Honua means earth in Hawaiian, a perfect description for this detoxifying and nourshing tea. Ginger, turmeric, lemongrass, mint, tulsi (holy basil) and lemon basil are the wonders featured in this tea. Most of these herbs and aromatics are grown in my small garden plot and in neighboring areas. These delightful plants bring beauty to the garden and an abundant array of flavors and nutritional qualities to meals, beverages and desserts.
Most of them are available at any of the health food stores and farmers markets on the island. Also, the Kauai Farmacy is a beautiful herb farm in Kilauea selling ready made tea blends made with fresh herbs. Their tulsi, mamaki, lemongrass blend is so refreshing and delicious! They offer a number of other locally made medicinal products such as herbal bath blends, tinctures and “buzz chew”!
Tulsi is an aromatic plant native to the Asian subcontinent that has been used for thousands of years for religious purposes and as an overall health tonic. Some of the many purported health benefits are remedying common colds, stomach disorders, nerve issues, kidney stones, headaches, and respiratory and heart disorders. Tulsi is in the Lamiaceae family along with mint and basil which grow abundantly in the tropics. The tulsi plant growing near my garden plot at the Regenerations International Botanical Garden is a bushy shrub often reaching 6-7 feet in height. Acting similar to any basil plant, it begins to flower and requires pruning to continue leaf production. This remarkable plant can literally be cut back to a nub and regenerate leaf production to it’s previous height of 6-7 feet within a couple of months. Not only is it rich in medicinal qualities it has a uniquely, wonderful cinnamon and citrus flavor unlike any aromatic herb I have tasted. Tulsi can grow easily in a pot or in well drained soil. It is best to grow tulsi from a seed in a small 4 inch pot and then transfer to a garden bed or 10 gallon pot.
Lemon basil and mint are pictured above. Lemon basil is also easy to grow and intensely flavorful. I use it for pesto, chopped fresh in salads, in marinades for meats and fish, in desserts and of course for tea. It has the lovely licorice flavor of basil with a pungent lemon scent.
Lemon basil can be started from seed and transplanted to a 10 gallon pot or garden space. It likes full sun, moderate water, a little compost and well drained soil. I feed mine once a month with Hawaiian spirulina tea and it lives 9 months. I just cut the flowers back and it continues it’s leaf production instead of going to seed.
In addition to it’s refreshing flavor mint is highly medicinal. It is known to aid digestion, alleviate nausea, headaches, stress and fatigue. Mint is easily transplanted with another mint plant with runners attached to its roots. It is recommended to plant mint in a pot or container due to it’s aggressive root system. If not maintained it can potentially become a nuisance overtaking other plants and areas nearby. The mint I have now is running loose but I cut it back frequently and it remains manageable. It does best with medium water, loose soil and partial sun.
Lemongrass is a multi purpose grass easy to grow in warm climates. It has a wonderfully aromatic lemon scent and flavor. It can be used for tea, soups, curries, broths and with meats, fish and vegetables. Lemongrass is used medicinally to treat skin conditions, digestive disorders, influenza and is also used as an anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal. It can also be used as slug repellent. Slugs in our garden can decimate a young start in one night. I surround the young plant with chopped pieces of the grassy part of the lemongrass and it deters slugs every time. The theory is that they do not like crossing over the prickly surface of the grass.
A clump of lemongrass with roots still attached will start a new plant. It likes full sun, moderate water and well drained soil. We have one plant in our garden and it is plenty for regular home use. To harvest, cut off a stalk closest to the bottom of the plant without cutting the roots. This will enable a new stalk to grow in place of the old. If buying lemongrass at a market or in the store, it’s best to purchase firm yellow green stalks. They should not be rubbery or brown. Dried lemongrass is sometimes available at Asian markets and health food stores. For making tea I pound the bottom 4 inches of the stalk to bruise and release the flavors and oils.
Ginger is a rhizome of the ginger plant Zingiber officinale. The picture shown above is a cluster of rhizomes growing up above ground and forming new stalks. Rhizomes are the rootstock of the plant which function as a propagative modified rootstock. The rhizome reproduces additional rhizomes asexually underground as well as stalks above ground.
Ginger can be planted in a pot or garden bed with a temperature range between 68-86 degrees. Plant a healthy rhizome with a few nodes on it 2-3 inches under surface of composted, well drained soil. It likes partial to full sun, moderate water, enough space to reproduce and loose soil. After a few weeks a green stalk will emerge above ground. The shoot is erect and reed-like with linear leaves that are arranged alternately on the stem. Ginger is harvested when the stalk and it’s beautiful cone shaped flower have withered and died. Younger ginger, used for pickling, is harvested before the stalk flowers when it is delicate and tender. To harvest loosen and sift through soil a few inches under and away from the rhizome and gently detach pieces. Rinse thoroughly and allow to dry for a few days so it does not mold. Wrap in towel and refrigerate to preserve.
Ginger has a long history of being used as medicine in Asian, Indian, and Arabic herbal traditions. In China, for example, ginger has been used to help digestion and treat stomach upset, diarrhea, and nausea for more than 2,000 years. Ginger has also been used to help treat arthritis, colic, diarrhea, and heart conditions. It has been used to help treat the common cold, flu-like symptoms, headaches, and painful menstrual periods. Ginger deserves an entire post of it’s own really.
Beautiful turmeric flower. Turmeric is in the same family as ginger, the Zingiberaceae. It is grown and harvested the same way. Turmeric has been used in both Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine as an anti-inflammatory, to treat digestive and liver problems, skin diseases, and wounds. It has a delicious earthy, mild flavor, a perfect compliment to ginger.
Honua Tea Recipe
4 Cups water brought to a near boil
2 Inches peeled chopped turmeric
2 Inches peeled chopped ginger
1/4 Cup fresh chopped tulsi
1/4 Cup fresh chopped mint
1/4 Cup fresh chopped lemon basil
2 four inch pieces bruised lemongrass stalk
Steep herbs in ceramic pot for 5 minutes or longer. Strain herbs and enjoy hot or refrigerate and enjoy cold. This can also be made as sun tea. Place all herbs in a one quart glass jar and leave in sun for 24 hours. Strain and enjoy.