In ancient civilizations, herbal teas were used for their health benefits. The common method was to steep them in hot water for the purpose of extraction of bioactive compounds to treat various conditions.
Herbal teas are not actually teas. They come from dried leaves, fruits, stems, flowers and roots of different herbs contrary to pure teas (Black, White, Yellow, Green, Oolong, and Dark) that come from the tea plant Camellia sinensis.
Another difference is that unlike true teas, herbal teas do not contain caffeine.
Since herbal teas are made from different plants and herbs, they vary in taste. The herbal tea tastes include, earthy, sour, woody, fruity, sweet and bitter.
This variety in taste makes herbal tea a great alternative to sugary beverages and drinks.
Furthermore, many of the herbs are consumed because of their health benefits for many centuries. The current research has now begun to investigate potential health benefits.
Most of the herbal teas listed here are on the FDA’s GRAS (generally recognized as safe) list.
Here is the list of 10 herbal teas you need to drink for health benefits
1) Camomile tea (Anthemis nobilis)
Camomile or Chamomile is so popular that it is on everyone’s list of herbal teas or tisane to drink.
The popularity of Chamomile tea may be due to the fact that it is one of the most ancient herbs consumed in the form of hot concoction.
It is estimated that approximately 1 million cups of camomile tea are consumed every day (1).
What Chamomile tastes like?
The word chamomile means “earth apple” because of the apple-like taste of chamomile plant. Thus, chamomile has a mild fruity apple-like taste.
Health benefit of Camomile
Since it is one of the oldest known herbs, Chamomile has been used for its medicinal benefits over the centuries.
In traditional medicine, the extract of Chamomile has been used to treat anxiety, hysteria, nightmares, insomnia and other sleep issues (2).
- Modern research shows that in postpartum women, chamomile tea was helpful in reducing depression and sleep issues (3), thus, the traditional use of chamomile can be confirmed by modern research.
- Chamomile oil can penetrate into deep layers of human skin and therefore can be used topically (4).
- The topical use of Kamillosan(R) cream (Chamomile based Extract) is 60% as effective as 0.25% hydrocortisone cream to treat atopic eczema (5,6).
- Chamomile oil has bioactive compounds that can induce cell death in cancer cells and spare the normal cells (7). Thus, Camomile tea may have tumor protective functions.
- Double-Blind studies have shown that chamomile and apple pectin are useful in treating colic and diarrhea in children (8).
- Chamomile also has an anti-inflammatory property at the cellular level that favors anti-inflammation, therefore, the use of chamomile tea is recommended for its anti-inflammatory function (9).
Like most herbal teas sold in the market, Chamomile tea is quite safe to consume. It is on the FDA’s GRAS list.
People who are allergic to ragweed or other plants may develop allergic conditions after consuming Chamomile tea (10).
Chamomile contamination with “dog chamomile,” which is an allergic plant similar to Chamomile can cause allergic reactions. Therefore, it is essential to buy your herbal teas from trusted sources
The gist: The research shows several benefits of chamomile. Thus, taking chamomile tea regularly may provide health benefits and protection against diseases.
2) Hibiscus tea
Hibiscus tea is one of the colorful herbal teas widely consumed around the world. It is consumed as a hot or cold beverage.
Interestingly, local tribes in Jordan used hot Hibiscus concoction for high blood pressure remedy and cold Hibiscus for low blood pressure (11).
Although there are over 300 species of Hibiscus, the most popular type of Hibiscus tea is Hibiscus sabdariffa also known as “roselle” (12).
In the case of Hibiscus, the calyx aka sepal of the plants are also included in the concoction because dried calyces of Hibiscus contain bioactive compounds that have substantial health benefits (13).
What Hibiscus tastes like?
Hibiscus tea is bright red in color and has a sour, tarty taste.
Health benefit of Hibiscus
Many studies that looked at the health benefits used flower and calyx of Hibiscus plant.
Hibiscus has both lighter colored and bright deep-colored plants. Research shows that strong deeper colored plants have more antioxidant activity than light or white color species (14).
- Hibiscus with calyces is rich in antioxidant compounds such as anthocyanins that have health benefits (15).
- Hibiscus tea is good for high blood pressure. The use of Hibiscus tea lowers high blood pressure in hypertensive patients (16,17).
- The Hibiscus has strong antioxidant activity (18). Hibiscus extract lowers LDL (bad cholesterol), increases HDL (good cholesterol) in patients with metabolic syndrome due to its antioxidant activity (19).
- Hibiscus extract is also useful in weight loss however most studies are done in animals (20) and limited studies show benefits of hibiscus in weight loss in humans (21).
Hibiscus is used in many countries and there aren’t any reported cases of toxicity associated with the use of hibiscus.
The high doses in humans would be difficult to achieve, therefore, moderate consumption of Hibiscus is important to obtain health benefits.
The gist: Hibiscus with calyx has health benefits that include hypertension, lowering of LDL, and weight loss.
3) Peppermint tea (Mentha piperita)
Peppermint has one of the freshest smells among herbal teas. The peppermint tea is made by infusing peppermint leaves in hot water. It is known to have a soothing and refreshing effect.
What Peppermint tea tastes like?
It tastes like mint (surprise) however, the flavor can turn bitter when large quantities are brewed for an extended time.
Health benefits of peppermint tea
- Peppermint contains essential oils that have antioxidant activity (26).
- Studies show that peppermint oils affect cellular pathways important for cancer and may have cancer chemoprevention properties (27)
- Peppermint oil has a strong antibacterial activity against E. coli strains (28,29). Thus, Peppermint tea could give protection against pathogenic microbes (30).
- Peppermint essential oil improved physical performance in athletes after 10-day use at 0.05ml peppermint essential oil (31). The effects could be due to the increased relaxation effect of smooth muscle cells of the lungs.
Peppermint tea is safe to consume and no adverse effects have been reported. One study described the negative effects of peppermint on testosterone levels (34).
Patients with GI reflux, hiatal hernia or kidney stones should take precautions if they use peppermint oil for therapeutic purposes (35).
The gist: Peppermint tea is delicious and gives feeling of freshness. It also has benefits of reducing bad breath, stomach pain and microbial activity.
4) Ginger tea (Zingiber officinale)
Ginger is one of the widely used condiments in households around the world. In Asia, it is frequently added to soups and vegetable preparations. Ginger tea is frequently consumed for its various health benefits.
What Ginger tea tastes like?
Ginger has a pungent, spicy yet slightly sweet taste.
Health benefits of Ginger tea
- Dried ginger has more antioxidant potential because the phenolic content is more concentrated than the fresh, fried or carbonized ginger (38).
- Ginger antioxidant activity has been confirmed in human cells for the reduction in oxidative stress (39).
- Ginger also has antimicrobial activity (40).
- Fermented Ginger can improve memory function in mice with Alzheimer’s disease (41). Thus, active compounds in ginger have brain cell protection function.
- Ginger is also shown benefits in diabetes, gastrointestinal issues, and nausea in postoperative patients (42,43,44).
Ginger is a safe herb to use. It is on the FDA’s GRAS list.
Apart from its pungent smell, no adverse effects are associated with it (45).
Some individuals, especially pregnant women may experience nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea after ginger use (46).
The gist: Ginger has health benefits in reducing inflammation, feeling of nausea and vomiting. By consuming ginger tea one can take advantage of the beneficial effects.
5) Lemon balm tea (Melissa officinalis)
Lemon balm also is known as lemon balm, bee balm, and honey balm belongs to the mint family of plants (47). It is mostly grown in Asia and central Europe.
What Lemon Balm tea tastes like?
Lemon balm has a lemony aroma and mildly spicy taste.
Health benefits of Lemon balm
- Lemon balm has been used for a long time to treat anxiety. Studies show that indeed lemon balm extract can reduce stress and increase cognitive performance (48,49).
- Clinical research with high doses of lemon balm extracts shows high cognitive performance (50).
- Lemon balm oil has antioxidant activity and could also promote anti-inflammatory function (51,52,53).
- Lemon balm is also studied for its role in treating female sexual dysfunction (54).
Lemon balm is a safe tea to consume. It is also on the FDA’s GRAS list.
Lemon balm has sedative effects. In one case study, long term use was associated with dependence and withdrawal symptoms (55).
The gist: Lemon balm tea is a pleasant tea with relaxing and anti-anxiety function. It also has an anti-inflammatory function.
6) Echinacea Tea (Echinacea purpurea)
Echinacea or purple coneflower is consumed as a tea in cold and flu symptoms.
Echinacea tea is made mostly from the Echinacea purpurea plant. Other species, Echinacea sanguinea, and Echinacea pallida are also studied for their benefits (56).
Echinaceas are prevalent in North America and Europe. Echinacea is blended with other herbs such as mint to enhance the taste.
What Echinacea tea tastes like?
Echinacea has mild citrus and minty flavor.
Health benefits of Echinacea tea
- Echinacea tea although may not provide robust protection against the common cold but it may have some benefits to relieve the common cold (57).
- Echinacea root is shown to have antioxidant and free radical scavenging properties (58).
- Echinacea has immune-boosting properties. The bioactive compounds in Echinacea promote activation of immune cells that includes macrophages and natural killer cells (59).
- Echinacea also suppresses natural killer cells inhibitor, thus Echnincea might also have a cancer-protective function because natural killer cells are usually the first line of defense against invading tumor cells (60).
Echinacea is generally safe to consume.
A few people have reported side effects such as abdominal pain, hives, rash, shortness of breath, nausea, itching, and redness of skin (61).
The gist: Echinacea is commonly used to treat flu and the common cold. It has some immune-boosting properties as well.
7) Rooibos tea (Aspalathus linearis)
Rooibos, also known as red bush, is native to South Africa. Most of the tea content comes from Rooibos leaves and stems. Rooibos tea is getting popular all over the world due to its potential health benefits.
What Rooibos tea tastes like?
Rooibos tea has a natural sweetness with woody and nutty taste.
Health benefits of Rooibos tea
- Rooibos has many bioactive antioxidants with strong antioxidant properties due to its rutin and quercetin bioactive compounds (62,63).
- The antioxidant activity of Rooibos also promotes anti-inflammation (66).
- Rooibos also has a heart-protective function against injury and cell death mostly due to polyphenolic content in the Rooibos plant (67).
- Aspalathin, a bioactive rooibos compound induces insulin production and glucose availability to cells, thus, it can help in glucose regulation and diabetes (68)
Rooibos tea is safe to consume. It is rare to develop any adverse condition with rooibos tea but large quantity consumption should be avoided.
So far, one clinical study has associated liver damage due to Rooibos tea in a male who regained liver function after stopping Rooibos tea (69).
It must be noted that the patient consumed tea made from other plants in addition to tea from Rooibos.
The gist: Rooibos is becoming popular because of its health benefits in the west. It has a strong antioxidant property. Taking Rooibos tea will help in getting beneficial antioxidant compounds.
8) Cardamom Fennel tea (Elettaria cardamomum & Foeniculum vulgare)
Cardamom comes from the same family as that of turmeric (70).
Cardamom is often referred to as the queen of spices because of its fresh and pleasant aroma (71).
Cardamom is readily used in food in the Indian subcontinent.
Cardamom comes as pods with small black seeds inside the pods. The pods can be ground to make a powder that can be used in the form of tea. It is normal to use pods in food preparations.
Green cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) is the most used cardamom for food and tea preparations while black cardamom is (Amomum subulatum) is mostly used in food preparations.
Fennel, on the other hand, is a perennial herb belonging to the carrot family. Almost, all parts of fennel plants are edible but for tea preparations, fennel seeds are used.
What cardamom & fennel tea tastes like?
Cardamom like peppermint has one of the freshest aromas in all the herbs. It is a mixture of a bit of spicy, incense, woody, nutty and sweet smell. Fennel gives a licorice scent to the tea. Overall, the aroma of cardamom fennel tea is sweet refreshing.
Health benefits of cardamom and fennel tea
- Cardamom has anti-inflammatory properties. It reduced blood pressure in hypertensive patients when treated with cardamom powder (72).
- The reduction of the level of LDL in pre-diabetic individuals was also observed after Cardamom consumption (73).
- Cardamom is also shown to prevent obesity and reduces inflammation as indicated by animal studies (74).
- Cardamom may also have an antimicrobial function. Especially against oral pathogenic bacteria (75).
- Fennel has antioxidant properties as well (76).
- Fennel oil could treat colic in children without any side effects (77).
- Fennel is also helpful in reducing the behavioral and physical symptoms in women with PMT and related conditions (78).
Both cardamom and fennel are safe to consume. Both are on the FDA’s GRAS list.
Taking cardamom supplements that have higher doses may cause some side effects such as diarrhea and mild inflammation of the skin (81).
The gist: The cardamom fennel tea has many health benefits besides having a great taste.
9) Turmeric tea: (Curcuma longa)
Turmeric is a common herb used in Asian cuisine. Tumeric root is the main ingredient of the plant used either fresh or dried to make power for use. Due to its strong yellow golden color, it is also used as a coloring agent in many food preparations.
What turmeric tea tastes like?
Turmeric tea has a bitter, a bit pungent and earthy taste.
Health benefits of turmeric tea
- Turmeric has bioactive polyphenol compounds called curcumins. Many of the health benefits of turmeric are derived from these bioactive compounds (82).
- Adding black pepper to your turmeric tea will increase the curcumin absorption in the body (83).
- Turmeric has anti-inflammatory functions against chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease (84,85).
- Tumeric can also relieve stomach inflammation. Improvement in ulcer profile has been seen in patients who took turmeric supplements (86).
- Turmeric also has a pain-relieving function (87).
Curcumin is generally a safe compound as per FDA’s GRAS list.
In high doses, some people have side effects such as diarrhea, headache, rash, and yellow stool (88).
As with any herb, moderation is key. Higher doses of curcumin were associated with liver damage indicated by animal studies (89).
The gist: Turmeric is mostly used as a flavoring and coloring agent in food preparations. It also contains health-promoting compounds. Turmeric tea is a viable way to acquire bioactive compounds for health benefits.
10) Ginseng tea (Panax ginseng)
Ginseng has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries.
Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng) or simply ginseng is the most known and consumed product among the three major types of ginseng in the world. The other two are American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) and Chinese (Panax Notoginseng) (90).
The difference among the ginseng types is based on the concentration of bioactive compounds (91).
There are 2 types of Korean Ginseng based on their harvest: Red and White.
Red ginseng is produced by steaming the fresh ginseng and then drying the moisture content to less than 15% whereas white ginseng is produced by drying the fresh ginseng under the sun (92).
Red ginseng or Panax ginseng is considered better than white (93).
What ginseng tea tastes like?
Ginseng tea has a bitter taste with earthy notes.
Health benefits of ginseng
- The bioactive compounds in ginseng are believed to be ginsenosides, most abundant being Ginsenoside-Rb1 which has been the subject of many studies when ginseng was investigated for its health benefits (94).
- Ginseng showed anti-inflammatory activity in mice model of Alzheimer’s disease and protected brain cells (95).
- Ginseng also has shown to have antimicrobial function against pathogenic bacteria (96).
- Observation in ginseng users has shown that ginseng reduces the risk of several different types of cancer, including lung, esophagus, stomach, liver, pancreas, ovary, and colorectum (97).
- Ginseng has also shown to be effective against diabetes, stress and anxiety and memory improvement (98,99,100).
Ginseng is regarded as a safe and tolerable herb. However, some people may experience indigestion, hot flashes, insomnia, and constipation. Also, large quantities of tea may not cause health issues (101).
The gist: Ginseng is considered to have many health benefits due to the presence of bioactive compounds.
Taking ginseng tea could help acquire these bioactive compounds that can eventually elicit health benefits.
If you are looking for a caffeine-free drink with a decent amount for antioxidants, herbal teas or tisanes can be a great choice. One of the major reasons to drink herbal tea is that it can be a suitable alternative to sugary beverages.
Most herbal tea has a mild or fruity taste and thus can easily be added to your daily diet.
Furthermore, most of the herbal teas are safe to consume and almost all of them are on the FDA’s GRAS list.
However, if you are taking any medication or have a physical condition that requires medical advice, please talk to your physician before using any of the herbal teas.
It is good to note that the herbal tea industry is not as strictly regulated as the pharmaceutical industry therefore, when choosing herbal tea, make sure to buy from a trusted source.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What kind of tea is herbal tea?
Herbal tea is not technically a true tea, as it does not derive from the Camellia sinensis plant (i.e. the plant that is used to create black, oolong, green, and white teas). Instead, herbal tea is an infusion or blend of various leaves, fruits, bark, roots, or flowers belonging to almost any edible, non-tea plant.
Are herbal teas safe?
Yes, generally most herbal teas are safe to consume. However, the tea industry is not as strictly regulated as the pharmaceutical industry and hence a careful consideration is required before taking herbal tea supplements including pills, powders, and extracts.
What are the side effects of herbal tea?
The herbal teas are generally very safe and tolerable. However, some people might experience undesirable effects. These include:
Stomach issues (Diarrhea. pain)
It is rare to develop liver condition or anemia.
Is it OK to drink herbal tea every day?
Yes, in moderate amounts the consumption is ok however, large quantities can lead to health problems as discussed earlier. Many of the available herbal teas online or in the marketing are safe but preference should be given to reliable and trusted sources.