Herbal tea

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Herbal tea made from hibiscus beginning to steep

Herbal tea, or tisane (UK /tɪˈzæn/, US /tɪˈzɑːn/), is any beverage made from the infusion or decoction of herbs, spices, or other plant material in hot water, and usually does not contain caffeine.[1] These drinks are distinguished from true teas (black, green, white, yellow, oolong, etc., which are prepared from the cured leaves of the tea plant, Camellia sinensis), as well as from decaffeinated tea, in which the caffeine has been removed. In many countries, the word 'tea' can only be used for leaves of Camellia sinensis and therefore the phrase 'herbal tea' cannot be used. These beverages are therefore labelled infusion or tisane.

Like beverages made from true teas, herbal teas can be served hot or cold. Herbal teas have been used for nearly as long as written history extends.[citation needed] Documents have been recovered dating back to Ancient Egypt and Ancient China that discuss the enjoyment and uses of herbal teas.[citation needed] Among the Chinese, herbal teas are commonly known as liang cha (Chinese: 涼茶; pinyin: liáng chá; Jyutping: loeng4 caa4).


Herbal tea in a glass teapot and cup

The English word "tisane" originates from the Greek word πτισάνη (ptisanē), a drink made from pearl barley, similar to the modern barley water.

Health risks[edit]

As herbal teas can be composed of any plant material, including some plants that are known to be toxic, the specific ingredients must be checked individually for health and safety. Most retail herbal teas sold as beverages could be considered safe, but medicinal herbal teas could easily contain herbs that cause damage in large amounts.

While most herbal teas are safe for regular consumption, some herbs have toxic or allergenic effects. Among the greatest causes of concern are:

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 herbal teas to have any evidence concerning their efficacy, but does treat them technically as food products and require that they are safe for consumption.

Mint and peppermint herbal teas had significantly stronger ferrous ion chelating ability than true teas.[citation needed]


Depending on the source of the herbal ingredients, herbal teas, like any crop, may be contaminated with pesticides or heavy metals.[2][3] 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".[2]

During pregnancy[edit]

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 woman 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.

Additionally, a study found that frequent and regular use of cannabis throughout pregnancy may be associated with a small but statistically detectable decrease in birth weight.[4]


Baskets of dried hibiscus for making karkade, or "hibiscus tea", a popular herbal tea worldwide

In Egypt, herbal teas such as hibiscus tea (karkade) are very popular. They are served in teahouses (ahwas).

In China, the Traditional Chinese Medicine approach is used in formulating natural herbal teas and they are very popular in enhancing health and addressing core issues within the body; e.g. formulated recipes like hawthorn plus oolong / pu-er are used to address the high fat level in the bloodstream.[citation needed] The Chinese term liang cha, means "cooling tea", and the Chinese drink it to cool down the body when it has become overheated due to weather or sickness.

In Sri Lanka, herbal teas have a long history within the local tradition of indigenous medicine. Iramusu (Smilax regelii), beli (Bael), ranawara (Senna auriculata), polpala (Aerva lanata), weniwel (Coscinium fenestratum), and kothala-himbutu (Salacia reticulata) are among the many plant species used to make herbal teas, which are used to treat a wide variety of ailments. The widely used "paspanguwa" (translated as five-portions) is a common local remedy for colds and fever containing the five ingredients pathpadagam (Mollugo cerviana), katuwelbatu (Solanum virginianum), koththamalli (coriander seed), thippili (long pepper), and inguru (ginger), often served with a sweetener of sugar or jaggery.


This retail mixture contains rooibos, coconut, ginger, cinnamon, apple, cardamom, black pepper & almond.

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 herbal tea is then strained, sweetened if so desired, and served. Many companies produce herbal tea bags for such infusions.

Major varieties[edit]

While varieties of herbal teas are defined as any plant material for infusion, below is a list of common herbs:

A pre-made, bottled herbal tea made from ginseng.
  • Ginseng, a popular tea in China and Korea, commonly used as a stimulant and as a caffeine substitute.[9]
  • Goji, a popular and very simple to prepare tea
  • Hawthorn
  • 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, and used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine (see Hibiscus health benefits). It is also used in Roselle (see below.)
  • Honeybush is similar to rooibos and grows in a nearby area of South Africa, but tastes slightly sweeter. Has a low tannin content, no caffeine and has potential health effects related to its antimutagenic and antioxidant properties.[10][11]
  • Horehound
  • Moringa, claimed to be high in vitamins, minerals, proteins, antioxidants and amino acids.<[citation needed]
  • Houttuynia
  • 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.[12]
  • Jiaogulan, (also known as xiancao or poor man's ginseng)
  • Kapor tea, dried leaves of fireweed
  • Kava root, from the South Pacific, commonly used for its effects in promoting talkativeness and relaxation. [13] As well, kava extracts may be an effective alternative to tricyclic antidepressants and benzodiazepines for the treatment of anxiety disorders.[14]
  • Kratom, dried leaves of the Kratom tree, drank for its medicinal and stimulant effects.[15][16]
  • 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.
  • 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 promoted as a treatment for a number of ailments, including cancer, but without evidence to support this.[17]
  • Lemon Balm
  • Lemon and ginger tea
  • Lemon grass
  • Luo han guo
  • Licorice root
  • Lime blossom, dried flowers of lime tree (Tilia in Latin).
  • 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 (옥수수 차), traditional roasted corn tea found in Korea.
  • Patchouli tea
  • Pennyroyal leaf, an abortifacient
  • Pine tea, or tallstrunt, made from needles of pine trees is high in vitamins A and C,[citation needed]
  • Poppy tea, drank for its sedative and analgesic properties.
  • 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.
A close-up of a rooibos blend in a tea bag being steeped.

Ayurvedic tea[edit]

Ayurvedic tea is made of Ayurvedic herbs like Agya Ghas, Yeshtimadhu, Tulasi etc. Various pharmacies have come up with their products using different combinations of Ayurvedic medicines. Ayurvedic tea has also been found to contain nutrients including calcium, potassium, vanadium, iron, manganese, selenium and zinc.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Herbal tea at Dictionary.com". Dictionary.reference.com. Retrieved 2014-05-04. 
  2. ^ a b Naithani, V; Kakkar, P (2004). "An evaluation of residual organochlorine pesticides in popular Indian herbal teas". Archives of environmental health 59 (8): 426–30. doi:10.3200/AEOH.59.8.426-430. PMID 16268119. 
  3. ^ Naithani, V; Kakkar, P (2005). "Evaluation of heavy metals in Indian herbal teas". Bulletin of environmental contamination and toxicology 75 (1): 197–203. doi:10.1007/s00128-005-0738-4. PMID 16228893. 
  4. ^ Fergusson, D. M.; Horwood, L. J.; Northstone, K. (2002). "Maternal use of cannabis and pregnancy outcome". BJOG: an International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology 109: 21. doi:10.1111/j.1471-0528.2002.01020.x. 
  5. ^ "Chamomile (Matricaria Recutita)". herbwisdom.com. Retrieved 15 October 2014. 
  6. ^ Bhaskaran, N; Shukla, S; Srivastava, JK; Gupta, S (Dec 2010). "Chamomile: an anti-inflammatory agent inhibits inducible nitric oxide synthase expression by blocking RelA/p65 activity". Int J Mol Med 26 (6): 935–40. 
  7. ^ Tayel, AA; El-Tras, WF (2009). "Possibility of fighting food borne bacteria by egyptian folk medicinal herbs and spices extracts". J Egypt Public Health Assoc 84 (1-2): 21–32. 
  8. ^ "Identification and quantitation of alkaloids in coca tea.". PubMed. 9 February 1996. Retrieved 10 September 2015. 
  9. ^ "As ginseng prices soar, diggers take to the backcountry". Fox News. 2012-09-28. Retrieved 28 September 2012. 
  10. ^ de Beer D, Jerz G, Joubert E, Wray V, Winterhalter P. (2009). "Isolation of isomangiferin from honeybush (Cyclopia subternata) using high-speed counter-current chromatography and high-performance liquid chromatography". J Chromatogr A 1216 (19): 4282–9. doi:10.1016/j.chroma.2009.02.056. PMID 19272608. 
  11. ^ Kokotkiewicz A, Luczkiewicz M. (2009). "Honeybush (Cyclopia sp.)—a rich source of compounds with high antimutagenic properties". Fitoterapia 80 (1): 3–11. doi:10.1016/j.fitote.2008.11.001. PMID 19032980. 
  12. ^ C.J. van Gelderen; D.M. van Gelderen. 2004. Encyclopedia of Hydrangeas. Timber Press. 280 p.
  13. ^ Pittler MH, Ernst E (2000). "Efficacy of kava extract for treating anxiety: systematic review and meta-analysis". J Clin Psychopharmacol 20: 84. doi:10.1097/00004714-200002000-00014. 
  14. ^ Volz HP, Kieser M (1997). "Kava-kava extract WS 1490 versus placebo in anxiety disorders--a randomized placebo-controlled 25-week outpatient trial". Pharmacopsychiatry 30: 1–5. doi:10.1055/s-2007-979474. 
  15. ^ Suwanlert, Sangun (1975). "A Study of Kratom Eaters in Thailand". Bulletin on Narcotics 27 (3): 21–27. PMID 1041694. 
  16. ^ Jansen, Karl L.R.; Colin J. Prast (1988-01-04). "Ethnopharmacology of Kratom and the Mitragyna Alkaloids". Journal of Ethnophamacology 23 (1): 115–119. doi:10.1016/0378-8741(88)90121-3. ISSN 0378-8741. PMID 3419199. 
  17. ^ "Pau d'arco". American Cancer Society. January 2013. Retrieved September 2013. 
  18. ^ http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22313307
  19. ^ http://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=56f1e582-807c-43bb-b680-98e13852199f
  20. ^ Joseph I. Boullata and Angela M. Nace (2000). "Safety Issues with Herbal Medicine: Common Herbal Medicines". Pharmacotherapy 20 (3). doi:10.1592/phco. 
  21. ^ A. Kumar, A.G.C. Nair, A.V.R. Reddy, A.N. Garg (2005). "Analysis of essential elements in Pragya-peya—a herbal drink and its constituents by neutron activation". Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis 37 (4): 631–828. doi:10.1016/j.jpba.2004.11.051. 

External links[edit]

  • Learning materials related to infusion maker at Wikiversity
  • Media related to tisanes at Wikimedia Commons