What is Herbal Tea and Is it Good For You?

If you’re looking for a delicious, warming beverage that’s low on jittery caffeine and high on other health benefits, look no further than the herbal tea section of your grocery store. Herbal teas have been popular for centuries for their holistic healing, mental health, and spiritual applications.

Herbal tea is a water-based mixture of leaves, seeds, fruits, bark, roots, or flowers belonging to almost any edible, non-tea plant.  Herbal tea is not technically a true tea, because it is not made from the Camellia Sinensis plant (the plant that is used to create black, green, and oolong teas).  Herbal teas can also be called infusions or tisanes.

Though indigenous cultures and settlers have known the benefits of these plants for millennia, modern science is just catching on to the incomparable advantages offered by nature’s most beneficial plant life. 

Herbal tea is can be immensely beneficial for general health and wellbeing. The antioxidants of plants like Rooibos and sage fight harmful free radicals, whereas chamomile and echinacea are critical to heart health and immunity.

Depending on the herb, one can also gain an array of health advantages since many plants have different properties in their leaves, flowers, and roots. 

Although most – if not all – herbal teas can support your physical and mental health, they do not all have the same characteristics, nor do they have the same intensity.

Grab a cup of tea and read on to learn the benefits of some of the world’s favorite herbal teas and how to prepare them.

Nine Popular Herbal Teas

While an exhaustive list would be hundreds of pages long, here are nine popular herbal teas along with their benefits and how to prepare them.

  • Rooibos
  • Tulsi
  • Lemon balm
  • Sage
  • Passionflower
  • Chamomile
  • Echinacea
  • Lemongrass
  • Ashwagandha

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Rooibos Tea: A Red Herbal Tea

Rooibos (pronounced ROY-boss) tea, also known as “red tea” or “red bush tea,” is perhaps one of the most well-known types of herbal tea available throughout the world.

Historically, this herb was a staple in southern African cultures, where it was widely referred to as “long-life tea.” It’s gained immense popularity with international tea enthusiasts over the centuries. (Source: Science Direct and Healthline)

Rooibos tea is a robustly flavored beverage made from the leaves of the shrub, Aspalathus linearis. It’s available as either a fermented or non-fermented drink.

When choosing the non-fermented option, you may notice a distinct difference in the drink’s color, since the fermentation process is the cause of the characteristic rich, red hue. 

Benefits of Roobios Tea:

  • It’s caffeine-free.
  • The tannin concentrations are significantly lower than other teas like black and green tea. Tannins disrupt the body’s absorption of key nutrients like iron when consumed in excess.
  • It’s low in oxalic acid. Oxalates have been known to inhibit the absorption of crucial minerals like calcium.
  • Both fermented and non-fermented variations are full of antioxidants.
  • Studies have shown that regular consumption of food-derived luteolin and quercetin (key compounds that make up Rooibos tea) may reduce the risk of developing pancreatic cancer.

(Sources: Healthline, Science Direct, National Library of Medicine, and National Library of Medicine)

How to Prepare Rooibos Tea

While it sounds exotic, rooibos tea is available in grocery stores or online.

Rooibos tea can be consumed either hot or cold, fermented or non-fermented. Non-fermented Roobios tea may provide higher concentrations of antioxidants than the fermented version because of the contrasting processing methods.

  1. Use one teabag or a teaspoon of loose Rooibos leaves with 8 ounces of boiling water.
  2. Steep for five minutes.
  3. Add sugar or milk to taste.

Tulsi Tea Benefits and Preparation

Tulsi is one of the most underrated herbal teas on the market. It is a renowned Ayurvedic herb, meaning that it is rooted in 3,000-5,000 years of Indian history, specifically as a staple of holistic medicine. 

If you’re having trouble finding the herb in stores, you may spot it by these other names:

  • Tulasi
  • Holy Basil
  • Elixir of Life

The leaves come from the native Indian plants, Ocimum sanctum and Ocimum tenuiflorum. Both are closely related to mint and basil (hence, its alternative name, “holy basil”).

Tulsi is distinguished by a rich scent and flavor profile that extends across a wide spectrum, ranging from pepper notes to a distinct minty taste.

One of the greatest advantages of the tulsi plant is that each part of it (the leaves, flowers, and oil and alcohol extracts) can be used for various purposes. Thus, you can support your health from multiple angles when incorporating tulsi into your diet.

For example, tulsi alcohol extracts are great for preventing stomach ulcers, whereas its flowers are ideal for alleviating symptoms of bronchitis. (Source: Healthline)

You can experience a vast range of advantages from the tulsi herb when you know how to use it to its full potential

Tulsi Tea Benefits

  • Drinking tulsi tea reduces your vulnerability to respiratory diseases and related conditions, from the common cold to more serious disorders like asthma. 
  • One of the most widely known perks of consuming the tulsi plant is that of stress reduction. No matter the cause of the stress, the plant acts as an adaptogen to promote a better balance in your mental health.
  • The plant is packed with multiple healing properties, including antibacterial and antiviral characteristics.
  • Regularly drinking tulsi can lower your blood sugar and cholesterol.
  • It can also defend against the discomforts of acid reflux and the development of stomach ulcers by supporting mucous cell health and lowering stomach acid levels. (Source: NDTV Food)

How to Prepare Tulsi Tea

Just like rooibos, you can find tulsi tea online or in specialty grocery stores.

The best way to prepare tulsi tea is as follows:

  1. Pour 1 cup of boiling water over a tea bag or one teaspoon of loose leaf tulsi tea. 
  2. Steep for 10-15 minutes. (The longer you steep, the better your chances of reaping tulsi’s health benefits.)
  3. Enjoy!

Lemon Balm Tea: From The Mint Family

Lemon balm, Melissa officinalis, is yet another favorite tea herb that comes from the mint family.

This is an herbal tea plant that you can easily add to your yard to start your own herbal tea garden.

Its potent, refreshing flavor sets it apart from most other plants used in teamaking worldwide. Its flavor encourages its inclusion in recipes outside of beverages, such as sweet jams and savory poultry dishes. 

Since the 1300s, lemon balm has had a place in both home and medical use and has been attributed to the relief of a wide range of health problems, namely those that target the digestive and nervous systems and the liver.

It has been hailed by people of all backgrounds, from Carmelite nuns to practitioners of Chinese medicine (who referred to it as “Xiang Feng Cao”). (Source: Very Well Health)

Today, it’s primarily used to support healthy sleep and combat digestive discomfort, but this tea has multiple other benefits.

Lemon Balm Tea Benefits:

  • Research has shown that this herbal tea helps to soothe people who suffer from anxiety disorders. 
  • Extended consumption (at least four months) may help symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • It is full of antioxidants, a trait that is specifically beneficial to those suffering from harmful oxidative stress, especially from diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and poor cardiovascular health. 
  • It is a reliable source of relief for insomniacs and others who struggle with poor sleeping quality.
  • A few studies have suggested that lemon balm may be effective in combatting viral infections. 

(Sources: Web MD, Medical News Today, and U.S. National Library of Medicine)

How to Prepare Lemon Balm Tea

While you can buy lemon balm tea, the best lemon balm tea is made with fresh leaves.

After harvesting leaves from the lemon balm plant, you must process them beforehand by chopping or ripping them into smaller pieces, as this extracts the oil that holds most of the health benefits.

However, this should be done immediately before steeping; otherwise, you risk drying the leaves out and losing the beneficial properties. 

  1. Add one tablespoon of chopped lemon balm leaves to a teacup.
  2. Pour one cup of boiling water over.
  3. Steep for five minutes. Then, your lemon balm tea is ready to enjoy!

Sage Tea: Another Herbal Tea Option

Sage, Salvia officinalis, is another widely loved member of the mint family. Sage has been a staple in culinary arts and the medicinal traditions of many world cultures.

The French once grew extensive sage crops, primarily for use in teas. When China caught wind of the decadent beverage in France, it bolstered trading between the two countries. 

Ancient Romans capitalized on the herb because of its incomparable healing qualities, which have been proven by the scientific studies of today. In the past, sage was mostly used to treat ulcers, reduce excessive bleeding, and aid in digestion.

Medical practitioners and families in China would use the herb for health reasons as well, treating conditions like typhoid and kidney troubles. 

Today, the herb is still regarded as one of the most dependable, restorative dietary supplements available.

Benefits of Sage Tea:

  • Consuming tea containing sage extract is thought to improve many aspects of adult mental health, including memory and attention levels. 
  • It is rich in antioxidants and can help reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. 
  • It supports bone and cardiovascular health due to its high concentration of vitamin K
  • Sage is antibacterial and boasts anti-inflammatory properties, so it is highly supportive of oral health, specifically in healing wounds in the mouth and sore throats.
  • Some studies have linked sage tea to the reduction in triglyceride levels and are believed to be crucial in decreasing the risk of developing heart disease.

(Sources: Web MD, National Library of Medicine, and Healthline)

How to Prepare Sage Tea

Like lemon balm tea, you’ll need to use fresh leaves to get the most out of your sage tea. Follow the steps below to make a rich tea, packed with nutritional benefits:

  1. Boil 1 cup of water. 
  2. Add one tablespoon of freshly chopped sage leaves.
  3. Steep the mixture for 20-30 minutes. 
  4. Strain the leaves. 
  5. Enjoy hot or cold!
  6. Extra delicious with the additions of sugar and lemon zest.

If you’re looking for a short cut, sage tea bags are also widely available online or in health food stores.

Passionflower Tea: Herbal Tea With Brain Benefits

Though it is a lesser-known herb used in teamaking, the passionflower packs a punch with both taste and medicinal applications. It has been a beloved plant in indigenous cultures throughout the Americas for millennia and has only grown in popularity within the last few centuries.

Peoples who have historically used the herb in traditional healing and cuisine know it by other names, including “mahcawq,” dubbed by the Powhatan tribe of the Eastern United States. 

The passionflower, Passiflora incarnata, is just one of the 700+ members of the Passifloraceae family, a group of plants primarily known for their uses in food and Native herbalism.

Its international notoriety began to rise in the 18th century when European settlers took indigenous traditions back to their own countries. (Source: Encyclopedia.com)

Benefits of Passionflower Herbal Tea:

  • It increases the brain’s concentrations of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), bringing you a stronger sense of calm and stabilizing your mood. 
  • Tea made with passionflower extract relieves generalized anxiety disorder symptoms with far fewer side effects than commonly prescribed drugs. 
  • Research has shown that this herb is highly effective in combating insomnia.

(Source: Healthline and National Library of Medicine)

How to Prepare Passionflower Tea

Passionflower tea is best enjoyed as a hot drink before bedtime.

  1. Use one teabag or a teaspoon of loose dried leaves with 8 ounces of boiling water.
  2. Steep for six to eight minutes for a mild tea.
  3. Steep up to 15 minutes for a stronger taste.

Herbal Chamomile Tea: For More Than Just Sleep

Chamomile is one of the best-known herbs used in teamaking today. It has a mild taste that makes it perfect for drinking on its own and blending with other leaves.

Ancient cultures have used chamomile (i.e., various flowers in the Chamomilla genus) primarily for medicinal purposes. Researchers have speculated that its terpenoids and flavonoids are primarily responsible for its wide range of health benefits. (Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine)

Today, most chamomile tea is harvested from the Matricaria plant, a German chamomile flower. For at least 5,000 years, humans have known of its healing properties when used externally (for dry, irritated skin, for example) and internally (for a wide range of ailments).

Modern research has only come to prove what shamans, families, and medical experts everywhere have known to be true of chamomile for millennia. 

Some Benefits of Chamomile Tea:

  • It can be used a gentle sedative, helping to reduce anxiety and even treating hysteria and nightmares. The calming properties also help to fight insomnia.
  • Those who struggle with digestive challenges can rely on chamomile to treat nausea, flatulence, and diarrhea, among other issues.
  • Chamomile extract, in particular, has been shown to inhibit the development of cancer since it contains the bioactive component apigenin.
  • The flavonoids present in chamomile may reduce your risk of poor cardiovascular health, especially coronary heart disease and myocardial infarction.
  • Consumption of chamomile tea encourages the body to improve the production of the compounds hippurate and glycine, both of which are characterized by their antibacterial qualities. In this way, chamomile tea helps to boost the immune system’s strength.

How to Prepare Chamomile Tea

Chamomile is delicious blended with other flavors like lavender, vanilla or lemon.

Chamomile is also easy to grow yourself, but the petals of the chamomile flower have to be used when fresh so chamomile tea bags usually are easier.

  1. Add teabag or 3-4 tablespoons of fresh chamomile flowers to a mug.
  2. Pour 1 cup of boiling water over and steep for four to five minutes.
  3. Enjoy!

Echinacea Tea: The Herbal Wellness Tea

The Echinacea purpurea plant has been on the teamaking scene for a relatively short time when considering the history of other herbs like chamomile and sage. Echinacea is another native North American plant that was used by indigenous peoples.

However, unlike the passionflower, the first signs of echinacea use date back to the 18th century. 

Once European settlers learned of the echinacea’s benefits as a topical and consumable herb, they commercialized it. The first known commercial derivative of echinacea was called “Meyers Blood Purifier,” which started selling around 1880 with the promise to calm the effects of rheumatism and even rattlesnake bites. (Source: National Library of Medicine

Echinacea Tea Benefits

  • The herb is full of antioxidants, which helps to protect your body against oxidative stress. 
  • Specific antioxidants, such as cichoric and rosmarinic acid, are found in higher concentrations in the fruit and flowers of the echinacea plant. This is quite different from most other herbs, whose benefits are concentrated in the leaves.
  • Echinacea tea boosts the immune system, which is why it is often relied upon when treating or preventing the common cold and other viral infections.
  • Echinacea may help lower blood sugar levels for those suffering from heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and other chronic illnesses.
  • Echinacea can help to combat gingivitis due to its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. 
  • Recent research suggests that echinacea may inhibit cancer cell growth and may even kill cancerous cells altogether. Thus, drinking echinacea tea may significantly reduce your likelihood of developing certain cancers. 

(Sources: Healthline, Kaiser Permanente, and National Library of Medicine)

How to Prepare Echinacea Tea

  1. Since echinacea’s health benefits are derived from all parts of the plant, you’ll want to gather the flowers, leaves, and roots to prepare your tea. Rinse them to make sure no dirt gets in your drink! If you think tea bags are easier, there are easy to find in just about any grocery store.
  2. Boil 1 cup of water and let it cool for about one minute. 
  3. Break up the plant parts and set them at the bottom of your cup. 
  4. Pour the cup of hot water over the plant material.
  5. Steep for at least 15 minutes, then strain.
  6. Enjoy!

Lemongrass Tea

Lemongrass, more specifically known as “West Indian lemongrass” and its scientific name, Cymbopogon citratus, is a perennial plant that naturally grows in Indian, Malaysian, and Sri Lankan landscapes. Unlike many of the teas discussed here, lemongrass is not derived from a flower, but the leaves of the incredibly tall shrub-like plant.

Over the centuries, the cultivation of the lemongrass plant spread throughout the world, and it is now most often sourced from South American countries such as Guatemala. Like many herbal goods, it has been used primarily in traditional medicine and as a flavorful ingredient in many dishes.

Its antibacterial and antifungal properties and its concentrations of antioxidants make it a difficult herb to pass up, no matter the method of consumption. (Source: American Botanical Council)

Benefits of Lemongrass Herbal Tea

  • Antioxidants in lemongrass, specifically chlorogenic acid, isoorientin, and swertiajaponin, are known to support the health of the cells comprising the coronary arteries, thereby boosting cardiovascular health. 
  • Many antimicrobial properties characterize this plant, and it is excellent for combatting Streptococcus infections. 
  • Just one cup of lemongrass tea has been shown to provide relief for stomach problems, specifically preventing gastric ulcers. 
  • Health experts categorize lemongrass as a diuretic, meaning that it may increase the frequency of urination. (Diuretic medicines are most often prescribed to patients with heart or liver failure or edema.)
  • It may offer relief of PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome) symptoms like cramping and bloating.

(Sources: Healthline, National Library of Medicine, and U.S. National Library of Medicine)

How to Prepare Lemongrass Tea

Lemongrass tea is best when made with freshly harvested stalks. Follow these steps from Plant-Based Eats to make a wonderfully flavorful lemongrass tea. This is a little ambitious for me, so I just use premade tea bags!

  1. Wash your harvested stalks to get rid of any dirt and bugs that may have hitched a ride on the plant. 
  2. Cut off the root bulbs. (You may want to use a cleaver, given how tough these stalks are.)
  3. Use a mallet to smash the bottom of the stalks to release the oils and flavors of the plant, improving the efficiency of the tea infusion. 
  4. Place the lemongrass into a pot and add just enough water to cover the stalks. (You may need to fold or tie up the plant, so it fits into the pot.)
  5. Bring the water to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes.
  6. Let the tea cool, then enjoy it as a hot tea or store it in the fridge for a chilled drink later!

Ashwagandha Herbal Tea

The Ashwagandha shrub is native to India, the Middle East, and several African countries. Along with the tulsi plant, this herb was used in Ayurvedic medicine, primarily in Indian cultures, as far back as 6000 BCE.

This herbal tea got its name from the Sanksrit word for horse (ashwa) because the first users of this root thought that it smelled like a horse.  

In fact, because of this smell, consuming the herb was believed to give people “the power of a horse.” Depending on the part of the plant you use to make your tea, you may experience different benefits.

For instance, the flowers will help as a diuretic, whereas the leaves are best used for people struggling with fevers. Still, in each case, ashwagandha tea will be quite bitter, so you may want to take the edge off with a sweetener or another herb. (Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine)

Benefits of Ashwagandha Tea:

  • Supports healthy insulin levels by boosting insulin secretion and enhancing cell sensitivity to the hormone. 
  • One of ashwagandha’s primary compounds, withaferin, has been shown to kill cancer cells. Therefore, regular consumption of ashwagandha tea may reduce your risk of developing certain types of cancer. 
  • It has been shown to reduce stress levels in adults, especially those who suffer from chronic stress and anxiety disorders. 
  • Researchers have documented patients improving their muscular strength due to the integration of ashwagandha in their diet. Specifically, it can help to grow the size of your muscles and reduce body fat.
  • Those who suffer from traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) may benefit from drinking ashwagandha tea as it may help improve memory and resolve other mental problems.

(Sources: Healthline, National Library of Medicine, and National Library of Medicine)

How to Prepare Ashwagandha Tea

To prepare this tea, you’ll need to grind down the ashwagandha root to incorporate it into your beverage. Once the plant is ground, add a teaspoon of the roots to one cup of boiling water. Turn off the flame and steep the tea for 10-15 minutes. Strain and enjoy!

Short on time and don’t feel like grinding your own ashwagandha root? Try ready-made tea bags to get your herbal tea benefits without all the hassle.

A Lifetime of Herbal Teas

Herbal teas are one of the most widespread ancient medicines in the world. Cultures from all corners of the earth have incorporated natural herbs into their medicine for centuries, and modern science is only beginning to uncover all of what these plants can do for us. 

It would take years to try all of the herbal teas and tea combinations out there. But if you’re a tea lover, or interested in natural remedies, learning about those teas that are readily available can really make a difference in your health and mind.

With so many useful herbs available to make herbal teas, you are sure to find one that fits your needs and taste preferences.

If you choose to make your own herbal teas, remember to wash off all leaves, petals, roots, and stalks well. For your safety, ensure the herbs are organically grown and free of any chemicals such as insecticides. 

So drink up, and drink to your health with herbal tea!

If you love tea as much as I do, pin this to your favorite tea-loving Pinterest board and pass it on for others to enjoy! Pinkies up!