Even though we are past traditional harvest season, we can enjoy the tastes of winter in our locales. There is an abundance of edible plants in all seasons, and winter is no exception. Here in Vancouver, BC, I’m surprised by just how much choice there is!
On yesterday’s nature walk, I foraged a handful of cedar branches (first asking permission and then leaving a small offering), for making either Cedar Tea or adding to a bath when I got home. Then I realized that I could probably do both . . . and more!
I rinsed and garbled the leaves, stripped the needles — about two cups worth (roughly 55 grams) — and added them to 4 cups of boiled water. I then simmered for about ten minutes. Some folks simmer longer — 15 minutes — but for my first effort I decided to try ten as I suspected the taste would be stronger than my other favourite (pine needle tea). It is, but still enjoyable!
I strained everything through a nut bag, poured some into a small cup and saved the remaining tea in a mason jar so I could drink it later. By the way, because of the simmering, this is really a decoction rather than a tea but most folks just call it cedar tea.
I had my first cup as is, so I could really connect with the natural taste and aromas. Some may wish to dilute it with hot water or add a touch of natural sweeter (maple or birch syrup, stevia, etc). I added a slice of fresh lemon to my second small cup, which I kept in a thermos and enjoyed sitting by a tree. It was so delicious and really complemented the cedar taste, and a great way to connect even more with the beautiful cedar trees..
Once finished with the leaves, you can compost them or use again for another batch. Some folks drink only the second batch made with the same leaves; they cool the first batch, use in a bath (best in a nut bag or muslin pouch for easier bath cleaning) or simply return to the earth. I use the leftover tea as a cleansing / blessing spray and firmlly believe those simmering leaves also smudge/sain our home.
CAUTION: There is lot of debate about cedar tree tea and the potential toxicity of its thujone but I recently learned that it is not water-soluble and that the potential toxicity is perhaps overstated.
For more about the medicinal benefits of cedar (great for lungs in Winter!), I highly recommend viewing the video “Significance of Cedar Tea” from Ojibway herbalist Joseph Pitawanakwat of @Creators.Garden on Instagram (and also on Facebook). Joseph and Kristy focus on teaching the legitimacy of plant based medicine) on their YouTube channel https://youtu.be/XLUI6CEZQTc
That being said, it’s important that we each do our own research before consuming any herb or plant (in any delivery system such as tea, tincture, decoction, infused oil, raw, etc) and make our own informed decision.
If concerned about thujone, restrict your consumption to one cup per day, three times per week.