Using Herbal Teas
A tea is a water extract of the herb or herbs. Water acts as the solvent for the herbs and the heating process pulls or extracts the medicinal components of the herbs into the water. Once it is cooked you drink the tea. Teas are an effective way to use herbs as you can modify the formula to your particular needs and they are rapidly absorbed. This is a good way to use herbs if you don't mind the taste of the herbs or the time involved in preparation.
A tea is simple to make, just measure four cups of water, add your herbs and bring to a boil. Boil vigorously for five minutes. Then turn down the heat and simmer for 25 minutes. There will be some evaporation in the process. Once the tea is cooked, drink one cup twice a day. You should have some left over for the next day. Refrigerate this as the tea could spoil if left out too long. The next day warm up the tea before drinking. Don't drink it cold. Cold drinks or food are not good for the digestive system. When the liquid is all used up add four more cups of water and repeat the cooking process. All herbs can be cooked twice. You should note that if you have a formula with a large number or volume of herbs, four cups of water may not be enough to cook it. In this case, fill your pot with water so that there is about one inch of liquid covering the herbs. Then cook the same way.
When you cook herbs don't use aluminum. Nonmetallic pots are preferred, such as Corning ware or porcelain, however, if you don't have those a stainless steel pot will work. Most roots and rhizomes need to be cooked for the full 30 minutes. Some of the lighter materials such as Menthe (Mint) or Ephedra, need to be cooked a short time. Add them in the last ten minutes of cooking your formula.
If you are interested in using and making formulas that enhance your health and want to learn more then there are two books you should read. The first is "Chinese Tonic Herbs" by Ron Teeguarden. This is perhaps one of the best books available for the layperson on using herbs preventitively. The book introduces Oriental medical theory, describes the uses of herbs, and gives recipes for formulas you can make. It's easy to understand and fun reading. Advanced practitioners of herbal medicine will also learn a thing or two from this book. The second book which should be added to every martial artists library is "Shaolin and Taoist Herbal Training Formulas" by James Ramholz. This book is kind of an underground martial artists classic as it is not easy to find. Shaolin and Taoist Herbal Training Formulas is a practical guide to the ingredients, preparation and use of classical training and longevity formulas. The formulas presented were collected from a variety of sources including traditional Shaolin and Taoist texts on medication and the martial arts. The formulas described are used to supplement training, and promote longevity.
If you are a beginner with herb teas remember to keep it simple. Start off with just a few herbs and take time to observe the effects they have on you. As you gain more experience you can add more herbs to your formulas. Using herbs is a important facet of Oriental culture and has always been a part of the martial arts. Unfortunately, most American martial artists in the past have not been exposed to this traditional knowledge but now are being slowly introduced to it.
Michel Czehatowski, L.Ac. is a graduate of the University of Idaho (BS Anthropology, 1977) and the San Francisco College of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (1984). He has been licensed by the State of California Board of Medical Quality Assurance to practice acupuncture and herbal medicine since 1984. He has worked extensively in the field of Chinese herbal medicine since 1985 and has been involved in the martial arts since 1973.