Every year we try to give some good ideas for fun, easy, and inexpensive handmade herbal gifts. It's a series that always forces me to sit down and write, so that's a give to me!
One of my favorite gifts to give is a specially blended tea. Knowing the person, what they like, and what they might be fighting (sleeplessness, sniffles, germ-filled workplace, etc) make it personal. However, even if you aren't particularly knowledgeable about the medicinal properties of herbs, you can still put together a very pleasant tea that is individualized.This picture was taken a few years ago at Radiance, when Sarah and I were preparing to give a class on blending herbal teas. If you are lucky enough to have herbie friends nearby, everyone could gather and bring herbal tea ingredients for a blending party. Have several pots of hot water ready, and taste as you go!
Blending teas is an immensely enjoyable craft. If you've gathered and dried herbs from the garden in the previous season, you're all set. You can get some additional ingredients at your favorite purveyor of herbs - either a neighborhood herb shop or on-line, or make do with what you've got on hand.
Good herbs to start with include mints, ginger root, chamomile, rose petals, lavender, red clover, elderberries and flowers (I really like to dry blueberries and raspberries during the summer and chop them up for inclusion), echinacea leaves, flowers, or roots, lemon balm, lemon grass, hibiscus, rose hips... and really we could go on and on. Many, many herbs are good in teas - either adding bright notes to the flavor, or soothing, healing properties. Spices are delicious too. Cinnamon, saffron, star anise, licorice root, and cardamom come to mind immediately.
For gift-giving, you might want to choose to give a friend loose tea, which in the case of a particularly beautiful blend might be especially desired. If you suspect the recipient wouldn't use the tea unless it was in teabags, you can get heat-sealable teabags and take care of that little problem. All sorts of packaging is available at this time of year. Tins, boxes, and even mason jars that have a ribbon around the neck can be spruced up and labeled with personalization.
Some ideas for combinations...
Someone need to relax? Choose and blend from these:
Challenged by lots of germ exposure?
eleuthero (Siberian ginseng)
St John's wort
Lots of colds and allergies?
These are just a very few ideas and choices.
There are herbs that can support nearly every physical and emotional situation, but they do require some knowledge and research. Blending a tea simply for the pleasure in the cup is a wonderful gift as well. One of my favorites is a 50/50 blend of black tea with spearmint. Flavorful teas can be blended with raspberry leaves, strawberry leaves, and dried citrus zests and flowers.
I encourage you to give it a try if you haven't yet. Simply assemble 5 or 10 herbs that you have read about on the boxes of commercial tea blends. Add a pinch of this and a bit of that - ALWAYS writing down what you do as you do it (what if you discover the perfect blend and don't know what it was?) and brew small amounts to taste. Add to the blend until it is perfect. Make very small amounts until you've found a blend you like.