Ju Hua, or Chrysanthemum, makes a pleasant flower tea that can be consumed daily. It is a frequently used medicinal herb that clears wind and heat and calms the Liver, and is also a common perennial, garden plant, easy to grow with pretty blossoms in the fall. Here are a few guidelines for cultivating, harvesting, and drinking your daily cup of flower tea.
Chrysanthemum flower as a medicinal herb was first mentioned in the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing, and has been cultivated by the Chinese for over 3,000 years. The medicinal plant from China is sometimes referred to as Chrysanthemum sinensis, but most modern Chinese material medica texts now classify it as Chrysanthemum moriflolium, the common garden mum or "florist's chrysanthemum".
Ju Hua is cooling, fragrant and light. It enters the Lung and Liver channels; therefore its actions primarily affect these systems. The flower is light in nature, so lifts and clears and particularly ascends to affect the head, but can also descend rising Liver yang. It's major herb functions are:
All Chrysanthemum flowers can be used medicinally, though in China, those grown in Anhui province are considered to be the best quality. Mums come in a variety of colors. Their disc flortets (center of the flower) are yellow, and petals can be yellow, white, bronze, reddish, pink or purple, but the main types used medicinally are ones with white or yellow flower petals.
The white flowering mums are reported to be higher in flavinoid glycosides and additional active ingredients. Traditionally the white flowers are said to be stronger at calming the Liver and clearing the eyes, while the yellow flowers are stronger at dispelling wind-heat and draining heat toxin.
Chrysanthemum plants can be propagated by seed, stem cuttings, or by directly dividing roots in autumn or spring. The plants do best when grown:
Flowers are harvested around the third week of October. There are a variety of methods for drying and harvesting the flowers. Traditionally, the white mum flowers are picked, and then dried in the sun. The yellow flowers are baked over a light fire until dry. But for all varieties, it is common practice to cut the whole plant, tie it into bundles and hang to dry. The flowers are then removed when the plant is fully dried.
The benefits of long-term consumption of Chrysanthemum tea have been recognized throughout the history of Chinese medicine. It is said to prevent aging and to be a favorite of Taoists and poets, though the benefits are achieved only with drinking the tea over a long period of time. In the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing, it says, "taken over a long time it facilitates the qi and blood, lightens the body and prevents aging." Chen Shi-Dou explains: "Sweet Ju Hua is light and clear in flavor and nature, and its effect is particularly leisurely, it must be taken over a long time before it starts to take effect, one cannot just take more to try for earlier results."
Tea may be made from Ju Hua alone, or with the addition of other herbs to enhance certain effects. A tea of Ju Hua and Sang Ye (Mulberry leaf) will clear wind-heat from the eyes, while a tea with Shan Zha (Hawthorn fruit) and Jue Ming Zi (Cassia seed) helps to lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Probably the most common combination is with Gou Qi Zi (Lycii berries), which nourishes the Liver and Kidney yin, benefits the essence and brightens the eyes. Together, Ju Hua and Gou Qi Zi make a tasty tea that treats dizziness, eyestrain, improves vision, and soothes the eyes. In a cup, add hot water to about 5 grams of Ju Hua, and 5 grams of Gou Qi Zi. Cover and steep for five or more minutes. The tea is visually beautiful and tastes nice as well. Enjoy daily!
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