A friend of mine came to me the other day wondering what he could do to help him fall asleep at night. I told him the simplest, safest, cheapest and most effective thing to do is drink chamomile tea about half and hour before bed. A few days later I ran into him again and asked if it worked. “No.” he replied sadly, “I guess I’ll just resort to drugs.” Argh. I really hate hearing people say that, especially after one of my recommendations. I asked him whether or not he had covered the tea while it was steeping and he said no.
“Well that’s why it didn’t work!” I exclaimed. “All medicinal herbs contain volatile oils which give them their ‘magical’ properties. When you steep tea without covering the cup or using a teapot, the volatile oils will escape in the steam, rendering the herb useless.” He was astonished as he had never heard that before and said that he would go home that night and try it. The next day he told me all about the miracle of chamomile tea as if I didn’t already know. “I fell asleep in a matter of minutes! It was incredible! Why don’t they put directions on the package?” Good question.
The moral of the story is to always cover your tea when steeping (about 10-15 minutes for herbal / medicinal tea) in order to take advantage of those precious volatile oils that you spent your hard-earned money on. Otherwise you’ll just be drinking tasty hot water and lying awake all night!
And while we’re on the topic of tea…
I always like to buy tea in loose-leaf form and the whole flowers themselves, instead of the bags. Whole tea leaves and flowers are of much higher quality than the tea you can buy in bags. If you break open a bag of tea you will notice how it’s filled with something that resembles dust. That is literally the bottom of the tea barrel where the leaves have been broken up so much; all the natural oils have left the leaves and dried up, which is why they are so inexpensive. Whole tea leaves and flowers can be purchased at your local health food store, often in bulk. Chamomile flowers (pictured above) look very similar to daisies and when they are dry, the petals fall off and the bright yellow centers are clearly visible. The smell and flavour of the real thing is truly mind-blowing. And I promise, in the case of chamomile, you won’t stay awake long enough to tell anyone about it.
Second Photo: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/7f/Chamomile_flowers.jpg/800px-Chamomile_flowers.jpg