Depending on the herb used, herbal teas can be soothing, warming, cooling, bracing, refreshing, invigorating, calming and relaxing. They can be made using a single herb, a mixture of herbs, or by adding herbs to black or green tea.
To obtain the best aromatic and flavourful teas it's best to use pure mineral water or rainwater and loose herbs if possible. Dried herbs are fine and usually retain most of their aroma and flavour, but there are some herbs that are best used fresh for tea making.
The amount of herb you use depends on the strength of flavour you want to achieve. It's always best to start with small amounts that will give a mild strength, and increase until you reach the strength and taste you prefer. To begin with, use 2 teaspoons of dried herb or 2 to 3 sprigs of fresh herb for each cup of water (250ml). Fill a glass, stainless steel or ceramic teapot (one with an infuser would be ideal) with hot water to warm it. To avoid the flat taste that reboiled water gives, discard the remaining water from the kettle, add fresh water and boil. Empty the teapot, add the herb material and just after the water in the kettle has stopped boiling, pour it over the herb. Cover the teapot and leave the tea to steep for 5 minutes or a little longer if you want to, but leaving some herbs to steep too long may release bitter flavours.
Sweeten the tea with honey or sugar if you wish; stronger teas can be sweetened with brown sugar or maple syrup.
Caution: Only drink herbal teas in moderation because some of them taken in large quantities and/or for a long period of time can be harmful. Years ago I treated a patient for a rash that developed on his shins. He'd never had a rash before and while asking the usual questions while I was taking his case history it remained a mystery as to why it had developed, but the case was solved when I asked him about his diet and fluid intake. He told me he had been drinking ginger tea for weeks and after questioning him further I discovered he'd been drinking about 6 cups a day and was even taking a flask of it to work with him. I told him he was taking far too much and to stop drinking it as I was sure it was the culprit causing the rash. When I spoke to him a couple of weeks later, the rash had completely healed. I suggested that he only drink 1 to 2 cups of ginger tea a day, but he said he was sick of it now and wouldn't drink anymore.
Apart from drinking too much of any herbal tea, it would be wise for you to only drink a small quantity of a herb tea that you haven't had before to make sure you aren't sensitive to it.
Below are some of the most popular herbal teas, the amounts to use for each one and their effect. Follow the instructions above to make them:
Balm, refreshing - 1½ tablespoons of fresh or 3 teaspoons dried leaves to 1¼ cups water.
Basil, bracing - 20 fresh leaves or 2 teaspoons dried leaves to 1¼ cups water.
Bergamot, refreshing - 2 teaspoons dried leaves to 1¼ cups water.
Elderberry flower, soothing - 1½ tablespoons chopped fresh flowers to 1¼ cups water.
Fennel, soothing and calming - 2 teaspoons dried or 3 teaspoons fresh leaves to 1¼ cups water.
Mint, invigorating - 2 teaspoons dried or all the fresh leaves from 2 to 3 sprigs to 1¼ cups water.
Roman chamomile, soothing and calming - 1 teaspoon dried or 3 teaspoons fresh flowers to 1¼ cups water.
Rose hip (dog rose), high vitamin C content - bring 3 teaspoons dried hips and 1¼ cups water to the boil, remove from heat and steep for 15 minutes.
Yarrow, cooling - ½ cup fresh flowers and leaves to 1¼ cups water.
There are many more herbs you can use to make herbal teas and you can mix different herbs to achieve a unique flavour, for example balm can be blended with spearmint or rosemary leaves, or lavender flowers, and mint goes well with balm and chamomile.
Hibiscus flower tea can be found here.