There’s nothing nicer on a cold midwinter’s day than a soothing cup of herbal tea. But besides being a tasty, warming, caffeine-free pick-me-up, herbal tea has lots of wonderful health benefits. From soothing a troubled tummy to easing insomnia and calming a troubled mind, herbs have all sorts of healing powers. Drinking herbal tea can also be a great source of vitamins and minerals.
What is herbal tea?
Herbal tea isn’t really made from tea-which is a specific kind of plant. The French use the word tisane, which is a little more accurate, since herbal tea is really just an infusion of leaves, seeds, roots or bark, extracted in hot water. In drinking a well-steeped herbal tea, we get all the plant’s benefits in an easily digestible form.
The benefits of herbal tea
‘In a lot of ways, we might get more benefit from a good organic tea than from a vitamin pill,’ says herbalist Marianne Beacon of Elderberry Herbals in Peterborough, Ont. “You’re getting the benefits of hydration. There’s the social element: Tea is something that you can share with people. And when you’re drinking herbal tea, you get aromatherapy at the same time’and that’s something you don’t get from a tablet!’
That’s why Toronto-based herbalist Marcia Dixon says herbal tea should always be steeped in a covered vessel to contain the beneficial essential oils. ‘Otherwise, your room smells nice but you aren’t retaining the medicinal properties.’
How to choose a herbal tea
When it comes to choosing a herbal tea, both Dixon and Beacon agree that it’s important to look for a well-sourced product made from high-quality ingredients. If you’re drinking tea for the medicinal benefits, then definitely steer clear of products that add things like essential oils or flavours. And to really get the full benefits from drinking herbal tea, make sure you steep your loose tea or tea bags long enough’in some cases, as long as 10 to 15 minutes’to really bring out all the healthful properties.
‘Anytime you’re ingesting something, you’re giving your body the building blocks it needs to manufacture tissues and hormones,’ says Dixon. ‘If you drink tea every day, you can make all sorts of significant changes to your mood, your skin, your sense of well-being and energy.’
There are so many wonderful herbal teas to choose from. Here are a few of the most common. Don’t be afraid to try something new!