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Tisanes of Note

April 10, 2008

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The exploration of tisanes, herbal teas and assorted infusions of not-tea inspired me to write about some interesting examples.

Greek Mountain Shepherd’s Tea (tsai tou vounou) is the leaves and bud of the Sideritis syriaca L. plant. It is a pleasant, meadowy flavored brew, purported to have en enormous range as a medicinal tonic, including prevention of osteoporosis and treatment of respiratory ailments. More information about Greek Mountain Tea can be read here and here. Greek Mountain Shepherd’s Tea
Osmanthus, Reishi, Honey Beverage The osmanthus, lingchi, honey beverage pictured is a Chinese product. Not to be confused with true teas supplemented with osmanthus flowers, this contains only osmanthus flowers, lingchi mushrooms (ganoderma lucidum, also known as reishi mushrooms) and honey. Reishi mushroom has a long and noble history in Chinese medicine as a treatment for a large number of general and specific ailments. Be careful never to substitute “lingchi” with “ling-chi,” or the health benefits of reishi mushrooms will be replaced by the “Death by a Thousand Cuts.”
French verveine, comprised of the leaves of the lemon verbena plant (verbena officinalis), yields one of the few tisanes commonly found in Europe. It is lemony and refreshing, but I don’t find it terribly inspiring. It’s a good alternative to tea if one is seeking something without caffeine. More information and a source for purchasing it can be found here, on The Tao of Tea’s site. French Verveine
Vietnamese Artichoke Tea Of my examples, Vietnamese artichoke tea (tra atiso) is probably the most unusual. The first time I ever had it was in a Vietnamese restaurant where it was prepared with fresh artichokes, but the dried form is fairly easy to find. If you can locate a Southeast Asian grocery you can find this tea. Since it is made from the flower, the same part of the artichoke plant that we eat in other forms, it tastes pretty similar to what you would imagine. Its myriad health benefits, primarily targeting the liver and blood, are listed here.

From the source cited above, further evidence that artichokes are the very best food on the entire planet, a position I have held for quite some time:

Cynarin is considered one of artichoke’s main biologically active chemicals. It occurs in the highest concentration in the leaves of the plant. In the 1970s, European scientists first documented cynarin’s ability to lower cholesterol in humans. Its choleretic (bile stimulating) action has been well documented and has led to the popular use of artichoke extract in Europe for treating mild dyspepsia and indigestion – particularly following a meal high in fat.

The photograph in my last article is of a pot of artichoke tea brewing.

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