The new feature, Moonday Medicine, is dedicated to Sandy from Enid and Edgar Vintage, who asked me this weekend: where did your herbal posts go?
As someone that can't drink any caffeine at all because of fibrocystic breasts (yup, not even green tea), I have become very tuned into the subtle "uppers" of the plant world. Back when I was still drinking caffeine, I heard tell that licorice root was stimulating, but I never noticed the effect, hyped as I was on stronger stuff. These days, a cup of licorice tea feels fabulous and genuinely uplifting... not rocket fuel, but definitely strong enough to make an enjoyable difference in my mood and mental state.
Even if you're not into herbs at all, you probably know the taste of licorice from Panda Candy or Red Vines. It's really quite sweet on its own (though I am not sure that Red Vines contain the tiniest bit of real licorice), so even kids like it. In Chinese medicine, licorice is said to harmonize and "deliver" the other herbs in the formula to every part of the body. In the way that a super sweet person is welcome in all social circles, licorice is happily invited into all the organs and tissues, and if it happens to bring a slightly more bitter friend to the party, well, everyone gives the newcomer the benefit of the doubt and lets them in. Brilliant social strategizing!
You can buy licorice root on its own in most health food stores, but if you need things to be easy (like I do), a universally loved tea is the Yogi brand of Egyptian Licorice. Make sure to steep it for a good long time- like most herbs, steeping for a few minutes is going to give you flavor, but little medicinal punch. Licorice especially needs cool water soaking to extract all of it's important qualities. A compromise is to have several sips while it's steaming hot, and then leave the tea bag in the half-full cup for the next hour or so, sipping it on occasion. Make sure you squeeze the tea bag out at the end, too, to get your money's worth! You can even pour more hot water on the tea bag with this blend... it makes a decent second cup.
Licorice has a great reputation for toning down inflammation, helping adrenal deficiency, soothing ulcers, inactivating the herpes simplex virus, and helping dry, stressed out humans chill out. As with all herbs, consult your herbalist, acupuncturist, Naturopathic doctor, or other medical authority if you are pregnant or planning long-term use. Licorice is not advised for people with high blood pressure, and some people might become too wired if they take it in the afternoon.