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What Is Herbal Tea and What Are Its Benefits?

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herbal tea

A soothing cup of herbal tea can sure hit the spot after a hectic day. The beverage exudes comfort and relaxation. But, there’s more to this natural concoction than just its soothing effects!

Herbal tea is carving out a top spot in the U.S. market as Americans focus more on healthy living and Eastern philosophies. These natural drinks have a wide range of nutritional and health benefits.

Health-minded individuals consider herbal tea to be a terrific alternative to nutritionally devoid, sugar-laden, and caffeinated beverages. And, it shows in their sales: more than 30% of hot tea purchased in the United States was herbal tea in 2015.

Though, calling such a beverage a “tea” is a major misnomer, especially if you are travelling abroad.

What Is Herbal Tea?

Despite the name, herbal tea is not technically tea at all. No part of the tea plant, Camellia sinensis, is used as an ingredient. The proper terms for these flower and herb “teas” are tisanes or herbal infusions. In fact, Europe and several other countries have regulations in place that limit the use of the word “tea” to only Camellia sinensis products. Since this is not the case here in the United States, we are more familiar with the label herbal “tea.”

This beverage is made by steeping any dried herbs, flowers or fruits in boiling water. Connoisseurs believe that herbal tea should always be prepared in a covered vessel so as to contain the beneficial oils. When properly steeped, sometimes as long as 15 to 20 minutes, the beverage offers all of the plant’s potential benefits in digestible form.

These benefits can vary depending on the ingredient used — and its quality. Due to the negative effects of pesticides, weed killers and other harmful chemicals, organic herbs with no artificial flavors from respected manufacturers are best.

Health Benefits of Herbal Tea

In many cases, when it comes to herbal tea, it is not the taste that people have most interest in, but the health benefits. In addition to being a great source of vitamins and minerals, herbal tea may help support everything from overall well-being and healthy sleep to a sense of calm and healthy digestion.

The benefits one might enjoy all depend on the particular herb that is being used (i.e., certain teas are best for certain symptoms), but you’ll always benefit from the lack of caffeine.

Benefits of Certain Herbal Infusions

Whether you’re looking for a certain flavor profile or therapeutic benefit, you’re sure to find one that fits your needs. Here are a few of our favorites:

Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis): The needles from this South African bush contain flavanoids, which are free-radical-fighting antioxidants. (It is believed that rooibos’ polyphenol content is similar to or greater than green tea.) Other compounds found in rooibos include: iron, potassium, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, copper and alpha hydroxy acid. Its benefits range from skin, heart and bone health to a healthy internal response, digestion and weight management. It’s been described as sweet, refreshing and flora.

Peppermint (Mentha Piperita): Peppermint is known for supporting healthy digestion, including the temporary relief of symptoms related to gas, bloating, muscle spasms and nausea. This herb is believed to promote bile production and the breakdown of fat in the digestive system. Some people also take peppermint tea when suffering with the common cold to help loosen phlegm. (If you are prone to acid reflux, you may need to avoid peppermint because it can cause burning/discomfort in the esophagus for some individuals.)

Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla): Popular throughout the world, this herb is probably best known for its calming and relaxing properties. It has also been used traditionally for soothing the stomach, bloating and indigestion. Chamomile is a popular option for before bedtime since it contains the amino acid tryptophan, which has tranquilizing properties, and magnesium, which has a soothing effect on not only the mind, but also on our muscles. Its taste is described as sweet and flowery.

Nettle (Urtica dioica): Stinging nettle has been used traditionally to support joint comfort and vitality. This herb contains iron, silica and calcium. Iron is good for red blood cell production and energy, while calcium and silica benefit our bones, hair and teeth. Though its taste has been described as grassy or like spinach water, it does seem to complement savory dishes. Some people add mint or other herbs to alter the flavor if necessary.

Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)

Hibiscus flowers have been used traditionally for cardiovascular support. This herb acts as an antioxidant, protecting cells from free radical damage. It is also believed to support the immune system, healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels already within the normal range, and more. Hibiscus is a source of iron, zinc and phosphorus. It is a sour tea that is often described as tasting like cranberries.

Rose Hips (Rosa canina)

The fruit of the rose plant, called rose hips, is known for its vitamin C content, which benefits the immune system. This herb has antioxidant properties, so it supports cellular/tissue health as well. Rose hips contain peptin to support healthy digestion and iron to support healthy red blood cell production. This tea is described as tangy and somewhat sour.

Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)

Licorice root is known for its support of the upper respiratory system. As an adaptogen, it works to promote a healthy stress response. Licorice has also been tied to gastrointestinal health, healthy weight management, adrenal and immune support. It contains calcium, potassium and glycyrhizen acid, which gives it its sweetness. But, don’t expect the taste of red licorice candy! Its sweet taste is said to be offset by a tart or tangy undertone, more like black licorice or anise.

Benefits of Herbal Blends

There are also herbal tea blends — mixtures of some of the herbs mentioned above and many more — that are specifically formulated to support certain functions in the body. Here are some examples:

TEA FOR DETOX

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DeTox Tea from Yogi

This herbal blend was formulated to support healthy liver and kidney function, particularly to promote the body’s natural cleansing process. It contains herbs with benefits related to this function like organic dandelion, burdock, juniper berry, ginger, black pepper and others. DeTox is 100% natural, vegan, non-GMO and caffeine free.

 

TEA FOR RESPIRATORY HEALTH

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Bronchial Wellness Herbal Tea from Gaia Herbs

This infusion is designed to temporarily soothe an irritated respiratory system with its combination of targeted herbs, including peppermint leaf (Mentha x piperita), grindelia, plantain and eucalyptus leaf. Bronchial Wellness is caffeine free and comes in foil-lined, flavor-seal pouches.

 

TEA FOR STRESS RELIEF

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Tulsi Turmeric Ginger from Organic India

This blend combines a number of adaptogenic herbs that work to support a healthy stress response. These include tulsi (holy basil), turmeric, ginger, cinnamon and others. Tulsi Turmeric Ginger also supports antioxidant activity, immune function, a healthy internal response and digestion. It is caffeine free and USDA certified organic.

 

TEA FOR MEMORY

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Memory Zest Tea from Mountain Rose Herbs

This infusion is formulated to be cognitively refreshing and supportive of mental clarity and precision. It includes targeted herbs like organic gingko, gotu kola, peppermint, red clover, rosemary and ginger. Memory Zest Tea is certified organic, certified kosher and caffeine free.

 

TEA FOR WEIGHT LOSS

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Green Tea Blueberry Slim Life from Yogi

This herbal tea is formulated to support healthy weight management and energy. The ingredients, including organic green tea leaf, bilberry leaf, hibiscus flower and amla fruit, work synergistically to help you stay active. Green Tea Blueberry Slim Life is often used as part of a dieting program that includes exercise and a balanced diet. It is vegan and does contain a small amount of caffeine.

If you enjoy making your own herbal tea, check out this video to learn how:

Do you drink herbal tea? Tell us about a few of your favorites in the comments section below!

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