Product Spotlight: Delicious Healing Teas Now at the Co-op
It’s winter. The wind is blowing, the skies are overcast, people are coughing, sneezing, chilled and stressed. Maybe their digestion is a bit off. Now, imagine a hot, steaming cup of aromatic tea layered with distinct, robust flavors, a tea that is both pleasing to the palate and crafted to support wellness during the winter season. Just such magical brews are made available to us by Lancaster Farmacy, where the herbs are organically grown and ethically wildcrafted. Cold Care, Tranquilitea, Cleanse and Lifting Lemon are on our Co-op’s shelves now at $7.80 for a 1.5 ounce package, capable of brewing 20-30 cups of tea.
My favorite is Chaga Chai ($18.42 for 5 ounces at the Co-op), a most delicious, warming, cleansing and immune-supporting blend of herbs, spices and chaga mushrooms, which grow on birch trees and are considered to have numerous health benefits. Chai is prepared by boiling 3 tablespoons of the dry tea in one quart of water for 15 to 20 minutes and then diluting it with heated milk. Prepared chai can be stored in the refrigerator and reheated later on. The price point reflects the sustainable practices used to wild harvest precious chaga, but there is good news coming from the tea master herself, Elisabeth Weaver of Lancaster Farmacy: the herbs can be re-used 2 or even 3 times! On the third round of boiling, she suggests you might like to add in some of your own extra flavoring, such as ginger or cinnamon.
The Co-op Q&A
An interview with herbalist and herb farmer Elisabeth Weaver of Lancaster Farmacy
By Pam Turczyn
Intrigued by the flavors, functional properties and the sheer vibrancy of the tea blends, I spoke with Elisabeth about the work she and her partner, Casey Spacht, do.
Pam: Our food co-op sources most of its produce from the Lancaster Farm Fresh Co-operative, including your beautiful tea blends. Could you tell me how you work cooperatively with L.F.F.C.?
Elisabeth: Lancaster Farmacy is one of about 200 farmers in the co-op. L.F.F.C. is an organization that supplies everything you can imagine: produce, bread, eggs, flours, meat and dairy. Lancaster Farmacy is unique in doing the medicinal herb part and offering the products that go along with that. So we’re not only growing fresh herbs but preparing them into natural remedies. We offer a C.S.M. (Community Sponsored Medicine) share that features the seasonal products that we make. That’s where we started making our tea blends, to connect people with what is growing during the season but have it be shelf-stable. We also do tonics, tinctures, salves and other natural products. We just launched doing these teas as a wholesale option so we are really happy to know that your co-op is carrying them.
Pam: Your website states,”Lancaster Farmacy empowers others to reclaim their health through the ancient knowledge of natural healing traditions of whole foods and herbs.” How can integrating the use of herbs into our daily lives benefit our health?
Elisabeth: We used to be way more connected to using herbs in our daily lives but, over time, people have lost touch with that traditional knowledge. I’d like to remind people that much of modern day medicine derives from these plants. We’re excited about connecting people back with nature. The medicine we put in our bodies should make us feel more connected and alive. Hippocrates was writing for then and now when he said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” We also appreciate modern day advancements in medicine and are happy to see a move toward integrative medicine so we can utilize the benefits both offer.
Eating and using herbs seasonally increases awareness of what’s going on around us. When things are available is the best time to take them. For example, stinging nettles, that comes up in the spring, is such a nutrient rich, mineral rich tonic herb that I wish everyone had access to. It is such a great cleansing herb that helps our bodies adjust into springtime because it helps detox the stagnation that builds up during the winter months. These herbs are growing at the perfect time for us to utilize them.
There’s much more to this interview! Click here to continue reading about Lancaster Farmacy and the healing powers of plants.
Pam: Why are teas a good way to start?
Elisabeth: Tea is such a universal, accessible way to use herbs. Like many people, I am a caffeine drinker in the morning but I make an herbal infusion first, such as Nourishment, and add my green tea teabag to it. So I have my awakening green tea plus all these nourishing herbs. Simple.
It’s nice for people to get in the habit of drinking more tea because we need to drink more fluids. For children, you can transition from drinking water to something that tastes good, like tea. You can even put diluted tea in a baby bottle! In the summer, I always suggest making iced tea out of your infusions and adding honey, if you like. Most herbs we make tea from are water soluble, so all you need is water to extract the medicinal properties.
Pam. How do we prepare your tea blends?
Elisabeth: I recommend putting your loose leaf in a tea ball or French press, boiling water and pouring it over the herbs and allowing it to steep for 15—20 minutes. Lemon Lift has lemon grass in it, which is harder than the tender leaves and flowers we use in most of our other teas, so that could be boiled a little bit.
Pam: As an example, could you describe the characteristics of the herbs that go into your Cold Care blend?
Elisabeth: When we make our blends, we want to make sure the taste is palatable in addition to offering the medicinal properties. I really love the flavor of hyssop, most people love mint and those are the main ingredients. Hyssop is an expectorant. Mint and hyssop are decongestants. Mint, elderberry and echinacea are wonderful for supporting the immune system (for the short term). Yarrow starts a sweat in order to break a fever. We are trying to cover all the aspects of a cold, supporting the body to help it fight the bacteria or virus.
Pam: What kind of synergy is created by blending them?
Elisabeth: We have a hand in every part of the growing, from the seeds to seedlings, to the fields, tending the harvest when the herb is at its peak and drying them on the drying rack. We have a connection to all stages of the plant. What I love the most is when the herbs are in the drying room and are starting to cure. They are so aromatic! Here’s something that was so fresh and lush in the fields and is becoming a dry, brittle herb but has so much potency and aroma. We process each herb individually and then, when we start blending them, it’s like mixing paint. There’s the pink echinacea flowers, the red elderberries, the blueish hyssop and dark green mint. When you blend them all, it becomes a swirl of rainbow colors and aroma. The synergy comes from everything coming together after our being connected to the plant each step of the way to the final product.
Pam: Beyond drinking teas, what is the next level of bringing the healing power of plants into our lives?
Elisabeth: It really starts in the kitchen, learning the flavors and aromas of herbs. Once you learn how to identify a few plants, your awareness heightens by ten-fold. Once you recognize what dandelion looks like and understand what dandelion does for you in your body, you start looking at it in a different light. Other weeds, such as plantain or chickweed, are also valuable. Chickweed can be eaten in salad or made into a tea; it’s moisturizing, nourishing and cleans the lymph system. You can even make pesto with chickweed. Of course, in any setting, you have to be careful to avoid areas that have been sprayed with chemicals or exposed to pollutants.
Culinary herbs, such as thyme, can also be used medicinally. Thyme is amazing for sore throats as a gargle with antibacterial properties. People have their traditional remedies from their cultures, which is so fascinating to learn about. When you ask which herbs are common in a culture, there is probably a list of remedies that come from those same herbs.
Pam: How can we learn to use herbs to treat common health complaints?
Elisabeth: If you are very unfamiliar with herbs, I recommend looking at how-to guides by Rosemary Gladstar. Her books are well-versed, easy to use and come with recipes for remedies.
Pam: What would you like members of the Greene Hill Food Co-op to know about your work and the herbs you grow?
Elisabeth: I’d like them to know that we sometimes feel like we’re isolated on an island out here on the farm, but the reason we started farming is to share with the larger community. It gives me great joy knowing that the herbs are getting to people to use in their own lives. We’re all connected, no matter if you’re living in the most densely urban space or out in the most isolated rural area. We’re thinking of everybody out there and we love knowing people can think about what we’re doing on the farm. This is all about helping people heal themselves.
We are always open to having tours come out and visit. We welcome people to help harvest herbs with us and experience a “day in the life!” Please get in touch: www.lancasterfarmacy.com!