A Cup of Calm

by Lisa Magee

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There is something so wonderfully meditative about making a cup of tea. Patiently waiting for the water to boil. Adding the herbs to an infuser. Letting them steep until just the right moment. And then taking the first sip.

Of course, this is what I wish it felt like, but often I’m running around, begging the water to boil faster, and pouring my tea into an insulated bottle to drink later. Even if that is what you experience everyday, there is still room to find calm.

We can use various herbs to help create calm in our bodies and minds. While there is nothing like a lifestyle change (including meditation!) to alter the stress we feel, we can assist the nervous system by using herbs that are calming, sedating, relaxing, and nourishing to the whole system. Basically, anything that brings a calm state to the body.

The herbs chosen for this tea are two-fold in their abilities: both calming to mind as well as digestion. The gut is often called the second brain. It receives loads of information that gets sent directly to the brain from the food we eat and through the millions of nerve cells there.

By this thinking, if we calm the digestive system, we can calm the brain. More simply: Relaxed gut, relaxed brain.

Chamomile (Matriarca reticula) is a classic calming herb for good reason. Steeped extra long it can take on a bitter quality aiding in digestion. It’s anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic on the gut, and has calming and sedating properties. Many will use chamomile tea before bed, but if you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, chamomile can be used any time of day. Chamomile is a member of the Aster family, which also includes ragweed. If you know you are allergic to asters, lavender can be used in place of chamomile here.

Catnip (Nepeta cateria) may make cats go crazy, but it has the opposite effect on humans, offering a calming effect, especially on digestion. If you are experiencing an upset stomach or poor sleep has your digestion off today, or you’re nervous about something and your stomach feels it too, catnip is your ally. A member of the mint family (Lamiaceae), its cooling properties are especially helpful in “hot” conditions like heartburn and indigestion.

Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) has been one of my greatest allies lately. A dropper-full of the tincture can quickly quiet my mind that won’t stop running. In this way, skullcap is great before bed, but it can be used throughout the day, or even before meditating, to quiet an anxious mind. It also helps restore nerves by helping them absorb nutrition. Skullcap is not usually associated with the gut, but like its fellow members of the mint family, its bitter and cooling properties can be used to aid in digestion.

Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) may seem like a surprise ingredient here, but it acts as a balancer in the blend by counteracting the drying effects of the other herbs and complementing them by working on the endocrine system to relieve stress. If you don’t like the flavor of licorice, replace it with a similarly moistening herb, like marshmallow root.

If you can, turn the tea making time into a meditation. Put on calming music. Clear your thoughts and focus on making the tea. And I obviously recommend sipping while sitting on a beautiful meditation cushion from Ethel Studio.

To make tea:

1 ½ tsp chamomile flowers

1 ½ tsp catnip leaf

1 tsp skullcap leaf

½ tsp licorice root, cut and sifted

Small slice of lemon, optional

Using dried herbs, place herbs in an infuser, such as a tea ball or muslin tea bag. Pour 8 oz boiling water over and let steep for 10 minutes. Add a slice or squeeze of lemon if desired to brighten the taste.

Lisa Magee is an herbalist and women’s health enthusiast living in South Carolina. If she’s not making tea or spending time in nature, you can find her with a book, snuggling a cat named Cricket. For more info, head to her website or follow her on Instagram