Last updated: Sep 23, 2010
iced-tea
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Are you doing a little porch-sitting, either literally or just in your imagination, now that summer's truly here and the sun is finally shining? Thats an activity that demands a refreshing beverage, and I'd like to make a suggestion: Consider broadening your quaffing horizons with herbal teas.


These blends—which may or may not contain any real tea (as in, black, green, white, etc.) at all, but rather a mix of herbs, spices, and other natural ingredients—are as refreshing as traditional tea and delectable over ice. What's more, many are caffeine-free, and these tasty brews offer some real benefits: Some hasten relaxation and others tame digestive woes (a perfect antidote to the weekend barbecue).

Chamomile: Instant calm
Iced chamomile tea got me through an emotionally turbulent patch at work a few years back. Our cafeteria stocked a bottled variety (I cant remember the brand) and I still remember how instantly and remarkably it lifted my spirits and soothed my ruffled feathers.

Chamomile, which has a delicate sweet-apple flavor, is also the tea to choose if your nerves affect your digestion—it contains compounds that soothe inflammation and ease stomach cramps when you drink a couple glasses a day. The tea might also take the edge off PMS symptoms and hot flashes, and may even help prevent diabetes symptoms.

Ginger: Bring this aboard a boat
If sailing the seas are on your to-do list this summer, do your queasy self a favor and tote along a thermos of iced ginger tea. Nothing beats gingers ability to ease seasickness, and, for that matter, its also tops for preventing motion sickness no matter what conveyances—buses, planes, cars—turn you green.

Lemon balm: Tranquility enhancer
Citrusy lemon balm gently calms nerves and can even relax away a stress headache. It has a mild antidepressant action and can ease insomnia if you sip it before bedtime.

Peppermint: Supercharged refreshment
Brew it alone, or add peppermint tea bags to your regular black tea or any herbal teas. Peppermint adds a minty blast that will energize and cool you on the hottest summer afternoon, plus it helps reduce bloating and calm tummy upsets. (Check out the other cool things mint can do too!)

How to brew
I like to brew herbal iced tea on the strong side so that it stands up to dilution when you add ice cubes: 10 teabags per quart of water. Add boiling water to a heatproof vessel, put in the tea bags, cover (this is important when youre making medicinal tea—you dont want the essential oils to escape through steam), and steep for 10 minutes. Squeeze the tea bags and chill.

All these teas are available at any natural food store. Traditional Medicinals makes top-quality organic teas. So drink up, calm down, and enjoy the summer.