Have you heard of Navajo tea? It’s not one that’s commonly available, so it might not be familiar to everyone.
Navajo tea (also known as Hopi tea, Cota Herb tea, Indian tea, Zuni tea, or Greenthread tea) is an ancient herbal tea originating from the southwestern United States (particularly New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona).
Made from the greenthread plant, it was first used by the Native American tribes of North America who drank the infusion as a type of tea but also used it as a medicinal remedy for many different kinds of ailments.
In this article we’re going to take a look at this ancient herbal tisane, its history, how it’s made, and how it can be beneficial to us today in modern life.
The Greenthread Plant
Rayless Greenthread (scientific name Thelesperma megapotamicum), is a wild flowering plant native to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico with thin leaves that are delicate and thread-like – hence the common name “greenthread”.
It has yellow flowers (which can be used to make yellow dye) and is a member of the aster family (also known as the sunflower family). It can be found in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, North Dakota and also parts of Canada.
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Connection To The Navajo
The Navajo people have been using Greenthread leaves for centuries, brewing them as a herbal infusion but also using the plant for its potential health benefits. There are a number of different species of thelesperma plant and most can be used to brew this tea.
Navajo tea is an important part of Navajo culture for the Navajo nation and other Native American communities. Today, Navajo tea continues to be a symbol of cultural heritage.
People drink it as a way to bridge the past with the present, and to remember the heritable and tradition of the Navajo people. In recent years it has become more widely available and many people are also drinking it because of its potential health benefits.
With a rusty color when boiled, this tea has a similar earthy flavor to green tea so won’t taste unfamiliar to most herbal tea lovers. However, unlike green tea, Navajo doesn’t contain any caffeine.
Where To Get Navajo Tea
Growing a Navajo tea plant yourself is not that difficult although most people prefer to buy their greenthread leaves dried and ready to use. Seeds can be obtained cheaply online on eBay or at an online seed or gardening store.
It can be planted in early spring for summer and autumn blooms and in late summer for blooming the following year. The plants do best when the entire plant is in full sun. Harvest when the tea plants begin to form buds (the whole plant including buds, stems and leaves) and leave about 2-3 inches above the soil plus the roots intact (for the next season).
After a gentle wash the harvested plant pieces should be put out to dry on screens out of direct sunlight until crisp – this usually takes about 2 days. The dried plant can then be broken into small pieces and stored in an airtight container until ready to brew.
When grown commercially, the dried plant is bundled into 4 inch lengths (each weighing approximately 6 grams) and tied with strings, ready for storage and use.
If you prefer not to grow your own, Yanabah Navajo tea sells ready to brew tea. This is a traditional tea produced by a Navajo owned company and grows wild on the Navajo reservation. Although currently unavailable at the time of writing it can usually be purchased on Amazon.com.
Benefits Of Navajo Tea
This tea is thought to have many medicinal properties and is used to treat many of the following ailments:
Navajo tea is often used to soothe respiratory discomfort, including cold symptoms and respiratory congestion. The tea’s natural properties are thought to help ease breathing and provide relief from common respiratory ailments.
This tea is a good way to treat inflammatory conditions due to its anti-inflammatory effects.
The tea is believed to possess digestive benefits, potentially aiding in digestion and helping with upset stomach and digestive issues.
Navajo tea is known for its calming effect, making it a popular choice for promoting relaxation and reducing stress.
The Greenthread plant is rich in antioxidants, which are compounds that help protect cells from oxidative stress and damage caused by free radicals. These antioxidants may contribute to overall health and wellness.
Navajo may help to improve blood circulation, particularly for those with low blood pressure. It may help to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Remember that while the traditional use of Navajo can offer us valuable insights into its potential health benefits, there is very little scientific research on the effectiveness and safety of this herb. It should be safe to use in moderation, but if you want to use it to treat a specific ailment it’s best to contact a medical professional first.
How To Brew Navajo Tea
Brewing traditional Navajo tea involves a simple recipe that draws on traditional methods. Here’s a basic guide to brewing Navajo tea:
Dried Greenthread leaves (about 1 tablespoon per cup of water)
Start by obtaining dried Greenthread leaves. You can often find these leaves at specialty stores that carry Native American herbs or online. It’s recommended to use about 1 tablespoon of dried leaves per cup of water.
Bring fresh, cold water to a boil. The number of cups of water you use will depend on how many cups of tea you want to make.
When the water is boiled, remove it from the heat and add the dried Greenthread leaves to the hot water.
Cover the pot or container with a lid to trap the steam and flavors. Allow the tea to steep for approximately 7 minutes (less if you prefer a mild flavor). The longer you steep, the stronger the flavor will be, but be cautious not to over-steep, as it might lead to a bitter taste.
After steeping, strain the tea to remove the Greenthread leaves. You can use a fine mesh strainer, a tea infuser, or even a cloth to strain the leaves from the liquid.
Pour the brewed Navajo tea into cups or mugs and serve it hot.
You can enjoy it as is, or you may like to add natural sweeteners like honey, agave nectar or a touch of lemon juice for extra flavor. Be ready to be taken back to the deserts of North America when you savor this tea!
Who Shouldn’t Drink Navajo Tea?
Navajo tea is generally safe for most people to drink in moderation, however it should be avoided by pregnant and breastfeeding women and by those on medication (in case of interactions). Also, if you experience any allergic reactions to the greenthread plant you should avoid consuming this herbal beverage.
If you have any questions or concerns about whether or not Navajo tea is suitable for you make sure to consult your healthcare provider.
Navajo tea: A Native American Tradition
It’s clear that this special brew is more than just a comforting drink. It is also a link to the past, and a tribute to the Navajo culture. When enjoying a cup of Navajo tea take a moment to appreciate the history and heritage it represents.
With a range of health benefits from calming the nervous system, to treating digestive issues, to improving heart health, it’s no wonder that this tea has stood the test of time and hopefully will continue to grow in popularity for future generations.