By Dr Aline Potvin, ND
It's a simple question that I usually ask patients as they come in for their visits. It's a familiar question. One you'd get from your grandmother or neighbor or friend. But the offering of tea, unlike an espresso or coffee, comes attached to a much different pace and intention. It was instinctual to me, to ask someone if they would like some tea, but soon I realized it was for more than just the warming comfort it provided.
Tea, unlike espresso, has the ability to preclude a session with a pause.
You've rushed to get here.
*pause, smell, and sip*
Now, where would you like to begin?
It is the ritual of tea that is as much a balm as the medicinal herbs themselves.
When I was a student practitioner in downtown Toronto, I worked shifts at 4 different community clinics, each with their own specialty and population focus. All of them worked with underserved communities, and most of the chronic diseases I saw were related to deep nutritional deficiency, unimaginable social stress, and often the burden of addiction. Care was free, and supplies and medicines were donated. While we curated our inventory for each clinic, what we always had at each was a well stocked tea cupboard. At the beginning of a term the shelves would be bursting with nettle, hawthorne berries, oatstraw, licorice, and dozens of other medicinal herbs.
As a new practitioner you would learn to formulate based on what you were addressing on the physical plane, but over time you would fill in the cracks and gaps, rounding out a very functional formula. You'd add a sweet herb purely for a joyful flavor. You'd sprinkle in rose petals for their beauty and perfumed fragrance; to remind the recipient that those things can be accessible to everyone, particularly when we look to nature. For those that couldn't afford to buy vegetables, a strong nettle tea could be their greens and minerals. A multivitamin that also included Vitamin R; Ritual that a stressed body craves when all it may know is uncertainty.
A simple water infusion, for me, becomes more meaningful the more I use it myself and recommend to others. Here is a "Rest and Digest" loose leaf formula I first mixed years ago and love to recommend. It's lovely for digestive complaints that arise from nervous strain or long-term stress.
1 part Nettle leaf
1 part Milky Oat Seed
1/4 part Licorice root
1/4 part Ginger Root
Steep 1 tbsp/cup water for ~8 min, making sure to cover so that volatile oils from the ginger don't wick away. If you have high blood pressure and plan to drink this formula regularly, I recommend swapping out the licorice for dried rose hips.
So, never discount the power of a cup of tea. Offer them widely, and accept them freely.