When the weather outside is frightful...and inside it's so delightful...I love to cuddle up in my sweats under a soft blanket...kick back on a recliner...and enjoy a cup of herbal tea. It seems that the more inclement the weather is outside...the more I enjoy myself! I make the tea too hot to drink...and then deeply breathe the steam in until it cools enough that I can drink it. It might be a sweet berry flavor...some lemon balm from the garden...or maybe some soothing mint tea that serves to clear my sinuses...which often seem obstructed during the cold months.
If I were to tell a group of LDS people that I like to do this...I would have some say "That sound's nice...I like to do that too!"...and then I'd have some that would say "I think that is breaking the word of wisdom (or law of health)...I would never do that".
The difference in belief stems from an interpretation of a revelation that outlines how to be healthy with regards to what we take into our bodies...it reads...
Doctrine and Covenants 89:9 - "And again, hot drinks are not for the body or belly."
Thankfully...the prophets gave some clarification when they stated that "Hot drinks" are referring specifically to "tea and coffee".
While this did bring us one step closer to clarification...there has remained confusion for many as to what was meant by "tea". One is left to ask..."Is "tea" referring to just..."
1. A drink made from from the tea plant (Camellia sinensis)?
or does it also include...
2. Herbal drinks made from anything other than the tea plant...that have been applied the misnomer "tea"?
Lest we think that herbs are somehow generally forbidden...in the same revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants section 89 it reads...
10 And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome aherbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man—
11 Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with aprudence and bthanksgiving.
The key there is "with prudence". For example...the Lord did not entirely forbid the use of tobacco...but just told us how it could be used prudently...
8 And again, tobacco is not for the abody, neither for the belly, and is not good for man, but is an herb for bruises and all sick cattle, to be used with judgment and skill.
In another scripture He reiterates this point when He says...
20 And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to aexcess, neither by extortion.
In the Book of Mormon we are told that God prepared many wild "plants and roots" to "remove the cause of diseases"...
Alma 46:40 And there were some who died with fevers, which at some seasons of the year were very frequent in the land—but not so much so with fevers, because of the excellent qualities of the many aplants and roots which God had prepared to remove the cause of bdiseases, to which men were subject by the nature of the climate—
The Lord has expressly told us the medicinal value of wild plants...and given us the charge to use them "with judgement". The question we must ask is...how should each herb be used?
Here is an article from the Ensign where a professor at a school discusses the medicinal value of various herbs and gives warnings about having reliable information before taking anything. The author has an apparent disdain for herbal remedies which I do not share. Personally...I believe that modern medicine can do wonderful things or make people even more ill. I tend to trust herbal remedies rather than pills filled with chemicals of unknown origins produced by people with unknown motives.
To an LDS person who would still hold the belief that herbal teas are against the law of health I would ask "Do you also believe that soup is against the law of health?"
Hot water...mixed with a variety of herbs and vegetables...will make a soup.
Hot water...mixed with a variety of herbs and even vegetables...will make an "herbal tea".
As I see it...the main difference is that one generally eats the solids in a soup...while in an herbal tea one generally just drinks the broth.
Tea's and Survival
If you are in a survival situation...stranded out in the cold...a nice warm drink may be what helps to keep you warm enough to survive the night...or at least make your situation more tolerable. That same warm herbal tea could also provide sustaining vitamins as well as some morale boosting great flavor.
One of the most famous stories about wild herbal teas saving lives is about the French explorer Jacques Cartier. While exploring Cananda...his men and the natives came down with Scurvy and disease. Natives introduced him to a tea...presumably made from pine needles and/or white cedar leaves. The tea quickly brought them back to health.
Tea's are generally made by boiling water...or just under boiling...and then adding your plant material to the water to allow it to steep. If the water is too hot...and you boil the plant in the water...you may lose much of the nutritive value as it is destroyed by the heat. Here is a video of a lady making pine needle tea.
In order to use herbs with "judgement"...there are plenty of books that will teach herbal remedies...and wilderness medicine. Browse at your local library or on the internet and you will find volumes of information.
One that I recently found that I really...really like is called "Native American Ethnobotany". It is not a plant identification book. It is a dictionary thick book that will tell you about how most every plant available was used by the Native Americans...as food...tools...medicine...etc... What I especially like about it is the fact that you can see how unrelated tribes used the same plants for the same purposes...which lends credibility to their usefulness in that application.
Try some herbal tea sometime if you haven't before. You could start with a cup of chamomile tea...a flower with a mild taste. It has been used for thousands of years...has a very soothing quality to it.
With a bit of research...you could also come to enjoy the tea's that mother nature gives for free...that could also save your life!