Cyprus is sizzling at this time of year and the summer can seem endless at times. We put ourselves into a lower gear, spend lots of time at the beach or in a pool and stay out of the sun during the hottest hours of the day.
Eating cooling foods such as salads, watermelon or cold soups also help the body cope with the heat, as does herbal ice tea. You have to try it to really appreciate just how much a herbal tea cools you down, but once you do, you’re likely to prefer this healthy drink over anything fizzy or sugary!
This summer why not try one of the two ultra-cooling and constitution-moistening tea blends of herbs and flowers which effectively cool the body, help you relax, boost your metabolism and give a feeling of lightness and wellness! I am sharing the recipes but if you don’t have your own herb patch, you can find the ready made blends at Cyherbia Botanical Park in Avgorou, or order via email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cyherbia’s Summer Breeze ice tea blend is an oasis for the body and mind in the midst of heat and
heat stress. To make a litre of this tea you will need half a teaspoon each of mulberry leaf, jasmine, passionflower and fennel seed, and a teaspoon each of lemon balm, hibiscus flower and lemon verbena.
Another delicious ice tea blend is Cyherbia’s Positivi-tea. This is a fresh, relaxing and uplifting blend of herbs, flowers and fruits. To make it yourself use half a teaspoon each of chamomile, red clover, lemon balm, lemon peel and dried apple, and a teaspoon of lemon verbena and hibiscus flowers, for a litre of tea.
To make ice tea all you need is a little preparation ahead. If you use the ready made blend, for a litre of tea put a modest tablespoon of the tea in a teapot or tea press (a cafetiere used only for this purpose is the handiest), add a pinch of stevia leaves or a little honey and leave your tea to infuse for half an hour. Then strain and put it in a nice glass pitcher. When it has cooled down enough to be placed into the fridge, chill for a few hours and serve with ice cubes.
Ice tea will keep in the fridge for 48 hours maximum.
Cyherbia Botanical Park, Avgorou
Summer has arrived in Cyprus and for us herb folk this means we’re busy as bees! All Mediterranean herbs are at their peak now, ready for harvest. Oregano, thyme, marjoram and hyssop are all vying for our attention and the herb garden is awash with colour and fragrance. But nothing beats the intoxicating aroma and the lilac, blue and purple hues of lavender, which has just started to bloom now. Taking a stroll in the lavender lined gardens, brushing against the plants and releasing its aroma lifts the spirits and dispels all thoughts and worries of the day. Here you can just be, and enjoy the moment.
The climate in Cyprus is very suitable for growing the most fragrant of all 450 varieties of lavender, Lavandula Angustifolia. This variety has the most distinctive floral note and is considered the most valuable for use in perfumery, as well as the most therapeutic. Lavender is one of the most versatile herbs, with a long list of health benefits. It is best known as a relaxant for the nervous system, effective in stress-relief, anxiety, tension and headaches. It is also a powerful antiseptic, antibacterial, analgesic and expectorant, relieving coughs, colds and fever.
We can make a relaxing tea from the dried flower petals to benefit from its therapeutic properties. To make a lavender tea, simply put half a teaspoon of dried lavender flowers in your cup, pour boiling water onto it and let steep for 5 minutes. Then strain and drink. for sweetening you may add a teaspoon of honey or a pinch of stevia.
For external use the essential oil is a must have in every home. It is one of the few essential oils that can be used neat on the skin. To dispel a headache you simply rub one drop of it onto the temples for instant relief. Lavender oil is very helpful in acne. It gets rid of spots and blackheads without drying out the skin. It disinfects cuts, grazes, relieves itching from eczema and dermatitis, repels mosquitoes and heals burns. In fact, the father or modern
aromatherapy, French chemist and scholar René-Maurice Gattefossé discovered the fast healing power of lavender oil when he badly burned his hand in a laboratory experiment in 1910. He quickly poured lavender oil over his burns and was amazed how quickly his wounds healed, with very little scarring. Later, during the first World War he successfully treated wounded soldiers with it. Lavender’s uses are not restricted to tea and aromatherapy, the fresh or dried flowers can also be used in the kitchen! At the herb garden we make lavender cakes and cookies, refreshing ice tea and lemonade, even lavender ice cream and liqueur!
From the 10th until the 25th of June 2017 Cyherbia Botanical Park in Avgorou will host its 6th annual Lavender Festival. The park is home to the biggest lavender garden on the island and even boasts a lavender labyrinth! Celebrating the queen of all herbs, the gardens and tea room will be awash with purples and lilacs. Visitors can take part in the processing of lavender, witness the extraction of lavender essential oil, and taste the special lavender drinks and cookies mentioned above while relaxing in the cool shade of the tea room overlooking the gardens. A tranquil walk in the lavender meditation labyrinth is an experience not to be missed. Craft workshops and presentations will be held, and of course there will be a vast range of organic lavender products on display in the herb shop.
The Lavender Festival truly is a unique experience. For more information on the event program, as well as directions how to get there, please visit cyherbia.com or check their facebook page www.facebook.com/cyherbia.
Winter is coming, as George R.R. Martin tells us. Although winters are very mild in Cyprus, nevertheless it does get chilly in the evenings and if we’re lucky, we may even get some snow in Troodos and go skiing.
Winter is a time for retreating within. We see this in nature around us. Trees shed their leaves and their energy withdraws deep inside their roots. This is why herbalists harvest roots in October and November, just when this process starts and the roots of medicinal plants are at their energetic peak.
Some of my favourite herbal tea blends for winter include roots, bark and exotic spices. These blends are warming, soothing and comforting like a blanket. The aromas and flavours of spices like cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, pepper and ginger promote good health and wellbeing and are a perfect healing beverage for coughs and colds. These spices are cultivated in the tropical and subtropical climates of India, Malaysia, Indonesia and surrounding countries in the Far East and were first brought to the West by the Dutch and Portugese at the end of the 16th century from their colonies. In fact, the Dutch built an entire empire out of the spice trade, chased away the Portugese from their strongholds in the Moluccas (Indonesia) and held a monopoly in the trade for nearly two centuries. During this time, spices such as black pepper and nutmeg were more valuable than gold.
All the aforementioned spices are very rich in minerals, vitamins and antioxidants, therefore useful to build immunity, combat colds, reduce inflammation and generally promote overall health.
Nutmeg is a super-spice, packed with valuable nutrients. Always buy whole nutmeg and grind them in a pepper mill to get the most of their flavour and benefits.
Cinnamon helps to lower cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar levels and is both antibacterial and antifungal. It also enhances the mood and stimulates the brain.
Ginger is one of those spices no home should be without. Ginger tea is one of the best flu remedies, especially in combination with honey and some lemon juice. It is a great anti-inflammatory and therefore useful in rheumatic and arthritic pain, helps in nausea, stomach aches and digestive problems and improves the absorption of nutrients in the body.
Cloves are tiny flower buds but they are giants when it comes to natural health. They’re packed with antioxidants and are anti-fungal, antibacterial, antiseptic and analgesic.
Cardamom is a member of the ginger family. It is an excellent digestive aid, it fights gum disease and is useful in
Making tea from spices is a great way to boost your health and it tastes delicious too. These spices need to be crushed with a pestle and mortar, ginger root sliced – a couple of
slices will do- then boiled in water for about five minutes to get all the aromas out. Add a few chilli flakes or
peppercorns as well if you like. Strain and sweeten with honey. Enjoy your blanket in a cup!