Herbal tea is also known as tisane and ptisan. Herbal tea distinguishes itself from true tea by not originating from the tea bush, Camellia sinensis. Herbal tea is not the same thing as green tea, since green tea comes from the tea bush – just like black tea, oolong tea, and white tea. It is however quite common to create herbal teas by mixing true tea with herbal ingredients.
If the lion part of the mixture is true tea, the blend is regarded as true tea, not herbal tea. This is for instance the case with the immensely popular Earl Grey tea where black tea is mixed with bergamot.
Herbal tea is usually made from leaves, flowers, roots, or seeds. The ingredients can be fresh as well as dried. The most commonly used method of preparation is to pour hot water over the plant parts and leave them to soak. Some herbal teas are ready almost instantly while others should be left to soak for several hours and then reheated before being consumed.
When it comes to seeds and roots, it is quite common to boil them and then remove any solid parts from the water before drinking the herbal tea. Herbal teas are often consumed for true or alleged medical effects and herbal brews form an important part of traditional folk medicine. Many herbal teas have proven relaxing, sedative, or stimulating properties.
Chamomile Herbal Tea
Chamomile herbal tea is made from dried flowers of the German Chamomile, Matricaria recutita. This plant grows in Europe and in temperate parts of Asia, and the herbal tea made from it is a popular sleep aid in traditional folk medicine from these regions.
It has also been used in attempts to cure or treat various stomach ailments, such as a sore stomach and irritable bowels. If left to cool off, the herbal tea from this medicinal herb can be used to rinse blonde hair. German Chamomile contains an essential oil in which the chief active ingredient is bisabolol. Bisabolol is known to have anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-irritant properties.
Lemongrass herbal tea
Lemongrass is a name used for over 55 different grass species within the genus Cymbopogon. Lemongrass originates from tropical and warm temperate regions of the Old World and lemongrass herbal tea is especially popular in Africa. Within this genus, you will for instance find Cymbopogon nardus and Cymbopogon winterianus, two species that contain geraniol and citronellol. Both geraniol and citronellol are antiseptic compounds.
Yerba mate herbal tea
Yerba mate is a South American plant that contains xanthines. Xanthines are a type of alkaloid belonging to the same family as caffeine, theophylline, and theobromine, the stimulants found in coffee, tea, and chocolate respectively. Yerba mate also contains caffeine, just like coffee.
The caffeine content in dry yerba mate leaves typically varies between 0.3% and 1.7%. This can be compared to tea leaves which contain 2.5-4.5% on average. Yerba mate herbal tea is made from dried leaves and twigs that are left to soak in hot, but never boiling, water.
Chinese Herbal Teas
Chinese herbal tea with ginger
Ginger is a perennial plant native to southern China. Its scientific name is Zingiber officinale. Ginger root is a common ingredient in Chinese herbal tea and it is also frequently mixed with true tea, i.e. tea made from the tea plant Camellia sinensis.
Chinese herbal tea with ginger is often made from young ginger roots, not dried ginger. Young ginger roots are sliced and stewed in boiling water, and honey is usually added to make the Chinese herbal tea sweeter. Young ginger’s roots have a mild taste compared to mature roots and dried ginger.
Ginger roots are highly fragrant and can contain up to 3 % essential oil. The plant holds several different types of nonvolatile phenylpropanoids, including gingerols and zingerones. Gingerols have documented antibacterial, analgesic (pain-relieving), antipyretic (fever-reducing), and sedative effects. Chinese herbal tea with ginger has traditionally been used to treat nausea, e.g. when caused by seasickness, and to cure scurvy.
Before you drink any major amount of Chinese herbal tea with ginger, you should be aware that it may interact with other medications or herbal remedies that you are currently using. It is for instance known to interact with certain anticoagulant medications. Chinese herbal tea with ginger should also be avoided if you have a gallbladder problem.
Chinese herbal tea with ginseng
In China, the two most popular ginseng variants for Chinese herbal tea are Panax ginseng (Chinese ginseng) and Panax quinquefolius (American ginseng). In English, a wide range of other plants is also sometimes referred to as ginseng, such as Female ginseng(Angelica sinensis) and Poor man’s ginseng (Salvia miltiorrhiza).
Considering the long history of ginseng use in China, it wasn’t until very recently that American ginseng became available to the Chinese, through the international port in Canton. To make Chinese herbal tea with ginseng, slice the root, and leave it to soak in hot water. You can also blend a few slices with ordinary tea from the Camellia sinensis plant, or use it with suitable herbal teas.
According to traditional Chinese medicine, Chinese ginseng promotes Yang energy so it is naturally important not to mix it with elements strong in Yin energy if you believe that you need more Yang in your life. According to traditional Chinese medicine, Chinese herbal tea with Panax ginseng will promote circulation and it is often used to overcome weakness after an illness.
Chinese herbal teas with Jiaogulan
Jiaogulan is a vine native to southern China. Its scientific name is Gynostemma pentaphyllum. Chinese herbal tea with Jiaogulan is traditionally consumed in the Guizhou Province, a part of China famous for having residents that live to very old age. Chinese herbal tea with Jiaogulan is therefore colloquially referred to as “immortality tea”.
The Jiaogulan plant is sometimes called Southern Ginseng, but it is not closely related to true ginseng from the Panax genus. If you want to make your own Chinese herbal tea with Jiaogulan, you can plant Jiaogulan vines in your garden. Jiaogulan is a hardy species that can survive as a perennial plant up to USDA zone 8. In colder parts of the world, it can be grown as an annual plant.
European Herbal Teas
European herbal tea – Red Raspberry
The leaves of the Red Raspberry (Rubus idaeus) have since long been used in European herbal tea decocts. Before the days of modern medicine, people suffering from acne or the eye would dip a piece of cloth in raspberry tea and place it on their face. Boiled strawberry leaves could also be wrapped in linen and placed on the affected areas. Drinking raspberry tea was believed to cure hemorrhoids and a wide range of gynecological ailments.
Another less well-known fact is that European herbal tea used against malaria frequently included raspberry leaves. In Germany, raspberry tea was believed to cure throat problems and diarrhea, while the Bulgarians used boiled raspberry leaves not only against diarrhea, but against vomiting, stomach bleeds, and menstrual problems as well. Raspberry has been scientifically proven to induce sweating and function as a fever reducer.
A widespread European herbal tea consisted of two tablespoons of dried raspberry leaves for each cup of water. The water should be heated up before the leaves were added and the brew should then be left to draw for half an hour. The brew could then be reheated and enjoyed as herbal tea or kept cold to be used as a mouthwash. Another popular European herbal tea, this one against dysentery, consisted of one teaspoon of dried raspberry leaves, one teaspoon of dried blackberry leaves, and one cup of hot water.
European herbal tea – Woodruff
Woodruff (Galium odoratum) contains coumarin, a well-known anticoagulant. In modern medicine, a synthetic derivative of coumarin is used to treat and prevent thrombosis. In traditional folk medicine, Woodruff was used to producing a sedative European herbal tea. Woodruff was also and still is, used for culinary purposes in wine, beer, brandy, jam, and sausages, especially in Germany. Do not consume high amounts of this type of European herbal tea, since it can cause headaches.
Really large quantities can cause vertigo and have mind-altering properties. Experimenting with high doses of Woodruff is not a good idea since it can lead to central paralysis, comatose, and apnoea. Ingested coumarin is somewhat toxic to the liver and kidneys. In Germany, no more than three grams of woodruff is used for each liter of liquid.
European herbal tea – Valerian
The scientific name for this sweetly scented plant is Valeriana officinalis. The name Valerian is derived from the Latin word valere, which means “to be strong or healthy”. It comes as no surprise that Valerian has played an important role in traditional European medicine. It is a mild sedative and many European herbal tea variants used to treat insomnia or angst contained substantial amounts of valerian.
Boiling water was never used to prepare herbal teas with valerian since boiling water would make the light valerian oils escape. Drinking European herbal tea with valerian is not recommended if you have any liver problems. Rats are very attracted to valerian and this plant can be used as bait for rat traps. Be aware, however, you may catch a cat instead since cats love valerian too.
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Cleansing Herbal Tea
One of the most commonly used cleansing herbal tea variants is colon cleansing herbal tea. According to the promoters of colon cleansing, the human body can at times be unable to properly cleanse itself and will then need the aid of cleansing herbal tea.
Some advocates claim that colon cleansing herbal tea should be used regularly, while others state that cleansing herbal tea is only necessary during special circumstances when something has caused a disturbance in the natural cleansing process.
Colon cleansing herbal tea aims to eliminate mucoid plaque from the colon walls. Those who believe in the necessity of colon cleansing assert that food particles and other unwanted substances accumulate on the colon walls during each digestion process and that this build-up can cause poor health.
Over time, the build-up is believed to solidify and turn into a hard, stagnant substance that covers the walls and prevents nutrients from being accurately absorbed inside the colon. The aim of a colon cleansing herbal tea is therefore to release this hard plaque from the colon wall and make it possible for the body to eliminate it.
So-called colon cleansing herbal tea is often credited for several other positive functions in addition to being able to remove plaque build-up. Producers will for instance claim that their cleansing herbal tea aids the work of the entire digestive system, including all organs and glands.
Generally speaking, most producers recommend drinking 1-3 cups of cleansing herbal tea a day, preferably for several weeks, especially if you have never cleansed your colon before. Many people use colon cleansing herbal tea not only to treat existing problems but to prevent them from happening altogether. After the first big clean, they continue to drink them regularly to prevent unhealthy build-up.
The exact ingredients in cleansing herbal tea vary from producer to producer. Always read the ingredients lists closely to avoid ingesting substances that you are known to be allergic to or intolerant to. In addition to ready-made products, traditional folk medicine is filled with a rich assortment of recipes that you can use to make your own traditional cleansing herbal tea.
In traditional folk medicine, many different herbs have been credited with cleansing capacities. The herb or herbs of choice have naturally been affected by which herbs grow naturally in the area. In North America, Rhamnus purshiana has been used in cleansing herbal tea for at least a millennium. This herb is native to western North America where it grows from British Columbia to California.
It is known under many different names, including Cascara Sagrada, Bearberry, Chittam, and Chitticum. Cascara Sagrada means “sacred bark” in Spanish, while Chitticum actually means “shit come” in Chinook Jargon. It is a strong natural laxative. When preparing a cleansing herbal tea with Chitticum, is important only to use aged bark. The fresh bark is too potent and a cleansing herbal tea made from fresh bark can cause vomiting and violent diarrhea.
Slimming Herbal Tea
“Natural” or “herbal” does not mean that a remedy is complete without side effects. Everything that is powerful enough to create a significant effect is powerful enough to also create side effects, especially when consumed in high doses. This is true for all herbal teas, and slimming herbal tea is certainly not an exception.
It is also important to keep in mind that slimming herbal tea can interact with other medications or herbal remedies, that you are currently on, thus producing unwanted effects. Here is a list of a few things that can be good to keep in mind before you start using any slimming herbal tea.
- A slimming herbal tea should be treated like a medical product, not a simple tea. This means that you have to keep an eye on exactly how many cups you consume each day and avoid overusing them. You wouldn’t want to ingest three boxes of aspirin when you have a headache, so why to drink 50 cups of slimming herbal teas just because it’s herbal. As mention above, “herbal” does not equal “safe-in-any-dose” and herbal remedies must be treated with respect.
- If you change your diet dramatically, it can affect your sensitivity to slimming herbal tea. This means that a slimming herbal tea that you have used before without any problems can produce new, unforeseen effects when you dramatically change something about your diet, e.g. drastically decrease your daily calorie intake or cut out all the carbohydrates.
- Many herbal slimming teas are strong diuretics and diuretics should only be used for a few days, unless you are under medical supervision. Also keep in mind that the weight you drop when you use a diuretic tea consists of water, not fat. The fat will still be there when you stop drinking the tea. Diuretic teas can be great if you feel bloated, but if you need to get rid of fat, they will be of little use.
- In most countries, herbal slimming teas do not have to be tested for purity and potency. This means that you never know exactly how potent the next box of herbal slimming tea will be. There can also be impurities in the tea, e.g. pollen and spores that can cause problems for allergic users. In serious cases, powerful toxins have been found in herbal remedies and products marketed as herbal remedies.
- If there is a trustworthy license system for herbal remedies in your country, only purchase herbal slimming tea from licensed suppliers and manufacturers. If the license system in your country is unsatisfying or non-existent, you can instead order your herbal slimming tea from a country with more stringent regulations regarding herbal products.
- Always tell your physician that you are using, or are planning to use, herbal slimming tea. This way, he or she can warn you of possible interactions with your medicine and change your prescription if necessary. You, physician, can also advise you against using herbal slimming tea in situations where an underlying health condition, or necessary medications that can not be substituted, make herbal slimming tea a bad idea. Herbal slimming tea is generally unsuitable during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Laxative Herbal Tea
Anything potent enough to have a laxative effect can produce unwanted side effects and herbal laxative tea is no exception. The laxative process itself can also lead to anything from mild discomforts to serious health problems, regardless of whether you use special food, modern medicines, or traditional herbal remedies to induce it.
Before using herbal laxative tea, it is also important to remember that herbal laxative tea can interact with other medications and herbal remedies that you are currently using. Here is a list of a few things that you should keep in mind before you start using any herbal laxative tea.
- Herbal laxative tea is not intended for long-term use. If you regularly have to use laxatives, you should instead seek medical attention and treat the underlying health problems instead of simply treating the symptoms with laxatives.
- Always inform your physician that you are using, or are planning to use herbal laxative tea. This way, he or she can inform you about possible interactions with the medication that you are already taking. Underlying health problems can also mean that herbal laxative tea, as well as any other laxative, is a bad idea. You should for instance refrain from using herbal laxative tea if you have diabetes, epilepsy, liver problems, or hypertension unless your physician determines that it is safe for you.
- Do not use herbal laxative tea when you are pregnant or breastfeeding without first consulting your physician.
- Do not give herbal laxative tea to children without first consulting their physician.
- If you experience side effects, contact your physician and stop drinking herbal laxative tea.
- Do not use more than the recommended dose of herbal laxative tea. Many people erroneously believe that just because something is labeled “herbal” or “natural” it can be consumed in any quantity without producing any side effects. This is certainly not true. As explained above, any tea potent enough to have a laxative effect is also potent enough to cause side effects, and the risk of side effects increases if you use more than the recommended dose.
- In most countries, herbal remedies are not required to be tested for purity and potency. This means that the herbal laxative tea that you intend to use can be much more potent than the tea you used last year, even though they are produced by the same company and marketed as being identical. Since herbal remedies rarely get tested for impurities, herbal laxative tea can also contain unknown substances such as pollen or spores, which of course is a serious problem for those suffering from allergies or other forms of intolerance. In severe cases, powerful toxins such as lead or arsenic have been found in traditional herbal remedies. Be careful and always start out lightly when using herbal laxative tea.
- Only purchase herbal laxative tea from licensed producers and suppliers. If there is no reliable licensing system in your country, try to obtain herbal laxative tea from a country with a more trustworthy licensing system for herbal remedies.
Health Benefits of Herbal Teas
The benefit of herbal tea with Dandelion
There are many different species of Dandelion, all belonging to the genus Taraxacum. Dandelions are native to temperate parts of the northern hemisphere and have since long been used in European and Asian folk remedies. Roots, as well as leaves, were used.
The alleged benefit of herbal tea with dandelions includes liver cleansing, removal of mucous from the lungs, and diuretic properties which can reduce bloating. Dandelion herbal teas were also believed to lessen the incidence of gallstones.
Many European languages bear witness to the diuretic properties of dandelion tea. In French, these flowers are for instance known as pissenlit, which literary means “urinate in bed”. Similarly, the traditional English folk name for dandelion is pissabeds, and in Spain, dandelions are known as meacamas which translates “it pissed beds”. You can also see this pattern in Italy, where the dandelion is named piscialletto (letto is the Italian word for bed).
The benefit of herbal tea with Damiana
Damiana is a shrub native to Central and South America. Its scientific name is today Turnera diffusa, but it used to be known as Turnera aphrodisiaca – a homage to its alleged aphrodisiac qualities. In South America, the perceived benefit of herbal tea with Damiana is not limited to sexual functions; it is also used as a general stimulant that relieves anxiety and alleviates depression. Damiana tea is also used against menstrual pains and as a diuretic and laxative.
The benefit of herbal tea with Stinging Nettle
The Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) is found in many different parts of the world and grows from Europe and northern Africa to Asia and all the way to North America. The Stinging Nettle is a rich source of vitamin C and vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids) and can therefore be used to cure scurvy, as well as prevent night blindness caused by lack of vitamin A.
The alleged benefit of herbal tea made from Stinging Nettle leaves includes improved liver and kidney functions, alleviation of any respiratory difficulties, and general cleansing of the blood. Nettle tea has also been used against both diarrhea and constipation. The exact composition of the toxin found in Stinging Nettle is still not known. Research has shown that the stinging hairs of most nettle species contain histamine, serotonin, and formic acid.
The benefit of herbal teas with Mountain Skullcap
Mountain skullcap (Scutellaria montana) grows in the Eastern United States and is today an endangered plant. For people living in the Appalachian Mountains, the Mountain skullcap has been an important medicinal herb. The flowers of the Mountain skullcap have upper and lower lips and the calyx is protected by a shield. The stems are four-angled with opposite leaves, and it is traditionally the leaves that are used for herbal tea.
According to Appalachian tradition, the benefit of herbal tea made from Mountain skullcaps is reduced anxiety and general mood alleviation. It has for instance been used to treat PMS. Before the rabies vaccine became readily available, a Mountain skullcap was also used in an effort to treat rabies.