Get Your Calm On
I grow several varieties of lavender in my garden but my hands-down favorite is Lavandula agustafolia ‘Melissa’. It has pretty, pale pink flowers that sit at the end of long delicate stems. It is less pungent and camphor-y than other varieties, making it ideal for culinary purposes. At the end of every summer I harvest, bundle, and dry the flowers to use throughout the year in recipes and seasonings like herbes de Provence. But I usually squirrel a fair amount of it away in a cool, dry, dark place to wait for spring. Why spring? That is when my lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) begins to awaken from its long winter nap and when I can put them both to use in teas, vinegars, and desserts. Both plants are a member of the mint family and are a match made in herbal heaven. Both also have calming properties and aid digestion but have gorgeous fragrances and qualities all their own.
Lavender is antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and has sedative properties. It has floral, spicy, sharp, and, depending on the variety, medicinal notes.
Lemon balm has antibacterial and anti-viral properties. It has been used since ancient times to lift mood, reduce fever and improve appetite. Its leaves impart lightly spicy, citrusy notes to salads, sauces, soups, cakes, and fish dishes.
But it is the fact that both of these herbs reduce stress, promote restful sleep and decrease anxiety that make them such a dynamic (or should I say “sedative”) duo. I feel calmer just writing about them.
When I know that I’m going to have a day/week/month/life that is more stress-filled than usual, I always make sure to have a pre-steeped pitcher of this tea in the fridge ready to be poured over ice. It’s a beverage choice that can help take the edge off that doesn’t make you feel obligated to proclaim, “Well, it’s five o’clock somewhere!” before indulging.
To do make a batch, steep 2 handfuls of fresh lemon balm and a scant tablespoon of dried lavender buds in 8 cups of just boiling water. Taste occasionally and strain out the herbs when the flavor is to your liking. I sweeten mine with honey while it is still warm so that the honey dissolves. I call it “Anti-Anxietea.” You’re welcome.
I also use these herbs to flavor my kombucha during its second ferment. The recipe follows but if “second ferment” is a foreign concept to you, and you’d like to learn more about the mysteries and delights of brewing your own kombucha, I have links to two great resources in my Amazon Store that you should definitely check out.
If, on the other hand, “second ferment” is second nature to you, then give this recipe a try. You won’t be sorry. I just took a bottle of this to share at a presentation I did last week and it was a hit. A few imbibers commented on the mild, pleasant spiciness of the lemon balm that I mentioned above.
- 2 cups packed fresh lemon balm
- 1 – 2 tablespoons dried lavender buds
- 14 cups finished kombucha
Place the lemon balm and lavender in a 1-gallon jar. Use a cocktail muddler, kraut pounder, or wooden spoon to bruise the herbs. Pour in your finished kombucha, cover the jar with a cloth or paper towel held in place with a rubber band and allow to steep, out of direct sunlight, for 2 – 3 days. When the taste is to your liking, strain out the herbs and pour into bottles and either refrigerate or allow to sit on the counter for an additional 2 – 3 days to develop some fizz before refrigerating.