Friday, March 8, 2013

Eight Easy Herbal Teas for Spring

A cup of herbal tea is a perfect way to attune our bodies and minds to the delicate, fresh energy of Spring.

Spring is a great time of year to attend to the health of the Liver. In Chinese medicine, the Liver plays a critical role in the health of our blood and in the flow of energy throughout our body. Sub-optimal Liver function, which we call "Liver congestion Qi stagnation" can make the transition from Winter to Spring a little more challenging, giving rise to symptoms like seasonal allergies, hormonal imbalances, PMS, painful periods, vision problems, headaches, migraines, muscle spasms, tendon & ligament injuries, mood swings, irritability, anger, depression, stress and overwhelm.

Here are eight easy-to-prepare herbal teas. Sip them throughout the day at home or at work to soothe & nourish your liver and ease your transition into Spring.

Keep it simple. Most of these herbs can be found in tea-bag form in your local health food store. Otherwise, you can buy them in bulk from your local health food store or western or Chinese herb supplier. Just steep in warm water and enjoy.


The simplest "tea" to support the Liver is a cup of hot water with a squeeze of fresh lemon. The sour flavor has a special affinity for the liver, counteracting the effects of rich, greasy food by breaking down fats and proteins.


Known best for treatment of colds & flus, peppermint also clears the eyes (eyes are related to the Liver in Chinese medicine), and circulates Liver Qi, relieving emotional stress, moodiness and gynecological problems, like PMS and cramps.

Peppermint tea with a bit of honey is a wonderful blend of sweet and spicy that is cooling, refreshing and revitalizing.

goji (or lycium) berries

Reputed as a longevity herb in China and said to brighten spirits and improve eyesight, goji berries are used by herbalists to nourish Liver and Kidney Yin and Blood to treat imbalances characterized by dryness, pallor and low-back ache. You can find goji berries in health food stores. Steeped with peppermint leaves, chrysanthemum flowers or other fresh herbs, they add richness and sweetness your favorite Spring tea.

dandelion leaf & root

This common weed is a tonic herb full of vitamins and minerals. It is well-known as a cleansing herb, as it stimulates the liver, induces bile flow and cleans the hepatic system. It tones the kidneys and aids in water elimination as well.

Chinese medicine uses all parts of the dandelion plant to clear toxic heat from the Liver. The leaves can be eaten as food or steeped and drunk as a tea. An infusion of dandelion root makes a pretty compelling coffee substitute.


Nettles are one of the best-loved herbs in the western herbal traditions. You can find the young stinging nettles growing in the East Bay hills right now.

Nettles have become well-known for the treatment of hayfever and allergies. Sip nettle tea daily to prevent Spring allergies. Nettles are full of vitamins and minerals. They activate the metabolism and strengthen the entire body. They tone the kidneys and cleanse the blood.

Additional uses are as a reproductive tonic for men and women; to ease growing pains in young children; to alleviate PMS and menopause symptoms; as a diuretics and to ease inflammation of the unrinary tract; to ease skin conditions like eczema; to decrease mucous in the body; and generally to enhance energy and vitaility.

Fresh nettles can often be found at farmers' markets at this time of year. You can also harvest them (wear rubber gloves because they sting!), and steam them for eating as you would other green vegetables, or steep and drink the tea. You can also find them in dried form at health food stores.


Chrysanthemum treats fevers, colds, flu, headache and fever. In Chinese medicine it is used to clear heat from the Liver in order to heal red eyes, blurred vision, dizziness and hypertension symptoms. It can be used as an eye wash for sore or swollen eyes. It calms anger and irritability. 

The Chinese drink it steeped with goji berries or mint leaves for its cooling and refreshing taste and rejeuvenative properties.


Containing a lot of highly-assimilable calcium, chamomile helps soothe the nerves and improve sleep. It also eases cramps and spasms and improves digestion.

A gentle herb, chamomile is one of the best children's herbs. It's useful for teething, crying, restlessness, colic, gas, fever and insomnia. Used in a bath or as a wash, it can soothe cuts, skin abrasions and diaper rash.


Turmeric is most commonly known as a spice in Indian cooking; but it can also be steeped as a tea and found as bagged tea in health food stores. The tuber can be juiced. I like to incorporate grated turmeric into my homemade saurkraut!

In Chinese medicine, we use both the turmeric tuber (which is energetically cooling) and the rhizome (which is energetically warming). Both have a powerful affect on many types of pain. The cooling tuber calms the nervous system as well.

Turmeric strengthens digestion, improves intestinal flora, aids in digestion of protein and moves gastric or abdominal congestion and its related pain. It powerfully detoxifies and decongests the liver and dissolves gallstones.

A great herb or food supplement for athletes, turmeric's action on the liver helps flexibility of the tendons. Blood-moving and anti-inflammatory, it is useful for wounds, bruises and other injuries, taken both externally and internally.

The warm rhizome is especially used to treat pain -- pain related to injury, chest pain, gastric, hernia or abdominal pain, and menstrual and postpartum pain. It circulates and purifies the blood, is anti-inflammatory, and stimulates the formation of new blood cells.

The tuber cools the blood and can be used to quell anxiety and agitation.

Related article: Ten Lifestyle Tips for Spring Wellness.


Rosemary Gladstar. Family Herbal: A Guide to Living Life with Energy, Health, and Vitaility.

Lesley Tierra, L.Ac. The Herbs of Life: Health and Healing Using Western and Chinese Techniques.

Bensky & Gamble. Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica.

Pitchford, Paul. Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition.