Lifestyle

Snip and sip: how to grow your own herbal tea

It's easier than you think to grow your own herbs to steep and brew into tea.

Go from plant pot to teapot with these easy instructions to grow, harvest and drink your own fragrant herbal teas. With the right supplies and a little guidance from naturopath Sarah Coleman, you can become your own herbal tea connoisseur.

By Sarah Coleman

Imagine picking a handful of fresh herbs and popping them into a teapot to infuse for a fragrant herbal tea. Gather a few simple supplies, you can get growing (and brewing) in no time!

Grow and harvest 

Source quality seeds or seedlings at your local nursery or farmer's market. Make sure the botanical name (see below) matches the herb so that you get the best therapeutic effect when brewing herbal teas. 

Position: Choose a spot indoors or outdoors with at least 6 -8 hours of sunlight daily. 

Pots: Select the pots at least 15 - 20cm in diameter and have drainage holes in the bottom and a resting plate to catch excess water. Self-watering pots are an excellent investment if you have a busy lifestyle. 

Soil: Use a quality potting mix formulated for pots. Once the soil sinks below about half to three-quarters the length of your index finger, it will be time to top up with a little compost. If planting seeds, fill the top third of the pot with a seed-raising mix. Once seedlings have emerged and become established, you can top the pot up with compost. 

Water: Regularly water your herbs. Soil should generally be moist, not over-soaked. Put your index finger in to the second joint; if it feels dry, it needs water. 

Fertilise: Using a natural liquid or pellet fertiliser to feed your herbs. Because they are in pots, your herbs have higher nutritional needs. When the soil level in the pot drops, top it up with compost. 

Harvest: Use small scissors to snip leaves, flowers, and young stems from your herbs. Regularly pruning your herbs will not only provide you with tea, but will also encourage new growth. 

Drying and storing: when you have an excess of herbs, harvest small bunches, tie the stems with twine, and hang them upside down in a cool, shaded, well-ventilated area. 

You can also read more on Citro about growing your own vegetables.

Healing herbs

Start with these easy-to-grow herbs that are well-suited to pots. Read more about how to prepare strong herbal tea infusions.

Peppermint (Mentha piperita)

This refreshing herb loves partial to full sun. 

Part used: leaves 

Minty, fresh peppermint leaves contain menthol, a natural decongestant that can provide much-needed relief from nasal congestion and coughs. Make a strong infusion and inhale the steam before drinking. It also has a soothing effect on the digestive system, helping to ease minor gas, bloating and digestive discomfort. 

Calendula (Calendual offiinalis)

Grow in full sun or partial shade. This vibrant herb will bloom throughout most of the year. 

Part used: flower heads

The vibrant blossoms of calendula are abundant in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. Traditionally used to invigorate the lymphatic system and enhance skin health. The tea is also used to help heal minor ulcers in the gut. Its antimicrobial properties also make it beneficial for promoting good oral health. Simply swish the tea in your mouth for a few seconds before swallowing.

Caution: avoid if you are allergic to daisy/ragweed family plants. 

Chamomile (Chamomilla recutita)

While chamomile prefers full sun, it can tolerate a little shade. It grows well in pots and hanging baskets. 

Part used: flower heads

Chamomile is a versatile herb that not only soothes minor inflammation and spasms in the digestive tract but also serves as a mild sedative. Prepare a strong infusion and drink an hour before bedtime to promote relaxation and restful sleep. If you find the taste too bitter, sweeten it with a teaspoon of raw honey.

Chamomile tea is said to promote relaxation for better sleep.

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)

Pop it in a sunny spot. Lavender thrives in full sun. Ensure your pot is well drained and do not overwater, it flourishes in drier conditions. 

Part used: flower heads

Lavender is traditionally used to calm the mind and body, reduce stress and anxiety, and promote better sleep quality. It also calms the digestive system, soothing minor stomach upsets and reducing inflammation. 

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)

A little shade does not affect lemon balm. It can be a hungry plant, so keep it well-fertilised with regular compost. 

Part used: leaves

These lemon-scented leaves are traditionally used to calm nervousness and restlessness. They also work in the gut to soothe spasm and minor digestive discomfort. The leaves have a mild bitterness that will help promote healthy digestion.

Caution: large doses may aggravate hypothyroid conditions.

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) 

A sunny spot is best to grow your thyme, and it does not tolerate over-watering. 

Part used: leaves and young stems

This unassuming herb has long been used in traditional herbal medicine to support respiratory health, helping to ease coughs and infections. Thyme also stimulates digestion, easing bloating and gas. Swish in your mouth and gargle to soothe sore throats and coughs. 

Caution: avoid strong infusions during pregnancy. 

Sage (Salvia officinalis) 

Sage enjoys full sun and a larger pot as it can grow to become a small shrub. If you cannot afford the space, keep it well-pruned.

Part used: leaves 

Sage is a versatile herb that can help with various minor ailments. It may help relieve hot flushes during menopause. It also has a positive effect on cognition, improving memory and concentration. Not only that, but it can help with gas and spasms in the gut. For sore throats and coughs, swish in your mouth and gargle.

Caution: avoid in pregnancy and if breastfeeding. 

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Choose a spot that receives full sun for your rosemary, and don’t overwater. 

Part used: leaves

"Rosemary for remembrance," a herb traditionally used for healthy ageing. It can help improve memory and concentration. Rosemary can also support cardiovascular and liver health. 

Brew and enjoy

Once your tea plants are established and happy in their pots, it is time to enjoy the fruits of your labour! 

How to brew your tea:

  • Use a small handful of fresh herbs (lightly crushed or roughly chopped) or one tablespoon of dried herbs per 250 ml of fresh, boiled water. 
  • Let your herbs steep for 10 minutes to ensure you draw out all the herbaceous goodness, then strain and pour into your favourite cup! 
  • If you are brewing more than one herb, add the full amount of each herb to the pot, eg: one small handful of lavender and one small handful of chamomile flowers, to ensure you get the full therapeutic effect. 
Do you have a favourite herbal tea that is not listed here that would grow well in a pot? Tell us in the comments. We love getting new ideas! 

The information on this page is general information and should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Do not use the information found on this page as a substitute for professional health care advice. Any information you find on this page or on external sites which are linked to on this page should be verified with your professional healthcare provider.

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