Herbal tea: Drink to your wellbeing

A hot cup of herbal tea is a boon during periods of stress, anxiety and sickness

Herbal teas have their roots in ayurveda and have been used for centuries to treat various ailments, the only difference being that back then, they didn’t come in any fancy packaging as they do now.

A herbal tea is not a true tea. Surprised! Infusion or decoction made by using herbs other than the tea plant is referred to as herbal tea, while some also call it tisane. Different parts of the plants such as leaves, flowers, seeds, fruits, bark or roots make their way into the herbal infusions or decoctions. You may use a single herb or blend a few different herbs together for preparing tisanes.
Benefits of herbal teas are too numerous, to note down all, nonetheless here are a few good things in it for you:

  • Uplifts the spirits, increases energy
  • Helps achieve a calm and relaxed state of mind
  • Has a soothing effect on the digestive system
  • Useful tool to detoxify, de-stress, relax and refresh
  • Aid to ward off insomnia
  • Strengthens the immune system

Tisanes come in a wide range and they are categorised according to the part of the plant used for making them:

  • Leaf tisanes: lemongrass, mint, lemon balm
  • Flower tisanes: chamomile, rose, hibiscus [china rose]
  • Fruit tisanes: apple, raspberry
  • Spice/seeds tisanes: cardamom, fennel, coriander, caraway, cumin
  • Bark tisanes: cinnamon
  • Root tisanes: ginger, chicory

Preparing basic herbal tea

Herbal tea using tender parts of a plant such as leaves and flowers are prepared by infusion. Herbal tea prepared from roots, bark and berries require herbs to be boiled in water for a longer time.

Infusion

  • Boil water in a covered pot. Pour boiling water over the herbs. For every cup of water take one heaped tsp of dried herbs/ one heaped tbsp of fresh herbs.
  • Cover the pot or mug and allow it to steep for 10 minutes. Strain the tea and serve the infusion hot.
  • You may add lemon or honey for flavour.

Decoction

  • Add herbs to the water and bring the water to boil. Reduce the heat and allow it to simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Strain and drink hot.
  • Herbal tea prepared by decoction definitely tastes better with lemon or honey.

Iced herbal tea can be made by adding ice to the hot herbal infusion or decoction and allowing it to cool.

General tips for a perfect cup of tisane:

  • Rinse the kettle and the serving cups with warm water and keep them ready for tea. This will keep the prepared tea warm for a longer time.
  • Do not steep tea for long, as it may taste bitter. If you want a stronger flavour, use more herbs.
  • You can make your own tea bags. Put the desired herbs in a muslin cloth and tie a knot above the herbs.
  • Iced herbal tea requires more of the herb because the melting ice will increase the water content. Add three tablespoon of fresh and one tablespoon of dried herbs for iced tea.
  • Prepare fresh tea. Avoid taking stored ones.
  • Those on medication must consult their doctor before taking herbal tea.
  • Pregnant women should avoid herbal teas.
  • Avoid using aluminium vessels for preparing tea. Since it is a very reactive metal, it may react with the herb.

Popular tisanes

There is an array of appetising flavours of herbal teas available. Some teas, specially designed for therapeutic purposes, have a blend of different herbs. Popular herbal teas are chamomile, peppermint, ginger, lemon grass, cinnamon, liquorice, cardamom, basil, ginseng and chicory.

Chamomile

Chamomile tea is one of the most sought after herbal teas for its natural sedative effect. It soothes the nerves and helps relieve stress and anxiety. Herbal experts are of the opinion that it can cure insomnia and aid in sleeping well. Chamomile tea is a perfect remedy for migraine. It’s an effective way to get rid of headaches and relieve cramps. Gargling with the herbal infusion can relieve mouth and gum pain.

To prepare this tea pour hot water over two teaspoons of dried chamomile flowers per cup and steep for about five minutes. It has a sweet, pleasant and delicate taste. Cooled tea bags can be used for relieving skin irritation and inflammation. Add few cups of chamomile tea to bath water for a refreshed and relaxed feeling. Avoid this tea if you are allergic to pollen.

Ginger

A piping hot cup of ginger tea daily is what one needs to keep the body in perfect health. Research highlights the herb’s potential in fighting cancer. Ginger tea, rich in phytonutrients and antioxidants, has anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and immune stimulating properties.

Ginger tea has been valued for treating stomach ailments, nausea, sore throat, liver problems, asthma, rheumatism and travel sickness.

It is an age old remedy for curing colds, blocked sinuses and sore throat. Simply add a tablespoon of honey and lemon juice each to the hot decoction. Honey will soothe your irritated throat while the lemon and ginger will clear the blocked sinus. It will give you the desired warmth besides relieving you of cold and throat problems.

Ginger tea recipe

  • Ginger root [2” piece]
  • Water [3 cups]
  • Honey/lemon [optional]

Wash the ginger root thoroughly, peel and crush or cut it into very fine slices. Boil water in a covered pan. Add ginger when it starts boiling. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from fire and strain. Sip it hot.

Peppermint

Known for its wonderful aroma and cooling effect, peppermint has been used for centuries to ease stomach pain and treat digestive problems like constipation, indigestion and irritable bowel syndrome.

Menthol—an essential oil in peppermint helps in easing out nausea, headaches, stomach cramps and menstrual cramps. Sipping hot tea in the morning reduces morning sickness. It is good for maintaining oral health. Those suffering from motion sickness can benefit by drinking peppermint tea. Carry it with you for relief during the journey. It can be added to bathing water for relaxation.

Peppermint tea

Pour a cup of boiling water over two tablespoon fresh mint leaves. Allow it to steep for 10 minutes. Strain and serve hot. Sweeten with honey.

Iced peppermint tea recipe

  • Fresh leaves - 2 tablespoons per cup of boiling water or 1 tea bag/cup
  • Honey - 2 teaspoons
  • Lemon juice - 1 teaspoon
  • Ice

Boil a cup of water and pour it over tea bag/ fresh leaves placed in a tea pot. Steep it for 10 minutes. Strain and cool the infusion. Add lemon juice, honey, a cup of cold water and few ice cubes. Refrigerate for an hour and serve chilled.

Lemongrass

Lemongrass is one of the most widely available low cost herbs. The tea prepared by infusion of its leaves is loaded with goodness of cancer fighting compounds.. The infusion detoxifies the body and improves skin health. This tea increases the frequency of urination and is good in treating retention of water.

The tea has a calming effect on the body’s muscle and nerves. Sipping the infusion everyday can help people suffering from anxiety and depression. The wonderful aroma alone is enough to uplifts your spirits. A cup of this tisane before bedtime can ensure sound sleep.

If you’re trying to lose weight, you could benefit from this but remember not to exceed four cups a day.

Cinnamon

A warm fragrant cup of cinnamon tea can give some relief to those suffering from arthritis. This tea can benefit diabetics by improving glucose metabolism in them. It can also help to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Cinnamon gives a boost to metabolism and strengthens the immune system. It has a warming effect on the body. This tea is good for the digestive system and gives relief from bloating and flatulence. Cinnamon tea is prepared by decoction. Add honey to sweeten the tea.

Cinnamon ginger tea recipe

  • Water 6 cups
  • Cinnamon sticks 2 pieces [1” each]
  • Fresh ginger 2 tablespoons [peeled and slice or grated]
  • Honey to taste

In a covered pan boil ginger and cinnamon in water. Simmer on low heat for 15 minutes. Strain and add honey. Drink hot.

A herbal tea recipe for anytime of the year

  • Water 8 cups
  • Cinnamon sticks 2 pieces [1” each]
  • Fresh ginger 2 tbsp [peeled and slice or grated]
  • Lemon grass 2 tsp [chopped]
  • Basil leaves 2 tbsp
  • Mint leaves 2 tbsp
  • Cumin seeds ¼ tsp
  • Coriander seeds ¼ tsp
  • Fennel seeds¼ tsp
  • Honey to taste

In a covered sauce pan, boil cinnamon sticks, ginger, lemon grass, cumin, coriander and fennel seeds in water. Simmer on low heat for 15 minutes. Pour the decoction over basil and mint leaves. Steep it for 10 minutes. Strain, add honey and sip hot.

This was first published in the November 2012 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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Aparna Pradhan
Writing for me is a journey of the soul which never ends. Writing has been a passion for me since my childhood. It is a great outlet for creative expression and gives me enormous pleasure and a sense of satisfaction when I share my passion with others, enriching their lives. I am now pursuing my passion for painting professionally and exhibiting my works in various exhibitions. Some of my works adorn the walls of Raj Bhavan, Goa and private collections. I write on varied subjects – my favourite being health and nutrition

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