Many preppers make sure to have a bottle of vitamins in their emergency supplies. Vitamin pills can be a quick way to make sure you are getting your recommended daily allowance of vitamins, minerals, and trace minerals during an evacuation or short term scenario, when you may not be eating as well as usual.
But what if you were in a situation where your vitamin supplements had run out? In a long term, shelter-in-place scenario, herbs could be invaluable as an extra source of nutrients. After all, the raw ingredients can be grown in a garden or vacant lot!
Plus, herbal teas are also a great way to add a boost of extra nutrition if you are currently looking to be less reliant on bottled supplements. The herbs we will talk about here are a great source of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, and potassium; and some are also high in vitamin C.
With a little creativity and effort, herbal teas can be nutritious and taste great, too!
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What Herbs to Use
It’s very simple to design your own herbal tea blends. You will need a mineral-rich herb for the base, and then other herbs for flavoring or secondary benefits. Two of the best herbs to use as a base for a nutritional herbal brew are nettle and violet. Both are common weeds in North America, so they may already be growing in your backyard. Just watch out when you harvest nettles- fresh nettles sting, but quickly lose that sting as they dry.
Be sure to use a reliable field guide when learning to recognize these plants. They are both easy to identify, but misidentifying wild plants intended as edibles can be a fatal mistake.
Nettles and violets are mild enough to be used as food, so they are safe to use on an almost daily basis. This is not true with all herbs- some of them are considered too potent for everyday use. Other herbs, besides nettle and violet, that can be used regularly include oatstraw, red raspberry leaf, alfalfa, and red clover. It’s best to switch between two or three of these base herbs every few days, because the nutrient profile of each is slightly different.
All of these herbs are very mild tasting and can be used on their own or in combinations with each other. Because they have such mild flavors, it’s very easy to add other herbs as flavorings to change things up a bit. Peppermint is usually a favorite add-in, but you can also try lemon balm for a citrus touch, a small amount of licorice as a sweetener, or hibiscus for a fruity note. I sometimes enjoy adding lavender and rose petals for a more floral blend.
For extra vitamin C, elderberry, rosehips, hawthorn, and pine needles are great choices. They all taste very good by themselves, and they can be combined with each other or any of the mineral rich herbs on the first list.
Herbal Tea Making Basics
The basic recipe for making herbal teas from leaves and flowers is to use 2 teaspoons of herbs to every 8oz of water. Bring the water to a boil in a kettle or pot, then pour the water over the herbs in a heat-safe container. Cover with a saucer or lid and allow to steep for at least ten minutes.
When you are ready to drink your tea, strain out the leaves by pouring through a coffee filter, piece of clean cloth, or fine mesh sieve. I often use a special mesh “spoon” that allows me to brew the tea and then simply remove the strainer when I’m finished.
A study done on the mineral content of herbal teas in 2008, and published in the journal, Food Chemistry, discovered that ten to fifteen minutes is the optimum range for extracting most minerals. That being said, it’s not uncommon for traditional herbalists to allow their infusions to soak for 30 minutes or more (even overnight) if they are looking for a nutrition boosting brew.
I find that the longer soaking time works best for the single herbs mentioned above, rather than blends. Some of the herbs used for flavoring in a blend may lose their flavor or become bitter if left overnight. The milder base herbs don’t usually have that problem, and actually seem to be much stronger and better tasting with a longer brewing time.
Nettle, especially, is often made in the evening and left to its own devices overnight to provide a healthy, deep green drink for breakfast. I wrote an article about making an overnight infusion with violet leaf and flowers here. It is a little more unusual, but, at least in my experience, has been just as good.
Four Blends to Get You Started
Here are four of my favorite homemade blends. All of these tea blends are fine for children as well as adults. Rather than give specific measurements in cups or tablespoons, I’ve chosen to provide each recipe in parts.
You can measure out each blend in whatever amount makes sense for you. Perhaps try using a tablespoon to measure for your first batch, and then make a larger batch using a one cup measure if you enjoy it. Your tea blends will keep best if stored in a sealed container in a cool, dark place.
Oatstraw with Rosepetals and Lavender
This blend is three parts oatstraw, one part rose petals, and lavender buds to taste. I like this blend on days when I’m feeling stressed. Oatstraw is a traditional herb for nourishing the nervous system, and rose and lavender are also good for supporting mood and healthy stress levels. I like this tea warm, with honey.
Nettle and Peppermint
A blend of equal parts nettle and peppermint. This is one of my favorites in the summer, when the peppermint is extra refreshing. I usually enjoy this one chilled or on ice with a little honey.
Violet leaf with Elderberry and Rosehips
This blend is three parts violet leaf, one part each of elderberries and rosehips. The elderberries and rosehips make this a very fruity blend. It is somewhat tart on it’s own, or honey can be used to sweeten it. It’s good either warm or cold.
Red Clover, Nettle, and Rosehips
A blend of equal parts of all three herbs. This is another tea that’s good either warm or cold. The rosehips give it a tart flavor that can be enhanced with a squeeze of lemon or toned down with a little honey.
The best thing about drinking tea for your vitamins is there’s no pill to swallow, and in dire circumstances, where obtaining multi-vitamins and nutritional supplements may not be possible, knowing how to make nutritious herbal teas may give you a vital boost to your health.