Herbal Tea – Introduction
Herbal tea has been used for thousands of years and is consumed all over the world. Manuscripts from ancient Egypt and China contain references to the use of herbal tea as a natural remedy. The tea varieties help many different ailments and illnesses. Herbal tea is especially popular in China. In China, it is used to treat colds, fever, headaches and enhance health. It has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for addressing core issues within the body and mind.
What is Herbal Tea?
Herbal tea is a beverage made from the infusion or decoction of herbs, spices, or other plant material in water. They can be made using many different plants or naturally occurring substances. These substances include fresh or dried flowers, leaves, seeds, and roots. Herbal teas may be made with a single herb or with a blend of herbs. For the purposes of herbal tea, infusion is the process of extracting chemical compounds or flavors of plant material in water. Decoction is the process of actually boiling the water to extract the compounds.
Hot & Cold Options
There are two main ways to make herbal tea. You can make it by suspending the herbs or plant material in cool or room temperature water, or by placing the herbs in boiling water. The most common decoction method is pouring boiling water over the herbs or plant materials and letting them steep for several minutes. Another decoction method is to boil the herbs or plant materials in water on a stovetop in a kettle or pot. The herbal tea is then strained and ready to be served. Some people then add other flavoring agents like honey to improve taste, and this is a matter of preference.
There are several herbal tea companies that sell small bags of herbs or other plant materials to eliminate the step of straining. Since decoction is the most popular way to make tea, most people think of herbal tea as hot tea. It is important to remember there are several teas that do not require boiling water, and that the teas can be served hot or cold. Herbal tea does not usually contain caffeine.
Herbal Tea vs. Regular/True Tea
Herbal teas are different from regular or “true” teas (green, black, white, etc.) because true tea is infused with the cured leaves from the tea plant (Camellia sinesis). True teas commonly have caffeine because of the many of the tea plants naturally contain caffeine. There are decaf true teas that have had the caffeine removed. Herbal teas as a general rule do not contain caffeine, although some blends that refer to themselves as “herbal” may contain caffeine. Most experts do not consider these actual herbal tea.
Some people refer to herbal tea as “tisane.” Some historians even feel that the use of tisane is preferable to herbal tea and is more accurate. They think that herbal tea is a misleading phrase because it confuses people into thinking that they are made using the tea plant. As I mentioned above, herbal teas are not derived from the tea plant. I will be using herbal tea on this site because it is more commonly used and easier to identify. I wanted to mention tisane in case you see it mentioned in other places.
The health benefits found in herbal teas differ by the variety of the plants or herbs used. Many of the herbs have significant health advantages if used properly. Please read my detailed article on herbal tea benefits for more information.
Treatment for Ailments & Maladies
As mentioned above, herbal teas have been used for thousands of years to treat several ailments and maladies. Examples of ailments the tea has been used to treat or improve include: headaches, migraines, stomach aches, digestive problems (including diarrhea and constipation), certain allergies, colds, and even the flu.
Many herbal teas are a great source of antioxidants. Antioxidants are known to enhance good health and help prevent diseases. They do this by providing support the immune system. The antioxidants found in the herbs and plant materials used in herbal tea help prohibit and prevent the oxidation of molecules in the body. The human body naturally produces harmful free radicals. Free radicals are known to cause a wide range of illnesses and chronic diseases if they are left unchecked. The antioxidants found in the herbal teas help battle these damaging free radicals.
Vitamins & Minerals
Herbs contain varying amounts of vitamins and minerals. There is most likely an herbal tea that contains a vitamin or mineral that benefits you. There is an herbal tea that will work for you no matter what vitamin or mineral you are looking for. You can make an herbal tea blend to help combine the vitamins and minerals from several different plants. Some of the vitamins and minerals found in popular herbal teas include calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, Vitamin A, Vitamin C., Vitamin E, Vitamin K. They also include many of the compounds found in the Vitamin B complex.
These herbal teas can result in many different mental benefits. Herbal teas can be used to help you relax, increase energy and alertness, improve mood, reduce depression, and reduce insomnia. It is important to research and analyze the different types of tea to discover which one is the best solution for your individual needs.
Potential for Health Risk
Since herbal teas can be made from basically any plant material, there is the potential for the tea to pose health risks. This is especially true if the plant matter the tea is derived from has ingredients or compounds that are known to be harmful to humans. Most herbal teas sold in retail stores are safe for human consumption, but some of the “medicinal” herbal teas may contain chemicals that can be damaging if consumed in large amounts. Herbal teas can have differing effects from person to person, and the herbs and plant materials themselves can contain varying amounts of compounds.
In the US, UK, & Canada, herbal teas sold must be considered safe for human consumption. In the US, herbal teas are treated like any other food product and are regulated by the FDA. Most countries don’t require the teas to include details on efficacy or whether they produce claimed results.
Any food product in general has the potential for contamination. Herbal teas are similar to other natural foods or crops and have the potential to be contaminated with pesticides, heavy metals, or other harmful chemicals. It’s especially important to ensure that the materials used in your tea are purchased from reliable and trustworthy sources. Take care and do the proper research before putting anything in your body. This community contains links for trusted herbal resources. This is one of the main reasons I founded this website.
Herbal tea poses potential contamination and health risks to the general population. Pregnant women are especially prone to harmful effects from herbal tea. Several herbal teas are known increase the chances of miscarriage or health problems for the mother and unborn child. I suggest that if you are pregnant or may become pregnant, you avoid herbal teas in general. It is not worth the risk posed to you or your unborn child. If you decide you to consume herbal tea anyway, make sure you do research. It is also important to check with your doctor to make sure that the tea is completely safe. In conclusion, I recommend abstaining from consuming all herbal teas if you are pregnant or may become pregnant.
Discover some of the main herbal tea varieties in my article about tea types.
Check out the Wikipedia page for general information regarding herbal tea.
Do you have anything to add regarding herbal tea? Feel free to leave comments or questions below.