An herbal tea(Chinese:草药茶), tisane, or ptisan is a herbal or plant infusion and usually not made from the leaves of the tea bush (Camellia sinensis). Like brews made of the tea bush, such infusions are prepared by combining hot water and fruits, leaves, roots, or grains. The resulting drink can be served hot or cold. Herbal tea has been used for nearly as long as written history extends. Documents have been recovered dating back to as early as Ancient Egypt and Ancient China that discuss the enjoyment and uses of herbal tea. Among Chinese, herbal tea is commonly known as liang cha (Chinese: 凉茶 ).
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The English word “tisane” originates from the Greek word πτισάνη (ptisanē), a drink made from pearl barley. The Chinese term liang cha, means cooling tea, and the Chinese drink it to cool down the body when it was overheated due to weather or sickness.
Herbal teas can be made with fresh or dried flowers, leaves, seeds, or roots, generally by pouring boiling water over the plant parts and letting them steep for a few minutes. Seeds and roots can also be boiled on a stove. The tisane is then strained, sweetened if so desired, and served. Many companies produce herbal tea bags for such infusions.
Flavored teas are prepared by adding other plants to an actual tea (black, oolong, green, yellow, or white tea); for example, the popular Earl Grey tea is black tea with bergamot (the orange oil, not the herb of the same name), jasmine tea is Chinese tea with jasmine flowers, and genmaicha is a Japanese green tea with toasted rice.
While varieties of herbal teas are defined as any plant material for infusion, below is a list of common herbs:
- Anise tea, made from either the seeds or the leaves.
- Asiatic penny-wort leaf, in Southeast Asia
- Artichoke tea.
- Bee Balm
- Boldo, used in South America
- Cannabis tea, used in the preparation of Bhang
- Caraway tea, made from the seeds
- Catnip tea is used as a relaxant, sedative, and to calm
- Chamomile tea is used as a sedative
- Che Dang, very bitter tea made from Ilex causue leaves
- Chinese knot-weed tea
- Chrysanthemum tea, made from dried flowers, is popular with Chinese Dim sum
- Coffee tea leaves and coffee cherry tea are herbal teas made using the leaves and cherries of the coffee plant; in coffee, the coffee beans (seeds) are instead used.
- Cerasse, a bitter Jamaican herb
- Citrus peel, including bergamot, lemon, and orange peel
- Dandelion coffee
- Dill tea, often consumed to ease an upset stomach
- Echinacea tea
- European Mistletoe (Viscum album), (steep in cold water for 2–6 hours)
- Essiac tea, a blended herbal tea
- Ginger root can be made into an herbal tea, known in the Philippines as salabat
- Ginseng, a popular tea in China and Korea
- Goji, a popular and very simple to prepare tea
- Hibiscus (often blended with rose hip), a popular tea alternative in the Middle East which is drunk hot or cold. Hibiscus tea is also consumed in Okinawa, where the natives associate Hibiscus tea with longevity. See also Roselle below.)
- Ho Yan Hor Herbal Tea, a herbal tea recipe formulated by Malaysian Chinese
- Honeybush is related to rooibos and grows in a similar area of South Africa, but tastes slightly sweeter
- Hydrangea tea, dried leaves of hydrangeas; considerable care must be taken because most species contain a toxin. The “safe” hydrangeas belong to the Hydrangea serrata Amacha (“sweet tea”) Cultivar Group.
- Jiaogulan, (also known as xiancao or poor man’s ginseng)
- Kapor tea, dried leaves of fireweed
- Kava root, from the South Pacific, is popular for its effects in promoting talkativeness and relaxation
- Kratom, dried leaves of the Kratom tree, drank for its medicinal and stimulant effects
- Ku Ding tea, a bitter tisane found in Chinese herbal medicine
- Kuzuyu, is a thick white Japanese tea made by adding arrowroot powder to hot water
- Labrador tea, made from the shrub by the same name, found in the northern part of North America.
- Lapacho (also known as Taheebo) is the inner-lining of the bark (or cambium) of the Red or Purple Lapacho Tree which grows in the Brazilian jungles. It is boiled to make an infusion with many and varied health benefits.
- Lemon Balm
- Lemon and ginger tea
- Lemon grass
- Luo han guo
- Licorice root
- Lime blossom, dried flowers of lime tree (Tilia in Latin).
- Mate (or yerba mate) is a shrub grown mainly Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil from which a caffeinated, tea-like brew is prepared.
- Mate de coca (sometimes called “coca tea”), made from coca leaves. Authentic mate de coca contains very small amounts of cocaine and similar alkaloids. In some countries where coca is illegal, products marketed as “coca tea” are supposed to be decocainized, i.e., the pharmacologically active components have been removed from the leaf using the same chemicals used in manufacturing cocaine.
- Mint, especially peppermint (also mixed with green tea to make mint tea)
- Mountain Tea, a very popular tea in the Balkans and other areas of the Mediterranean region. Made from a variety of the Sideritis syriaca plant which grows in warm climates above 3,000 feet. Records of its use date back 2,000 years.
- Neem leaf
- Nettle leaf
- New Jersey Tea
- Noni tea
- Oksusu cha, traditional roasted corn tea found in Korea.
- Pennyroyal leaf, an abortifacient
- Pine tea, or tallstrunt, made from needles of pine trees is high in vitamins A and C
- Qishr, Yemeni drink with coffee husks and ginger.
- Red clover tea
- Red raspberry leaf
- Roasted barley tea, known in Japanese as mugicha and Korean as bori cha. The roasted flavor can be reminiscent of coffee (without coffee’s bitterness and caffeine). It is often drunk cold in the summer.
- Roasted wheat is used in Postum, a coffee substitute.
- Rooibos (Red Bush) is a reddish plant used to make an infusion and grown in South Africa. In the US it is sometimes called red tea. It has many of the antioxidant benefits of green tea, but because it does not come from tea leaves, it has no caffeine.
- Rose hip (often blended with hibiscus)
- Roselle petals (species of Hibiscus; aka Bissap, Dah, etc.), consumed in the Sahel and elsewhere.
- Sagebrush, California Sagebrush
- Sakurayu is a Japanese herbal tea made with pickled cherry blossom petals.
- Sassafras roots were steeped to make tea and were used in the flavoring of root beer until being banned by the FDA.
- Scorched rice, known as hyeonmi cha in Korea
- Serendib (tea), a tea from Sri Lanka
- Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) leaves used to make a tea by some native peoples of eastern North America
- Spruce tea, made from needles of spruce trees is high in vitamin C
- Staghorn sumac fruit can made into a lemonade.
- Stevia can be used to make herbal tea, or as a sweetener in other tisanes.
- St. John’s Wort can be used as a herbal anti-depressant.
- Thyme Antiseptic, used in lysterine.
- Tulsi, or Holy Basil, in English
- Uncaria tomentosa, commonly known as Cat’s Claw
- Valerian Sedative.
- Verbena (Vervains)
- Wax gourd in East Asia and Southeast Asia.
- Wong Lo Kat, a herbal tea recipe from Canton, China since Ching Dynasty
- Yerba Mate Popular in South America. Scientific name Ilex paraguariensis.
Herbal teas are often consumed for their physical or medicinal effects, especially for their stimulant, relaxant, or sedative properties. The medicinal effects of certain herbs are discussed under herbalism. The medicinal benefits of specific herbs are often anecdotal or controversial, and in some countries, (including the United States) makers of herbal teas are not allowed to make unsubstantiated claims about the medicinal effects of their products.
While most herbal teas are safe for regular consumption, some herbs have toxic or allergenic effects. Among the greatest causes of concern are:
Comfrey, which contains alkaloids that can cause permanent liver damage with chronic use.
Lobelia, which contains toxins similar in effect to nicotine.
Herbal teas can also have different effects from person to person, and this is further compounded by the problem of potential misidentification. The deadly foxglove, for example, can be mistaken for the much more benign (but still relatively toxic to the liver) comfrey.
The UK does not require herb teas to have any evidence concerning their efficacy, but does treat them technically as food products and requires that they are safe for consumption.
Most of the ingredients used in Indian herbal teas are non-toxic in nature. However, according to Naithani & Kakkar (2004), “all herbal preparations should be checked for toxic chemical residues to allay consumer fears of exposure to known neuro-toxicant pesticides and to aid in promoting global acceptance of these products”.
Depending on the source of the herbal ingredients, teas may be contaminated with pesticides or heavy metals.
Available as pure or blended samples, herbal teas are popular because of their fragrance, antioxidant properties, and therapeutic applications. The antioxidant properties (AOP) of herbal teas from temperate plants of mainly Lamiaceae have been well-studied while those of tropical herbal teas are less well-studied. Recently, a comparative study showed that tropical herbal teas were more diverse in types and more variable in AOP values than temperate herbal teas. Herbal teas generally had lower antioxidant values than teas of Camellia sinensis. Exceptions were lemon myrtle, guava, and oregano teas with AOP comparable to black teas. Mint and peppermint teas had significantly stronger ferrous ion chelating ability than teas of C. sinensis.