Herbal teas also known as herbal infusions—and less commonly called tisanes (UK and US //, US also //)—are beverages made from the infusion or decoction of herbs, spices, or other plant material in hot water. Oftentimes herb tea, or the plain term tea is used as a reference to all sorts of herbal teas. Some herbal blends contain actual tea.
The term "herbal" tea is often used in contrast to the so-called true teas (e.g., black, green, white, yellow, oolong), which are prepared from the cured leaves of the tea plant, Camellia sinensis. Unlike true teas (which are also available decaffeinated), most tisanes do not naturally contain caffeine. There are a number of plants, however, that do contain caffeine or another stimulant, like theobromine, cocaine or ephedrine. Some common infusions have specific names such as coffee, mate (yerba mate), and rooibos (Aspalathus linearis).
Some feel that the term tisane is more correct than herbal tea or that the latter is even misleading, but most dictionaries record that the word tea is also used to refer to other plants beside the tea plant and to beverages made from these other plants. In any case, the term herbal tea is very well established and much more common than tisane.
The word tisane was rare in its modern sense before the 20th century, when it was borrowed in the modern sense from French. (This is why some people feel it should be pronounced // as in French, but the original English pronunciation // continues to be more common in US English and especially in UK English).
The word had already existed in late Middle English in the sense of "medicinal drink" and had already been borrowed from French (Old French). The Old French word came from the Latin word ptisana, which came from the Ancient Greek word πτισάνη (ptisánē), which meant "peeled" barley, in other words pearl barley, and a drink made from this that is similar to modern barley water.
Herbal teas can be made with fresh or dried flowers, fruit, leaves, seeds or roots. They are made by pouring boiling water over the plant parts and letting them steep for a few minutes. The herbal tea is then strained, sweetened if desired, and served. Many companies produce herbal tea bags for such infusions.
A bottled ginseng tea.
While varieties of tisanes can be made from any edible plant material, below is a list of those commonly used for such:
- Anise tea, made from either the seeds or the leaves
- Asiatic penny-wort leaf, in South Asia and Southeast Asia
- Artichoke tea
- Bael Fruit tea.
- Bee balm
- Boldo, used in South America
- Burdock, the seeds, leaves, and roots have been used
- Cannabis tea, used in the preparation of Bhang
- Caraway, tea made from the seeds
- Catnip, tea used as a relaxant, sedative, and to calm
- Che Dang, bitter tea made from Ilex causue leaves
- Chinese knot-weed tea
- Chrysanthemum tea, made from dried flowers
- Coca tea, infusion made from coca leaves. Contains trace 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.
- Cacao bean tea
- Coffee-leaf tea, coffee fruit tea, and coffee blossom tea are herbal teas made using the leaves, fruits and flowers of the coffee plant
- Coffee bean tea, or simply coffee, a tisane made from the seeds of the coffee plant
- Cerasse, bitter Jamaican herb
- Citrus peel, including bergamot, lemon and orange peel
- Dandelion coffee
- Dill tea
- Dried lime tea, made from dried limes common in western Asia
- Echinacea tea
- European Mistletoe (Viscum album), (steep in cold water for 2–6 hours)
- Essiac tea, blended herbal tea
- Ginger root, can be made into herbal tea, known in the Philippines as salabat
- Ginseng, a common tea in China and Korea, commonly used as a stimulant and as a caffeine substitute
- Guayusa, caffeinated tree of the holly genus, native to the Amazon Rainforest.
- Hibiscus (often blended with rose hip), a common tea in the Middle East or Asia
- Honeybush, similar to rooibos and grows in a nearby area of South Africa, but tastes slightly sweeter. Has a low tannin content, no caffeine.
- 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, can be made into a tea for stomach upsets and other minor illnesses. The traditional form is a water-based suspension of kava roots.
- Kratom, dried leaves of the kratom tree.
- Kuzuyu, is a thick white Japanese tea made by adding kudzu flour to hot water
- Labrador tea, made from the shrub by the same name, found in the northern part of North America.
- Lemon Balm
- Lemon and ginger tea
- Lemon grass
- Luo han guo
- Licorice root
- Lime blossom, dried flowers of lime tree (Tilia in Latin).
- Mint (mint tea), especially peppermint (also mixed with green tea)
- Mountain Tea, common 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.
- Olive leaf tea
- Osmanthus tea, dried flowers of the sweet olive tree are used alone or blended with tea leaves in China.
- Pandan tea
- Patchouli tea
- Pennyroyal leaf, an abortifacient
- Pine tea, or tallstrunt, made from needles of pine trees
- Poppy tea, drank for its sedative and analgesic properties
- Qishr, Yemeni drink with coffee husks and ginger
- Red clover tea
- Red raspberry leaf
- Barley tea, East Asian drink with roasted barley
- Roasted wheat, used in Postum, a coffee substitute
- Rooibos (Red Bush), 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 characteristics 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, 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), 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
- Staghorn sumac, fruit can be made into a lemonade
- Stevia, can be used to make herbal tea, or as a sweetener in other beverages
- St. John's Wort
- Thyme, contains thymol
- Tulsi, or Holy Basil, in English
- Turmeric tea
- Uncaria tomentosa, commonly known as Cat's Claw
- Valerian is used as a sedative.
- Verbena (Vervain)
- Wax gourd in East Asia and Southeast Asia.
- Wong Lo Kat, a recipe for herbal tea from Guangdong, China since the Qing Dynasty
- Comfrey, which contains alkaloids which may be harmful to the liver from chronic use, and particularly is not recommended during pregnancy or when prescription drugs are used; comfrey is not recommended for oral use.
- Lobelia, which contains alkaloids and has traditional medicine uses for smoking cessation, may cause nausea, vomiting, or dizziness at high doses.
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. Care must be taken not to use any poisonous plants.
The US does not require herbal teas to have any evidence concerning their efficacy, but does treat them technically as food products and require that they be safe for consumption.
Depending on the source of the herbal ingredients, herbal teas, like any crop, may be contaminated with pesticides or heavy metals. 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".
In addition to the issues mentioned above which are toxic to all people, several medicinal herbs are considered abortifacients, and if consumed by a pregnant individual could cause miscarriage. These include common ingredients like nutmeg, mace, papaya, bitter melon, verbena, saffron, slippery elm, and possibly pomegranate. It also includes more obscure herbs, like mugwort, rue, pennyroyal, wild carrot, blue cohosh, tansy, and savin.
- List of hot beverages
- Tea culture
- Health effects of tea
- Tincture, the often more concentrated plant extracts made in pure grain alcohol, glycerin, or vinegar
- Yerba mate
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