by Prashanti de Jager
Have you ever noticed that there is something so practical and accessible about consuming your herbs as a tea? Have you ever observed that there is also something ancient and magical, deeper than mind even, about sipping a cup of hot nourishing tea? Read on to discover why you are right on both accounts.
First of all, let’s define our terms. What do I mean by tea? Often, at some event or another, I will give a person a cup of Tulsi Tea and they will immediately ask me, “Is it tea?” or they might say, “Is there any tea in it?” Fair enough. We know what they mean. They are equating the word “tea” with an infusion of the herb whose Latin name is Camellia sinensis, the herb used to make Black Teas like what is in Tulsi India Breakfast Tea, Green Teas like what is in Tulsi Green Tea and Pu-erh tea, and of course, White Tea, like Snow Leopard.
Yes, Camellia is “Tea;” yes, Camellia has caffeine; no, Tulsi and 99.99% of all herbs on the planet do not have caffeine. However, what I am talking about when I say “tea” is any infusion of herbs into hot or cold water, and if hot, either simmered or steeped.
So, above and beyond the medicinal quality of the herb, what makes an herbal tea medicinal? Amongst the many reasons here are 8 insights that are especially meaningful to me.
The first characteristic of tea is that it is liquid, and that liquid is a medicine as it helps hydrate us. We all know that most of us simply do not hydrate ourselves properly. So drinking tea is increasing hydration. I know it is a big part of my hydration pattern, especially after living in India for so long where I lost trust in the available water on those hot plains. Boiled water just tends to be safer for us than tap water and even safer than many bottled waters.
Also, because it’s as easy to purify a parched body as it is to wring a dried sponge clean, when it comes to cleansing hydration is practically a must. So when you use cleansing and restorative formulas like the Triphala formula and the Liver-Kidney formula, washing them down with plenty of tea is a good idea. You can even open up these capsules and add them to Tulsi Tea, like Tulsi Licorice as these herbs so appropriate to a spring cleanse.
Doesn’t it just make so much sense that one of the Sanskrit words for cold water, especially ice water, is Vish, meaning poison, as it is so hard on the digestion? The colder the water, and the more of it, the more the digestion is diluted and slowed; the more digestion is shut down the poorer the quality of tissue is produced; and viola, you have an America which is 35% obese. Ice water is not digestible and it severally attenuates digestion of anything else. Ice water is not the whole story for those who find themselves far from their optimal weight, but is big part of it. If you are an “ice-water” type then you may also want to become a “Trikatu” type as well to help counteract the oft deleterious deep chill of your habit.
Conversely, warm tea tends to be medicinal as it is always a great idea to protect your digestive “fire,” or as they say in Yoga and Ayurveda, “Guard the Agni.” Drinking warm tea is like nectar in this way. In fact, one of the classic ways of stimulating the digestion and restoring one that has slowed is to take tiny sips of very hot water throughout the day.
When we consume whole fresh herbs, for instance in our food, or herbs in capsules for that matter, then those herbs have to go down into our inner cauldron and be unpacked or released by our digestion fires. That is often all fine and good. However, by drinking an herb infused in water, then that herb, or at least its water-soluble fraction, is significantly “unpacked” already and can act directly without necessarily being digested further. Thus, this is one reason why a tea will tend to work faster and be more pervasive in its action.
One of the times when this is very important is when you are in the midst of digestive distress, where it seems your digestion is not just weak but practically absent. In that case sipping hot teas like Tulsi Ginger Tea are great ways to coax your digestion back to cogent centered sharpened eager alertness.
The “pleasure pathway” is associated with the limbic system which is associated with the olfactory, another reason why to take your aromatic adaptogens, like Tulsi as a tea, so that you can use the channel of smell to directly enhance your deep wellness. But, as I said in the February 2012 Newsletter, you may have to hold the cup of tea up to your face and “drink” it with your smell and sinuses. This connection between the fragrance of your medicine and your deep limbic and dopamine system is known in the Ayurveda and Yoga tradition as smell’s pritvhi bhuta, it’s earth element nature, and is also confirmed recently by western bioscience as well.
Hot or warm liquids tend to be good for oral health as they help to rinse out the mouth. Also a hydrated mouth is a healthier mouth – and even more so if you are drinking an herb that is also very supportive of gum and tooth health, like Tulsi and Turmeric, and practically all astringents like Triphala. Yes, Triphala tea is consumed by millions daily. Just open a few of your Triphala capsules into a small cup of hot Tulsi Tea, stir and steep for a minute or two, and then drink it down while making sure you swish each mouthful first.
You can do the same with intense bitters, for instance try drinking some tea made from Liver Kidney formula or from the Skin Renew formula, that latter of which actually makes a visually beautiful tea with its bright green Neem and golden Turmeric. If you can remain calm centered and relatively non-responsive to a Liver Kidney formula tea, then you can learn some interesting things from the high bitters like Katuki, for instance, the place in you that loves and craves bitters. Feeding that within which craves bitter is like pouring balance into your cup of wellness
It is age old wisdom that we require all 6 tastes to ensure wellness, and as a culture based on sweet, salt, pungent and sour, we are in dire need of the bitter and astringent. So really, add some bitters and astringents to your palate, it is an easy way to enjoy a more balanced diet.
There is a positive conditioned response that arises when drinking tea, as if we have a deep subconscious memory that this is good for us, and is restorative. Look at the movies or read the legends: you have some Hero or Heroine at the verge of death, and they are nursed back to health and to eventual victory with what? Yes, with Tea or a thin broth, and even the thin broth is a “tea” of the herbs and foods in the soup. In the Vedic, Ayurvedic and many deep Shaman traditions we have a similar mythic theme where the drinking of the tea, or the Soma, leads one to experience the underlying fabric of the universe.
Drinking a warm accessible tea offers attunement with the feminine facets of the water element which rules the depth of our emotions, intuition, semantic memory, dreams and self-healing. The myths abound: The Welsh cauldron of Bran the Blessed brings warriors back to life, and Dagda’s cauldron Undry gives you anything you want to drink. The “cup” itself is a deep archetypical symbol of the feminine, like the holy grail, and the feminine is simply more restorative than the masculine, especially in times like these when masculinity is so out of control that it has so efficiently delivered disasters of every sort.
Yes, drinking Tea is often very good for us, and in addition to that, because we have such a deep subconscious conditioned response that Tea is so good and deeply restorative for us, it is. One reason why mind is powerful is because belief is a creative force.
Whether you are scrambling for some stress-relieving Tulsi Tea in some crazed Manhattan office on the 79th floor in the year 2018, or on a lawn of a British estate having “Afternoon Tea” in the year 1818, or you are just a simple Zen Master giving teachings to a student via chanoyu, “The Way of Tea” in the year 918, drinking tea tends to become a ritual. Ritual tends to be a very healthy use of time, as it helps us leave those parts of our mind that may not always have our best interest, well, in mind.
Ritual is a fluid exquisite dance between the freedom of pure Prana and the discipline of focused attention, Tejas as it is called. Ritual is a restorative microcosmic orbit, a little healing world of wellness, simply because ritual is that which is repeatedly skillfully well done. Tea drinking, simple as it may be, is a sweet punctuation in our lives, a time to exhale, a time to reflect, a time to allow closures, beginnings and transitions all to emerge at once out of the silence, focus and freedom of the ritual. Ritual is a time of mindfulness, of awareness, and that is what we are. So the ritual facet of drinking tea holds space for the greatest of reunions.
Leveraging all the benefits of tea as medicine, ORGANIC INDIA’s new line of Wellness Teas is specifically formulated for True Wellness. Each function-specific tea blends Tulsi-Holy Basil with other herbs to offer distinct benefits that support and promote your True Wellness.
Tulsi Cleanse in particular is fantastic for achieving a deep, rejuvenative detoxification, and Spring is a traditional time to cleanse the body and mind in preparation for the active summer months ahead.
Compared to many forms of extracts that are just emerging today, like CO2, water extracts of herbs are very old and so our body is more tuned to the medicine of Tea. However, relative to chewing whole herbs, which we have likely done for hundreds of thousands of years, water extracts of herbs, teas, are likely very new, likely only about 35 to 50 thousand years old. And so though our body is still making the transition to water extracts, obvious to the most casual observer tea seems like a great fit for us and is certainly going to be a huge hit.
All forms of medicine have their time and place and compliance pros and cons, and like herbs in general, drinking herbal tea can likely have more time and a larger place in our lives.