Herbal Teas Make Great Beverages for Both Taste and Health Benefits
An herbal tea is a drink made from a decoction or infusion of spices, herbs or other plants in hot water. Unlike true teas like green tea or oolong, herbal teas are not made from the leaves of the tea plant (Camellia sinensis). Most herbal teas do not have caffeine.
1. Green Tea / Matcha
Green tea is made from the tea plant, which is native to India and China. Like black tea, it is made from the leaves, but they undergo far less oxidization and processing. Consequently, they retain more polyphenols and antioxidants. Green tea has been used in traditional Indian and Chinese medicine to aid digestion, promote wound healing and improve mental and heart health. This herbal tea is far lower in caffeine that black tea.
Matcha, which originated in Japan, is a tea made from powdered green tea leaves. Matcha tea has the same health benefits as green tea, but they are more concentrated and potent. The powdered tea can be used as tea and in recipes.
Chamomile tea is made from the herb of the same name. The herb most commonly used in tea is the German chamomile (Matricaria retutica), and people have been using it as a medicine for centuries. In the United States, chamomile is often used to improve sleep or soothe an upset stomach. Tea made from English or Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) can be used for the same purposes, and it can also ease menstrual cramps. One of the most well-known herbal teas, chamomile has a light but distinctive taste loved by many.
The word “chai” is simply the Indian word for “tea” and thus refers to all types of tea. This spicy drink called chai in the US typically is make from the tea as a base with lots of warm mile. It is more properly known as “masala chai” or “spiced tea.” There are many recipes for making masala chai, but they typically include black tea, milk, water, a sweetener and at least four spices. Green cardamom is the most commonly used spice. Other spices used in masala chai include cinnamon, cloves, fennel seeds, ginger, nutmeg, peppercorn and star anise. Chai aids digestion and promotes relaxation. One can make caffeine free versions of chai herbal teas by omitting the black tea.
Mint is a genus of plants (Mentha) that contains over a dozen species, many of which readily hybridize with one another. Peppermint is one such hybrid, for it’s a cross between spearmint and water mint. It first appeared in Europe and the Middle East. The tea can relieve heartburn, upset stomachs, colds and allergies. Tourareg or Moroccan mint tea is made from spearmint leaves and has similar health benefits. It also promotes relaxation.
Ginger tea is made from the ginger plant (Zingiber officinale) that originated in Southeast Asia and was introduced to Europe by the Romans during the 1st century AD. The rhizome or root is edible and can be used as food or a spice. Ginger tea is well-known for its ability to relieve an upset stomach, including nausea caused by chemotherapy, surgery or morning sickness. Ginger tea also relieves menstrual cramps and anti-inflammatory properties that may enable it to relieve sore muscles after a strenuous workout. Many people also use ginger teas to calm upset stomachs.
Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) is a bush native to South Africa. The leaves are used to make a tea called rooibos, bush tea or redbush tea. The tea is caffeine-free and contains many minerals like zinc, magnesium, potassium, copper, calcium and iron. It also contains several antioxidants. Rooibos tea can boost the immune system, relieve stress and prevent heart disease. Many variations of herbal teas are made with rooibos – from chai blends, to blends with various fruit and other spices.
7. Echinacea Tea
There are nine species of Echinacea, and they are all native to North America. Native Americans from the Great Plains have been using them in traditional medicine for generations. The tea is made from roots and other parts of the plant. The tea stimulates the immune system and is particularly effective in fighting colds and other illnesses affecting the upper respiratory system. Echinacea tinctures are herbal teas are good to use in the winter months to help support your immune health.
8. Valerian Tea
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is an herb native to parts of Europe and Asia that has been introduced to North America. Its use as a medicinal herb dates back to at least the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans. The 2nd century physician Galen prescribed it as an insomnia treatment. The tea is made from the powdered root. Valerian herbal tea has a rather potent and unique taste. It can be a bit much for some people. However, it is a very helpful remedy for insomnia and can also be used to treat anxiety.
9. Dandelion Tea
There are dozens of species of dandelion, but the one most commonly used to make tea is the common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale). The flowers, roots, and leaves are all edible, and the last two can be used to make tea. The common dandelion is native to Europe and Asia and was introduced to North America. The tea contains many nutrients; it has more beta-carotene than carrots do. It also contains iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc and Vitamins D, C, and A. The tea stimulates the digestive system and can act as a mild laxative. People attempting to give up coffee often turn to dandelion herbal teas as alternative beverages.
10. Hibiscus Tea
Hibiscus tea is made from parts of the hibiscus plant (Hibiscus sabdariffa), especially the flower. The tea is bright red and has a sour flavor that reminds some people of cranberries. It is also caffeine- free and low in calories. Hibiscus tea contains many nutrients including various antioxidants, Vitamin C, and several minerals. Researchers have found that drinking three cups of hibiscus tea every day for a few weeks can reduce blood pressure by as much as ten points. Similarly, it can reduce inflammation and cholesterol levels. It can also boost the immune system and the metabolism; the latter property means it can help people lose weight.
Preparation Methods for Herbal Teas
Preparation of the herbal teas depends on the type of plant used. Most teas are made by steeping plant parts in hot water until the tea reaches the desired strength. A few teas, like matcha and valerian, are made dissolving the powdered form of the plant in hot water. The water should be close to boiling. Brewing times depend on the plant part used; leaves should be steeped for six to eight minutes, while root pieces need to steep for seven to nine minutes.
What is your favorite herbal tea? I thought it important to share this recent TEA ALERT! It is important the buy organic herbal teas. The first time the pesticides are washed off your conventional tea leaves is when you steep them in your cup. WOW! Making matters worse, the allowable residue level of glyphosate on herbs such as peppermint and spearmint is 200ppm. This is 20 times higher than the limit for sugar beets and 10 times higher than soy. Avoid pesticide residue in your tea. BUY ORGANIC!