Herbal Tea

Herbal tea is not technically tea as it does not come from the Camellia sinensis plant; the proper term for it is a tisane. However, most tea drinkers accept herbal tea as a prominent member of the tea product category. Strictly speaking, yerba mate, guayusa, and rooibos also fall into the category of herbal tea.

Tisanes are herbal infusions made from different parts of a plant. The six categories of tisanes are leaf, flower, bark, fruit, root, and seed (Goodwin, 2019). In North American markets, the three most common are leaf, flower, and fruit tisanes.

  • Leaf tisanes include mint, lemongrass, lemon balm, French verbena, and coffee leaf tea.
  • Flower tisanes include chamomile, hibiscus, lavender and rose.
  • Bark tisanes may consist of cinnamon, black cherry bark and slippery elm.
  • Root tisanes are made from ginger, echinacea, and chicory.
  • Fruit tisanes can be made from apple, raspberry, blueberry, peach, and more.
  • Common seed-based tisanes include fennel, cardamom, and caraway.

As there are virtually no limits to what herbal tea can be made from - fruit, flowers, herbs - this article could have no end. Therefore, for the sake of brevity, only four popular herbal tea bases are discussed: chamomile, mint, hibiscus and lemongrass.

Overview.

This article discusses four standard herbal tea bases: chamomile, mint (or peppermint), hibiscus, and lemongrass. Each of these herbal tea sections is further broken down, with the first part covering flavour, preparation, and health benefits. The second part includes product recommendations, while the third section discusses each herbal tea in more detail. The fourth part in each section is a summary of all relevant points discussed.

If you are only interested in learning about one of the four herbal teas discussed, you can jump ahead to a specific section of the article by clicking on any of the links below.

Chamomile | Hibiscus | Mint | Lemongrass

Chamomile.

Flavour, Preparation, and Health Benefits of Chamomile Tea.

Flavour of Flavour Profile of Chamomile Tea.

Chamomile tea has a silky, mellow taste characterized by floral sweetness and often carries a slight hint of an apple taste.

How To Brew Chamomile Tea. 

To prepare chamomile tea, boil water to 95 °C (200 °F) and then pour the water into a tea strainer containing the dried chamomile flowers. Allow the drink to steep for at least five minutes. 

Summary of Health Benefits Chamomile Tea. 

The three most supported and practical health benefits of chamomile tea include: reducing menstrual cramps, treating gastrointestinal intestinal conditions, and aiding in sleeping and relaxation. Chamomile is also recommended for a variety of healing applications (Srivastava, 2010).

Tea Recommendations and Personal Thoughts.

Mackenzie Bailey

Founder of The Tea Tribe

For those who want to move from tea bags to loose-leaf tea, Organic Calming Chamomile from DavidsTea, a major Canadian tea retailer, is a natural next step. DavidsTea also offers two good chamomile-based teas, Organic Mother's Little Helper and Valerian Nights. I also enjoy Dozy Girl Chamomile Tea by Bird and Blend Tea Co. 

Comprehensive Discussion of Chamomile Tea.

Chamomile plants are part of the Asteraceae or daisy family. Only two types of chamomile plants are used for herbal tea: German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) (Hansen, 2009). Many countries have suitable conditions for growing chamomile, so as a result, chamomile is among the oldest, most widely used and well documented medicinal plants.

Egypt is a significant exporter of chamomile (Mohamed, 2016), and some brands refer to chamomile as "Egyptian chamomile." In Egypt, Roman chamomile is grown mostly in Fayoum, Bani Sweif, Asiout, and Nubaria Governorates.

Health Benefits of Camomile Tea. 

The existing research suggests that chamomile tea helps with inflammation, hay fever, menstrual disorders, muscle spasms, insomnia, ulcers, wounds, gastrointestinal disorders, rheumatic pain, and hemorrhoids (Smith, 2010). 

Reducing Menstrual Cramps. 

Chamomile is believed to help reduce smooth muscle spasms (Srivastava, 2010), commonly known as cramps. A study conducted in 2010 found that drinking chamomile tea reduced the pain of menstrual period cramps of the participants (Jenabi, 2010).

Treating Gastrointestinal Conditions.

Chamomile traditionally is used for treating many stomach conditions, including spasms, upset stomach, gas, and ulcers (Kroll, 2006). Chamomile is particularly useful for soothing and relaxing the stomach muscles. Chamomile helps to move food through the intestines (Srivastava, 2010), making it a great drink to sip after a big meal.

Chamomile also helps with stomach ulcers when combined with lemon balm, caraway, peppermint, licorice root, angelica root and milk thistle. The combination becomes more potent because each of these plants has been shown to help prevent gastric ulcers (Khayyal, 2006).

Aids With Sleeping And Relaxation. 

Chamomile is frequently used to calm nerves, reduce anxiety, and has been used to treat hysteria. Chamomile is also used to treat nightmares, insomnia and other sleep problems (Forster, 1980). However, despite widespread acceptance that chamomile has calming and soothing effects, more scientific research is needed.

Chamomile is widely accepted as a sleep aid; again, more scientific research is needed to validate this claim. However, one study did find that ten of twelve cardiac patients fell into a deep 90-minute sleep very shortly after drinking chamomile tea (Gould, 1973). 

Summary.

Two types of chamomile plant flowers are used to make chamomile herbal tea: Roman (Matricaria recutita) and German (Chamaemelum nobile). In terms of global production, Egypt plays a significant role in growing and exporting chamomile tea, with some chamomile tea being called "Egyptian chamomile."

Chamomile tea has a long history of human consumption and is credited with having health benefits. Modern science has corroborated some of these benefits, but not others. Three useful and scientifically supported benefits of chamomile tea include its role in reducing menstrual pain, helping with gastrointestinal issues, and improving sleep and relaxation (Srivastava, 2010).weare@theteatribe.com get featured on The Tea Tribe website. 

Hibiscus.

Flavour, Preparation, and Health Benefits of Hibiscus Tea.

Flavour Profile of Hibiscus Tea.

The flavour of hibiscus tea is a tart, cranberry-like taste. Unlike many other herbal teas, hibiscus tea has a comparatively full-bodied and strong favour. 

How To Brew Hibiscus Tea.

The correct way to brew hibiscus tea depends if you are using a kettle or stovetop to prepare the infusion. Full-flower hibiscus tea can be made either way. Blends containing smaller pieces of the flower are most convenient to prepare using a strainer placed in a cup or teapot.

If you are using a kettle, place loose-leaf tea in a strainer in either a cup or teapot, then pour the boiling water over the tea. Allow the drink to steep for three to five minutes, depending on your preference for strength. If you are preparing hibiscus tea on the stovetop, place one cup of dried flowers in four cups of water. Allow it to simmer over a low boil until the beverage is a deep crimson colour. 

Brief Summary of Health Benefits of Hibiscus Tea.

Hibiscus tea contains antioxidants and may help lower blood pressure, lower blood fat levels, promote liver health, help with weight loss, fight bacteria, and help prevent cancer. 

Tea Recommendations and Personal Thoughts.

Mackenzie Bailey

Founder of The Tea Tribe

The satisfying tart taste of hibiscus makes it a unique departure from sweet fruity teas. Currently, hibiscus is treated mainly as an ingredient included in herbal blends in relatively small amounts. I suspect that tea companies treat hibiscus more as a tool to infuse a striking colour into their blends, not as a worthy tea in its own right.

As the health benefits of hibiscus tea become more widely known with research to support it, I expect demand for hibiscus tea will rise. If this proves true, tea companies will likely expand their product lines to improve the variety and quality of hibiscus tea offered. 

Comprehensive Discussion of Hibiscus Tea.

There are over 200 types of hibiscus plants in the world, but Hibiscus sabdariffa is most commonly used to make hibiscus tea.

Nigeria in East Africa is one of the world's major producers of hibiscus tea, and in recent years there has been significant growth in Nigeria's export volumes (Ewepu, 2018). The Nigerian hibiscus can grow up to 15 feet high and 6 feet wide. The hibiscus flower is grown in six regions in northern Nigeria: Kano, Katsina, Bauchi, Gombe, Borno and Jigawa (Saliu, 2018).

If demand for hibiscus continues to grow, Nigeria (and other countries in Africa) are positioned to add significant revenues to their economy (Ewepu, 2018). In that case, ethical farming and purchasing practices become an opportunity for companies to effect positive social change for small scale farmers and the community stakeholders connected with them.

Health Benefits of Hibiscus Tea.

Helps Blood Pressure and Blood Fat Levels. 

Discussing the impact of hibiscus tea on blood pressure at the beginning of the health benefits section is intentional. The ability of hibiscus tea to improve blood pressure is impressive and strongly supported by scientific evidence. Multiple studies have demonstrated hibiscus tea can lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure (McKay, 2010; Serban, 2015). In one study, participants with high blood pressure were assigned either hibiscus tea or a placebo. After only six weeks, those who drank hibiscus tea had a significant drop in systolic blood pressure, while those who consumed the placebo showed no such decrease in blood pressure (McKay, 2010). Strengthening the conclusion, a review of five scientific studies found that on average, hibiscus tea reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 7.58 mmHg and 3.53 mmHg, respectively (Serban, 2015).

Beyond high blood pressure, elevated blood fat levels are another major contributing factor to heart disease. Hibiscus tea may lower blood fat levels, further adding to its ability to prevent heart disease. A month-long study found that people with diabetes who drank hibiscus tea experienced an increase in "good" HDL cholesterol, and a drop in "bad" LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides (Mozaffari-Khosravi, 2009).

It's essential to note that scientific findings on the ability of hibiscus tea to lower blood fat levels are mixed (Aziz, 2013), and usually limited to those with diabetes and heart conditions (Gurrola-Díaz, 2010). More research is needed to reach a clear consensus in the scientific community. Still, for tea drinkers everywhere, the takeaway is clear - drinking hibiscus tea is an easy and enjoyable way to improve your health. It is worth noting however, hibiscus tea should not be taken with hydrochlorothiazide as it interacts with the drug (Ndu, 2011).

May Improve Liver Health.

Human and animal studies show that hibiscus extract can improve liver health by enhancing drug-detoxifying enzymes (Ajiboye, 2011), decreasing liver damage (Huang, 2015), and fatty liver (Chang, 2014). In one study, hibiscus extract increased multiple drug-detoxifying enzymes found in the liver by up to 65% (Ajiboye, 2011)! For this reason, hibiscus tea plays an essential role in my go-to hangover-recovery drink. 

Contains Antioxidants.

Hibiscus extract is a powerful antioxidant that fights cell damage caused by free radicals and helps prevent disease (Ochani, 2009)(Ajiboye, 2011). One study showed hibiscus extract increased the number of antioxidant enzymes and decreased the damaging effects of free radicals up to 92% (Ajiboye, 2011). It is important to note that hibiscus extract is a concentrated version of what you consume when you drink hibiscus tea. 

May Help Prevent Cancer.

Hibiscus is high in polyphenols which have potent anti-cancer properties (Zhou, 2016). Scientific studies conducted in test-tubes have demonstrated that hibiscus extract decreases the growth and spread of prostate (Chiu, 2015), stomach (Lin, 2005, and Lin, 2007), plasma and mouth (Malacrida, 2016) cancer cells.

While scientific studies specifically examining hibiscus tea are limited, the evidence for hibiscus extract is compelling. Drinking hibiscus tea can be an impactful habit to build into a healthy lifestyle aimed at minimizing your risk of cancer.

May Aid Weight Loss.

For tea drinkers looking to lose weight, drinking hibiscus tea may help. Studies show a correlation between the consumption of hibiscus extract and a decrease in body weight and body fat. One 12-week study gave overweight participants either hibiscus extract or a placebo. By the end of the study, researchers found hibiscus extract reduced body fat, weight, BMI and hip-to-waist ratios (Chang, 2014). Another similar study conducted for a shorter duration had identical findings: hibiscus was associated with weight loss (Alarcon, 2007). 

Summary.

The flavour of hibiscus tea has a taste similar to cranberry and is tart. Hibiscus tea is often used as an ingredient in tea blends, but it can also be consumed as a pure infusion. The taste and quality of hibiscus tea are best when the entire flower is used.

Hibiscus tea has an exciting range of health benefits with the potential to reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and aid in weight loss. Hibiscus tea can also improve liver health and, more broadly, general health.

Mint.

Flavour, Preparation, and Health Benefits of Mint Tea.

Flavour Profile of Mint Tea.

Mint tea has a crisp, refreshing and fresh flavour. It often leaves a slight tingling finish and can cause a cooling sensation in the mouth.

How To Brew Mint Tea.

Proper brewing of mint tea depends on whether you use fresh or dried leaves. If you are using fresh mint, place a cup of leaves in two cups of water. Then bring the entire mixture to a boil for about fifteen minutes. If you are preparing mint tea with dried leaves, pour boiling water over the dried leaves and steep for three to five minutes. Once steeped, mint tea can be served hot or iced.

Summary of Health Benefits of Mint Tea.

Mint tea helps with digestion, cramps, headaches and blocked sinuses. Mint tea may also help prevent bacterial infections and improve sleep.

Tea Recommendations and Personal Thoughts.

Mackenzie Bailey

Founder of The Tea Tribe

Organic Cold 911 is a peppermint tea that has long had a place in my tea cupboard. I firmly believe in loose leaf tea being superior to bagged tea, which is why I also have Organic Peppermint Amour from DavidsTea. In a pinch, however, I would drink Organic Peppermint by Traditional Medicinals. The taste and quality of this tea is similar to loose leaf tea.

Comprehensive Discussion of Mint Tea.

Mint (Mentha) is a genus of 25 species in the Lamiaceae plant family. Mint is native to Eurasia, North America, Southern Africa, and Australia. 

Health Benefits of Mint Tea. 

Digestion and Cramps.

Mint tea can improve digestion by relieving gas, bloating and indigestion (Groves, 2018). Mint tea can also reduce smooth muscle contractions, preventing cramping and spasms (McKay, 2006). In a study of 2,000 participants, mint tea decreased the frequency, length and severity of abdominal pain (Anheyer, 2017). Another study conducted on cancer patients receiving chemotherapy treatment showed that mint oil reduced the amount and intensity of vomiting (Tayarani-Najaran, 2013).

The benefits mint tea can have on digestion makes it an ideal drink for those who are sick. Likewise, mint's ability to act as a muscle relaxant and prevent smooth muscle contractions make it a great tool to tackle menstrual pains (McKay, 2006) (Coon, 2002). In a study of 127 female participants, capsules of peppermint extract were shown to be as effective as some anti-inflammatory drugs (Masoumi, 2016)!

May Fight Bacterial Infection.

The antibacterial effect of mint tea hasn't been scientifically proven, however, peppermint oil has been examined and is shown to effectively kill bacteria. Peppermint oil can kill and prevent the growth of E. coli, Listeria and Salmonella (Sharafi, 2010), as well as Staphylococcus and pneumonia-linked bacteria (Li, 2011). Peppermint has also been shown to reduce many types of bacteria commonly found in the mouth (Dagli, 2015) (Thosar, 2013), making it excellent for freshening breath.

May Improve Seasonal Allergies.

Evidence of mint tea to combat allergy symptoms is limited. However, we know that peppermint contains rosmarinic acid (Shekarchi, 2012), which reduces symptoms of allergic reactions like runny nose, itchy eyes and asthma (Oh, 2011)(Takano, 2004)(Inoue,2001)(Sanbongi, 2004). It is probable that in addition to taking allergy medications, drinking mint tea would be beneficial in managing seasonal allergies.

May Improve Focus. 

Mint tea contains peppermint oil which may improve concentration by increasing memory and alertness (Moss, 2008). One study found that participants given peppermint oil capsules performed better on cognitive tests than those receiving a placebo (Kennedy, 2018).

For many years, I drank mint tea before exams as an informal tradition. In the beginning, I was unaware of the research that established a link between mint and cognitive performance, but subjectively, I found drinking peppermint tea beneficial.

Summary.

Mint is indigenous to many countries across the globe. It has a long-standing tradition of being consumed as a beverage and has many health benefits attributed to it from traditional practices. Science research has also supported some health benefits: antibacterial properties, improving digestion, reducing allergies, serving as a muscle relaxant and promoting focus.

Many First Nations tribes have historically used mint, and it continues to be a popular base for tea blends today. My favourite mint tea is Organic Cold 911 and fresh mint tea.

Lemongrass

Lemongrass, scientifically called Cymbopogon citratus, is a member of the grass family within Asia, Africa, Australia. Because of its citrus aroma, lemongrass is cultivated for many applications, such as culinary, medicinal and tinctures.

Flavour, Preparation, and Health Benefits of Lemongrass Tea.

Flavour Profile of Lemongrass Tea.

The flavour of lemongrass is citrusy and tastes similar to a mix between lemon and lemon mint. The taste of lemongrass tea is crisp, clean and not overpowering. 

How to Brew Lemongrass Tea.

How to brew lemongrass tea depends on whether you are using dried or fresh lemongrass. Dried lemongrass can be prepared by placing it in a strainer and steeping it in boiling water for five minutes. Alternatively, fresh lemongrass tea is made on the stovetop; boiling the lemongrass for an extended period strengthens the flavour. The flavour of fresh lemongrass is stronger than dried lemongrass. 

Summary of Health Benefits of Lemongrass Tea.

Currently, there is limited research on the health benefits of lemongrass. The most scientifically supported health benefit is its ability to increase the number of red blood cells. Other studies have shown that it may help reduce menstrual cramps. 

Mackenzie Bailey

Founder of The Tea Tribe

While lemongrass tea can be drunk straight, it is frequently included in tea blends in North America. Tea companies often position lemongrass as a detox tea that "kick starts" your metabolism. Unfortunately, there is limited evidence to support this, and at best, it's anecdotal. Lemongrass tea should be in your tea cupboard because you like the taste, not because you turn to it to help you lose weight. 

Comprehensive Discussion of Lemongrass Tea.

Health Benefits of Lemongrass Tea.

Oral Health. 

In regions where lemongrass grows natively, people often chew the stalks to keep their mouths clean. Science research has verified the merit of this practice: one study found lemongrass to be potent in inhibiting the growth of bacteria commonly found in mouths (Tsai, 2008). The bacteria studied included those that can cause cavities, like streptococcus sanguinis. 

Red Blood Cells.

A surprising health benefit of lemongrass is its ability to increase red blood cell formation and hemoglobin concentration (Ekpenyong, 2015). Hemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout your body and removes carbon dioxide. If you have anemia, pairing a good source of iron with regular consumption of lemongrass tea may be beneficial for your health.

Summary.

Lemongrass tea has a crisp, clean citrus taste and is often marketed for weight loss in tea blends, although there is limited evidence that supports this claim. Lemongrass can, however, help with oral health and, surprisingly, improve red blood cell production and efficiency.

Even though lemongrass tea has comparatively few proven health benefits, it tastes great. If you enjoy the taste of lemongrass tea, that alone is enough to justify its presence in your tea cupboard.