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There’s a video that Nick has on his phone from 5, maybe 6 years ago – I’m just sitting on the couch reading out loud from one of my books. I stop reading, look up at him with tears in my eyes and say, “I truly love these plants”.

A lot of life has happened between then and now, but I still find myself pausing, overcome with emotion in random moments of total appreciation for the gift that is plant medicine.

For me, one of the most intimate ways to interact with that precious plant medicine that has now become my life’s work – is through the magic of tea.

A moment of tea savored helps you tend to the wounds of the soul.
A cup of tea shared created space for deeper connection
The ritual itself makes room for your own thoughts.

Tea is, in fact, one of the first introductions to herbs that most of us experience. A cup of chamomile at a restaurant for digestion, hot tea with lemon and honey for a sore throat from mom. 

Tea is how we learned to practice our own kitchen medicine, even if we didn’t know it at the time… and I can’t believe the time has almost come where I get to share my beloved kitchen formulas with you.

While there are many different ways to brew tea, all of them have one thing in common: they ask you to slow down and actually pay attention to the simple and wholesome task at hand — the same task your ancestors inevitably took part in with their own local plants and traditions. This act engages your hands and your heart while letting your mind clear its clutter, and allows you to arguably receive the maximum benefit from the herbs you’re utilizing.

The beauty of tea is that it can be enjoyed simply for the comfort of a warming cup, or carefully prepared with a specific method to extract maximum medicinal compounds and nutrition in order to target physical, mental and emotional imbalance.

At its simplest, tea is:
1. dried herbs +
2. steeped in (usually hot) water…
…and yet there are far more intricate directions and methods of preparation that help you maximize those compounds mentioned above.

In this part II post, we’ll dive into the basics of the 4 main types of tea preparation: what makes each one different, what plants they’re best suited for, and why some herbs are actually best infused with cold or room temperature instead of hot! But for now, I want to really hammer home why the simple preparation that is tea can actually be so potent for the human body and your health goals. 

Tea is so much more than just a beverage. It’s  actually a powerful extraction of plant medicine that can pack a high punch of milligrams of active compounds, as well as a plethora of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that other solvents can’t always grab.

Tea is medicine; it can be even more powerful than tinctures or capsules at times, and it’s a great way to take your herbs (especially when you’re looking to deepen your relationship with the plants by physically seeing them, touching them, smelling them and preparing them). Tea nourishes the body and soul, and it’s even beneficial for gut health in a way that other delivery methods aren’t – so let’s break it down!

THE POWER OF THE RITUAL

Rituals like tea create the space so you can hear. We all have an inner voice within us that’s constantly speaking to us, answering our questions with gut instincts and wisdom that are fleeting from moment to moment. It takes a keen ear and a practice of mindfulness to be able to really tune into your body and hear this voice – and sometimes the noise of the world can make that feel almost impossible.

When everything in our external lives feels unpredictable and out of our control, a personal tea practice (whether alone or enjoyed with a loved one) brings that element of presence, intention, and slowness back into our lives. 

Tea has taught me that it’s okay to go slow. In fact, that’s the only way that tea allows. You can’t rush the brewing or steeping process, you can’t force that golden liquid; you have to let time do its job and enjoy each moment as the leaves and flowers swirl and unfold.

Slow allows you to empty, so that you can take more in. It doesn’t detract from your productivity or the fullness of your life, it allows it. Only when you go slow can you feel what your body actually needs or listen to your true desires. It took me a long time to feel safe enough in my body to want to be with her and spend time with her, and tea has played such a pivotal role in that as have my other rituals like self massage, stretching, and even my oral care routine to be honest. Life will show you when you’re going too fast but we don’t always listen – tea gives you that moment to tune in and hear.

Tea cultivates mindfulness. And mindfulness rituals allow you to collect your thoughts, to create and play in a vision for your future, to dream, to process, to feel the emotions you’ve been holding back. So often today we simply don’t stop to think about our lives, we just live in them and push forward to fill the noise. 

A cup of tea is so much more than a cup of tea. It’s a gateway to your inner world, it’s a form of protection against going too fast, it’s a doorway of connection to your body and heart space, and it’s one of the most loving acts we can perform for someone we care for. Tea can completely change the mood in a room, soften a difficult conversation, and soothe the waves of tension when passions are high.

Tea is medicine, in more ways than one.

WATER IS THE UNIVERSAL SOLVENT

Water is what herbalists call “the universal solvent.” It extracts a ton of constituents from plants: vitamins, minerals, flavonoids, and various other phytochemicals and nutrients. In fact, it has a more robust range when it comes to extracting plant chemicals than any other known liquid. 

The only place water falls short is that it’s unable to extract *all* alcohol-soluble alkaloids from dense roots and barks, even though it does get some – that’s why a long decoction method for roots is so key

Think of it this way: all B vitamins, including B1, B2, B3, B6, B9, and B12 are water-soluble and can be extracted expertly by water. Vitamin C is another one that is soluble in water, with countless other vitamins, minerals and nutrients (like potassium, magnesium, calcium, and so much more).

HOT DRINKS SUPPORT YOUR MICROBIOME’S GOOD BUGS?!

For centuries, Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine have preached the importance of drinking warm to hot liquids (or at the very least, room temperature) in order to protect the digestive fire – or what we’d see today as gut health.

In these ancient systems of medicine, it’s believed that cold water reduces digestive fire – the metabolism or breakdown that ‘cooks’ and extracts nutrients from our food – and hot or warm water actually strengthens digestive fire.

With the digestive fire dampened, and food digestion disturbed, the balance of all other organ systems can be thrown off, knocking us out of homeostasis and creating ‘ama’ aka harmful byproducts and stagnation from improper digestion.

According to the Ayurvedic text “Ashtānga Hridayam,”  warm, hot, or room temperature water “stimulates hunger, promotes digestion, is easily digested, and relieves hiccups, gas, aggravated vata, and aggravated kapha.” (Excess vata = gas and bloating, while excess kapha = stagnation, sluggishness, fatigue).

While Ayurveda’s methodology and philosophy began well before modern scientific processes, some interesting studies have popped up in recent years exploring this concept of cold water = altering to the gut/digestive process in a negative way, vs warm water = supporting the gut microbiome/digestive process in a positive way.

Most notably, this study explored the benefits of weaning young rabbits on warm water instead of cold water, by monitoring their growth performance and gut microbiome structure. The intro draws from human health studies and states,

“Epidemiological investigations have revealed that cold temperature can increase the risk of diarrhea in children, and similar observations have been made in early postweaning livestock. Recent studies have shown that cold temperature alters the gut microbiota, which may be associated with the pathogenesis of various intestinal diseases, such as inflammatory bowel diseases.”

Cold temperatures alter gut microbiota?! Although they’re talking about the weather outside, Ayurveda and TCM believe that both prolonged cold climate exposure and cold foods/drinks can harm the digestive fire and microbiome. And interestingly enough, this study suggests we may be able to combat those cold temperature gut changes and protect the microbiome by drinking warm water – so I wonder if they’d find the opposite as well: that cold temperature drinks have the same altering effect as cold temps outside, like TCM believes. TCM and Ayurveda also state that it’s even more imperative to drink hot and warm drinks during the winter months, which aligns as well. It goes on to describe the study, explaining:

“In the present study, using early post weaning rabbits as a model, we analyzed the effects of drinking warm water (WW) on the growth performance and gut microbiota structure of postweaning rabbits during winter. Our results confirmed that drinking warm water improved the growth performance and optimized gut microbiota in early postweaning rabbits during winter.”

All the more reason to drink that warm cup of tea for a happy gut! I can’t wait to share our full line with you on 3.26, and I hope this motivates you to brew a cup on the stove right now and give your gut, nervous system, and spirit some love.

xx,
Olivia

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