Hot summer sunshine isn’t welcomed by everyone, and when the temperatures soar, some of us can be found clinging to any shady areas we can find, consuming ice cream like it’s going out of fashion and desperately wafting around pieces of card, paper, magazines or anything that can be used to create a makeshift fan to try to create a cooling breeze to help keep us cool. If any of those scenarios sound familiar, then you may like to know that sipping a herbal tea or cordial made from cooling herbs can help cool you down when the temperatures begin to soar.
Sipping a cold drink can indeed help to bring down your body temperature, but that cooling effect is short lived if there is nothing to enhance the cooling powers, however if you choose the right herbs to make your herbal infusion from, then you will gain more of a benefit from your cooling drink. Herbs that work best are referred to as cooling herbs, they are also known as refrigerant herbs, these herbs have a specific cooling effect on the body and are particularly effective when applied externally; so you can use any leftover iced tea – as long as it hasn’t been sweetened with sugar or honey - to make cold compresses for the forehead. Something my mum did with peppermint tea when she was feeling the heat. Refrigerant herbs can also help to soothe irritation as well as helping to reduce internal and external body heat.
The phrase “as cool as a cucumber” is something to keep in mind during the summer, cucumbers do indeed have cooling properties, it’s not just for garnish that we add cucumber, along with the herb borage - another member of the cucumber family - orange slices and juicy strawberries to that quintessential summer drink Pimm’s. They are added because they all give additional cooling properties to the drink, although they do lose some of their effect as the alcohol in the cocktail raises your body temperature again. However, if you remove the alcohol from the equation the cooling and refreshing actions of the herbs are restored, so try making some herbal lemonade or orangeade and using the same herbs and fruits to help cool you down.
A point to note, make sure you avoid making your iced herb teas using diaphoretic herbs, diaphoretic means that the herb will help the skin to eliminate toxins and aid perspiration, they will cool you down, but they will cause you to sweat more. Not something you want to do on hot days, so avoid diaphoretic herbs such as Boneset, Ginger, Hyssop, White Horehound and Yarrow.
There are countless herbal tea blends out there, including fruit, mint, citrus, and green teas but making your own blend is really easy, see below for a couple of ideas. Most people drink their herbal teas hot, but you can make them up, allow them to go cold and serve them over ice to make a refreshing cold drink. Doing this is easy, but it’s worth noting that adding ice will weaken the flavour of the brew. Some people would be tempted to simply allow the tea to steep or ‘brew’ for longer, but this will just result in a bitter flavour, especially in the case of herbs like chamomile and green tea.
How To Make Herbal Iced Tea
They way to get a stronger flavour is to add more herb to the brew in the beginning rather than steep for longer periods of time. If you’re using pre blended tea bags you’ll need 3 for every litre of water. If you’re using dried herb blends then you need 2 teaspoons dried herbs for every 250ml water, so 8 teaspoons for 1 litre.
1. First boil the kettle.
2. Next put your dried herb blend/tea bags in a large glass jug then pour over the boiling water, if you’re using loose herbs for your tea then use a tea ball, or pop them in an infuser, alternatively make the tea in a cafetière, so you can push the herbs to the bottom.
3. If you want sweet tea, now is the time to add the sweetener of choice whilst the tea is still hot, add stevia, honey or sugar. You can use a sugar syrup once the tea is cold but be warned that you cannot stir sugar into cold tea as it won’t dissolve.
4. Leave the herbs steeping in the hot water for 10-15 minutes, then strain off the tea into a clean glass jug preferably a lidded one, or a pitcher, make sure there is room for ice and any edible decorations you want add.
5. Leave to go cold and then place the jug in the fridge to chill the herbal tea. Once chilled place some ice in a tumbler and pour over chilled tea over the ice, serve.
There are a wide varieties of flavour combinations to try to make your iced teas from, try combinations of the following herbs all of which have cooling: - Basil, catnip, chamomile, chickweed, citrus fruits including lemon, lime, mandarin and orange, elderflower, green tea, hibiscus, lavender, lemon balm, lemongrass, peppermint, raspberry leaf, red clover, rose, rosehip and spearmint. Of course you can make a straight forward one flavour iced tea like peppermint or lemon balm if you fancy keeping it simple, but here’s a few recipes to get you started if you fancy mixing it up.
Apple, Mint & Chamomile - For a delicious cooling and refreshing fruity twist try this brew, boil 500ml of water and add it to your jug, and add 5 tsp of Chamomile, and 3 tsp Spearmint and leave to infuse for 10 minutes, strain off the herbs then add 500ml of Apple Juice and leave to cool, chill and proceed as per main method. Try substituting orange juice for the apple and adding 1 tsp basil for a refreshing change, too much basil can be over powering the flavour of this combination is subtle and surprisingly delicious.
Citrus & Chamomile Delight – Chamomile is wonderfully relaxing and cooling and goes so well with lemon flavoured herbs which give the flavour a real zing. Chamomile can be bitter if left to steep for too long, so make sure you don’t leave the herb in the brew for too long. To make brew up the following blend as per the method above: - 3 tsp Lemon Verbena, 3 tsp Chamomile Flowers and 2 tsp Lemon Balm.
Green Tea & Elderflower - This blend is refreshing but can be a little tart for some people, so make sure you add some sweetness, alternatively use the half water, half apple juice method in Apple, Mint and Chamomile recipe above. To your boiling water add 5 tsp Green Tea, 2 tsp Elderflower's and 1 tsp Lemon Peel and leave to steep for 10 minutes. You could add a splash of elderflower cordial to this recipe to sweeten it a little.
Iced Hibiscus Tea – Hibiscus flowers are delicious either served hot as a tea, made into syrup or used to make a delicious chilled drink. In some countries hibiscus is also known as sorrel and alternatively roselle. Hibiscus flowers were used in Egypt to make a drink known as Karkade which was given to the Pharaohs, and today in Egypt and the Sudan traditional toasts are still made at special events with a glass of karkade. Whatever you call the herb, hibiscus tea is an astringent and sharp tea that tastes fruity, almost cranberry like and is rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. You can enjoy it on its own by adding 8 tsp of Hibiscus Tea to your jug and allowing it to steep for 20-30. The astringency and sourness of hibiscus requires the tea to be sweetened so use honey or sugar to taste at the boiling water stage so that the sweetener dissolves.
Lemony Lavender Cooler – Lavender isn’t to everyone’s taste, but I like to make cordial and syrups from it to drizzle over ice-cream or use to flavour summer drinks and cocktails, I also like to add it to tea blends, bear in mind that lavender has a very strong flavour so don’t be tempted to add more than 1tsp, less is more as they say. To 1000ml boiling water add 3 tsp Lemongrass, 2 tsp Lemon Peel, 2 sp Lemon Balm and 1 tsp Lavender and proceed as main method.
Nettle, Rose & Spearmint – Nettle on its own can be a tad astringent on the palette for some people so try giving it some extra aroma and flavour by adding rose petals and spearmint. To your 1000ml of water add 4 tsp Nettle, 3 tsp Spearmint and 1 tsp Rose Petals. You can substitute peppermint for spearmint, however spearmint has a softer flavour and is gentler to younger palettes, peppermint can be a little strong.
Debs Cook is the IT Media Manager for the DHM, she is a self confessed herbaholic who loves to write about the way herbs were once used and about the herbalists that used them. You can find out more about Debs over on her Herbal haven blog.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to source the most up to date and accurate information, we cannot guarantee that remedies in our articles are effective, when in doubt, consult your GP or a qualified Medicinal Herbalist. Remember also that herbal remedies can be dangerous under certain circumstances therefore you should always seek medical advice before self-treating with a homemade remedy, especially if you are pregnant, breast feeding or suffer from any known illness which could be adversely affected by self-treatment.