Refreshing Desert Broom Tea

The tea industry has declared June to be “National Iced Tea Month.” I’m not going to debate the “sweet tea/ not sweet tea” issue. Instead I am going to look at one herbal tea that you might be able to forage right out of your own home landscape.

Herbal Tea

This is an infusion of fresh thyme. Thyme tea tastes fine when fresh, but desert broom tea tastes better if you dry the broom first.

Yes, we have visited the tea topic before. No doubt we will again. There are just so many easily identified Southwestern plants that make a tasty herbal tea. We could use the term “tisane.” It is the term commonly used by herb people – and in England. I do want the search engines to find this article so I use “herbal tea.”

Why make an herbal tea at all? Because I have nasty-tasting tap water, and even the filter pitcher can’t fix it. Help yes, fix no. Making a jar of tea in the morning that sits on the counter and that I can sip from all day helps me stay hydrated.

Last year we posted some of the common plants that may grow in your Southwest landscape and can be used to make herbal teas. You can add desert broom to the list.


Desert Broom Tea

First off, I like the flavor, and the fact that it is naturally caffeine free. Desert broom tea tastes very much like store-bought green tea. Green tea is made from the same plant as black tea, Camellia sinensis. Yes, you can purchase “caffeine free” green tea. Sadly, the site Science Daily reminds us that,,, “they may label it as decaffeinated but can contain typically 1 to 2 percent of the original caffeine content, and sometimes as much as 20 percent.”

Desert broom in the wild. Image courtesy K. Morse.

Desert broom (Baccharis sarothroides) was once used medicinally by many Southwestern tribes (as cited in my book Father Kino’s Herbs). The plant was also used to make brooms and a fairly nice dye. Our article about those uses of desert broom.

Healthy Herbal Tea

The plant is caffeine free, which makes it nice to sip right up to bed time. Studies done on plant extracts show that desert broom is rich in luteolin, a flavonoid that has demonstrated anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and cholesterol-lowering capabilities.   Desert broom also has quercetin, a proven antioxidant, and some early evidence as an effective anti-cancer agent.

Image courtesy K. Morse.

Harvesting Desert Broom

Harvest the youngest material. I clip about 2 inches off the ends of the shrubs all the way around.

Rinse the dust off with cool water.

Dry the desert broom before using.   This is like many many herbs that have volatile compounds (think bay leaves). Not sure what it is in desert broom, but it does taste better if dried.

To dry this and many of my herbs, I have a number of large terra cotta clay plant-pot saucers.  Place in a single layer. Dry out of direct sunlight. Especially Southwest sunlight.

Here’s my YouTube video on drying herbs in the Southwest.

I store herbs and teas in jars. Be sure to label what and when harvested.

Making Desert Broom Tea

Make this and all the refreshing herbal teas we discuss on this site as an infusion.
Just like store bought tea, you pour boiling water over the dried material and allow the herbs to “steep,” or infuse into the water.

Use roughly one tablespoon of dried material per cup of water.
Make an infusion by pouring boiling water over the plant bits.
Infuse for 5 minutes.
Add some honey if you wish.
If you have an infuser like this one, you can avoid having floating plant bits in your iced tea.

Savor Safely – Some Reminders

We wrote Ten Tips for Edible Flowers – and it basically works for all foraged food and drink.

The top tip is that moderation is key.    Especially when trying a plant product you have never had before, try just a bit, then wait 24 hours before consuming again.

Do Not Make a Desert Broom Decoction

Making “sun tea” is okay in a place that does not have our intensely strong sunlight.

Do not make desert broom as a decoction. A decoction is when the plant material is placed in boiling water and kept heating – generally for ten minutes or so.

Sun tea that sits out for longer than half hour is a form of decoction and should not be done with any herb in the sunflower family, like desert broom is.

Yes, that statement is painting the entire sunflower family with a broad brush, but it is the one plant family that causes almost half of the cases of photodermatitis. Photodermatitis is a skin rash caused by sunlight hitting your skin after you either ingested or contacted the oils in members of the sunflower family. It might be just a bit of prickly red, but it may be as bad as a nasty case of poison ivy, with fluid-filled blisters. Sadly, the sun only has to trigger it externally and can also affect the lining of your intestines as well.

I report this issue not to scare you off foraging all together, but to warn you to use care. Please follow the wisdom of the folks that have gone before us, and have their recipes written down in archaic scholastic tomes that I read avidly and share with you here.

Father Kino’s Herbs – More Tasty Teas!

soule-kino-southwestThe last few copies of this out-of-print award winning Southwestern book are now for sale. Father Kino’s Herbs: Growing and Using Them Today   The review says:

“Award-winning garden writer Dr. Jacqueline A. Soule has pulled together a fascinating book on the life of Father Eusebio Francisco Kino and some of the plants that he brought to Southern Arizona and northwestern Sonora, and area called the Pimeria Alta.”

A steal at only $22!  This link is to our sales site. The profits from the sale go to the local Horticulture Therapy non-profit Tierra del Sol Institute.  We hope you will help support this great Southwest non-profit!

Note – the price may increase in July 2024 when the US Post Office increases it’s prices.

Legal Notes

© Article copyright Savor the Southwest // Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. You must ask permission to republish an entire blog post or article. Okay to use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit. You must include a link back to the original post on our site. No stealing photos.


The authors of this website have researched the edibility of the materials we discuss, however, humans vary in their ability to tolerate different foods, drinks, and herbs. Individuals consuming flowers, plants, animals or derivatives mentioned in this blog do so entirely at their own risk. The authors on this site cannot be held responsible for any adverse reaction. In case of doubt please consult your medical practitioner.

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