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Herbal tea

An herbal tea, tisane, or ptisan is an herbal infusion made from anything other than the leaves of the tea bush (Camellia sinensis).


The English word "tisane" originates from the Greek word πτισάνη (ptisanē), a drink made from pearl barley. Strictly speaking, the name 'herbal tea' is a misnomer, as they are not actually made with real tea (Camellia sinensis), but by infusing other plants.


Herbal teas can be made with fresh or dried flowers, leaves, seeds or roots, generally by pouring boiling water over the plant parts and letting them steep for a few minutes. Seeds and roots can also be boiled on a stove. The tisane is then strained, sweetened if so desired, and served. Many companies produce herbal tea bags for such infusions.

On the other hand, flavoured teas are prepared by adding other plants to an actual tea (black, oolong, green, yellow, or white tea); for example, the popular Earl Grey tea is black tea with bergamot, jasmine tea is Chinese tea with jasmine flowers, and genmaicha is a Japanese green tea with toasted rice.


Varieties of herbal teas are practically limitless, but include:
Dried chamomile blossoms with bits of dried apple and cinnamon, to be used for tea
  • Ginseng , a popular tea in China and Korea.
  • Hawthorn , to reduce bloodstream's fatty levels like cholesterol .
  • Hibiscus (often blended with rose hip), a popular tea alternative in the Middle East which is drunk hot or cold. Hibiscus tea is also consumed in Okinawa, where the natives associate Hibiscus tea with longevity. (See also Roselle below.)
  • Honeybush is related to rooibos and grows in a similar area of South Africa, but tastes slightly sweeter.
  • Horehound
  • Hydrangea tea, dried leaves of hydrangeas; considerable care must be taken because most species contain a toxin. The "safe" hydrangeas belong to the Hydrangea serrata Amacha ("sweet tea") Cultivar Group.
  • Jiaogulan, (also known as xiancao or poor man's ginseng).
  • Kapor tea, dried leaves of fireweed.
  • Kava root, from the South Pacific, is popular for its effects in promoting talkativeness and relaxation.
  • Kuding, a bitter tisane found in Chinese herbal medicine and used to thin blood and reduce blood pressure
  • Labrador tea, made from the shrub by the same name, found in the northern part of North America.
  • Lapacho (also known as Taheebo) is the inner-lining of the bark (or cambium) of the Red or Purple Lapacho Tree which grows in the Brazilianmarker jungles. It is boiled to make an infusion with many and varied health benefits.
  • Lemon Balm
  • Lemon grass
  • Licorice root
  • Lime blossom, dried flowers of lime tree (Tilia in Latin).
  • Lotus flower, from the stamens of Nelumbo nucifera (as in Vietnamese trà sen).
  • Mate (or yerba mate) is a shrub grown mainly Argentinamarker, Uruguaymarker and Brazilmarker from which a caffeinated, tea-like brew is prepared.
  • Mate de coca (sometimes called "coca tea"), made from coca leaves. Authentic mate de coca contains very small amounts of cocaine and similar alkaloids. In some countries where coca is illegal, products marketed as "coca tea" are supposed to be decocainized, i.e., the pharmacologically active components have been removed.
  • Mint, especially peppermint (also mixed with green tea to make mint tea)
  • European mistletoe (Viscum Album), (steep in cold water for 2–6 hours)
  • Mountain Tea, a very popular tea in the Balkans and other areas of the Mediterranean region. Made from a variety of the Sideritis syriaca plant which grows in warm climates above 3000 feet. The tea (or more properly tisane) has a reputation as a cure-all, but is specifically used against colds. Records of its use date back 2000 years.
  • Neem leaf
  • Nettle leaf
  • Oksusu cha (옥수수 차), traditional roasted corn tea found in Korea.
  • Pennywort leaf, in Southeast Asia
  • Pine tea made from needles of pine trees is high in vitamins A and C
  • Pu-erh Tea, to reduce cholesterol in blood, famous in Chinamarker.
  • Red raspberry leaf
  • Scorched rice, known as hyeonmi cha in Korea
  • Rooibos (Red Bush) is a reddish plant used to make an infusion and grown in South Africa. In the US it is sometimes called red tea. It has many of the antioxidant benefits of green tea, but because it does not come from tea leaves, it has no caffeine.
  • Rose hip (often blended with hibiscus)
  • Roselle petals (species of Hibiscus; aka Bissap, Dah, etc.), consumed in the Sahel and elsewhere.
  • Rosemary Memory herb.
  • Sage
  • Sassafras roots were steeped to make tea and were used in the flavoring of root beer until being banned by the FDA.
  • Skullcap
  • Serendib, an anti-diabetic tea from Sri Lankamarker
  • Sobacha
  • Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) leaves used to make a tea by some native peoples of eastern North America
  • Spruce tea made from needles of spruce trees is high in vitamin C
  • Staghorn sumac fruit can made into a lemonade.
  • Stevia can be used to make herbal tea, or as a sweetener in other tisanes.
  • St. John's Wort can be used as an herbal anti-depressant.
  • Sugarcane drink, in Asia
  • Tan Ngan Lo Medicated Tea, a herbal concoction of a Chinese immigrant to Malaysiamarker in the early 20th century. It was commercialized in 1963 by Foong Chow Hwey and was popular in the 1970-90s.
  • Thyme Antiseptic, used in lysterine.
  • Tulsi
  • Uncaria tomentosa, commonly known as Cats Claw
  • Valerian Sedative.
  • Verbena
  • Vetiver
  • Roasted wheat is used in Postum, a coffee substitute.
  • Wax gourd in East Asia and Southeast Asia.
  • Wong Logat a medicinal tea with several herbs
  • Woodruff
  • Yarrow
  • Yerba Mate Popular in South America. Scientific name Ilex paraguariensis.
  • Yuen Kut Lam Kam Wo Tea Composed of thirty Chinese herbs, made in Hong Kongmarker.

Medicinal concerns

Herbal teas are often consumed for their physical or medicinal effects, especially for their stimulant, relaxant or sedative properties. The medicinal effects of certain herbs are discussed under herbalism. The medicinal benefits of specific herbs are often anecdotal or controversial, and in some countries (including the United States) makers of herbal teas are not allowed to make unsubstantiated claims about the medicinal effects of their products.

While most herbal teas are safe for regular consumption, some herbs have toxic or allergenic effects. Among the greatest causes of concern are:

Herbal teas can also have different effects from person to person, and this is further compounded by the problem of potential misidentification. The deadly foxglove, for example, can be mistaken for the much more benign (but still relatively hepatotoxic) comfrey.

The UK does not require herb teas to have any evidence concerning their efficacy, but does treat them technically as food products and require that they are safe for consumption.



In Egyptmarker, herbal teas such as karkade are very popular. They are served in ahwa's.

In Chinamarker, Traditional Chinese Medicine approach is used in formulating natural herbal teas and they are very popular in enhancing health and addressing core issues within the body; e.g. formulated recipes like hawthorn plus oolong / pu-er can address the high fat level in body's bloodstream.

References in the Media

In Agatha Christie's Poirot series of books, Poirot often has a Tisane and accounts this as being the reason why his "leetle grey cells" are superior to others.

See also


  1. Rachel Levin, "A Healthy Heart; Artichokes: The Thorny Thistles"
  2. ROOT Herbal Tea: The Cardiac Guard"
  3. C.J. van Gelderen; D.M. van Gelderen. 2004. Encyclopedia of Hydrangeas. Timber Press. 280 p.

Further reading

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