After a month of parties, shopping trips, family celebrations and nights on the sledding hills, a new season is upon us: cold and flu season. The sniffly, cold weather has us reaching into our cupboards for herbal teas. Unlike black, green, white, pu-erh or oolong tea, which all come from the leaves and leaf buds of the tea tree (Camellia sinensis), herbal teas are non-caffeinated teas made up of leaves, bark, flowers, seeds and/or other parts of numerous plants, many of which you might find in the garden or foraged from the woods.
Herbal teas are also known as tisane, herbal infusions, botanical teas or simply “plant medicine,” as organic farmer and Mill City Farmers Market vendor Nancy Graden calls them.
Graden, owner of Red Clover Herbal Apothecary Farm, grows over 50 kinds of certified organic medicinal herbs on her five-acre farm in Amery, Wisconsin. She strongly believes in the intelligence of plants and the part their gifts play in our health and well-being.
“I think there’s so much plant medicine that can be used to heal the Earth,” she said.
Graden, who grew up on a farm in southern Indiana, first became interested in herbalism over 30 years ago, when she was living in the Ozarks and was given a book on medicinal herbs of the region. Inspired, Graden began taking classes in herbalism, anatomy and physiology from the Australasian College of Health Sciences and the University of Minnesota. She ultimately earned a degree in Western clinical herbalism from Minneapolis Community and Technical College and established her herbal practice in 2009.
With this knowledge, Graden has been learning a plant remedy for everything and loves sharing her wisdom. Red Clover’s “Cold Season Tea Blend,” for example, takes its antimicrobial and pro-respiratory properties from a mix of peppermint, spearmint, marshmallow, mullein, anise hyssop, yarrow, elderflower and thyme.
Red Clover Herbal Apothecary’s products include direct-from-the-farm dried herbal teas, salves and balms (oils infused with botanicals mixed with beeswax to be applied to the skin), tinctures (alcohol and water infused with botanicals to be swallowed with a dropper), herb starter plants and more.
Graden and her crew of one to two part-time staffers not only grow and forage all the herbs that go into their products, but they also do all the processing in their on-farm commercial kitchen. Graden also makes it a point to teach monthly classes on herbalism to share her knowledge with the community.
How to make loose-leaf herbal tea
Bring water to a full boil, or 212 degrees Fahrenheit, for herbal tea (rather than anywhere from 150-200 degrees for caffeinated teas from the camellia sinensis plant). Using a teapot or loose-leaf tea steeper/infuser and a ratio of 8 ounces water per 1 heaping teaspoon of tea, pour the hot water over the tea. Let it steep for 10 minutes covered. Strain or remove steeper/infuser and enjoy!
To learn more about herbalism and to stock your medicine cabinet, you can find Red Clover Herbal Apothecary at the Mill City Farmers Market’s winter markets on Feb. 1 and March 7. The markets run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. inside the Mill City Museum (704 S. 2nd St.), millcityfarmersmarket.org.