An outdoor sunny, social gathering with good conversation accompanied by an energising herbal infusion that lifts the spirits and refreshes the body seems a pretty perfect way to spend free time this spring. A cold or hot infusion is one of the simplest and most effective ways of taking the benefits of herbs either as a tea to drink, or as a topical therapeutic treatment in a foot soak or a compress. Perhaps throw caution to the wind, grab a few blankets and enjoy one of the green tea infusion recipes whilst indulging in a restorative and immune boosting foot soak and a breathing practice.
Green tea leaves come from the same camelia sinensis plant as ‘builders’ and other black teas, but the processing of the leaf is different – a little like the differences in chocolate. Green tea is dried or withered and then heated but does not go through the same extensive fermentation process resulting in the oxidization that causes leaves to darken in black tea. Green tea has been used medicinally for over 3000 years and is believed to aid the digestion of fatty or oily foods and to normalise the metabolism. It contains tannins, Vitamin C, polyphenols – (mainly the flavonoids catechin and EGCG) and the amino acid l-theanine. The latter has received interest recently because of research linking l-theanine to the lowering of anxiety and stress and improvement in symptoms of depression. Green Tea continues to be the mainstay of the traditional Japanese tea ceremony – albeit in evolved matcha forms.
In the last few years tea is now being grown closer to home in Perthshire and other areas of the UK where acidic soil conditions are enjoyed. One of the slightly more unusual, but delightful combinations we have found is green tea, dried hibiscus flower and fresh ginger. The resulting drink is both refreshing and beneficial to the immune system overall and makes a thirst-quenching iced tea in the warmer months. We developed a slightly more seasonal, local variation in recipe number two which includes the wild raspberry leaves currently unfurling amongst the brambles. To balance and complement we added locally foraged and dried rosehips.
1 tsp green tea
1 dsp dried hibiscus hibiscus sabdariffa also called Red or Jamaica Tea containing vitamin C and used as a cough remedy in Africa and Asia
2 slices fresh ginger zingiber officinale as a general tonic and anti inflammatory aid
1 tsp of green tea
2 tsp dried rosehips from rosa canina as a source of vitamins C, B E & K and tonic
2 tsp finely chopped wild raspberry rubus idaeus leaves as a natural source of potassium and magnesium
Local Honey to taste
For our foot soak we settled on a blend of ginger, turmeric and lemongrass as a good combination aimed at inflammation and congestion in the respiratory system. This blend also provides a soothing and warming fragrance to lift the spirit. Simply decoct the ingredients for approximately 20 mins, strain, add to a large basin and top up with warm (not boiling water) add some Epsom salts for maximum effect and bathe the feet for 15-20 mins. The aforementioned blankets can act as a tent to seal in the vapours and heat. The blend can also be used as a compress by wrapping the herbs in muslin and steaming the parcel gently to release the constituents. The resulting compress is applied to the skin whilst warm and left in situ for up to an hour or massaged in circular motion to increase blood flow. During the foot bath – a little focused breathing practice will complement the effects.
1 tbsp sliced fresh turmeric curcuma longa – a known stimulant used externally for bruising and internally to relieve catarrh
1 tbsp sliced fresh ginger zingiber officinale used as a stimulant and rubefacient
1tbsp chopped lemongrass Andropogon spp for delicate and uplifting citrus fragrance
Focused Breathing exercise
For general lung health we can take an hour of aerobic exercise every single day preferably outdoors, to get the blood pumping around the body; bringing oxygen to tissues and removing waste toxins. Perspiring helps with the elimination of toxins through the skin and focused deep and rapid breathing using the bellows breath (or bhastrika breath) enables excretion of toxins through the lungs.