When you think of tea, you may immediately think of brews made from tea leaves, such as green tea or oolong tea. But those aren’t the only types of tea you can enjoy. There’s also an incredible range of herbal teas, which are made by steeping or boiling dried fruits, flowers, spices, and herbs. They may also be called tisanes, herbal infusions, or botanical infusions.
Herbal teas are not only made differently than teas made with the leaves of the camellia Sinensis plant (black, white, green, pu’er, or oolong), but they also offer different benefits. While the teas made from leaves have varying levels of caffeine (with black containing the most at around 40 to 70 milligrams per 8-ounce serving, and white with the least at only 15 to 30 milligrams), herbal teas are naturally caffeine-free. And depending on what’s used to flavor the infusion, you may experience a whole host of other positive effects. Here are a few of the most popular tisanes—along with health benefits that may even give you a leg up at work.
Peppermint contains menthol in its leaves, which acts as a light muscle relaxer and has anti-inflammatory properties as well. Additionally, this sweet and minty brew—which has just a little spice on the palette—has long been used as a stomach soother. If you experience a bit of GI distress, a warm cup of peppermint tea could be just the ticket. The power of peppermint also extends to the olfactory receptors; just the smell of it may help you feel more alert and less fatigued.
The spicy flavor in ginger tea is far from subtle and the health benefits this antioxidant-packed option delivers follow suit. Often used as a remedy for stomach upset, ginger is a popular choice for women in early stages of pregnancy. It’s also shown to be effective for people experiencing nausea due to cancer treatments and motion sickness. This wondrous little root may also help relieve menstrual pain as effectively as traditional medications like ibuprofen, according to two studies. There’s also evidence it can relieve indigestion and constipation while possibly preventing stomach ulcers.
Slightly sweet, earthy, with hints of apple and floral flavors, chamomile is probably best known for having a calming effect. But it’s good for more than helping you sleep (although the fact that it’s been shown to have a small but positive effect on insomnia isn’t anything to sneeze at). It may also have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and liver-protecting properties. Although more studies need to be done to confirm these findings, there is evidence that chamomile may help to reduce symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and even improve blood glucose, insulin, and blood lipid levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
It’s lovely as a flower, but it may be even more attractive as an infusion. This antioxidant-rich plant provides a slightly tart flavor in tea, and there’s evidence hibiscus may be beneficial to people who want to lower their “bad” LDL cholesterol and boost their “good” HDL cholesterol. A recent study also showed a promising correlation between overweight adults who drank hibiscus tea and a reduction in body weight, body mass index, and hip-to-waist ratio. Hibiscus can shorten the effects of aspirin, so try to leave three to four hours between drinking your tea and taking the pain reliever. Hibiscus should be avoided entirely by anyone taking the diuretic medication hydrochlorothiazide due to potential interactions.
Echinacea is frequently used during cold and flu season due to its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral properties, making it an immunity-boosting superstar. If that’s not enough to have you reaching for the teapot this winter, studies suggest it can help manage anxiety, reduce painful inflammation, control blood sugar, and lower blood pressure.
Lemon balm also goes by the name “cure all,” and for good reason. It’s been used for more than 2,000 years as a medicinal plant. In addition to being helpful in battling stress and anxiety, it may also aid digestion and ease other gastrointestinal problems. Although it’s a member of the mint family, the flavor is truer to its name and, in tea, you’ll notice a delicate lemon scent and flavor that’s less pungent than lemon verbena and earthier than lemongrass. Avoid drinking lemon balm tea if you take sedative medications as it may cause excessive drowsiness.
Made from the fruit of the rose plant, rosehip tea has a lightly sweet and tart flavor. It’s vitamin-packed and antioxidant rich, and a strong astringent. If you want the most bang per bag, brew your tea with fresh rather than dried rosehips, and seek out plants grown at higher altitudes (you can check the label to see!)—both of these factors lead to higher amounts of antioxidants. The elevated concentration of vitamin C in rosehip tea makes it a good immunity-booster. It is also vital for collagen production, so regularly drinking rosehip tea may help reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles in aging skin.
Touted as an anxiety-reliever and a sleep aid, passionflower tea is another common pick among herbal tea enthusiasts. It’s made by brewing the leaves of passionflowers and has a mildly earthy, green taste, which may come as a surprise if you’re expecting a flavor that matches the flower’s scent. It’s often blended with other teas, such as chamomile, and may benefit from a small amount of sweetener if you find it rather bland.
Aside from the specific stress-relieving and immunity-boosting benefits each of these teas offer, herbal tea can help keep you hydrated since it’s more flavorful than plain water. But because it’s caffeine-free, it doesn’t have the dehydrating effects other teas have. And while many of these herbal infusions have anxiety-reducing elements, just the ritual of mindfully brewing and enjoying a hot cup of tea can cultivate your capacity to focus. So, when you find a flavor you love or a tea with benefits you know you could use, put that kettle on and start steeping!