This week’s subject dives into the realm of herbal tisanes. An herbal “tea,” or tisane, is technically anything you steep that does not contain the actual Camelia Sinensis tea plant in it. For experts and tea snoots, an herbal tea is really not tea at all, hence the term “herbal infusion.” For thousands of years, plants and flowers have been used for their natural healing properties. Many modern pharmaceuticals have been derived from plant sources, and surely many more will crop up in the future. Digitalis, a heart medication, comes from the purple foxglove. Vinchristine, an anti-cancer drug, is an alkaloid taken from vinca plant. Cascara sagrada is the bark of a tree that is used as a natural laxative. Quinine, which has been used to treat malaria among other things, originally came from the bark of the Cinchona tree.
Just as many herbs and plants are beneficial, the opposite is also true. Oleander leaves contain a compound that is toxic to the heart. Philodendron plants contain oxalic acid, which will burn your mouth. Now why you would be munching on a philodendron to begin with is beyond me, but according to my medical source, it does happen.
That being said, there are many herbal infusions that you can blend on your own or purchase that will have numerous and varied benefits. Here are a few of the major players Rooibos – This plant is a bush that is native to South Africa, and contains a high amount of minerals and antioxidants. Often called “bush” tea or “red bush” tea, it has a naturally sweet aroma reminiscent of tobacco. Naturally caffeine free, it also contains zinc, potassium, fluoride, and manganese. It is fermented in a way that is very similar to tea, and the result is a fine, red leaf that brews into a deep reddish brown color. The longer you steep rooibos, the better it gets. You can see for yourself by trying our Red Rocks , a blend of rooibos with vanilla and almonds.
Chamomile – Chamomile flowers have a natural fragrance reminiscent of apples, which is the etymology of the word itself (“ground apple”). This herb is most commonly known for its ability to calm stress and soothe nausea and provide relief from aches and cramps. As it relaxes smooth muscle tissues, it is good for digestion and abdominal pain.
Ginger – Ginger root is yet another ancient plant with many beneficial qualities. It stimulates saliva production and digestive enzymes, making it great for weight control and digestion. It is also great for nausea or motion sickness, and increases blood flow throughout your body, making it what is considered a “warm” plant. Ginger is a component in our new blend, Yerba Mate Chai Citron, which will be available on our website soon! But, if you visit our downtown Boulder location, you can try it now!
Peppermint – This age old classic herb contains menthol, which is great for congestion and colds. We have a tin of this at the store, and whenever I need a pick-me-up I just stick my nose in the tin and take a deep whiff and BAM! I am awake again! Peppermint is also recommended for upset stomachs, as it relaxes the smooth muscles in your stomach and digestive tract. It is also an antiseptic and anesthetic, making it useful for tooth or headaches. It freshens your breath and is a great, cooling drink when iced. It is also a component in our delicious Green Roasted Mint !, my personal favorite.
There are literally hundreds of herbs, plants and flowers out there with healing and healthful properties. The trick is to find the ones that work for you to assist you in a more healthful lifestyle. Most herbalists will not recommend these things in place of medical treatments or cures for diseases. Herbal infusions are meant to complement your health and must be used with a degree of caution and self-directed learning. So whatever your ailments may be, just make sure you do a little research before you go on your herbal infusion quest!