Our most obviously stimulating beverages are ordinary Indian tea and coffee – both perfectly good herbal remedies although their caffeine-like alkaloids give a rather artificial stimulation compared with the herbal energy tonics.
Well-chosen combinations of herbs can also deliver the stimulation needed first thing in the morning, or to keep us alert when working hard. Traditional herbal morning teas usually combine a mixture of digestive remedies to start the day and astringents and tonic plants to help stimulate the system.
One pleasant-tasting combination, based on a traditional Austrian drink, combines equal quantities of peppermint, hibiscus flowers, strawberry leaves, raspberry leaves, marigold petals, chamomile flowers, and cornflowers. Use one to two teaspoon of the mixture per cup; infuse for five to ten minutes. The mixture makes a cheerful and colorful start to the day.
Another uplifting mix, based on an original recipe by the French herbalist Maurice Messegue, is made by combining equal amounts of chamomile flowers, wood betony, peppermint, lime flowers and lavender. Use one to two teaspoons of the mixture per cup, infused for five to ten minutes.
A good stimulating mix for when you are studying or working hard is made by combining equal amounts of rosemary, gotu kola, and sage. Use one teaspoon of the mixture per cup, infused for five minutes.
This Mediterranean shrub was traditionally regarded as a very warming plant that was both stimulating and uplifting. The Elizabethan herbalist, John Gerard, suggested that it “comforteth the harte and maketh it merrie” while earlier writers believed that simply smelling the plant frequently would keep you young and vigorous.
The tonic action of rosemary is largely due to a stimulating substance called borneol. The herb is also strongly antioxidant to combat cell decay and has a practical and invigorating effect on our bodies.
It makes a pleasant tea for temporary fatigue and over-work and, as it is evergreen, the fresh leaves are available all year round once you have established a bush in your garden.
As well as being generally stimulating, rosemary infusion is helpful for headaches, migraines, indigestion and poor circulation. The essential oil can soothe arthritis, rheumatism and muscular aches and pains, acts as a stimulant and painkiller and may be used as a hair tonic to encourage growth and restore color.
Regular cups of sage tea were once regarded as a guarantee of long life, as the old country rhyme – “he who drinks sage in May shall live for aye” – reminds us. The herb is believed to restore failing memory in the elderly. The red or purple variety is preferred by herbalists, but many members of the sage family possess similar properties.
Today the plant is known to be an antioxidant which can combat free radicals and cell decay. It is also rich in oestrogenic substances. Sage has an important affinity with the throat and mouth and makes an excellent gargle and mouthwash for many infections and inflammations. The leaves can be used in creams and ointments for minor cuts and insect bites. Sage is drying and can be used by breast-feeding mothers when weaning to reduce milk production. The Chinese use the root of another variety, Salvia miltiorrbiza as a tonic.