What is Herbal Tea?
October 1, 2015
Herbal Tea Overview
Herbal tea is not technically a true tea, as it does not derive from the Camellia sinensis plant (i.e. the plant that is used to create black, oolong, green, and white teas).
Instead, herbal tea is an infusion or blend of various leaves, fruits, bark, roots, or flowers belonging to almost any edible, non-tea plant. In Europe and other areas of the world, herbal teas are commonly known as tisanes.
Herbal teas have existed for a very long time, but have surged in popularity over the past several decades thanks to their vibrant flavor, as well as their myriad mental, emotional, and physical health benefits. In an increasingly stressful and chaotic world, herbal teas present an opportunity to go back to basics and focus on wellness through a holistic approach.
Because they can be created from almost any combination of natural ingredients, there are a vast number of herbal tea varieties Each with their own flavor qualities and health benefits. Some of the most common herbal teas include:
- Chamomile tea
- Hibiscus tea
- Peppermint tea
- Red rooibos tea
- Turmeric tea
- Spearmint tea
- Ginger tea
- Yerba maté
Herbal teas are most commonly consumed hot, but they can also be chilled and served over ice, depending on your preferences.
Origins of Herbal Tea
Herbal teas have been around for nearly as long as time. With our ancient ancestors making infusions of the plants, roots, and herbs they saw around them in their native environments. Documentation of herbal teas goes back as far as ancient Egypt and China, where texts have been discovered describing the medicinal benefits of drinking these herbal concoctions.
In the 1st century AD, the legendary Greek physician Dioscorides described more than 600 medicinal plants, many of which could be steeped in water to create healing infusions. Additionally, modern researchers have found dried peppermint leaves in several Egyptian pyramids, which date back to 1,000 BC. Experts believe these were used to aid in digestion.
According to ancient historical records, these herbal blends were used not only for their physical health benefits, but also for their ability to invoke a sense of calm and spiritual awareness. Over time, humans began drinking herbal teas simply for their wonderful taste and aromas.
The practice of using dried herbs, flowers, fruits, barks, and other ingredients for wellness continues today. Many Citizens use herbal teas to support a healthy mind and body.
Caffeine Content of Herbal Tea
Most varieties of herbal tea – such as chamomile, peppermint, rooibos, and hibiscus – are naturally caffeine-free. For that reason, those who are sensitive to caffeine or who choose to limit their intake often prefer herbal teas over coffee. Additionally, even coffee-lovers may choose to drink tea later in the day, such as before bed, so they can avoid annoying jitters and excess energy while trying to sleep.
However, keep in mind that caffeine content depends on precisely which herbs, flowers, roots, and other ingredients are used. For example, yerba mate does naturally contain caffeine. Beverages that feature this herb, such as the Maté Latte®, contain roughly half the amount of caffeine per cup that is found in a similar-sized cup of coffee. Many people enjoy this gentler burst of energy, making it a popular morning alternative to coffee.
Health Benefits of Herbal Tea
The benefits of herbal teas are as numerous and varied as the herbs themselves. Knowing which benefits you may like to achieve – such as sleeping better, soothing joint pain, or overcoming sluggishness – can help you narrow down the list of options and choose the right herbal blend for your individual needs.
One of the main reasons why herbal tea is so celebrated is because it allows people to reap the health benefits of various herbs, spices and plants through a format that is easy to consume and digest. Most people would find it quite difficult (and not particularly pleasant) to consume healthful ingredients like cinnamon or lavender in their raw form. But by steeping them into a tasty warm beverage, you can easily add these spices and flowers into your diet on a daily basis in a way that is both enjoyable and sustainable.
So, exactly which health benefits do herbal teas deliver? Chamomile tea is known for its calming effect; dandelion tea is known to soothe upset stomachs and aid in digestion; and reishi mushroom tea and red rooibos tea are known for their high concentration of antioxidants.* Ginger, ginseng, turmeric, cinnamon, holy basil, rosehip and ginkgo biloba are examples of other herbal tea varieties, each having their own unique health benefits.*
Some teas may help soothe cold symptoms, while others may help to relieve stress.* In other words, there is an herbal tea to complement every lifestyle, every taste preference, and every wellness goal.
As always, if you have questions about specific herbs it’s recommended to consult with your doctor before sipping.
How to Steep Herbal Tea
Steeping herbal tea is easy. Simply heat fresh, filtered water to a rolling boil, and set aside about one teaspoon of herbal tea (or one tea bag) per six-ounce cup.
Pour the heated water over the tea, and allow to steep for 5-7 minutes. Then enjoy sip by sip, savoring the flavor and taking note of any mental or physical wellness benefits that you notice. Experiment with steeping times and tea concentrations to find your preferred method.
Herbal Tea Recipes
Herbal tea can be used to make a variety of recipes including spritzers, cookies, smoothies, sauces, puddings, and other beverages or desserts. One of our favorite herbal tea recipes is our Orange Ginger Mint Pick-Me-Up, which yields an energizing, fruity flavor.
Other must-try herbal tea recipes include our Golden Yogurt Bowl featuring turmeric, our festive Cranberry Spice Hibiscus Punch, and our cozy Chamomile Lemon Tea Cookies. Find your favorite herbal tea recipe inspiration by browsing our full library of Tea Recipes.
Video: Herbal Tea Infusions
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.