Discovering Herbal Tea, Respect, and a Creative Practice / by Lara Neece

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Last year I stopped drinking coffee - not cold turkey, but I stopped nonetheless. I know you're thinking, why on Earth would I want to stop drinking coffee? I absolutely loved coffee, espresso, chai, and sweet tea (yes, born and raised in the South!), and I needed these things in the morning to wake up, in the afternoon to perk up, and sometimes in the evenings, and on the weekends. But last year, after I over worked myself, started to burn out, and had a bit of a nervous breakdown, I realized that some things had to change. 

 Green tea with lemon and local honey.

Green tea with lemon and local honey.

In addition to taking an extended break from my work, I decided to cut down on my daily caffine consumption. It was compounding and magnifying my anxieties. Not only did it give me the jitters, but it made me feel tense, and most importantly it was making it downright hard to focus on my goals. Instead of dropping it from my diet completely, I switched to green tea.

Green tea has about one third of the caffine found in a cup of coffee, so as my body adjusted to a lesser amount of caffine, I began to notice that green tea perked me up just a little bit as well. I found that just one cup of green tea in the morning kept the withdrawl headaches away. I started to read up on green tea. I knew that it was full of anti-oxidants, but as I discovered, it is also excellent for your gums - it can even reduce gingivitis and periodontal disease over time. Facts like that got me more excited about drinking it.

 My special morning blend of Don Quai, lemon balm, ginkgo, and parsley with lemon and local honey.

My special morning blend of Don Quai, lemon balm, ginkgo, and parsley with lemon and local honey.

Over a short period of time I realized that, whether or not I was drinking coffee or green tea,  I enjoyed the ritual most of all. So I started looking into other types of teas, teas with little or no caffine to rotate into the mix. My reading and internet research quickly lead me to herbal teas. While I had tried a herbal tea or two before, I'd never really delved much deeper than that.

To my surprise, I discovered that herbal teas are one of the very best ways to get the vitamins and nutrients out of plants, roots, and herbs. I read that peppermint tea is great for an unsettled stomach; parsley, that little herb typically used as a garnish or in summer pastas, is one of the best sources of vitamin C out there and is chalked full of other vitamins and nutrients as well; and there are teas you can make for just about any ailment you can think of.

 My morning blend paired with an arugula, cherry tomato, and sharp cheddar cheese omelette.

My morning blend paired with an arugula, cherry tomato, and sharp cheddar cheese omelette.

I'm not suggesting that anyone quit drinking coffee, but I've been amazed at all the different tastes and health benefits that I've experienced as a result of drinking herbal teas. It has become a favorite ritual for me throughout the day, from creating new recipes, discovering delicious blends, making refreshing iced varieties, enjoying a hot cup in the morning or evening, or taking it for specific health purposes. And lastly, it's particularly relevant here because, for me, it has become a part of my creative process. 

On days when I paint or draw, I make sure that I've gotten enough sleep, that I've eaten a good breakfast, that I've showered and feel fresh, or sometimes I'll workout or do yoga beforehand instead. I try not to check my emails first thing in the morning or browse the internet (distractions!), because I create my best work when I prepare myself both mentally and physically. When I practice art, I am training my body and mind to reach a place of focus that to allows my creativity to flow uninterupted. To do this I can't be tired, hung over, sick, stressed out, or distracted. I have to respect the part of my mind, body, and being that can come together to create beautiful interpretations of the world, and for me herbal tea is one way that I show my respect.