As a delicious and uplifting way to stay hydrated, there are always benefits to drinking a cup of herbal tea. It can boost wellbeing and ready you for sleep, not to mention specific health benefits related to the tea’s ingredients!
Variously known as herbal infusions, fruit infusions and tisanes, we like to simply call these wonderful warmers ‘herbal teas’. They’re distinct from ‘true teas’ – white tea, oolong tea, pu’er tea, green tea and black tea – which always come from the Camellia sinensis bush. There’s so much more to know about this rainbow of hot drinks. Why not take a tea break, press pause and explore the benefits of herbal tea with us.
What is herbal tea?
Simply put, herbal teas are hot drinks made by infusing dried plant material in boiled water. As well as enjoying their taste, humans prized their medicinal properties1 long before the development of modern medicine. We’ve harnessed nature in this way for thousands of years!
Of course, there is not one single ‘herbal tea’, rather a vast range of drinks that fall under the category. We get them from a variety of plants, using the most aromatic parts: leaves, flowers, roots, bark, seeds or fruit. Which is used depends on which part of that plant is most flavourful, fragrant or beneficial.
Herbal tea makers harvest and dry these ‘botanicals’. They can then be blended to create a wonderful assortment of tastes and different health properties.
Types of herbal tea and their benefits
There are as many types of herbal tea as you can imagine. From classics like peppermint and camomile, to liquorice root tea, to more exotic cardamom and turmeric blends. Here we’ll look at some of the most well-loved types of herbal tea and their health benefits.
Camomile tea benefits
Gentle Camomile Tea is perfect before bedtime, keeping you hydrated without interfering in your sleep. Made from a little daisy-like flower with a scent of fresh apples and delicate flavour, camomile (also spelled chamomile tea) is naturally caffeine free.
There are many health benefits of Camomile tea. Laboratory studies have demonstrated its antibacterial and antiviral properties, its ability to reduce inflammation and to relax muscles. Many people also find it soothes a sore throat.
Peppermint tea benefits
Studies show that peppermint also has antiviral effects, antibacterial properties and anti inflammatory properties2. A cup or two of peppermint tea could therefore help your immune system fight off the common cold.
A great tea to aid digestion, people have drunk mint tea for generations to help relieve stomach ache and calm muscles. Our Organic Pure Peppermint Infusion Tea is light, refreshing and deliciously soothing after a heavy meal.
Ginger tea benefits
Ginger was one of the first spices to arrive in Europe from southern Asia. Like peppermint, it has cleansing and digestive properties. It’s particularly noted for its anti-sickness effects and is traditionally used as a home remedy to treat nausea in early pregnancy.
Recent research bears this out, indicating ginger tea does help improve episodes of nausea and morning sickness compared to a placebo3.
We recommend checking out your herbal tea with a doctor if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
Our Dragonfly True Clarity Ginger Infusion balances the spice notes of ginger and turmeric with softly savoury thyme and nettle for a warming and invigorating cup at any time of the day.
Rooibos tea benefits
Although it only grows in South Africa, people all over the world love soothing rooibos for its wellbeing properties. It has been used to help with infant colic, asthma and dermatological problems, allergies and even weight loss. Anecdotally, people in South Africa have been treating headaches with rooibos for generations.
Whilst research into the health properties of rooibos tea is ongoing, we know that rooibos is low in tannins. These contribute to the bitter taste in ordinary black tea and can interfere with iron absorption. Scientists are also interested in rooibos’s antioxidant content - like its flavonoids, which help prevent oxidative stress in the body4.
In the Dragonfly range we have combined Rooibos Tea with smooth Vanilla, with aromatic bergamot in our Earl Grey Tea, and with warming spices in our ever-popular Cape Malay Rooibos Chai.
Does herbal tea have caffeine in it?
Many herbal teas come from plants that don’t contain caffeine, so are naturally caffeine free. This makes herbal teas a great choice for children, pregnant women and those looking to reduce their caffeine intake while drinking tea.
A rare exception is yerba mate, which comes from Ilex paraguariensis – a plant that, like Camellia sinensis, contains caffeine.
Sleep properties of herbal tea
We all know that caffeine – a natural stimulant – makes us feel more awake and alert. While studies have shown moderate caffeine intake can be positive for brain health, excess caffeine can negatively impact the quantity and quality of our sleep. Because it’s generally caffeine free, herbal tea is a great choice when you want to get some sleep. Its bedtime suitability is one of herbal tea’s best-known benefits!
Additionally, different plants can convey specific soporific effects when drunk as an infusion. For example, camomile contains apigenin, which researchers think might be a sleep aid5. Laboratory experiments demonstrate lemon balm tea can act as a sedative, maybe due to its effect on GABA6. Valerian root is thought to work its sleep-inducing magic in a similar way7.
Dragonfly Night Sky Calm tea combines all three sleep-promoting botanicals together with a touch of soothing lavender, for the perfect night-time cup.
Herbal tea vs black tea
True, you infuse both in hot water and yes, they can both be comforting, reviving and delicious. However, these two types of tea are otherwise quite different.
What they’re made from
Black teas are made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, while herbal teas are made from various parts (such as root, bark and seeds) of other plants.
Herbal teas come in a spectrum of colours – from almost colourless to vivid pinks and golden yellows. Black tea can also come in different shades but is usually brown, from red-brown right down to nearly black.
It’s impossible to compare the flavour of black and herbal teas, because the taste depends on the ingredients and the range is so vast! However, because black teas are high in tannins, they can have an astringency and bitterness rarely found in herbal teas.
Tea leaves from Camellia sinensis contain caffeine, so black tea naturally has caffeine. As noted above, herbal tea is generally caffeine free.
Calories in herbal tea
Perhaps because people find some blends so energising, they wonder whether herbal teas have many calories.
In short, the answer is no: the calorie count in a cup of most herbal teas generally comes in way under 108. Some botanicals used in herbal blends do contain natural carbohydrates, but the quantity of these that end up in your infusion is minimal.
So, herbal teas are great as part of a healthy lifestyle, whether you’re watching your calories or not.
Side effects of herbal tea
While we celebrate the benefits of herbal teas, it’s prudent to be aware they can have powerful effects at higher doses.
Herbal teas’ health benefits actually demonstrate their chemical impacts on the body. In some cases, these impacts can interact with medication, both prescription and over-the-counter.
For example, studies have shown that hibiscus tea can help lower blood pressure, which might sound great if you have hypertension (high blood pressure). However, if you’re already on blood pressure medication, your doctor would advise you to choose a different herbal tea to avoid potentially harmful side effects9. Similarly, people with hypertension or blood flow issues should avoid consuming high quantities of liquorice.
Doctors may also recommend that pregnant women are careful about consuming herbal supplements and teas. While some, such as ginger, have been found to be beneficial in pregnancy, others haven’t been well-studied and are best avoided.
It’s important to inform your physician about any herbal infusion you drink regularly to ensure it’s safe and healthy for you. Check the label on medicines for possible interactions and drink your favourite herbal tea in moderation. Moreover, always choose trusted brands to avoid unlisted and misstated ingredients.
At Dragonfly, the provenance and purity of our teas is of utmost importance to us. You can be sure that we list all our carefully selected botanicals on the pack, and that they’re all you’ll find in our teabags.
Is herbal tea good for you?
So, is herbal tea good for you? Generally, the answer is yes. It’s usually caffeine free, so it’s great if you’re avoiding this natural stimulant.
However, each herbal tea has different properties and benefits so it’s always a good idea to check the ingredients against any conditions you have. Potential side effects of mixing high quantities of certain herbal teas with certain medications mean in special circumstances, drinking of some teas should be restricted. Always check with your doctor if you’re unsure whether a specific herbal tea is right for you.
How to make and drink herbal tea
Making herbal tea is simple. Here are the steps to a perfect cup
- Boil freshly drawn water in the kettle.
- Warm your cup by rinsing in hot water.
- Add your teabag to your cup and pour over boiling water.
- Allow to steep*
- Remove teabag and enjoy!
*Check brewing instructions for your specific tea for best flavour.
As for how to drink it, we believe you can maximise the benefits of your herbal tea by using your tea break as an opportunity for a mindful moment.
Shop Dragonfly's Herbal Teas
Discover the benefits of herbal tea for yourself: buy our range of carefully sourced herbal teas directly from our online tea shop, from Waitrose, Ocado and from independent shops.