We all know what’s meant by herbal tea, even if many of these drinks contain neither herb nor tea.
Tea is an infusion of cured Camellia sinensis leaves. Herbs are aromatic plants with leaves, seeds, or flowers that are used in medicine and for flavouring food.
However, as language tends to bend and adapt to common usage, herbal tea is the most common term for a tisane, which, strictly speaking, is an infusion of caffeine-free plant material.
Herbal teas are made from the flowers, seeds, fruits, roots, and leaves of hundreds of different plant species. For thousands of years, plants have been used for their medicinal properties, and one of the most common ways of ingesting their goodness is in the form of an infusion. Besides the health benefits of the plants themselves, drinking herbal tea is a tasty way to stay hydrated.
Ask 100 people to pick their top 5 herbal teas, and you’ll probably get 100 different combinations. The following “Top 5 Herbal Teas” is just our take on the subject.
How close is this list to your own?
There are numerous herbal teas taken for their sedative properties.
Lavender, lemon balm, and passionflower teas, for example, are all popular infusions for the easing of stress and anxiety. They’re commonly drunk in the evening, as a way to wind down before bedtime.
Valerian root tea has been used for centuries as a remedy for insomnia and is arguably one of the most effective; the thing is, it smells and tastes revolting!
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that reduces neuronal excitability throughout the nervous system. It’s a chemical that’s widely used in antianxiety medication. GABA receptors are proteins that respond to GABA and effect a biological response.
Honokiol and magnolol (both with the chemical formula C18H18O2) are compounds found only in plants in the genus Magnolia – honokiol in the leaves and seeds; magnolol in the bark.
Honokiol and magnolol enhance activity in GABA receptors, helping to ease anxiety and relieve insomnia.
Another function of GABA is to inhibit the production of the hormone glucagon. Glucagon, which is produced in the pancreas, raises the concentration of glucose in the bloodstream, counteracting the effects of insulin. When GABA receptors are kept healthy by compounds such as honokiol and magnolol, neural excitability and the production of glucagon are subdued – thus enhancing the efficacy of insulin.
With a pleasant zingy taste and the calming effects of honokiol and magnolol, magnolia tea gets our vote for Best Tranquilising Tea.
There are approximately 250 species in the genus Cinnamomum, and for centuries the bark of many of these trees – particularly Cinnamomum zeylanicum and Cinnamomum cassia – has been used for flavouring food and for medicinal uses.
Cinnamon is actually a bit of an all-rounder, as it’s been found to have anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, and coagulant properties – as well as a propensity to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut whilst suppressing the growth of pathogenic bacteria.
However, cinnamon tea is outstanding in one particular area. It can contribute to a reduction in blood pressure by improving the dilation of blood vessels, which is conducive to better blood flow. Therefore, cinnamon tea is our choice for Best Healthy Heart Tea.
Ginseng is named after Panax ginseng, the species originally used for its medicinal properties. Ginseng refers to the root of plants in the genus Panax. Panax is from Greek, meaning ‘all healing’.
Ginseng tea is one of those marvellous all-rounders. It’s great for the heart and circulation, for cognitive function, and for intestinal health. If you’re looking for a herbal tea to promote general health and wellbeing, ginseng should certainly be considered.
Yes, ginseng is a bit of a jack-of-all-trades, but it does have its own specialisation. Ginseng takes a lot of beating when it comes to enhancing resistance to illness. With beneficial effects on both the innate defences and the adaptive responses of the immune system, ginseng tea can take on any other herbal tea for the title of Best Tea for Immunity.
Liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) root tea is brilliant for preventing and treating stomach ulcers. The sweet taste of liquorice comes from glycyrrhizin, a compound unique to G glabra, which is actually sweeter than sugar.
Senna tea, an infusion made from the leaves of the senna plant (Senna alexandrina), stimulates intestinal contractions and bowel movements – a gentle cure for mild constipation.
Peppermint tea is an infusion made with leaves of the peppermint plant – the sterile hybrid of spearmint (Mentha spicata) and water mint (Mentha aquatica). Because it produces no seed, peppermint reproduces vegetatively – i.e. asexually.
The anti-inflammatory properties of peppermint help to relax and soothe muscles in the intestines and stomach, relieving the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). And it’s been shown to reduce bloating, dyspepsia, acid reflux, and cramping. Peppermint tea is the perfect after-dinner drink.
First prize for Digestive Aid goes to peppermint tea.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) regulates blood sugar level; reduces high blood pressure; improves blood circulation; eases digestion; relieves nausea; boosts the immune system; and it’s anti-inflammatory.
Probably the best-known herbal remedy for nausea, ginger tea is drunk by pregnant women who are experiencing morning sickness. Many people who suffer from travel sickness will drink a cup of ginger tea before setting out on a journey – or even take along a flask of hot ginger tea.
Ginger tea tastes lovely, just by itself. For some, though, it can taste a little bitter without a sweetener, such as honey or sugar. Ginger also goes very well with lemon, and there are numerous brands of herbal tea that produce a ginger-and-lemon blend.
Congratulations to ginger tea – Best All-Rounder.
Winter’s on the way. To keep hydrated at work, why not infuse your favourite herbal tea in pure, hot water. The many benefits of caffeine-free tisanes, combined with the ultimate goodness of water, will keep your mind and body well.
Creativity – here we come!