Sunday, January 13, 2013

Tisanes, or herbal teas, have been used for as long as written history. My favourite teas are ones that I have wild collected the ingredients to by hand, that remind me of where I reside, of the fields and tress that I roam and climb. Luckily for me, I live in beautiful, balmy, Southern Louisiana, where, even mid-January, the woods are bursting with plum coloured, musk-scented elderberries, creamy, delicate elderflower, vibrant, hearty goldenrod, sweet, honey-Chirstmas scented Loblolly get the picture.

Valued for their medicinal purposes, calming properties, and delicious flavours, the world of tisanes is a vast, if not infinite place of wonders. Once you begin to learn a bit about each flower, berry, herb, leaf, nut, fruit, or seed, your mind will swim with the medicinal and culinary possibilities. Wild rose petals and hips for a burst of vitamin C, goldenrod to ward off hay fever and seasonal allergies, lavender and rosemary are anti-microbial, pine and ginger are anti-inflammatory, fenugreek, elder, and red clover act as an anti-catarrhal. And have you ever tasted fresh-dug ginger steeped in spring water with wild passionflowers, still wet with dew, seasoned with a squeeze of honey and gussied up with a dollop of cream? Fuggedaboudit.

Below are a few of my favourite concoctions. Make sure to sip draped in a warm blanket, cozied up with a loved one (human or animal) for optimal results.

Wild Passionflower, Honeysuckle, & Satsuma Peel

The night that I discovered wild passionflowers growing in my town in Southern Louisiana was a turning point for me in my foraging journey. I had recently relocated to Louisiana from Southern California, where I had been basking in mountain fields oppulent with wild white sage and nopales, creeksides teeming with mallow, ocean bluffs fragrant with coastal brush sage. Sweet, juicy pineapple guavas, hearty carob pods, and even wild avocados on my daily bike path. Needless to say, I was spoiled. So up and moving to rural, gloomy, Southern Louisiana wasn't exactly the most exciting prospect when I did so early last year. 

I was quickly and pleasantly surprised though. Right away I was stumbling upon blackberries and blackberry blossoms, dock, pine, onions, elderberries and flowers, and even some new gems, things I had never found in California, like wild lotus petals and seeds, or 'Cajun peanuts', pecans, muscadine grapes (a unique, tough skinned grape lovely for jams), even some precious heirlooms, like the sweet, golf ball sized melon, cucumis var. chito. So it didn't take long for me to decide that Louisiana was ok by me. But the night that I accidentally found passionflower was monumental. 

It was dark out, and I was collecting elderflower by flashlight. Mid-cut through a stalk of elder, a soft scent wafted by on a heavy, humid breeze. I literally stopped, and sniffed the air. It was light, but definite. The smell of newborn babies. Of powdered milk, soft, warm blankets, and new, powdery skin. Following my nose, my hands were lead to the most beautiful bloom I had ever seen. Soft, whiteish purple petals, with a pale green blush at the tips, amazingly delicate, purple zebra striped fringe about the circumference, and a protruding, softly dotted centre. I gathered some up, went home (sniffing at my bag of blossoms happily the whole way) and began researching these curiosities. That's when my jaw hit the floor. The medicinal properties of these things are amazing, flower, leaf, and fruit. A sedative, antibiotic and anti-spasmodic, useful in treating depression, insomnia, and anxiety, passionflower can promote alertness and physical energy, and even your body's ability to restore muscle, organs, connective tissue, and bone cells.

I like passionflower tea best when complimented by the sweet, citrusy yumminess of dried satsuma mandarin peel and wild honeysuckle leaves and blooms, as pictured above. I combine four or five dried passionflowers with the satsuma peel, a few passionflower leaves, and a pinch of honeysuckle leaf and blossom in my mortar and pestle, and grind them to to coarse fragments. Steeped with a generous spoonful of wildflower honey, this infusion is calming, nourishing, and tastes like liquid honey milk. The perfect way to pamper yourself after a long day.

Wild Ginger, Sweet Basil, & Pineapple Sage

For those of you who prefer your tisanes with a bit more kick, Wild Ginger, Sweet Basil, & Pineapple Sage shall soon be thy infusion. I can't lie, though I try not to play favourites with my teas, a steaming, invigorating infusion of fresh wild ginger chopped coarsely, crushed sweet basil leaves, robust and fragrant, and delicate, fruity pineapple sage is...well, my favourite. Add a squeeze of lemon and a touch of honey if you've got a sweet tooth like me. 

As delicious, warming, and stimulating as this tea is, you won't be surprised to learn about the incredible, nearly innumerable uses and benefits of all three ingredients in this delectable elixir. To highlight- ginger has been valued by herbalists and healing types for centuries, and modern science has only recently begun to catch up, citing that ginger slows the growth of some cancers, kills others, eases nearly all types of nausea, even morning sickness associated with pregnancy and motion sickness. Ginger acts as a natural painkiller, and provides incredible relief to many migrane sufferers. This is truly only a scratch on the surface of ginger. My personal favourite addition to any tea, I value ginger mostly for its calming and warming properties, as I am often cold, and often succumb to stress-related headaches.

Basil. Oh, don't even get me started on basil. Basil has extremely powerful antioxidant properties, is a wonderful anti-inflammatory, and a vigorous yet gentle antibiotic. Widely used in Ayurvedic medecine, basil is an extremely important  and valuable herb. Please spend some time to get to know basil. You won't regret it.

The word 'sage' is from the Latin word for 'cure'. That just about says it all.  Used for ages as a general cure-all, sage can be used to treat epilepsy, menstrual cramps, internal parasites, as a powerful antiseptic, and to treat cough, cold, and fever. Sage affects levels of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter being studied for use in memory enhancement, including the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. In studies, sage has been shown to improve cognitive performance and mood significantly. Sage also provides incomparable relief to menopause sufferers, reducing night sweats, hot flashes, and insomnia.

Wild Goldenrod, Passionflower Leaf, Honeysuckle, & Elderflower

The health benefits of each of these flowers and leaves is truly remarkable. For a full description of this tea and its ingredients, please visit my shop,, where it is available for purchase.

Painted Cave Apothecary Tisanes
Available for purchase in single-serving teabag or full-size jar at