After the Boston Tea Party: Herbal Liberty Teas Suggested by Philo Aletheias on January 13, 1774

by DerdriuMarriner

The Boston Tea Party ushered in a period of herbal tea drinking in Colonial America as imported tea via the East India Company became a symbol of taxation without representation.

Imported tea ceased to be drunk in the American colonies with the Boston Tea Party of December 16, 1773.

One month later, an article by Philo-Aletheias listed 17 homegrown substitutes, known as Liberty Teas, for tea-drinking colonists.

Six of the 17 blends are presented:
• blend #1: sassafrass root with lignum vitae,
• blend #2: sweet marjoram with mint,
• blend #3: mother of thyme with hyssop,
• blend #4: sage with balm,
• blend #5: rosemary with lavender,
• blend #15: goldenrod with betony

"Boston Tea Party: Three Cargoes of Tea Destroyed":

Engraving by Daniel Berger (1744-1824), after Daniel Niklaus Chodowiecki (October 16, 1726–February 7, 1801)
c. 1903 photomechanical print (postcard) : color.
c. 1903 photomechanical print (postcard) : color.

The bane of the American colonies: "Tea! how I tremble at the baneful Name!"


The Boston Tea Party is an iconic event in the history of the United States. The charismatic phrase, however, was appended at a later time. At the time, the momentous event was known as the Destruction of Tea at Boston Harbor. A key incident in the maelstrom of British and colonial interactions, the Boston Tea Party, which took place on Thursday, December 16, 1773, was not solely about tea but was also motivated by concerns about colonial rights, such as “no taxation without representation.”

The dumping of around 600,000 pounds of Bohea tea, imported through the globally powerful East India Company from the Wuyi mountain range in northern Fujian province in southeast China, served as a symbolic protest against 

. . . grievances and distresses with which his Majesty’s American subjects are oppressed . . . by a ruinous system of Colony Administration, adopted by the British Ministry about the year 1763, evidently calculated for enslaving these Colonies, and, with them, the British Empire.” (Constitutional Association, October 20, 1774, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)


plaque commemorating the Boston Tea Party

location: near the Fort Point Channel at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Seaport Boulevard
location: near the Fort Point Channel at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Seaport Boulevard


Less than one month later, an article on the sensitive topic of tea appeared on the front page of the Thursday, January 13, 1774, issue of the Virginia Gazette. The author signed off under the pseudonym of Philo-Aletheias (Greek: φίλος, philos, “beloved, dear” + ἀλήθεια, aletheia, "truth"). The invective against black tea opened dramatically with a paraphrase of tea-bashing lines penned in 1728 by recently deceased British poet Edward Young (June 1681-April 5, 1765) in "Satire VI: On Women":


parody in Virginia Gazette:                                            "Satire VI: On Women":

Tea! how I tremble at the baneful name!                       Tea! How I tremble at thy fatal stream!

Like Lethe, fatal to the love of Fame.                             As Lethe dreadful to the Love of Fame.


"Americans throwing the Cargoes of the Tea Ships into the River, at Boston"

engraving in W.D. Cooper's History of North America (1789)
engraving in W.D. Cooper's History of North America (1789)


The impassioned article began with a compelling question which situated the historical significance -- perceived at the time -- of the Boston Tea Party:

"Can Posterity believe that the constitutional Liberties of North America were on the Point of being given up for Tea? Is this exotick Plant necessary to Life? Or does our Health depend upon it? Just the reverse. . . ."

After citing such notable current and historical decriers against black tea drinking as Dutch botanist-humanist-physician Herman Boerhaave (December 31, 1668-September 23, 1738), Scottish physician-chemist William Cullen (April 15, 1710-February 5, 1790), and Swiss physician Samuel-Auguste Tissot (March 20, 1728-June 13, 1797), Philo-Aletheias launched into his own excoriation against the disdained custom:

". . . I am bold to say, I never saw a Man or Woman who from Youth was fond of and practised drinking Tea freely that was not rendered a weak, effeminate, and creeping Valetudinarian for life."


"Destruction of Tea in Boston Harbor":

1846 lithograph by Nathaniel Currier (March 27, 1813-November 20, 1888)
Currier & Ives Collection, Springfield Museums, Springfield, Hampden County, "Pioneer Valley," southwest Massachusetts
Currier & Ives Collection, Springfield Museums, Springfield, Hampden County, "Pioneer Valley," southwest Massachusetts


The criticism of Asiatic tea was couched in salutary terms as concern for the deleterious effects of tea drinking on physical and mental well-being. Yet, the real reason was derived from political concerns, for the imported tea

". . . not only destroys our Constitutions, but dangers our Liberty, and drains our Country of so many Thousand Pounds a Year . . ."

Nevertheless, rituals are difficult to abandon because they are entangled with habitual activities, which in turn provide some form of comfort and reassurance to their practitioners. In recognition of the strong grip of habit, Philo-Aletheias proposed a homegrown solution:

"But if we must, through Custom, have some warm Tea, once or twice a Day, why may we not exchange this slow Poison . . . for Teas of our American Plants; many of which may be found, pleasant to the Taste and very salutary, according to our various Constitutions."

Philo-Aletheias then listed seventeen tea blends as substitutes for imported tea. The suggested leaves and twigs were all from plants which were eminently familiar to colonial Americans. Considered a necessity in this New World, herb gardens provided produce for the daily pantry, decoration as flowers in the house, and medicine in sickness and in health. The family medicine cabinet was stocked with decoctions, dried leaves, infusions, and tinctures, which were consumed for general well-being as well as for specific complaints. Thus, these seventeen blends were easily available. So, instead of supplementing imported tea, these herbal concoctions would now replace them altogether.


Colonial America abounded in home, or kitchen, gardens which supplied fresh herbs, fruits, and vegetables for meals:

John Bartram's garden, established on west bank of Schuylkill River in Philadelphia c. 1728, is the oldest surviving botanic garden in North America: east facade of house, built 1728–1731, with additions c.1740 and 1758-1770.
east facade of John Bartram House with Bartram's Garden
east facade of John Bartram House with Bartram's Garden

My Liberty Tea garden


Six blends, comprised of twelve herbs, are featured from this list. Each herb serves as a glimpse into colonial gardens at the time of the Boston Tea Party. Amazingly, many of these herbs are still familiar over two and one-third centuries later.


For me, they comprise my Liberty Tea garden, which reminds me every day of the liberties which early settlers in this vast, beautiful new land wanted to bequeath to all who ever live between America's shores.


autumnal colors of sassafras (Sassafras albidum) branches

Tiadaghton State Forest, near Lock Haven, north central Pennsylvania
Tiadaghton State Forest, near Lock Haven, north central Pennsylvania

Blend number 1:


"Sassafras Root, sliced thin and dried, with Raspings of Lignumvite, makes a Tea exceedingly agreeable, when made weak.* [*Every Sort of Tea is rendered disagreeable by being too strong.] It beautifies and smoothes the Complexion, prevents Pleurises, Scurvies, and Cachexies, &c."




Sassafras albidum is commonly known as sassafras. Another popular scientific synonym is Sassafras officinale.

Sassafras albidum is a native of the eastern United States and the province of Ontario in east central Canada.


USDA Hardiness Zones:

Sassafras albidum is classified as hardy for zones 5 (-20° to -10°F.; -29° to -23°C) to 9 (20° to 30°F.; -7° to -1°C.).


Native distribution of Sassafras albidum:

Canada: Ontario ~ USA: AL, AR, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MO, MS, NC, NH, NJ, NY, OH, OK, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, VT, WI, WV



sassafras reaches a height of 50 feet (15 meet), with a generous spread of 30 feet (9 meters).

Oval leaves, which usually are divided into three lobes, have downy undersides. Their dark greenness changes to gold and red in autumn.

Tiny, petalless yellow-green flowers open simultaneously with budding leaves in spring.

Fruits ripen as blue-black drupes, which, like peaches, are fleshy encasements of seed-containing pits.


Sassafras leaves

Jamesburg Park Conservation, Middlesex County, east central New Jersey
Jamesburg Park Conservation, Middlesex County, east central New Jersey



Native American original inhabitants of the thirteen colonies extensively used sassafras as a therapeutic agent. Common remedies included:

  • as a blood purifier by the Cherokee, Delaware, and Iroquois and
  • as a febrifuge, to ward off fever, by the Iroquois and Nanticoke.



Lignum vitae:

Guaiacum officinale, commonly known as lignum vitae (Latin: lignum, "wood" + vitae, "of life") or tree of life, is a small, slow-growing, New World tree that is the  heaviest and densest wood in the world.

Its native range includes northern South America, the Caribbean, the Central American subcontinent, Mexico, and only Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands in the United States.



Lignum vitae slowly reaches a height of 20 to 30 feet (6 to 10 meters), with a spread of 26 feet     (8 meters).

The bark is deeply furrowed.

Oval leaves are bright green.

Five-petaled flowers open as blue stars.

Each bright yellow-orange fruit contains two cells, each enclosing one black seed.


Guaiacum officinale flowers

tree of life
tree of life



In addition to a Liberty tea from bark raspings, or scrapings, lignum vitae supplies an energy restorative tea with its flowers and leaves.

For two centuries an important ethnobotanical remedy decocted -- that is, extracted essences by
boiling -- the bark to serve as an effective, albeit temporary, treatment of the symptoms of syphilis.


closeup of sweet marjoram's flowers and foliage

Origanum majorana
Origanum majorana

Blend number 2:


"Sweet Marjoram, and a little Mint, relieve the Head and Nerves, strengthen the Stomach, help all the Digestions, are good in Catarrhs and Asthmas, and also giving a good Colour to the Skin, prevent Hystericks, and Melancholy."



Sweet marjoram:

Origanum majorana, commonly known as sweet marjoram or knotted marjoram, is a member of the mint family (Lamiaceae).

A native of the Mediterranean region, sweet marjoram has become naturalized throughout Europe.


USDA Hardiness Zones:

Origanum majorana is classified as hardy for zones 7 (0 to 10°F.; -18 to -12°C.) to 10 (30 to 40°F.; -1 to 4°C.).



The plant's pièce de résistance is its grey green leaves, which flavor culinary dishes in international cuisines.

Heads of small white to pink flowers open from late summer to autumn.


Sweet marjoram's leaves: culinary pièce de résistance

sweet marjoram's foliage
sweet marjoram's foliage

sweet marjoram's nectar: pièce de résistance for pollinators such as garden bumblebee (Bombus hortorum)

Antwerp, northeastern Belgium
Antwerp, northeastern Belgium



In addition to tea, which may be brewed with flowers and/or leaves, sweet marjoram is cultivated ethnobotanically for its essential oil, which is extracted by steaming the flowers.

  • The oil, which is light yellow with a warm, spicy scent redolent of camphor, ages to dark brown.
  • The oil's therapeutic qualities include antiseptic, expectorant, and a stimulant of the immune and circulatory systems.


fresh spearmint leaves

farmers' market, Rochester, southeastern Minnesota
farmers' market, Rochester, southeastern Minnesota



Mentha spicata, commonly known as spearmint, is a European native that has been successfully naturalized in the New World.

Spearmint is grown throughout the United States, with the exception of North Dakota, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

The Canadian landscape -- with the exception of the eastern province of Labrador and Newfoundland and the three territories of Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon -- is decorated with spearmint.


USDA Hardiness Zone:

Mentha spicata is classified as hardy for zones 3 (-40 to -30°F.; -40 to -34°C.) to 10 (30 to 40°F.; -1 to 4°C.).



Spearmint reaches a height of 4 inches (1.2 meters), with a generous spread of 3 to 6 feet (0.9 to 1.8 meters).

Wrinkled, ovate shaped leaves grow in pairs on opposite sides of the stem.

Cylindrical flowers open as white, pale mauve, or pink from mid-summer through autumn.


closeup of spearmint's flowers and foliage

Mentha spicata
Mentha spicata



In addition to its culinary uses in tea and spices, spearmint is cultivated for its essential oil, which is extracted by steaming the plant's flowers. The United States supplies 70 percent of the 1,600 tons produced annually of spearmint oil.

Mainly incorporated as a scent or flavor in internal and external products, spearmint oil invigorates chewing gum, jellies, mouthwashes, and toothpastes with its menthol aftertaste and transmits a fresh, minty aroma to bath products, candles, and perfumes.

Therapeutically spearmint, which is milder than peppermint (Mentha x piperita), is preferred in remedies for children to relieve hiccoughs and as an antiseptic, antispasmodic, carminative (antiflatulent), febrifuge, circulatory stimulant, and immune system booster.

Another ethnobotanical application is an effective insecticide against ants, flies, mosquitoes, and moths.


closeup of Mother-of-thyme flowers

Thymus serpyllum
Thymus serpyllum

Blend number 3:


"Mother of Thyme, and a little Hyssop, revive the Spirits, and make cheerful; also are good against cold Diseases, Asthmas, Coughs, and Vapours."



Philo-Aletheias notes that this blend is to be avoided during pregnancy.

  • The reason, which was not given in his article, is that, as emmenagogues, Mother-of-Thyme and hyssop stimulate the flow of blood in the pelvic area and uterus and were historically used as abortifacients to induce abortions.


creeping thyme (Thymus serpyllum) leaves with scattered flowers

Bucey_lès-Gy, Haute-Saône department,  Franche-Comté region, northeastern France
Bucey_lès-Gy, Haute-Saône department, Franche-Comté region, northeastern France


Mother of Thyme:

Thymus serpyllum, commonly known as Mother-of-Thyme or creeping thyme or wild thyme, is an Old World native that ranges naturally from northern European southward to northwestern Spain.

Other scientific synonyms are Thymus arcticus, Thymus drucei, and Thymus praecox.


USDA Hardiness Zones:

Thymus serpyllum is classified as hardy for zones 4 (-30 to -20°F.; -34 to -29°C.) to 9 (20 to 30°F.; -7 to -1°C.).



Mother-of-Thyme reaches a height of 1 to 4 inches (2.5 to 8 centimeters), with an exuberant spread of 36 inches (90 centimeters).

Thick mats of green, oval, hairy leaves fragrantly hug the ground.

Tiny flowers open in lavender-purple profusions from late spring to early autumn.


wild thyme flowers

Thymus serpillum
Thymus serpillum



In addition to its colonial culinary uses as tea and in spices, Mother-of-Thyme was prized as a febrifuge by the Munsee (Minisink, "from the rocky land") Delaware, whose migrations during the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries led them from Delaware to Pennsylvania and finally to Ontario, Canada.


hyssop's (Hyssopus officinalis) inflorescence

Botanical Garden KIT, Karlsruhe, Baden-Württemberg state, southwestern Germany
Botanical Garden KIT, Karlsruhe, Baden-Württemberg state, southwestern Germany



Hyssopus officinalis, commonly known as hyssop, is native to southern and eastern Europe.

Originally introduced into eastern and central Canada and the northern and central United States, hyssop has become naturalized throughout temperate regions of North America.


USDA Hardiness Zone:

Hyssopus officinalis is classified as hardy for zones 3 (-40 to -30°F.; -40 to -34°C.) to 10 (30 to 40°F.; -1 to 4°C.).



Hyssop reaches a height of 18 to 24 inches (45 to 60 centimeters), with a spread of 12 inches (30 centimeters).

Its aromatic foliage has lance-shaped leaves.

Two-lipped flowers open as violet to blue spikes in late summer.


glass of absinthe with absinthe spoon:

hyssop eases the astringency of wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) in absinthe
absinthe's culinary apparel
absinthe's culinary apparel



Hyssop's membership in the mint family (Lamiaceae) is detected in its minty, slightly bitter flavor.

  • Culinary dishes receptive to hyssop's flavor include pies, salads, and stews.

Another ethnobotanical application of hyssop was as a therapeutic remedy.

  • The Cherokee made a syrup of hyssop leaves and flowers for treatment of asthma, colds, and coughs.
  • An infusion of steeped leaves was imbibed as a febrifuge to break fevers.

Traditionally hyssop has a worldwide reputation as a purifying herb and was placed in vases or suspended over windows or used as a broom to cleanse the air.

Hyssop is an essential ingredient in the manufacture of certain liqueurs, such as Absinthe, Benedictine, and Chartreuse.

Other ethnobotanical fortes are as an insect repellent against flea beetles (family Chrysomelidae) and cabbage moths (Mamestra brassicae) and most importantly in bath and beauty products, such as cologne, perfume, skin cleansers, and soap.


sage (Salvia officinalis) flowers

Botanical Garden KIT, Karlsruhe, Baden-Württemberg state, southwestern Germany
Botanical Garden KIT, Karlsruhe, Baden-Württemberg state, southwestern Germany

Blend number 4:


"Sage and Balm Leaves (the first dry, the latter green) are gently astringent, stimulating and strengthening, excellent in Fevers, when joined with a little Lemon Juice; good for weak Stomachs, Gouts, Vertigoes, and Cachexies."




Salvia officinalis, commonly known as common sage or garden sage or kitchen sage, is native to Spain, the Balkans, and North Africa.

Sage has become naturalized in southern Europe and has been introduced successfully into eastern Canada as well as into parts of the eastern and western United States.


USDA Hardiness Zones:

Salvia officinalis is classified as hardy for zones 5 (-20 to -10°F.; -29 to -23°C.) to 10 (30 to 40°F.; -1 to 4°C.).



Sage reaches a height of 30 inches (75 centimeters), with a spread of 36 inches (90 centimeters).

Aromatic, oblong, wrinkled leaves are grey green with white-haired undersides.

Flowers open in shades of pink and purple in summer.


Salvia officinalis leaves

Conservatoire National des Plantes à Parfum, Milly-la-Forêt, Essonne department, Île-de-France region, northern France
Conservatoire National des Plantes à Parfum, Milly-la-Forêt, Essonne department, Île-de-France region, northern France



In addition to its culinary uses in tea and as a temptingly fragrant spice, sage has a time-honored reputation as a therapeutic remedy.

In colonial America, the Cherokee applied an infusion from steeping sage as an antidiarrheal, diaphoretic (perspirative), expectorant, laxative, and sedative.

  • A syrup was also concocted from sage leaves and honey as a respiratory aid to treat asthma.

In Connecticut the Mohegan chewed fresh leaves for general wellbeing and made a tonic from green or dried sage leaves as a restorative.


Noted gardener John Evelyn noted sage's legendary gift of immortality.

1689 oil on canvas by Sir Godfrey Kneller (August 8, 1646 – November 7, 1723)
1689 oil on canvas by Sir Godfrey Kneller (August 8, 1646 – November 7, 1723)


Noted English gardener-diarist-writer John Evelyn (October 31, 1620-February 27, 1706) pertinently extolled sage's virtues:

"In short, 'tis a Plant endu'd with so many and wonderful Properties, as that the assiduous use of it is said to render Men Immortal. . ." (A Discourse of Sallets, p. 163)


Native distribution of Monarda didymus:

Canada: NB, ON, QC ~ USA: CT, DE, GA, IA, IL, IN, KY, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, NC, NH, NJ, NY, OH, OR, PA, SC, TN, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV



Monarda didyma, commonly known as bee balm or bergamot or Oswego tea or scarlet bee balm, is a New World native.

Bee balm occurs natively in Canada in the eastern provinces of New Brunswick and Quebec and in the east-central province of Ontario.

In the United States bee balm decorates the eastern landscape as far west as the midwestern states of Minnesota, Iowa, and Missouri and as far south as Georgia and Tennessee.

Two disjunct native populations are found in the northwestern coast states of Washington and Oregon.


USDA Hardiness Zones:

Monarda didyma is classified as hardy for zones 4 (-30 to -20°F.; -34 to -29°C.) to 9 (20 to 30°F.; -7 to -1°C.).


ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) nectaring Monarda didyma

Nevin Lake, Bullitt County, "The Knobs" region, central Kentucky
Nevin Lake, Bullitt County, "The Knobs" region, central Kentucky



Bee balm reaches a height of 3 to 4 feet (0.9 to 1.2 meters), with a spread of 24 to 40 inches (60 to 100 centimeters).

Serrated, downy leaves often have red-purple tints.

Flowerheads open in red shades in summer.

Bee balm tea acquired the name of Oswego tea in deference to the branch of Iroquois from western New York who acquainted the colonists with the fragrant concoction of Monarda didymus flowers and leaves.

  • The tea's aroma is citrusy and reminiscent of the Earl Grey blend of tea.
  • Earl Grey owes its distinctive aroma to its essential ingredient, the rind of the bergamot orange (Citrus bergamia).
  • Monarda didymus' common name of bergamot recognizes the similar aroma.


Bergamot, a common name for Monarda didyma, recognizes its citrusy aroma and flavor as reminiscent of bergamot oranges (Citrus bergamia), the essential oil of which provides the distinctive flavor of Earl Grey tea, created ca. 1803 - 1830.

sparkling elegance of glass tea cups
sparkling elegance of glass tea cups



In addition to its renowned culinary use as a tea, bee balm garnishes salads with its spectacular flowers and delicious leaves.

As a therapeutic remedy, the Cherokee applied a poultice as an analgesic aid for headaches and as a cold remedy.

An infusion from steeped leaves was used to treat heart trouble and nosebleeds and also as a febrifuge and as a gastrointestinal aid.


Rosmarinus officinalis in flower

flowering rosemary
flowering rosemary

Blend number 5:


"Rosemary and lavender, excellent for Disorders of the Head, and Weakness of the nervous System, occasioned by India Teas, or otherwise; they resolve cold Humours, strengthen the Stomach, and rouse the Spirits."




Rosmarinus officinalis, commonly known as rosemary, is a popular cosmetic, culinary, and therapeutic herb that is native to alkaline hills around the Mediterranean Sea.

Captain John Mason (1586 - 1635), who founded the Province of New Hampshire in 1629, is credited with introducing rosemary into New England.

Captain Mason, who was Proprietary Governor of Cuper's Cove Colony on Newfoundland's Avalon Peninsula from 1615 to 1621, was appointed as the first Vice-Admiral of New England in 1635 but passed away in England during preparations for his first voyage to the Province.


USDA Hardiness Zones:

Rosmarinus officinalis is classified as hardy for zones 6 (-10 to 0°F.; -23 to -18°C.) to 11 (40 to 50°F.; 4 to 10°C.).



In the wild, rosemary reaches a height of 7 feet (2 meters), with a spread of 6 feet (1.8 meters).

Aromatic, dark green needle-shaped leaves have silvery undersides.

Two-lipped flowers open exquisitely as blue or pink-lilac or white in spring to early summer.


Great Seal of State of New Hampshire on memorial plaque for Capt. John Mason, Royal Garrison Church (often known as Domus Dei), Portsmouth, coastal south central England:

depiction of 32-gun frigate USS Raleigh, one of the first 13 warships sponsored by the Continental Congress for a new American navy, honors New World colonizer and mapmaker credited with introducing Rosmarinus officinalis into New England.
Charles Wesley Tuttle, Capt. John Mason (1887), opp. p. 409
Charles Wesley Tuttle, Capt. John Mason (1887), opp. p. 409



In addition to its culinary use in tea and as a spice, rosemary is treasured in potpourri. Also rosemary is valued as:

  • an insect repellent,
  • a cabbage moth (Mamestra brassicae) repellent in companion planting,
  • a disinfectant,
  • an appetite stimulant,
  • a digestive aid, and
  • a restorative of speech after a stroke.


"rosemary . . . for remembrance": William Shakespeare's memorable tribute to rosemary, spoken by tragic Ophelia in "Hamlet

Cobbe portrait, assumed to be William Shakespeare, c. 1595 - 1610 painting on oak panel
Cobbe portrait, assumed to be William Shakespeare, c. 1595 - 1610 painting on oak panel


Rosemary's reputation as a memory enhancer was poetically recognized by Elizabethan playwright
William Shakespeare (c. April 1564 - April 23, 1616), whose tragic heroine Ophelia sadly observes:

"There's rosemary, that's for remembrance; pray, love, remember . . ." (Hamlet, Act 4, scene v)


Sir Francis Bacon praised rosemary's persistent, pervasive, distinctive aroma:

c.1731 oil on canvas by John Vanderbank (September 9, 1694–December 23, 1739), after c. 1618 portrait by unknown artist
National Portrait Gallery, London: Transferred from British Museum, 1879
National Portrait Gallery, London: Transferred from British Museum, 1879


The strength of rosemary's distinctive, woodsy scent in the wild was extolled by English philosopher-statesman-scientist Sir Francis Bacon (January 22, 1561–April 9, 1626):

"It is true, that some woods of oranges, and heaths of rosemary, will smell a great way into the sea, perhaps twenty miles. . ."

("834: Experiment solitary touching the corporeal substance of smells," Natural History: Century IX)


Lavandula angustifolia flowers

Karlsruhe, Baden-Württemberg state, southwestern Germany
Karlsruhe, Baden-Württemberg state, southwestern Germany



Lavandula angustifolia, commonly known as English lavender, is native to the Mediterranean region. Other scientific synonyms are Lavandula officinalis, Lavandula pyrenaica, Lavandula spica, and Lavandula vera.


USDA Hardiness Zones:

Lavandula angustifolia is classified as hardy for zones 5 (-20 to -10°F.; -29 to -23°C.) to 10 (30 to 30°F.; -1 to 4°C.).



English lavender reaches a height of 2 to 3 feet (0.6 to 0.9 meters), with a spread of 4 feet (1.2 meters).

Narrow, slightly downy leaves are grey.

Spikes of deep purple flowers fragrantly open in early summer.


Deemed world's greatest natural botanist by Carl Linnaeus (May 23, 1707–January 10, 1778), John Bartram believed daily consumption of lavender enhanced wellbeing:

posthumous portrait by illustrator Howard Pyle (March 5, 1853–November 9, 1911)
Harper's New Monthly Magazine, Vol. LX, No. CCCLVI (February 1880), p. 322
Harper's New Monthly Magazine, Vol. LX, No. CCCLVI (February 1880), p. 322


Just as it was integrated into the English landscape, lavender was also considered an essential plant for the American colonies.

  • Lavender figured prominently in Colonial gardens, beginning with early American botanist-horticulturist John Bartram (March 23, 1699-September 22, 1777), a Quaker whose garden of 8-acres (32,000 square miles; 82,880 square kilometers) in Kingsessing  -- now a neighborhood in southwestern Philadelphia -- was founded as the first botanic garden in America in 1728.
  • In fact, with Bartram's appointment in 1765 as Botanizer Royal for America by King George III (June 4, 1738-January 29, 1820), he henceforth sent duplicates of every seed and plant already in his garden and from his ongoing collecting to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.


Primarily produced in the Mediterranean, monofloral honey from lavender nectar is a premium product.

Pertuis, Vaucluse department, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, southeastern France
Pertuis, Vaucluse department, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, southeastern France



As a tea, lavender, known for promoting relaxation through its soothing fragrance, has long been used as a headache remedy. Other culinary uses include:

  • as a floral garnish in salads,
  • as a flavoring in baked goods or ice cream, and
  • as an ingredient in salt, sugar, or syrup.

For overall well-being, English botanist John Gerard (1545-1611/1612) recommended daily consumption of "Conserves of Lavender," a preserve of lavender steeped in sugar which is deliciously aromatic, fragrantly tasty, and visually stunning.

Other ethnobotanical uses of lavender include aromatherapy and massage therapy as well as bath, beauty, and household products, such as in candles, potpourri, and moth repellents.

Lavender's renowned qualities as an antiseptic and an insect repellent account for its success during the Great Plague of London, 1665 to 1666, in warding off the flea-transmitted Black Death from those who attached bunches of lavender to their wrists.

  • Later lavender's forte as an antiseptic apparently compelled its inclusion as one of seven essential ingredients -- along with greater wormwood (Artemesia absinthum), lesser wormwood (Artemesia pontica), mint (Mentha), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), rue (Ruta), and sage (Salvia) -- in a vinegar infusion that effectively immunized against the bubonic plague that ravaged Marseilles on France's southeast coast in 1720.

Throughout lavender's plenteous applications and uses, the attribute which predominates is its intrinsically winsome fragrance. Even a hint of lavender beguiles while it heals.


anise-scented goldenrod (Solidago odora): closeup of seeding

understory and rangeland plants: Solidago odora seeds in Octoboer
understory and rangeland plants: Solidago odora seeds in Octoboer

Blend number 15:


"Golden Rod and Betony. A Tea of these, drank with Honey, are highly corroborative and detersive, to cleanse Ulcers in the Lungs, and Wounds of the Breast, Palsies, &c."



Sweet goldenrod:

Solidago odora, commonly known as anise-scented goldenrod or fragrant goldenrod or sweet goldenrod, is a New World native which is found in the eastern United States with a northernmost range in New Hampshire and Vermont. From New England its natural distribution extends southward through Florida and westward through Ohio, Tennessee, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas.




Sweet goldenrod reaches a height of 2 to 4 feet (0.6 to 1.2 meters), with a spread of 1 to 2 feet (0.3 to 0.6 meters).

Lance-shaped leaves are dark green with translucent dots.

  • An aroma redolent of anise (Pimpinella anisum) is emitted when leaves are disturbed, for example, by bruising, crushing, or rubbing.

Daisy-like flowers open in plume-like yellow clusters from late summer into autumn. Appearing in rows on the upper side of branching stems, flowers are one-sided.

Fuzzy seedheads, which are pale grey, contain tiny, brown nutlets, each enclosing one seed.


aniseeds: when crushed, sweet goldenrod's leaves, emit a scent reminiscent of the tantalizing fragrance of the fruits, called aniseed, of the anise plant (Pimpinella anisum).

seeds of anise plant (Pimpinella anisum)
seeds of anise plant (Pimpinella anisum)



Sweet goldenrod leaves impart a fragrance similar to French tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus) to tea during brewing.

  • This flavor also was captured from leaves and flowers as an additive to cloak the taste of disagreeable medicines.

Sweet goldenrod was respected by Native Americans for its flavorful ethnobotanical applications.

The Cherokee infused the fragrant leaves to treat colds, coughs, fevers, measles, and tuberculosis.

  • Roots were chewed to heal sore mouths.
  • Neuralgia was treated by holding an infusion of the root in the mouth.


Solidago odora (Fig. 1):

Fig. 2: a flower magnified ~ Fig. 3: a floret of the ray ~ Fig. 4: a floret of the disc.
Jacob Bigelow, American Medical Botany, Vol. I, Plate XX, opp. p. 187
Jacob Bigelow, American Medical Botany, Vol. I, Plate XX, opp. p. 187


In the twentieth century, the role of Solidago odora after the Boston Tea Party was cited as one of the reasons for its designation on June 24, 1996 as the official herb of the state of Delaware:

". . . .Whereas, Sweet Golden Rod has many associations with American history and culture, not the least of which is that, following the Boston Tea Party . . . when Americans . . . turned to herbal tea made from Sweet Golden Rod as a substitute, calling it "Liberty Tea. . . ."

(70 Del. Laws, c. 386, § 1.)


closeup of betony's flowers and foliage

Stachys officinalis
Stachys officinalis



Stachys officinalis, commonly known as betony or bishop’s wort or purple betony or wood betony, is a perennial which is a European native. Another scientific synonym is Betonica officinalis.


USDA Hardiness Zones:

Stachys officinalis is classified as hardy for zones 5 (-20 to -10°F.; -29 to -23°C.) to 8 (10 to 20°F.; -12 to -7°C.).



Betony reaches a height of 12 to 36 inches (30 to 90 centimeters), with a spread of 18 to 36 inches (45 to 90 centimeters).

Oblong, medium green leaves are wrinkled.

Flowers open in white or purple or red pink spikes from early summer into early autumn.



In tea, betony bears a resemblance to black tea. This similar flavor was cherished by those American colonists who especially missed the black tea to which they had become accustomed.

Traditionally, betony has a long-respected stature as a soothing and calming ingredient in therapeutic remedies. Its applications range from healing colds to treating asthma, bronchitis, headaches, kidney stones, palpitations, and seizures as well as warding off supernatural spirits.

As a powder consumed prior to excessive alcohol consumption, betony was lauded as counteracting drunkenness.

Betony was revered in medieval medical matters as an elixir to promote overall well-being and extolled as a cure for any and all complaints.


closeup of betony's distinctive leaves

Stachys officinalis
Stachys officinalis

Liberty teas: a legacy, like liberty, of the Boston Tea Party


Philo-Aletheias noted that many more tea substitutes could be listed but a fear of being perceived as tedious compelled resting this case for herbal teas. In conclusion, the only objection perceived by the author was that

". . . in such a Variety different Tastes or Circumstances would require . . . too many Pots for the Tea Table, and some Trouble. . . ."

Nevertheless, Philo-Aletheias immediately countered:

". . . Teapots are not very dear, and (Thanks to Heaven) we have no unconstitutional Tax laid on them yet. Water is plenty, Sideboards may be had; and, if Teapots fail, what Hardship is it for some to make their own Teas in Mugs or Tankards!"


Philo-Aletheias: "Teapots are not very dear."

Silver teapot made, 1773, by Paul Revere (December 21, 1734 – May 10, 1818)
Silver teapot made, 1773, by Paul Revere (December 21, 1734 – May 10, 1818)


Moreover, Philo-Aletheias noted that those "Gentlemen and Ladies of the first Rank" who replace this "pernicious Custom of drinking the Asiatick Teas" with consumption of homegrown herbal substitutes

". . .will have the Self-pleasing Satisfaction of having emancipated their Country from the basest Slavery and Tyranny of Custom, and erecting a Monument to Common Sense, which will merit the Praise of unborn Generations."

Those who converted to herbal tea substitutes were fortified by their conviction in the rightness of their cause. Liberty teas were brewed throughout the thirteen colonies.

After independence was gained on July 4, 1776, the importation of teas from China and India was resumed. In some homes in the new country herbal teas were relegated back to the family medicine cabinet. On the other hand, these Liberty teas were permanently adopted by many others, who maintained the habit either as a reminder of the pioneer American spirit or as a beverage of choice which they had learned to appreciate. Philo-Aletheias chose well the quintessentially American character of these Liberty teas.

The intrinsic value of Liberty teas is underscored by the fact that not one of these ingredients has been forgotten, for they all continue to offer enjoyment or healing as a variety of products not only in the United States but also worldwide.


Franklin Mint bronze commemorative medal, Boston Tea Party Bicentennial 1773 - 1973

200 years afterward
200 years afterward



My special thanks to talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the internet.


1775 map of Boston by Philadelphia printer Robert Aitken (1734–1802):

red star inserted to point to Griffin's Wharf, believed to be the tea party's site, which was filled in some time after 1855
"Engrav'd for the Pennsylva. magazine" v. 1, 1775, p. 29.
"Engrav'd for the Pennsylva. magazine" v. 1, 1775, p. 29.

Sources Consulted


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  • Available via Biodiversity Heritage Library at:
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Beresford-Kroeger, Diana. Arboretum America: A Philosophy of the Forest. Ann Arbor MI: University of Michigan Press, 2003.

Bigelow, Jacob. American Medical Botany, Being a Collection of the Native Medicinal Plants of the United States, Containing Their Botanical History and Chemical Analysis, and Properties and Uses in Medicine, Diet and the Arts, with Coloured Engravings. Vol. I. Boston: Cummings and Hilliard, 1817.

  • Available via Biodiversity Heritage Library at:

Castleman, Michael. The New Healing Herbs: The Classic Guide to Nature’s Best Medicines. Emmaus PA: Rodale, 2001.

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Colonial Dames of America. Simples, Superstitions & Solace: Plant Material Used in Colonial Living. Wethersfield CT: Grounds Committee of the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Connecticut, 1970.

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de Sounin, Léonie. Magic In Herbs. New York: Pyramid Books, 1972

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  • Second edition available via Biodiversity Heritage Library at:

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“Herbal Teas.” Celtic Book of Shadows. Last edited December 8, 2008.

  • Available at:

Hussey, Jane Strickland. “Some Useful Plants of Early New England.” Economic Botany, Volume 28, Issue 3 (July-September, 1974): 311-337.

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McMullan, Philip S., Jr. "A Role for Sassafras in the Search for the Lost Colony." The Lost Colony Center for Science and Research > Beechland Folklore & Research > Research Papers. The Lost Colony Center for Science and Research. Web.

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Moerman, Daniel E. Native American Medicinal Plants: An Ethnobotanical Dictionary. Portland OR: Timber Press, 2009.

Morrison, Robert. A Dictionary of the Chinese Language in Three Parts. Part the First; Containing Chinese and English Arranged According to the Keys; Part the Second: Chinese and English Arranged Alphabetically, and Part the Third, Consisting of English and Chinese. Part II Volume I. Macao: East India Co. Press, 1819.

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"Nos. 804: Historical painting, Destruction of Tea, Boston Harbor, Dec. 16th, 1773." Catalogue of Museum: 69. In: Ancient and Honorable Artillery Society of Massachusetts, Historical Sketch of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Society of Massachusetts Chartered 1638 and Catalogue of Museum of the Company. Boston MA: Poole Printing Company, 1914.

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Pyle, Howard. "Bartram and His Garden." Harper's New Monthly Magazine, Vol. LX, No. CCCLVII (February 1880): 321 - 330.

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Rohde, Eleanour Sinclair. The Old English Herbals. London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1922.

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“Rosemary.” Sunland Herbs > Medicinal Herbs. Sunland Herbs. Web.

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"A Series of Historical Paintings." The Two Hundred and Sixty-Fifth Annual Record of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts, 1902-1903: 99-103. Boston: Alfred Mudge & Son, 1903.

Tuttle, Charles Wesley. Captain John Mason, the Founder of New Hampshire. Including His Tract On Newfoundland, 1620; The American Charters In Which He Was A Grantee; With Letters And Other Historical Documents. Together With A Memoir. Boston MA: The Prince Society, 1887.

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view of the Town of Boston in New England and British ships of war landing their troops, 1768:

1898 color reproduction of 1768 engraving by Paul Revere
half-tone photomechanical print; engraving
half-tone photomechanical print; engraving
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

Lavender Honey Candy Drops: filled with fragrant lavender honey ~

From Mas de Abeilles, located atop the Luberon mountain, in the heart of Provence, comes some of the best honey in the world, collected with over three generations of expertise.
lavender honey

One of France's best-loved honeys ~ light-colored lavender honey, rich in iron with delightful floral scent:

Product of Manoir des Abeilles, Pontorson, Manche department, Basse-Normandie region, northwestern France
lavender honey

Boston Tea Party Scene: Black t-shirt

Boston, Massachusetts - Boston Tea Party Scene
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Me and my purrfectly purrfect Maine coon kittycat, Augusta "Gusty" Sunshine

Gusty and I thank you for reading this article and hope that our product selection interests you; Gusty Gus receives favorite treats from my commissions.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 10/19/2021, DerdriuMarriner
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DerdriuMarriner on 05/01/2014

VioletteRose, Herbal teas are fascinating, especially because originally they were based on health-giving and healing properties of plants.
Me, too, I appreciate herbal teas.

VioletteRose on 04/30/2014

Great article! I loved reading this and you have got so much information about a variety of herbal teas. I love learning about different herbs and their use in tea, so definitely I am going to check this page from time to time. The pictures are excellent, thanks for sharing!

DerdriuMarriner on 04/29/2014

Dustytoes, Me, too, I was craving herbal tea as I wrote about all these marvelous teas.
Tea with fresh mint is such a pleasant drink, so fragrant and so refreshing. I also like to add fresh herbals to green tea.
The liberty teas really showcased herbal teas as more than tonics for wellbeing: they could also be enjoyed as a pleasant beverage.

dustytoes on 04/29/2014

I never thought about how Bostonians and the area would drink tea once the Tea Party took place. I grow mint every summer to add to my green tea, but have never actually made tea from herbs. I am craving a cup of tea right now.

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