Have you discovered the benefits of herbal teas?
In past blog posts, we learned about the health benefits of green tea, white tea, and black tea.
All of these teas come from the Camellia sinensis plant and differ primarily in how the leaves used to make them are processed.
White tea and green tea, because of their minimal processing, are known for their high levels of antioxidants. White and green tea has more antioxidants than black tea as they’re also the least processed.
The problem with sipping tea, especially black tea, is it contains caffeine.
If you’re sensitive to caffeine or want a drink to sip later in the day that won’t interfere with your sleep, black or green tea may not be your best choice.
Herbal teas have the advantage of being caffeine-free. Plus, like green and white tea, some herbal teas have potential health benefits.
Keep in mind that many of the claims about the health benefits of herbal tea aren’t proven. Most are anecdotal or are based on small studies. So, take the claims with a grain of salt.
Yet, herbal tea is a healthier alternative to sugar-sweetened beverages, as long as you don’t add sugar. I usually add a pinch of Stevia or drink it as is.
Herbal Tea Isn’t Really Tea
Herbal tea isn’t “tea” in a classical sense since it doesn’t come from the Camellia sinensis plant. Instead, herbal teas are referred to as “tisanes.”
You make herbal teas, or tisanes, by steeping leaves, bark, flowers, roots or berries of plants and herbs other than the Camellia sinensis plant.
Making your own herbal tea couldn’t be easier.
Simply pour boiling water over the plant material and leave it long enough to extract the flavor and active ingredients. Then use a strainer to strain the tea so the plant parts are separated from the liquid.
Iced Herbal Tea: Sip it When It’s Hot Outside
Most people think herbal tea is a hot drink you sip in the wintertime but you can enjoy the health benefits of herbal teas in the summer too by making herbal iced tea.
It’s a delightful thirst quencher that’s much better for you than energy drinks, soft drinks and fruit juices that are usually too high in sugar.
One of my favorite herbal teas to make in the summer is iced hibiscus tea. It’s a satisfying way to stay hydrated all summer long.
Herbal Tea Blends: So Many Options
You have so many choices when it comes to herbal teas. Some of the herbs and plants you can use to make herbal tea include lavender, chamomile, basil, lemon verbena, elderberries, peppermint, ginger, elderberry, licorice, rosehips, rosemary, orange peel, raspberry, dandelion, mint, hibiscus, and raspberry.
Some of these herbs have been used medicinally for centuries. Small studies looking at herbs suggest some may have health benefits.
Based on preliminary research, the following herbs have some scientific evidence to support them, although these benefits haven’t been rigorously proven with well-conducted studies.
- Chamomile – anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, sleep-inducing
- Peppermint – may help indigestion and irritable bowel syndrome symptoms
- Elderberry – anti-viral activity
- Ginger – relieves nausea and indigestion, anti-inflammatory
- Lemon verbena – anti-inflammatory, antioxidant activity
- Rosehip – anti-inflammatory
- Dandelion – diuretic
- Hibiscus – may help with blood pressure control based on preliminary research
Herbal Tea Blends – Hibiscus Tea
As mentioned, we enjoy hibiscus tea and may have a lower blood pressure because of it!
In one study, participants that drank three cups of hibiscus tea each day experienced a 7.2 point drop in systolic blood pressure and a 1.3 point drop in diastolic blood pressure.
A placebo group that drank tea with hibiscus flavoring only experienced no change in blood pressure.
A number of commercial herbal tea blends contain hibiscus but the amount in these blends is usually small unless you’re buying a pure hibiscus herbal tea product.
We buy hibiscus flowers in loose form at our local Co-op and steep them in the refrigerator.
I’ve tried steeping hibiscus flowers with boiling water but the results didn’t taste as good.
To steep hibiscus in the fridge, place a half cup of dried hibiscus flowers in 4 cups of cold water. Refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours. Use a strainer to remove the flowers.
Top it off with a squirt of lemon and a natural sweetener like Stevia.
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What does hibiscus tea taste like? A lot like cranberry juice but it’s naturally sugar-free. If you like cranberry juice, you’ll enjoy hibiscus tea.
We recommend using organic herbs in your tea blends. If you don’t want to blend your own organic herbal tea blends, USDA-certified organic herbal blends are available in flavors like spring fruit and flowers.
Here’s another way to use herbal blends:
Warnings about Chamomile
Chamomile tea is a relaxing bedtime drink if you have problems sleeping but it can interact with certain medications including blood thinners. If you’re allergic to plants in the daisy family, you may also be allergic to chamomile.
As a precautionary measure, talk to your doctor before drinking chamomile tea, especially if you take medications. Keep in mind that just because something is natural doesn’t mean it can’t have side effects or be harmful. You should also talk to your doctor before drinking herbal tea if you’re pregnant.
Make Your Own Tea Blends
You can buy herbal teas already packaged or buy loose herbs and create your own herbal tea blends. If you want a fruity flavor, add hibiscus or rose hips to your blend. For an invigorating taste that’ll perk you up, add peppermint. Mint leaves add a “cooling” effect to an herbal tea blend. Experiment with different flavor combinations.
Other ingredients you can add to herbal tea include:
- cardamom pods
- whole cloves
- pieces of ginger
- vanilla beans
- edible flowers
- citrus peel (use organic)
- cucumber slices
Squeeze a little fresh lemon, lime, orange or tangerine juice into a cup of herbal tea for added flavor.
Precautions When Making Herbal Tea
Some people make herbal tea in the summer by placing the herbs in a pitcher and using the warmth of the sun to steep the herbs. We don’t recommend this. The sun heats the water enough so that bacteria can grow. Herbal tea should make you feel good – not make you sick. Also, don’t use an aluminum pan for steeping herbs.
Health Benefits of Herbal Tea Blends: The Bottom Line?
Enjoy the benefits of herbal tea. It’s caffeine free and naturally free of sugar. Plus, it’s fun to create your own unique tea blends. If you come up with a winner, share it with us!
University of Maryland Medical Center. “German Chamomile”
Am Fam Physician. 2007 Apr 1;75(7):1027-1030.
J Int Med Res. 2004 Mar-Apr;32(2):132-40.
Medical News Today. “What are the benefits of ginger?
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “Dandelion”
J Altern Complement Med. 2011 Nov;17(11):1051-63. doi: 10.1089/acm.2010.0410.
Eur J Appl Physiol. 2011 Apr;111(4):695-705. doi: 10.1007/s00421-010-1684-3. Epub 2010 Oct 22.
Rosehip “An evidence-based herbal medicine for inflammation and arthritis” Volume 41, No.7, July 2012 Pages 495-498.
United States Department of Agriculture. “Study Shows Consuming Hibiscus Tea Lowers Blood Pressure”