I’ve recently begun to explore the world of herbal teas. During an attempt to cut down on dairy, I quickly realised that the prospect of my morning cup of tea without milk was not at all an exciting one (I’ve always been a ‘good old Five Roses’ fan), so, in order to make the process just a little more bearable, I decided to experiment with some herbal alternatives.
Although I haven’t yet scratched the surface of all the wild and wonderful brews out there, what has fascinated me so far is the incredible collection of teas that have their roots right here in our own back garden, the Cape Floral Kingdom. As I’ve warmed (no pun intended) to the idea of this kind of tea drinking, I’ve spent a bit of time researching the health benefits – or what I like to call the ‘bonus points’ – of fynbos teas.
Here’s why these four fynbos favourites are so extraordinarily good for you:
‘Elixir of youth’ is the name that the Khoisan people gave to the Buchu plant (Agathosma Betulina) when they introduced it to the first Dutch colonists in 1652. Today, it is widely used for a variety of health purposes, including its anti-inflammatory effects for rheumatism and gout; its effective cleansing/flushing action on the kidneys to help with urinary-related infections; its antispasmodic properties for relief from cramping and bloating, and its numerous vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that all promote general physical wellbeing. It has a distinctive natural minty, liquorice-tinged flavour that, although not quite what you might expect, becomes more-ish over time! (Ref)
This familiar favourite (scientifically known as Aspalathus Linearis) has a permanent place in the pantries of most South African households. It’s the uncaffeinated, easy-drinking, healthier alternative to regular tea and coffee. But why is it so good for you? Researchers continue to discover new benefits every day, but what we do already know is that Rooibos reduces stress by lowering the body’s production of the stress hormone, cortisol; it alleviates allergies and inflammations; calms stomach cramps; contains powerful anti-oxidants that have a proven cancer-fighting effect; protects the heart and reduces blood cholesterol levels, and prevents the development of liver disease (Ref). Not too shabby for a morning cuppa!
With its pleasant, mildly sweet flavour and low tannin content, Honeybush (Cyclopia spp.) is a wonderful hot drink alternative. Like Rooibos, it contains no caffeine and is rich in antioxidants that work towards protection against cancer and osteoporosis. For the perfect cup, infuse a Honeybush tea bag in hot water for 2-5 minutes. Feel free to add a drop of honey – it works to further enhance the honey flavour of the herb.
Another delicious way to enjoy Honeybush is as a refreshing iced tea – one to remember for summer! (Ref)
Rose-scented Geranium Tea
Doesn’t this just sound delicious? The aromatic geranium species is umbrella to a number of different varieties, many of which are known for their fragrant, scented leaves (rose, mint, lemon, you name it). For tea lovers, a rose-scented geranium (Pelargonium Graveolens) tea infusion is recommended for its calming effect and ability to reduce stress and anxiety. It is also reported to help with menopausal problems, tonsillitis, premenstrual stress and poor circulation. Tea can be made with fresh plant material, dried material, or bark/seeds. When using fresh plant material, place ¼ cup of the geranium leaves in a cup, fill the cup with boiling water and allow to infuse for 5 minutes. (Ref)
NB: If foraging for your own plant materials, remember to do so sustainably. Scroll to the end of this Green Audits article for some useful tips: http://greenaudits.co.za/fynbos-for-foodies-at-good-hope-gardens/