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Over the past two weeks, I have been picking wild berries every morning on our hikes. I have made a few batches of jams and jellies and have frozen many ziplock bags full for winter baking and smoothies. Last week, I also harvested and dried some wild strawberry leaves for tea.
There are several species of wild strawberries that grow across Canada and the United States. Also known as ‘mountain strawberry’ and ‘wood strawberry’, these wild plants prefer well-drained soils in sunny locations. The small fruits are delicious and nutritious, and the leaves and rootstock are also edible and beneficial, mainly as an astringent and diuretic.
The best time to harvest the leaves is actually in spring or early summer before the berries start to form. Be careful to harvest only clean and healthy leaves that have not been sprayed or otherwise contaminated. For this reason, avoid picking from plants that are growing along the roadside.
Once back home, wash the leaves in a large bowl of cold, salted water. Allow them to drain thoroughly (I put mine in a salad spinner to remove the excess moisture) and then put the leaves in your dehydrator, or on a tray in full sun, or in a large, open paper bag that you shake three times per day until they are completely dried.
Beverly Gray, in her book The Boreal Herbal, cautions us not to use strawberry leaves when they are wilted (neither completely fresh or dried) due to an important chemical process they go thorugh while drying.
Wild strawberry leaves are rich in iron and vitamin C. Interestingly, Lust (1972) writes that cultivated strawberries have much less medicinal value than wild strawberries.
Wild strawberry leaf tea is mild and can even be given to babies and children. It can be made from either fresh or dried leaves. You can drink the tea on its own or mix the leaves with other tea leaves for a blended tea.
For one pot of tea, use ½ cup of fresh leaves or ¼ cup dried leaves in 2 cups of boiling water.
Wild strawberry leaf tea has many uses:
- Drink it to treat diarrhea, dysentery, and hematuria, as well as for gravel and problems involving the urinary tract (Lust, 1972).
- Use both internally and externally at the same time to treat eczema and acne (Lust, 1972).
- Wild strawberry leaf tea seems to be particularly good for babies, children, nursing mothers and convalescents. According to Kavasch and Baar (1999): massage the tea into your baby’s gums to ease teething pains; if you’re a nursing mother, drink as a digestive aide; if your baby is colicky or has diarrhea, drink some yourself and give the baby some lukewarm tea, a small spoonful at a time. Strawberry leaf tea also makes a pleasant and mild skin wash for infants. Treat scalp irritations, such as cradle cap, by adding a small amount of honey to the tea and lightly sprinkling it on your baby’s head and gently rubbing it in. Leave it on for ten minutes to half an hour, then rinse with plain water or unsweetened strawberry leaf tea to lubricate the skin and wash away any stickiness.
- Gray (2011) adds that dried wild strawberry leaves help “regulate menstruation, calm morning sickness, promote abundant breast milk production, and can act as a mild nerve tonic” (p. 230). She adds that using the tea as a mouthwash can help alleviate toothache and heal ulcers of the gums, and that a poultice made from fresh wild strawberry leaves can be used to treat open wounds, eczema, and psoriasis to accelerate healing. Also, the tra from the iron-rich leaves helps treat anemia.
- The astringent quality of the leaves of this versatile plant make it the perfect ingredient in a facial steam, helping to reduce excess sebum which causes oily skin. The leaves can also be used to make a facial toner.
I am looking forward to incorporating wild strawberry leaf tea into my diet, both for pleasure as well as all of the health benefits it brings. Cheers, everyone!
Gray, B. (2011). The boreal herbal: wild food and medicine plants of the north; a guide to harvesting, preserving, and preparing. Aroma Borealis Press: Whitehorse, Yukon.
Kavasch, E.B., & Baar, K. (1999). American Indian healing arts: Herbs, rituals, and remedies for every season of life. Bantam Books: New York.
Lust, J. (1972). The herb book. Bantam Books: New York.
Stewart, H. (1981). Drinking in the wild: Teas, cordials, jams and more. Douglas and McIntyre: Toronto, ON.