Pine (Pinus sylvestris) trees grow in the cold and taiga forests of the northern Hemisphere, particularly in Canada and Siberia. The trees have a large stem and can grow to heights of seventy-five feet. The trees are described as having pyramidal or an umbrella-like, dense foliage with flowers that develop into cones. The female cones may be as small as three centimeters to a size of thirty-five centimeters and take two to three years to mature following pollination. After the mature cones dry they split open to release seeds.
Pine needle tea has been used for centuries by Native Americans as a healing remedy. When European settlers arrived suffering from scurvy (a lack of vitamin C) they were introduced to pine needle tea by the Native Americans.
Pine needle tea contains antimutagenic, antioxidant and antiproliferative properties, which fight the formation of cancer producing cells. It is also believed to have anti-tumor effects resulting from these properties.
Pine needle tea is also used to relieve the symptoms associated with colds and respiratory infections as it aids the body in expelling phlegm, which causes congestion. Even the strong aroma of pine needles has been noted to provide soothing relief to nasal passages when inhaled. The vapors from the tea are believed to assist in breaking up mucus formation in the lungs.
Due to the high concentration of vitamin C in pine needle tea it is considered an effective remedy against scurvy, which is a vitamin C deficiency. In fact, pine needle tea is as good a source of vitamin C as many citrus fruits.
Pine needle tea has also been used for weight loss, to fight aging, to heal various skin infections, to fight urinary infections, to relieve menopause symptoms and as a disinfectant. Other conditions pine needle tea has been an effective treatment for include fighting fatigue, allergies, depression, kidney stones, varicose veins, ulcers and headaches. It has also been used as a bath infusion for relief of sore muscles and joints.
Pregnant women are encouraged to avoid using pine needle tea, as there is a fear that it may cause abortion.
To prepare pine needle tea you need to pick at least one cup of fresh, green needles. The fresher the needles, the better the tea will taste. Rinse the needles to remove any surface dirt and chop them into small pieces. Bring three cups of water to a boil and add the chopped needles to the water once it has reached boiling point. Turn the heat down to a simmer and allow the mixture to sit at that temperature for twenty minutes. It is important not to over boil as it will have an effect on the amount of vitamin C that will come out of the needles. Following the simmering, remove from heat and allow steeping for another twenty minutes. Strain into a mug to remove solids and add lemon juice if desired to enhance the taste. Sweeten with honey, sugar or maple syrup. Allowing the mixture to steep overnight will produce a deep red coloured tea with a stronger taste.
The family Lamiaceae contains the Mentha pulegium species of flowering plants commonly called pennyroyal, European pennyroyal, American pennyroyal, squawmint, mosquito plant and pudding grass.
Folklore tells us that pennyroyal has a long history of use dating back many centuries to the ancient Greeks and Romans who used it as a cooking herb and it was the Greeks who also used it as a flavouring for wine. The essential oil distilled from pennyroyal has been used in aromatherapy and contains high concentrations of pulegone. Pulegone is a highly toxic and volatile organic compound that causes adverse reactions affecting both the liver and uterine function. The Roman cookbook of Apicius used pennyroyal in many dishes combined with other herbs and although it was also used for cooking in the middle Ages, pennyroyal eventually fell out of use as a culinary herb and is not used as such today.
Although oil from pennyroyal is poisonous, the dried herb has been used for centuries to treat a number of health issues. Early settlers in colonial Virginia used it with a great deal of success as a pesticide. It was such a popular use of pennyroyal at the time that in 1665 it was published by the Royal Society’s Philosophical Transactions as an effective way to get rid of rattlesnakes.
Pennyroyal consumed in small doses as a tisane has been used to relief stomach upset and flatulence. The leaves have been used to treat colds, influenza, abdominal cramping and to induce sweating. It has also been successful when used to combat diseases including smallpox and tuberculosis.
Other health benefits from pennyroyal include eradicating germs, asthma, spasms, bronchitis, coughs, pneumonia, toothaches, fluid retention, headaches and various skin conditions. The herbal tea is also known to assist women with symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and menorrhea.
There have been a number of side effects documented with the consumption of pennyroyal tea. They include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, lethargy, hypertension (high blood pressure), increased pulse rate and various form of dermatitis ranging from skin rashes to other skin conditions. Pregnant and nursing women are advised they should not use pennyroyal as it is considered abortive, hepatotoxic (toxic to the liver) and neurotoxic. It is also not recommended for use with small children.
Pennyroyal consumed as a tea in small doses is considered safe but large dosages have been known to be dangerous to the point that they may cause various severe reactions including abortion, irreversible renal damage, severe liver damage and possibly death. A small amount of pennyroyal oil can produce side effects ranging from delirium, unconsciousness and shock to seizures and auditory/visual hallucinations.
To prepare pennyroyal tea use no more than one to two teaspoons of dried leaves mixed in a single cup of boiling water. Allow this mixture to steep for ten to fifteen minutes. Strain to remove the leaves and sweeten to taste with sugar or honey.
It is recommended that no more than two cups of pennyroyal tea be consumed per day in order to avoid any of the possible side effects previously mentioned.
Roasted corn kernels are the main ingredients in this traditional Korean tisane called oksusu cha, which translates to English to mean ‘corn tea.’ The Gang-naeng-I variety of corn, which is commonly grown in the city of Gangneung, in the Gangwon province of South Korean, is most often used for this drink.
Oksusu cha tea has been used traditionally as a remedy for hypertension (high blood pressure) as well as diabetes and kidney disease. Koreans have used the tea for the treatment of many other ailments including relief of tiredness (often in minutes), it has also reduced abdominal swelling and inflammation as well as issues connected to abdominal conditions such as poor digestion and intestinal cramping and bloating.
As this corn tea is rich in vitamin E it is beneficial for skin treatments fighting such conditions as rashes, boils, discolouration, acne, itchy skin and various other forms of dermatitis and is also a good source of iron which is essential in the promotion of blood health.
The mild, sweet flavour of corn tea is known as one of the five phase therapeutic flavours that are used to strengthen the spleen, which is considered the main organ connected to the digestive system in the human body.
Corn tea also assists with relieving symptoms associated with bloating, indigestion, fatigue and malaise. The tea is also recommended to be consumed in hot and damp weather as it assists the body to metabolize fluids in the heated days of summer which may contribute to conditions related to poor digestion such as soft stools, cramps and stomach cramps as well as joint pain and headaches.
To prepare oksusu cha tea dried corn kernels are used. For best results, the corn kernels are to be thoroughly dried, then roasted until they turn golden brown or brown in colour. The colours of the roasted kernels play an important role in the final preparation of the tea mixture and must be the stated colour in order to make the correct brew. The roasted kernels are added to the boiling water and brewed until the water turns to a pale yellow or a light golden brown colour. This should take roughly ten to fifteen minutes to achieve. The tea is then strained to remove the corn, which is discarded. The tea is traditionally consumed either hot or cold and is known as a favorite summertime drink when chilled. Roasted corn is available in kernel form for making the tea in the traditional method as explained above, or to save time and to make a quicker cup of corn tea, oksusu cha is also available for purchase prepared in tea bags. The resulting beverage is naturally sweet but to enhance the sweetness sugar or another sweetener may be added if desired.
It is also safe for use by pregnant and breast-feeding women.
It is common to combine oksusu cha with another tea known as bori cha, which is actually roasted barley. The bitter taste of the roasted barley works to offset the sweetness of the roasted corn to create a very tasty tea.