Wild herb season has already begun in Finland, as baby nettles, goutweeds and dandelion leaves are pushing their little heads through the ground. Wild herb foraging is one of the best hobbies there is; you get to spend time outdoors, it doesn’t cost anything and it keeps your mind focused and your kitchen cupboards full of delicious natural superfoods.
Wild herbs can be enjoyed in many ways. One easy way to familiarize yourself with wild herbs is learning how to use them for making delicious and healthy herbal tea mixes. Herbal teas can be mixed to suit all preferences from a soft gentle flowery flavor to an invigorating and powerful cleansing mix with a touch of green and clean flavor. For example the leaves of berry plants have beautiful flavors that usually please all tastes.
In addition that herbal teas have a beautiful flavor, they also serve a particular purpose from helping you to wake up or to calm your body and mind for a restful night. In our Finnish folklore, many illnesses and symptoms have been treated with our native herbs, particularly with different kinds of herbal infusions. Herbal tea mixes have been used to detoxify and cleanse the body, to help with digestion and to calm the body and mind. Herbal teas made from wild herbs are also naturally caffeine-free, though some herbs can give your body and mind a good invigorating boost.
It’s super easy to make your own wild herb teas. However, you’ll get better results when you know a little bit about which herbs work well together. Wild herbs can have strong effects on the body so it is wise to start using herbal teas slowly and examining the effects different herbs have on your body. Certain herbs build on each other and beautifully complement each other’s flavors and effects. It is good to familiarize yourself with the herbs you’re using. Remember that some herbs can cause allergic reaction.
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 that you know your rights and restrictions of collecting the herbs in relation to the landowner. It is a good idea to take a wild herb foraging course and read more about the topic online.
When foraging herbs, it is important to pay close attention to the cleanliness of the foraging area as plants tend to pick up toxins from the ground.
Good things to remember about foraging:
- Plant leaves are to be foraged in the spring, before the plant flowers. The spring months are the best time for foraging most plants as the young plants are just beginning to pop their heads out of the ground. The nutrient level of the plants is also at its highest at this time of the year.
- Flowers should be picked when they have just started to bloom as the aromas are at their strongest then. For example dandelion flowers are perfect for herbal teas.
- Roots should be foraged early in the spring or late in the autumn.
- Seeds should be foraged just before they are fully ripe. For example nettle seeds can be used to make delicious power tea!
Wild herbs perfect for herbal teas
You can find a list of some of the best herbs for herbal teas below, categorized by the best time for foraging. There are certainly much more plants that can be used in herbal teas, but this list is a good way to get started. The best time for foraging naturally changes slightly each year depending on the weather as well as your location.
Early spring (just after snow has melted)
- Dandelion and valerian roots
- Spruce and pine sprouts
- Young birch leaves
- Young nettle and dandelion leaves
- 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
- Chamomile flowers
- Yarrow flowers, violets and fireweed flowers
- Red clover flowers
- Marigold leaves of the flowers
- Golden 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
Preparing herbal tea
Both fresh and dried herbs can be used for preparing herbal tea. You can use one type of wild herb or mix various herbs. When mixing the herbs, it is important to pay attention to how the qualities and characteristics of different herbs complement each other. A good base for an herbal tea mixture is fireweed or raspberry leaf. These two herbs are particularly popular in herbal teas due to their delicious flavor and their availability.
Herbal teas should be brewed for 5-15 minutes in water heated to 80-90 ℃. Remember to familiarize yourself with the herbs you’re using, as some plants are stronger than others and may cause different reactions. Herbs known for their medicinal properties should not be used continuously for longer periods of time.
Unlike with many tea leaves, long brewing won’t make your wild herbs bitter, so you can leave your wild herbs to brew for a longer period. They can even be brewed overnight and use the next day for delicious ice tea! To get all the benefit out of the herbs, they can simply be eaten after brewing. Personally, I love to eat them with a bit of honey, or to throw them in my smoothie.
You can find a few of our suggestions below for delicious, aromatic and functional herbal tea mixtures. When you try these, remember to respect your body’s unique reaction to them.
Calming herbal tea
Base of raspberry leaves and fireweed leaves
Flavor from heather flower and peppermint
Cleansing herbal tea (to be used for the maximum of 2 weeks)
Base nettle and dandelion leaves
Flavor from yarrow flowers
Deep cleansing herbal tea (to be used for the maximum of 2 weeks)
1 part birch leaves, 1 part juniper berry, 1 part dandelion root
Energizing power tea
1 part spruce sprouts, 1 part blackcurrant leaves, 1 part rowan berries or roseberries
Invigorating daytime tea
Base of rose root and raspberry leaves
Flavor from fireweed leaves and flowers and birch leaves
You can find similar ready-to-drink herbal tea mixes from the Finnish company METTÄ nordic. TIP! Try mixing your herbal tea mix into your smoothie - check out more tips from here.
Text: METTÄ nordic
Pictures: Annika Hannus & Ottilia Orenius
Annika Hannus, Anna Nyman, Pauliina Toivanen, Aino Huotari, Nick Victorzon 2017: Villiyrtit - Hyvinvointia kotikulmilta (engl. Wild herbs - Wellbeing from your neighbourhood)
Toivo Rautavaara, 1980: Mihin kasvimme kelpaavat (engl. What our plants are good for)
Toivo Rautavaara, 1983: Terveysteetä luonnonkasveista (engl. Health tea from natural plants)
Sinikka Piippo, 2016: Villivihannekset (engl. Wild vegetables)
The Finnish Ministry of Education, 2016: Luonnonyrttiopas (engl. A Guide to natural herbs)
Ulla and Pertti Salo, 2007: Hyvinvointia luonnosta (engl. Wellbeing from nature)
Satu Hovi. Readme.fi, 2017: Luonnonyrtit (Natural herbs)