June 21, 2013

An Herb Filled Sun Tea to Welcome the Summer Solstice!

Happy Summer Solstice!

I woke up early to carve out a little extra time to celebrate, give thanks, welcome and join in on the energy on this longest day of the year.

Summer Solstice marks the longest day of the year. It is a calendrical red carpet for the season of the Sun {insert tossing of yellow, orange, and red marigold flower petals here}. Yay! 

Let's be real though...for some, the summer can mean heat...lots of heat...too much heat! 

Not to be a bummer... just a balance of magic and realism here. 

So, because of this, I would like to share with you how to make a delicious, cooling, uplifting and nutritive sun tea. I will share some ideas on herbs that cool the mind and body, herbs that are vitamin rich and nutritive, herbs that are uplifting and herbs that can help to stimulate the digestive fire. 

French Marigold, one of my favorites,but, not be confused with Calendula Marigold.
Making a sun tea is super simple and something you can even do before heading to work. Though I will share several herbal ideas, you may just choose to do one for simplicity. 

I love making simple teas, especially of peppermint and lemongrass because they are so easy to prepare and tasty. 

But, first, a trip down memory lane...

One of my favorite things about being a child was how it was almost mandatory to celebrate the little things. All those landmarks made life juicy and worth daydreaming about! I am convinced that this is part of the reason time seemed to go by so slowly...it was because we savored it and we celebrated it. 

I mean, half of elementary school is spent preparing for the next holiday. It's like we've convinced our society that celebration is for children only or something unless you are a parent or a teacher...which, to me is kind of deadening for adult life.

Celebration is about inhibition, breaking from daily stresses, loving life, playing and being with your sense of community {which can also be found in human solitude}, and living in the moment. 

It's is about vitality, appreciation, ritual and to me a little bit of adornment! 

I grew up in a household of all women to loved to decorate, cook food, eat food, make things by hand, and celebrate changes in time. 

And, as I have grown further into adulthood, I realize how celebration is something we make happen, it doesn't just happen on its own. So...yup. It's up to us and we don't have to wait to have children to do so! 

Fast forward twenty years...

Because it's only a little less than how long it took me to realize I missed celebrations....

One of my very favorite memories from Summer Solstice was spent in Sweden on this little Island with Marty and friends. 

We spent the day decorating a May pole with flowers and we set up a beautiful table that was something over twenty feet long. 

We all worked together to make it happen which was so much a part of the fun. 

By the end of the day, the table was fully surrounded with people on each end.

 It was the largest quaint dinner party I have ever been to. 

We shared a potluck and cheers with schnapps and things to celebrate. The best part is that the sun never went down! 

The darkest hour of the longest day, 2008 :)

It was a wild experience to be out and about on a pebbly beach as if it were four pm when it was actually two in the morning. And... It was hard to sleep. In fact, I didn't even think about it. 

 It made me realize just how much the sunshine and night sky can conduct our daily rhythms in life.

It was a pretty much the most magical longest day ever. We danced, we sang....and we even found a life size little play village of tiny houses to explore in {seriously, they were about hip height}. I have no clue why they were there. It's a mystery.

So, back to today's time...

It's a perfect day to mix up a jar of sun tea for a simple and easy way to consciously welcome in the summer. I  mean if you have a Solstice celebration to go to, even better, make a huge jar and bring some to share :) 

{Or go with the fruity, flowery, herby salad bit}

You can use fresh or dried herbs. Mints dry really well and are cooling, so the peppermint and Lemon balm options would  be great in you go with dried plant material. 

Because the green world is bursting forth in it's fullest, going with fresh is a nice option. It will have more vitality from the sun and spring rains {if in such a climate}. 

This conscious action will also place you in the moment of taking a walk, even if small, to a garden you've planted or to the market to collect your tea ingredients. 

How To Make A Sun Tea:

What you will need:
A clear glass jar {1 Qt or larger}
A will to collect herbs {1 C/Qt}
A sunny day

1. Collect and rinse a couple handfuls of your favorite herbs, fruits and/or flowers. To be honest, I don't always rinse mine. I personally like the opportunity to boost my immunity and am a fan of bacteria and microbes in my own personal intake {of course within reason}. 

2. Say a little thank you for the nourishment {as long as feels good and that you have time for}. If you have the time make a longer walk of it!

3. Place your findings in a clear glass jar, cover herbs completely with cool water and place the lid on your jar. Use one cup of herbs per quart of water. 

4. Give your jar a few gentle shakes to ensure all the herbs are well coated. This is a nice time to set an intention, set in some of your juju, and give some more thanks. 

5. Place your jar of solstice tea in a sunny spot on the grass, porch or table for at least 3-5 hours. The warmer the day, the less time you may need. 

Placing your jar on the grass is a lovely way to embrace the energy of the Sun and the Earth. If it will be out in mostly high noon sun, which come from directly above, you may want to consider placing it on its side for a higher sunlight to glass jar exposure. Allow this to sit for 

6. Let your sun tea sit throughout the day to soak up this Solstice Sunshine. When you get home you can strain it and enjoy your favorite tea ritual  :)  

Herbal suggestions:

Calendula Flowers (Calendula officinalis): A favorite herb of many with gorgeous orange blooms and a sunny disposition all around. It is used topically to heal wounds quite commonly and I have seen it effective as a gargle for swollen lymph glands. It is anti-microbial, increases immunity, and to be honest, I have listed it here mostly because of it's beautiful good cheer! As for topical use, I have found it to be initially moistening, nourishing and repairing followed by drying. I also love to use the oil under my eyes if I ever wake up a little but puffy eyed and it works wonders. Also adds a bit of a gold glow to the skin.

Dandelion Leaf and Flower (Taraxacum officinale): If all of America stopped trying to evict this beautiful flower from their front yards we would have a whole lot less edema and constipation and a whole lot more joy and wishes made true from their beautiful yellow blossoms

Just kidding. Well maybe...

Dandelion leaf is high in potassium, high in Vitamin A, delicious in salads, tasty in teas, and an excellent diuretic {encourages urination}. The potassium-diuretic connection is especially important because most diuretics are known to deplete potassium from your system. So...Dandelion=two birds one stone when in comparison and can be used in tea form {dry or fresh} or tincture form.

The leaves are most delicious when picked just prior to flower. As they age they become a bit more bitter and this is the same with the flower. 

The roots are only slightly bitter and also a bit sweet. When chopped and toasted the roots can make a delicious coffee replacement {with chicory and carob as well}. I find the tea from the dried roots to be very drying, almost puckering to the mouth if you drink too much for your own body type.Though, I have not seen this in everyone. 

The temporary dryness will do no harm, simply rehydrate after your experiment. The plant is too easily accessible {from clean-non-pesticide or poo ridden lawns please!} and useful to not experiment with. It is in the Aster family though, so if you are allergic, avoid the experimentation factor.

The tincture of Dandelion root helps to promote bowel movements and stimulation of bile {which helps break down fats and produce digestive enzymes}. It tends to be fairly starchy in texture so I consider it to also be a bit of a nourishing tonic.  

For this sun tea I suggest using the leaves. If you make a salad, go with some of the beautiful flowers! Capture them before they begin to transform into wish makers as the texture is dry, messy and that of feathers (I can only imagine).

By the way, if you would like to try a more than delicious herbal coffee replacement, try Laurie Stiers's Deep River Tea from Herbs All around. Laurie is a folk herbalist, nurse practitioner, all around talented artist and the a Fairy Godmother of tasty medicinal tea blending. This blend in particular is so good that you may likely need to stop yourself from drinking it all in one day. Seriously. I have heard several accounts of this and am guilty of it myself. 

Ginger Root (Zingiber officinlae): The root of ginger makes a deliciously spicy and sweet tea. It is warming by nature and this very warmth can help to break down any gaseous bloating. It is known to help reduce nausea, safe to use in pregnancy for morning sickness and can even be used in motion sickness.

I chose to add ginger here for those of us who are living in the northern climates where we get a good amount of sunshine along with cooler mornings and evenings. Also, the heat of ginger is warming like the sun...so a bit more of the energetic embracing of summer. It is best to simmer ginger on the stove for a sweet and warming tea, but, if you were to grate a small amount into your sun tea, It would blossom just fine. 

Hibiscus Leaf (Hibiscus sabdariffa): Hibiscus is high in Vitamin C and cooling to the mind and the body and considered an anti-inflammatory. It is sweet and sour in flavor and offers itself as a crisp refreshment similar to lemonade on a hot summer day. A great drink to keep you cool in the summer. This is not an herb that I have used very much for medicine outside of being used as a general cooling anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant. 

Lemon Balm Leaf (Melissa officinalis): Oh, Lemon Balm! How I love you.
This is one of my all time favorite herbs to use for it's cooling effects to the mind. Lemon Balm is a delicious mint with at (can you guess?) lemony flavor. 

The first time I drank the tea was during a major cram-session at my first herbal apprenticeship. I was task-mastering in a frenzy, which, really is never good...so decided to take a break with a cup of tea.

Oh, boy am I so happy to have chosen Lemon Balm. It set me back big time. I went from frantically tasking in spirals to a deep breath followed by a totally calm, cool and collected mind shift. I got so much more done, felt relaxed and happy. Herbalist, David Winston suggests a blend of Lemon Balm and Saint John's Wort for seasonal depression. I've seen it effective in herbal blends individuals who experience depression any time of year.

Lemon Balm is also gentle on the stomach, can help to alleviate gas, cramping, tension, and general malaise of the belly. 

It is an excellent, excellent, excellent herb to have around for the person who gets super fiery in the summer time and is quick to temper, irritability, or outbursts of anger.

If this is you, make a big old jar of sun tea {or regular tea from a pot} to sip on throughout the summer time. Lemon Balm will give  you even more reasons to love the world and how you project yourself into it. 

About a 1-2 cups a day should do. To make this tea sans solar energy place about 1/2 cup of herb in a quart jar and cover with hot water. Allow to sit for  5-15 minutes depending on how strong you like to make it.

If you grow this in your garden, place it in a container and collect it right before/as it goes into flower. 
One plant will grow large enough for a summer's worth. It is a pervasive plant {as are all mints} and will take over your garden, and your neighbor's garden, if you are not mindful.  All that means is more fun harvest time in the sun for you!

Orange or Citrus Zest (any variety): Have you ever nibbled on a citrus rind after peeling it? Sometimes, when I eat grapefruits in particular, I like to chew on the white membrane between the skin and the fruit specifically for the bitterness that it emits. Just about all citrus rinds have this quality, along with the cooling, sour and bitter essential oils.

If you have a particularly porous and supple citrus peel, when you give it a twist, you can actually see a direct mist of essential oils squirting out of each pore! It's really cool (to nerds like me). Or if you are feeling particularly bitter about someone you can accidentally twist a peel at them. Just kidding, don't ever really do that. 

The bitter in citrus, like Dandelion root and all other bitter foods and herbs stimulate your digestive fire by stimulating the production of bile and other digestive enzymes. If you are someone who has a tough time digesting your foods, or tends towards a stagnant (sluggish) constipation, bitter foods may be just for you. 

Orange peel {or any citrus} can be a cheerful addition to any tea. The smell alone is enough to make you smile. Save the pulp and use it to sweeten up a cup of cool tea!

Peppermint Leaf (Mentha piperita): This is another fantastic mint tea to drink in the summer time. Peppermint tea, like the essential oil, is cooling at first and then eventually becomes warming. 

It is an anti-inflammatory, reduces histamine responses and can help to clear a runny nose or sinus congestion. Like eucalyptus, it is dispersing in energy and open the airways in the body. Although, I personally think it is more effective in it's workings. 

Like dandelion root and Calendula, Peppermint too can eventually be drying and puckering to the mouth if you drink too much for your body type. 

It is an excellent remedy for an upset stomach, and can even be used for vomiting. 7Song, clinical and first aid herbalist, suggests applying a small amount of peppermint spirits to one's lips to help reduce nausea and vomiting. This is particularly useful for when people are unable to get hold anything down and are nearing dehydration. 

Peppermint is energizing! It can help perk you up in the morning or in middle of the day, particularly if your mind is wandering and lacking focus. 

If you are someone who tends towards inflammation in the stomach and/or gut, peppermint can bring great relief. Not only does it reduce inflammation, but you can practically feel it as it comes into contact to cool the tissues.

Raspberry Leaf (rubus ideaus): Raspberry leaf contains many vitamins and minerals such as potassium, magnesium, vitamin C, iron, vitamin A and vitamin E. It is sweetly aromatic and sour in flavor and safe to use in pregnancy. It has an astringent quality that allows for it to tone the tissues and is commonly used as a uterine tonic. According to William Cook in his classical herbal, The Physio-Medical Dispensatory, raspberry leaf is observed to be  "...of a peculiarly soothing nature, being very acceptable to the stomach, always leaving a slight tonic impression, often allying nausea and vomiting, and not infrequently soothing and sustaining the nervous system..."

It seems that raspberry may be a nice nutritive and nourishing support in a blend with lemon balm, hibiscus peppermint dandelion and rose petals. 

There are many other herbs that I would have loved to cover such as Tulsi, Nettles, and Rose...but, that will be for another time. 

In the meantime, enjoy your sun tea and let me know how your experiments go!

Much love, 


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