Herbal Tea Garden – Flowers and Herbs
The Essence of Summer — A Guide to Summer Sipping
Summer is the season when our gardens are in full bloom. Native plants here in the Midwest like echinacea and bee balm dot the prairies and natural areas as well as neighborhood flower beds. Many popular herbs can be steeped in what is called an "herbal tea" or a tisane where no actual tea from the Camellia sinensis plant is used. Sometimes we may chose to combine "true teas," such as black, green, white, or oolong along with herbs or flowers to add additional flavor. Popular combinations are jasmine flowers in green tea or rose petals with English Breakfast black tea. Today, let's explore four flowers and herbs from the daisy, rose, and grass families that can be steeped into "teas" that make the the essence of summer. Next time, we will explore the extensive tea steeping options of the mint family.
The Daisy Family
The Asteraceae family contains over 32,000 flowering plants, including common flower garden favorites such as daisies, marigolds, asters, zinnias, chrysanthemums, dahlia, and sunflowers, as well as the often maligned dandelion. It is commonly referred to as the "daisy" family but is sometimes called the "sunflower," "aster," or "composite" family as well. Members of the family have flower heads composed of many small flowers, "florets", that are surrounded by leaflike bracts. A note about possible allergens: People who are allergic to ragweed, a member of the daisy family itself, may also be allergic to other plants in this family. This includes echinacea and both types of chamomile.
Echinacea sometimes known as "purple coneflower" is a typically pink-purple flower with a dark center, There are also varieties in white, yellow, and pale peach to vibrant orange, pink, red, and even green. It is native to North American and has been used medicinally by Indigenous peoples and may have been the most widely used native plant for medicinal purposes. Today, it is commonly drank as a home remedy for respiratory ailments like the common cold, coughs, bronchitis, upper respiratory infections, and other inflammatory conditions. However, research to its effectiveness is limited, and it has been found to be more effective as a treatment than a preventative.
Echinacea is sometimes confused with another popular member of the Asteraceae family, Rudbekia or Black-eyed Susan. Echinacea is a perennial that thrives in full sun and does not need as much water as other flowers. It attracts birds, butterflies and honeybees to the garden. In the Midwest, it blooms for much of the mid-summer season reaching its peak in July and sometimes to bloom again in September. All parts of the plant are used to make tea, most commonly the roots and flowers are used.
Echinacea Flower Tea
¼ cup dried echinacea flowers
8 oz. boiling water
Honey, to taste
Steep dried echinacea flowers in boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in honey, as desired. Echinacea flowers also combine well with members of the mint family and lemongrass.
For more on echinacea, see
Percival SS. Use of echinacea in medicine. Biochem Pharmacol. 2000 Jul 15;60(2):155-8. doi: 10.1016/s0006-2952(99)00413-x. PMID: 10825459
Purple Coneflower (echinacea purpurea). Accessed August 4, 2021. https://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/prairie/plantx/pur_coneflowerx.htm.
Along with echinacea, chamomile is one of most popular herbal teas and traditional remedies. There are two plants commonly known as chamomile, Roman chamomile and German or blue chamomile. Both are members of the daisy family and are used in similar ways. German chamomile is the type of chamomile that we most often are referring to when we refer to "chamomile tea."
The first called Roman chamomile (chamaemelum nobile) is a ground cover. It is sometimes used as a lawn in place of grass because it only grows to about eight inches to 12 inches tall. It is a perennial plant native to Europe. It has been used as a traditional medicine since the Middle Ages for stomach disorders, inflammation, and to kill germs inoinments. It's also used as a dye, a flavoring in cooking. Additionally, it is used as a perfume in cosmetics and as a lightener hair care products. It may have properties which fight cancer and diabetes, but more reserach is needed.
While German chamomile (matricaria chamomilla) is an often self-seeding annual plant that is native to southern and eastern Europe. It grows to up to two feet tall and blooms in early summer. According to folk tradtions, German chamomile is has a range of uses. These include treating stomach issues and as a flavoring and perfume. " It is also said to ease anxiety, reduce inflammation, and encourage better sleep, although scientific research is needed to back up these claims.
When purchasing chamomile at the store, it comes in a. wide range of price and quality points. Some store bought chamomile teas contain the stems and leaves along with the flowers. You can see the stems and complimentary herbs that were added to the store-bought loose leaf chamomile in the photo below. When harvesting tea from your own garden, you can harvest the green parts as well as the flowers or simply the flowers themselves. I prefer the flavor of the flowers and must say that the tea I've made from my own garden is the best tasting chamomile I've ever had!
To grow your chamomile, all you need is the flowers and soil. You can even use the dried flowers from an inexpensive store brand chamomile. Simply cut open the bag and place the dried flowers on top of the soil in a container. Chamomile seeds need light to germinate, so make sure not to cover the up, The seeds will germinate in about one to two weeks.
Chamomile Flower Tea
1 tablespoon dried or 2 to 3 tablespoons fresh chamomile flowers
1 cup water
Honey and lemon, if desired
Steep the flowers directly in one cup of a little cooler than boiling water. Allow the water to boil and then cool for about one minute. Allow the tea to steep for at least five minutes. Then strain with a tea strainer. Save the flowers, as you can usually get one or two additional cups from high-quality or fresher herbal teas. Add honey and lemon if desired.
For more on chamomile, see
The Grass Family
When it comes to edible plants, the grass family or the Poaceae family is probably not one that comes to mind, except for health food additive wheatgrass. Lemongrass, also known as Cymbopogon or citronella grass (not to be confused with citronella geranium) is a perennial is warm climates but here in the Midwest you need to grow it in a pot and bring it indoors in the winter if you want it to last more than one season. However, I found that it produces a lot of plant material and stores well dried. I did not even plant any this year because I had so much left over from the previous growing season. Like green onions, you can find lemongrass in whole stalks at many farmer's markets. You can simply save the root end and plant it and grow more lemongrass.
Lemongrass with its citrusy flavor is used as a culinary herb is many Asian cuisines and is sometimes added to green or black tea to give it a lemony flavor. To cook with lemongrass, cut off the bottom whitish stalk and save the leafy tops for tea.
1/2 cup chopped lemongrass stalks, green tops
1 cup water
2 teaspoons honey or sugar
Bring water to a boil add in lemongrass and continue to boil for about five minutes. Add the honey or sugar and stir until dissolved.
For more on lemongrass, see
“Growing & Planting Lemongrass: General Planting & Growing Tips.” Bonnie Plants. Accessed August 4, 2021. https://bonnieplants.com/how-to-grow/growing-lemongrass/.
Winger, Jill. "Lemongrass - how to grow it and use it" The Prairie Homestead. Accessed August 4, 2021. https://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2014/11/lemongrass-grow-use.html.
The Rose Family
Roses are members of the Rosaceae family, which includes herbs, shrubs, and trees. Besides these garden beauties, this family include many other edible plants, including fruits such as apples, crabapples, pears, apricots, plums, cherries, peaches, raspberries, strawberries, almonds, and the rose's ancestor and herbal popular remedy, rosehips. Roses are perennial woody flowering plants with tens of thousands of varieties. All varieties of roses are edible. Roses are a popular ingredient in Chinese, Middle Eastern, and Indian cuisines. For rose tea, the buds or petals are steeped in water.
It is believed that rose tea originated in China. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), rose tea is said to qi or life energy. TCM considers rose tea a potential remedy for: stomach issues, anxiety, and menstrual cramps, and modern science seems to backup these health claims, but further research is needed!
Rose tea is a rich source for antioxidants, polyphenols which reverse cell damage. Polyphenol-rich diets are believed to contribute to lower the risk of cancer and heart disease as well as prevent type 2 diabetes and degenerative brain disease. In fact, roses have been found to have equal or more phenol content and antioxidants than green tea!
Rose tea has a very delicate flavor, you may find that you feel like you need to add a few handfuls of petals to get enough of the flower essence in the tea. It also combines well with chamomile, lemon balm, and lavender. It also compliments traditional true teas; combine rose tea with black, green, or white tea to get even more antioxidants and a little caffeine in your cup.
Rose Petal Tea
A small handful of rose petals
1 cup water
Steep the petals directly in one cup of a little cooler than boiling water. Allow the water to boil and then cool for about one minute. Allow the tea to steep for at least ten minutes. Then strain with a tea strainer. Save the flowers, as you can usually get one or two additional cups from high-quality or fresher herbal teas.
For more on rose tea, see
Janae J. Almen is a professional music instructor, composer, sound artist, and freelance writer and editor. She has studied Japanese Tea Ceremony at the Japanese Cultural Center in Chicago, IL and enjoys adding artistry and creativity to the tea table and the kitchen.