We are what we eat. A 2011 survey reports that out of a general population sampling, over 90% of people believe they get all the nutrients they need. What research over the past few years have shown is that only 1 out of every 5 people actually get the recommended nutrients to be healthy. This includes some rather large deficiencies for select vitamins and minerals.
So how do we have a more balanced diet that gives our bodies what we need? Well, the solution may not be the type of food we eat, but rather the kind of beverages we drink. Herbal teas have built up an incredible reputation for providing a host of nutrients and health benefits when consumed daily. Capable of helping you to meet your dietary needs, herbal tea is a versatile, tasty, inexpensive, and even fun beverage to create and drink.
Lets take a moment to look at what herbal tea is, as well as the benefits that drinking it can provide. We will also review herbal tea and caffeine, as well as the various types of tea out there and how you can go about making your own. With all of that out of the way, lets begin!
What Is Herbal Tea?
Herbal tea, or tisane, is any beverage that is created through either the infusion or decoction of spices, plant matter, or herbs. It utilizes hot water to pull the ingredients out of these sources and will generally not have caffeine in them. Extending back to before written history, herbal tea has been served throughout time both hot and cold. Playing a big role in certain cultures, herbal teas are at the center of some traditional medical cures and is commonly known as ‘liang cha’ where it is frequently consumed in China.
Does Herbal Tea have Caffeine
In the United States, herbal tea is sometimes used to describe a kind of tea that does not have caffeine in it. In fact, when you get right down to it, herbal tea isn’t technically a tea. You see, tea has traditionally been the name for beverages brewed with the camellia sinensis plant. The black, green, and oolong teas that come out of the plant form the basis for everything we traditionally see as tea. In addition the camellia sinensis plant has caffeine in the leaves, which is released when the tea is prepared. Herbal teas are comprised of ingredients that do not include the camellia sinensis plant and as a result do not necessarily have caffeine in them.
That being said, some herbal teas do include caffeine, but they are the minority and the levels of caffeine rarely match that of coffee or true camellia sinensis based teas. In addition, some teas represent a mix of caffeinated tealeaves with herbal teas, creating a blend of the two that provides caffeine as well as the healthy nutrients of herbal tea. Either way, be sure when reviewing herbal teas in the market that they are in fact caffeine free, as caffeine can sometimes sneak into products under the ‘herbal tea’ category.
So how much caffeine is found in herbal teas? Let’s take a look and examine an 8 oz. cup of a variety of beverages and see how they compare. On average, coffee will have roughly 175 mg of caffeine per 8 oz. cup. Black tea will have around 75 mg, while oolong, green, and white will have 62, 52, and 42 mg of caffeine per 8 oz. cup respectively. While herbal tea may naturally have a tiny amount of caffeine in it, the number will almost never get into the double digits unless something caffeinated is added and will typically hover around 0 to .5 mg of caffeine per 8 oz. cup.
Seeking Herbal Tea Benefits
While limited research has been done on herbal teas in the west, their use throughout the millennia to treat diseases and strengthen the body speak to the incredible power of herbal tea. In addition, nutrition scientists are discovering that herbal tea is an incredible way to get many necessary nutrients that may otherwise be challenging to consume in a standard diet. Regardless of the herbal tea you drink, each type will have the benefit of being an anti-oxidant. That being said, to get a better understanding of the benefits of herbal tea we will have to look at the particular ingredients that are commonly but not always used.
Simply put, the ingredients associated with herbal tea are what make it so amazing. For example, chamomile tea taken from the chamomile herb is commonly used to help treat upset stomachs and to help with sleep. The flower of the herb is used and as an ingredient has been shown to prevent complications from diabetes. The ginger in ginger tea is a digestive aid that can help lesson motion sickness, prevent nauseous feelings, and settle your stomach. With a bit of lemon it also tastes great! An excellent alternative to St. John’s Wort, liquorice root has been shown to be an excellent aid for fighting depression and has countless other medical uses.
No matter what way you look at it, these roots, flowers, and plant matter can provide not only a great tasting beverage but also the vitamins, minerals, and additional health benefits you need to be at the top of your game. In addition, all of this is done with a beverage that traditionally has no caffeine.
How To Make Herbal Tea
Making herbal tea is easier then you think and can be done at home with the pots and pans you have lying around. That being said, having special equipment can help speed up the process and lead to a stronger herbal tea. Lets take a moment to review the two processes of Decoction and Infusion.
The Process of Decoction
Decoction is where you boil and steep your ingredients for a long time. This is used to draw out flavors from very hard objects lie wood, seeds, or bark. Note that throwing in herbs, flowers, or plant matter will destroy the delicate materials and remove any beneficial properties if boiled for the same length of time. While this process can take a while, the end result is often a complex, earthy flavor.
The Process of Infusion
While decoction helps to draw nutrients out of tougher ingredients, infusion is designed to delicately coax nutrients out of more fragile plant material, flower petals, peelings, leaves, and herbs. Sometimes done at a level below boiling, these ingredients will be heated up so that the water can leach the nutrients out of the material without destroying the nutrients in the process.
Types Of Herbal Tea
With the above two practices, you can get an incredible range of herbal teas. Ginger, chamomile, rooibos, lemon balm, milk thistle, rosehip, nettle, peppermint, lavender, sorrel, lemongrass, hawthorn, and blackberry leaves are but a few of the possibilities. Each and every one of these teas will have their own special properties. To better explain this difference, lets take a look at 3 popular herbal teas.
Made from the leaves of the stinging nettle, nettle tea is an excellent remedy for high blood pressure, coughs, colds, congestion, kidney and bladder problems, and anemia. Not bad for a single plant!
Dandelion is an herb and the above ground (non-roots) of the plant is made into a tea. It can be great if you are experiencing a loss of appetite, infections, laxative, and it increases urine production. Helping your digestive tract every step of the way, dandelion tea may be just what you need to feel right again.
Raspberry Leaf Tea
Frequently taken from the leaves of red raspberry bushes, raspberry leaf tea has numerous fertility benefits for women and can help improve your respiratory system, fever, and even reduce the side effects of diabetes.
Customize Your Own Tea
One of the most fun parts of drinking herbal tea is finding that one particular tea whose taste is amazing. While many people are more then happy to buy their way through the available products out there, others are taking matters into their own hands and customizing their tea. By finding the ingredients that taste good and have the results they are looking for, people are creating unique herbal tea with its own range of benefits. In the end, you are only limited by your creativity.
While not strictly considered tea by some, herbal tea, or tisane, provides innumerable health benefits and can help you reach your dietary and nutrient needs. Coming in all sorts of flavors and providing medical benefits along with important nutrients, herbal tea can be made at home or purchased from a store. Depending on your needs, you can also find types of herbal tea that are with or without caffeine. Either way, there is an entire industry of exciting and healthy products out there just waiting for you to begin exploring. Good luck!