Browsing Tag

thelesperma plant

Types of Tea

What is Navajo Tea?

September 21, 2017

This week in herbal teas you should try: Navajo Tea.

An herbal beverage made by the Navajo Native Americans for generations, Navajo tea is made by brewing the plant greenthread, known by its scientific name as Thelesperma.

thelesperma plant

A Thelesperma plant | by Andrey Zharkikh | Creative Commons 2.0

A member of the Aster family, Thelesperma is a perennial bulb that blooms a yellow flower from May to September. It can be found growing in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Utah, Wyoming, and parts of Canada:

thelesperma plant map

Where you can find Thelesperma growing, in green | USDA

To make tea from this herb, the Navajo traditionally pluck the herb by its stem, keeping the roots intact and shaking the plant so that its seeds return to the soil and the lifecycle continues. The plucked herbs are rinsed and dried for 1 to 2 days, then boiled in hot water. Enjoyed hot or iced, Navajo tea is known for its earthy, mild flavor, which some choose to sweeten by adding sugar or honey.

The Navajo have used Navajo Tea medicinally for centuries, turning to the brew to alleviate joint pain, calm upset stomachs, and promote healthy kidney function. Modern research shows why this may have had success over the years: Thelesperma contains the flavonoid Luteolin, which boasts natural anti-inflammatory properties.

If you visit the Navajo Nation today, you will find Native Americans drinking Navajo Tea, using the beverage as a way to connect with their roots.

Some Navajo have made the tea available for commercial consumption:

100% Navajo-owned and operated company Yanabah sells Navajo Tea out of its Arizona headquarters. All the Navajo Tea comes from plants growing on the Cuska Mountains in Arizona, where it’s picked, dried, and packaged into three varieties:

yanabah navajo teaTraditional

Navajo Tea & Mint

Navajo Tea & Green Tea

Each box contains 20 tea-bags of caffeine-free tea and costs $6.

For every sale Yanabah makes, a portion goes toward the Navajo National Scholarship Fund, which supports Navajo students working toward a college degree.

The Navajo Nation is the largest reservation for indigenous people in the United States. Covering 24,000 square miles over parts of Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah, the Navajo Nation is home to over 200,000 individuals.

navajo nation territory

The Navajo Nation covers territory in Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico. | By Fred the Oyster, Creative Commons 3.0

navajo nation flag

The Navajo Nation flag | Public Domain

The Navajo are known for their pottery, jewelry, and weaving, and tea is now joining the list of Navajo products exported beyond the reservation. With a high unemployment rate and over half the Navajo population living below the poverty line, businesses like Yanabah are part of what The Economist described as “capitalism’s last frontier” and, as Indian Country Today reports, an important way for the Navajo to trade dependence on the US government for economic independence.

A new herbal tea to try and a great way to support the Navajo economy? We’re in!