After long miles of grueling hiking, there’s nothing we cherish more than a warm cup of tea while sitting by a pleasant fire. And if the tea is made of fresh herbs you’ve collected along your hike the pleasure is even greater.
Among many joys of spending time in mountains, the one is priceless: a tea made of fresh herbs, which fragrance and savor you’ll remember whenever you close your eyes.
The Healing Benefits of Alpine Herbs
The Alps are paradise for botanists and anyone who has a natural interest for flora. Around 4,500 vascular plants of more than 13,000 plant species are found in the Alps within several different life zones.
Many of them are endemic and adapted to harsh and severe climate conditions of higher altitudes. Remember how you occasionally encounter a beautiful, lonesome wildflower sticking out of rock at the immense elevations of more than 2,800 meters on your Alpine trek?
And you’ve probably been passing over wonderful meadows covered with brightly colored flowers without knowing anything about their astounding healing properties?
So, why not expand your botanical knowledge and broaden your experience when hiking in the Swiss Alps?
The Alps are the home of literally thousands of medicinal and edible plants but many of them are protected in Switzerland like the famous mountain flower Leontopodium alpinum (Edelweiss/Edelweiß) or Arnica montana (Arnika) and Gentiana lutea. The conservation of these plant species is essential so you should always be familiar with Red Lists of Threatened Species and the current status of a plant you want to use.
But, fortunately, among various plants, there is plenty of herbs you can pick for your own pleasure. Herbs make the best when brewed fresh and if you want to make a delicious tea on the ground using fresh herbs, find some good guidebook about the flora of the Alps.
Here’s the first lesson on herbs of the Swiss Alps! These are just a few very famous and easy-to-determine herbs which can be brewed into tea. Look up for them on the slopes and meadows around Grindelwald, Zermatt or Interlaken areas.
Thymus serpyllum (Wild Thyme, der Sand-Thymian, Le serpolet)
One of the most fabulous herbs you’ll find along your walk. It has a wonderful scent and tastes wonderful too! It is an excellent remedy for a cough, inflammation and throat ache. It promotes good health generally so you can drink it every day without any side effects.
You will find this aromatic, dwarf shrub growing in sunny locations in dry and steppe lawns on warm, grassy, rocky or sandy soils from the valley to 2800 m. Collect leaves and flowers in blossom stage, place them in a mug and just pour the boiling water over. Let it steep for 5-10 minutes.
Matricaria Chamomilla (Chamomile, Echte Kamille, Camomille vraie, Camomilla comune)
Everyone has surely tasted this world’s most popular and widely recognized herbal tea, but it feels great when you pick a herb and make a tea by yourself!
The chamomile tea has anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-cramping properties, but it is also an excellent calm-down drink. It has a mildly sedative effect so you can drink it after long hikes to relax and sleep well.
This herb likes sunny and warm locations on fields, meadows, pastures, along with roadsides or any sunny, well-drained terrain. Look for it on meadows around Interlaken, for example.
Take caution because there are numerous similar-looking species to Chamomile, such as Leucanthemum vulgare or Tanacetum corymbosum, but have no healing effects. You can easily recognize the strong scent of chamomile in contrast to these very similar, but odorless Chamomile look-alikes.
And here’s how you prepare the chamomile tea: Place two tablespoons of fresh chamomile flowers in a cup and pour the boiling water over it. Let it steep for 10 minutes and enjoy your tea.
Plantago lanceolata (Ribwort Plantain, Spitzwegerich, Plantain lancéolé, Piantaggine lanciuola)
The Ribwort is one of the most widespread wild plants, which grows on paths, along roadsides, in meadows and has long been known as a lung-healing plant. The basal leaves have the form of a rosette, bearing one or more flowering stalks up to 50 cm tall. The flowers are so recognizable that you just can’t miss it!
The leaves can be eaten raw, but you can also use them to make a tea. Just pour the boiling water over 3-5 tablespoons of fresh Ribwort leaves and leave it for ten minutes.
The plant has a pleasant, grassy fragrance and tastes slightly bitter, so you can mix it with Thyme to achieve more delicate aroma or you can add some sugar to make it sweeter.
Sempervivum tectorum (Houseleek, Dach-Hauswurz, Joubarbe des toits, Semprevivo maggiore)
And now something slightly different. Why wouldn’t you pick a healthy snack along your hiking trek? A beautiful Sempervivum is not only an ornamental plant, it is also an ancient remedy and it’s completely edible! Just peel the thin skin off of a Sempervivum leaf and eat it – it’s crunchy and pleasantly sour.
The juice of Sempervivum is extremely healthy and it has similar uses as Aloe Vera. If you’re bothered with an ear infection, just squeeze the juice into the aching ear and it will bring you an immediate relief.