Herbal teas: appreciating the worth of herbal infusions
Herbal teas are more accurately described as herbal infusions or tisanes in that they are not based on the tea plant, Camellia sinsensis. Rich in antioxidants, there are a huge variety of them, many long acknowledged for their health benefits. Many also have a very attractive taste.
Long before tea was discovered, for thousands of years the flowers, leaves, bark or roots of plants have been brewed in water to create a nourishing drink, bringing nutritional and health benefits to build immunity, sooth and to nourish.
Buying loose herbs ensures that they are not cut as fine as those in teabags. Larger cuts or whole leaf better retain essential oils and therefore they not only taste better but are likely to be better for you from a therapeutic point of view. When drinking herbal infusions, even though they are natural, have due regard top their possible potency and moderate your consumption accordingly.
These can be divided into five categories: sour, bitter, sweet, spicy and salty. It should be noted that fruit flavoured teas have been developed for their flavour and may not have any health particular benefits.
Sourness is cooling, drying and astringent due to the presence of such acids as ascorbic, citrus or malic. These properties stimulate the liver and appetite. They are calming, increase perspiration and are cooling. Examples are lemongrass and rosehip.
Bitterness is cooling, drying and draining. Bitter herbs generally contain alkaloids and tend to be anti-inflammatory and antibacterial. The pancreas is stimulated; these properties strengthen the heart and lowers cholesterol. Examples are chamomile and yarrow.
Helps to cope with stress and pain. Herbs with these attributes are energising, rejuvenating and healing. Examples are fennel and liquorice.
Spicy or pungent herbs such as ginger and mint stimulate the nerves, promote circulation and digestion.
These flavours are draining and diuretic. These properties are possessed by nettle. They strengthen the nerves and heart.
See the Herbal Teas and Infusions section of our Tea Store
Herbal infusions tend not to contain caffeine which makes them attractive at bed-time, especially chamomile or valerian. The latter is bitter and needs to be sweetened with honey. Some do however contain caffeine such as yerba mate, grown in South America. This is rich in vitamin C and is known to be refreshing and invigorating.
Use one teaspoon per cup and fresh boiling water. When using fresh herbs use three times the quantity. Infuse for five minutes when using flowers or leaves, twenty minutes for harder parts of plants such as roots. Cold water infusing is the best means of preserving the delicate essential oils and vitamins which can be harmed by heat. To do this place the herbs in a screw-top jar and place in the fridge overnight.
If you are on prescription medicines you should take your doctor’s advice before taking herbal infusions.