Consumed for its medicinal and therapeutic properties, as well as its rejuvenating aroma, herbal tea is an infusion of aromatic herbs and plants. Served both hot and cold, it is a delicious alternative to highly caffeinated beverages.
According to popular belief, herbal teas are commonly known as Tisanes (pronounced as ti-zahn). However, tisanes are not entirely teas, since they are not prepared from the camellia sinensis plant. Tisanes are prepared with the help of various parts of varieties of plants and shrubs. Herbal tea, on the other hand, it a category that houses both tisanes as well as green teas with infused herbs and plants. The combination of tea and various parts of a plant- bark, stems, leaves, fruits, flowers, and roots- give rise to the infusion. While tisanes have zero caffeine content (except for the Yerba Mate tisane), herbal green teas are low on caffeine.
The History of Herbal Tea
For centuries, healing herbal teas have been used in traditional Chinese and Indian Ayurvedic medicines to treat symptoms of various health-related problems. What started as an accidental infusion in the 2737 BC, has turned into a popular trend in lifestyle that people use to detox, relax, induce sleep and treat colds and flues.
The earliest written record of tisanes is in the medical book of Hua T’o, a Chinese surgeon and physician. Hua T’o was the first known medical practitioner to create herbal concoctions for his medical practices. Some herbal teas also originated in 1550 BC, from Egypt. Chamomile was popularly used to honour the gods, embalm the dead and cure the sick. Similarly, herbs like dill and basil were used in mild herbal tea concoctions for digestion and heart problems.
It wasn’t until 1070 BC that herbal tea became an actual beverage of enjoyment. Following the import of tea from China into Western Europe by the Portuguese, in the 16th Century, tea and herbal tea have not seen even a single low point in their popularity.
Even today, herbal tea continues to evolve into a lifestyle trend, pitched as a successful ‘wellness reinforcer’. In fact, with the herbal tea benefits and variety, it has become the millennial’s go-to drink for most occasions.
Types of Herbal Tea
Herbal tea comes in a wide range of tastes and flavours that make a tempting alternative to sugary beverages. Made from dried fruits, flowers, spices or herbs, sometimes infused with green tea, herbal tea draws its strengths from various parts of the plants used in it to deliver flavour, aroma and beneficial properties to its drinker. Here are a few types of herbal teas, based on their composition.
1. Roots: Considered the lifeline of a plant, roots draw the nutrients from the soil to deliver to the entire plant body. They are thick and fibrous in texture and house a micro-culture of organisms, insects and nutrients. Roots absorb nutrients from the soil and store them during winters until they are harvested in the dry spring season. They can either be hung to dry or dried in a dehydrator. A lot of times, roasted dried roots are used as a caffeine substitute in tisanes. Examples of root-based herbal tea include mulethi, ginger, burdock root, chicory root, dandelion root etc.
2. Bark: Barks are also responsible for carrying nourishment to the various parts of the plant. Although not a commonly used ingredient, barks of various plants are very famous in herbal tea. Each variety of bark imparts a unique flavour to the infusion. However, it shouldn’t be harvested without professional care, otherwise, it may hamper the growth of the tree. Only professionally harvested farmed tree bark should be bought from the market. Examples of prominent bark based herbal tea are cinnamon, wild cherry, willow bark, slippery elm, etc.
3. Flowers: Fresh or dried flowers and their petals are a common ingredient for herbal tea. They are used because they add colour and flavour to the blend. Considered the most delicate part of the plant, they are packed with antioxidants and are anti-inflammatory in nature. Plus, they contribute to the visual appeal of the herbal blend. Examples of flower based herbal tea include rose, jasmine, chamomile, hibiscus, elderflower, red clover, lavender, etc.
4. Leaves: Apart from the use of the leaves of camillia sinensis in herbal tea, leaves of various other plants are potent in sugar, proteins and enzymes. Leaves also release flavours and aromas that are calming and invigorating for the drinker. A few examples of leaf-based herbal tea are mint, tulsi, rooibos, vervain, lemon balm, yerba mate, etc.
5. Fruits and Seeds: These are the parts in a herbal tea that add not only texture but a fruity or tangy flavour to the blend. Fruits and seeds are full of vitamins and minerals, potent in health-boosting properties. They enhance the healing effects of herbal tea while also add to its taste. Few examples of fruits and seeds based herbal tea are strawberries, blueberries, cardamom, fennel, pomegranate, vanilla, lemon, orange etc.
Herbal Tea Benefits – a concoction for good health
Herbal tea is known to be a wellness tonic. A variety of infusions of herbal tea soothe and heal the body and mind, whereas, it’s aroma can evoke the sense of smell and positive emotions. While the list of herbal tea benefits is quite long, there are a few mainstream ones that cannot be ignored.
1. Aid in Digestion: When speaking of herbal tea benefits, it is important to mention first and foremost about how it aids in digestion. Teas with ginger, liquorice (mulethi), wild cherry, cinnamon, cardamom, hibiscus and fennel are all advantageous for digestion. Herbal tea used as digestive aids are often smooth in texture and soothing for the palate. Though they can be taken at any time, these teas are best consumed after a meal for performing their function.
2. Help in Body Detox: One of the most commonly known herbal tea benefits is detoxing. These teas help detox the body by binding unwanted chemicals and heavy metals such as mercury, cadmium and lead and expel them from the body. They cleanse the liver of free radicals and remove unwanted agents through the gastronomical tract. Some of the classic detox blends include ginger, liquorice, stinging nettle, cranberries, lemon peels, etc.
3. Avert Coughs and Colds: The cold-busting herbal tea benefits include soothing the throat, clearing heavy and mild chest congestion, control cold symptoms such as fever, etc. While many expect such an herbal tea to be bitter and medicinal tasting, these infusions are rather fragrant with ingredients like cinnamon, ginger, rose, tulsi, moringa, vervain etc. They each contribute in their way to relieve symptoms of cough and cold, while also helping boost the body’s immunity.
4. Influence the Body’s Beauty: Out of all herbal tea benefits, this one has given rise to a trend called, ‘beauty blends’. Herbal teas for skin, nails and hair often contribute to better blood circulation and skin elasticity. Ingredients like rose petals, chamomile and lime have an invigorating effect on the skin. Some herbal blends contain vegetative silica which improves the overall condition of hair and skin.
5. Calms the Body and Mind: An effect to calm and relieve stress is one of the essential herbal tea benefits in today’s time. Teas that have such an effect are generally aromatic. This is because fragrances play an important part in the treatment of stress, anxiety and insomnia. Classic ingredients such as chamomile, lavender, vervain and tulsi have mildly sedative and generally soothing qualities.
6. Helps Relieve Joint Ailments: Ingredients with anti-inflammatory qualities are beneficial for treating arthritis and other joint problems. They can substantially reduce swelling while easing the pain as well. Herbal tea ingredients like ginger, turmeric, cranberries and blueberries are helpful in relieving symptoms of arthritis and joint pain.
Plants have a number of medicinal properties that can be used to help treat various ailments. By combining them with green tea, or in the form of tisanes, we achieve a concoction that is high in antioxidants, vitamin c, carotenoids, etc. Herbal tea benefits not only the mind and body, but are also a delectable experience for your taste buds.