Foraging Tree & Berry Leaves for Tea (ZONES 1-4A)

This is piggybacking off another thread about the show, "Alone".

@torey I would like to know what berry & tree leaves are good for tea? I am being a bit selfish here, thinking of zone 1 through 4a, both cultivated & wild.

Can you give basic benefits for each and basic prep?

I don't remember if I'd heard of using birch leaves for tea before. Tell me more. If I've only forgotten this can be a refresher. 😉

As for all of the above, I'd also like to know when would be the best time to harvest.

Listing them in list/bullet form would help for quick reference as we go through our season.


  • judsoncarroll4
    judsoncarroll4 Posts: 5,283 admin

    Well, I just finished writing a book on that! It is for my region though. I imagine there is much crossover though. Birch, spruce, fir and pine are all good for teas. Blackberry and raspberry leaves, blueberry leaves, wild strawberry leaves, wild rose, etc. Spicebush is excellent!

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,402 admin
    edited June 2021

    @LaurieLovesLearning For the most part, this list contains plants that they might find in the area that the show is being filmed in but they can all be found across most of Zone 1-4. There are probably quite a few that I am missing.

    Berry Leaf Teas

    Rubus species - Raspberries (all species). Blackberries (all species). Salmonberry, R. spectabilis (for those who live close to coastal zones). I've never tried Thimbleberry leaves, R. parvifloris, but I would think that they would be OK to use as  well.

    Fragaria species - Both Strawberries, F. vesca and F. virginiana. And F. chiloensis if you are near the coast.

    The above Rubus & Fragaria leaves can be used fresh or dried but must be completely dry. Do not use if wilted. Use a similar amount as for loose leaf tea. They are all good astringents and would be helpful for the participants on the show if they were to develop diarrhea, which is a strong possibility.

    Rosa species - I’ve never had this in tea by itself, only as part of a blend. Other threads have discussions about the taste of rose leaves as tea. Another astringent.

    Vaccinium species - Blueberry (all species). Huckleberry (all species). The berries are high in antioxidants but the leaves are higher. Cranberries, leaves are good for liver and kidneys. Ligonberry. Leaves of all Vaccinium species would be mildly diuretic (and cleansing).

    Ribes species - Gooseberries and Currants. Astringents. Mildly diuretic.

    Empetrum nigrum - Crowberry. Leaves are astringent and can be used for stomach upset and diarrhea. An infusion is also good as a foot soak for athlete’s foot.

    Gaultheria species - Wintergreen. Very tasty. Improves circulation. High in salicylates so makes a good pain reliever. Use for colds, sinus congestion and fevers. To get the most benefit of the salicylates, wintergreen tea should be steeped for 24-48 hours.

    Herbaceous Tea Leaves

    Epilobium species - Fireweeds (aka Willowherb). The leaves make a very good tea. It is mildly laxative.

    Urtica dioica - Stinging Nettle. Very good nutritive wild herb.  

    Viola species - All Violets. Leaves make a good tea. Helpful for moving lymph. Very high in Vitamin C.

    Mentha arvensis - Wild Mint. Choice tea plant. Good for stomach aches, stops retching. Strongly diaphoretic for colds and fevers. Antispasmodic.

    Achillea millefolium - This one is a bitter so good for digestion but is very strong tasting. Good to blend with other things. Also for colds and fevers.

    Shrub & Tree Leaf Teas 

    Ledum species - These small shrubs are generally referred to as Rhododendron species now but I didn’t want to confuse them with the domestic species. Ledums are the Hudson’s Bay Tea, Labrador Tea, Trapper’s Tea, etc. These are best taken in the evening as they can have a mild sedative effect. Don’t confuse them with Kalmia. 

    Pinaceae family - Pine, Pinus. Spruce, Picea. Fir, Abies. Douglas Fir, Pseudotsuga. Pine tea tastes a bit like green tea. Fir & Doug Fir has a bit of a lemony flavour. Spruce is a bit more medicinal tasting. All are high in Vitamin C. Other than the new spring buds, conifer needles are highest in Vitamin C in the winter. These are best decocted for about 15 minutes instead of infused, to get a good flavour.

    Betula species - All Birches. Leaves are diuretic and useful for gout, rheumatism and may help dissolve kidney stones. They also have analgesic properties as they contain salicylates. A strong, cooled infusion can be used as a rinse for mouth/canker sores. Twigs are good as tooth brushes as the bark contains xylose (a natural sweetener sometimes used in toothpaste) which has been shown to have antibacterial properties against S. mutans which is responsible for the formation of plaque. Hint of wintergreen flavour.

    Alnus species - Another one I haven’t tried. High in antioxidants.  

    Cratageus - Hawthorn. The leaves can be used for tea. They are mildly diuretic and are a cardiotonic.

    Myrica gale - Sweet Gale. This is a tea for those who live near the coast although it can be found inland in Alaska. An infusion aids digestion. I’ve never had this but I think I would like it as it is a bitter.   

    Populus species - Cottonwood and Aspen. Leaves of both can be used although Cottonwood leaves are better decocted for a few minutes rather than just steeped. Both are high in salicylates for pain relief. They are astringent and antimicrobial so useful for diarrhea and urinary tract infections or as a rinse for mouth/canker sores.  

    Salix species - Willows. All can be used interchangeably. While it is the bark that is generally used as an analgesic and anti-inflammatory, the leaves can also be used but will have a milder effect. An infusion is bitter and will help with digestion. Not an overly pleasant tea on its own. 

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,215 admin

    Thanks to both of you. I have tried raspberry, also nettle, and of course, mint.

    Just this past weekend we made up strong mint tea ice cubes and put them into homemade chocolate milk. It sure was beautiful smelling and very refreshing.

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,535 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @LaurieLovesLearning The mint icecubes and chocolate milk sounds so refreshing. I would not have thought of that. Thank you!~

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,215 admin
    edited June 2021

    @Monek Marie You're welcome!

    If you drink coffee at all, you can add that too, in cubes or in the chocolate milk, for a little extra something.