Wild herb season has already begun in southern Finland. Baby nettles, goutweeds and dandelion leaves are also pushing their little heads through the ground. Wild herb foraging is one of the best hobbies; its outdoors, its free and it’ll keep your mind focused and your cupboards full of delicious natural superfoods.
Wild herbs can be enjoyed in many forms and ways. One easy way to get into wild herbs is learning how to use them for making delicious and healthy herbal tea mixes. Wild herbs have different strengths and uses and can be mixed in ways that serve your need; introducing functional herbal teas.
Herbal teas can be mixed to suit many taste buds; from a soft gentle flowery flavor to an invigorating and powerful cleansing mix with a side note of green and clean flavour. In addition to herbal teas having a beautiful flavor, they also serve a particular purpose, to help wake you up or to help cam your mind and body for a restful night. In our Finnish folklore, many illnesses and symptoms have been treated with the use of our native herbs, in particular different kinds of herbal infusions. Herbal tea mixes have been used in particular to detoxify and cleanse the body, blood and internal organs, to help in digestion and to calm the body and mind.
Wild herbs have also been used for their delicious aromas and flavours. For example berry plants’ leaves have beautiful flavours that suit many a pallet. Herbal teas made from wild herbs are also naturally caffein-free while still giving your body and mind a good and welcome invigorating boost.
It’s super easy to get into making your own wild herb teas. However, you’ll get a better result by knowing a little bit about what herbs work well together. Wild and natural herbs can have strong effects on the body and it’s wise to get into using herbal teas slowly and examining the effects different herbs have on your body, after all, each of us is unique. Certain herbs build on each other and beautifully compliment each others’ flavours and effects. It’s a good idea to get familiar with the herbs you’re using an to give your body a chance to test the effects. Also, remember that some herbs can have allergic effects, so careful is the key word to a good result.
Foraging for the perfect herbs for tea
Before heading out into the forest, make sure you are confident in identifying the herbs you are looking for and you know your rights and restrictions according to Every Man’s Right. You can do this by participating in a wild herb foraging course and reading up online.
As a general rule of thumb, we can say that to forage for parts of trees and roots of plants, you need the land owner’s permission whereas this is not the case for leaved plants which can generally be foraged freely. It’s important to pay close attention the cleanliness of the foraging area as plants tend to pick up any toxins from the ground.
According to literature on plants, as a summary some main points regarding foraging are as follows:
- Plant leaves are to be foraged in the sping, before the plant flowers. May is usually the best time for foraging most plants as the young plants are just beginning to prop their heads out and are full of vitamins and nutrients.
- The flowers are best picked when they have just flowered as the aromas are at their strongest. For example the aroma-rich dandelion flowers are perfect for herbal teas
- The flowers are best picked when they have partially bloomed (for example fireweed flowers and meadowsweet flowers)
- Roots are to be foraged early in the spring or late in the autumn
- Seeds are to be foraged just before they are fully ripe (for example nettle seeds can be used to make a delicious powertea!)
Well-suited wild herbs for herbal teas
Below you can find a list of some of the best herbs for herbal teas, categorized according to the best time for foraging. There are certainly tons more that can be used in herbal teas, but this is a good way to get started. The bets time for foraging naturally changes slightly each year depending on the weather and how the seasons are changing as well as depending on your location in Finland.
Early spring (just after snow has melted)
- Dandelion and valerian roots
- Spruce and pine sprouts
- Young birch leaves
- Young nettle and dandelion leaves
Early summer (before midsummer)
- Birch, rowan and linden leaves
- Nettle, dandelion, raspberry and fireweed leaves
- Meadowsweet leaves and flowers
- Blueberry leaves (before the berries are ripe)
- Lady’s mantle leaves before they flower
- Camomille flowers
- Yarrow flowers, orchid flowers and fireweed flowers
- Red clover flowers
- Marigold leaves of the flowers
- Golder rod flowers
- Heather flowers
- Rose petals
- Nettle seeds
- Heather flowers, lingonberry leaves
- Dandelion roots, valerian roots
- Rose root roots
- Juniper berry
- Alder cone
- Pine needles
- Juniper needles
- Birch chaga
Source: Toivo Rautavaara, Terveysteetä luonnonkasveista WSOY- book, slightly modified
Preparing herbal tea
Both fresh and dried herbs can be used for preparing herbal tea. Wild herbs are beautiful by themselves, or they can be creatively mixed for delicious herbal tea mixtures. When mixing herbs, its important to pay attention to how the qualities and characteristics of different herbs compliment each other. A good base for an herbal tea mixture is fireweed or raspberry leaf. These two herbs are particularly popular in herbal teas for their delicious flavor and their ready availability.
Herbal teas need to be brewed for a long enough time (5-15 min) in 80-90 degree C water. In general, you can measure 1-2 tsp dried herbs to a cup (2 dl). Remember to familiarize yourself with the herbs you’re using, some plants are stronger than others and may cause different kinds of reactions. Particularly herbs knows for their medicinal properties should not be used consecutively for long periods of time, they should be used as a regimen, for a short period of time.
Long brewing times won’t make your wild herbs bitter, like tea leaves may do, so don’t worry about leaving your wild herbs to brew for a longer period. They can even be left overnight to make a delicious ice tea the next day! After brewing, to get the most benefits, wild herbs can be simply disposed of by eating them. Personally, I love to eat them with a bit of honey, or throw them in my smoothie. No waste :).
Below are a few of our suggestions for delicious, aroma-rich and functional herbal tea mixture to try, while listening and respecting your body’s unique reaction.
Calming herbal tea
Base of raspberry leaves and fireweed leaves
Flavour from heather flower and peppermint
Cleansing herbal tea
To be used as a regimen, max 2 weeks
Base nettle and dandelion leaves
Flavour from yarrow flowers
Deep cleansing herbal tea
To be used as a regimen, max 2 weeks
1 part birch leaves, 1 part juniper berry, 1 part dandelion root
1 part spruce sprouts, 1 part blackcurrant leaves, 1 part rowan berries or rosehips
Envigorating daytime tea
Base of rose root and raspberry leaves
Flavour from fireweed leaves and flowers and birch leaves
Recipes modified from Toivo Rautavaaran Terveysteetä luonnonkasveista WSOY -book.
Similar ready to drink herbal tea mixes can be found from our METTÄ Functional Herbal Teas selection and from Forest Foody for example. TIP! Try mixing your herbal tea mix into your smoothie. Find more tips from here.
We definately recomment getting started with your wild food hobbie through a high quality wild herb foraging course. In the Helsinki area, there are a umber of organisations offering courses: Helsinki Wildfoods and Hortoilu.fi. Also Martat and Maa ja -kotitalousnaiset offer courses around Finland.
Artikkeli suomeksi TÄÄLLÄ.
Literature and sources:
- Book: Villiyrtit. Hyvinvointia kotikulmilta. Annika Hannus, Anna Nyman, Pauliina Toivanen, Aino Huotari, Nick Victorzon WSOY, 2017.
- Rautavaara, Toivo.1980. Mihin kasvimme kelpaavat. WSOY 230s.
- Rautavaara, Toivo.1983. Terveysteetä luonnonkasveista. WSOY 196s
- Piippo, Sinikka. 2016 Villivihannekset. Sinikka Piippo ja Minerva Kustannus Oy.
- 2016. Opetushallitus, Toim: Simo Moisio. Next Print, Helsinki.
- Salo, Ulla ja Pertti. 2007. Hyvinvointia luonnosta. Ulla Salo ja Pertti Salo ja Minerva Kustannus. Hämeenlinna.
- Book: Luonnonyrtit. Satu Hovi. Read me.fi, 2017.