Recently I was introduced to a sweet little plant that grows wild where I live and has grown wild in the hearts of Indigenous people’s from across the Southwest United States for ages. Lovingly known as Navajo Tea or Indian Tea, Thelesperma spp. is a relative of both the Daisy and Sunflower and is most commonly known as Greenthread or Cota.
Greenthread has been used by the Indigenous peoples of the Southwest for as long as we know. The Navajo, Hopi, Apache, and Pueblo Indians all have a historical connection to Cota, and twigs of it have been found in pots and medicine bundles from ancient dwelling sites.
Taste Of The Desert
The taste of Navajo Tea is surprisingly similar to a young green tea. It’s bright, grassy, and cooling. It also has a distinct pine flavor that reminds me of the dry, desert regions where it grows most abundantly.
These days, Indigenous American folks often enjoy Greenthread tea with a bit of sugar. It can be served hot or iced, and pairs excellently with peppermint, spearmint, citrus, and many flowers. If you’re lucky enough to harvest Indian Tea right from the ground, try adding some of its delicate yellow flowers to your brew for an added layer of flavor and aroma.
The Health Benefits Of Navajo Tea
Greenthread makes a fantastic alternative to green teas which contain caffeine. It’s naturally caffeine-free, and for many of us living in the United States, it can be grown easily in gardens. Some of my favorite healing properties of Navajo Tea include:
- A soothing tea for indigestion and general stomach complaints, especially when a small amount of warm tea sounds soothing.
- One of its most popular traditional uses is helping with inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, headache, joint pain, and injuries.
- Kidney support through very gentle diuretic action.
How To Make Greenthread Navajo Tea
As its name implies, the Greenthread plant grows in thin stalks. These are traditionally cut and bundled then allowed to dry out. The little bundles are secured with thread, and they can be steeped in water with very little of the plant getting loose leaving a clear, reddish tea that’s aromatic, sweet, and delicious.
Some Apache lightly roast the stems of Cota before making their tea which brings out a flavor reminiscent of the Chinese roasted Hojicha.
A small bundle of Greenthread tea dried in the traditional manner is plenty to share with six or seven people. Steep the bundle in 6-10 cups of steaming hot water for about 5 minutes. Add sugar or honey if desired; but try it on its own first to see what you think!
There are also several people making Indian Tea in teabags which makes it easy to brew the perfect cup just for yourself. One of my favorites is Yanbah Tea which is crafted from Greenthread growing wild on a Navajo Reservation and is a cimpletely Navajo-run business. If you want to try this amazing tea, please support their work here.
- Moore, Michael. Medicinal Plants Of The Mountain West. Museum Of New Mexico Press, 2003. Print.
- Dharmananda PhD, Subhuti. “Greenthread: Navajo-Hopi Tea“. ITM Online.