresh herbs for tea, you will need to use three times as much as dried.

My favorite way to dry herbs for tea is to simply tie them up with a rubber band or string and hang them inside and away from direct sunlight. If you don’t have a good place for that or you want to quickly dry them you can always use a dehydrator. Be sure to tie your herbs in small quantities so that they dry quickly and don’t mold. Thankfully we live in Arizona and things dry very fast.

Store dried herbs in a glass jar or vacuum sealed bag in a dark cupboard to preserve their potency. You can store dried herbs as tea blends, or individually to create custom blends when needed.

Note: It is a good idea to start with individual medicinal herbs to see how your body responds. Add other herbs to the mix once you have observed your bodies response to each herb on its own. Every person has a varied response to an herb, so knowing how you and your family respond will help you make wise remedies.

Making a Cup of Herbal Tea

To make a cup of tea, use 1 teaspoon of a dried primary herb with smaller additions of other herbs or flavors. You can drink 1-4 cups of these herbal teas per day. Take note of how they make you feel and you will begin to create a helpful apothecary custom made to your family and home.

Morbi vitae purus dictum, ultrices tellus in, gravida lectus.

10 Useful Herbs to Forage for Tea

On my day to day walks through the garden and neighborhood I have spotted quite a few useful plants looking their best after the lovely rains we have had. Here are the 10 most common in my area (North Phoenix) that hold some very useful properties when made into tea.

  • Brittlebush
  • Canyon Bursage
  • Chickweed
  • Creosote Bush
  • Desert Lavender
  • Filaree
  • Jojoba
  • Mallow
  • Mormon Tea
  • Wild Mint

Brittlebush

Brittlebush is one of my favorite plants. With a little water it can bloom almost all year, but it is especially bright in the spring. Pick flowers to add to your spring flower arrangements bring some of its happiness into your home. Brittlebush is also an important pollen supply for honeybees. Some flowers have yellow centers and some have brown.

  • Tea made from leaves and flowers is useful for hay fever, congestion, joint pain and headache, dry eyes, and tooth pain.

Canyon Bursage

Canyon Bursage is found all over Arizona. You’ll spot it in washes and along roads and hiking trails.

  • Tea made from leaves is useful for allergy symptoms like runny nose.
  • Tea made from the dried root can be used for menstrual cramps and muscle cramps due to dehydration. (This is a particularly useful herb for me as I work in the hot summers in a bee suit.)

Chickweed

Chickweed is found in most gardens in the spring. It just seems to pop up like burr clover and wild rocket. It is not often in dry desert areas however.

  • Tea made from the leaves, stems and flowers is useful for iron-deficiency, bronchitis, cough, and arthritis. Steep it overnight for highest potency. Chickweed can be taken as a tonic, meaning it can enhance your health anytime.

Creosote Bush

Creosote Bush, or Chaparral is a plentiful plant all over central and Southern Arizona. It is useful for so many things internally and topically.

  • Tea made from leaves and stems is useful for cold symptoms, PMS, and chronic joint inflammation.
  • A note of caution is to not take it for more than 2 weeks at a time. Make a very diluted tea because the taste isn’t the greatest.

Desert Lavender

Desert Lavender is an unassuming bushy plant that fades away into obscurity when taking in a view of the desert. Even though the bush can be the size of a minivan, its stems are spindly and the leaves are a fuzzy gray. When in flower is lovely purple flowers are usually covered in bees. When you do run across the plant, simply rub a leaf between your fingers and you’ll see why it is called lavender. It has a beautiful sagey lavender scent that you’ll fall in love with.

  • Make your tea using the dried leaves and flowers.
  • Drinking Hot tea is useful for lung issues and as a a calming sedative.

  • Drinking Cold tea helps with digestion and stomachache.

Filaree

Filaree is a weed that you have probably often seen (and pulled) in your lawn or garden. To harvest it, you can pull the entire plant up, rinse it off and dry it.

  • Tea made from any part of the plant is useful for detoxification, joint inflammation, diarrhea and stomachache

Jojoba

Jojoba is a plant I cherish because of the seeds that I get oil from. Nearly all of my salves and balms contain this valuable ingredient because it is so similar to our own skin’s sebum. As if that wasn’t enough, we also get great benefit from using the leaves in a tea.

  • Tea made from Jojoba leaves can help alleviate intestinal issues like irritable bowl syndrome.

Mallow

Mallow is a plant I cherish because of the seeds that I get oil from. Nearly all of my salves and balms contain this valuable ingredient because it is so similar to our own skin’s sebum. As if that wasn’t enough, we also get great benefit from using the leaves in a tea.

  • Tea made from dried leaves, stems and roots is useful for gut and urinary tract health as well as sore throats and a dryness. Add it to any tea blend because it benefits the whole body.

Mormon Tea

Mormon Tea is a plant I cherish because of the seeds that I get oil from. Nearly all of my salves and balms contain this valuable ingredient because it is so similar to our own skin’s sebum. As if that wasn’t enough, we also get great benefit from using the leaves in a tea.

  • Tea made from the stems helps relieve hay fever symptoms and congestion. It is a great help to the lungs when breathing is less than optimal. It also treats the intestines, particularly when diarrhea is a problem.

Wild Mint

Wild Mint  may not be in everyone’s garden or regular desert trip, but since I brought it back from a camping trip near Mayer, AZ, it is a mainstay in my garden. It is found generally around streams, but does well in a low desert garden as long as it has water. Consider bringing a sprig home when you find one (or stop by Blooming Ranch and get some).

  • Tea made from the dried leaves of Wild Mint helps with respiratory and digestive issues, like any mint does. In addition to that, it should be noted that it boosts the potency of antibiotics when taken at the same time. Be sure to have some in your medicine chest. This tea helps other herbal teas taste better as well.

Go Forth and Prosper in Health and Wellness

Foraging for your family’s supply of medicinal tea is a beautiful and satisfying activity. Learn about each plant and learn about how your body responds it. It is helpful to experiment with blends and flavorings. Remember, bitter herbs are very good for us, so don’t dismiss it just because it’s not a sweet treat. However, here are some additions you can add to your teas to help them taste delicious.

  • Honey
  • Dried Citrus Peel
  • Dried Ginger
  • Cinnamon
  • Dried fruit
  • Dried Licorice Root

Keep some of these on hand to add to whatever tea you drink. Each have their own beneficial qualities that bolster the goodness you are already consuming.

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