The definition of a herbal tea is any drink made from various plant parts, including flowers, leaves, seeds, bark and roots, which are not derived from the tea bush. This means that there are innumerable types of herbal tea and infinite blends of one or more ingredient.
Making teas and infusions from herbs and plants is a centuries old practice and in many ancient cultures the plants used were valued for their many medicinal properties. Some of the herbs have not just one but multiple benefits for the body and well-being in general. Others are specifically known for their ability to act as relaxants, sedatives or stimulants.
Purchasing herbal teas
The easiest way to use herbal tea is to buy it readily prepared, either as loose tea or as tea-bags. There are many companies who offer a huge variety and some specialist companies blend different herbs and plants to offer very specific health benefit products for maximum effect.
Many supermarkets stock ranges of herbal tea as do some pharmacies. Health food stores and online companies are your best bet for specialist teas.
Preparing herbal teas
Preparing your own tea is quite easy. It is necessary to have some knowledge of the different properties of the herbs and plants you are using to avoid toxic substances or mis-identification of plants. All ingredients can be used either fresh or dried.
Use 25g/1 oz of dried herbs to every one pint of water. If you are using fresh herbs or plants you will need to use 50g/2 oz to every pint of water.
Pour boiling water over the herbs and allow to stand for up to 10 minutes. This will allow all the beneficial agents from the herbs to infuse properly. Strain before drinking.
If you are using the hard parts of a plant such as seeds or bark then grind these down as small as possible and then boil in water for 15 minutes. You may need to use a little more than 1 pint of water to 25g of dried herbs to allow for the loss of water from the ongoing boiling process. The result of this process is known as a decoction.
Below is a list of herbal teas that have particular qualities. This is only a small portion of the different types of tea available or that can be prepared but it will give you something to start with.
Teas that have sedative properties
Teas that have sedative properties are often used to help overcome sleep problems or to assist in gaining more beneficial sleep.
Teas that can help with the digestive system
- Ginger – good for settling nausea
- Pu erh tea – see under teas with other properties
Teas that are good for detoxing
Teas that work as a stimulant
- Lemon grass
- Gotu Kola
Teas with other properties
There are some herbal teas that are particularly popular and are of great benefit for specific conditions. These do not necessarily fall into the categories listed above so I have included them here.
- Rooibos – all the antioxidant benefits of green tea but minus the caffeine
- Echinacea – very effective for cold and flu prevention
- Marigold – has anti-fungal, antibiotic and anti-viral properties
- St John’s Wort – used to treat depression
- Pu erh tea – although not strictly speaking a herbal tea as it comes from a variety of the tea bush, it is otherwise rather difficult to classify. If consumed when fresh it has many of the benefits of green tea with added extras. It is thought that it can help reduce cholesterol and has been revered by the Chinese for centuries as a hang-over cure.
Some of the herbs and plants used in herbal teas can have certain side-effects and do produce an allergic reaction in some people.
As with many of the natural remedies or those that have health benefits some people seem to suit certain types more than others. Experiment with the different types of herbal tea to find out which is most beneficial for you.