By Fiona Cumberpatch published
It's well worth learning how to grow your own herbal tea if you really want to enjoy its soothing, healing and comforting properties. Herbs are among some of the easiest and most attractive plants to cultivate in the garden.
Herbal teas can actively improve our health and ease the symptoms of common conditions such as anxiety and digestive problems. It’s not a new idea: herbs have been used to treat ailments for thousands of years. A famous English herbalist, Nicholas Culpeper (1616 -1654), printed a compendium of every herb and its medicinal properties which is still in use today.
The really good news is that if you want to try your hand at learning how to create a herb garden to cultivate your own herbal teas, you don't need masses of space. A balcony, a window box or a patio is enough to raise enough leaves to keep a teapot refreshed. Herbs can be grown from seed or bought as small plants from any garden centre.
Making a herbal tea is as easy as snipping a small handful of leaves, putting them in a teapot or jug and adding boiling water. How much water you use and how long you leave the tea to brew depends on personal taste, and it is worth experimenting to get the balance right.
If you're already convinced it's time to find out how to grow your own herbal tea, keep scrolling for our pick of the most brew-friendly plants to soothe and restore. Plus, you'll also discover the best ways to enjoy your freshly picked herbs in a drink.
How to grow your own herbal tea
Their popularity of herbs has never been higher: some herb suppliers saw sales figures rise as much as 600 per cent in 2020, as gardeners all sought out the best herbs to grow in your garden.
'Brits love to grow herbs in their gardens, as they are easy to grow and loved for their fantastic versatility,' according to the experts at Suttons.
Whether you are planning to grow herbs in pots on your patio as part of your container gardening ideas, want to add some extra versatility to your window box ideas or you're simply adding some small herb pots to your windowsill, you'll love our easy ideas for how to grow your own herbal tea.
Sage can be used to make a boosting brew which is said to help low mood, improve memory and provide relief for a sore throat.
A hardy perennial, sage can either be bought as a small plant, or grown from seed, although it does take time to germinate, so be patient. Plant it out in full sun, and well-drained soil. Prune the woody stems every spring. Plants may need to be replaced every three years to ensure a continuous supply.
How to make sage tea
- Pinch off the leaves or snip some sprigs with sharp scissors.
- For a fresh brew, place two tablespoons of leaves in a cup and cover with boiling water.
- Add a slice of lemon and sugar to taste.
- Sage tea can be made with dried or frozen leaves.
- To dry, hang sprigs upside down in a cool place for about two weeks. Crumble into an airtight jar and seal until ready to use.
- To freeze it, firstly lay the sage on a tray, then seal into a bag.
It has been used for centuries as an aid for colic, fever, skin diseases and period pain. The mild, apple flavour of chamomile tea comes from the daisy-like flowers which can be used either fresh or dried to make a tea. 'Simple brewing of chamomile in hot water can extract some of its 120-plus bioactive constituents, including flavonoids with calming effects,' says author and grower Tanya Anderson in A Woman’s Garden (Cool Springs Press).
This is an easy plant to grow from seed. Opt for German or Roman chamomile varieties. In April, fill a pot with multi-purpose compost. Sprinkle in a thin layer of seeds, and cover them with a centimetre of compost. When all frost risks have gone, plant out the seedlings 10-15cm apart in a sunny spot.
How to make chamomile tea
- 'For each cup (235ml) of water, you’ll need a tablespoon (2g) of dried chamomile or two tablespoons (4g) of fresh,' says Tanya Anderson.
- 'Place the chamomile in a teapot, pour scalding water over it, and steep for only five minutes.
- 'The dosage guide for adults is three cups per day, but if you’re over 70, drink half of that.'
Who hasn’t added a bay leaf to a stew, a soup or a sauce? But did you know that bay makes a therapeutic brew to soothe away flu and cold symptoms? Bay is native to the Mediterranean (so is probably already on your list if you like Mediterranean gardens) but the evergreen bay trees thrive in the UK and the USA.
The trees are happy growing in a pot, in a sunny site. They may need some protection in severe winters, or they can be moved into a greenhouse or conservatory during cold snaps.
How to make bay leaf tea
- Put two or three bay leaves into a mug and pour over boiling water.
- Steep for about five minutes before removing.
- For extra aromatic flavour, add a cinnamon stick.
- Fresh bay leaves are available year-round from the garden, so there is no need to dry them.
Its distinctive, astringent flavour can divide opinion, but rosemary has been prized for thousands of years for its therapeutic properties, helping poor digestion and easing headaches and fatigue.
A woody evergreen, rosemary grows best in a sunny spot. It is an easy plant to propagate from cuttings to create lots of plants from just one pot. Snip off some 10-15cm lengths of this year’s new growth. Using a sharp knife, cut off the base of the stem just below a leaf node (the bump where leaves grow from). Dip the stem in a hormone rooting powder (available garden centres), and push into the side of a pot full of gritty compost mix. Water and pop a plastic bag over the top to increase humidity – this will encourage roots to sprout.
There's more advice on how to grow rosemary in our guide.
How to make rosemary tea
- Take one or two sprigs of rosemary, place in a jug or teapot.
- Add 500ml of boiling water.
- Steep for around 10 minutes.
- Strain the liquid into a cup.
5. Lemon balm
With its zesty green oval leaves which smell deliciously of citrus, this perennial herb makes a refreshing and fragrant tea. It is said to help insomnia, ease anxiety and reduce symptoms of indigestion and nausea.
It can be grown either in a pot or in the ground, in moist but well drained soil. Place in full sun or partial shade. A new variety, Lemon Balm ‘Mandarina’ (available from Suttons) has a tangy lemon flavour with an unmistakable freshly-peeled orange aroma.
How to make lemon balm tea
- Snip a handful of fresh leaves, place in a cup and add hot water.
- Add honey to taste.
- Either drink warm, or cool it and serve with ice for a refreshing summer tisane.
- Lemon balm tea is best made from fresh leaves.
When it comes to how to make your own herbal tea, mint is one of the easiest herbs to grow in the garden and it makes a classic herbal tea. Mint aids digestion and can reduce symptoms of nausea too.
There are hundreds of different varieties of mint, including chocolate mint and pineapple mint, but the two main ones are peppermint and spearmint. Peppermint is excellent for making tea, as it has a 40 per cent menthol content, producing an intense, punchy flavour when steeped in water.
Mint will grow in almost any soil, including poor ones. In fact, the problem is reining it in, rather than getting it established. Try growing it in pots, or containers sunk into the earth to stop the roots from taking over other plants. Cut it back regularly, as the newer leaves have the freshest flavour.
Head over to our guide on how to grow mint for more tips.
How to make mint tea
- Cut a handful of fresh leaves and place in a teapot.
- Fill with boiling water and allow to stand.
- It can be sweetened to taste with sugar or honey.
How to harvest the best herbs for tea
- As a general rule for how to grow your own herbal tea, leaves which get the most sunlight have the best flavor, as they have the highest concentration of aromatic oil.
- Choose firm leaves with no blemishes, and snip them off with sharp scissors.
- Ripping or crushing leaves can subtly change the flavor.
- If using the leaves of a plant for tea, aim to do so before they flower, as once a plant has bloomed, the foliage may taste bitter.
- There's more advice on the best herbs to grow in your garden in our guide.
Drying herbs for using in your herbal tea
For perennial herb plants (which die back in winter), drying them in summer means that you can ensure a continuous supply of tea through the cold months.
Pick the flowers or leaves in the late morning, when the dew has dried. Place them on a drying rack or hang them up in an airing cupboard for a couple of weeks. When the herbs feel brittle to touch, store in a clean, airtight jar until ready to use.
There's tips on how to dry flowers in our guide.
Stay safe when learning how to grow your own herbal tea
Tanya Anderson, organic gardener and author of A Woman’s Garden, has this advice on how to grow your own herbal tea:
- 'Never use a plant medicinally unless you are sure of what it can do. If you have an underlying health issue or are pregnant, breastfeeding or taking other medication, please speak to your physician before self-administering.'
- 'Always practice care when trying new plants as food or in herbalism.'
- 'If you have any doubts about the identity of the plants you are planning to use to make tea, it is best not to consume them.'
- Want to include flowers in your baking and recipes too? Head over to our guide to edible flowers for more expert advice.
An experienced freelance journalist, editor and columnist writing for national magazines and websites, Fiona now specialises in gardens. She enjoys finding and writing about all kinds, from the tiniest town plots to impressively designed ones in grand country houses. She's a firm believer that gardening is for everyone, and it doesn’t matter if you have a single window ledge or an acre, there’s always peace and joy to be found outside. The small town garden of her Edwardian terraced house is currently a work in progress as she renovates the property, but her goal is always to fill it with flowers, climbers, colour, fragrance – and as many of her treasured vintage finds as she can possibly fit in.
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