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  • Writer's pictureFreya Ingva

What is herbal tea?

Herbal tea, or tisane, strictly speaking, is not a ‘tea’ at all.

Technically, a true tea must contain Camellia Sinensis, the evergreen plant from where all true tea varieties come from, from white to black, from Pu’er to Oolong.

Herbal tea, tisane, botanical, or herbal infusions can contain anything herbal but the Camellia Sinensis plant.

The name tisane comes from the Ancient Greek ptisánē, meaning peeled barley, or what we would call pearl barley today. There was the practice of drinking something similar to our barley water for good health and enjoyment.

Previous to that, herbal teas were equally drunk in ancient China and Egypt and various documents refer to this therapeutic practice. This continues to this day if you make use of Ayurvedic medicine from India or Traditional Chinese Medicine.

In Middle English, the word meant a medicinal drink of some sort. It was only in the last century, that the word tisane acquired the modern meaning of herbal tea or infusion.

The vast majority of tisanes do not contain the caffeine compound, so they can be safely consumed before bed or by people sensitive to such stimulants. If that is your case, always check the ingredients of your decoction, avoid cocoa or guarana for instance.

Herbal teas can be consumed hot or cold and be added to other recipes.

Tisanes can be typically divided into six major groups, named after the part of the plant they come from: bark, roots, flowers, leaves, fruit or berry, seeds, or spice.

Let’s take a closer look:

  • Roots, such as ginger, liquorice, chicory, dandelion, burdock, echinacea, turmeric, sarsaparilla

  • Bark, such as cinnamon, slippery elm, willow, pau d’arco, wild cherry

  • Flowers, such as chamomile, lavender, hibiscus, rose, elderflower, red clover

  • Leaves, such as rooibos, mint, verbena, lemongrass, nettle, sage, thyme, tulsi, moringa

  • Fruit or berry, such as rose hips, citrus peel, strawberry, blueberry, elderberries, raspberries, apple, peach

  • Seeds or spice, such as cardamon, caraway, fennel

Extras, and less common, are:

  • Mushroom teas, such as chaga, reishi, cordyceps, maitake, lion’s mane

  • Moss or lichen teas, such as oakmoss, usnea or beard moss, Iceland moss

Since time immemorial, tisanes have been used for health, wellbeing, and longevity thanks to their medicinal properties.

Here are some examples:

  • Calming (chamomile, lavender, verbena)

  • Detoxifying (ginger, liquorice root, dandelion)

  • Cold-busting (often a mix with lemon verbena, cinnamon, elderflower)

  • Anti-inflammatory (blueberry, turmeric, cranberry)

  • Digestion (hibiscus, fennel, cardamom)

  • Beautifying (bamboo leaf, rose petals, lime flower)

On top of their fragrant smell and delicious taste, the colours also play a part in helping through our senses. No wonder, so many people drink them just for pleasure and to top up their antioxidants, vitamins, and nutrients.

I do read tea leaves and herbal teas equally. Get in touch to book your afternoon tea or tea party.

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