Drinking herbal, caffeine-free teas, also known as tisanes, is a wonderful way to wind down at the end of a long day. And while it's convenient to pick up a box of herbal tea bags or a relaxing loose-leaf blend, it's a whole lot more fun to create your own custom mix. It also happens to be quite easy to do.
To make your own tisane, it's as simple as mixing and matching a couple dried herbs and spices together. For an eight-ounce cup, use about a teaspoon if the the mixture contains mostly small, ground, or broken pieces, and about a tablespoon if they're mostly large or whole pieces. As for which herbs and spices to choose, "you're not going to go so terribly wrong with herbal blends, as they are pretty forgiving," says Heidi Johannsen Stewart, co-founder of Bellocq Tea Atelier in Brooklyn, NY.
Here are a few pointers to get you started.
Think About Why You're Restless
Steve Schwartz, founder of The Art of Tea in Los Angeles, CA, recommends taking a moment to think about what really might be keeping you up at night. Are you anxious about something? Choose chamomile, as it helps relax the nervous system. Stewart also loves Krishna tulsi, also known as holy basil, as it's an adaptogen, which means it strengthens your body's ability to respond to stress.
If your stomach is a little unsettled before heading to bed, try herbs that help soothe it. "Mint is known to help balance the pH in your stomach, which means it will help calm it," says Schwartz. Ginger is another great digestive.
Try New Flavors
Stewart recommends mulberry leaf — which she describes as rich in flavor, nourishing, and "a bit vegetal, closer to a green tea, but without the caffeine" — and cardamom. "It really just makes you feel good and it clears the mind," she notes.
Other great choices are sage, which adds a bit of earthiness, and citrusy herbs like lemon balm, lemon verbena, and lemongrass, which lend brightness and flavor.
Don't Forget About the Ritual Itself
"The ritual of brewing a cup or pot of tea is the most therapeutic part," says Schwartz. To make the most of it, try to be present during the process: boiling the water, selecting your herbs, taking in their aroma while they steep, and finally sitting down and sipping the soothing beverage. "Being mindful is incredibly healthful. You're away from the office, away from the conversations of the day — it's nice to mark your day that way," says Stewart.
(Image credits: Emily Han)